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Книга Army of Devils. Содержание - 6

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"He's awake," she whispered before opening the door. "He wants to talk. He's very shook up by what happened."

"No doubt," Towers answered. He knocked before opening the door.

In the sun-bright white room, Lou Stevens sat up in the cranked-up hospital bed. Newspapers with bold headlines covered the blanket. He looked up from reading as they entered.

"Mr. Stevens, how are you?" Towers shook hands with the white-haired electrical engineer. "Doctor told me you didn't even need general anesthesia."

"I don't even need to be in the hospital. The bullet went through the wall before it hit me. Doctor showed me the fragments he took out of my leg. I got bigger pieces of metal than that still in me from the Philippines."

"World War II?" Towers asked.

"Signal Corps."

"Is that how you got your start in electronics?"

"Electronics?" Stevens laughed. "That's what I thought. Wanted to go to trade school or college, but I didn't think I'd ever have that much time or money. So I enlisted. Thought I'd do a four-year course in the Army, learning about radios. What I did was unroll wire for field telephones while everybody shot at me. Japs thought I was a soldier. Our side thought I was a Jap infiltrator. Soon enough I learned to dig with my nose while I ran with my legs. Sort of a human plow. Except never more than three inches off the ground. Something like a torpedo through the dirt."

All of them laughed. Towers took the opportunity to introduce Lyons and Flor. "This is my friend Carl Stone. He's with federal law enforcement. And Angelica Lopez. She's Federal, also. They'd like to talk to you about what happened last night."

Stevens tapped one of the newspaper stories.

"I'll tell you. It was awful. But what I see in the papers… I had my daughter and her husband in the next room. My month-old grandson. I gave those… those… delinquents a chance. I told them. And they started shooting. That machine gun they had, it just ripped the place apart. So I shot the first two in the feet. But good God, they didn't stop…"

"Did they seem to feel the pain?" Lyons asked gently.

"They started screaming, but… but they only really screamed when I told them to get out. They screamed, but it wasn't… it wasn't like pain. 'Die, whitey, die, you white…' They used words I won't repeat in the presence of a young lady. I shot the first two in the feet and they went down. The one with the machine gun started shooting everywhere. So I shot him. The ones with pistols saw me and shot. That's when I got wounded. I fell down.

"They rushed me with those pistols. I was on the floor, and I put the little red dot right on their faces. Shot them.

"Goddamn glad for all the time I've spent on the range shooting skeet. Those two fall down, and I see the one on the ground trying to get that little machine gun. He's wounded and bleeding like… like… like terrible casualties I saw in the Philippines. But he's still trying to get the machine gun. I had to shoot him.

"And the other two. One of them, his foot is gone. And he stands up and tries to run at me. Not away. At me, with a machete. 'Die, whitey,' he screamed. I shot him. The other one, he takes a pistol off the floor. I shot him, too."

For a moment, the grandfather stared into space. He shook his head at the remembered images. "It was so awful. It was so goddamn awful."

Lyons put his hand on Stevens's shoulder. "You saved your family. Those punks weren't there to steal. They were completely doped out of their minds and looking to kill."

"I know, I know. But I'll never be able to forget what… what I had to do."

Towers spoke then. "Sir, you gave us the only break we've had so far. We've got a start on that crazy drug, and we've got the weapon and the bodies. Without that, we'd have nothing to work on. It's a start. You can be proud of that."

"Thanks for trying to cheer me up, but I've got to live with it. I'll see what I did for the rest of my life. I'll never forget."

A knock sounded on the door. Towers glanced to Lyons and Flor. The two Federals turned their backs to the door. Towers asked, "Who's there?"

"Urgent message for Mr. Lou Stevens!"

"He's resting," Towers answered.

"Who's the message from?" Stevens called out.

"I don't know, sir. I'm only a messenger."

"Bring it in," Stevens told the unseen messenger.

"I'll get it," Towers said.

But before the detective could go to the door, a young Chicano man dressed in a suit and tie stepped across the small hospital room. The messenger slapped an envelope down on the bed. "You're served! You'll pay for murdering those brothers!"

Towers recognized the messenger. "You're one of the Youth Action lawyers. They let you in!"

Lyons started for the messenger. "What do you mean, he's served? Is that a lawsuit? For what?"

Towers shoved him back. Now the detective demanded, "What is that?"

As he went out the door, the lawyer turned and announced, "See you in court, you racist butcher!"


In 1969, a group of North American and Chicano social activists created the Los Angeles Youth Action Committee. Veterans of marches and riots against the undeclared Asian war, the activists had rejected the violence and fugitive existence of the more radical elements of the youthful counterculture. Unlike the Weatherman and the Black Panthers, the activists believed they could achieve greater social change through alliance with the progressive elements of their government.

They opened a storefront office in downtown Los Angeles. Though the faces and names changed as the activists returned to college or went to work or traveled the world, the committee never lacked idealistic volunteers for their programs of antidraft counseling, youth guidance, English instruction and Chicano-Native American history.

However, government programs — local, state, federal — never granted the committee the funding necessary to pay salaries. The committee survived on money solicited from students and local merchants to pay rent and office expenses. Fund-raising events provided money for the purchase of typewriters and public-address systems. Month after month, the committee struggled for every dollar as they delivered services to the poor and disadvantaged of Los Angeles.

Then Mario Silva joined the committee. A young second-generation Cuban American — his family had come to the United States when his father, a personal friend of President Batista of Cuba, fled with the deposed general when that nation fell to Fidel Castro — Silva had been graduated from the University of California at Los Angeles in 1969. Though his liberal ideals conflicted with his family's conservative heritage, his father supported him throughout his university years. And the day after Mario passed the State of California Bar Exam his father presented him with an American Express credit card and an around-the-world airline ticket.

To his parents' surprise, after almost a year of travels through Central and South America, Africa and Asia, their son did not talk of his adventures. He did not show them photos or souvenirs purchased in the distant cities of the world. He returned changed, but silent. They would not have known he'd traveled at all except for the many postcards they received, and the year-long accumulation of American Express charges at exclusive hotels, expensive restaurants and auto-rental agencies around the world.

But his work with the Los Angeles Youth Action Committee suggested a compassionate transformation. Throughout his years as a student, he'd demonstrated an ability to master difficult subjects through intense periods of study — total immersion. He broke his discipline only to strut through the ranks of the young women in the college. This reassured his Hispanic father of his son's virility. The senior Silva had once carried a listing of Cuban and North American showgirls eager to advance their careers through "association" with a high-ranking Batista cabinet official. Silva could not imagine his son's not following in his Don Juan rhythms of lust and jilt, infidelity and jealousy.

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