Read an Excerpt
[ ONE ]
0405 25 October 1945
The triple-tail Lockheed Constellation with howell petroleum lettered on its fuselage came in low over the Potomac River, lowered its gear, put down its huge flaps, and touched smoothly down at the very end of the main north-south runway.
Her four engines roared as the pilot quickly moved the propellers into reverse pitch and shoved her throttles forward. When the Connie finally stopped, she was very uncomfortably close to the far end of the runway and her tires were smoking.
The pilot radioed: “National, Howell One on the ground at six past the hour. Request taxi instructions.”
“Howell One, turn and take Taxiway One on your right. Hold there.”
“Howell One understands hold on Taxiway One.”
The Constellation was the finest transport aircraft in the world.
It was capable of flying forty passengers in its pressurized cabin higher—at an altitude of 35,000 feet—and faster—it cruised at better than 300 knots—and for a longer distance—4,300 miles—than any other transport aircraft in the world. When National Airport had opened in June 1941, it had been not much more than a pencil sketch in the notebook of legendary aviator Howard Hughes, who owned, among a good deal else, the Lockheed Aircraft Company.
Hughes, who had designed the Lockheed P-38 “Lightning” fighter plane, had decided that if he took his design of the P-38’s wing, enlarged it appropriately, put four engines on it, and then married it to a huge, sleek fuselage with an unusual triple-tail design, he would have one hell of an airplane.
“Build it,” Hughes ordered. “The Air Corps will buy it once they see it. And if they don’t, I know at least one airline that will.”
Although the Congress, in its wisdom, had decreed that airlines could not own aircraft manufacturing companies, and vice versa, it was widely believed that Hughes secretly owned TWA, then known as Transcontinental & Western Airlines, and later as Trans-World
No sooner had Howell One stopped on Taxiway One than a small but impressive fleet of vehicles surrounded it. There were four
Ford station wagons and two large trucks. On all their doors was the insignia of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. There was also a third truck with a crane mounted in its bed, and a black 1942 Buick Road-
master. Neither was marked. The Buick had a large chrome object housing a siren and a red light mounted on its left front fender. Finally,
there was a truck carrying the logotype of National Airport. It had a stairway mounted in its bed.
A dozen or more men in business suits and hats and carrying
Thompson submachine guns erupted from the station wagons as the truck with the stairs backed up against the Constellation’s rear door.
Two men in business suits got out of the Buick and quickly climbed the stairs up to the fuselage.
They stood waiting at the top until the door was finally opened.
A handsome young officer—blond, six-foot-one, 212 pounds—
stood in the doorway. He was wearing an olive drab woolen “Ike”
jacket and trousers. The jacket’s insignia identified him as a second lieutenant of Cavalry. The jacket was unbuttoned, and his necktie pulled down.
The two men in suits flashed him looks of surprised disapproval as they pushed past him and entered the cabin.
The cabin looked more like a living room pictured in Architectural
Digest than the interior of a passenger aircraft. Instead of rows of seats, there were leather upholstered armchairs and couches scattered along its length. There was a desk and two tables. A full bar was at the front of the cabin. The floor was lushly carpeted.
Seated in armchairs were three people: a tall, sharp-featured, elegantly tailored septuagenarian; a stocky, short-haired blond woman in her late forties; and an attractive, tanned, and athletic-looking young woman of about twenty.
They were, respectively, Cletus Marcus Howell, president and chairman of the board of the Howell Petroleum Corporation; his daughter-in-law, Martha Williamson Howell; and her daughter—the old man’s granddaughter—Marjorie.
“I’m Assistant Deputy Director Kelly of the FBI,” the older of the two men who had come into the cabin announced. He was in his fifties, wore spectacles, and had a short haircut. “Welcome to Washington.”
No one responded.
“Where is the officer-in-charge?” Kelly asked.
The old man pointed to the young officer standing at the door.
“You just walked past him,” he said.
“I asked for the officer-in-charge, sir,” Kelly snapped.
“Sonny,” the old man said, “I hate to rain on your parade, but if that FBI army you have with you was intended to dazzle me, it has failed to do so.”
“Dad!” the older woman said warningly.
Her daughter smiled.
There came the sound of a siren, and then the squealing of brakes,
and finally the faint sound of car doors slamming closed.
A moment later, three men came into the cabin.
One wore the uniform of a rear admiral. Another, an Army brigadier general, was in “pinks and greens”—a green tunic with pink trousers. The third, a colonel, wore an Army olive drab uniform.
The colonel stopped just inside the door to both shake the hand of the young officer, then affectionately pat his shoulder.
“You done real good, Jimmy,” Colonel Robert Mattingly said.
“Thank you, sir,” Second Lieutenant James D. Cronley Jr. replied.
“Admiral,” Kelly said.
“What are you doing here, Kelly?” Rear Admiral Sidney W.
Souers, U.S. Navy, demanded coldly.
“Self-evidently,” Kelly announced, “the FBI is here to guarantee the security of the cargo aboard this aircraft until it can be placed in the hands of the Manhattan Project.”
The door to the cockpit opened and a man wearing an airline-
type uniform stepped into the cabin. His tunic carried the four golden stripes of a captain.
Admiral Souers turned to him.
“Any problems, Ford?”
The “captain,” who was in fact U.S. Navy Commander Richard
W. Ford, came to attention.
“None, Admiral,” he said.
Souers turned to Kelly.
“Thank you for your interest, Mr. Kelly. You and your people may go.”
“Admiral, the FBI will stay here until the cargo is in the hands of the Manhattan Project.”
Souers gestured toward the man in pink and greens.
“This is General Tomlinson of the Manhattan Project, Mr. Kelly.
You may report to Mr. Hoover, if you are here at his orders, that you witnessed my turning over of the cargo to the Manhattan Project.”
Kelly, white-faced, didn’t reply.
“Are you going to leave, taking your people with you, Mr. Kelly?
Or am I going to have to go down to my car, get on the radio, wake the President up, explain the situation to him and ask him to call
Director Hoover and tell him to tell you your presence here is not required?”
Kelly turned on his heels, made an impatient gesture for the man with him to follow, and left the cabin.
Souers shook his head as he looked away from the door.
“How did those sonsofbitches manage to beat us here?” he asked rhetorically. He then quickly added, “Pardon the language, ladies.”
“My daughter-in-law and granddaughter have heard the word before,”
Cletus Marcus Howell said.
“Mattingly, do you think Hoover has someone in my office?”
Mattingly shrugged. “Sir, I would not like to think so. But . . .”
“Admiral,” Commander Ford said, “the FBI must have had people at the airport in Miami . . .”
“Where you refueled,” Souers instantly picked up his thought.
“With orders to keep an eye out for a civilian Constellation coming from South America.”
“And they called Washington,” Mattingly added. “When they learned you had filed a nonstop flight plan to National.”
“And instead of calling me,” Souers concluded, “the FBI—
probably J. Edgar himself—decided to meet the plane here.”
“Why?” General Tomlinson asked.
“J. Edgar is very good at turning any situation so that it shines a flattering light on the FBI,” Souers said.
He turned and walked back to Second Lieutenant Cronley.
“I have a message for you, son, from President Truman,” he said.
“Quote Well done unquote.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“The President also said he wants to see you. That won’t happen today, but when it does, I wouldn’t be surprised if he said you can replace your golden bar with a silver one. But . . .”
Souers stopped as a colonel in an olive drab uniform with Corps of Engineers insignia appeared in the doorway.
“Good morning, Broadhead,” General Tomlinson said. “Come in.”
“Good morning, sir.”
“Admiral Souers,” Tomlinson said, “this is Colonel Broadhead,
who will take charge of the cargo.”
Souers nodded, and then asked of Cronley, “Where is it, son?”
“In the cargo hold, sir.”
“How hot is it?” Colonel Broadhead asked.
Commander Ford answered for him.
“There are six packages, Colonel. Each weighing a little over two hundred pounds. They’re roped so as to be manhandle-able.
Each came with two lead blankets, each weighing about a hundred pounds. With the blankets off, my Geiger counter indicated significant,
but not life-threatening, radiation within a two-hour period.
With the lead blankets in place, the counter shows only insignificant radiation.”
“You are?” Broadhead asked.
Ford looked to Souers for permission to answer the question.
Souers nodded, just perceptibly.
“Commander Richard Ford, sir.”
Broadhead then said, “Where did you first put the Geiger counter to it, Commander? On the submarine?”
“Colonel,” Souers snapped, “who told you anything about a submarine?”
“Admiral,” General Tomlinson put in, “Colonel Broadhead has worked for me in the Manhattan Project for three years. He has all the necessary security clearances.”
“That’s very nice, General,” Souers said unpleasantly. “But my question to the colonel with all the necessary security clearances was
‘Who said something—anything—to him about a submarine?’ ”
“Sir,” Broadhead said, “one of my duties at the Manhattan Project was to keep an eye on the German efforts in that area. I knew they had some uranium oxide—from the Belgian Congo—and I heard about the missing German U-boats. When I heard that the OSS was about to turn over to us a half ton of it that they’d acquired in Argentina,
it seemed to me the most logical place for the OSS to have gotten it was from one of the missing U-boats.”
Souers went on: “And did you share this assumption of yours,
Colonel, with a bunch of other colonels—all with the necessary security clearances—while you were sitting around having a beer?”
Broadhead, sensing where the line of questioning was headed, replied,
“Yes, sir. I’m afraid I did.”
“Not that it excuses you in any way, Colonel,” Souers said icily,
“but you’re just one of a great many stupid senior sonsof . . . officers with all the necessary security clearances who think it’s perfectly all right to share anything they know with anyone else who has such clearances. Now do you take my point? Or do I have to order you not to share with anyone anything you’ve seen or heard here today or any assumptions you may make from what you have seen or heard?”
“Sir, I take your point.”
Souers let the exchange sink in for a very long twenty seconds,
and then ordered, “Ford, answer the colonel’s question.”
“When Cronley seized the cargo, sir,” Ford said, “he did not have a Geiger counter device.”
“May I ask who Cronley is? And why he didn’t have a radiation detection device?”
Admiral Souers turned to Cronley. “Son, I’m going to give Colonel
Broadhead the benefit of the doubt, meaning I am presuming that he has a reason beyond idle curiosity in asking it. Therefore, you may answer those questions.”
“Yes, sir,” Cronley said, then looked at Broadhead. “Sir, I’m Second
Lieutenant James D. Cronley Junior. The first Geiger counter I
ever saw was the one Commander Ford used on the . . . packages that
I took off . . . wherever they were and gave to him.”
“I predict a great military career for this fine young officer,” Admiral
Souers said. “I’m sure everyone noticed that he didn’t say ‘submarine’
or ‘U-boat’ or ‘uranium oxide’ even once.”
Souers let that sink in for another ten seconds, and then went on:
“Now my curiosity is aroused. Why did you want to know, Broadhead,
if the Geiger counter had been used on . . . wherever these packages were when Cronley seized them?”
“Sir, I was hoping that someone looked for radiation that might have leaked from the packages while they were on the sub—” He stopped.
“Now that the cat’s out of the bag, Colonel,” Souers said, “you can say ‘submarine.’ You can even say ‘U-boat’ and ‘uranium oxide.’ ”
Souers looked at Cletus Marcus Howell, who was grinning widely.
“Please don’t think this is funny, Mr. Howell,” he said.
“That was a smile of approval, Admiral. From one mean sonofabitch to another.”
“Dad, for God’s sake!” Martha Howell said.
“I will take that as a compliment, Mr. Howell,” Souers said.
“It was intended as one,” the old man said.
Souers turned to Broadhead.
“You think the submarine may be hot, Broadhead?”
“I think it’s possible, sir. The uranium oxide was on the submarine for a couple of months, maybe even longer.”
“Mattingly, get that word to Frade just as soon as we’re finished here,” Souers ordered. “We don’t want to sterilize half the brighter officers of the Armada Argentina, do we?”
“Yes, sir,” Colonel Mattingly said, smiling. “And no, sir, we certainly wouldn’t want to do that.”
Second Lieutenant Cronley chuckled.
“I don’t understand that,” Cletus Marcus Howell said.
“Possibly, Dad,” his daughter-in-law said, “because you’re not supposed to. It’s none of your business.”
“Actually, with apologies to the ladies, I was being crude in order not to have to say ‘suffer radiation poisoning,’ ” Souers said. “And,
ma’am, the President ordered me to answer any questions Mr. Howell might have.”
“I thought I told you, Martha,” the old man said, “that ole Harry and I have the honor to be Thirty-third Degree Masons. We can trust one another.”
“May I ask who ‘Frade’ is?” Broadhead said. “And if he’s qualified to conduct an examination of this kind?”
“No, Colonel, you may not. You don’t have the Need to Know,”
Souers said. “Are you and General Tomlinson about ready to get the cargo moving?”
“At your orders, Admiral,” Tomlinson said.
“Then may I suggest you get going?”
“Show them how to get into the cargo bay, Ford.”
“Aye, aye, sir.”
Cronley made a move suggesting he was going with them.
Souers held up his hand. “Unless the commander can’t find the cargo without your help, son, you stay here.”
“Yes, sir,” Cronley said.
Souers waited until enough time had passed for Tomlinson,
Broadhead, and Ford to have gone down the stairway, then walked to the door to make sure they had.
He turned to Cronley.
“The next problem we have, son, is what to do with you. My first thought, when we first heard of what you had done, was regret that you were coming with the uranium oxide.”
“For Christ’s sake, Admiral,” Cletus Marcus Howell exploded.
“You wouldn’t have that goddamned radioactive dirt if it wasn’t for
Jimmy! It seems to me a little gratitude is in order. Starting with a leave so that he can go to Texas and see his father and mother.”
Souers ignored him.
“In the best of all possible worlds,” Souers went on, “you would already be back in Germany. But the worst-case scenario has happened.
Hoover now knows your name and that you have had something to do with the uranium ore. He will now be determined to learn that precise relationship.”
“And Truman can’t tell him to mind his own business?” the old man asked. “I think he will if I ask him. And I goddamned sure will.
I figure ole Harry owes me a little favor—hell, a large favor. You know what it costs by the hour to fly this airplane? And I don’t mind at all calling it in.”
“I hope I can talk you out of doing that, Mr. Howell. The problem there is that if the President tells Hoover to mind his own business,
all that will do is whet Hoover’s curiosity. And we have to keep in mind that the ore isn’t the only thing Cronley knows about.”
“You mean the Germans we sneaked into Argentina?”
Souers nodded. “That whole operation.”
“And you don’t trust Jimmy to keep his mouth shut, is that it?
“The less he tells the FBI agents that Hoover certainly is going to send to ‘interview’ him, the greater their—Hoover’s—curiosity is going to be. I don’t want—can’t permit—the ax of Hoover learning about the Gehlen operation to be hanging over the President.”
“I understand this, Mr. Howell,” Cronley said, then met Souers’s eyes. “Sir, I’m perfectly willing to go back to Germany right away.”
“And then where do we get married?” Marjorie Howell demanded.
“In the ruins of Berlin? Maybe we could get married in that bunker where Hitler married his mistress the day before he shot her. That would be romantic as hell, wouldn’t it?”
“Chip off the old block, isn’t she, Admiral?” the old man said,
smiling with obvious pride. “She’s got my genes. I advise you not to cross her.”
“Squirt,” Cronley said. “This is important stuff.”
“So far as I’m concerned, getting married is pretty important stuff,” she said.
“Not that I think the admiral is at all interested,” Martha Howell said, “but I thought you and Beth wanted a double wedding. And I
can’t set up something like that in less than three months.”
“You wanted the double wedding, Mother,” Marjorie said. “Let’s get that straight. Beth would like to get married today. And so, goddamn it, would I, now that I think about it.”
“I’m afraid your marriage plans are going to have to be put on hold until we get this straightened out, Miss Howell,” Souers said.
“On hold for how long?” Marjorie demanded. “Or is that another classified secret?”
“Yes, it is classified,” Souers said. “Highly classified. Lieutenant
Cronley is right, Miss Howell. This is very important stuff.”
“So you’re going to send him right back to Germany?” Marjorie said. “ ‘Thank you for all you’ve done, Lieutenant. Don’t let the knob on the airplane door hit you in the ass as you get on board.’ ”
“That’s quite enough, Marjorie!” her mother announced.
“Cool it, Squirt,” Cronley said. “I’m a soldier. I obey my orders.”
“I would like to send him back to Germany immediately, Miss
Howell,” Souers said. “But unfortunately, that’s not possible. President
Truman wants to see him before he goes back, and that’s it.”
“You’re going to explain that, right?” Cletus Marcus Howell said.
“What Colonel Mattingly suggested, and what we’re going to do,
is put Lieutenant Cronley on ice, so to speak, until the President’s schedule is such that he can see him.”
“What does ‘on ice, so to speak’ mean, Admiral?” Marjorie said.
“Well, since we can’t put him in a hotel, or at Fort Myer, because
J. Edgar’s minions would quickly find him, what we’re going to do is put him in the Transient Officers’ Quarters at Camp Holabird.
That’s in Baltimore. Mattingly tells me junior CIC officers passing through the Washington area routinely stay there—it’s a dollar and a half a night—so he won’t attract any attention. Mattingly will arrange for them to misplace his registry card, so if the FBI calls for him they can say they have no record of him being there.”
“And how long will he be there?” the old man asked.
“Just until he sees the President. And on that subject, Mr. Howell,
the President would like to see you there at the same time. And he would be furious with me if he later learned that your granddaughter and Mrs. Howell were here and I hadn’t brought you along to the
White House for his meeting with Lieutenant Cronley.”
“And after he meets with the President, he gets on the plane to
Germany?” Marjorie said.
“If Jimmy goes to Germany, I’m going to Germany,” Marjorie then announced.
“We’ll talk about that, dear,” Martha Howell said.
“If Jimmy goes to Germany, I’m going to Germany. Period. Subject closed.”
[ TWO ]
The Officers’ Club
U.S. Army Counterintelligence Center & School
1019 Dundalk Avenue, Baltimore 19, Maryland
1730 25 October 1945
The artwork behind the bar at which Second Lieutenant Cronley was sipping at his second scotch was more or less an oil painting. It portrayed three soldiers wearing World War I–era steel helmets trying very hard not to be thrown out of a Jeep bouncing three feet off the ground.
Rather than an original work, it was an enlargement of a photograph taken at Camp Holabird in 1939. The U.S. Army Quartermaster
Corps, which had then reigned over Camp Holabird, was testing the new Willys-designed vehicle. Some GI artist had colored the photograph with oil paints.
Cronley had heard the rumor that it was at Camp Holabird that the vehicle—officially known as “Truck, ¼ Ton, 4×4, General
Purpose”—first had been dubbed “Jeep,” from the G and P in General
He wasn’t sure if this was true or just lore. Or bullshit, like the rumors circulating among the student officers and enlisted men about My Brother’s Place, the bar directly across Dundalk Avenue from the main gate. That lore, or bullshit, held that an unnamed
“foreign power” had a camera with a long-range lens installed in an upstairs window with which they were taking photographs of everyone coming out the gate.
That, the lore said, would of course pose enormous problems for the students when they graduated and were sent “into the field.”
His thoughts were interrupted when a voice beside him said,
“Cronley, isn’t it?”
He turned and saw the speaker was a major.
The major offered his hand. “Remember me, Cronley? Major
Derwin? ‘Techniques of Surveillance’?”
“Yes, sir, of course. Good to see you again, sir.”
“So they sent you back, did they, to finish the course?”
“Just passing through, sir.”
“From where to where, if I can ask?”
“Munich to Munich, sir. With a brief stop here. I was the escort officer for some classified documents.”
That bullshit came to me naturally. I didn’t even have to wonder what cover story I should tell this guy.
“Munich? I thought you’d been sent to the Twenty-second in
“Yes, sir. I was. Then I was transferred to the Twenty-seventh.”
Counterintelligence Corps units were numbered. When written,
for reasons Cronley could not explain—except as a manifestation of the Eleventh Commandment that there were three ways to do anything, the Right Way, the Wrong Way, and the Army Way—
Roman numerals were used. For example, the XXVIIth CIC Detachment.
“I’m not familiar with the Twenty-seventh. Who’s the senior agent?”
Is that classified? No. It’s not.
The XXIIIrd CIC Detachment and what it does is classified—oh,
boy, is it classified!—but not the XXVIIth. The XXVIIth is the cover for the XXIIIrd.
“Major Harold Wallace, sir.”
“Wallace? Harold Wallace?”
“I don’t think I know him.”
“I’m not sure if this is so, sir, but I’ve heard that Major Wallace was in Japan, and sent to Germany because we’re so under strength.”
Actually, before President Truman put the OSS out of business, Wallace had been deputy commander of OSS Forward. I can’t tell this guy that; he doesn’t have the Need to Know. And if I did, he probably wouldn’t believe me.
And, clever fellow that I am, I learned early this morning from
Admiral Souers—who really knows how to eat someone a new anal orifice—that sharing classified information one has with someone who also has a security clearance is something that clever fellows such as myself just should not do.
“That would explain it,” Major Derwin said. “The personnel problem is enormous. They scraped the bottom of the Far East Command
CIC barrel as they scraped ours here.”
As a matter of fact, Major, the morning report of the XXIIIrd CIC
Detachment shows a total strength of two officers—Major Wallace and me—and two EM—First Sergeant Chauncey L. Dunwiddie and Sergeant
Friedrich Hessinger. And we really see very little of Major Wallace of the XXVIIth.
“No offense, Cronley,” Major Derwin said.
“It certainly wasn’t your fault that scraping the barrel here saw you sent into the field before you were properly trained. Did you find yourself in over your head?”
“Sir, that’s something of an understatement. No offense taken.”
On the other hand, this morning Colonel Mattingly patted my shoulder and said, “You done good, Jimmy.”
Their conversation was interrupted by the bartender, a sergeant who was earning a little extra money by tending bar. He inquired, “Is there a Lieutenant Crumley in here?”
Speaking of the devil, that’s Colonel Mattingly, calling to tell me the
President can’t find time for me and that he’s sending a car to take me to the airport for my flight back to Germany.
And I probably won’t even get to say goodbye to the Squirt.
“There’s a Lieutenant Cronley,” Jimmy called.
The bartender came to him and handed him a telephone on a long cord.
Jimmy said into it: “Lieutenant Cronley, sir.”
“Sergeant Killian at the gate, Lieutenant,” the caller replied.
“There’s a civilian lady here wanting to see you. A Miss Howell.
Should I pass her through?”
Cronley’s heart jumped.
“After first giving her directions to the officers’ club, absolutely!”
Cronley handed the phone back to the bartender.
“My date has arrived, sir,” Cronley said to Major Derwin.
We never had a date, come to think of it.
One moment, Squirt was Clete’s annoying little sister, and the next we were . . . involved.
“Ah, to be young!” Major Derwin said. “You just got here, and already you’re playing the field.”
Cronley smiled but didn’t reply.
Derwin had a helpful thought and expressed it.
“Perhaps you should go outside and wait for her. The club’s sign is poorly lit.”
“She’s a very resourceful young woman, sir. She’ll find me.”
Five minutes later, the Squirt did.
She stopped at the door to the bar just long enough for Jimmy to see her, which caused his heart to thump, and then walked to him.
“Hi,” she said.
“Hi, yourself.” Jimmy then turned to Derwin. “Major Derwin,
may I introduce Miss Marjorie Howell?”
Please, Major, say “Nice to meet you” and then leave us alone.
“A great pleasure, Miss Howell. When the lieutenant was a student here, I was his instructor in the techniques of surveillance. Obviously,
I taught him well. Look what he found.”
Miss Howell gave him an icy look.
Please, Squirt, don’t say what you’re thinking!
“Oh, really?” she asked. Then, “Jimmy, why don’t you pay your tab? I’m pressed for time.”
“Well, there’s a small problem there,” Cronley said. “All I have is
Funny Money—Army of Occupation Scrip—and they won’t take that here. I don’t suppose you’d loan me a few dollars?”
She looked at him, saw on his face that he was telling the truth,
and reached into her purse. She came out with a thick wad of currency,
folded in half, that seemed to be made up entirely of new onehundred-
She unfolded the wad and extended it to him. He took three of the hundreds.
“Thank you,” he said, and then curiosity got the better of him.
“What are you doing with all that money?”
“I thought I might need it in Germany, so I cashed a check.”
“You’re going to Germany, Miss Howell?” Major Derwin asked.
“Yes, I am,” she said. “Pay the bill, please, Jimmy.”
“Oh, you’re from an Army family?”
“Not yet,” Marjorie said. “Thank you for entertaining Jimmy until I could get here, Major.”
Marjorie took Jimmy’s hand as they left the officers’ club and led
him to a bright yellow 1941 Buick convertible.
“I’ll drive,” she said. “You’ve been drinking.”
He got in beside her.
“Where the hell did you get the car?”
“On a lot on Ninth Street. One look and I had to have it.”
“You bought it?” he asked incredulously.
“And since it was parked right in front of the lot, I thought I
could buy it quicker than anything else they had. I didn’t know how long it was going to take me to get here.”
“What are you going to do with it when you go to Midland?”
“I’m not going to Midland. Weren’t you listening? I’m going to Germany.”
“We have to talk about that,” he said.
“I don’t like the way you said that.”
She turned to face him. Their eyes met.
“Jimmy, you sound like my mother trying to reason with me . . .”
Their conversation was interrupted when the proximity of their faces caused a mutual involuntary act on both their parts.
A minute or so later, Jimmy said, “Jesus H. Christ!” and Marjorie said, a little breathlessly, “Don’t let this go to your head, but as kissers go, you’re not too bad.”
A moment after that, she said, “No! God, Jimmy, not in the car!”
“Let’s go to a motel,” she said. “God, I can’t believe I said that!”
He put his hands on her arms and moved her back behind the steering wheel.
“About you coming to Germany,” he then said. “Do you remember what the major said, that he asked, ‘Oh, you’re from an Army family?’ ”
“What’s that got to do with anything?”
“The only way you’re going to get into Germany, Squirt, is as a member of an Army family. The Army calls them ‘dependents.’ ”
“I’ll get into Germany. Trust me.”
“If you did, we couldn’t get married. There’s a rule about that,
too. You can’t get married in Germany without permission, and they won’t give you permission to marry unless you have less than ninety days to serve in the theatre.”
“In the theatre?”
“That’s what they call it, the ‘European Theatre of Operations.’
The rules are designed to keep people from marrying Germans.”
“How do you know so much about this subject?” Marjorie asked suspiciously.
“Professor Hessinger delivered a lecture on the subject to Tiny and me one night when we were sitting around with nothing else to do.”
“Who the hell are they?”
“They are my staff,” he said, chuckling. “If you’re going to be an
Army wife, Squirt, you’ll have to learn that all officers, including second lieutenants, have staffs. Hessinger and Tiny are mine.”
“If you’re trying to string me along, Jimmy, you’re never going to get to do what you tried to do a moment ago.”
“Hessinger is a sergeant. Tiny Dunwiddie is a first sergeant. Interesting guys.”
“I will play along with this for the next thirty seconds.”
“Hessinger is a German Jew who got out of Germany just in time,
went to Harvard, and then got drafted. They put him in the CIC
because he speaks German. He’s still got an accent you can cut with a knife.”
“Tiny is an enormous black guy. Two-thirty, six-three. He went to
Norwich University in Vermont.”
“Where? Ten seconds.”
“Norwich is a private military college in Vermont, the oldest one,”
Cronley said, now speaking so rapidly it was almost a verbal blur.
Marjorie giggled, which he found surprisingly erotic.
“Slow down,” she said. “You’ve got another thirty seconds.”
“. . . from which, rather than waiting to graduate and get a commission,
he dropped out and enlisted so he could get into the war before they called it off. He’s from an Army family. His ancestors were the Buffalo Soldiers who fought the Indians. Two of his great-
grandfathers were in the Tenth Cavalry, which, Tiny has told me at least twenty times, beat Teddy Roosevelt up San Juan Hill in Cuba during the Spanish American War.”
“And did he manage to get in the war before they called it off?”
Marjorie asked, and then added: “Damn you. You’ve got me. You’re as good at that as my mother. But there better be a point to this history lesson.”
“Yeah, he got in the war. Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple
Hearts serving with a tank destroyer battalion in the Second Armored
Division. Plus first sergeant’s stripes when all the sergeants senior to him got killed or wounded. He’s one hell of a soldier.”
“But they still didn’t give him a commission? Why, because he didn’t finish college? Or because he’s Negro?”
“No. Because he was needed to run the company of black troops
Colonel Mattingly has guarding the Gehlen compound. I said he’s a hell of a soldier. He takes that duty, honor, country business very seriously.
He knows guarding General Gehlen and his people is more important than being one more second lieutenant in a tank platoon somewhere.”
“I get the feeling you really like this guy.”
“Yeah, I do.”
“So what about the Jewish sergeant with an accent you can cut with a knife?”
“Freddy’s hobby is reading. You never see him without a book of some kind in his hand. Including Army Regulations. And he remembers every last detail of anything he’s ever read. That’s why we call him ‘the professor.’ ”
“His hobby is reading? You’re suggesting he’s a little funny?” Marjorie waved her hand to suggest there might be a question of his sexual orientation.
“That’s not the professor’s problem. I should have said, ‘You never see him without a tall, good-looking German blond—or two—on his arm, and a book in the other hand.’”
“And what did this Jewish Casanova with an accent remember
Army Regulations saying about us getting married in Germany?”
Jimmy told her again: The bottom lines were (a) she could not get into Occupied Germany unless she was a dependent, and (b) even if she did somehow get into Occupied Germany, they could not get permission to marry there.
When he had finished, she said without much conviction, “There has to be a way.”
“I’ve been thinking about that. Are you open to a wild idea?”
“When I was here before, I learned that Elkton, Maryland, up near the Pennsylvania border, is where people go when they’re eloping.
Justices of the peace there will issue a marriage license, then marry you, and have you on your way in about an hour.”
“Huh,” Marjorie said.
“What I was thinking was that, since they’re going to send me—”
“Where did you say Elkton, Maryland, is?”
“On U.S. 1 up near the Pennsylvania border.”
“I came from Washington on U.S. 1,” Marjorie said. “I know how to find it.”
She reached to the dashboard, turned the ignition key, and then pressed the starter button.