By Ron Capshaw
I was the military trainer, but it was the doctor who woke
“THE DAY we have been preparing for has come,” the old man
said with the snow-white goatee but quick youthful movements, to all of us in
the tent on our cots.
I came out of the bed dressed as I had been since
preparing for THE DAY, when the Communists and their secret servants in the
American government would take over the United States. Army fatigues. Paratrooper boots. Pistol yanked out from under my pillow.
We in the Minutemen had outlined how it would play
out. Nuclear missile strikes from the
Communists, followed by a land invasion by the Cubans into United States soil
via Mexico. Then the sleeper agents in
the American government would be “activated,” declaring martial law, arresting
or assassinating J. Edgar Hoover and Senator Barry Goldwater.
I was yelling for everyone in the tent to lock and
load. I asked Dr. Manichean what alerted
him that The DAY had arrived.
He played back a recording made from the radio:
“It shall be the
policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against
any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the
United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
Missiles in Communist
Cuba. Ninety miles from our shores. JFK
finally found his spine, but it was too
late. The DAY had come. The missiles
could have already been
And we were situated
and stockpiled in the Florida Everglades.
I just hoped that there would be enough mines left in the
field surrounding our tents to take out some Communist foot soldiers after the
missiles had struck.
The gun-crazy amateurs who I hated to train nevertheless
came into mission mode perfectly.
Grabbing their weapons and going underground. Two to a nuclear shelter.
The doctor wanted to go into mine.
He once told me I was the only one of this group he could
have an intelligent conversation with. I
felt the same way. We were both well-traveled;
he because he was a wealthy doctor; me because of the Army. We could talk about
Chinese pottery, Cuban
coffee, German beer, French wines long into the night.
We even hailed from the same berg. LA.
When I was born, 1922, Doctor Manichean had already made a name for
himself as a child prodigy. He got into
Columbia at age 12, graduating at age 14 with a degree in chemistry. By
age 16, he went to Johns Hopkins’ medical
school, getting an M.D. in three years.
Buying a Mexican adobe house, with multicolored bricks and
several floors, Manichean set himself up as a doctor/shrink to the stars.
During the war, like myself, he served in the OSS. While
I was parachuting into Occupied France,
he was breaking German codes.
After the war, he returned to medical practice. After
a stint in Mao’s China as a
missionary/doctor he went hard right, trying to run for the California congress
on Joe McCarthy’s coat tails in 1952; the height of the tail-gunner’s
influence. Nevertheless, he lost the
By then, the late 1950s, the doctor was canvassing the
right-wing guerilla groups forming because of their perception that at best,
Ike was a weak sister regarding communism; at worst, a Soviet agent.
Meanwhile, I helped train South Vietnamese troops in
guerilla warfare. The CIA brought me
back stateside where, by the early 1960s, I was training anti-Castro guerilla
groups in the Florida everglades.
I was confident they could take back Cuba from Castro.
Until the Bay of Pigs, when Kennedy went soft and left my
comrades stranded on the beach. I was in
the Everglades when I got the news.
It was then I knew that the CIA and JFK had no interest in
fighting THE ENEMY AGAINST AND AMONG US.
I quit the Agency. But you really
could never quit it. I knew they were
opening my mail, had me under surveillance.
Twice I saw someone photographing me from across the street.
So, I went underground, figuratively and literally. Off
the radar. Off the grid.
That was where I met the doctor. He was already in the
eager beaver types, with crew cuts and freckled faces, combat medicine.
Now looking back, I think it was inevitable that we found
each other. Both anti-communists. Both
I think the doctor had some kind of connections with the
Agency, because he knew what I did in the dark alleyways of the Cold War.
We bonded. Despite
his thick glasses he was a good shot, unlike the wannabes in the Minutemen who
couldn’t hit a bear in the ass with a bull fiddle. But the Doc’s true skill was
with edged weapons; no surprise since he had surgical training.
He was youthful for his age, but still he needed at this
moment help getting into our nuclear shelter/bunker.
We got in and closed the lead-lined door above us. It
could only be opened from the inside.
Or so I hoped.
The doctor sat down
on one of the canvas chairs inside. I
checked our oxygen bottles, made sure all weapons were loaded, and counted the
k-rations and canned goods and water bottles to ensure that our stay could wait
out the nuclear war.
Having done that, I sat crouched down.
The doctor was surprisingly calm. Even serene.
Even when the bunker shook.
“The Communists have emptied their silos,” the doctor
“This will hold Doc,”
But again the bunker shook, much harder this time…
“What if it doesn’t?” the doctor said very calmly.
“Then only the cockroaches will inherit the earth,” I
“I’d feel better holding a gun and a knife.”
I understood. I
couldn’t sleep without a knife strapped to my forearm, a .38 special under my
pillow. A .45 in the desk drawer of my
I gave him my pistol and knife.
He inspected the knife, holding it up to the light.
“Sharp?” he said, looking at me.
“Like one of your scalpels, Doc.”
The bunker shook and the lights in it went out.
The night is jet
black, great for a hit and run operation, but terrible for a parachute
drop. My parachute of course gets caught
in a tree. The Nazis see me hanging and
start firing... I am sawing frantically
at my parachute straps—
Doc is looking into my eyes. The lights have come back
The bunker shakes again.
Canned goods fall out of the shelves.
“That was close,” I said, now wondering if the bunker was
going to be enough.
Doc didn’t look concerned.
“I’ll be upfront with you, Doc. We may not
get through this. The Communists have much better nukes and
missiles than we thought.”
The bunker shakes even harder, making our teeth hit
“I guess it's confession time, Colonel,” the Doc said in
his cultured voice.
I was familiar with that; that moment when one was
convinced they were going to die and wanted to expunge their sins to their
Like when Jenkins and
I were under sniper fire when the mission went really wrong and he told me he
once beat up a hooker and took all her money—
Or when Bakersfield
and I were under heavy fire and the only thing between us and the Vietcong was
a fallen bamboo tree and we would be cut in half if we tried to fire back and
he told me that one time he didn’t pick up his sister from school and she was
I now smelt death coming into the shaking bunker; that
enemy I had dodged so many times for so long.
But I never felt it this close.
“I think you’re probably right, Doc.”
The Doc smiled and gestured with the knife I had given him
to me, “You first Colonel.”
He then peered intently into my eyes like the shrink he
once was in 40s Hollywood.
Oh, what the hell, I thought. It’s
not like we’re walking out of here. The walls will collapse in on
us and we will
be buried alive or if we could dig our way out, we will be vaporized Or,
have a slow radioactive death; our skin
peeling off us in strips like it did
those Japs in Nagasaki.
I told him what I didn’t tell Jenkins and Bakersfield when
we were convinced our numbers were up.
“I helped liberate a concentration camp. When we
parachuted in we lost a lot of
men. The krauts must have been tipped
off that we were coming. They killed
everyone but Jenkins and me. Our mascot,
Johnny Tremaine, had his jaw shot off, and he was running around with blood
spurting out and the Krauts were pointing and laughing.”
“Through red eyes, I machine-gunned every fucking one of
The Doc nods, the bunker shakes again. I look at the
ceiling and notice it is
“It didn’t bother me.
I was pretty battle-hardened by then."
The shelter shakes again.
The cracks on the ceiling got wider.
I better wrap up this tale quick.
“That’s understandable,” the Doc said. “It
“No, it was what happened later. We had made camp. We heard someone coming. Jenkins stamped
out the fire, and I went into
A shape passed by.
Like that Welsh colonel had taught me, I came from behind, pulled his
chin back with one hand and sliced his throat with the other.”
I swallowed hard.
“Jenkins came around with a flashlight and I saw it was an
American soldier who had gotten lost from his patrol. Just a kid, Doc. Eighteen at best.”
I looked down, tears finally coming out after all this
The Doc put a reassuring hand on my shoulder.
I shook my head as if I could shake the memory away.,
The shelter shook again.
A thin trickle of dirt was now coming through one of the cracks from the
“How about you Doc?”
The doctor leaned back in his chair.
“I was an abortionist to the stars back in the 1930s and
40s. I scraped Jean Harlow, Heddy Lamar,
you name her; I scraped her.”
“That’s not so bad.
They came to you Doc.
Voluntarily. And you helped
“Not all of them.
There was a girl, a wannabe starlet, who had gotten in the family way by
a producer. He sent her to me, and she
was heartbreakingly beautiful. She would
have looked great in technicolor. So I
let her heal up at my house and promised to take some studio shots of her when
The trickle of dirt coming through the cracked door was
He hurried his story up as well.
“She became friends with my teenage daughter. They,
as you say, bonded.”
“But as it turned out, too much.”
“What do you mean?”
The dirt leaking from the ceiling began to come out faster
“Linda, my daughter, never understood true sexual
love. That it can be familial.”
I looked at him and for the first time since 1944 had a
full body shudder because I knew what was coming.
“Linda and I were lovers.”
I leaned back, skin itching suddenly, wanting very much to
get out of there.
The Doc smiled.
No use denying it I thought and nodded my head.
The doctor who I genuinely liked and thought a true
comrade in the anticommunist struggle, turned out to be lower than crocodile
I hope he did get buried alive or vaporized. Even though
I would die with him.
I finally found my voice.
“That’s a hell of a confession, Doc. Where’s
your daughter now?”
The Doc was ice calm.
Not sorrowful at all.
“She ran away.
Married a soldier and I have never seen her again.”
I nodded. The
bunker shook again. The dirt was really
“But I’m not finished.”
Oh God, I thought. Please. No more. What could be possibly worse
“My daughter’s friend caught Linda and I in bed
together. She screamed. I knocked
LInda out and I caught and sedated
This was getting worse and worse.
“Linda wouldn’t go public with our relationship.
She knew my influence in Hollywood. But the girl might have. I couldn’t be sure.”
The bunker shakes again, the lights are flickering on and
“Sounds like those explosives I timed upstairs are getting
closer. Anyway, I couldn’t let the girl
Did he just say the
‘explosives I timed’?
Doc picked up the knife I gave him.
“Have you ever heard of the Black Dahlia case?”
I searched my memory and remembered. The Dahlia was Elizabeth
Short,, who was
raped, tortured to death and sliced in half in 1947. The murder was never solved.
“Her name was Elizabeth Short, and I was her
lover/torturer. After I sedated her, I drug her down to my basement and we
bonded. They never caught me, no matter
how many other times I raped and killed afterwards. But the stupid police were
closer. So, I had to disappear, go
That's why he joined the Minutemen.
I remembered my pistol and knife were in his lap.
I lunged, got the pistol, but the doctor sliced my neck
with the knife.
I watched my blood jet the walls as he smiled, said,
"Just wanted someone to know," unlocked the bunker door and clawed
his way out. Unfair. He looked down at
me from the hole he made, a clear starry night above him and smiled. He started
kicking the dirt down the hole and it was a death race between being buried
alive or choking on my own blo-
Ron Capshaw is a writer
based in Florida. His novel, The Stage Mother's Club, will be
coming out in June from Dark Edge Press.