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Second Lieutenant Garet Morgan took a deep breath and opened the door to the outer office of the Superintendent of the United States Military Academy at West Point. The last time he'd entered the office he'd been a First Class Cadet, ready to accept his commission. Now, three and a half years after graduating with the Class of '49, he walked in as an instructor.
Behind a large oak desk directly in front of him sat Engineer Sergeant McGafferty–the first familiar face Morgan had seen since returning to the academy. The tall, lean man glanced at the door. A moment later his face lit up. He jumped to his feet and snapped off a salute, never quite managing to wipe the smile off his face. Morgan returned the salute and grinned back at the man.
"How have you been, Sergeant?" Morgan asked.
"Just fine, sir." His voice retained only a touch of a Scottish accent. "You know I didn't get a chance to salute you after you graduated, Lieutenant. I missed having that honor."
Morgan closed the door behind him and put down his overnight case. "It was a busy day."
"You don't have to tell me that, sir. I'm the busiest man on the post on graduation day."
Morgan nodded in the direction of the closed door behind the sergeant's desk. "Should I go right in to report?"
McGafferty shook his head. "Picked a bad time to show up, you did, Lieutenant. Colonel Lee's out of the office. Can't say when he'll return. You'd best come back again in a few hours."
"Shouldn't I wait for him?"
"No telling when he'll be back. It's all right, Lieutenant. You're an officer now. You're allowed to walk about the post even whenthe cadets are in class." Morgan frowned. Returning to the academy as an instructor wasn't as easy as he thought it might be. When he'd walked into the main academic building, he'd felt a moment's panic that classes had started and he was late. He still felt like a cadet. In fact, he still got nightmares about forgetting an examination or showing up for formation in his nightshirt.
"It just occurred to me that I can visit Benny Havens' without risk of getting kicked out of the academy."
McGafferty grinned. "That you can, sir. And their hours of serving haven't changed since you were here, either. Of course, I still wouldn't advise coming back drunk. A sore disappointment to the colonel, that would be."
"Rank hath its privileges. Are you sure there isn't someone else I should report to first?"
McGafferty shrugged. "Major Andrews is off post until tomorrow."
"Officer of the day?"
"He won't know what Colonel Lee has planned for you. No, sir, it's best if you just come back and talk to the colonel himself."
Morgan shook his head. "I remember the academy being run more strictly when I was a cadet."
"You would, sir, now wouldn't you? Everything's organized to keep the cadets under strict discipline, but you officers get a bit more leeway."
"I suppose I sound like the visitors who show up and ask why the cadets don't march everywhere."
"Aye. Don't know what those people expect. This is America, after all, not Europe with its automatons."
Copyright © 2003 by Pamela Cummings