The Silent Men
The Silent Men
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Story Summary

An American sniper, Jackson Monroe, is sent on an illegal mission in Cambodia to assassinate a North Vietnamese general. As he is about the pull the trigger, another general arrives. The unexpected visitor is a South Vietnamese traitor, consorting with the enemy to plot the Tet Offensive. Monroe shoots both men, then evades capture by the North Vietnamese while the US commanders debate whether to rescue him or abandon him, lest his illegal mission be revealed.

Richard Dickinson Comments

Vietnam is the war I never got to fight. They say that those who dodged the draft wish they’d served. Those who served wish they’d gone to Vietnam. Those who went to Vietnam wish they’d seen combat. Those who saw combat wish they’d been wounded. Those who were wounded wish they been killed. I think there is some truth to that.


Excerpt from The Silent Men

           The jungle had never been more silent, the wild creatures holding their breath in the presence of one hundred human dead stacked like lumber. Only Monroe moved, approaching the grisly pile reluctantly, yet compelled toward it by some ghastly fascination. Unlike the men Monroe had killed with a single bullet, these men were torn to shreds by shrapnel or fleshettes from the howitzers at Firebase Christine. They were not truly a pile of corpses as much as a salad of body parts: torsos, intestines, legs, and arms. Skulls blown apart like coconuts. Monroe stared at the chest-high pile and listened to the dripping blood.

            The sun broke over the horizon and the fog thinned slightly, the sight too cruel even for the Silent Men. A shaft of light created a tiny rainbow as it filtered through the tendrils of mist. Nothing moved but the daylight, dancing across the luminous wounds.

            The hair on Monroe’s arms bristled as he crept up on them, men who would never see or hear him regardless of how much noise he made. But as he reached carefully for the mirror, a hand swatted him away, an arm reaching from the pile as if to slap his wrist for robbing the dead. Monroe recoiled, leaping backwards and flailing the air with his fists. He drew his knife reflexively and froze in a combat crouch. But there was no attacker, only the fog shifting among the trees. The arm lay on the ground, attached to no one, fingers reaching of their own accord toward him. Monroe saw then that the whole pile was moving, writhing with rigor mortis, jaws closing, hands clenching, eyes opening, everything stiffening with the congealing of blood.

 


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