Wilson buried his face in his hands and began to weep.
Two wooden folding chairs rested against the wall. Dung opened them. “Sit, my friend. I will tell you why I thought you came her on this day to kill me.”
Wilson dropped his hands and stared at Dung. “I still don’t understand.”
“Please sit,” Dung said.
Dung arranged the chairs to face one another and Wilson sat. Dung sat directly in front Wilson. The light bulb dangled overhead.
“I was 20 years old when I left school to fight for the Viet Cong,” Dung began. “I had no political ideology. I just wanted the Americans out of my country. My father fought to free us from the French. My father and grandfather fought to free us from the Japanese.”
Dung looked out a basement window that faced the street. “The only real freedom we have is our thoughts and the daylight,” Dung said. “One government or another takes everything else. My father told me one day to choose the one that demands the least and rewards the most. He went on to tell me how he had a friend from America during World War II. He was a young intelligence officer for the Army. My father was remarkable; he spoke Vietnamese, of course, French, English, Cantonese, and Japanese. He was very helpful to this American officer.”
“Let me guess,” Wilson said, “This officer came calling on your father and you got recruited as an agent.”
“Yes,” Dung said. “The American promised that win or lose our family would have a home in the United States if we wanted it. That was too good to turn down. My father wanted to raise chickens in Wyoming.”
“That’s cattle country,” Wilson chuckled.
“My father knew chickens and loved Wyoming,” Dung said. “He saw a picture of Wyoming and said he wanted to feel that free.”
“Four years of fighting my loyalty was never questioned,” Dung said. “I was moving up the ranks of the Cong. I came under suspicion that I was an agent. Suddenly I was not a part of planning. Meetings were held that I was not invited to. I had to prove my loyalty.”
Dung breathed deep. “I spoke with my American contact about my problem. He suggested that I capture two soldiers. They would be held only for a brief time then there would be a prisoner exchange. He suggested two low-grade soldiers, what do you say, grunts?”
“That is what we were called,” Wilson said.
“I was given information about a small patrol sweeping through a village,” Dung said. “Two men would be sent beyond the village to a ridge. Me and my men would capture them there.”
“Were the two men Everett Carpenter and Wilson Gentry?” Wilson said.
“Yes,” Dung said. “Everything went as planned.”
Dung looked closely at Wilson. “You don’t remember any of this do you?”
“No,” Wilson said.
“We captured the two men and marched for three days,” Dung said. “We met our commanders at an old plantation home. You and Carpenter were held it a hut for two days and on the third day from nowhere came a flurry of rockets from helicopters and we were being attacked from the jungle. I was given the order to kill both of you.”
“It is a difficult thing to process thoughts while everything is exploding around you and you hear bullets whiz through the trees and grass,” Dung said. “All you think about is survival, but I thought about my whole family. If I didn’t carry out the order my whole family would likely be killed. That’s how the Cong operated.”
“I stepped inside the hut you and Carpenter were held,” Dung said. “I told Carpenter to turn away. I shot him in the back of the head.”
“You started to shake violently,” Wilson said. “I remember.”
Dung fell forward and began to shake and sob. “I could not kill you. I told you to run.”
“I don’t remember that,” Wilson said.
“It was reported you were killed,” Dung said. “At first I made up the story that I held rifle on you and ordered you to kill Carpenter to protect myself and my family. I told my American contact the same story.”
“So that’s why the Army was going to try and prosecute me,” Wilson said. “Dung, are you sure that’s the way it was?”
“I was willing to let you kill me,” Dung said.
“No one else should die,” Wilson said.
“I should die,” Dung said. “I can’t tell you how many times I walked down those steps with every intention of killing myself, but only you have the right.”
“I’m glad you waited for me,” Wilson said. “If you were not alive to tell me the truth I would have never known.”
“I tried to make contact with the Army over the years to set things right,” Dung said, “but they turned me away. The said the case was closed. Several years ago they gave me the name of you lawyer and I sent him my name and number. I told him I had the truth about what happened. He never responded.”
“If he know what information you had he would have contacted you,” Wilson said. “He probably thought you had nothing more than the same old story.”
“You don’t look well, Gentry. I bet you haven‘t eaten in a couple of days.” Dung said. “There is a pizza place down the street, Giordano’s, I think we should go there.”