Before the lieutenant saw the large fist that landed on the right side of his face and cracked his nose, he heard the MPs' whistles and a plethora of servicemen rushing out of the makeshift bar. The dark haired officer knew he didn't have either the orientation or sense of balance to get away before he landed in the brig. He was, as he usually was, oh, so right.

When the young Lt. awoke the next morning, he was surrounded by at least 8 to 10 fellow unfortunates in the holding cell.

He struggled to get to his feet, no easy task, because he wasn't sure he didn't have a serious concussion. As he made his way to the cell door to yell for an escort to the infirmary, a misstep due to his pounding head landed him face down atop the Army sergeant attached to the fist that had christened his aquiline face the evening before. He got to his feet as soon as possible in hopes that the unconscious man hadn't awoke.

No such luck.

The sergeant was akin to a grizzly bear awakened early from his winter hibernation after sleeping off a couple of gallons of rye whiskey.

Suddenly, the green clad man was up and swinging. The young naval officer was ducking and moving to save what few brains that weren't scrambled from the last hit.

Backing away without looking, the dark haired man tripped over another drunk and landed on his ass. His large dark blue eyes looked up and he waited for the punch without blinking, his face impassive.

The army sergeant drew back his massive paw to decisively put out the lights of the man on the floor, when a powerful swing came from outside the cell through the bars. Green fatigues full of drunk hit the floor.

Looking up, he saw a big man, who, through his somewhat skewed eyesight, resembled a Viking more than he did a US Marine, who reached a hand down to help him up.

"Come on, pal; let's get you to the doc before we have to ship you back home in a box due to 'friendly fire.' "

Reaching his hand up gratefully, the Lt. said, "Thanks, I owe you one."

"Not a problem. Marines have a long history of saving the asses of the US Navy. And I hate those 'dog faces'—you know what Army stands for right: aren't ready to be marines yet."

The marine then grinned and pulled him onto his feet. "Staff Sgt. Paul Drake."

"Lt. Perry Mason," the man said. grimacing.

************************************************** ***********XXX

Chinhae was one of the few military bases located in Korea and fully operated by the United States Navy. The base was close to Busan, the second largest city in Korea, after Seoul, so there was never a lack of things to do or people with whom to do them.

After two days in the infirmary for his concussion, Lt. Perry Mason was itching to escape. His ship, USS Buck, a destroyer was due back on patrol in 3 days. There was a blonde nurse that he had met from a MASH unit who was built, true to the expression, like a brick outhouse.

Lt. Mason dozed for a while that afternoon, after his interest in Hemingway's war stories failed to capture his fancy. Once you had seen the real deal, reading about it wasn't a good form of escapism.

Loud, raucous laughter from a man followed by giggles from the nurses woke him early in the evening.

Opening his eyes, the Viking marine was back, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat.

"You goin' sleep all day, sailor?" Drake pulled up a chair and put his feet up on the side of Perry's bed.

Mason shoved himself up in bed and wiped the sleep from his eyes.

With a long face, he said, "Don't have any damn choice. Doctors say I'm stuck here another 24 to 48 hours."

"Well, my navy friend, then I guess you owe me two," and with a flourish, Drake handed him a signed discharge paper from the infirmary.

Mason looked up, smiling and amazed. "How in the hell-?"

"Let's just say I know somebody who knows something on somebody else. Get dressed, pal, daylight is burning."

************************************************** *******X

The evening air was warm and humid, but a breeze blew off the sea keeping the base very comfortable.

Usually, enlisted and officers didn't fraternize, but the two struck up instant friendship; it probably helped that Perry's father had been a Marine. The two met at the Lotus & Palm, one of the better places near the base to meet up with women.

Perry ordered two shots of Scotch and a beer for each of them.

"It's the least I can do, Paul," he said.

Paul needed no further urging, "Yep, you're probably right. I can't believe you're from California, but that's not surprising since you're on the Buck. Isn't she stationed out of Sausalito?"

"I'm no so concerned about where she's stationed as where she'll be when I get off," he said with a wide smile. Suddenly the blue eyes flashed, and Paul turned to see what had his attention.

Whistling through his teeth, Paul muttered, "Boy howdy! That woman has a rack you could serve tea on."

Perry moved from the bar stool toward the blonde, a lecherous twitch to his mouth. "Well, serving 'tea' is not exactly what I had in mind," he said in a muffled voice.

Paul raised his beer, "Here's to you, Mason. Don't shame the family name," he droned, indicating himself. "After all, a dirty mind is a terrible thing to waste."

He watched Perry move in like a cheetah on a gazelle, flashing his blue eyes at her and giving her a charming smile.

"Son of a bitch! That is one smooth operator."

Before he could take another drink of his beer, a cute Korean woman sat down beside him and all thoughts of Perry Mason vanished for the evening.