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Strait Flush Ch 15 Monday 1622
Strait Flush Ch 15 Monday 1622
The plane glided easily into Okinawa's Kadena Air Force Base. Tom spotted hangers with F-15s on the side of the taxiway as the C-141 rolled to a speed and negotiated the turn at the end of the runway. The other passengers were talkative and jovial throughout the flight, Rossi feigned sleep in order to avoid attention or questions.
Rolling to a stop, the enlisted crewchief guided the passengers to the personnel hatch and onto the hot concrete of Japan. The flightline was busy with mechanics, technicians and aircrew crawling over various craft, all adorned in their dark green USAF utilities and baseball caps sporting colorful squadron insignia. Rossi followed the procession into the passenger terminal and felt the glass door shutting the flightline noises out. This was considerably better than the Cubi Point terminal in size and amenities. Dozens of servicemen from all branches lounged in cushioned chairs and watched television. Tom exchanged some small bills into Japanese Yen at a vendor and scouted for a newspaper. Several were lying abandoned on the seats; he sat and briefly checked for stories on the Manila airport bombing. There were no stories in the Far East edition of Stars and Stripes newspaper, which didn't mean the Okinawan papers weren't reporting.
Tom carried the backpack into the cafe area and ordered a coffee, enjoying the respect the uniform brought from the younger troops filing in and out. He scanned a map on the wall and planned his next step. He couldn't get a false passport with his new name, it would be easier to change clothes and try to bluff his way through using the passport in his backpack pocket under his actual name. Tom carried his backpack into the nearest men's room and changed into civilian clothes. Stuffing the uniform into a trashcan and hiding the stolen ID card in his shoe. Carrying the pack out of the terminal, Rossi hailed a taxi and hopped in. "Naha Airport."
"Yes Sir." The cabbie sped off.
The trip to Naha International Airport was a short one. It was the capitol city of the island and the largest city. The late-hour traffic didn't slow the cab from winding its way through the narrow streets and modern highways. Rossi remembered how much he enjoyed Okinawa when he served on a six-month rotation on a camp near the island's center. Kadena was the place where he would go with a few of the guys on a Saturday night and steal some women from the Air Force types that lived in the luxury of the base. There were several camps used by the Marine Corps that were far worse for comforts. At one camp was the Northern Training Area, a jungle/survival training facility where navigation in pitch dark through mountainous terrain and deep foliage was standard fare. Several guys in Tom's class didn't make it through the course, being medically evacuated with broken legs and such, he recalled. It was a grueling two-week course then, complete with mountain rappelling, survival diet, rope bridge construction and tactics in mountain terrain. He lost twelve pounds in the ordeal and graduated all the wiser.
The sea air and palm trees were nearly the same on every island, but there was a mystique of Okinawa that was all its own. The southern base was largely Americanized, as was the surrounding town. The northern camps were isolated and rooted in the Japanese culture, and the host nation was always suspicious of the westerners that occupied the island fortress. Conflict between the two cultures was inevitable. Rossi learned a great deal of respect for the Japanese police after his first visit to Kimpo, where he watched a drunk Marine resist arrest after a minor altercation with a store owner. The two policemen thoroughly beat the larger serviceman in a flurry of karate kicks and blows.
The cab pulled into the passenger-loading terminal of Naha International and Rossi paid his fare. He walked into the air-conditioned terminal and scanned the screens for outgoing flights to Changi International and located one with JAL in less than an hour. He hurried over to the ticket counter and checked the price, then changed over additional dollars to Yen and paid for the fare. Still clutching the canvas bag and passport, Tom headed for the gates and was relieved to find no outgoing customs officials, so the real test would be in Singapore. There would need to be a way to bluff or avert the customs office there. He was mentally rehearsing his story as he sat in the gate seating, waiting for the plane to take him further into harm's way.
The Lockheed L1011 was nearly full, after all, it was Monday evening and traffic between the two countries was usually thick. Tom settled into his seat and thought back over the plans, realizing he actually didn't have one.
The flight landed near midnight, Rossi slept fitfully aboard the plane. The landing in Changi was reminiscent of the same landing one week earlier under more optimistic circumstances. Now the arms were gone. Now the pilot was dead. The once-shining C-130 that he first inspected in Dubai was a pile of ash and wreckage on the airport in Manila. The easy money was its own liability. At least the customs officials would be more lax at this hour of the night. Tom was feeling weary from his days circumnavigating the eastern world. Only the days with Gloria were a reprieve.
The walk to the terminal was familiar, Tom recalled the weary Japanese businessman from the first flight and realized that now he was the same man, plodding down the ramps. He clenched his bag tighter and held his passport in his free hand as he approached the customs desk. Two attendants on duty, they would be busy with the amount of passengers on this flight. Two good signs.
Rossi walked quickly to the front of the group of passengers and was among the first to show his passport. The young man in the Customs uniform inspected the passport and looked sharply into Rossi's eyes and saw only a tired American.
"Sir, your last stamp is the Philippines, this plane is in from Japan, where is your stamp from Okinawa?"
Tom shrugged his shoulders and feigned confusion. "Why, I don't know. I was just flying to Okinawa with a business associate from Manila and then departed from there. Nobody in Japan asked for my passport, I didn't even leave the terminal. After my associate left, I caught the flight here."
Rossi noticed the official looking at the accumulating line behind Tom and realizing the story was plausible.
"You were with a business associate and carried no briefcase? Please open your backpack." Tom obliged and allowed the man to search the pack, apparently satisfied with his finding.
"It wasn't necessary, why do you ask?" Tom began to get angry without knowing why. "Look, I own several computer stores in the U.S. and have close ties with companies here and in Hong Kong. Now I get hassled after a long day for no reason..."
"Sir, no body is hassling you, I am simply asking questions as part of my job controlling the in-processing." The line behind Tom was long with impatient Japanese and Singaporean business suits; the partner official shot the young man a nervous look. "Do you have anything to declare?"
What a stupid question, thought Tom, after searching my only piece of baggage. "Nothing. All of my personal items are in my hotel room here."
The customs official eyed Tom, still suspicious, then quickly stamped the passport with the Singapore seal and handed it back to the American. "Have a pleasant stay in Singapore, Sir."
Rossi took the passport and backpack and hurried to the terminal doors, then walked quickly to the nearest cab. He awoke the cabbie by opening the door and slung his bag in before sliding into the seat. The sleepy Indian turned around. "Good Evening, Sir. Where to?"
Tom recalled the hotel from the computer seminar a few years before. "To the Novotel Orchid Inn. I only have Japanese Yen, Philippine Pesos and American Dollars."
"Very good, sir. The currency is not a problem, but I prefer the Yen." It figures, thought Tom, as the cab pulled away from the curb and motored down the Airport Boulevard and onto the East Coast Parkway.
The town was well lit, despite the early morning hours. The pale yellow of street lamps illuminated Ten- and twelve-story apartments housing hundreds of families in the Bedok New Town area. The occasional lamps from the passing ships in the distance only broke the inky blackness to the left of the highway. The wide Coast Parkway passed through the town of Katong, where golf driving ranges and tennis clubs lay silent near the shore.
The cab turned right onto Bukit Timah Road after crossing a bridge and sped onward through virtually empty lanes. The city's skyscrapers were on the left side. Within minutes, the familiar sight of the hotel jogged Tom's memory and the cab pulled into the driveway.
He was in luck, there was a vacancy. Tom paid the cabbie and checked in for two days in advance, then was shown a spacious room with a balcony overlooking the downtown area. To the right was the rolling Tanglin Hill. Tom stripped and fell into the double bed and fell quickly asleep.
11/30/2005 12:32 am
LET'S GO METS!!!
11/30/2005 9:00 am
thanxx RollMe. I stopped in and checked out your blog...liked the one about the spelling errors...(..does it make you cooler to spell wrong? I think not.)|
11/30/2005 7:39 pm
I'm still with ya...|
12/1/2005 5:17 am
still reading with great interest you sure do have a gift for writing|
love silky x
12/1/2005 9:43 pm
good to see you back...I was getting worried about you for a while. I didn't have a lot of time to comment on your latest blog...good to see you back 'in form'...
Hi Silky...I love it when you visit. I'll get time later and do more commentin'....