A Car In The Woods: Chapter Ten
New? This is a serialized work. Please start on A: A Car In The Woods
Monday, December 11th, 1961. Three events mattered that day to retired Corporal Eddie Kelly, Army: Adolph Eichmann was found guilty of war crimes in an Israeli court; JFK officially began a war in Vietnam; and David was dead. His severed head sailed past him, barely missing Eddie’s by a hair’s breadth.
Eddie turned and shot into the woods, looking for anything he could turn into a weapon. The sounds behind him were sickening unto themselves; the wet sound of rendering flesh. The clicking noise grew louder behind him, centering on where Eddie had left David’s body. His friend’s dead body.
Still in combat readiness, Eddie rocketed through the woods making as little noise as he could. He made out a climbable tree to his left. Scaling it with ease, Eddie tested out a viable branch that stretched out towards a different tree. He took a deep breath, steeled himself, and ran across the narrow length, jumping just as he felt the limb start to bend.
Safely across, he duck walked towards this tree’s trunk. The foliage was thick, and Eddie took advantage of this, catching his breath, and giving him a moment’s rest; his mind insisted he replay the events that led him here. Hopefully, it would help lead him the way out of this.
He met David Fox on his last tour with the Army. Instant buddies from ’56 to ’58. Long hauls for both of them, but they were there in an advisory capacity only, helping train the ARVN Ranger units under their oversight. They met on the transport flying out of the US; by the time they landed in South Vietnam they were solid.
The April 1956 siege and fall of Dien Bien Phu was the reason they were there. The US was ramping up their mandate: get the ARVN ready steady for what they all knew was coming. The insurgent’s attacks were escalating. It’d be a full-blown war before any of them knew it. Eddie and David were well versed on what their jobs were: they went total Boot on the South Vietnamese troops.
Eddie shipped back home a half year before David. He had a wife and kids waiting, and re-upping wasn’t an option for him. It was all going FUBAR, and all the signs laid out it would only get worse. David wanted one more shot; there was a bit of payback in his decision. Eddie understood. Didn’t agree, but he understood.
They connected after David returned, phone calls bridging the gaps in the distance. He’d been up to visit Eddie and his family before. This time, it just happened to fall on a really sensitive day. They were out on a drive in David’s Chevy Bel Air, shooting the shit. David was overjoyed about Eichmann’s trial, having lost too much family on his father’s side in the camps. Eddie felt the news brought some justice to the world. Not enough for all the dead, but it was something.
Both of their moods, though, were slashed to pieces once the car radio was turned on. Things had been getting worse in Nam: insurgent attacks had ratcheted up in the last few months, and the Diệm government retaliated by decimating the Communists still on South Vietnam soil. Advisory reasoning was shoved aside: the Vietnam War for the US had officially begun.
Thoughts of reenlistment went through both of their heads. Eddie felt the need to break this train of thought. He had previously told David of the weird things going on in the woods a little further on. A T-bird appearing out of nowhere, and then nowhere to be found when it was searched for. Missing people. Smashed cars here and there: not the T-Bird. Never the T-Bird. The few times it had been seen it had always been described as pristine. Bringing it up again got them both fired up, trying to replace the news in their heads and the wooden blocks in their hearts.
Eddie navigated; David drove. They stopped and looked around the few spots that Eddie knew someone saw something or claimed to. First stop was where the Ford Falcon was found. They got out of the Chevy and looked around. There was still enough light left, but it was just an empty space. David found the marred Basswood the car had hit. Eddie thought some dry rot was setting in; he noticed some mushrooms further back in the hole the car had left. Anything that might have been of interest was scavenged in the year since whatever happened, happened.
Next, they went to the outcropping where the Golden Hawk Studebaker was turned inside out. The sunlight was inching away from them by the time they arrived. The four missing teens were still being talked about almost two years gone. Eddie showed David the marks that were gouged out of the rocky ridge. No one could explain it.
The sun was sinking. David looked out over the tree line, the light playing across the leaves, shimmering over the random patches of ice and snow on top of them. A few stars could be seen above and beyond.
“Man, this is beautiful. Thanks, Ed.”
“Davey, we have one more stop, then home to whatever Pat is making for dinner. C’mon.”
Eddie got into the Bel Air, his mood lightening. Just before David opened the car door, he noticed something: there was no noise except for the wind. Strange, he thought.
David disregarded clicking sounds he thought he heard as he got in, shut the door, and turned the engine on.
Turning around and going for that meal would have been the smartest thing to do.
There was a car in the woods.