Randy did not report back in, the following Monday morning, I thought maybe he was still sick from the weekend. I wasn’t feeling all that well myself. He wasn’t there Tuesday either, or Wednesday and so I went to Mary’s apartment where we often hung out. He was there lying on the couch watching TV, the curtains drawn. “So what’s up?” I ask.
“I can’t go back man, nothing makes any sense anymore.”
“You’re in the military Randy, they call that desertion, and the penalty can be severe,” I warned.
“Yeah, I know. Maybe I will be there in the morning.”
He didn’t show up and so I planned to see him on the weekend but early Friday morning there was an accident and an enlisted man was killed. Since I had been waiting for a corneal transplant for over a year I was put on notice and was informed that the family had given their permission for removing the corneas at about 1030 hours. I was admitted to the hospital immediately and in surgery by 1400 hours.
I was restricted to the ward for several weeks after the surgery and had no contact with any of the group. The transplant did not take and my vision now in the left eye was even less than before. I was back to feeling suicidal and even saved several sleeping pills for the Grand Finale when one day two officers from the Office of Naval Intelligence approached my bed and asked me to come along with them.
“I think I am still restricted to the ward,” I told them politely.
“We talked with your doctor and he says it’s okay.” One of them responded.
“Well, what is it you want to talk about?” I ask.
“We will talk at the office, just get your clothes on.” the younger man said in a stronger tone, implying that they were not interested in chitchat at this time.
I got dressed and they followed close behind me, giving me directions as we walked. We went into a part of the hospital that I was not familiar with and when we got to the office they read me my rights and asked if I wanted to call anyone. I said no, not until I hear what you have to say. They fingerprinted me and then put me in a small office and began asking me questions.
The questions were simple at first. “Do you know anyone named Randy? Do you know anyone named Mary?” I told them “Yes”.
“Do you know Randy is a deserter from the US Military?”
“I know Randy is my friend, Sir, and he hasn’t been feeling well lately,” I answer honestly.
“That does not answer the question!” the younger officer barked. “Do you know he is considered a deserter by the US Navy?”
“I don’t know what the Navy considers him Sir, but I consider him a friend,” I respond defensively.
“Look you smart ass, we have been following you guys for some time now and we know all of your activities. So why don’t you just come clean?” the younger officer barks again.
“Well Sir, if you know everything, why are you asking me questions?” I responded defiantly. “I think I want to speak to a lawyer now.”
“Just a minute,” the older officer interrupts, as he motions his partner out of the room. I smile to myself thinking I have seen this good cop vs. bad cop routine in movies but didn’t realize that they actually did it that way. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” he asks.
“Why not?” I respond, still with some defiance. ”Make it black.”
He pours two cups of coffee and brings them over to the desk where I am sitting. “You know Wayne, we already have a signed confession from Mary, so there is no need to cover anything up. We know the two of you are not the bad guys. It’s Randy we need and all we need from you is a little cooperation.”
“Can I see the confession?”
“I can’t let you read it but I can show you the file,” he says as he opens his briefcase. He pulls out a brown file and points to Mary’s name on the first page.
“You said it was signed, can I see her signature?”
He turns to the last page and shows me her signature and my mind races back to the day we all talked about what we would do if things got too heavy. We had decided that it would be best to turn ourselves in. I had little to lose because I was near the end of my enlistment. Mary was a nurse and could easily find employment elsewhere. Randy had the most to lose but thought he could make it if necessary. I had not been in contact with them for several weeks and assumed they had decided to throw in the towel.
He rattled off a bunch of questions and my response was generally the same. “What did Mary say?” He would look in the file and tell me and I would say, “That’s about right?” In the end, they asked if I would write out my confession, which I did but was careful not to mention that I had ever seen them do drugs but only assumed they were taking them. I signed the confession and they thanked me for my cooperation. “So, what’s next?” I ask.
“If I were you, I would get me a good lawyer,” the younger officer said with a smirk, “we’ll be asking for an immediate court marshal to put your ass in the brig.”
Suddenly it occurred to me what I had just done and the reality of it was difficult to accept. I needed desperately to talk to Randy and Mary and so instead of returning to the ward I went to the lobby of the hospital and called them from a payphone. Mary answered and I could tell by her voice that she was not feeling well. “Is Randy there?” I asked.
“No, I think he is in the brig,” she responded soberly and then proceeded to tell me what she knew. Evidently, the civilian police picked up Randy the night before, for shoplifting at a local supermarket. He was transferred to the military brig when they did a check on him and found out he was a deserter. He had used his one call to telephone her in the morning, to warn us that they knew about our activities. The ONI Officers were at her apartment a short time after his call, making it impossible to contact me. They had spent several hours talking to her and evidently came to get me as she was leaving their office. A very good piece of detective work and just like in the movies, the cops finally caught up with the criminals, only this wasn’t the movies.
To everything there is a season,
And a time to every purpose under Heaven,
And like it or not,
The Times they were changing.