Marine Gunner Sheldon "SHAKE" Davis. Career Marine and a pro; a high-speed, low-drag, gut-level grunt. Hog-wallow happy when he's miserable down in the mud and the blood and the beer. Slim, trim, just over six feet of old oak and chiseled granite with a shock of white hair. He'd pass muster even if his tailored uniform was on backwards. His uniform sports seven rows of ribbons, capped by a Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Hearts and been-there badges that proclaimed he'd seen the elephant and heard the owl in Vietnam, Beirut, El Salvador, Panama, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Iraq, along with jump wings and silver SCUBA bubble. Normally, though, he wears only the recon-rack and a few personal decorations.
Just before his first attempt at retirement, he was promoted to Chief Warrant Officer-5, the new grade at the top of the warrant structure which had previously topped out at CWO-4. And he was a Marine Gunner—one of a relatively few infantry warrant officers as opposed to technical specialists—authorized to wear the bursting bomb device on his left collar opposite his rank insignia. Like all Marine warrant officers, he is commonly called Gunner, but in his mind, the term always translates as Warrior.
TRACEY Davis. Story begins as she heads to the University of Miami to study Ocean Science. Against SHAKE’s better judgment, she lands a full-float scholarship through the NROTC. She continues her studies at the Naval Postgraduate School at Monterrey and is working on research sponsored by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. SHAKE’s conflicted about many things in his life—but not about TRACEY. "Tracey is the one thing in my life I can honestly say went right."
JAN Davis. Tracey's mom with a serious drinking problem who divorced Shake, believing he was married to the Marine Corps and she was just excess baggage while he was running to the sound of the guns. SHAKE’s glad that the marriage is over, but respects the mother of his daughter and the 20 years she put up with his erratic ways. SHAKE pays for in-patient treatment for JAN—but all concerned know the marriage is dead and buried.
The man called BAYER. Mid-40s with a neat salt-and-pepper beard. Blue blazer, maroon turtleneck and a rigid crease in faded Levi jeans. BAYER is with the CIA or some initialed secret government oversight department. The guy regularly travels the corridors of power and knows his way around them. A call from BAYER means certain disruption—and danger—will come slamming into SHAKE’s life.
Major J. CHAN Dwyer, United States Army. Major J.C. Dwyer is a female of partial Thai extraction. If CHAN knows she is a very beautiful woman, she doesn't let it affect her demeanor. Her voice is a rich alto, somewhere mid-range between Ann Murray and Suzie Wong. She's wise, witty, intelligent, professional; able to slip smoothly between female charm and soldierly demeanor. The transition is always fluid and natural, never abrupt or startling. Key player in military intelligence. Mid-30s. Destined for a romantic future with SHAKE.
Mike STOKEY. A short red-haired man with military tone and posture, confirmed by a faded tattoo on the back of his right hand: Birdie on a Ball. Light colonel of Marines who gets attached to BAYER’s team. He was a hard-charging Recon corporal in Vietnam, when SHAKE was a salty team leader running missions out of Dong Ha. Got out of the Recon business after '69, went to Language School at Monterey and returned for a second tour with an Interrogator-Translator Team. He was what intel veterans call “sheep-dipped” or drafted from the active-duty ranks to work under cover for the Central Intelligence Agency. Becomes SHAKE’s best friend.