I skimmed I quickly flipped to the cover of the book. It said “The Fall of Saigon: American Policies and Politics at the End of the Vietnam War”. Huh. It was a history book, obviously, and the chapter that it had been open to was called “Operation Frequent Wind”.
I could not really be sure of the timing, but it definitely seemed like this was something my Great-Uncle had been working on before he died. Maybe it was important. I sat down to read. It took a few minutes to get the just of what was going on, since I did not want to start at the beginning of the book, but like most history books it was pretty dry, and mostly just a series of facts. Apparently, “Operation Frequent Wind” was the name of the helicopter evacuation of Americans and some “at-risk” South Vietnamese from Saigon at the end of the Vietnam war. The book made it sound pretty heroic, a bunch of helicopters taking terrified civilians out of a city that was literally being invaded as they were doing it, rockets and bombs going off all around them. Then they flew out of the city, and landed on American ships in the South China Sea.
There were two lines highlighted. The first one was in a paragraph that was talking about who was evacuated, and said “In addition to such notables were the “beautiful people” of Saigon, including those young men of military age whose wealthy parents had paid large bribes to keep them out of the Army, and now were paying even more to evacuate them.” The second said “Other helicopters dropped off their passengers and were ditched into the sea by their pilots, close to the ships, their pilots bailing out at the last moment to be picked up by rescue boats.”
Okay, so at some point my Great-Uncle had been reading about the Vietnam War. That did not really tell me anything, except since it was on the desk with several books that were written in a Asian-looking language, maybe the language was Vietnamese. That is, if Vietnamese actually was a language. I honestly had no idea.
I let out a sigh, and leaned back in the chair. I really had not learned anything.
There was a polite cough behind me, and I nearly toppled over backwards in the chair. I staggered up and out of the chair, turning frantically to see who it was.
The butler was standing a few feet away, clearly trying not to smile. “Christ, you scared the crap out of me.”
His lips twitched, just a little. “I am…very sneaky.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Are you quoting an Adam Sandler movie?”
“I’m sure I have no idea what you are talking about.”
I looked at him for another few seconds, not sure if he was messing with me or not. He was honestly kind of creeping me out. “Okay, what’s up? How did you even find me? You know, here?” I gestured at our surroundings. “Crazy hidden lab or whatever.”
“Yes, I am quite familiar with this house. Which is, actually, why I wanted to talk with you, as you are clearly not.” He leaned back against the table, and folded his arms across his chest.
I stared at him for another second, then said “Dude, seriously, who are you? Are you, like, a butler or something?”
His eyes widened, and he barked a little surprised laugh, which sounded disconcertingly like a squawk. “Butler. I should think not.”
He looked down at his jacket, and then back at me with a thoughtful expression. “Although I can see why you might think that. I loose track of fashion so easily. And I suppose that some of my roles could be considered…” He shook his head. “No, I am not a butler. I did work for your uncle, in a way. And perhaps I will work for you.”
“Um…do you have a name?”
His lips twitched again in that almost-smile. “You can call me Sam. And you are Benjamin Cooper, I know. Please, sit down. I only have a few minutes, but there are some things that you need to know. It is unfortunate that you don’t have the time to…but it has already happened. Please, sit.”
I sat back down in the desk chair, feeling suddenly nervous. “What is it?”
“It seems you are aware of Mr. Cooper’s death, and that he bequeathed this house to you in his will. Well-”
I cut him off. “Do you know how he died?”
He frowned. “No, I do not. I know that he is dead, but I do not know how.”
“I got a phone call from someone who said he might have been killed, but I would think that if he got killed and I inherited this house, the police would have talked to me, or something. I mean, I don’t really know, it just seems…I don’t know, odd.”
“Mr. Cooper had a great many enemies, and I very much doubt he had an accident.”
“So you think he might have been killed too. Why aren’t the police doing anything? Or are they and I just haven’t heard anything?”
“I do not know. My knowledge of things outside this house are…limited. But please, there is something that you must know before you…ah. Too late. You should answer that.”
“Wha-” My phone rang.
“How did you know…” I pulled out my phone and looked at the number. It was a DC area code, but I did not recognize the number.
“Answer it, it is important.”
I looked at him, wondering how on earth he had known my phone was going to ring before it did. “Okay, but hold that thought, I want to hear what you were going to say.”
I touched the “accept call” button, and pressed the phone to my ear. “Hello?”