That night, if there was one thing that Frank could've taken when he parachuted into that anonymous jungle in 1965 it was Mickey. Frank had never known anyone quite like Mickey, his nickname was War. You heard the capitals when people called him that, later he would make cameo appearances in literature as a red-haired female war correspondent but that character was very much based on the odd real-life talent of Mickey.
Frank had not been a professional soldier for long when he met Mickey, It would be a few more years before anyone could see Frank coming in hot on a naked burning country with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. When Frank first met Mickey, he hadn't begun to enjoy himself yet.
A soldier kills with sympathy but if he keeps at it, doesn't that mean he enjoys it? It's a sick divorce from the position of the victim but if nothing else comforts there's always the old standby lie, well worn with use:
what choice does a soldier have? To keep at it, pick a useful lie and stick to it, it's either that or instant insanity.
All cheques get cashed in the end though, but Frank didn't know yet about the faces behind his eyes at night, not then.
Back then, back before the doors of death, all he knew about Mickey was all he'd heard: that there was this war correspondent who was always first to the hotspots, first to the killing fields, first in the line of fire, Mickey doesn't know to this day why it happened or why it stopped, or why he told Frank the truth he'd never told anybody:
If Mickey stayed more than a month anywhere, a war broke out. It didn't seem to matter where.
Every tortured crevice of humanity seemingly itched for Mickey's presence to cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war.
Mickey had tried running from it since he was a teen in Argentina, but eventually he surrendered to the might of a superior force and turned his curse into a job. hoping it would run its course.
It's a lot like what any successful obsessive does, isn't it?
So by 1965, with all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing, Frank was parachuting into another waking nightmare with the soldier's schizophrenic detachment from reality. It was making his scalp and groin itch in nervous anticipation, he spared a thought for Mickey and wondered how things might go differently down there if Mickey were around.
Because the other thing about Mickey, it was weird, but you knew he wouldn't get so much as a scratch in a war zone.
And whatever force protected him seemed to look out for the people around him too.
Frank remembered an I.E.D. that had gone off in a club, mad naked destruction across the block.
Except for the bar where Mickey and Frank had been drinking with a few non-coms from the wires.
Not a scratch, although meters away there were only bloody stumps that once had names.
That's what Frank was thinking as the plane's cargo door, an angry metal mouth, yawned its black ugly open and Frank ran wordlessly into the ripping suck. Thinking Mickey owed him a beer if Frank ever saw him again. Would either of them ever live any other way?
Chute not yet open, Frank watched the plane quickly shrink to invisibility, leaving only Frank.
With all the keys to all the doors of all the ways of death poking from his battle webbing. And a lock of Mickey's hair stitched to his shoulder.
Just in case.