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"That son of a bitch!" Brigadier General Arnold Symington brought the paperweight down on the thick layer of glass on his Pentagon desk. The glass shattered; fragments shot through the air in all directions. "He couldn't!"
"He did, sir," replied the frightened lieutenant, shielding his eyes from the office shrapnel. "The Chinese are very upset. The premier himself dictated the complaint to the diplomatic mission. They're running editorials in the Red Star and broadcasting them over Radio Peking."
"How the hell can they?" Symington removed a piece of glass from is little finger. "What the hell are they saying? 'We interrupt this program to announce that the American military representative, General MacKenzie Hawkins, shot the balls off a ten-foot jade statue in Son Tai Square'?—Bullshit! Peking wouldn't allow that; it's too goddamned undignified."
"They're phrasing it a bit differently, sir. They say he destroyed an historic monument of precious stone in the Forbidden City. They say it's as though someone blew up the Lincoln Memorial."
"It's a different kind of statue! Lincoln's got clothes on; his balls don't show! It's not the same!"
"Nevertheless, the White House thinks the parallel is justified, sir. The President wants Hawkins removed. More than removed, actually; he wants him cashiered. Court-martial and all. Publicly."
"Oh, for Christ's sake, that's out of the question." Symington leaned back in his chair and breathed deeply, trying to control himself. He reached out for the report on his desk. "We'll transfer him. With a reprimand. We'll send transcripts of the—censure, we'll call it a censure—to Peking."
"That's not strong enough, sir. The State Department made it clear. The President concurs. We have trade agreements pending—"
"For Christ's sake, Lieutenant!" interrupted the brigadier. "Will someone tell that spinning top in the Oval Office that he can't have it on all points of the compass! Mac Hawkins was selected. From twenty-seven candidates. I remember exactly what the President said. Exactly. 'That mother's perfect!' That's what he said."
"That's inoperative now, sir. He feels the trade agreements take precedent over prior considerations." The lieutenant was beginning to perspire.
"You bastards kill me," said Symington, lowering his voice ominously. "You really frost my apricots. How do you figure to do that? Make it 'inoperative,' I mean. Hawkins may be a sharp pain in your diplomatic ass right now, but that doesn't wash away what was operative. He was a fucking teen-age hero at the Battle of the Bulge and West Point football; and if they gave medals for what he did in Southeast Asia, even Mac Hawkins isn't strong enough to wear all that hardware! He makes John Wayne look like a pansy! He's real; that's why that Oval Yo-yo picked him!"
"I really think the office of the presidency—regardless of what you may think of the man—as commander in chief he—"
"Horse—shit!" The brigadier general roared again, separating the words in equal emphasis, giving the crudity of his oath the sound of a military cadence. "I'm simply explaining to you—in the strongest terms I know—that you don't publicly court-martial a MacKenzie Hawkins to satisfy a Peking complaint, no matter how many goddamned trade agreements are floating round. Do you know why, Lieutenant?"
The young officer replied softly, sure of his accuracy. "Because he would make an issue of it. Publicly."
"Bing-go." Symington's comment sprang out in a high-pitched monotone. "The Hawkinses of this country have a constituency, Lieutenant. That's precisely why our commander in chief picked him! He's a political palliative. And if you don't think Mac Hawkins knows it, well—you didn't have to recruit him. I did."
"We are prepared for that reaction, General." The lieutenant's words were barely audible.
The brigadier leaned forward, careful not to put his elbows in the shattered glass. "I didn't get that."
"The State Department anticipated a hard-line counter-thrust. Therefore we must institute an aggressive counteraction to that thrust. The White House regrets the necessity but at this point in time recognizes the crisis quotient."
"That's what I thought I was going to get." Symington's words were less audible than the lieutenant's. "Spell it out. How are you doing to ream him?"
The lieutenant hesitated. "Forgive me, sir, but the object is not to—ream General Hawkins. We are in a provocatively delicate position. The People's Republic demands satisfaction. Rightly so; it was a crude, vulgar act on General Hawkins's part. Yet he refuses to make a public apology."
Symington looked at the report still in his right hand. "Does it say why in here?"
"General Hawkins claims it was a trap. His statement's on page three."
The brigadier flipped to the page and read. The lieutenant drew out a handkerchief and blotted his chin. Symington put down the report carefully on the shattered glass and looked up.
"If what Mac says is true, it was a trap. Broadcast his side of the story."
"He has no side, General. He was drunk."
"Mac says drugged. Not drunk, Lieutenant."
"They were drinking, sir."
"And he was drugged. I'd guess Hawkins would know the difference. I've seem him sweat sour mash."
"He does not deny the charge, however."
"He denies the responsibility of his actions. Hawkins was the finest intelligence strategist in Indochina. He's drugged couriers and pouch men in Cambodia, Laos, both Vietnams, and probably across the Manchurian borders. He knows the goddamned difference."
"I'm afraid his knowing it doesn't make any difference, sir. The crisis quotient demands our acceding to Peking's wishes. The trade agreements are paramount. Frankly, sir, we need gas."
"Jesus! I figured that was one thing you had."
The lieutenant replaced the handkerchief in his pocket and smiled wanly. "The levity is called for, I realize that. However, we have just ten days to bring everything into focus; to make our inputs and come up with a positive print."
Symington stared at the young officer; his expression that of a grown man about to cry. "What does that mean?"
"It's a harsh thing to say, but General Hawkins has placed his own interests above those of his duty. We'll have to make an example. For everybody's sake."
"An example? For wanting the truth out?"
"There's a higher duty, General."
"I know," said the brigadier wearily. "To the—trade agreements. To the gas."
"Quite frankly, yes. There are times when symbols have to be traded off for pragmatic objectives. Team players understand."
"All right. But Mac won't lie down and play busted symbol for you. So what's the--input?"
"The inspector general," said the lieutenant, as an obnoxious student might, holding up a severed tapeworm in Biology I. "We're running an in-depth data trace on him. We know he was involved in questionable activities in Indochina. We have reason to believe he violated international codes of conduct."
"You bet your ass he did! He was one of the best!"
"There's no statute on those codes. The IG specialists have caseloads going back much further than General Hawkins's ex-officio activities." The lieutenant smiled. It was a genuine smile; he was a happy person.
"So you're going to hang him with clandestine operations that half the joint chiefs and most of the CIA know would bring him a truckload of citations—if they could talk about them. You bastards kill me." Symington nodded his head, agreeing with himself.
"Perhaps you could save us time, General. Can you provide us with some specifics?"
"Oh, no! You want to crucify the son of a bitch, you build your own cross!"
"You do understand the situation, don't you, sir?"
The brigadier moved his chair back and kicked fragments of glass from under his feet. "I'll tell you something," he said. "I haven't understood anything since nineteen forty-five." He glared at the young officer. "I know you're with Sixteen-hundred, but are you regular army?"
"No, sir. Reserve status, temporary assignment. I'm on a leave of absence from Y, J and B. To put out fires before they burn up the flagpoles, as it were."
"Y, J and B. I don't know that division."
"Not a division, sir. Youngblood, Jakel, and Blowe, in Los Angeles. We're the top ad agency on the Coast."
General Arnold Symington's face slowly took on the expression of a distressed basset hound. "The uniform looks real nice, Lieutenant." The brigadier paused, the shook his head. "Nineteen forty-five," he said.
Major Sam Devereaux, field investigator for the Office of the Inspector General, looked across the room at the calendar on his wall. He got up from the chair behind his desk, walked over to it, and Xed the day's date. One month and three days and he would be a civilian again,.
Not that he was ever a soldier. Not really; certainly not spiritually. He was a military accident. A fracture compounded by a huge mistake that resulted in an extension of his tour of service. It had been a simple choice of alternative: Reenlistment or Leavenworth.
Sam was a lawyer, a damn fine attorney specializing in criminal law. Years ago he had held a series of Selective Service deferments through Harvard College and Harvard Law School; then two years of postgraduate specialization and clerking; finally into the fourteenth month of practice with the prestigious Boston law firm of Aaron Pinkus Associates.
The army had faded into a vaguely disagreeable shadow across his life; he had forgotten about the long series of deferments.
The United Sates Army, however, did not forget.
During one of those logistic crunches that episodically grip the military, the Pentagon discovered it had a sudden dearth of lawyers. The Department of Military Justice was in a bind—hundreds of courts-martial on bases all over the globe were suspended for lack of judge advocates and defense attorneys. The stockades were crowded. So the Pentagon soured the long-forgotten series of deferments and scores of young unattached, childless lawyers—obtainable meat—were sent unrefusable invitations in which was explained the meaning of the word "deferment" as opposed to the word "annulment."
That was the accident. Devereaux's mistake came later. Much later. Seven thousand miles away on the converging borders of Laos, Burma, and Thailand.
The Golden Triangle.
Devereaux—for reasons known only to God and military logistics—never saw a court-martial, much less tried one. He was assigned to the Legal Investigations Division of the Office of the Inspector General and sent to Saigon to see what laws were being violated.
There were so many there was no way to count. And since drugs took precedence over the black market—there were simply too many American entrepreneurs in the latter—his inquiries took him to the Golden Triangle where one-fifth of the world's narcotics were being funneled out, courtesy of powerful men in Saigon, Washington, Vientiane, and Hong Kong.
Sam was conscientious. He didn't like drug peddlers and he threw the investigatory books at them, careful to make sure his briefs to Saigon were transmitted operationally within the confused chain of command.
No report signatures. Just names and violations. After all, he could get shot or knifed—at the least, ostracized for such behavior. It was an education in covert activities.
His trophies included seven ARVN generals, thirty-one representatives in Thieu's congress, twelve U.S. Army colonels—light and full—three brigadiers, and fifty-eight assorted majors, captain, lieutenants, and master sergeants. Added to these were five congressmen, four senators, a member of the President's cabinet, eleven corporation executives with American companies overseas—six of which already had enough trouble in the area of campaign contributions—and a square-jawed Baptist minister with a large national following.
To the best of Sam's knowledge, one second lieutenant and two master sergeants were indicted. The rest were—"pending."
So Sam Devereaux committed his mistake. He was so incensed that the wheels of Southeast Asian justice spun off the tracks at the first hint of influence that he decided to trap a very big fish in the corruption net and make an example. He chose a major general in Bangkok. A man named Heseltine Brokemichael. Major General Heseltine Brokemichael, West Point '43.
Sam had the evidence, mounds of it. Through a series of elaborate entrapments in which he himself acted as the "connection," a participant who could swear under oath to the general's malfeasance, he built his case thoroughly. There would not possibly be two General Brokemichaels, and Sam was an avenging angel of a prosecutor, circling in for his kill.
But there were. Two. Two major generals named Brokemichael—one Heseltine, one Ethelred! Apparently cousins. And the one in Bangkok—Heseltine—was not the one in Vientiane—Ethelred. The Vientiane Brokemichael was the felon. Not his cousin. Further, the Brokemichael in Bangkok was more an avenger than Sam. He believed he was gathering evidence on a corrupt IG investigator. And he was. Devereaux had violated most of the international contraband laws and all of the United States government's.
Sam was arrested by the MPs, thrown into a maximum security cell, and told he could look forward to the better part of his lifetime in Leavenworth.
Fortunately, a superior officer in the inspector general's command, who did not really understand a sense of justice that made Sam commit so many crimes, but did understand Sam's legal and investigatory contributions to the cause of the inspector general, came to Sam's aid. Devereaux had actually filed more evidentiary material than any other legal officer in Southeast Asia; his work in the field made up for a great deal of inactivity in Washington.
So the superior officer allowed a little unofficial plea bargaining in Sam's case. If Sam would accept disciplinary action at the hands of a furious Major General Heseltine Brokemichael in Bangkok, constituting a six-month loss of pay—no criminal charges would be brought. There was just one more condition: to continue his work for the inspector general's office for an additional two years beyond the expiration of his army commitment. By that time, reasoned the superior officer, the mess in Indochina would be turned over to those messing, and the IG caseloads reduced or conveniently buried.
Reenlistment or Leavenworth.
So Major Sam Devereaux, patriotic citizen-soldier, extended his tour of duty. And the mess in Indochina was in no way lessened, but indeed turned over to the participants, and Devereaux was transferred back to Washington, D.C.
One month and three days to go, he mused, as he looked out his office window and watched the MPs at the guardhouse check the automobiles driving out. It was after five; he had to catch a plane at Dulles in two hours. He had packed that morning and brought his suitcase to the office.
The four years were coming to an end. Two plus two. The time spent, he reflected, might be resented, but it had not been wasted. The abyss of corruption that was Southeast Asia reached into the hierarchical corridors of Washington. The inhabitants of these corridors knew who he was; he had more offers from prestigious law firms than he could reply to, much less consider. And he did not want to consider them; he disapproved of them. Just as he disapproved of the current investigation on his desk.
The manipulators were at it again. This time it was the thorough discrediting of a career officer named Hawkins. Lieutenant General MacKenzie Hawkins.
At first Sam had been stunned. MacKenzie Hawkins was an original. A legend. The stuff of which cults were born. Cults slightly to the political right of Attila the Hun.
Hawkins's place in the military firmament was secure. Bantam Books published his biography—serialization and Reader's Digest rights had been sold before a word was on paper. Hollywood gave obscene amounts of money to film his life story. And the antimilitarists made him an object of fascist-hatred.
The biography was not overly successful because the subject was not overly cooperative. Apparently there were certain personal idiosyncrasies that did not enhance the image, four wives paramount among them. The motion picture was less than triumphant insofar as it comprised endless battle scenes with little or no hint of the man other than an actor squinting through the battle dust, yelling to his men in a peculiar lisp to "get those Godless . . . [Roar of cannon] . . . who would tear down Old Glory! at 'em, boys!"
Hollywood, too, had discovered the four wives and certain other peculiarities of the studio's on-the-set technical adviser. MacKenzie Hawkins went through starlets three at a time and had intercourse with the producer's wife in the swimming pool while the producer watched in fury from the living room window.
He did not stop the picture, however. For Christ's sake, it was costing damn near six mill!
These misfired endeavors might have caused another man to fade, if only from embarrassment, but not so Mac Hawkins. In private, among his peers, he ridiculed those responsible and regaled his associates with stories of Manhattan and Hollywood.
He was sent to the war college with a new specialization: intelligence, clandestine operations. His peers felt a little more secure with the charismatic Hawkins consigned to covert activities. And the colonel became a brigadier and absorbed all there was to learn of his new specialty. He spent two years grinding away, studying every phase of intelligence work until the instructors had no more to instruct him.
So he was sent to Saigon where the escalating hostilities had blossomed into a full-scale war. And in Vietnam—both Vietnams, and Laos, and Cambodia, and Thailand, and Burma—Hawkins corrupted the corruptors and the ideologues alike. Reports of his behind-the-lines and across-the-neutral-borders activities made "protective reaction" seem like a logical strategy. So unorthodox, so blatantly criminal were his methods of operation that G-2, Saigon, found itself denying his existence. After all, there were limits. Even for clandestine activities.
If America First was a maxim—and it was—Hawkins saw no reason why it should not apply to the filthy world of covert operations.
And for Hawkins, America was first. Ir-re-fucking-gardless!
So Sam Devereaux thought it was all a little sad that such a man was about to be knocked out of the box by the manipulators who got to where they were by draping the flag so gloriously and generously around themselves. Hawkins was now an offending lion in the diplomatic arena and had to be eliminated in the cause of double-think. The men who should have been upholding the general's point of honor were doing their best to sink him fast—in ten days, to be precise.
Normally Sam would have taken pleasure out of building a case against a messianic ass like Hawkins; and regardless of his feelings to the contrary, he would build a case against him. It was his last file for the inspector general's office, and he was not going to risk another two-year alternative. But he was still sad. The Hawk, as he was known—misguided fanatic as he might be—deserved better than what he was getting.
Perhaps, thought Sam, his depression was brought about by the last "operative" instruction from the White House: find something in the morals area Hawkins can't deny. Check to see if he was ever in the care of a psychiatrist.
A psychiatrist! Jesus! They never learned.
In the meantime, Sam had dispatched a team of IG investigators to Saigon to see if they could dig up a few negative specifics. And he was off to Dulles airport to catch a plane to Los Angeles.
All of Hawkins's ex-wives lived within a radius of thirty miles of each other, from Malibu to Beverly Hills. They'd be better than any psychiatrist. Christ! A psychiatrist!
At 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C., they were all novocained above the shoulders.