Recently, on the Bookshelf for YSDC, I talked about a Vietnam War novel, Play the Red Queen, by Juris Jurjevics. At that time I'd forgotten Michael Herr's Dispatches, or I'd have mentioned that Jurjevics borrowed his entire plot from a paragraph of Herr's. I'm going to quote that paragraph now, leaving out a small portion that might be considered Red Queen spoilers:
Those nights there was a serious tiger lady going round on a Honda shooting American officers on the street with a .45. I think she'd killed over a dozen in three months; the Saigon papers described her as 'beautiful' but I don't know how anybody knew that ... [redacted.]
Herr goes on to say:
Saigon, the center, where every action in the bushes hundreds of miles away fed back into town on a karmic wire strung so tight if you touched it in the early morning it would sing all day and all night. Nothing so horrible happened upcountry that it was beyond language fix and press relations, a squeeze fit into the computers would make the heaviest numbers jump up and dance. You'd either meet an optimism that no violence could unconvince, or a cynicism that would eat itself empty every day and then turn, hungry and malignant, on whatever it could for a bite, friendly or hostile, it didn't matter. Those men called dead Vietnamese 'believers', a lost American patrol was 'a black eye,' they talked as though killing a man was nothing more than depriving him of his vigor.
One thing Jujevics hammers, which Herr does not (as he spends more time out of Saigon), is how irredeemably corrupt Saigon became in this period. Everyone's on the make, from the corporals to the colonels to the astrologer telling fortunes in the tea shop. Troops go back and forth to the Indian money changers, there to exchange their pay (and extracurricular funds) at favorable rates. Spooks from Langley are ferrying vast quantities of dirty currency to Hong Kong, there to be laundered and put back in circulation. Up in the Ambassador's Mansion Henry Cabot Lodge is scheming, and down in the town the Red Queen is picking her next target - though whether she's doing so on the CIA's behalf, the Viet Cong's, or on a mission of her own devising is an open question.
This is all the more pressing because, at the time of Jurjevics' novel, Prime Minister Diem is on the verge of toppling, yet again. His generals are plotting to depose him, everybody knows it, and the only serious consideration is whether or not Diem and his closest people be extradited somewhere safe before the ax falls. It's not the first time Diem's regime, and life, has been threatened but everyone thinks it will be the last.
The Fall of Delta Green takes place during this period. Perhaps the most likely occult organization to be involved, aside from Delta Green itself, is the Order of the Black Buddha (p305). It's a fair bet that any Delta agents operating in Saigon are at least going to spare a moment's thought for American officers being gunned down by a mysterious female assassin. Using Constructing a Crime (p 312) as a baseline:
The Victim(s): An American officer of captain rank or higher. Further investigation shows that they're all working in procurement in one capacity or another; these aren't just REMFs, they're accountants and auditors - the people who know where the money goes and who set it in motion.
The Deed: Each time the target was shot at a distance by a woman using a .45 caliber pistol, who immediately speeds away on the back of a scooter driven by an accomplice. The weapon, forensics can determine, is a Savage 1907, manufactured for the French in the Great War; it probably made its way to Vietnam as a police sidearm, before the assassin got hold of it. Her marksmanship is impeccable, never more than one shot per kill. Funny thing; at each scene there's a graffiti skull on the ground or wall next to or very near to the victim. It seems to have been put there beforehand.
The Culprit: The assassin is a Vietnamese woman approximately between the ages of 25 and 30, according to witnesses, who also describe her as 'beautiful.' She has one or more accomplices who act as getaway drivers, and there may be still others who act as spotters. All of them appear to be VC, and judging by strategy and tactics are veteran guerillas. The shooter is a class apart, with talent that could easily have taken her to the Olympics - but will probably take her to the boneyard. Further investigation brings their allegiance into question; is this actually a CIA-backed cleanup crew, eliminating witnesses that might later testify as to the source and whereabouts of its slush fund? Or is this a Russian effort, perhaps GRU-SV8 working through KGB cutouts, to destabilize a Delta Green cash cow? Who really controls all that money flowing through the system to Hong Kong and back? Criminals? The CIA? Someone - something - else?
The Puzzle: That graffiti skull at the crime scene uses magical theory derived from Hermann Mülder's 1939 text Geheimes Mysterium von Asien, the limited edition published for the Karotechia. Use some of your own blood to make the paint and inscribe the death image at a place of your choosing. So long as you're shooting at that point, you gain 4 points Firearms pool and can spend or pull off combat tricks as though you had Cherry level expertise, whether you do or don't. Damage is always considered to be Point Blank for the weapon, no matter how far distant the shooter. This doesn't affect forensics, only damage - so, eg, no gunpowder burns from muzzle contact with flesh, but the wound is in all other respects as bad as it would have been if the weapon was pressing against the target's forehead. Of course, you need to make sure your target is standing where you want them to stand, which is a whole other problem. [Note: DG doesn't use Cherries but NBA does, extra text included to ensure NBA rules taken into account.] There's one other catch. For 24 hours after this magical shootist's trick, the shooter is exceptionally vulnerable to being shot and takes +2 damage from any successful Firearms attack.
Question being, how did this hit team get hold of a Karotechia text?
That's it for this week. Enjoy!