This was the fifth night Quinn had spent in Greene’s sector and he had yet to run into him.
Quinn had started closest to the eastern frontier and all he found were the squads that should have been installing IEDs screwing-the-pooch.
Then he checked out the next two squads to the west. That is where Quinn expected to find him as that would be centrally located.
Then he tried the two squads that were farthest west. No cigar.
Thinking that Greene might be rotating camps to keep his finger on the pulse, Quinn picked the two center squads and spent two more nights monitoring them. Quinn was SURE Greene would pop in on one of the camps. Again, no cigar.
It wasn’t as if Quinn had all night to “catch” Greene. Sammie waited until dark before he left. Then Quinn waited an extra half-hour before he left. It took time to motor there. It took much longer to walk in since he parked a goodly distance away.
Then, by midnight, even the night-owls were hitting the rack and there wasn’t much point in waiting for somebody to show up.
His bafflement grew. Where the hell was Greene?
The other oddity was that Greene’s closest circle also seemed to be absent. Curiouser and curiouser.
Quinn had just bagged it for the fifth night. He started to drift north, away from camp and toward his motorbike when a shadow detached itself from a tree and stiff-armed him. “Who are you?” the voice asked.
It was not a voice that intended to raise alarm. It was also a voice Quinn recognized. “Mark. Is that you?” Quinn asked.
Quinn could sense a second of hesitation.
“I am the officer who observed your unit's maneuvers last week” Quinn informed him.
“And you are the officer who yanked my Squad Leader through a knot-hole” Mark Wohlfert said as the pictures clicked into place. “We were up all night installing those damned I.E.D.s. You never heard such cussing.”
“You wouldn’t have been if they had done their jobs to start with” Quinn observed.
“Well, there is that” Wohlfert agreed.
“What are you doing out here?” Wohlfert asked.
“Frankly, I am trying to figure out where your Lieutenant is.” Quinn said.
“He is across the river” Wolhfert told him.
“Across the river?” Quinn repeated, not sure he had heard correctly.
“Yeah. I think he and some of the squad leaders have girlfriends over there. That is where they spend the nights now that the river froze over.” Wohlfert informed Quinn matter-of-factly.
“You mean Doan Creek?” Quinn asked pointing west toward Capiche.
“No. The Red Cedar” Wohlfert said, pointing east into enemy held territory.
“When do you expect them back?” Quinn asked.
“Well, if it is like every other day they will come stumbling back just before chow-time” Wohlfert said.
Quinn did some quick thinking. It would be light when Greene came back and Quinn wanted to deal with this issue as quickly as possible.
“Would I be able to see them from the tower?” Quinn asked.
“There are too many trees. You would be better off watching from Hill 47” Wohlfert said.
“How do I get there?” Quinn asked.
It was a very cold night and Quinn was under-dressed for the weather. He shivered his ass off.
The four men coming across the river early the next morning did not exercise any noise discipline. It was clear from the speed they traveled that it was a route they had traveled many times before. It also showed a lot more confidence in the thickness of the ice over the West Branch of the Red Cedar than Quinn would have felt.
Quinn did not have a camera but he did have an excellent set of binos. There was no doubt who the four men were.
Quinn slipped away. He would consult with Gimp and Chernovsky before he acted but he had a pretty good idea what he was going to do.
“NO!” Gimp said. “You cannot summarily execute them.”
Quinn ticked off on his fingers “Four cases of Dereliction-of-Duty. Fraternizing-with-the-enemy. Testimony that it happens every night. Providing a trail into our defenses that nobody monitors because they don’t want to piss-off their leaders. How many more crimes do you need before you think they deserve a bullet in their heads?”
“I agree that they deserve a bullet in their heads but this is not about them.” Gimp said.
“Then what is it about?” Quinn said.
Chernvosky was silent. He wanted to see where Gimp was going with this line of argument.
Gimp decided that the indirect approach would work best. Quinn was now his peer and Gimp couldn’t just order him around. Quinn could, and would argue if he didn’t see the reasons for something.
“How many men in five squads?” Gimp asked.
“Fifty. Everybody knows that” Quinn said.
“How many of them are warriors, the kind you point them toward the enemy and he cuts a path through them?” Gimp asked.
“One, if you are lucky” Quinn said.
“How many look at it as a job and just get it done? No excuses.” Gimp asked.
“I don’t know. Maybe two per squad….that would be ten” Quinn said, not quite knowing where this was going.
“On the other end of the spectrum. How many are slugs, the kind you have to put your boot in their ass to get them moving?” Gimp asked.
“About the same, two-per-squad” Quinn said.
“So what does that leave us in the middle? Thirty give or take a few.” Gimp asked.
“If you summarily execute Greene and his bozo-buddies, what is going to happen to each group?” Gimp asked. “I will help you out, the eleven warriors or almost warriors will still do their job.”
“Well, I imagine the slugs will get religion and start doing their jobs” Quinn said.
“And that is where you are wrong. They will desert” Gimp said. From his body language it was clear that Quinn did not believe him.
“What about the thirty in the middle?” Gimp asked.
“I give up. What will they do?” Quinn said.
“They will be paralyzed. They won’t do a thing out of fear that they will end up with a bullet in the back of their head” Gimp said. "They will have absolutely zero initiative."
"Executing Greene might be satisfying but it will cost you a big chunk of your effective force" Gimp said.
“So what would you have me do?” Quinn said.
“You should bend over backwards to give them due-process. Give them a fair trail and then sentence them to death. Then offer them a deal. Kick their ass out of our military and give them a half hour to clear the property” Gimp said. "If they are still around 30 minutes later, then you can shoot them in their heads.