/ Language: English / Genre:prose_military

The Corps IV - Battleground

W.E.B. Griffin


Griffin W.E.B.

The Corps IV - Battleground

The Corps is respectfully dedicated to the memories of Second Lieutenant Drew James Barrett III, USMC Company K, 3rd Battalion, 26th Marines Born Denver, Colorado, 3 January 1945 Died Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 27 February 1969 and Major Alfred Lee Butler III, USMC Headquarters 22nd Marine Amphibious Unit Born Washington, DC, 4 September 1950 Died Beirut, Lebanon, 8 February 1984. And to the Memory of Donald L. Schomp A Marine Fighter Pilot who became a legendary U.S. Army Master Aviator RIP 9 April 1989. "Semper Ft/"

Chapter One

(One)

MIDWAY ATOLL

0455 HOURS 4 JUNE 1942

William Charles "Bill" Dunn, USMCR, of Point Clear, Alabama, was twenty-one years old, five feet six inches tall, and weighed 142 pounds; he'd been a First Lieutenant, USMCR, twelve, days, and a Naval Aviator not quite six months; and in all that time-in all his twenty-one years, even-he'd never had a night as hard as the last one. By the time he threw off the sheet that morning and swung his feet onto the floor, he did it with the sinking conviction that he was a coward. That conviction didn't come as a surprise to him. The thought, if not the conviction, had been there when he crawled into bed, and more times than he wanted to count he'd woken up during the night with it.

Just about every time he did that, he'd had to rush to the head to move his bowels. As far as he was concerned, that made him-literally-"scared shitless." It did not strike him as amusing. Now that his bowels were empty, he had an urge-suppressed only with enormous effort-to throw up.

And every couple of minutes he felt a cold and clammy sweat on his back and on the seat of his skivvy shorts.

The reason his body was acting so wild was that today he was going, as the Naval Service so quaintly put it, "In Harm's Way." The Japanese were about to attack the islands where Dunn was stationed, with the objective of capturing them; the United States Navy was determined not to lose them. Both sides had sent formidable naval forces toward the area. And both forces were closing in on one another. Bill Dunn's role in this vast exchange was to fly a single seater fighter off this tiny little airfield to see if he could shoot at least some of the Japanese airplanes down.

All for the sake of a circular atoll surrounding a pair of tiny dots of land (total area, two square miles) lying just east of the International Date Line, 1,300 miles Northwest of Pearl Harbor. The dots themselves were named Eastern Island (1.25 miles long) and Sand Island (1.75 miles); and the whole thing, including the atoll, was called Midway.

Midway had been an American possession since just after the Civil War. But, with the exception of a cable station, it had been essentially abandoned and forgotten until 1936. That year, Pan American Airways instituted scheduled service between Hawaii and the Philippine Islands using Midway as a midpoint stop. Once that facility was in place, the strategic importance of Midway began to grow apparent, until in 1939, the Navy Hepburn Board (named after its senior member), charged with evaluating Navy facilities in the Pacific in case of war, determined that those tiny dots of land were "second only in importance to Pearl Harbor" itself.

In 1940, the Navy started construction of extensive facilities to service both aircraft and submarines on Midway. A Navy dock was completed on 1 September 1940, and on 29 September, about a third of the 3rd USMC Defense Battalion arrived with one battery of two five-inch naval cannons and some machine guns to defend the atoll.

The decision was made to build an airstrip (only facilities for seaplanes were originally planned) and Army Engineers began to dredge the channel between the islands and undertook other construction work.

The Japanese, meanwhile, attacked Midway at 2135 hours 7 December. The destroyers Sazanami and Ushio under Captain Koname Konishi shelled the tiny islands for twenty-three minutes, causing minimal damage. The three- and five-inch naval cannon of the 6th Defense Battalion (which had replaced the 3rd) returned the fire and claimed damage to both vessels.

This first Japanese attack was hardly more than a nuisance, but other attacks, including an amphibious assault, were expected. And so by the end of May, Midway had received meaningful reinforcement: The Marine Corps had furnished five anti-aircraft batteries, ranging in size from twenty-mm to three-inch; two companies of the 2nd Marine Raider Battalion; and even a platoon (five) of light tanks.

During the same time, the small airstrip on Eastern Island had become home to an odd mixture of aircraft: In addition to the original fourteen Navy Consolidated PBY Catalinas, there were two Royal Dutch Navy Catalinas, which had attached themselves for service after they were unable to return to their base; the U.S. Army Air Corps had flown in from Oahu four twin-engine Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers and seventeen four-engine heavy bombers, Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortresses"; while the Navy had sent six torpedo-carrying Grumman TBF Avengers.

Most of the aircraft, however (sixty-four), were Marine: nineteen Douglas SBD-2 Dauntless dive bombers; seventeen (virtually obsolete) Vought SB2U-3 Vindicator dive bombers; twenty-one (obsolete) Brewster Buffaloes; and seven of the new Grumman F4F-3 Wildcat fighters.

In the days before this particular morning, Navy Intelligence, whose information in this instance Bill Dunn trusted, had provided a good deal of information about the enemy, all of it alarming:

Their Midway Strike Force, under Admiral Chuichi Nagumo, was built around four aircraft carriers: The Akagi (at 36,500 tons, Japan's largest carrier); Kaga (36,000 tons); and Hiryu and Soryu (both much smaller at 16,000 tons). The force also included two battleships, three cruisers, destroyers and other screening vessels, and transports for 1,500 men of the Special Naval Landing Force and 1,000 soldiers of the Ichiki Detachment.

There were going to be large numbers of Japanese aircraft: "Probably in excess of one hundred," the skinny, bespectacled, school-teacherish Navy full Lieutenant Intelligence Officer had announced at the most recent briefing, sounding as bored as a guide in the Atlanta Zoo telling visitors about the wonders they could find in the reptilarium.

If the Japanese followed their usual practice, based upon the normal complement of aircraft aboard their carriers, three types of aircraft would be in the striking force, and in roughly equal numbers.

There would be an element of Nakajima B5N1 Torpedo Bombers, single engine, low wing monoplanes, which some Navy Intelligence bureaucrat had decided should be known as Kates. Since torpedoes cannot sink an island, even little, bitty ones like Sand and Eastern Islands, Intelligence had cleverly deduced that the Kates would probably be operating in their bomber and not their torpedo role. That meant the Kates would have large bombs, probably enormous bombs, slung beneath their fuselages, and they would carry three men aboard, instead of the usual two. When it was used to deliver torpedoes, the pilot aimed the single torpedo Kates could handle; when it was used as a bomber, there was a bombardier. The pilot could also fire the two 7.7mm machine guns in his wings. And there was always a gunner, who fired a single 7.7mm machine gun from the back seat.

They could also, according to the Atlanta Zoo guide, expect an element of Vals. The Val was officially the Aichi D3A1 Navy Type 99 Carrier Bomber Model 11. Bill Dunn vaguely remembered hearing someplace that Type 99 (or was it Model 11?) made reference to the year in the Japanese calendar, which was different from the calendar used in the West.

He did remember that the Val had a nonretractable landing gear... the wheels had pants. These made Vals look something like the Gee-Bee Racer Jimmy Doolittle used to fly in air races. Jimmy Doolittle was one of Bill Dunn's childhood heroes.

Bill hadn't thought of Jimmy Doolittle in years, until word had come six weeks ago that Doolittle had flown B25s off an aircraft carrier, bombed Tokyo, and wound up a Brigadier General with the Medal of Honor. He didn't understand how the hell Doolittle had managed to get B25s off an aircraft carrier, it was hard enough getting a Wildcat off.

The news of the Tokyo raid brought back to him his adolescent hero worship of Doolittle racing his Gee-Bee around pylons. The Gee-Bee was much like the Wildcat, a little airplane with a big engine, and thus very fast. And correspondingly hard-dangerous-to fly.

By the time Bill Dunn was fifteen, he knew he would never emulate his father and his two brothers who'd been football heroes at the University of Alabama: He weighed 105 pounds and was dubbed "The Runt." Things were in fact looking bad for him in the manhood department in general until the U.S. Navy-specifically, the Naval Air Station, Pensacola-came to his rescue. The Navy showed him a way to do manly things, even if he wasn't going to be well over six feet and two hundred pounds when he reached full growth.

The Navy hoped to build auxiliary and emergency landing strips on land the Dunns owned just across the border from Florida in Alabama. Though the Navy had no funds to lease, much less buy, the necessary land, the Admiral at Pensacola thought there was a good chance that he could appeal to the Dunn family's patriotism.

The Admiral had read his history and suspected- correctly-that Lieutenant Cassius Alfred Dunn, gunnery officer of the Confederate Ship Alabama, probably had a familial connection with the Dunns of Mobile and Point Clear, shipping agents and land owners. The Alabama, under Admiral Raphael Semmes, was the greatest Naval Raider of all time.

"You must come see us at Pensacola," the Admiral said to C. Alfred Dunn IV, Bill's father. "And bring your boy. I think he'd like it."

When the Dunns came to Pensacola, the Admiral laid on them a little demonstration of the capabilities of the Grumman F3F-1, the last Navy biplane fighter to be produced. Bill Dunn's awe of the F3F-1 was exceeded only by his shocked realization that the pilot who climbed out of the cockpit and walked over to be introduced to the Dunn family was no taller and not much heavier than he was.

I bet they called him "Runt" too, when he was fifteen.

That summer, and the next, Bill spent long hours with his feet dangling off the family pier, watching the sun set over the smooth waters of Mobile Bay. A lot of the time he was there he was thinking about flying. He would have cheerfully swapped all his worldly possessions, present and future, for a chance to climb in the cockpit of a fast and powerful little airplane and shove the throttle as far forward as it would go.

The dream endured... though he changed part of it. By the time he entered the University, he'd decided that if there was anything in the world better than being a Naval Aviator, it was becoming a Marine Naval Aviator.

Now that he was a Marine Naval Aviator and rated in the Grumman F4F, which was a little larger than the Gee-Bee, but just about as fast, he understood that flying hot aircraft as fast as they would go, as close to the ground as you could get them, was a pretty dumb thing to do. He realized now why there had been such a hell of a hue and cry to stop the National Air Races because those guys had kept flying into each other, the pylons, or the ground.

The Val, like the Kate, had two forward firing 7.7mm machine guns in the wings and a single 7.7mm in the aft cockpit. It could carry about nine hundred pounds, total, of bombs, a big one under the fuselage and two smaller ones under the wings.

Neither the Val nor the Kate was any match for the Wildcat, which was faster, and far more heavily armed (six.50 caliber Browning machine guns) and armored. One on one, that is.

Was one Wildcat equal to two Vals? Or three?

That was an uncomfortable question.

And that wasn't the whole problem.

"We may certainly expect the Vals and Kates to be accompanied by a roughly equal number of Zeroes," the Navy Zoo Guide had said matter-of-factly.

The Zero (technically the Mitsubishi A6M2 Model 21) was an interesting airplane... interesting, that is, if you could sit back and compare it dispassionately with the Wildcat. It was a low wing monoplane fighter, with a fourteen-cylinder radial engine that gave it a top speed of about 315 mph at 16,000 feet. The Wildcat had a top speed a couple of miles an hour faster at 18,000.

But if you could not consider it dispassionately-for example, if you were about to go fight twenty-five to thirty-five of" them-the Zero seemed immensely formidable. From everything Bill Dunn had heard, the Zero was a better airplane than the Wildcat. That the Navy pretended otherwise did not change the facts. The Navy also pretended that the Brewster F2A Buffalo was only "marginally inferior" to the Wildcat, and that was bullshit, pure and simple.

It was common knowledge, anyhow, that the Zero was far more maneuverable than the Wildcat, except at sea level, where the more powerful Wildcat engine gave it an edge. And in addition to the two 7.7mm machine guns it had in the wings, it had two 20mm machine cannon. The projectile from a 20mm machine cannon had greater range than a.50 caliber bullet. Thus a Zero pilot could shoot at a Wildcat before the Wildcat pilot could shoot at him; and because it was larger, a 20mm did more damage.

If it was true that no matter how bad a situation is, it could always be worse, Bill thought, then whenever we sally forth into harms way, I could be flying a goddamned Buffalo. There are three times as many (twenty-one) Buffaloes on Midway as there are Wildcats.

The Navy didn't want the Buffaloes, of course, knowing that they are no fucking good. So naturally, they are good enough for the Marines. But at least I will be flying a Wildcat.

Which raises the interesting question, how come?

Did Major Parks put me into a Wildcat because he felt I can fly one better than the other guys? Or because he thought, being the nice guy he is, that I stand a slightly better chance of living through this morning flying a Wildcat than I would flying a Buffalo?

And that raises the question of relative pilot skill, which is a real chiller. Christ only knows how much time Major Parks and Captain Armislead and the other old timers have-several thousand hours anyway-but Mrs. Dunn's Little Boy Billy has 312.5 hours, which ain't very much, especially considering how little of that is in the Wildcat, and that somehow Navy Intelligence has learned enough about the Japs to estimate their average carrier pilot has 800 hours, including some in combat. I have zero hours in combat.

After he rolled out of bed, Dunn dressed quickly by pulling on what the Marine Corps called a "Suit, Flight, Tropical," and which he somewhat irreverently thought of as his rompers. Next came ankle high boots, which he thought of as his clodhoppers, because the rough side of the leather was on the outside. Some of the guys flew with low-quarter shoes, but he preferred the clodhoppers. He slipped a leather flight jacket over the flight suit, and then put on a shoulder holster with a Colt Model 1911A1 pistol in it.

Some of the guys carried.38 Special caliber revolvers, which were somewhat smaller weapons, arguing that they didn't get in the way as much as the Colt. Bill carried the Colt because that's what they had issued him, and because he thought the chances of his ever having to take it from the holster to shoot anybody with it ranked right up there with his chances of being named Pope.

Last came a canvas helmet with flaps folded up so his ears were free. It always reminded him of the helmet he'd worn to grammar school, goggles in place, imagining that he was Jimmy Doolittle flying the Gee-Bee to racing glory around the pylons.

He looked at the photograph of his parents standing outside St. Luke's on some long ago Sunday morning. It shared a folding leather frame with a photograph of Miss Sue-Anne Pendergast, who had been the 1941 Queen of the Mobile Mardi Gras. Sue-Anne was a nice looking girl... for that matter, a nice girl, period. But she was not, as Bill suggested to his peers, his beloved, almost his fianc‚e.

He had known Sue-Anne all of his life. They'd climbed trees and gone swimming and thrown mudballs at each other since about the time the two of them could talk. Now she was doing her bit for the Boys In Service by writing him faithfully once a week. While she signed her letters, "Love," it wasn't the sort of love Bill had so far in his life been denied. Another of the reasons it was a dirty rotten fucking shame he was probably going to get killed today was that he was, with one exception, a virgin. Just before he'd dropped out of college to join the Marines, he and half a dozen fraternity brothers had gone down from Tuscaloosa to the Tutweiler Hotel in Birmingham, where they had pooled their money and hired a whore from the bellhop. He was so drunk he didn't remember much about it, except that it was not what he expected it to be, and not very pleasant either.

It seemed to Bill common justice that a man should be able to get decently laid before he got himself killed. But that hadn't happened.

The Officer's Mess was an open-sided tent with benches and tables, the food was served cafeteria style. Breakfast was the standard fare: Spam and powdered eggs served any way you wanted them, which meant that you could either have little squares of fried Spam with powdered eggs on the side, or you could have the Spam cut up and mixed into powdered eggs. Plus toast, with your choice of apple or cherry flavored jelly. And coffee, with your choice of canned cow or no canned cow.

He had taken a mug of black coffee and a piece of cold toast and walked out to the flight line. He was afraid that he would throw up and didn't want to vomit in the cockpit.

The plane chief was there, looking over the armorer's shoulders as he checked the Brownings and the links and placement of the belted.50s. They exchanged salutes. The plane chief, a stocky Italian from Florida whose name was Anthony Florentine), was about as old as Bill was, and took his work and the Marine Corps seriously. He was a corporal.

"Good morning, Sir," he said.

"Good morning. Everything shipshape?"

"Yes, Sir. Just checking the guns, Sir."

Funny, it looked to me like you were playing chess.

"You got the word, Sir, that we're to start engines at 0540?"

"No, I didn't."

Jesus, I have to take another dump!

"The Skipper wants the engines warmed up for when the word comes, Sir."

He looked at his watch. It was 0533. In seven minutes he would have to climb in that cockpit and hope that he didn't have nausea or diarrhea.

He walked around the plane and did the preflight, trying to act as nonchalant as possible. When he finished he had four minutes to wait. He leaned against the Wildcat, just behind the cowl flaps.

"I didn't see you in the mess, I wondered where you were,"

Major Parks said, startling him. He hadn't seen The Skipper coming up.

"Good morning, Sir."

"Everything all right? You feeling OK?"

"Yes, Sir, fine."

"You got the word about warming the engines?"

"Yes, Sir. I was about to get in."

"A PBY radioed at five-twenty-five that it had spotted the Japanese fleet," Parks said. "I expect word anytime now that the Navy radar has picked up aircraft. I want to get off the ground as soon as we get a heading. Hit them as far away from here as possible."

"Yes, Sir."

"You're a good pilot, Bill. That's why I put you in a Wildcat. You don't get excited. That's a good thing for a fighter pilot. Excited pilots forget what they've been taught."

"Yes, Sir."

Translated, that means you have had second thoughts about putting me in a Wildcat, because I am very likely to get excited and forget what I've been taught, and would probably change your mind if there was time and put me in one of the goddamned Buffaloes. That being the case, you have decided to inspire the troops with confident words.

Shit!

Major Parks touched his arm.

"Good luck," he said. "Good hunting."

"Thank you, Sir."

Major Parks was both a professional warrior and a realist. He knew that until the shooting actually started there was no way to predict how Lieutenant Dunn, or any of his pilots, would behave in combat. Even so, he had a belief that he could devise guidelines that would give him some indication-a hint if not a prediction-about which pilots could handle best the stress and terrors of combat. With that goal in mind, he had collected as much data as he could about the behavior of British fighter pilots during the Battle of Britain, the battle Churchill had described both accurately and eloquently: "Never in the history of human conflict have so many owed so much to so few."

Parks wondered what the few were really like.

Not without difficulty, he had learned that by and large they were no older than his young officers, and they'd been trained no better. They had also gone up against pilots with more experience than they had, yet they'd done very well.

He'd found two notable differences between the British pilots and his own, perhaps the most important being that the English were defending their homes, literally fighting above their mothers and their girlfriends, where his kids would be fighting halfway around the world from theirs. They would be protecting their mothers and their girlfriends, too, but abstractly, over a wide and empty ocean.

Secondly, the Brits had flown Spitfires against Messerschmidts. Both were splendid aircraft; it was a matter of opinion which was the better. One could charitably call the Wildcat the equal of the Zero, and perhaps when they had enough experience against the Zero to make a bona fide analysis, it would turn out to be so. But that could not be said about the Buffalo, which was hopelessly outclassed by the Zero, and probably by even the Kate.

With no data worth a damn to really go on, Parks realized he would have to go with his gut feeling. He thought that commanders had probably been forced to go on their gut feeling from the beginning of time, but that offered little reassurance. His gut feeling (which he desperately hoped was not wishful thinking) was that his kids-and perhaps Bill Dunn in particular-would acquit themselves well.

He had given Bill Dunn one of his precious few Wildcats because of that gut feeling. And perhaps, he thought, because sometimes when he saw Dunn on the flight line, a spunky little crew-cutted, clean-cut kid who looked more like a cheerleader than a Marine Officer, he reminded him of those young English kids standing beside their Spitfires in an East Anglian field.

(Two)

Lieutenant Bill Dunn watched The Skipper walk down the flight line to the next aircraft, which happened to be a Buffalo, and pause for a word with its pilot.

I can't remember that guy's name! I'm about to go get killed with him, and I can't even remember his name. I wonder if he knows mine?

He climbed up on the wing root.

Corporal Florentino had already opened the canopy. As Bill lowered himself into the seat, Florentino climbed onto the wing root and watched, prepared to help, as Bill fastened his shoulder and lap belts, and then as Bill set the clock, the altimeter, and the rate of climb indicator to zero. He waited until Bill had checked the stick and rudder pedals for full movement, and then jumped off the wing root.

Bill checked the emergency canopy release and the fuel gauge, then glanced out the canopy.

"Ignition switch off, throttle open, mixture at idle cut off," he called. "Pull it through."

Florentino grasped a propellor blade and pulled on it, then the next blade, and the next, until the engine had been turned through five revolutions. Otherwise, oil that had accumulated by gravity in the lower cylinders would still be there when the engine fired. Since oil does not compress, lower link rods would have been bent or broken.

Bill put the Fuel Selector Valve handle to MAIN TANK and turned the crank opening the engine cowl flaps. He checked the propellor circuit breaker switch and then set it on AUTOMATIC. Outside, Corporal Florentino had charged the starter mechanism with a Type C cartridge, a kind of super-sized blank shotgun shell. When it fired, its energy would turn the engine over until it started.

Bill set the supercharger on LOW, pushed the Carburetor Air handle in so that air would be delivered directly to the engine, and set the throttle for 1000 rpm.

He looked to make sure that no one was near the propellor and that a ground crewman had a fire extinguisher ready to go.

"Clear!" he called.

Florentino made a wind-it-up motion.

Bill turned the battery switch to ON, turned on the Emergency Fuel Pump, and watched as the fuel pressure gauge rose to fifteen pounds. Then he held the primer switch on for three seconds, turned the ignition switch to BOTH, and fired the starter cartridge.

The propellor began to turn, and then there was the sound, rough, of the engine catching. The Wildcat shuddered, and the engine gave off a small cloud of blue smoke. He moved the mixture control to AUTO RICH and flicked the primer switch a couple of times until the engine smoothed out.

He idled the engine at 1000 rpm, and then teased the throttle further open until it indicated 1200 rpm. There was nothing to do now but wait for the oil pressure and inlet temperature needles to "move into the green." This made reference to little green arcs painted on gauges and dials to show where the indicator needle should point, if things were as they were supposed to be. There were also little red arcs that indicated a dangerous temperature, or pressure, or the like.

The oil pressure gauge almost immediately indicated 70 psi (Pounds Per Square Inch) and then the oil inlet temperature gauge needle came to life. It slowly began to move across the dial to the green arc, stopping at an indication of 86? Fahrenheit.

Then he checked the magnetos, which provided the ignition spark to the engine, by switching from their normal BOTH position first to LEFT and then to RIGHT. The tachometer showed a drop of less than 100 rpm, which meant he had no problem there.

The goddamn airplane is not going to suffer some fatal internal malady and keep me on the ground. That would have been nice. Not exactly heroic, but nice.

He let it run another minute and then shut it down. It was warmed up and ready to go. He sat in the cockpit for another minute, listening to the creak of metal as it cooled, and then a Jeep came down the flight line with Captain John Carey at the wheel. He signaled down the flight line. Dunn had expected this. The word had come, and there would be last minute instructions and probably a pep talk.

"We've been over this before," Major Parks conceded. "You all know where you're supposed to be when we get in the air. What we have now is where the enemy is: bearing 310, about 90 miles. Radar reports too many of them to count."

Now he's going to say, "Go out there and give them hell, men! Win one for the Gipper! Semper Fi! To the Halls of Montezuma!"

Major Parks said, "I'll see you all later at the debriefing."

Bill was a little surprised to find himself trotting, almost running, back to the Wildcat. As he climbed in, he saw for the first time that something had been stenciled below the canopy: 1ST LT W C DUNN USMCR CPL A M FLORENTINO, USMC.

That wasn't there yesterday. He must have painted it on there last night. And I didn't see it before because I had other things on my mind, like getting killed.

"Great-looking sign, Florentino," Bill said when the plane captain appeared at the side of the cockpit.

"Thank you, Sir."

He fastened his seat and shoulder harness again and went through the start-up procedure. The engine caught immediately and quickly smoothed down. He checked the Manifold Pressure Regulator and the Propellor Operation; then he de-sludged the supercharger. After that he followed the Buffalo which had been parked beside him toward the runway.

When he was lined up with the runway, he went through the final take-off checklist, which takes longer to describe than to do: He checked to see that the indicator in the wing root showed the wings were properly spread and locked. He locked the tail wheel; made sure the sliding portion of the canopy was locked open; set the aileron and elevator tabs in NEUTRAL and the rudder tab a couple of marks to the right. He checked to see that the fuel selector switch was on the main tank and that the cowl flaps were open. He made sure the propellor governor control was pushed all the way in; that the supercharger was set to LOW, the mixture control set to AUTO RICH, and the Emergency Fuel Pump to ON. He pushed the Carburetor Air Control all the way in and finally pushed the throttle to FULL.

The engine roared, the plane began to strain against the brakes, and the needle on the Manifold Pressure Gauge rose to indicate about fifty-two inches. He released the brakes and the Wildcat started to move down the runway, as if it was chasing the Buffalo in front of it.

He dropped his eyes momentarily to check the oil and fuel pressure, the oil and cylinder head temperatures, and the indicated airspeed. The needles were all in the green. He thought he saw the airspeed indicator needle flicker to life, which usually happened about 40 knots, but he wasn't sure. It didn't really matter. He would sense in the seat of his pants when the Wildcat wanted to fly.

The rumble of the landing gear suddenly stopped. The Wildcat, having reached an airspeed of about 70 knots, had decided to fly. Without thinking about it, Bill swapped hands on the control stick, using his left hand on the stick to counter the Wildcat's tendency to veer to the right on take-off and freeing his right hand to crank up the landing gear. It took twenty-seven revolutions of the crank, hard turns, to get it up.

When he had finished and put his right hand back on the stick, he looked around for Major Parks, spotted his Wildcat, and maneuvered to get into his assigned position behind him. He was not at all surprised when he was in position and had adjusted the throttle, the mixture, and the trim, to see that he was climbing at 1,000 feet per minute, indicating 125 knots, and with his cylinder head temperature right at 215? Centigrade. That's what the book said was the most efficient climbing attitude, and Major Parks flew by the book.

As they passed through 12,000 feet, he put the black rubber mask over his face, readjusted his headset to accommodate it, and turned on the oxygen. It felt cool in his mouth and throat, and somehow alien. At 14,000 Parks leveled his flight out.

Several minutes after that, Parks wiggled his wings, seeming to point with his right wing tip. Bill followed the line down, and there they were, two thousand feet below them.

He was surprised at the color scheme. The Kates' fuselages, wings, and rear appendages were painted a lemon yellow. And the red ball of Japan was not readily visible on either fuselage or wings. From the windscreen forward, the Kates were painted black. And so was the bomb hanging under the fuselage.

Jesus Christ, there's a lot of them!

I'll be goddamned, the Zeroes are below them! What the hell is that all about? Didn't they think we'd try to intercept?

Following Parks's lead, he put the Wildcat into a dive, correcting without thinking about it for the Wildcat's tendency to drop the right wing and turn the nose to the right.

As he approached his first target, Bill could clearly see the aft-facing gunner bringing his machine gun to bear on him.

That bastard is shooting at me!

That triggered two other-alarming-thoughts:

Christ, I didn't test my guns!

I forgot to pull my fucking goggles down!

The Wildcat shook with the recoil of the.50 caliber Browning machine guns in the wings. And two other thoughts came:

Jesus, my tracer stream is way out in front of him!

I'll be goddamned! He blew up! How the hell did that happen?

And then he was through the layer of Kates and approaching the layer of Vals beneath them.

I fucked that up! I didn't get a shot at any of them, and here come the fucking Zeroes!

Our Father, who art in heaven-

I don't think I can turn this sonofabitch enough to lead him-

I'm skidding all over the fucking sky! You 're a real hot pilot, Mr. Dunn. In a pig's ass you are!

OK shit, there goes one of our guys. His right fucking wing just came off!

For yea, tho' I walk through the valley of the shadow of death-

That's right, you miserable cocksucker, just stay right there another five seconds, four, three-

Gotcha!

Holy shit, there's somebody on my tail! A fucking Zero, what else?

I can't get away from him.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed-

Chop the fucking throttle, stupid! Put it in a skid, let him overshoot you!

Oh, my God, the windshield's gone. I can't see a fucking thing. I'm going to die. Where the fuck are those goggles? Where the hell is that Zero? Why does my leg feel wet? Did I piss my pants?

Not unless you're pissing blood, you didn't.

I thought it was supposed to hurt when you got wounded.

Oh, shit, it hurts! I wonder if it's broken?

(Three)

"How do you feel, Dunn?" the tour guide from the Atlanta Zoo asked, pulling up a folding metal chair to the side of Dunn's bed. "Well enough to talk to me?"

What if I said "no"?

"Yes, Sir."

"The more you can tell me about what happened out there, the better," the tour guide said. "You want to take it from the beginning?"

"We were at fourteen thousand, about thirty miles out, when Major Parks spotted them. He showed us where they were and went into a dive, and I went after him."

"And?"

"And that's all I remember."

"Come on."

"I remember being surprised that the Zeroes were on the bottom of the formation, not the top."

"OK. That was unusual. They apparently intended to use the Zeroes to strafe the field here. I guess they didn't think we had anything to send up against them. When you went in the dive, then what happened?"

"I shot at a Kate."

"You got it. It was confirmed."

"The Kates were on top. Then there was a layer of Vals. I went right through them without firing a shot. And then I was in the Zeroes."

"And?"

"I don't know. I don't remember much."

"You are credited with shooting down one of them. You don't remember that?"

"Who says I shot down a Zero?"

"I don't immediately recall."

"The Skipper?"

"Major Parks didn't make it back, I'm sorry to say."

"Shit."

"I was hoping that perhaps you might have seen him go in."

"I saw somebody go down. His right wing, most of his right wing, came off. I don't know who it was."

"When was that?"

"I don't know. Toward the beginning."

"That was the only time you saw one of ours go down?" "Yes"

"You're sure?"

"I told you, that was it. How many of ours went down?"

"A good many, I'm sorry to have to tell you."

"How many is a good many?"

"We lost fifteen. Two Wildcats-not counting yours, although yours has been surveyed and is a total loss-and thirteen Buffaloes."

"We only had nineteen Buffaloes with us."

"In addition to yourself, Captain Carey, Captain Carl, and Lieutenant Canfield came back. Of Major Parks's flight, I mean."

"You mean the rest are dead?"

"Do you remember when you were hit?"

"You mean everybody but the four of us is dead?"

"I'm afraid so."

"Oh, my God!"

"Do you remember being hit?"

"No. I remember the windshield going."

"In other words you don't know who shot you down, whether it was a Zero or some other type aircraft?"

"It had to be a Zero. I was in the Zeroes."

"But you don't know for sure?"

"I don't even know how I got back here."

"You came back and made a wheels-up landing."

"I found my way back here by myself?"

"How else?" the Naval Intelligence debriefing officer asked, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.

"The last thing I remember is when I lost my windshield. And got hit."

"You don't remember heading back here?"

"The last thing I remember is trying to pull my goggles down after the windshield went."

"You were apparently flying with the canopy open-"

Christ, I forgot to close the canopy, too?

"Was I?"

"The shell, most likely a 20mm, apparently entered the cockpit from the side-"

"Just one round?"

"There were others. In the engine nacelle. Another just forward of the seat. But the one-the one which entered the cockpit-apparently exploded going through the windshield, from the inside out?"

"Yeah," Bill said, understanding.

"What they took out of your face and leg, legs, was debris from the windshield and control panel. Perspex and aluminum fragments."

"Then it was a Zero."

"Presumably." The Intelligence officer looked directly at him. "You have no memory of breaking off the engagement and heading back here?"

"No."

"Could you determine, do you have any memory of determining, from your instruments, or from a loss of control, that your aircraft was no longer airworthy?"

"No," Bill said, and then, thinking aloud, "That's an odd question."

"You were seen leaving the area."

"So?"

"The officer who saw you leave could not tell whether you had lost your windshield. You were too far apart."

"Who was that?"

"I don't think we'd better get into that."

"But he thought I was running, right?"

"Were you?"

"I don't know."

"That's not a very good answer, you realize?"

"Sorry about that."

"You don't seem overly disturbed at what could be an accusation of cowardice in the face of the enemy."

"Fuck you, Lieutenant."

"You can't talk to me that way!"

"If I'm to be charged with cowardice in the face of the enemy, what's the difference what I say to you?"

After a long pause, the Naval Intelligence Officer said, "I didn't say anything about you being charged with anything."

"No witnesses, right? Everybody's dead?"

"If you're through with my patient, Lieutenant," another voice said, from behind Dunn, "I'd like to put him aboard the PBY."

"You're being flown to Pearl Harbor," the Intelligence Officer said to Dunn.

"I'd prefer to stay with the squadron," Bill said.

"You won't be flying for a while. Three weeks anyway," the voice behind him said.

"And there's no squadron to stay with," the Naval Intelligence Officer said.

"Moving is going to be painful," the voice behind him, now much closer, said. "I can give you some morphine, if you like."

"How painful?"

"You're pretty well stitched up, particularly on the legs. Any movement will be painful."

"Then you'd better give me the shot," Bill Dunn said.

Chapter Two

(One)

MENZIES HOTEL

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA

1040 HOURS 8 JUNE 1942

When the knock came at his door, Captain Fleming Pickering, USNR, was relaxing with his jacket off and his tie pulled down, tilting back in a chair, his feet on the windowsill of his seventh-floor suite, and balancing a cup of coffee on his stomach. Even that way he looked tall and distinguished; and it would have taken a moment of indecision before you concluded he was a man in his early forties. At first glance he appeared younger than that.

Rooms-much less suites-in the Menzies Hotel, now the Headquarters of General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander, South West Pacific Ocean Areas, were not ordinarily assigned to lowly Navy Captains. But Captain Pickering was not an ordinary officer, or for that matter, an ordinary man.

Six months before, he had been Chairman of the Board, Pacific and Far East Shipping Corporation. He had been known as Captain Pickering then, too, preferring the title to the more grandiose Commodore which many ship owners adopt, whether or not they have ever gone to sea. Fleming Pickering had received his Master, Any Ocean, Any Tonnage, license from the U.S. Coast Guard when he was twenty-six. He was entitled to be called Captain.

The Corporation he chaired was in many ways as singular as he was. PandFE did not for instance issue an annual stockholders' report detailing the financial condition of its assets (which included fifty-two ships and a good deal of real estate in the United States and abroad). The majority stockholders did not consider such a report necessary. Captain Pickering and his wife owned seventy-five percent of the outstanding shares, and controlled voting rights to the other twenty-five percent, which had been placed in trust for their only child.

Captain Fleming Pickering, USNR, was, in other words, an important and influential man in his own right. But what made him unique, in the military pecking order, were the orders he carried in his pocket:

THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY

WASHINGTON, D.C.

30 JANUARY 1942

CAPTAIN FLEMING W. PICKERING, USNR, OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY, WILL PROCEED BY MILITARY AND/OR CIVILIAN RAIL, ROAD, SEA, AND AIR TRANSPORTATION (PRIORITY AAAAA-1) TO SUCH POINTS AS HE DEEMS NECESSARY IN CARRYING OUT THE MISSION ASSIGNED TO HIM BY THE UNDERSIGNED.

UNITED STATES NAVAL COMMANDS ARE DIRECTED TO PROVIDE HIM WITH SUCH SUPPORT AS HE MAY REQUEST. OTHER UNITED STATES AGENCIES ARE REQUESTED TO CONSIDER CAPTAIN PICKERING THE PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVE OF THE UNDERSIGNED AND TO PROVIDE TO HIM APPROPRIATE SERVICES AND AMENITIES.

CAPTAIN PICKERING HAS UNRESTRICTED TOP SECRET SECURITY CLEARANCE. ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING HISMISSION WILL BE DIRECTED TO THE UNDERSIGNED.

FRANK KNOX

SECRETARY

Very soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Navy Secretary Frank Knox came to realize that the information about Naval operations in the Pacific he was getting-and would get-from regular Navy officers was understandably slanted to reflect well on the U.S. Navy. These reports tended to gloss over any facts or opinions that might suggest that the Navy was less than perfect. What he needed, he concluded, was someone to report to him directly, and someone who not only was not a member of the Navy establishment, but who would know what he was looking at.

Knox met Pickering through their mutual friend, Senator Richmond Fowler (Republican-California). He decided immediately that Pickering was the man he was looking for. It was less Pickering's nautical experience that appealed to him than Pickering's strongly stated conviction that after Pearl Harbor, Knox should have resigned and the admirals at Pearl Harbor should have been shot. It was in vino truth: The day Secretary Knox met him, Pickering was treating a sorely bruised male ego with large doses of Old Grouse Scotch whiskey. The PandFE Chairman, a much decorated Marine corporal in France during the First War, had just been told the Marine Corps could not use his services in World War II.

Two weeks later, Knox offered Pickering a commission as his personal representative, with captain's stripes to go with it. To Knox's surprise, Pickering immediately accepted. Shortly thereafter he left for the Pacific.

"Come!" Captain Pickering called; and carefully, so as not to spill the coffee, he looked over his shoulder.

A youthful-looking Navy officer somewhat hesitantly stuck his head in the door.

"Captain Pickering?"

"Yes," Pickering said. "Come on in."

His visitor's sleeves, Pickering saw with surprise, carried the stripes of a full commander. He didn't look old enough to be a commander, Pickering thought. Even more surprising was the manner in which the commander carried his large, apparently full briefcase. It was attached to his wrist by a chain and a handcuff.

"You are Captain Pickering?" the young-looking commander asked.

"Guilty," Pickering said. "Who are you?"

"Sir, may I trouble you for some identification?"

"Jesus," Pickering said, and carefully removing himself from the tilted back chair, went to his uniform jacket and took out a wallet. The breast of the jacket carried ribbons for both valor and for wounds received in action in what had now become the First World War. He offered the young commander his Navy Department identification card, and then, because he already had his hands on it, his local identity card.

That one, with red diagonal stripes across the photograph and data blocks, told the Military Police he had been authorized unlimited access to all areas of MacArthur's headquarters. The red stripes seemed to awe people, Fleming had noticed. It should satisfy this young man.

"Thank you, Sir, I just had to be sure."

"I understand," Pickering said. "Now who are you?"

The commander did not reply. Instead, he reached into an interior pocket of his uniform jacket and came out with an envelope. As he did so, Pickering saw the butt of a revolver and the straps of a shoulder holster.

"This is for you, Sir," the commander said.

"What is it?"

"Captain, I suggest that when you've read that, you burn it as soon as you can," the commander said.

Pickering tore the envelope open. Inside was another envelope. He opened that and took out a thin sheath of onion skin carbon copies of a typewritten document. There was no heading, and neither was there what he expected to find, in these circumstances, the words TOP SECRET stamped in red ink on the top and bottom of each page.

"What the hell is this?" Pickering asked. "It doesn't even look like it's classified." When there was no immediate reply, he added, a little coldly, "And for the last time, Commander, who are you?"

"I think you'll understand when you read it, Sir," the commander said. "Sir, I'm a friend of a friend."

Pickering ran out of patience. Both his eyes and his voice were cold when he replied, "In case you haven't heard, Commander, I'm a friendless sonofabitch around here."

While Pickering had established a good, even warm, relationship with MacArthur, the officers on MacArthur's staff were barely able to conceal their hostility toward a man who was not part of their clique; was not subject to their orders; and who could be accurately described as Frank Knox's spy.

The commander baffled him with a warm smile. "That's not exactly the scuttlebutt I heard, Sir," he said, adding, "Our mutual friend is Captain David Haughton. If you don't mind, Sir, I won't give you my name. Then you can truthfully say you never heard of me."

"OK, sure," Pickering said, far less icily. Captain David Haughton was Administrative Assistant to Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox. If Haughton was involved, there was certain to be a satisfactory explanation for all this.

"I'll say 'Good morning,' Sir," the commander said. "I hope to meet you-for the first time-while I'm in Melbourne."

Now Pickering chuckled.

"We can walk through the looking glass together, right?" he said.

"Sir?" the commander asked, confused.

"Alice in Wonderland? Lewis Carroll?"

" 'Curiouser and curiouser,' Sir." the commander replied, now understanding.

"I would say 'Good-bye,'" Pickering said, "but you're not here, right?"

The commander smiled again and walked out of Pickering's suite. Pickering unfolded the sheets of onion skin and started to read them. The salutation was brief, and it was meaningful only to him. He was obviously FP. EF was Ellen Feller, who had been assigned as his secretary when he had been in Washington. But Ellen Feller was more than that, actually; for she'd been his administrative assistant, with the same relation to him as David Haughton had to Secretary of the Navy Knox. Ellen was now in Pearl Harbor, serving as his conduit to Knox, when she wasn't working as a Japanese language linguist in the ultrasecret Navy cryptographic office. The Commander, Pickering now guessed, was some sort of officer courier between Pearl Harbor and MacArthur; that would explain the pistol and the briefcase.

FOR FP FROM EF

This is a back channel summary prepared for PH by an officer here and sent to you on PH' s authority.

A Midway-based PBY spotted the transport element of the Japanese assault force 700 miles West of Midway at 0900 3 June. B-17s were immediately dispatched from Midway. They later reported hits which still later proved to be wishful thinking. At 0145 4 June, another PBY hit a Japanese oiler with a single bomb as the Japanese moved closer.

At 0555 4 June, Navy land based radar on Midway picked up reflections from a large aerial force about ninety miles away. Four Army Air Corps B-26 Marauders and six Navy TBF Avengers were launched from Midway against the carrier (s) which had presumably launched the Japanese aircraft.

Marine fighters and dive bombers on Midway were airborne within ten minutes of the alert. Major Floyd Parks led seven Buffaloes and five Wildcats directly toward the Japanese aircraft. Captain Kirk Armistead led the remaining Wildcat and a dozen Buffaloes to a position ten miles away, where it was believed another flight of Japanese would be found.

Thirty miles off Midway, Parks found a 108-plane Japanese force, divided into three waves of thirty-six planes each, and attacked. Several minutes later, Armistead joined up. They shot down sixteen horizontal bombers of the first Japanese echelon, and eighteen of the second echelon of dive bombers.

Fifteen of the twenty-five Marine fighter pilots were shot down, including Major Parks. Only three of the pilots with Parks survived the attack. Thirteen Buffaloes and two of the four Wildcats went down. For all practical purposes, Marine Fighter Squadron VMF-221 has been wiped out.

The Japanese force, although weakened, continued onto Midway and dropped its bombs. They destroyed the powerhouse on Eastern Island and the PBY hangars and some fuel tanks on Sand Island. Thirteen Americans were killed and eighteen wounded.

Meanwhile, the Marine dive bombers sent to attack the Japanese aircraft carrier approached their target. Major Lofton R. Henderson led the first, faster, echelon of SBD Dauntless Dive Bombers, and Captain Elmer C. Glidden led the slower Vought SB2U-3 Vindicators.

Apparently because neither he nor any of his pilots were really proficient in the Dauntless, Henderson ordered that greater accuracy would be obtained by glide (as opposed to dive) bombing. At 0800, from 8,500 feet, he began a wide "let down" circle. At 8,000 feet, Japanese fighters from the carriers attacked his force.

Henderson' s plane was the first to take fire and begin to burn.

Captain Glidden's echelon, arriving shortly afterward, began to dive bomb at five-second intervals. Of the sixteen planes in both echelons, eight were lost. Damage to the enemy was minimal.

Fifteen B-17s from Midway arrived at 0810, somewhat naively trying to hit now wildly maneuvering warships from 20,000 feet.

We believe that on learning that he had lost about a third of his attacking force, Admiral Nagumo ordered a second attack. This required that he put his aircraft carriers into their most vulnerable condition, as they were refueled and rearmed. He apparently decided the prize, the neutralization and capture of Midway, was worth the risk.

At 0940 the first torpedo bombers from American aircraft carriers arrived above the Japanese carriers, whose decks were crowded with aircraft being rearmed and refueled.

Fifteen Devastator torpedo bombers from Hornet attacked first. They were all shot down. Fourteen Devastators from Enterprise attacked next. Ten of these were shot down. Next came a dozen Devastators from Yorktown. Eight of them were shot down.

It was a slaughter, and little damage was done to the Japanese fleet.

Thirty-seven Dauntless dive bombers from Enterprise under Lieutenant Commander Clarence McCluskey remained available. McCluskey led half in an attack on the carrier Kaga, and ordered Lieutenant Earl Gallagher to attack the carrier Akagi with the remainder. They sank both Japanese carriers.

Next, seventeen Dauntlesses from Yorktown dive bombed the carrier Soryu, causing severe damage, and she was later sunk by the submarine Nautilus. Finally, the fourth, and last, Japanese aircraft carrier, Hiryu, was successfully attacked and sunk.

I regret to inform you that Kate torpedo planes broke through the defenses of Yorktown and sank her, with great loss of life.

The entire Japanese fleet has withdrawn beyond range of our land- and sea-based aircraft. We believe that Admiral Nagumo has transferred his flag to the cruiser Nagara.

KLW

Pickering strongly suspected that the two "we believe" statements, that Nagumo had ordered a second attack on Midway and that he had transferred his flag to the cruiser Nagara, meant that "we"-almost certainly a Naval Intelligence officer in Hawaii-had obtained the information from interception and decryption of Japanese radio messages.

Navy cryptographers had broken several important Japanese codes. Keeping that knowledge from the Japanese was of great importance. Reference would not be made to it even in documents which would be hand carried by officer couriers.

He considered briefly, and then forced from his mind, the painful images of the terrible loss of American life, and wondered what he should do with the information he had been given.

It took him just a moment to decide to give it to General MacArthur. Commander Nameless certainly was carrying with him, among other things, the official Navy after-action report. But that was certain to be wordy, and written in the knowledge that in addition to being at war with the Japanese, the Navy felt itself to be at war with the Army.

What he had in his hand was what General MacArthur wanted-and certainly was entitled to have-a concise, unvarnished description of the first major Japanese naval defeat of the war.

He picked up the telephone.

"Yes, Sir?" a male American voice answered. The hotel's Australian switchboard operators had recently been replaced by U.S. Army Signal Corps soldiers.

"Six One Six," he said. That was MacArthur's private number. It wasn't much of a secret, but there were few who dared to call it directly and run the risk of annoying The General.

"Six One Six, Sergeant Thorne speaking, Sir."

"This is Captain Pickering, Sergeant. I'd hoped to speak to The General."

"Sir, the General is in his quarters, and will go from there to the Briefing Room. Shall I switch you, Sir?"

"No, thank you," Pickering said. "I'll try to see him at the briefing."

He quickly pulled up his tie, shrugged into his uniform jacket, tucked the onion skin sheets of paper in the side pocket, and left his suite.

(Two)

The Briefing Room, once one of the Menzies Hotel's smaller "Function" Rooms, was on the mezzanine floor. Pickering momentarily debated going down the stairs, which would almost certainly be quicker, but decided against it. Around Supreme Headquarters, SWPOA, it would not be considered good form for a Navy Captain to race down five flights of stairs three steps at a time, when an oak paneled elevator was available.

His hope was to meet MacArthur as The General strode off the elevator reserved for his use and marched toward the briefing room. With a little luck, he would be able to ask for a couple of minutes.

Luck went against him; MacArthur was nowhere in sight. So he had no choice but to get in line with the others waiting to pass the muster of the MPs guarding the door to the Briefing Room. Once inside, he took a seat at the rear, beside the door. The man in the seat beside him was a Cavalry Colonel who nodded coldly at him.

Pickering wondered what the Cavalry Colonel's function was. The only U.S. Cavalry in the Orient had been the 26th Cavalry in the Philippines. They had been dismounted and their horses butchered and issued as rations fairly early on in the war.

The door beside him was flung quickly open, hitting Pickering on the shoulder. An officer stepped inside; he was wearing a tropical worsted uniform and the golden fourrag?re and four-starred lapel insignia of an aide-de-camp to a full general.

"Gentlemen," Lieutenant Colonel Sidney L Huff announced with a shade more than necessary pomp, "The Supreme Commander."

The thirty-odd men in the room quickly rose to their feet and came to attention.

The Supreme Commander, General Douglas MacArthur, strode into the room and marched down the aisle between rows of folding metal chairs. He was wearing an Army Air Corps leather flight jacket with a zipper front, the four silver stars of his rank pinned to its epaulets; a somewhat battered brimmed cap with faded gold ornamentation around the headband that he had designed for himself when he had been Marshal of the Philippine Army; and wash-faded khakis. Another four stars were pinned to each collar of the shirt. He was tieless, and he had a long, thin, black cigar in his hand.

The corncob pipe he was famous for was most often seen when the Supreme Commander was in public. This gathering was the antithesis of public. Every man in the room-from the three sergeants functioning as orderly, stenographer, and handler-of-the-maps, through the assorted majors, wing commanders, and colonels, to the dozen general and flag officers of five different nations-not only held a TOP SECRET security clearance, but appeared on a list, updated daily, of those authorized to be present at what the schedule called "THE SUPREME COMMANDER'S MORNING BRIEFING."

An Australian Military Police Captain had checked each man against the list before permitting him to enter the room.

The front row was furnished with two blue leather armchairs. There was a table at each end of the row and between the chairs. The center table held a silver thermos of water, two glasses, a telephone, and an ash tray. The table at the left held a coffee cup and saucer; a cigarette box; an ash tray; a lighter; and another telephone. The table at the right held a coffee cup and saucer; a larger (big enough for a corncob pipe) ash tray; a small cigar box; a sterling silver lighter; a glass holding four freshly sharpened pencils; and a small notepad in a leather folder on which was stamped "Douglas MacArthur" and four silver stars.

When he reached his chair, General MacArthur looked around the room at his senior officers, all standing to attention. He found the face he was looking for, toward the rear.

"Captain Pickering," he said. "May I see you, Sir?" He smiled at everyone else. "Good morning, gentlemen," he added. 'Take your seats, please."

He sat down.

Captain Pickering came down the aisle to MacArthur.

"Have a seat, Fleming," MacArthur said cordially, gesturing at the other blue leather armchair. The second chair was ordinarily reserved for Mrs. MacArthur. Although she had no official function and no security clearance, she went anywhere in HQSWPOA The General felt like taking her. When she was not present, The General awarded the privilege of sitting beside him to whichever of his officers was at the moment highest in his favor.

To the barely concealed disappointment and displeasure of his generals and admirals, that officer had very often been Captain Fleming Pickering. There were a number of reasons for their annoyance, starting with Pickering's relatively low rank. For another, the initials following his name were USNR; he wasn't even a professional Navy Man. And neither was he actually a member of the staff. Technically, he was assigned to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, half a world away in Washington, D.C.

"Thank you, Sir," Pickering said and sat down.

MacArthur gestured to the orderly, a swarthy-skinned, barrel-chested Filipino Master Sergeant, who immediately approached the table beside MacArthur and filled the cup with steaming coffee.

MacArthur gestured with his finger that the service should be repeated for Captain Fleming. Then he turned to his side and picked up the small cigar box, opened it, and extended it to Pickering, who took one of the cigars, nodded his thanks, and bit off the end.

So far as MacArthur was concerned, it was simple courtesy. He had mentioned idly, in conversation, that among many other obvious regrets he had about leaving the Philippines, he was going to miss his long-filler, hand-rolled El Matador cigars. The next day, a half dozen boxes of ?1 Matador had been delivered to his office, courtesy of Captain Pickering, who had found them through his contacts in Melbourne. When a friend (and he had come to think of Pickering as a friend) gives you boxes of cigars, and you are smoking one, how could a gentleman not offer him one?

So far as ninety percent of the people in the Briefing Room were concerned, it was one more manifestation of the incredible way that man Pickering (often that Goddamned Sonofabitch Pickering) had wormed his way into The General's intimate favor.

The General waited until his Filipino orderly held a flame to Captain Pickering's El Matador, then nodded at the portly U.S. Army officer in tropical worsted blouse and trousers standing almost at attention beside a lectern.

"Willoughby," he said. "Please proceed."

Colonel Charles A. Willoughby stepped behind his lectern. Willoughby had been MacArthur's Intelligence Officer (G-2) in the Philippines, had escaped with him from Corregidor, the island fortress at the mouth of Manila Bay, and was now the SWPOA G-2.

"General MacArthur," he began, "gentlemen. This morning's briefing is intended to bring you up to date on the Battle of Midway."

He nodded at the sergeant standing by the map board, who removed a sheet of oil cloth covering a map of the Pacific Ocean from the Aleutian Island chain off Alaska to Australia. When the sergeant was finished, Willoughby walked to the map.

"The intelligence we have developed," Colonel Willoughby said, "indicates that Admiral Yamamoto, commanding the entire Japanese fleet, is aboard the battleship Yamoto somewhere in this general area."

He pointed roughly between Midway and the Aleutian Islands.

You phony sonofabitch, Captain Fleming Pickering thought, in disgust. "Intelligence we have developed" my ass. You didn't develop a goddamn bit of that. It came from the Navy. After the fact, of course, much later than they should have told us, but they came up with it.

"The Japanese fleet was divided into two strike forces," Willoughby went on. "One intended to strike at the Aleutian Islands, and the other to attack and occupy Midway. As The General predicted when we first developed this information, the Aleutian operation was in the nature of a feint, a diversion, and their real ambition, as The General predicted, was to attack and occupy Midway, rather than, as some senior Navy officers believed, to launch another attack at the Hawaiian islands.

"The Midway Strike Force, under Admiral Nagumo, was made up of two battleships, four aircraft carriers, with a screening force of three cruisers, a half dozen destroyers and other ships, and of course the troop transports and other ancillary vessels."

The Supreme Commander leaned his head toward Captain Pickering and, covering his mouth with his hand, waited until Pickering had leaned toward him, and then said, "Mrs. MacArthur would be pleased if you would come for a little supper and bridge."

"I would be honored, Sir."

"And could you have that Korean Signal Officer come too? After supper, of course?"

"I'm sure I can, Sir."

The "Korean" Signal Officer was Lieutenant "Pluto" Hon, a New York-born, MIT-educated mathematician, assigned to the staff as a cryptographic officer and Japanese-language linguist. A mere lieutenant was far too low in the military social hierarchy to be asked to dine with The Supreme Commander and his lady, but his bridge playing skill got him into The Supreme Commander's suite for bridge after dinner.

"Good," MacArthur said. "I'll give you to Jeanne this time, and he and I will whip you badly."

"Sir, will you take a look at this please?" Pickering asked.

"Something you want, Pickering?" MacArthur asked, suspiciously.

"Something that just came to hand, Sir," Pickering said, and handed the onion skins to him.

MacArthur took the sheets from him. Pickering saw the distress in Colonel Willoughby's eyes that showed he no longer had The Supreme Commander's attention.

MacArthur read the summary carefully, grunting once or twice, and shaking his head.

"You believe this is accurate?" he asked.

"Yes, Sir. I think that's the best information presently available."

"You're an amazing fellow, Fleming," MacArthur said. "I'd love to know where you got this."

MacArthur handed the onion skins back to Pickering and stood up. Pickering saw in that-with relief-that MacArthur did not expect an answer.

Colonel Willoughby interrupted himself in mid-sentence as everybody in the room stood up and came to attention.

"Willoughby, something has come up. Captain Pickering and I have to leave. That was a first-class briefing. Make me a one-page summary, would you please, at your first opportunity?"

"Yes, Sir," Colonel Willoughby said.

"Keep your seats, gentlemen," MacArthur ordered, and then marched back up the aisle with Pickering and then Lieutenant Colonel Huff trailing after him.

"What was that you gave The General?" Huff asked.

"I'm sorry, Sid," Pickering said. "I can't tell you."

"I'm The General's aide," Huff argued.

"I'm sorry, Sid," Pickering repeated.

He saw the anger in Huff's eyes.

He really hates me, Pickering thought. Hell, if I was in his shoes, I'd hate me, too. But he really doesn't have the Need to Know what those onion skins say, and I don't want him asking questions, of me or anyone else, about how I got them.

The elevator was waiting. They rode up in it to MacArthur's office.

"Sid," MacArthur ordered, as he swept through the outer office, "will you get us some coffee, please? And have Sergeant Thorne bring his book? And then see that we are not disturbed?"

"Yes, Sir," Huff said.

Pickering saw that Sergeant Thorne already had his stenographer's notebook and a half dozen sharpened pencils in his hand. He still had time to make it to the inner door and open it for MacArthur.

Once in his office, MacArthur waved Pickering into a leather sofa. He walked to his desk, laid his gold encrusted cap on it, and then sat on the forward edge of the desk, supporting himself with his hands, looking upward, obviously deep in thought.

A staff sergeant appeared with a silver coffee set, put it on the coffee table in front of the sofa, and left.

When the door closed, MacArthur looked at Pickering.

"Pickering," he said solemnly, "my heart is so filled with thoughts of the nobility of the profession of arms that words may fail me."

Pickering, not having any idea how he was expected to respond to an announcement like that, fell back on the safe and sure: "Yes, Sir," he said.

"The first message," MacArthur went on, now looking at Sergeant Thorne, "is to Admiral Nimitz."

"Yes, Sir," Thorne said.

"My dear Admiral," MacArthur began. "Word has just come to me of your glorious victory and of the incredible courage and devotion of your men which made it possible."

He stopped abruptly. He looked at Pickering. "Pour some of that coffee for us, will you please, Fleming? Thorne, will you have some coffee?"

"Not just now, thank you, Sir," Sergeant Thorne said.

Mac Arthur pushed himself off the desk and walked to the window.

"Read that back, please," he said.

Sergeant Thorne did so.

"Strike 'admiral,' make it 'Chester,' " MacArthur ordered. "Strike 'made it possible.' "

"Yes, Sir," Sergeant Thorne said.

MacArthur walked to the coffee table, picked up the cup Pickering had just poured, and stood erect.

"Read it, please."

"My dear Chester, Word has just come to me of your glorious victory and of the incredible courage and devotion of your men."

"Move 'has just come to me' to the end of the sentence," MacArthur ordered, "and read that."

"Word of your glorious victory and of the incredible courage and devotion of your men has just come to me."

MacArthur considered that a moment.

"Better, wouldn't you say, Fleming? Not yet quite right, but a decent start."

"I think that's fine, General," Pickering said.

"I would be grateful for any suggestions you might care to offer," MacArthur said. "This sort of thing is really very important."

Gracious and considerate, Pickering thought. But important?

And then he realized why it was important.

And not only as a footnote in the History of World War II, he thought, when someone got around to writing that That cable is an olive branch being offered to the Navy. Nimitz is supposed to be a salty sonofabitch, but he's human, and getting a cable from MacArthur addressed, 'My dear Chester' and using phrases like 'glorious victory' and 'the incredible courage and devotion of your men' is going to have to get to him.

Is MacArthur aware of that? Is that the reason for this? Or is it just what he said, that his heart was filled with thoughts of the nobility of the profession of arms' and nothing more?

It's probably both, Pickering decided. And I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt and think it is mostly emotion. But he is not unaware of the ancient tactic of putting your enemy off guard, either.

"General, I wouldn't presume to attempt to better that," Pickering said.

MacArthur didn't hear him.

"The Battle of Midway will live in the memory of man- strike 'memory of man,' make it 'hearts of our countrymen, alongside Valley Forge,' " he dictated. "Got that, Thorne?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I am having trouble,'' MacArthur said, "recalling significant U.S. Naval victories. If only he'd said something, I could compare that to 'Don't give up the ship,' or 'Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.'"

For God's sake, Pickering. Don't chuckle. Don't even smile. He's deadly serious.

"If I may say so, Sir, Valley Forge seems appropriate. A small band of valiant men, with inadequate arms, showing great courage against overwhelming odds."

MacArthur considered that for a moment.

"Yes," he said. "I see what you mean. Valley Forge will do. Thorne, add forever' after 'live'-'will live forever.'"

"Yes, Sir," Sergeant Thorne said.

"Read the whole thing back," MacArthur ordered.

Master Sergeant Thorne stood almost at attention before General MacArthur's desk as The Supreme Commander read the fifth-and Thorne hoped last-neatly typed version of his Personal for Admiral Nimitz. MacArthur handed it back to him. "Give that to Captain Pickering, please." Pickering read it, although he knew it by heart "I think that's fine, Sir," he said. "The language is magnificent."

"From the heart, Pickering. From the heart" Sergeant Thorne put his hand out for the Message Form. "I can take it downstairs, Sir," Pickering said. "I have to see Lieutenant Hon anyway."

Downstairs was the Cryptographic Office and Classified Document Vault in the hotel basement.

"Very well," MacArthur said.

"Sir, I have the Personal for General Marshall ready, too," Sergeant Thorne said.

"Well, give that to the Captain, too," MacArthur said. "Two birds with one stone, right?"

Thorne left the office and returned with two envelopes. One was sealed. He took the Personal for Admiral Nimitz Message Form from Pickering and sealed it in the other.

"If that's all you have for me, Sir?" Pickering said.

"I appreciate your assistance, Fleming. See you at six?"

"And I'll tell Lieutenant Hon to stand by from seven, Sir?"

He involuntarily glanced at his watch. It was quarter to two. He had been in MacArthur's office for nearly three hours. That seemed incredible. There had been interruptions, of course, but they hadn't taken much time at all. There had been two calls from Mrs. MacArthur and a dozen officers seeking decisions. MacArthur had wasted little time making them. Most of that time had been spent composing Mac-Arthur's Personal for Admiral Nimitz.

"Seven," MacArthur confirmed.

(Three)

First Lieutenant Hon Song Do, Signal Corps, U.S. Army Reserve (his very unlikely nickname was "Pluto"), and Captain Fleming Pickering, USNR, had an unusual relationship for an Army first lieutenant and a Navy captain. This had its roots in Hon's duties at SWPAO. There was virtually nothing classified SECRET or above in Supreme Headquarters SWPAO with which Lieutenant Hon was not familiar.

Lieutenant Pluto Hon was carried on the books as a cryptographic-classified documents officer. He was one of half a dozen so designated; and he performed those duties carefully and diligently. Only a very few people knew his primary function, however; for Pluto Hon had a MAGIC clearance. He was thus privy to the same information made available in Melbourne solely to MacArthur himself; his Intelligence Officer, Colonel Charles Willoughby; and Captain Fleming Pickering, Personal Representative of the Secretary of the Navy.

Hon, a mathematician at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology before the war, was directly commissioned into the Army's Signal Corps, where mathematicians were critically needed for cryptographic operations. It had then been learned that not only was he fluent in written and spoken Japanese, he was steeped in the subtleties of Japanese culture.

When word of Hon's knowledge of Japanese culture reached the cryptographic-intelligence community, he was quickly transferred from Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to Pearl Harbor, where the Navy code-breaking operation was located, and then to MacArthur's headquarters.

In one of the most closely held secrets of the war, Navy cryptographers at Pearl Harbor had succeeded in breaking many-though by no means all-of the Japanese military and diplomatic codes. The operation involved with decrypting the Japanese messages was called MAGIC; it was a major American triumph.

Still, once the intercepted messages were decrypted, most of them did not make complete sense; for the intercepted messages were all deeply impregnated with Japanese culture and traditions. Thus analysts were needed who were not only familiar with the language but who could almost feel and react to the messages the way a Japanese would.

Lieutenant Hon was also one of the very few people who had unquestioned access to the Classified Documents Vault. When a TOP SECRET document was signed out, and later returned, it was his duty to make sure it had been returned in its entirety. It would be impossible to do that without counting pages and looking at the maps.

Additionally, he had other duties involving Captain Fleming Pickering, USNR, personally. Since Pickering had been charged by Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox to provide his assessment of what was going on, and since very often his assessments were not flattering to any number of highly placed people, these assessments had to be kept secret not only from the enemy but from everybody in Supreme Headquarters SWPOA as well.

Hon personally encrypted all communications between Pickering and Secretary Knox, and was thus privy to information known only to Pickering.

And on top of that, they had become friends. Pickering not only genuinely liked the outsize Korean, he felt a little sorry for him: The nature of Hon's duties shut him off from other junior officers; and off duty, he was in Australia. Australians did not like Asiatics-there were rigid immigration and even tourist regulations against them. It made no difference to them that Pluto Hon was a native-born American and an officer in the United States Army.

Lieutenant "Pluto" Hon stood up when Pickering walked into his tiny office. He was eating a Hershey bar.

"Good afternoon, Sir."

Hon had a thick Massachusetts accent. Pickering, a Harvard man himself, knew the dialect well. Hon was also a large and tall man, which Pickering thought of as another inconsistency. Orientals were supposed to be slight.

"How goes it, Pluto?" Pickering said, "I don't suppose you've got another Hershey bar?"

Hon took a small box of them from a desk drawer and handed it to Pickering.

"Aren't they feeding the brass these days?" Hon asked.

"I was sitting at the foot of the throne," Pickering said, as he unwrapped the Hershey bar. "The emperor was not hungry, so we didn't eat."

Pluto chuckled. "I also have peanuts," he said.

"Thank you, this will hold me. I'm eating at the palace, too. Where you will play bridge starting at about seven."

"I don't mind," Hon said. "He's one hell of a bridge player."

"Tonight it's the Empress and me against you and the throne," Pickering said.

"What have you got for me to brighten my otherwise dull day?"

"Two personals," Pickering said. "Oh, and before I forget it..."

He took the onion skins from his pocket and handed them to Hon.

"Burn those for me, will you?"

Hon took them and matter-of-factly started to read them.

"This must be the straight poop," he said. "KLW is a Lieutenant Commander named Ken Waldman. In MAGIC."

"How can you be sure?" Pickering asked, and then, without waiting for a reply, asked, "You know him?"

"Who else would have this much hard data this quick? Yeah, I know him. He was at MIT, too."

He held one sheet of the onion skin over a metal waste basket and touched the flame of his Zippo to it. It caught fire so quickly that Pickering suspected it had been chemically treated to do that.

Hon lit another sheet.

"You get this from that commander who flew in this morning?"

"Yeah. A commander."

"Mine had a briefcase chained to his wrist and a gun," Hon said. "He stopped in here and asked where he could find you before he gave me his stuff."

"Must be the same guy."

"What's the personals?"

"One to Nimitz. Powerful words of congratulation," Pickering said, and handed the envelope to Hon.

Hon tore it open and started to read it.

"What's the other one?"

"Personal to Marshall."

"What's it say?"

"I don't know, it's sealed," Pickering said, and handed it to him.

Hon read it, raised his eyebrows, and handed it to Pickering. "Based on my vast professional military experience, I don't think he's going to get away with that."

Pickering was reluctant to take the document, but curiosity overwhelmed his reticence. His curiosity was rationalized by his orders stating that it would be presumed he had the Need to Know anything that interested him. And as Hon turned to his cryptographic machine to encode the Personal to Nimitz, he read the Personal to Marshall.

TOP SECRET

FROM SUPREME HQ SWPOA

TO WAR DEPARTMENT WASH DC

FOLLOWING EYES ONLY GENERAL GEORGE C. MARSHALL CHIEF OF STAFF

PERSONAL FOR GENERAL MARSHALL

MY DEAR GEORGE X I HAVE TODAY DISPATCHED VIA OFFICER COURIER INITIAL PLANS FOR AN OPERATION I WOULD LIKE TO COMMENCE AS SOON AS I CAN OBTAIN AUTHORITY FROM THE JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFFX IT IS MY INTENTION TO STRIKE IN THE NEW BRITAIN DASH NEW IRELAND AREA USING THE US 32ND AND 41ST INFANTRY DIVISIONS AND THE AUSTRALIAN 7TH DIVISION ALL PRESENTLY IN AUSTRALIA X ONCE DRIVEN FROM NEW BRITAIN DASH NEW IRELAND THE JAPANESE WOULD BE FORCED BACK TO TRUK X TO ACCOMPLISH THE INITIAL ASSAULT AND FOR A PERIOD NOT TO EXCEED THIRTY DAYS THEREAFTER MY PLAN WOULD REQUIRE THE USE OF PAREN A PAREN ONE INFANTRY DIVISION TRAINED AND EQUIPPED FOR AMPHIBIOUS OPERATIONS X PAREN B PAREN AIR COVER FROM CARRIER BASED AIRCRAFT X PAREN C PAREN A SUITABLE NAVAL FORCE TO BOMBARD THE HOSTILE SHORE AND GUARD SHIPPING LANES X ONCE THE BEACHHEAD IS ESTABLISHED I CAN QUICKLY BEGIN AERIAL OPERATIONS FROM EXISTING FIELDS AND WILL NOT HAVE FURTHER NEED OF NAVAL ASSISTANCE X I MOST EARNESTLY SOLICIT NOT ONLY YOUR SUPPORT BUT ONCE YOU HAVE READ THE DETAILED PLANS YOUR WISE COUNSEL AS TO THEIR EFFICACY X TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE X WITH MY MOST SINCERE EXPRESSION OF REGARD I REMAIN AS ALWAYS FAITHFULLY DOUGLAS X END PERSONAL TO GENERAL MARSHALL

TOP SECRET

"The Navy's not going to loan him the First Marines and a couple of aircraft carriers," Hon said when he was sure Pickering had had time to read the Personal to Marshall. "Are they?"

His fingers were still flying over the cryptographic machine's typewriter keys as he talked. Hon always baffled Pickering when he did that. How could one part of his brain type while another part engaged in conversation?

"Not willingly," Pickering replied.

"And he doesn't know that?"

"I think he knows it," Pickering said. "I am always astonished when I find something he doesn't know."

And. he thought, after that cable The Emperor just sent him, when Admiral Nimitz bitterly objects to this plan, he will not be as abrupt as he would otherwise have been.

"It doesn't even make much sense, does it?"

"Yeah. I think it does. But I agree with you that the Navy will have a fit when they get this. I think they'd rather scuttle an aircraft carrier than loan it to MacArthur."

"What is that shit all about?" Pluto asked. "Can't the brass understand they're on the same side? That the goddamn Japs are whose throats they're supposed to cut?"

"Yours-and mine-Pluto, is not to reason why," Pickering said. "Can I change my mind about those peanuts?"

Chapter Three

(One)

ROOM 26, TEMPORARY BUILDING T-2032

WASHINGTON, D.C.

0845 HOURS 15 JUNE 1942

"Bingo!" Technical Sergeant Harry Rutterman, USMC, said softly, nodding his head with satisfaction.

Rutterman, a wiry man in his early thirties, raised his eyes from his desk and looked down the narrow, crowded room to an office at the end. The door was cracked open. That meant Captain Ed Sessions was in there; if he was gone, the door would have been closed and locked with iron bars and padlocks.

Rutterman lifted himself out of his chair and took the uppermost of a stack of yellow teletype sheets from his desk. He was wearing green trousers and a khaki shirt. His field scarf was pulled down, which was unusual for a regular Marine non-com; the manner in which he was armed would also be considered unusual elsewhere in the Corps. The pistol was a standard issue Colt Model 1911A1, but instead of the flapped leather holster and web belt, its standard accoutrements, Rutterman had his pistol in a skeleton holster clipped to the rear of the waistband of his trousers; the pistol was inside his trousers with only the butt in sight.

He went to Captain Sessions's door, rapped it with his knuckles, and announced, "Rutterman, Sir."

"Come," Sessions answered, and Rutterman pushed the door open.

Captain Edward M. Sessions, USMC, was a tall, lithely muscular young officer, not exactly handsome, but attractive to women all the same. Like Rutterman, he had removed his blouse and pulled his tie down; and like Rutterman, he was armed in a manner not common in the Corps. He was wearing a leather shoulder holster, which held a short-barrelled Smith and Wesson.357 Magnum Revolver.

He had expected to spend his career as a Marine officer who followed the usual progression: from infantry platoon leader, to assistant staff officer of some sort at battalion level, and then to executive officer and company commander. He had in fact commanded a platoon, but while serving as an assistant S-2 of Third Battalion, Second Marines, he had attracted the attention of the Marine Intelligence Community by the literary quality of the routine reports and evaluations he was required to write.

These were written in a style that was the antithesis of the fancy prose that the word "literary" usually calls to mind. His words were short and simple; he came right to the point; and there was little chance of mistaking what he meant.

Instead of returning to a line company following his eighteen-month assignment as an assistant S-2, he was relieved from the assignment after only a year. First, he was sent to the University of Southern California at Los Angeles for six months intensive training in Japanese, and then he was assigned to Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington. He was put to work synopsizing Intelligence reports and translating Japanese documents that had come into American hands.

He had done that for six months when a far more experienced officer, a captain, fell ill three days before he was to board the Navy Transport Chaumont. The Captain was being sent to China (where the Fourth Marines were stationed in Shanghai) to have a close look at the Japanese Army. Having no one else to send, they ordered Lieutenant Sessions to go in his place.

He performed far better than anyone expected. In his basic mission, he handled efficiently and accurately the more or less routine business of seeing how the Japanese Army was organized and equipped. And in a far more important and dramatic way, he knew what to do when the Japanese harassed a Marine convoy by dispatching Chinese "bandits" to rob it on a remote highway.

There was a nasty firefight, during which Sessions proved that he had the one characteristic the Marine Corps seeks in its officers above all others, the ability to function well and calmly under fire.

His promotion to captain came a full year before those who had been promoted to first lieutenant with him; by then it was clear that his career would henceforth be in the Intelligence field. At least twice a day, he dwelled on the thought that he would much rather be a line company commander in one of the regiments. But he was a Marine officer, and good Marine officers do-without complaint and to the best of their ability-what they are ordered to do.

"This is interesting, Harry," Captain Sessions said to Sergeant Rutterman. "The powers that be have determined that former members of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade are to be considered potentially subversive, are not to be granted security clearances, and are to be 'assigned appropriately.' "

"Interesting," Rutterman agreed. "Where'd that come from?"

"This came from G-2," Sessions said, "but it says, 'on the recommendation of the Attorney General.' That means it came from J. Edgar Hoover; I doubt if the Attorney General ever heard of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade."

Rutterman snorted.

"Have we got any, do you think?" Sessions asked.

"You mean us? Or the Corps generally?"

"In the Corps. I don't think we have any, Harry."

"There was 3000, 3500 of them. I'm sure that there's some in the Corps. But I'll bet most of them have already been tagged as Reds. What's that got to do with us?"

"Nothing that I can see; it's a Counterintelligence matter.

Unless you were in Spain fighting fascism and haven't told me. I think we were just on the distribution list."

Rutterman nodded.

"What have you got, Harry?"

"I think I have a Japanese linguist for Major Banning," Rutterman said, handing Sessions the sheet of teletype paper.

Major Edward J. Banning, one of the most knowledgeable-about-the-Japanese officers in the Marine Corps, had been the S-2 of the 4th Marines in Shanghai. He had gone with the Regiment to the Philippines when it had been transferred there just before the war had broken out.

He had been blinded by concussion during a Japanese artillery barrage on Leyte, and evacuated with other blinded men by submarine from Corregidor. His sight had returned as the submarine approached Pearl Harbor. After a month's recuperative leave he had returned to duty, and almost immediately he'd been ordered back to the Pacific as commanding officer of the purposely obfuscatorily titled "Special Detachment 14."

The mission of Special Detachment 14 was to support an organization known as "The Coastwatcher Establishment" of the Royal Australian Navy. When the Japanese had begun their march toward Australia down the islands, the Australians had left behind on the captured islands a motley collection of ex-colonial officials, plantation managers, and the like. They had been equipped with radios and were reporting on Japanese shipping, troop movements, and other matters of critical intelligence importance.

One of Captain Fleming Pickering's first reports from Australia to Secretary of the Navy Knox had informed him both of the existence of the Coastwatcher Organization and of the barely concealed hostility between it and the U.S. Navy. He recommended, strongly, that Knox establish a special unit-not subordinate to "Pearl Harbor brass hats"- to work with the Coastwatchers.

Properly handled, Pickering wrote, the Coastwatcher Establishment would be of enormous value. Knox responded by charging Marine Corps Intelligence with the responsibility of working with the Coastwatchers. The orders to the again purposefully obfuscatorily named Marine Office of Management Analysis had been to set up an outfit, with whatever priorities and funds were required, to do what Captain Fleming Pickering thought should be done. Special Detachment 14 had been the result.

There was a more or less standing requisition from Major Ed Banning for two kinds of specialists: radio technicians and Japanese-language linguists. What Banning wanted, the Marine Office of Management Analysis tried very hard to send him.

"Think?" Captain Sessions asked. "Does he speak Japanese or not? And assuming he wasn't in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade?"

"He's an officer candidate," Rutterman said. "They started sending a bunch of them through Boot Camp at Parris Island."

"So? What's the problem?"

"For one thing, he's five months, maybe a little more, away from being available for assignment. After he finishes Parris Island, he has to go through Officer Basic School at Quantico. And by that time, we'd have to fight for him anyhow; they'd want to send him to a Division. And Banning needs him now."

"So we take him and send him to Banning now," Sessions said. "As an enlisted man." He heard what he had said, and added: "That sounds a little ruthless, doesn't it? But Banning really needs linguists. 'For the good of the Corps,' all right?"

"Those guys who enlisted as officer candidates have a deal, Captain," Rutterman said. "They either get the bar, or they get discharged."

"And then what?" Sessions asked.

"They report him to his draft board, and he goes in the Army."

"What about a direct commission?"

"Two weeks ago, that would have been the answer; but now the word is every second John goes through Basic School at Quantico. No exceptions. We'd only pick up a couple of weeks, if we could get a slot for him at Quantico. Of course, if we did that, got him a direct commission, he would belong to us, and we could probably keep him."

"Damn!" Sessions said. "And there are some other questions. Is he for real? Can he get a security clearance?"

"He's got a security clearance. Permanent SECRET. The FBI ran a complete background investigation on him when he first applied for the officer candidate program. Before they called him for active duty."

"So it would be reasonable to presume that his story that he lived in Japan for-how many years?"

"Ten, in all."

"... checked out. And if that's the case, maybe he really does read and write Japanese."

"Yes, Sir."

"I think I better go see the Colonel," Sessions said. "And you better come with me."

The Colonel was Lieutenant Colonel F.L. Rickabee, USMC, who was carried on the Table of Organization and Equipment of Headquarters, United States Marine Corps, as a Management Analyst in the office of the Assistant Chief of Staff for Logistics. This had absolutely nothing whatever to do with his actual duties.

Colonel Rickabee, a tall, slight man who was in civilian clothing and didn't, truth to tell, look much like a Marine on a recruiting poster, heard out Captain Sessions and Technical Sergeant Rutterman.

"Ed, there's a courier plane to Parris Island at ten o'clock. Get on it. Go see this young man. First see if he really is fluent in Japanese. If he is, offer him instant sergeant's stripes and five-day delay en route home leave if he waives his current rights as an officer candidate. Tell him we'll arrange a commission for him later. If he gets on his high horse, Rutterman here will personally take him to 'Diego or 'Frisco and load him on the first plane for Australia as a private. Questions?"

"Sir, where are you going to get the authority to promote him to sergeant?" Sessions asked.

"The same place I got the authority to put him on the next plane to Major Banning. Banning desperately needs linguists. This linguist Rutterman found just may keep some Marines alive if I can get him to Banning. If I have to explain that to General Holcomb personally, I will. Questions?"

Captain Sessions was aware that two mornings a week, Lieutenant Colonel Rickabee went to Eighth and "I" Streets, S.E., in Washington. There, with the sliding doors to the Commandant's Dining Room closed, he took breakfast alone with the Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, newly promoted Lieutenant General Thomas Holcomb. If the Commandant was out of town for longer than a couple of days, Rickabee either went wherever he was, or had a private meeting with whoever was running the Marine Corps in Holcomb's absence.

"No, Sir," Sessions said, and then had a second thought. He glanced at his watch. "Sir, it's five past nine. I'm not sure I can make that ten hundred courier."

Colonel Rickabee looked thoughtful for a moment, and then dialed a telephone number from memory.

"Charley, Fred Rickabee. I'm sending an officer, Captain Ed Sessions, to Parris Island on your ten o'clock courier plane. See that it doesn't leave until he gets on it, will you?"

There was a pause, and then Rickabee said, "I don't care who gets thrown off, Sessions goes. And when he comes back, he'll be bringing a private with him. Questions?"

There was another pause.

"I've always been an unreasonable prick, Charley, you know that," Rickabee chuckled. He put the phone in its cradle and looked at Captain Sessions. "Questions?"

"No, Sir."

"Good job, Rutterman," Rickabee said, "finding this guy."

Then he dropped his eyes to the papers, most of them stamped TOP SECRET, on his desk, and shut Captain Sessions and Technical Sergeant Rutterman off from his attention.

(Two)

HEADQUARTERS, 2ND TRAINING BATTALION

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT

PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

1555 HOURS 15 JUNE 1942

"Colonel Westman for you, Sir," Major H.B. Humphrey's clerk, a small, stocky, young Corporal in tailored khakis, announced, putting his head in the door.

"Thank you," Humphrey said, reaching for the telephone on the desk of his office. The desk, like the building, was new. The building was so new it smelled of freshly cut pine. The interior walls of the hastily thrown up structure had not been finished; between the exposed studs the tar paper under the outer sheeting was visible.

Photographs of the chain of command-President Roosevelt, Secretary of the Navy Frank Knox, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and the Commanding General of Parris Island-hung from bare studs. These photos were as much de rigueur for a battalion commander's office as the National Colors, the Marine Corps flag, and the battalion colors.

In addition to the desk and its chair, the office was furnished with a small safe, a filing cabinet, and two folding metal chairs.

"Major Humphrey, Sir," he said to the telephone.

He wondered what the hell Colonel Westman wanted. Westman was the Parris Island G-2 Intelligence Officer. There was very little that a training battalion had to do with Intelligence. For that matter, Humphrey had wondered idly more than once what the Parris Island G-2 did at all. The function of a G-2 in the Marines was to provide the Corps with whatever information he could lay his hands on about the enemy. There was no enemy anywhere close to Parris Island.

"One of your boots has attracted the attention of some people who sit pretty close to the divine throne, Humphrey," Colonel Westman announced without any preliminaries. "A man named Moore. John Marston Moore. An officer candidate. You know him?"

Humphrey thought it over a moment.

"No, Sir."

"I have had two telephone calls," Westman said. "The first was official. From Washington. A captain named Sessions was on his way down here to 'deal with' Private Moore. I was told it would behoove me to grease this captain's ways, and if necessary, to run interference for him."

"Sir, I don't think I understand..."

"The second call was back channel. From... an old friend of mine. An aviator. He said he thought I should know that this Captain Sessions who's coming on the courier plane works for Lieutenant Colonel Rickabee. That name mean anything to you?"

Humphrey thought about that for a moment.

"Sir, there was a Major Rickabee in the class ahead of me at the Command and General Staff College. That was '39. Thin officer. Not very... outgoing. I've met him, but I can't say I know him."

"That's him. A very interesting man. I served with him years ago in Santo Domingo. I hear he now has very interesting duties. You take my meaning?"

"No, Sir, I'm afraid I don't."

"He sits at the foot of the divine throne. OK?"

"I take your meaning, Sir."

"I think it would behoove you to give Captain Sessions whatever he asks for, Humphrey. If he asks for anything you don't feel you can give him, call me."

"Aye, aye, Sir. You don't know what he wants with Private Moore?"

"I was not told," Colonel Westman said. "When I asked, I was told that if Captain Sessions wanted me to know, he would tell me."

"Jesus Christ!"

"I had precisely the same reaction, Humphrey," Colonel Westman said. "I would like an after action report, if I don't hear from you in the interim."

"Aye, aye, Sir. When does Captain-Sessions, you said, Sir?-get here?"

"Sessions," Westman confirmed. "The courier plane is due here in thirty minutes."

"Thank you for the advance warning, Sir."

"Good afternoon, Major," Colonel Westman said, and hung up.

Major Humphrey called for his clerk, learned to his scarcely concealed annoyance that the battalion sergeant major had business on Main Post... which meant that he was already hoisting his first brew of the afternoon at the Staff NCO Club... and was not available.

"Find out what platoon a man named Moore, John Marston Moore, is in," Major Humphrey ordered. "Then send word I want him available; and that I want to see his Drill Instructor here, right now. And then go to personnel and get his record jacket."

"If I leave, Sir, there will be no one to answer the telephone."

"I know how to answer a telephone," Major Humphrey said, more sharply than he intended. "Get moving."

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Staff Sergeant J.K. Costerburg, Private John Marston Moore's Drill Instructor, was not very helpful: Moore had not given him any trouble, but on the other hand he hadn't been an outstanding trainee, either. There had been genuine concern that he was going to have trouble on the rifle range for a while, but he'd finally shaped up. He kept to himself.

"Sir, he's just not... out of the ordinary," Staff Sergeant Costerburg said, almost visibly pleased that he'd found the right words.

Private Moore's record jacket, which included a synopsis of the FBI Complete Background Investigation, was more illuminating: Moore was the second of three children born to the Reverend Doctor and Mrs. John Wesley Moore. He had been born in Osaka, Japan, twenty-two years before. There was a notation that under a provision of the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1912, as amended, Moore was considered to be a native-born American, as his father's service abroad as a missionary representative of the Methodist Episcopal Church was considered to be service abroad in the interest of the United States.

He had lived in the United States, in Washington and Philadelphia, from 1922 until 1929 (Humphrey checked the dates and did the mental arithmetic and came up with from the time he was two until he was eight), and then had returned to Japan with his family, staying there until 1940, during which time he had matriculated at the University of Tokyo. On his return to the United States, he had entered the University of Pennsylvania as a junior and graduated in June of 1941 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Oriental Languages.

He applied for the Marine Officer Candidate Program in January 1942 and was accepted. He was sworn into the Marine Corps Reserve in February, and ordered to active duty 1 April.

Humphrey was aware that people who spoke Japanese were in great demand, and that a young officer who spoke Japanese would almost certainly be given duties to take advantage of his skill, but that did not explain the attention being paid to him by a lieutenant colonel who "sat at the foot of the divine throne."

He now knew a little something about Private John Marston Moore, but he had no idea what that little something meant. And there was no time to really think it through; for he was still examining the contents of his record jacket when Colonel Westman called again.

"The plane was early," Westman announced by way of greeting. "He's on his way in my staff car with one of my lieutenants."

"Thank "you, Sir," Humphrey said. For a reply he got the clatter and click of a telephone being replaced in its cradle.

Captain Sessions appeared ten minutes after that. He was a stranger to Humphrey, but he had a manner that suggested that he had been a Marine before the war.

That didn't annoy Humphrey; but there was something about his attitude that did. He was polite, but superior. It was an attitude that Humphrey had sensed in other officers who worked in Headquarters, U.S. Marine Corps, and who seemed to be very much aware of their own importance.

"Sir, my name is Sessions," Sessions had begun. "I understand that someone telephoned to alert you that I was coming."

"They didn't tell me why," Humphrey said.

"I want to look at the service records of Private John Marston Moore, and then I'd like to talk to him, Sir."

"Have you got some kind of orders, Captain? Or at least some identification?"

"Yes, Sir," Sessions said. He handed Humphrey a small leather folder. It contained a gold badge, and an identity card sealed in plastic with Sessions's photograph and name-but not, Humphrey noticed with curiosity, his rank. And it was not a Marine Corps identity card. It bore the seal of the Navy Department, and the legend CHIEF OF NAVAL INTELLIGENCE. It identified Sessions as Special Agent, not as a Marine Captain.

"That ought to do it," Humphrey said, and then blurted, "I've never seen anything like that before."

"There's not very many of them," Sessions said, matter-of-factly.

"I've got Moore's record jacket here," Humphrey said.

"May I see it, please?" Sessions replied. "And then could you send for him, please, Major?"

"I've got him standing by," Humphrey said. "Is this boy in any kind of trouble, Captain?"

"Not so far as I'm concerned," Sessions replied, and then smiled, "I was about to put that same question to you, Major."

(Three)

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT

PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

1615 HOURS 15 JUNE 1942

Private John Marston Moore, United States Marine Corps Reserve, had practiced the maneuver, but he had never before rendered the rifle salute to a real officer: He marched through the door identified by a stenciled sign as that of MAJOR H.B. HUMPHREY, USMC, BATTALION COMMANDER, with his piece at right shoulder arms, determined to do so to the best of his ability.

He stopped eighteen inches from the Major's desk, with his heels together and his feet turned out equally and forming an angle of 45 degrees. He then moved his left hand smartly to the small of the stock, forearm horizontal, palm of the hand down, the first joint of his left forefinger touching the cocking piece of his Springfield Model 1903A4 rifle.

"Sir," he barked, looking at Major Humphrey, a thin, leather-skinned man of about thirty-five who wore his hair so short his scalp was visible, "Private Moore, J.M., reporting to the battalion commander as ordered."

Ordinarily, Private Moore had learned, persons in the Naval Service of the United States do not salute indoors, except when Under Arms. He was obviously, with the Springfield, Under Arms, but he had also learned in his six weeks of service in the Marine Corps that things were most often not as one expected them to be. He had asked the staff sergeant in the outer office what he was supposed to do with the rifle. The reply-"Get your ass in there and report to the Major"-had not been very helpful.

Major Humphrey touched his eyelid with his right hand, fingers together and straight, palm down.

The salute had been returned.

Private Moore cut his left hand smartly back to his right side, fingers extended and together, so that his thumb touched the seam of his utility trousers. He then looked six inches above Major Humphrey, in the prescribed position of attention.

"Order arms," Major Humphrey ordered, and then followed this command immediately with, "stand at ease."

Private Moore moved the Springfield so that it cut diagonally across his body, the center of the rifle just below his chin, held at the point of balance by the left hand. He moved his right hand from the butt on the rifle to a point one-third down from the muzzle, and then moved the rifle beside his right leg, checking the movement with his left hand. When the butt touched the floor, he moved his left hand so that its thumb touched the seam of his utility trousers. Then he leaned the Springfield forward, put twelve inches between the heels of his boots, and set his left hand in the small of his back. He was now At Ease.

"He's all yours, Captain," Major Humphrey said.

"Good afternoon, Moore. How are you today?" the Captain asked.

His tone was conversational, even friendly, which was almost astonishing, but what was genuinely astonishing was that the Captain had asked the question in Japanese.

"Very well, thank you, Sir," Private Moore said.

"Could you reply, please, in Japanese?" the Captain asked.

Moore did so.

"Do you read and write Japanese with equal fluency?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Major," the Captain said, switching to English, "I wonder if there's some place I could talk to Private Moore privately?"

"You can use my office, of course," Major Humphrey said.

"Very kind of you, Sir. Thank you, Sir," the Captain said, and then waited for Major Humphrey to get up and leave.

It was not lost on Private Moore that no matter what their ranks, the captain was giving orders, however politely, to the major, and that the major didn't much like it.

Sessions waited until Major Humphrey had left the office, closing the door behind, and then turned to Moore. He opened his mouth, as if to speak, then chuckled.

In English, he said, "I was about to ask you how you find boot camp, but I suppose when you open your eyes in the morning, there it is, right?"

Now he laughed, almost a giggle.

John Marston Moore had no idea how to react. There was no emotion on his face at all. Sessions saw this.

"My name is Sessions," he said. "I'm from Headquarters, USMC."

"Yes, Sir?"

"You're posing something of a problem to the Marine Corps," Sessions began seriously, but then his eyes lit up in amusement. "Usually, with a private, and especially here, that works the other way around, but in this case, you're causing the problem."

"Sir?"

"I'm going to have to take your word that you read and write Japanese," Sessions said. "I suppose I should have brought some document in Japanese for you to read from, but I left Washington in rather a hurry and didn't think about that. And the way I write Japanese... that wouldn't be a fair test."

Moore had just decided that Marine Captain or not, this man was an amiable idiot, when Sessions met his eyes. The eyes were both intelligent and coldly penetrating; not the eyes of a fool.

"You do read and write Japanese with fluency, right?" Sessions asked.

"Yes, Sir."

"OK. You ever read any Kafka, Moore?"

"Sir?"

"Franz Kafka? Everyman's problems with a mindless bureaucracy? They kept telling him he was guilty, but they wouldn't tell him of what?"

"Yes, Sir, I know who you mean."

"This is going to be something like that, I'm afraid," Sessions said. "There is a Marine Corps unit somewhere which has a priority requirement for a man with your Japanese language skills. I can't tell you what that unit is, where it is-except somewhere in the Pacific-or what it does, because that's all classified."

"Sir-" Moore began hesitantly, and then plunged ahead. "Sir, I was told that I've been granted a SECRET security clearance."

"Yeah, I know. But then there's TOP SECRET, and above TOP SECRET are some other security classifications. In this case, your SECRET clearance wouldn't get you in the door."

"Yes, Sir."

"I don't suppose," Sessions said, "that based on what little I'm able to tell you, you would be disposed to volunteer for service with this unit, would you?"

I am being asked to do something. This is the first I have been asked, as opposed to being told, to do anything since I got off the Atlantic Coastline train in Yemassee, South Carolina.

An image of that scene popped into his mind, complete to sound and smell; it was the start of his first night of active duty in the Marine Corps.

They had gotten off the chrome-and-plastic, air-cushioned, air-conditioned ACL cars and transferred to ancient, filthy wooden passenger cars resurrected from some railroad junk yard for the spur line trip to Port Royal. From Port Royal, they had been moved to Parris Island, like cattle being carried to the slaughter house, in an open trailer truck.

In Port Royal, he heard for the first time the suggestion that he might as well give his soul to Jesus, because his ass now belonged to the Marine Corps. Those words had subsequently been repeated many times.

From the moment he boarded the spur line train in Yemassee, his every action had been ordered, usually at the top of some uniformed sadist's lungs, his language punctuated with obscenities.

He had once been ordered by a corporal to run around the barracks with a galvanized bucket over his head, his piece at port arms, shouting, "I am an ignorant asshole who can't tell the difference between his piece and his prick." He'd done it, too.

He had only been permitted to stop when he ran full bore into a concrete pillar and nearly knocked himself out. He could not recall, now, the offense.

And now I am being asked to do something. I am not prepared to make a decision.

"Sir, I don't know what you're asking me to do."

"Let me throw one more thing into the equation," Captain Sessions said. "It would also mean, for the time being, that you would give up your commission. One can be arranged at a later date, but you would not get one now."

"Sir-"

"The bone I am authorized to throw to you is sergeant's stripes, effective immediately, and a five-day delay en route leave, not counting travel time."

"Sir, I don't mean any disrespect, but could you tell me why I should do something like this? I'm almost through here. When I finish at Quantico, I'll be an officer."

He had clung to that, the belief that when he had endured all that Parris Island, specifically all that his Drill Instructor and his assistants, could throw at him, he would be granted a commission. An officer, even a lowly second lieutenant, was not required to obey the orders of enlisted men.

Captain Sessions didn't reply. He shrugged and opened his mouth as if to speak, but then closed it again.

"Couldn't this assignment wait until I get my commission, Sir?" Moore asked.

"No," Sessions said simply, "it couldn't. You're needed now."

"Captain, what if I tell you 'no'?"

Sessions shrugged his shoulders again, almost helplessly. He did not respond to the question, but after a moment, he said: "I suppose that in your shoes, I would react exactly the way you are. And I would probably snicker, at least privately, if someone like me announced the reason you should do what you're being asked to do is that you're a Marine, and when the Corps asks Marines to do something, they do it."

"I've only been in the goddamned Marine Corps six fucking weeks!" Moore heard himself blurt and was horrified.

The consequences of making a statement like that, especially to an officer, boggled the imagination.

Sessions, to Moore's genuine surprise, did not flare back at him. He looked at him and chuckled.

"Six weeks is long enough, don't you think? Don't you think that six weeks has changed you forever?"

"Oh, Christ," Moore said, and heard himself chuckle. "Yes, Sir, I think I have been permanently changed."

"For what it's worth," Sessions went on, "I've learned that you get back from the Corps whatever you put into it. Sometimes a little more."

He believes that This man is not a fool, not one of the cretinous savages they make into drill sergeants. He's well educated-Christ, talking about Franz Kafka and Everyman at Parris Island I And he speaks Japanese, and not at all badly. And whatever this is they want me to do, it's important He really did come down here to see me from Washington.

And what happens if I say 'no'? Since it is important, then obviously they will be annoyed that I have refused So far as they're concerned, I'm a Marine and Marines do whatever they are asked, or told to do I will have, so to speak, in their judgment, let the side down. And equally obviously, the consequences of that would be very unpleasant Am I a Marine? Why do I have the insane urge to go along with this?

Possibly because he is the first man in authority to talk to me as if I were a human being, perhaps even an intellectual equal, since I got on that fucking train from Yemassee to Port Royal

Fuck it! Why not? What the fuck have I got to lose? The fuckers are right, my fucking ass really does belong to the fucking Marine Corps!

Why, John Marston Moore! Listen to your language!

"Yes, Sir," Moore said. "Whatever it is you want me to do, Sir, is fine with me."

He had no idea what sort of response his patriotic, "Aye, Aye, Sir! Semper Fi, Sir! We Are All Marines In This Together, Sir!" decision would produce in Captain Sessions, but the one he got was not at all what he expected:

"OK," Sessions said, matter-of-factly, even coldly. "That's it. But don't feel noble. What you just did made you a sergeant and got you five days at home. If you had decided the other way, you would have been on a plane tomorrow as a private."

"Yes, Sir," Moore said, more as a reflex action than a reply.

"This is very serious business, and we can't take any chances with it whatever. Between now and tomorrow, I will come up with some sort of credible story for you to tell your parents when you go home. But from this moment on, you're operating under a whole new set of restrictions. For example, you will not tell anyone that you were pulled out of boot camp and made a sergeant, or that you even met me. If anyone asks you any questions, your response will be, simply, 'I'm sorry, I can't talk about that.' Clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Just so that I'm sure you understand me, that includes everybody here, including Major Humphrey. Clear?"

"Yes, Sir."

Sessions got up, walked to the door, and opened it.

"Major Humphrey? May I see you a moment, please, Sir?"

Humphrey came into his office, uneasy, Moore saw, about taking his own chair behind his desk.

"Something I can do for you, Captain?" he asked.

"Yes, Sir. There are several things I'd be grateful if you would do for me. From this point on, you will consider this conversation classified TOP SECRET."

"OK," Humphrey said. Moore had the feeling that Humphrey had only with effort kept himself from saying 'Yes, Sir.' There was now a tone of command, I Will Be Obeyed, in Sessions's voice that had not been there before.

"Sergeant Moore will not be returning to his platoon," Sessions said. "I will take his service records jacket with me..."

"Sergeant Moore?" Major Humphrey interrupted.

Captain Sessions ignored him. "In the next day or two, there will be a TWX from Enlisted Personnel routinely transferring him. You are to discuss the circumstances of Sergeant Moore's departure with no one."

"I understand, Captain," Humphrey said. "Colonel Westman, the G-2, has asked me for an after action report."

"I'll go see Colonel Westman when I leave here. You are not to tell him anything. I'll make sure he understands that I'm responsible for that decision."

"Whatever you say, Captain."

"I don't want the people in his platoon, boots or Drill Instructors, discussing the unusual circumstances of Sergeant Moore's departure," Sessions said. "Do you see any problem there?"

"No, that can be handled, I think. I'll have to tell my sergeant major something. You understand, he will be curious."

"OK. Tell him that there's been an administrative fuck-up-that shouldn't surprise him-and that we're quietly trying to make it right. I would rather you talk to him than me. And also, by the time Sergeant Moore and I get on the courier plane in the morning, I want him to be wearing the insignia of his rank. Which means that someone is going to have to go to his platoon and get his gear and run the shirts and blouses past a seamstress."

"I think the Gunny can handle that without trouble, Captain," Humphrey said.

"Another practical matter. Where is Sergeant Moore going to spend the night?"

"There's a guest house. I don't suppose too many eyebrows would be raised if he was in one of those rooms. He could be waiting for his wife, or mother, whatever."

"Particularly if he went to his room and stayed there until I fetched him in the morning, right?"

Humphrey nodded.

"How is he going to eat?"

"There's a snack bar," Humphrey said.

"Could I stay there, too?"

"It's an enlisted guest house," Humphrey said.

"OK. I'll get a room in the transient BOQ. Moore, you will be taken to the guest house. Your gear will be delivered to you there. You will take supper and breakfast in the guest house. You will not leave your room for any other purpose. I will fetch you at about eight-thirty tomorrow morning. You are to make no telephone calls, or communicate with anyone but myself. I will get you a number where I can be reached. Clear?"

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"Questions?" Sessions asked.

Christ, he thought, I sound just like Colonel Rickabee.

There were no questions.

(Four)

ENLISTED GUEST HOUSE

UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT

PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

0730 HOURS 16 JUNE 1942

Sergeant John Marston Moore was unable to resist the temptation to examine himself carefully in the cheap and somewhat distorting full-length mirror mounted on the door of the closet in his room at the guest house.

He had last examined himself in a small and even more distorting mirror in the head of his barracks twenty-six hours before, after shaving. What had then looked back at him was a hollow-eyed, sunken-cheeked individual in baggy utilities. He had looked very much like every other boot in his platoon, except that he was taller than most of them, and the weight loss and musculature hardening of the physical conditioning had made him look skinnier.

What looked back at him now was a sergeant of the United States Marine Corps, wearing a stiffly starched khaki shirt and a sharply creased green uniform. He moved slightly, so that his left shoulder pointed at the mirror and looked at the reflection of his new chevrons.

Then he met his eyes in the mirror and shook his head. He looked closer. He still had what he thought of as a "boot head"-a head an electric clipper had shorn of all hair, down to the skin, in ninety seconds. His head was by no means recovered from that outrage.

With the boot head I still look like a boot.

He went to the double bed where he had passed the night, picked up his fore-and-aft cap, put that on, and examined himself in the mirror again. That was better. The cap concealed the top of his head from view.

He had woken in the bed at four o'clock, conditioned by six weeks of waking at that hour to the shrill blast of a whistle and the ritual admonition to drop his cock and pick up his socks.

For a moment, he hadn't known where he was, for the room was pitch dark. There had always been some kind of light in the squad bay, if only what came into the long, narrow, and crowded room from the head. And then he had remembered what happened, out of the blue, the previous afternoon.

They would have wondered, the guys in the platoon, what the fuck had happened to Moore, J. He was known as Moore, J. because there were two Moores in his platoon. The other one, from Connecticut, was Moore, A. Moore, J. had never learned what Moore, A.'s "A" had stood for.

"What the fuck happened to Moore, J.?"

"Who the fuck knows. They sent for him. Company, I think."

"What the fuck did he do?"

"Who the fuck knows?"

Eventually, someone's curiosity would overwhelm his good sense and he would ask, waiting until he thought one of the DI's assistants was in an unusually kind mood.

"Sir, permission to speak, Sir?"

"Speak, Asshole."

"Sir, whatever happened to Moore, J., Sir?"

"If the Marine Corps wanted you to know, Asshole, I would have told you. What are you doing, Asshole, writing a book?"

"Yes, Sir. Sorry, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

He had not been able to get back to sleep. After a while, he had gotten out of the double bed and stood at the window in his underwear and looked out at the deserted streets.

Then the sounds of mating had come through the thin walls from the next room. He remembered hearing them the night before, waking him about half past nine. Someone, he had thought, was making up for lost time.

It had been funny for a moment... and then somehow erotic, as his mind's eye filled with what was going on next door. And then finally it was terribly sad, although he didn't quite understand why that should be the case. The Marine Corps, he had noticed from signs at the Reception Desk, seemed determined that no Marine should share one of its Parris Island Enlisted Guest House rooms with a lady to whom he was not legally joined in marriage.

He hadn't thought much about sex since he'd been at Parris Island. For one thing, there hadn't been time to think about sex or anything else. For another, he had always been exhausted; he had woken up exhausted. And he thought it was possible... he had learned that at Parris Island anything was possible... that they did indeed lace the chow with saltpeter as the folklore had it.

There was a knock at the door. He looked at it in astonishment. Since he had been at Parris Island, closed doors, what few of them there were, had been flung open whenever they were noticed. The door opened. It was the Sergeant Major. "Good morning," the Sergeant Major said. "You're up."

"Yes, Sir."

The Sergeant Major smiled. He was a bald, barrel-chested man, whose blouse wore the hash marks, one for each four years of service, of two decades in the Marine Corps.

"Sergeant, sergeants do not say 'Sir' to other sergeants," he said. "Only boots do that."

Moore took off his fore-and-aft cap and rubbed his boot head.

"It'll grow back," the Sergeant Major, understanding the gesture, chuckled. "Keep your cap on when you can. Let's catch some breakfast."

Moore had been given a room on the upper floor of the two-story, newly constructed, frame building. As he followed the Sergeant Major down the stairs to the first floor, they ran into Captain Sessions coming up.

"Good morning, Sir," the Sergeant Major said. "I thought I would make sure that Sergeant Moore got his breakfast."

"My mission, too," Sessions said. "The corporal in the BOQ said it would be all right for me to eat in the snack bar."

"Yes, Sir. It's run by the Base Exchange. Neutral territory."

"Good morning, Moore. You packed?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Then let's eat."

"Would I be in the way, Sir?" the Sergeant Major asked.

"Not at all," Sessions said.

"I've got a staff car, too, Sir. I thought I could take you and Sergeant Moore to the airfield. And then you could turn Colonel Westman's car loose."

"Fine," Sessions said.

"I always feel sorry for colonels who have to walk, Sir," the Sergeant Major said, solemnly.

"I'm sure you do, Sergeant Major," Sessions said, and then laughed. "Take Moore to the snack bar, and I'll go tell the colonel's driver he can go."

The breakfast fare was simple, but the eggs and the hash-brown potatoes were served on plates, and they sat at chairs at four-place tables covered with white oil cloth, and the china coffee mug had a handle; and that combined to make it, Moore thought, the most elegant meal he'd had since he left Philadelphia.

And there was something else. A newspaper. The Charleston Gazette. He hadn't seen a newspaper since coming to Parris Island, either.

There was a photograph on the front page of a tall, skinny American officer, a lieutenant general, Moore could now tell. He was seated at a table on what looked like a porch, wearing a tieless, mussed khaki shirt. There were three other American officers sitting with him. On the other side of the table were Japanese officers.

JAPS RELEASE PHOTO OF WAINWRIGHT SURRENDER, the headline over the picture said. Under it, the caption read: "War Department officials confirmed that Lieutenant General Jonathan M. Wainwright, U.S. Commander in the Philippines, sits (center, left) in this photograph, which the Japanese claim depicts General Wainwright's surrender to Japanese General Mashaharu Homma (center, right) May 5. The photo was obtained via neutral Sweden."

"That's a bitch, isn't it?" the Sergeant Major said, tightly.

"I think that must be the toughest thing an officer ever has to do," Sessions said. "God, what a humiliation!"

"It was on the radio last night that General Sharp surrendered Mindanao," the Sergeant Major said. "That's it. The Japs now own the Philippines."

"I know some of the people who are now prisoners," Sessions said, sounding as if he was thinking aloud, "if they're still alive."

"Yes, Sir, I know," the Sergeant Major said.

"How do you know that?" Sessions asked.

Moore sensed that Sessions had been made uneasy by the apparently innocent statement and wondered why.

"I'm an old China Marine, too, Captain. In my last hitch I was the S-3 Operations Sergeant for the 4th."

"Were you?" Sessions asked, and now the suspicion in his voice was evident.

"Yes, Sir. The 4th was a good outfit. Good people. I had sort of a special buddy. Guy named Killer McCoy."

"You're moving into a mine field, Sergeant Major," Sessions said, softly. "Sometimes, playing auld lang syne is not the thing to do."

"Oh, I don't mean to... I wasn't trying to pump you for poop, Sir. Really. It was just that Killer and I had the same ideas about who was a good Marine officer and who wasn't."

"Which means?"

The Sergeant Major hesitated momentarily, and then met Sessions's eyes.

"I got three, four staff NCOs who could have taken care of Sergeant Moore for you, Sir. I sort of wanted to do it myself. You know, any friend of The Killer's..."

Sessions looked at the Sergeant Major for a long moment before he replied.

"That's very kind of you, Sergeant Major. I'm touched. Thank you."

"No s thanks necessary, Sir," the Sergeant Major said. "There's not many of us old China Marines left now. I figure we should try to take care of each other, right?"

"You didn't get this from me, Sergeant Major," Sessions said. "But the Killer made it out. He's with the 2nd Raider Battalion."

"I hadn't heard that. Thank you, Captain."

"What's the word on the courier plane?" Sessions said, obviously changing the subject.

"We better get out to the airport by say nine-fifteen, Sir."

Sergeant John Marston Moore had no idea what the conversation between the Sergeant Major and Captain Sessions was all about, but he understood that Captain Sessions had done something-probably in China, there was all that talk about Old China Marines-that had earned him the respect of the old Marine non-com. And he had the feeling that earning the Sergeant Major's approval didn't come easily.

He wondered about "The Killer." If he was the "special buddy" of the sergeant major and held in high regard by Captain Sessions, "The Killer" was obviously one hell of a Marine. Hash marks from his wrist to his shoulder, a breast covered with twenty, thirty years worth of campaign ribbons, barrel chested and leather skinned, with a gravel voice to match.

There was something really admirable about these professional warriors, Moore thought. They were latter day Centurions. Or maybe gladiators? Whatever they were, they weren't like ordinary men. For them, war was a way of life.

Captain Sessions looked at his watch.

"Well," he said. "Let's get the show on the road. It never hurts to be early."

"You're all packed, right?" the Sergeant Major asked Moore.

"All packed," Moore replied, stopping himself just in time from replying, "Yes, Sir."

"Go get your stuff then," the Sergeant Major said. "I'm parked right out in front."

"One late thought," Captain Sessions said. "There's always one late thought, too late to do anything about. Have you been paid? Have you got enough money to carry you, Moore? Enough for the train ticket between Washington and Philadelphia?"

"The train ticket between Washington and Philadelphia"? I'm actually leaving Parris Island and going home. Why is that so incredible?

"I haven't been paid, Sir," Moore said. "But I have money."

"You're sure?"

"Yes, Sir."

"Go get your gear, Moore," Captain Sessions said.

Chapter Four

(One)

MARINE CORPS AIR STATION

PARRIS ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA

0905 HOURS 16 JUNE 1942

As the Sergeant Major drove them to the small airfield that served the Parris Island Recruit Depot, Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, wondered what his father was going to say about his turning down an officer's commission and then going off to God only knows where in the Pacific. His father-to put it mildly-had not been pleased when he joined the Marine Corps in the first place; and he'd probably go into a righteous rage that he was not going to be an officer, at least not for the foreseeable future. To make matters worse, John couldn't even tell his father the reason why he'd made his choice.

All the same, there was no sense worrying about his father.... He'd learned not to worry about things he had no control over. And besides, no matter how used his father was to getting his own way, he could not bend the U.S. Marine Corps to his will.

Moore had flown only twice before in his life, both times during the family's last trip home from Japan: They'd left the ocean liner in San Francisco, and then they'd flown on from there via Chicago to New York. The flight from San Francisco to Chicago had been on Transcontinental and Western Airlines, and from Chicago to New York on Eastern. The airplanes had been essentially identical, large, twenty-odd-passenger Douglas DC-3s. Eastern had called theirs "Luxury Liners of the Great Silver Fleet."

John Marston Moore knew he would never forget that trip. He still had a flood of memories from it. He even remembered the name stenciled on the Eastern airplane's nose; it was The City of Baltimore. He also recalled watching his father take his mother's hand, bow his head, and mouth a prayer as the TWA airplane started down the runway in San Francisco. He hadn't forgotten, either, the justification his father put forth for the extra expense of flying: "The Lord is a hard taskmaster," he would intone in his most virtuous voice, "who wants all that I can give Him. 'Missions' needs me in Philadelphia as soon as I can reach there. I've already spent a great deal of time at sea on the voyage from Yokohama, and that has kept me out of touch with 'Missions' for weeks, If I take the train, I'll be traveling another five days, while it will only take thirty-six hours by airplane. Obviously, taking the plane is the clear will of the Lord."

By then, John Marston Moore had long since decided that the Reverend Doctor John Wesley Moore was a pious hypocrite. A number of arguments supported this judgment. His father, for example, had delayed their departure from Japan for nearly three weeks, so they could return to the United States in first class aboard the Pacific Princess, the flagship of the Pacific and Far East Shipping Corporation fleet. The alternative would have been to travel on one of the Transpacific freighters which made their comfortable but spartan passenger accommodations available to missionaries and their families at reduced rates.

"Your Uncle Bill would insist," the Reverend Doctor Moore told John Marston Moore and his sisters. "He would know how much I need the rest."

Uncle Bill-William Dawson Marston IV-was president of the family business, Dawson and Marston Paper Merchants.

Dawson and Marston had been in business in Philadelphia since 1781, on Cherry Street, near the Schuylkill River. If John Marston Moore had been a betting man, he would have laid five to one that the first time Uncle Bill heard about the first-class cabins on the Pacific Princess was when the bill arrived for payment at Dawson and Marston.

John knew no one in the world who could muster the audacity to ask his father the obvious question: "You could have flown alone at one third the cost, and then the family could have followed by train... why didn't you do that?" If someone by chance had dared to ask him such a thing, his father would have replied-with a perfectly straight face, believing every word that poured from his lips-that it was clearly his Christian duty to be with his family and protect them from the well-known hazards of a transcontinental journey.

The Reverend Doctor Moore's concept of his clear Christian duty to his family had also been behind their twelve-room house in Denenchofu; the chauffeured Packard; the semiannual vacations in first-rate hotels in Australia and New Zealand; the monthly crates of canned goods that arrived from Boston; and everything else that made their life saving infidel souls for the Lord in far off Japan far more comfortable than any of their co-religionists in America would have imagined.

It was not as if he was living high on the hog on funds intended to educate and convert Asiatic heathens... he did not misappropriate funds; he'd never dream of defrauding "Missions." He was in fact on the whole a very good man. Still, though the salary and living allowance he was paid by "Missions" was not at all generous, the Reverend Doctor Moore didn't complain about his stipend, neither did he make any attempt to live on it. John long ago concluded that most of what "Missions" paid his father went to feed the. servants.

Though it was only peripherally connected with most other functions of the Methodist Episcopal Church, "Missions" was more formally known as "The William Barton Harris Methodist Episcopal Special Missions to the Unchurched Foundation." It was founded in 1866 by a grant from Captain James D. Harris of Philadelphia.

Harris Shipping predated the American Revolution and was prosperous before the Civil War. But the war had swelled its coffers beyond anyone's imagination. On Captain Harris's death, the foundation received his entire estate, his wife having died the year before he did; and they'd lost their only son, William Barton Harris, in the Civil War.

The stated purpose of Missions was "to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Hope of Eternal Life to those who would not normally receive the blessing, such as Merchant Seamen, heathen Asiatics, the natives of the Caribbean Islands, and the former slaves now residing in those same islands."

While it was to be guided by the principles of Methodism, and it was "to be hoped that principal officers will be Methodist Episcopal Clergy and that the Foundation will be supported by the ever increasing generosity of Methodists," it was not to "become part of, or subject to the direction of, any local or national Methodist Episcopal organization." A key phrase of the bequest went on to state, "if at any time it becomes evident that the Foundation cannot continue its Christian mission, as specified herein, its assets will be liquidated and conveyed to the Philadelphia Free Public Library."

The rumor, Uncle Bill had once told John Marston Moore, was that "The Captain" had not seen eye to eye with his Bishop and was not about to give him control of his money. But whatever the truth, "Missions" had evolved into an organization with three major arms: The Seaman's Mission provided services to merchant seamen from Boston to Charleston-primarily cheap, clean YMCA-like accommodations and other related socio-religious services; the Caribbean Mission operated schools and social services in the Caribbean; and the Asiatic Mission performed a similar function in the Orient.

Each arm was headed by a Methodist clergyman, while, another served as Superintendent; and two of the seven trustees were also Methodist clerics. The other five trustees were a Presbyterian Minister; an Episcopal priest; and three laymen. From the beginning, one of these had either been a Marston or someone married to a Marston. Uncle Bill had succeeded his father as a Missions Trustee.

Philadelphia Methodist and social circles showed very little surprise when the son-in-law of William D. Marston III, a long time Missions trustee, was married and ordained during the same week that he joined Missions; neither was there much surprise when years later the now Reverend Doctor John Wesley Moore, brother-in-law of Missions trustee William D. Marston IV, was named to head the Asiatic Mission.

But Philadelphia Methodist and social circles would have been surprised, John Marston Moore knew, if it ever became generally known how well the Reverend Doctor John Wesley Moore lived while serving the Lord. His father, of course, was ready with an explanation for it-if that ever became necessary: Though he was perfectly willing to live a life of austerity, indeed poverty, while in the Service of the Lord, not only had his beloved wife and adored children not been so moved to serve the Lord, but the Lord, in his infinite wisdom, had moved his brother-in-law, that fine Christian gentleman, to extraordinary generosity toward his sister and nieces and nephews.

John Marston Moore wondered now and again just how much of Dawson and Marston Paper Merchants, founded AD 1781, his parents actually owned. And for that matter, he had questions about the amounts involved in the trust funds that had been set up for him and his sisters by grandparents on both sides of the family. But the few times he'd asked, he was told that he need not just now concern himself with that sort of thing. "The Lord has done very well, so far, wouldn't you agree, John, providing for your needs?"

If John Marston Moore didn't know his father as well as he did, he would never have believed it possible for anyone to be such a good man-perhaps even close to a saintly man-and still be a pious hypocrite. But the younger Moore had pages of illustrations in his own personal book of memories demonstrating the truth of that hypothesis.

One evening, for instance, while his father was literally warming in his hand a snifter of Remy Martin cognac at the Union League Club, John Marston Moore had been forbidden to live in a fraternity house at the University of Pennsylvania, because it was common knowledge that the fraternity houses were awash with intoxicants. As the only son of a Man of God of Some Position, he had to be quite careful of appearances.

The airplane parked in front of the wood frame, single-story Operations Building at the airfield was much smaller than the Douglas DC-3s of TWA and Eastern. Captain Sessions identified it for him as a Beech Aircraft D-18. The legend MARINES was painted on the fuselage.

There were more than a dozen would-be passengers already in the wooden operations building hoping to get one of the eight seats on the airplane. Since three of these men were officers senior to Captain Sessions, Moore wondered if that meant they would have to travel to Washington as he had come to Parris Island, by train.

But he quickly found out that the seats on the Beech were assigned not by rank but by priority. It did not surprise him, however, that Captain Sessions had a priority: The first two names called out to board the plane were Sessions and Moore.

As they filed out to the plane, one of the pilots handed each of them a brown bag containing a baloney sandwich and an apple. The pilots were both Marine sergeants; Moore found that very interesting. He thought that only officers were permitted to fly.

If there were sergeants who did things like fly airplanes, perhaps there were other things a sergeant-Sergeant John Marston Moore, for example-could do besides screaming obscenities at boots or conducting close order drill. That made him feel a good deal better about having given up-at least for the time being-his promised officer's commission.

Once they found seats, Moore saw that compared to the plushness of the planes he was used to, the D-18 was rather crudely finished inside. But that didn't bother him. The very idea of flying from South Carolina to Washington on a military airplane was exciting. He tried to muster what savoir faire he could to conceal this from Captain Sessions.

But just after the pilots walked down the narrow aisle to the cockpit and sat down to start the engines, curiosity overwhelmed him, and he turned to Captain Sessions.

"Sir, I thought all pilots were officers."

"Just most of them," Sessions replied. "In the Army," he went on, "they all are. But both the Navy and the Marine Corps have enlisted pilots; oddly enough, they're called 'Flying Sergeants.' Don't worry, Moore, I personally would rather be flown around by a Flying Sergeant than by some kid fresh out of Pensacola."

After the airplane took off, it flew right over the Recruit Depot. Moore could see the small arms ranges, and even platoons of boots marching around on the parade ground. The thought ran through his mind that it was conceivable that he was looking down at his old platoon.

The flight to the Anacostia Naval Air Station just outside Washington was much too short for Moore's liking. The day was clear, and there was something very nice indeed about being able to look down at the lush spring country. It didn't bother him at all that the sandwiches were dry, the apple mushy, and the coffee in the thermos jug lukewarm.

Technical Sergeant Harry Rutterman was waiting for them when the airplane landed. As they got out of the airplane, he came up to them and saluted Captain Sessions, who smiled as he returned it.

"Nice flight, Sir?"

"Why do I suspect that your meeting me has nothing to do with your all-around admiration for me as an officer and human being?" Sessions replied.

"The Captain, Sir, has for some reason a suspicious nature where I am concerned."

"Come on, Rutterman," Sessions said with a smile. "What's going on?"

"The Colonel wants you right now," Rutterman said. "He even sent his car. I'll take care of Sergeant Moore from here."

"Brief me on that," Sessions said, and then, "Excuse me. Moore, this is Sergeant Harry Rutterman."

Rutterman gave Moore a broad smile, and then- unintentionally, Moore decided-he crushed his hand in an iron handshake.

"Welcome to Never-Never Land, Sergeant," he said.

"OK, Rutterman," Sessions said. "Enough!"

"Yes, Sir," Rutterman said. "As of this morning, Private Moore was transferred to Baker Company, Headquarters Battalion, here. Then, recognizing the enormous contribution to the Corps he is about to make, they promoted him to Sergeant. Then they transferred him to Marine Barracks, Navy Yard, Philadelphia. I checked the travel times. He has forty-eight hours to get here from Parris Island, and twenty-four to get to Philadelphia after he leaves here. When his orders get to Philadelphia, he'll have seven days to get to San Diego. I got him an airplane ticket from New York to Los Angeles, which will put him there in about thirty-six hours. He has to take the train from Los Angeles to 'Diego. So I didn't put him on leave. I mean, why? What's important is that he gets on the plane in 'Diego on the twenty-first, right? This way, he won't get charged any leave time."

"I don't think I want to hear about this," Sessions said.

"It's all according to regulations, Captain," Sergeant Rutterman said, sounding slightly indignant.

"The trouble is, Sergeant, that you read things in regulations that no one else can see," Sessions said. "But he has a seat on the courier from San Diego on the twenty-first, right? That's all locked in?"

"As well as it can be, Sir. You know what happens, sometimes. An unexpected senior officer shows up wanting a seat..."

"What's his priority?" Sessions interrupted.

"Six As," Sergeant Rutterman had replied. "The Colonel had to make a couple of phone calls himself, but he got it."

Sergeant John Marston Moore wondered what in the world they were talking about.

"What else can we do?"

"Odd that you should ask, Sir-"

"If you're about to suggest that out of an overwhelming sense of duty, you would be willing to take the Sergeant out there yourself, to make sure he doesn't get bumped out of his seat by 'an unexpected senior officer...' "

"That thought..."

"No, Goddamn it," Sessions said, but was unable to contain a smile. "We must have somebody already out there who can get him through Outshipment despite your 'unexpected senior officer.'"

"I'll think of someone, Sir," Rutterman said.

"Don't be downcast, Rutterman," Sessions said. "It was a good try. One of your better ones."

"Thank you, Sir," Rutterman said.

Sessions turned to Moore.

"I don't suppose you understood much of that, did you, Moore?"

"No, Sir. I'm afraid..."

"Sergeant Rutterman will make it all clear, beyond any possibility of misinterpretation... Right, Rutterman?"

"Aye, aye, Sir."

"... before he puts you on the train," Sessions concluded.

"Yes, Sir," Moore said.

Sessions met his eyes.

"Most of this will make sense when you get where you're going and learn what's required of you," Sessions said. "Until you get there, you're just going to have to take my word that it's very important, and that the security of the operation is really of life-and-death importance..."

"Yes, Sir," Moore said.

"Damn," Sessions said. "Security clearance! What about that? A lousy SECRET won't do him any good."

"The Colonel had me get the full FBI report on Moore..."

"They gave it to you?" Sessions asked, surprised.

"They owed us one," Rutterman said. "And he reviewed it and granted him a TOP SECRET. What more he may have to have, he'll have to get over there."

Sessions looked thoughtful for a moment, and then put out his hand.

"Good luck, Sergeant Moore. God go with you."

Moore was made somewhat uneasy by the reference to God. It was not, he sensed with surprise, simply a manner of speech, a cliche. Sessions was actually invoking the good graces of the Deity.

"Thank you, Sir," he said.

Rutterman had a light blue 1941 Ford Fordor, with Maryland license plates. But a shortwave radio antenna bolted to the trunk and stenciled signs on the dashboard

(MAXIMUM PERMITTED SPEED 35 MPH; TIRE PRESSURE 32 PSI; and USE ONLY 87 OCTANE FUEL) made it rather clear that while the car had come out of a military motor pool, for some reason it was not supposed to look like a military vehicle. When they got to Union Station, Rutterman parked in a No Parking area and then took a cardboard sign reading NAVY DEPARTMENT-ON DUTY-OFFICIAL BUSINESS from under the seat and put it on the dashboard.

"If you don't think you'd lose control and wind up in New York or Boston, why don't you buy a Club Car ticket and have a couple of drinks on the way?" Rutterman suggested. "Otherwise, you're liable to have to stand up all the way to Philly."

"You reading my mind?" Moore asked.

"And I do card tricks," Rutterman said with a smile.

Moore bought his ticket and then, bag in hand, headed for the gate.

"You don't have to do any more for me, Sergeant," Moore said. "I can get on the train by myself."

"I want to be able to say I watched the train pull out with you on board," Rutterman replied.

A hand grabbed Moore's arm, startling him.

It was a sailor, wearing white web belt, holster and puttees, and with a Shore Patrol "SP" armband. Moore saw a second SP standing by the gate to Track Six.

"Let me see your orders, Mac," the Navy Shore Patrolman said.

Moore took from the lower pocket of his blouse a quarter-inch thick of mimeograph paper Rutterman had given him on the way to the station and handed it over.

"And your dog tags, Mac," the SP said.

"Slow day?" Sergeant Rutterman asked. "Or do you just like to lean on Marines?"

"What's your problem, Mac?" the SP asked, visibly surprised at what he obviously perceived to be a challenge to his authority.

"My problem, Sailor, is that I don't like you calling Marine sergeants 'Mac'"

"Then why don't you show me your orders, Sergeant?" the

SP said, as the other SP, slapping his billy club on the palm

of his hand, came up to get in on the action.

Rutterman reached in the breast pocket of his blouse and came out with a small leather folder. He held it open for the SP to read.

Moore saw that whatever Rutterman had shown the SP, it produced an immediate change of attitude.

"Sergeant," the SP said, apologetically, almost humbly, "we're just trying to do our job."

"Yeah, sure, you are," Rutterman said, dryly. "Can we go now?"

"Yeah, sure. Go ahead."

Rutterman jerked his head for Moore to pass through the gate.

"Goddamned SPs," he muttered.

"What was that you showed him?" Moore asked.

"You forget you saw that," Rutterman said. "That's not what you're supposed to do with that."

"What was it?" Moore asked.

"What was what, Sergeant?" Rutterman asked. "Didn't Sessions tell you the way to get your ass in a crack around here is to ask questions you shouldn't?"

His voice was stern, but there was a smile in his eyes.

"Right," Moore said.

Rutterman boarded the train with him, saw that he was settled in an armchair in the club car, and then offered him his hand.

"I'll give you a call tomorrow or the next day," he said. "To tell you how the paperwork is moving."

"I'll have to give you my number," Moore said.

"I've got your number," Rutterman smiled, then shook his head. "Don't forget to get off this thing in Philadelphia."

"I'll try," Moore said. "Thank you, Sergeant."

"What for?" Rutterman replied, and then walked out of the club car.

(Two)

HEADQUARTERS, FIRST MARINE DIVISION

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND

0815 HOURS 16 JUNE 1942

On Sunday 14 June, when the first elements of the First Marine Division (Division Headquarters and the 5th Marines) landed at Wellington, New Zealand, from the United States, they found on hand to greet them not only the Advance Detachment, which had flown in earlier, but an officer courier from the United States, who had flown in more recently.

The officer courier went aboard the USS Millard G. Fillmore (formerly the Pacific Princess of the Pacific and Far East lines) as soon as she was tied to the wharf. He was immediately shown to the cabin of Major General Alexander A. Vandergrift, the Division Commander.

In the courier's chained-to-his wrist briefcase, in addition to the highly classified documents he had carried from the States on a AAAAAA priority, there was a business-size envelope addressed to the First Division's Deputy Commander, Brigadier General Lewis T. Harris, and marked "Personal."

Since it took a few minutes to locate the Division's Classified Documents Officer, who had to sign for the contents of the courier's briefcase, General Harris, who was in General Vandergrift's cabin at the time, got his "personal" letter before the other, more official documents were distributed.

The letter was unofficial-a "back channel communication" written by a longtime crony, a brigadier general who was assigned to Headquarters, USMC. Harris tore it open, read it, and then handed it wordlessly to General Vandergrift.

Washington, 11 June

Brig Gen Lewis T. Harris Hq, First Marine Division By Hand

Dear Lucky:

Major Jake Dillon, two officers, and six enlisted Marines are on their way to New Zealand to "coordinate Marine public relations." The Assistant Commandant is very impressed with Dillon, who used to be a Hollywood press agent. He feels he will be valuable in dealing with the more important members of the press, and making sure the Navy doesn't sit on Marine accomplishments.

He will be on TDY to Admiral Ghormley's Commander, South Pacific, Headquarters, rather than to the First Division, which takes him neatly out from under your command while he is there.

If I have to spell this out: This is the Assistant Commandant's idea, and you will have to live with it.

Regards, Tony

The Division Commander read the letter, looked at Harris, snorted, and commented, "I don't have to live with this press agent, Lucky, you do. Keep this character and his people away from me."

The First Division was already prepared to deal with the public as well as the enemy. One of the Special Staff sections of the First Marine Division was "Public Information." It was staffed with a major, a captain, a lieutenant, three sergeants, three corporals, and two privates first class. It was natural, therefore, that the question, "just what the hell is this about?" should arise in General Harris's mind.

"Aye, aye, Sir," he said.

Major Dillon, accompanied by two lieutenants, four sergeants, and two privates first class, arrived by air (priority AAA) in Wellington on Tuesday, 16 June 1942.

He presented his orders to the G-l, who as Personnel Officer for the Division, was charged with housing and feeding people on temporary duty. The G-l informed Major Dillon where he could draw tentage for the enlisted men, and in which tents he and his officers could find bunks. He told Major Dillon to get his people settled and to check back with him in the morning.

The G-l then sought audience with the Assistant Division Commander, who he suspected (correctly) would be curious to see Major Dillon's orders, which included a very interesting and unusual paragraph: 3. Marine commanders are directed to give Major Dillon access to classified information through TOP SECRET.

The G-l, who had earned the reputation of not bothering the Assistant Division Commander with petty bullshit, was granted an almost immediate audience with General Harris. After he read Major Dillon's orders, Harris inquired, "Where did you say you put this messenger from God? Get him in here right now."

This proved not to be possible. For Major Dillon and his officers were not at the Transient Officer's Quarters. Nor were they engaged in helping the enlisted men erect their tents. Indeed, according to the Quartermaster, nobody asking to draw tentage had been to see him. When the G-l somewhat nervously reported these circumstances to General Harris, the General replied, "You find that sonofabitch, Dick, and get him over here."

The G-l and members of his staff conducted a search of the area, but without success.

At 0915 the next morning, however, General Harris's sergeant reported that a Major named Dillon was in the outer office, asking if the General could spare him a minute.

"Ask the major to come in, please, Sergeant," Harris replied.

Major Dillon marched into Harris's office, stopped eighteen inches from his desk, came to rigid attention, and barked, "Major Dillon, Sir. Thank you for seeing me."

General Harris's first thought vis-…-vis Major Jacob Dillon was: The fit of that uniform is impeccable. He didn't get that off a rack at an officer's sales store. Give the devil his due. At least the sonofabitch looks like a Marine.

General Harris let Major Dillon stand there for almost a minute-which seemed like much longer-examining him.

"Stand at ease, Major," Harris said, and. Dillon snappily changed to a position that was more like Parade Rest than At Ease, with his hands folded in the small of his back.

"Colonel Naye finally found you, did he?" Harris asked softly.

"Sir, I wasn't aware the colonel was looking for me."

"Where the hell have you been, Dillon? Where did you lay your head to rest, for example?"

"At the Connaught, Sir," Dillon said.

"At the where?"

"The Duke of Connaught Hotel, Sir."

"A hotel?" Harris asked, incredulously.

"Yes, Sir."

"Just to satisfy my sometimes uncontrollable curiosity, Major, how did you get from here to town? And back out here?"

"A friend picked us up, Sir. And arranged for the rooms in the Connaught. And has arranged a couple of cars for us."

" 'Rooms'? 'Us'? You took your officers with you?"

"Yes, Sir. And the men. I thought they needed a good night's sleep. It's a hell of a long airplane ride from Hawaii, Sir."

It had previously occurred to General Harris that if Major Dillon and his two commissioned and six enlisted press agents, and their 1240 pounds of accompanying baggage and equipment had not traveled to Wellington, New Zealand, by priority air it would have been possible to move nine real Marines and 1240 pounds of badly needed equipment by air to Wellington.

With some effort, General Harris restrained himself from offering this observation aloud.

"I wouldn't know," he said. "We came by ship. Who's going to pay for the hotel, just out of curiosity?"

"That's going to require a sort of lengthy answer, Sir."

"My time is your time, Major. Curiosity overwhelms me."

"For the time being, Sir, those of us who are still on salary are splitting the expenses for everybody."

"Still on salary?"

"Most of us are from the movies, Sir," Dillon said.

What the hell does that mean? Tony's letter, come to think of it, said this guy was a Hollywood press agent.

"But one of the photographers and two of the writers came from Pathe-the newsreel photographer-and the wires. AP specifically. Their salaries stopped when they came in the Corps. The rest of us are still getting paid, so we decided to split the tab for Sergeant Pincney and the lieutenants."

"Let me be sure I have this right," Harris said. "Your two officers are having their hotel bills paid by your enlisted men?"

"General, it sounds a lot worse than it is," Dillon said. "Fortunately, it's none of my business, since you're not in the 1st Marines," Harris said. This had just occurred to him; it was a little comforting. "But what is my business is your mission here. Can you explain that to me?"

"Well, Sir. When we-the 1st Marines-make their first landing, the men I have with me, broken down into two teams, will go ashore with the first wave. Each team will have a still and a motion picture photographer and a writer. The film they shoot, and the copy the writer writes, will be made available to the press on a pool basis... and flown to the States, to see what mileage they can get out of it in Washington."

"You're aware, of course, that we have our own PIO people?"

"Yes, Sir. I tried to make that point to General Frischer. I didn't get very far. And to tell you the truth, Sir, I didn't mind getting shot down. I wanted to come over here."

"You did? Why?"

"I'm a Marine, General," Dillon said.

"I was about to ask about that. I heard you were a Hollywood press agent."

"Yes, Sir. Before that I was a Marine. A China Marine. Then I got in the movie business, and then I came back in the Corps."

"To be a press ag-a public information officer?"

"That was the Deputy Commandant's idea, Sir. I thought, still think, that I could be of more use with stripes on my sleeve."

I like the sound of that. Maybe this character isn`t a complete asshole after all.

"Well, Major, I'm sure the Deputy Commandant is right. Now, what can I do for you?"

"Not a thing, Sir. I'm going to try to stay out of your hair as much as possible."

It was an ill-chosen figure of speech. General Harris suffered from advanced male pattern baldness and was somewhat sensitive on the subject. Major Dillon promptly made it worse:

"The only thing on my schedule right now is to see your Division PIO," he said. "To assure him that I'm going to stay out of his hair, too. And then I want to see Jack NMI Stecker. Major Stecker."

"I'm acquainted with Major Stecker," Harris said. "What do you want from him?"

General Harris was more than "acquainted" with Major Jack NMI Stecker. Given the chasm between officer and enlisted ranks, they were-as much as possible-lifelong friends. For nearly a quarter of a century, Harris had believed that one of the few mistakes Jack Stecker made in his Marine career was turning down the appointment he was offered to Annapolis in 1918.

At nineteen, Stecker won the Medal of Honor... for really incredible valor in France. With the Medal came the Annapolis appointment. But Stecker turned it down to marry his childhood sweetheart, which meant that he would spend his Marine Corps career as an enlisted man.

It was folklore in the Marine Corps that many senior non-coms were just as qualified to command companies and battalions as any officer. Harris believed that one of the few men of whom this was really true was Jack NMI Stecker. And Harris put his belief in action; he went to Marine Corps Commandant Slocomb to make this announcement-a dangerous deviation from the sacred path of chain of command. Even so, his move resulted in the gold leaf now on Jack NMI Stecker's collar points, and his assignment as a battalion commander in the 5th Marines.

"Jack and I were pretty close when he was Sergeant Major of the 4th Marines in Shanghai..."

If you and Jack NMI Stecker were really close, that means you really aren't an asshole, Major, after all. I'll call Jack and ask him about this guy.

"... and I hope to talk him into letting me send some of my people down to his battalion to see if he can make Marines out of them."

Good thinking. If anyone can turn feather merchants into Marines, Jack Stecker can.

"The PFCs, you mean?"

"No, Sir. Everybody but the PFCs. They at least went through boot camp at San Diego. I mean the sergeants and the lieutenants. Some of them have only been in the Corps a month."

"And they haven't been-the officers-to Basic School? Or the others to boot camp?"

"No, Sir. General Frischer said that since they wouldn't be commanding troops, it wouldn't matter."

"They were commissioned, or enlisted, directly from civilian life, to do this? And they were sent here without any training whatever?"

"Yes, Sir, that's about the size of it."

I don't think I will bother General Vandergrift with the details of this operation. He has enough to worry about as it is; he doesn't need this proof positive that the rest of the Corps has gone insane. He told me to keep this press agent and his people away from him, and I will.

"Thank you for coming in to see me, Major," General Harris said. "Unless you have something else?"

"Just one thing, General. I know that I must look like a feather merchant to you, but to do my job, I have to know what's going on."

"I will see that you are invited to attend all G-3 staff meetings, Major. And anything else I think would interest you."

"Sir, with respect," Dillon said, even more uneasily, "the general doesn't really know what would interest me or wouldn't."

You arrogant sonofabitch!

"What are you suggesting, Major? That you be given carte blanche to just nose around here wherever you please?"

"I'll try to stay out of people's hair as much as possible, General."

There was a perceptible pause as Harris thought that over. Finally, remembering that Dillon's orders had as much as authorized him to put his goddamned feather merchant's nose into any goddamned place where he goddamned pleased, and that Tony had written that this whole goddamned cockamamie operation was the Deputy Commandant's own personal nutty goddamned idea, he said, calmly and politely, "Very well, Major. I'll have a memo prepared authorizing you to attend any staff conferences that you desire to attend."

(Three)

BUKA, SOLOMON ISLANDS

16 JUNE 1942

Buka is an island approximately thirty miles long and no more than five or six miles wide. The northernmost island in the Solomons chain, it lies just north of the much larger Bougainville; and it is 146 nautical miles southeast of Rabaul, on New Britain.

In June of 1942 the Japanese had at Rabaul a large, well-equipped airbase, servicing fighters, bombers, seaplanes, and other larger aircraft. There was, as well, a Japanese fighter base on Buka, and another on Bougainville.

When the Japanese invaded Buka in the opening days of the war, an Australian, Jacob Reeves, who had lived on the island, volunteered to remain behind as a member of the Coastwatcher Service. He was commissioned into the Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve and given a radio, a generator, and some World War I small arms. Thus equipped, he was expected to report on Japanese ship and air movement, from Rabaul down toward the Australian continent. Prior to his commissioning, Reeves had no military experience; and he knew nothing about the shortwave radio except how to turn it on and off.

Inevitably-in early June-what he called the "sodding wireless" failed. Following the orders he had been given for such an occurrence, he-actually he and the girls-stamped flat the grass in a high meadow, forming enormous letters thirty feet tall, R A.

He'd been told that if he went off the air, the Coastwatcher Service would fly over his hideout as soon as possible to look for indication that he was still alive and needed help. There were ten codes in all (Lieutenant Commander Eric Feldt, Royal Australian Navy, commanding the Coastwatcher Service, did not believe his men could remember more than that): R A stood of course for radio; P E would indicate his supply of petrol for the generator which powered the wireless was exhausted; and so on.

As he waited for the Coastwatcher Service to act on his stamped-in-the-grass message, Reeves wondered what the response would be.

His reports on Japanese activity, he knew, had been of great value both tactically and for planning purposes. Now that they were interrupted, getting his wireless station up and running again would be a matter of some priority.

He was well aware that they did not have many options. The only way he could see to get him up and running again was to send him another radio. There were a number of problems with that; most notably: The only way to get him one would be to drop it by parachute. But if the airplane was seen by the Japanese, they would certainly launch fighters to shoot it down.

And even if the plane made it to the meadow, the odds that the dropped radio would survive the shock of landing were slim. If, indeed, he could find it at all.

All the same, he was not surprised on 6 June to hear the sound of the twin engines of a Royal Australian Air Force Lockheed Hudson transport. Five minutes later, he saw the Hudson make a low level pass over the meadow. As it passed, four objects dropped from the aircraft. A moment later these were suspended beneath white nylon parachute canopies.

He was surprised when he made out human forms beneath two of the parachutes. He had mixed emotions about that. On one hand, it probably meant they were sending him people who knew something about how the sodding wireless and its sodding generator worked. And that, of course, would be helpful.

But on the other hand, it would mean he would have to care for two men who had probably never in their lives been out of Sydney or Melbourne, much less been in a jungle. How can I feed them? he asked himself. More important, how can I conceal them from the sodding Nips?

And then when he made his way to the first one, what he found was a sodding American Marine-a boy!-wearing, in the American way, the upside down stripes of a sergeant. The other one turned out to be an American Marine officer, a lieutenant. That one managed to go into the trees, breaking his arm in the process. These two were the first Americans Sub Lieutenant Reeves had ever met. It didn't take him long to conclude that they were an odd, childish lot.

When he reached the boy sergeant, Reeves told him there were Nips snooping around the area, and that they would, unfortunately, have to count as lost the one who landed in the trees.

"We're Marines," the boy told him. "We don't leave our people behind."

It never came to a test of wills; for one of the girls found Lieutenant Howard. As far as Reeves was concerned, that was fortunate. For he not only subsequently grew rather fond of the boy, Steve Koffler, but at the time Reeves was reasonably sure that Koffler would have insisted on looking for his lieutenant even to the point of turning his submachine gun on Reeves.

Not long after that, they found they had to get rid of a Nip patrol who'd heard the Lockheed and probably seen the parachutes; and Koffler did what had to be done then with skill and courage. But the boy threw up when it was over... after he looked down at the corpse of a Japanese he'd wounded, and then, because it was necessary, killed.

Later, when Lieutenant Howard explained the reasons for their coming to Buka, the explanation made enough sense to Reeves that he put aside his earlier fears and objections about them.

According to Howard, Reeves's observation point was considered vital. With the three of them there, the odds that it could be kept operational were made greater.

Meanwhile, some weeks before, a small detachment of U.S. Marines was attached to the Coastwatcher Organization. When word that Reeves's wireless was out reached Commander Feldt, Feldt decided to send two men from the Marine detachment to Buka, together with the latest model American shortwave wireless. Koffler was chosen to go because he was not only a radio operator, he was a highly skilled technician as well (he'd been an Amateur Radio Operator before the War), while Howard had once taught courses in recognition of Japanese aircraft and naval vessels. Because of that, and because Koffler couldn't tell the difference between a battleship and an intercoastal freighter, Howard was asked to join him.

The village looked like a picture out of National Geographic magazine: A clear stream, about five feet wide and two feet deep, meandered through the center of a scattering of grass-walled huts. The village was populated with about twenty brown-skinned, flat-nosed people, most of whom had teeth died blue and then filed to a point. Cooking fires were burning here and there; chickens were running loose; and bare-breasted women were beating yamlike roots with rocks against other rocks. Most of the men and some of the women were armed with British Lee-Enfield rifles; and many carried web ammunition bandoliers.

Sergeant Stephen M. Koffler, USMC, of East Orange, New Jersey, and Detachment A of Marine Corps Special Detachment 14, had been eating bacon and pork chops and ham and sausage for most of the eighteen years and six months of his life; but if it were in his power he would never do so again.

He had never given pork much thought before. It had always been there in the refrigerated meat display of Cohen's EZ-Shop Supermarket on the corner of Fourth Avenue and North 18th Street, ready to be wrapped and taken to the cash register. All you had to do was pay Mrs. Cohen, who worked the register, and then take the bacon home and put it in a frying pan.

He had spent most of the morning watching the conversion of a living, breathing, squealing, hairy, ugly pig into edible meat products; and he hadn't liked what he had seen at all.

The pig had been brought into the village shortly after dawn by a visibly proud and triumphant Petty Officer First Class Bartholomew Charles Dunlop, Royal Australian Navy Volunteer Reserve. Petty Officer Dunlop, who was known as "Charley," was a native of the island of Buka. When he brought in the pig, he was wearing his usual uniform. That consisted of a brassard around his upper right arm, onto which was sewn the insignia of his rank, and a loin cloth. The loin cloth was something like a slit canvas skirt; and the brassard was placed just below two copper rings. His teeth were black and filed into points. And there were decorative scars on his forehead, his cheeks, and bare chest.

Petty Officer Dunlop was carrying a 9mm Sten submachine gun, two Lee-Enfield.303 Caliber rifles, and a two-foot long machete. The rifles belonged to the other two members of the detail, who were actually carrying the pig. They were uniformed like Dunlop, except that they had no insignia brassards. Canvas webbing ammunition belts, however, were slung across their chests.

They carried the pig, squealing in protest, on a pole run between his tied-together legs.

"Roast pork tonight!" Petty Officer Dunlop announced triumphantly. "And would you look at the size of the bugger!"

Petty Officer Dunlop had been educated at the Anglican Mission School on Buka, and spoke with the accent of a Yorkshireman.

Steve Koffler had not seen many pigs, except in photographs, but the one Charley seemed so proud of didn't seem as large as the ones Steve was used to. It was about the size of a large dog.

"It's beautiful, Charley," Steve said.

"Where's the officers?"

Steve shrugged and nodded vaguely toward the jungle.

How the hell am I supposed to answer that? Out there in the bush someplace?

"I didn't go with them," Steve said, explaining: "I've got to make the 1115 net call. They weren't sure they'd be back in time."

"Well, we'll have a jolly little surprise for them when they do come home, won't we?"

The women of the village, beaming, quickly appeared and watched as the pig was lowered to the ground and the pole between its legs was removed. A length of rope appeared, and this was tied to the pig's rear feet. The pig was then hauled off the ground under a large limb.

A woman produced a large, china bowl and carefully placed it under the pig's head. It looked to Steve like one of those things people put under their beds before there was inside plumbing.

Then with one swift swipe of his machete, Charley cut the pig's throat. The squealing stopped, and arterial blood began to gush from the pig's throat as the pig jerked in its death spasms.

It was only with a massive effort that Steve managed not to throw up. He had to tell himself again and again that he could not humiliate himself, the Marine Corps, and the white race by tossing his cookies.

The butchering process was performed by the women (hunting was a male responsibility; everything else was women's business). It was worse than even the throat-cutting. Intestines (steaming, despite the heat) spilled from the carcass. The hide was peeled off. The carcass was cut into pieces.

And at one point Steve realized with something close to horror that one particularly obscene-looking hunk of sickly white stuff was what he knew as bacon.

Next fires were built; then large steel pots full of water were either suspended over them or set right onto the coals. In one of them, eventually, they dropped the pig's head. Once the water started boiling, the head turned over and over.

By the time the officers returned, just before 1100, the butchering was just about finished. The bacon and hams (they were too scrawny to be real hams, Steve thought, but that's what they were) had been suspended over a smokey fire; and the rest of the meat was either being slowly broiled over coals or boiled and rendered. Nothing, Steve saw, was going to be wasted.

Both Reeves and Howard looked exhausted when they arrived. Without a word, Howard dropped his web belt and his Thompson by the creek; and fully clothed, except for his boondockers, he lowered himself into it, carefully holding his splinted arm out of the water. Reeves ordered tea for himself and slumped onto the ground, resting his back against a tree.

They had nothing to report about their patrol-a case of no news being good news: They'd detected no signs of the Japanese looking for them.

Steve took his wristwatch from his pocket, and then from the condom where he stored it. There were two watches in the village, his and Lieutenant Howard's. Since there was no chance of getting replacements, and since there were two times each day that were critical-1115 and 2045-it was crucial that the watches be protected.

The dial read 1059. If he was lucky, the watch was accurate within five minutes. He went in search of Petty Officer Second Class Ian Bruce. He found him in the grass commo shack, already in place on the generator, his skirt spread wide (it wasn't hard to tell that he was a man), ready to start pumping the bicycle-like pedals of the device that provided power for the Hallicrafters shortwave transceiver.

The watch hands now indicated 1102. Steve made a wind-it-up motion with his hand. Ian started pumping the pedals. In a moment, the needles on the Hallicrafter came to life. It was now 1103.

Fuck it, close enough.

Steve put his fingers on the telegraph key.

FRD1.FRD6.FRD 1.FRD6.FRD1.FRD6.

Royal Australian Navy Coastwatcher Radio, this is Detachment A, Special Marine Detachment 14.

Today, for a change, there was an immediate response:

FRD6.FRD1.GA.

Detachment A, this is Coastwatcher Radio, Townesville, Australia, responding to your call. Go ahead.

FRD1.FRD6.NTATT.

Coastwatcher Radio, this is Detachment A. No traffic for you at this time.

FRD6.FRD1.NTATT.FRD1 CLR.

Detachment A, this is Coastwatcher Radio. No traffic for you at this time. Coastwatcher Radio Clear.

"Fuck!" Sergeant Koffler said, and signaled for Ian Bruce to stop pedaling. He had hoped-he always hoped-that there would be some kind of message. And he was always disappointed when there was not.

He got to his feet and walked out of the hut. Lieutenant Reeves was nowhere in sight, and Lieutenant Howard was asleep on the bank of the stream. There was no point in waking him up; there had been no traffic.

He walked to one of the charcoal fires. The pig's ribs were getting done. They looked like spareribs now, Steve thought, not like parts of a dead animal.

And they smelled good. His mouth actually salivated.

He wondered how much salt from their short-and dwindling-supply Lieutenant Reeves would permit them to use to season the spareribs.

Chapter Five

(One)

THE CLUB CAR "CURTIS SANDROCK"

THE PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD "CONGRESSIONAL

LIMITED"

16 JUNE 1942

Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, had been in his chair less than half an hour when he had occasion to dwell on the question of saltpeter.

It had been commonly accepted by his peers at Parris Island that the Corps liberally dosed the boots' chow with the stuff. The action was deemed necessary by the Corps, the reasoning went, in order to suppress the sexual drives of the boots, who were by definition perfectly healthy young men who would have absolutely no chance during the period of their training to satisfy their sexual hungers.

Save of course by committing what his father called the sin of onanism, and what was known commonly in the Corps as Beating Your Meat, or Pounding Your Pud-a behavior that was high on the long list of acts one must not be caught doing by one's Drill Instructor... considerations of finding someplace to do it aside.

John Moore now realized that all he knew about saltpeter was what he had heard at Parris Island. That is to say, he had no certain knowledge whether such a substance really existed; or if it did exist, whether it did indeed suppress sexual desires, once ingested; or whether the Corps really fed it to their boots.

It was possible, of course.

There was the question of homosexuality, for instance. He had heard that because of the absence of women, a lot of the men in prisons turned queer.... There was a large number of other things Parris Island and prison had in common, too. The Corps could certainly not afford to have its boots turn to each other for sexual gratification. Several times the pertinent passages from The Articles for the Governance of the Naval Service, known as "Rocks and Shoals," had been read out loud to them. These described the penalties for taking the penis of another male into one's mouth and/or anus. In the eyes of the Corps, this was a crime ranking close to desertion in the face of the enemy and striking a superior officer or non-commissioned officer.

And if one was to judge from the training time allocated to inspiring talks from Navy Chaplains and incredibly graphic motion pictures taken in Venereal Disease wards, the Corps had a deep interest in even the heterosexual activities of its men. After they were freed from Parris Island, the Corps did not want them to rush to the nearest brothel and/or to consort with what it called "Easy Women." Easy women were defined as those who would infect Marines with syphilis, gonorrhea, and other social diseases, thereby rendering them unfit for combat service.

The conclusions Sergeant Moore reached as he accepted a second rye and ginger ale from the club car steward was that (a) it was likely that the Corps had been feeding him saltpeter at Parris Island; (b) that it had worked, because he could not now recall any feelings of sexual deprivation while he was there; and (c) that once one was taken off saltpeter, one's normal sexual drives and hungers returned within a day.

With a vengeance, he thought, as he tried to fold his leg over the first erection he'd had in weeks. It seemed to have a mind of its own, determined to make his trousers look like an eight-man squad tent, canvas tautly stretched from a stout center pole.

The source of his sexual arousal, he was quite sure, was not what the Corps would think of as an Easy Woman. In the training films, Easy Women had without exception earned the cheering approval of the boots with their tight sweaters, short skirts, heavily applied lipstick, and lewdly inviting mascaraed eyes. Most of them had cigarettes hanging from their mouths, and one hand attached to a bottle of beer.

This woman demonstrated none of these characteristics. She wore very little makeup. She held her cigarette in what Sergeant Moore thought was a charming and exquisitely feminine manner. She wore a blouse buttoned to her neck, a suit, and a hat with a half-veil. She was old-at least thirty, John judged, maybe even thirty-five-but he charitably judged that her hair, neatly done up in sort of a knot at the back of her bead, was prematurely gray.

And the final proof that she was a lady and not an Easy Woman came during the one time she raised her eyes from The Saturday Evening Post to look at him. It was clear from her facial expression that he was of absolutely no interest to her at all.

But despite all this, he found her exciting and desirable. This struck him with particular urgency after she stood to take off her suit jacket: The light then was such that her torso was silhouetted by the sun; the absolutely magnificent shape of her breasts had, for ten seconds or so, been his to marvel at.

And when she sat down and crossed her legs, there was a flash of thigh and slip, of lace and soft white flesh; and instantly, in his mind's eye, she was as naked as the lady in the club soda ad, sitting on a rock by a mountain lake.

At that instant the sexual depressant effects of saltpeter were flushed from his system as if they were never there, and Old Faithful popped to a position of attention that met every standard of the Guide Book for Marines for stiffness and immobility.

Had the opportunity presented itself, Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, would cheerfully have gone with her then... even if the price was the loss of all his money, contraction of syphilis, gonorrhea, all other social diseases, and any chances he had after the war to meet Miss Right and have a family of his own.

He tried, very hard, not to let her know he was watching her. This involved adjusting his head so that he could see her reflection in a mirror on the club car wall. Despite his care, she did catch him looking at her once; in a flash, he desperately spun around in his chair.

A little later, he managed to catch another reflection of her in the glass of his window, but that was nowhere near as satisfactory as the mirror reflection.

Between Baltimore and Philadelphia, she spoke to him. Her voice was as deep, soft, throaty, and sensual as he knew it would be.

"Excuse me," she said, waving The Saturday Evening Post at him. "I'm through with this. Would you like it?"

"No!" he said abruptly, with all the fervor the Good Marine had shown in the training film when the Easy Woman offered him a cigarette laced with some kind of narcotic. "It'll make you feel real good," she'd told him breathily.

"Sorry," the woman said, taken aback.

You're a fucking asshole, Moore, J. Out of your cotton-picking fucking mind!

"I don't read much," he heard himself say.

The absolutely beautiful woman smiled at him uneasily.

"Excuse me," Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, said. They he got up and walked to the vestibule of the car, where he banged his forehead on the window, and where he stayed until the train pulled into the 30th Street Station in Philadelphia.

The woman got off the train there. Fortunately, Moore decided, she didn't see him hiding in the vestibule corner. He exhaled audibly with relief. And then, for one last look at the beautiful older woman as she marched down the platform and out of his life forever, he stuck his head out the door.

She was standing right there, as the porter transferred her luggage into the custody of a Red Cap.

He pulled his head back as quickly as he could.

When it began to move again, and the train caught up with her on the platform, she looked for and found Sergeant John Marston Moore. She smiled and waved.

And smiled again and shook her head when, very shyly, the nice-looking young Marine waved back.

"North Philadelphia," the conductor called, "North Philadelphia, next."

(Two)

U.S. MARINE BARRACKS

U.S. NAVY YARD

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA 18 JUNE 1942

While the staff sergeant who dealt with Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, could not honestly be characterized as charming, in comparison to the sergeants who had dealt with Moore at Parris, he seemed to be.

"You're Moore, huh?" he greeted him. "Get yourself a cup of coffee and I'll be with you in a minute."

He gestured toward a coffee machine and turned his attention to a stack of papers on his crowded desk. The machine was next to a window overlooking the Navy Yard. As he drank the coffee, Moore watched with interest an enormous crane lift a five-inch cannon and its mount from a railroad flatcar onto the bow of a freighter.

He found the operation so absorbing that he was somewhat startled when the staff sergeant came up to him and spoke softly into his ear.

"You could have fooled me, Moore," he said. "Even with that haircut, you don't look like somebody who was a private three days ago."

Moore was surprised to see that the staff sergeant was smiling at him.

"Thank you," Moore said.

"I checked your papers out pretty carefully," the staff sergeant said. "Everything's shipshape. Shots. Overseas qualification. Next of kin. All that crap. Once you get paid, and after The Warning, all you have to do is get on the airplane at Newark airport on Friday morning."

" `The Warning'?" Moore asked.

"Yeah, The Warning," the staff sergeant said. "Come on."

He gestured with his hand for Moore to follow him. He stopped by the open, frosted glass door to a small office and tapped on the glass with his knuckles.

A captain looked up, then motioned them inside.

"Sergeant Moore, Sir, for The Warning."

"Sure," the captain said, and looked at Moore. "Sergeant, you have been alerted for overseas movement. It is my duty to make sure that you understand that any failure on your part to make that movement, by failing to report when and where your orders specify, is a more serious offense than simple absence without leave, can be construed as intention to desert or desertion, and that the penalties provided are greater. Do you understand where and when you are to report, and what I have just said to you?"

"Yes, Sir," Sergeant Moore replied.

"Where's he going?" the captain asked, curiously.

The staff sergeant handed the captain a sheaf of papers.

"Interesting," the captain said.

"Ain't it?" the staff sergeant agreed. "Look at the six-A priority."

"I'd love to know what you do for the Corps, Sergeant Moore," the captain said. "But I know better than to ask."

That's good, Moore thought wryly, because I have no idea what I'm supposed to do for the Corps.

The captain then surprised him further by standing up and offering Moore his hand.

"Good luck, Moore," he said.

Moore sensed that the good wishes were not merely sincere, but a deviation from a normal issuing of The Warning, which he now understood was some sort of standard routine.

"Thank you, Sir."

The staff sergeant handed the captain a stack of paper, and the captain wrote his signature on a sheet of it.

That's a record that I got The Warning, Moore decided.

The staff sergeant nudged Moore, and Moore followed him out of the office. They went to the Navy Finance Office where Moore was given a partial pay of one hundred dollars.

The staff sergeant then commandeered an empty desk and went through all the papers, dividing them into two stacks. Moore watched as one stack including, among other things, his service record, went into a stiff manila envelope. The sergeant sealed it twice: He first licked the gummed flap and then he put over that a strip of gummed paper.

He surprised Moore by then forging an officer's name on the gummed tape: "Sealed at MBPHILA 18June42 James D. Yesterburg, Capt USMC"

Yesterburg, Moore decided, was the captain who had given him The Warning and then wished him good luck.

"Normally, you don't get to carry your own records," the staff sergeant said, handing him the envelope. "But if you do, they have to be sealed. There's nothing in there you haven't seen, but I wouldn't open it, if I was you. Or unless you can get your hands on another piece of gummed tape." Moore chuckled.

"These are your orders," the staff sergeant said as he stuffed a quarter-inch-thick stack of mimeograph paper into another, ordinary, manila envelope. "And your tickets, railroad from here to Newark; bus from Newark station to the airport; the airplane tickets, Eastern to Saint Louis, Transcontinental and Western to Los Angeles; and a bus ticket in LA from the airport to the train station; and finally your ticket on the train-they call it "The Lark"-from LA to 'Diego. In 'Diego, there'll be an RTO office-that means Rail Transport Office-and they'll arrange for you to get where you should be. OK?" "Got it," Moore said.

"There's also Meal Vouchers," the staff sergeant said. "I'll tell you about them. You are supposed to be able to exchange them for a meal in restaurants. The thing is, most restaurants, except bad ones, don't want to be run over with servicemen eating cheap meals that they don't get paid for for a month, so they either don't honor these things, or they give you a cheese sandwich and a cup of coffee and call it dinner. So if I was you, I would save enough from that flying hundred they just gave you to eat whatever and wherever you want. Then in 'Diego, or Pearl Harbor, or when you get where you're going, you turn in the meal tickets and say you couldn't find anyplace that would honor them. They'll pay you. It's a buck thirty-five a day. Still with me?"

"Yeah, thanks for the tip."

"OK. Now finally, and this is important. You've got a six-A priority. The only way you can be legally beat out of your seat on the airplane is by somebody who also has a six-A priority and outranks you. Since they pass out very few six-As, that's not going to be a problem. If some colonel happens to do that to you, you get his name and telephone Outshipment in 'Diego, the number's on your orders, and tell them what happened, including the name of the officer who bumped you. In that case, no problem."

"I understand," Moore said.

"But what's liable to happen," the staff sergeant went on, "is that you're going to bump some captain or some major- or maybe even some colonel or important civilian-who doesn't have a six-A, and he's not going to like that worth a shit, and will try to pull rank on you. If you let that happen, your ass is in a crack. You understand?"

"What am I supposed to say to him?"

"You tell him to call Outshipment in 'Diego, and get their permission to bump you. Otherwise, 'with respect, Sir, I can't miss my plane.' Got it?"

"Yes, I think so."

"Somebody pretty high up in the Corps wants to get you where you're going in a hurry, Sergeant, otherwise you wouldn't have a six-A. And they are going to get very pissed off if you hand the six-A to somebody who didn't rate it on their own."

"OK," Moore said.

"Well, that's it," the staff sergeant said. "Good luck, Moore."

"Thank you," Moore said, shaking his hand.

"Oh, shit. I just remembered: You're entitled to a couple of bus and subway tokens. We'll have to go back by the office, but what the hell, why pay for a bus if you can get the Corps to pay, right?"

"I've got a car."

"Oh, shit! I knew there would be something!"

"Something wrong?"

"You want the Corps to store it for you, you'll be here all goddamned day."

"It's my father's car."

At breakfast, Moore had been surprised at his father's reaction to his mother's suggestion-"Dear, couldn't John use the Buick to drive down there?" He would never have bothered to ask for it himself, for the negative response would have been certain.

"I suppose," the Reverend Doctor Moore had said, after a moment's hesitation, "that would be the thing to do."

There was not even the ritual speech about driving slowly and carefully, which always preceded his-rare-sessions behind the wheel of his father's car. It was a 1940 Buick Limited, which had a new kind of transmission that eliminated the clutch pedal and little switches on the steering wheel that flashed the stop and parking lights in the direction you intended to turn. His father was ordinarily reluctant to entrust such a precision machine into the hands of his rash and reckless-as he considered it-son.

And yet, to his astonishment, his father hadn't even put up a ritual show of resistance.

As he put his mind to that, it occurred to Moore that this was not the first time his father had behaved oddly since he had come home from Parris Island. For instance, there had hardly been any questions about why he was going overseas now as a sergeant, rather than to Quantico for officer training.

His father was probably concerned that he was going to be killed in the Orient, Moore decided, and was going out of his way to be kind and obliging. But he sensed there was something else, too; he had no idea what.

"Jesus, you had me worried for a minute," the sergeant said, and then offered his hand again, and repeated, "Good luck, Moore."

Moore had not been able to get his father's car onto the base. It was parked just outside.

And he had to show his orders to the Marine Guard at the gate as he left. He remembered at the last moment that his orders now were the ones the staff sergeant had just given him, not the ones Tech Sergeant Rutterman had given him only a couple of days before.

He took them from the smaller manila envelope and handed them to the guard, who scanned them quickly.

"OK, Sergeant," he said. "If you have to go, that's the way."

Moore smiled at him, but didn't know what he meant. As he walked to the car, he read the orders for the first time.

Marine Barracks U.S. Naval Station Philadelphia, Penna

16. June 1942

Letter Orders:

To Sergeant John M. Moore, 673456, USMCR

1. You are detached this date from Headquarters Company, Marine Barracks, Phila. Pa.,

and assigned 14th Special Detachment, USMC,PPO 2454 3, San Francisco, Cal.

2. You will proceed by government and/or civilian rail, air and sea transportation via

USMC Barracks San Diego, Cal., and Pearl Harbor, T.H. Air Transportation is directed

where possible, with Priority AAAAAA authorized by TWX Hq USMC dated 15 June 1942,

Subject: "Movement of Moore, Sgt John M. " to final destination.

3. USMC Barracks San Diego, Cal., and Pearl Harbor, T. H., and all other Naval facilities

are directed to report via most expeditious means to Hq USMC ATTN: GHV3:12 the date and

time of your arrival and departure while enroute. Once travel commences, any delay in

movement which will exceed 12 (twelve ) hours will be reported to Hq USMC ATTN: GHV3 :13

by URGENT radio message.

By Direction:

Jasper J. Malone

Lieut. Colonel, USMC

He realized that he knew nothing more now than he had been told by Captain Sessions at Parris Island. He didn't know what Special Detachment 14 was; where it was; or what he would be doing there when he got there. The only thing he knew for sure was that the Corps was going to a hell of a lot of trouble to get him there as quickly as possible.

It was disturbing.

Disturbing, shit! Its frightening.

He looked at his watch. It was quarter to four. All of his business at the Marine Barracks had taken far less time than he had expected, and planned for. It would take him ten minutes to drive down Broad Street to the Union League, where he was to meet Uncle Bill for dinner. That meant he would arrive two hours and five minutes early.

And two hours and five minutes was not enough time to find a movie and watch through the whole thing. It was enough time to take the car home and ride back downtown on the train. That would make the car available to his father when he returned from the Missions office.

Alternatively, he could make profitable use of the time... the Reverend Moore believed that profitable use of one's time was a virtue and thus the waste of one's time was a non-virtue, and consequently sinful... by making a farewell visit to the Franklin Institute or the Philadelphia Museum of Fine Art.

Or he could go to the Trocadero Burlesque Theater, which was within walking distance of the Union League Club. There, while munching caramel-covered popcorn, he could watch an Easy Woman take her clothing off... perhaps as many as four Easy Women in the nearly two hours he had. That was about as close as he was going to get to a naked woman in the foreseeable future.

It was also possible-unlikely, but possible-that he might encounter a real Easy Woman in the Tenderloin, as the area was known... a woman in a short skirt and tight sweater who would leer at him and entice him to a cheap hotel as her contribution to the war effort.

He parked the Buick behind the First Philadelphia Trust Company and walked down 12th Street to the Trocadero. He encountered no real Easy Women on the street, and the Easy Women on the stage seemed not only a little long in the but bored as well. One of them actually blew a chewing gum bubble as she moved around on the stage.

And the Easy Women did not appear one after the other. Their performances were separated by comedians and intermissions, during which the audience was offered special deals on wristwatches, fountain pen and pencil sets, and illustrated books portraying life in Wicked Paris-offered today only, by special arrangement to Trocadero Theater patrons.

An hour after he went into the Trocadero, he got up and walked out. He walked back to Market Street and then up toward Broad Street. Just as he came to John Wanamaker's Department Store he saw the incredibly beautiful older woman from the train.

She walked purposefully out of Wanamaker's and turned toward Broad Street. She glanced at him but he felt sure she made no connection with the train.

Why should she? My God, she's beautiful!

I'm not following her. She's going in the same direction I am.

He almost caught up with her as she waited for the traffic light on Broad Street, but he slowed his pace so that he was still behind her when the light changed. He was sure she hadn't noticed him.

She turned left, and he followed her, for that was his direction too. He was going to meet Uncle Bill at the Union League Club for dinner.

I wonder what the hell that's all about?

She walked past the Union League, moving in long graceful strides, her smooth flowing musculature exquisitely evident under her straight skirt. Quickly consulting his watch, Sergeant John Marston Moore decided there was no reason he could not walk for a couple of minutes down South Broad before returning to the Union League to meet his Uncle Bill.

She came to the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. The doorman spun the revolving door for her, and twenty seconds later for Sergeant John Marston Moore.

She crossed the lobby and went into the cocktail lounge. Sergeant John Marston Moore visited the Gentlemen's Room, relieved his bladder, and then washed his hands. He examined his reflection in the mirror over the marble wash basin.

Just what the fuck do you think you're doing?

He went into the cocktail lounge and took a seat at the bar.

"What can we get the Marine Corps?"

"Rye and ginger," he said, sweeping the room in the mirror behind the bar.

She was at a small table away from the lobby, near a door that led directly to the street. A waiter was delivering something in a stemmed glass. She took a cigarette from her purse, lit it with a silver lighter, and exhaled through her nose.

Like Bette Davis. Except that compared to her, Bette Davis looks like one of those cows in the Trocadero.

"Seventy-five cents, Sir."

He laid a five-dollar bill on the bar. When the waiter brought the change, he pushed the quarter away and put the singles in his pocket. When he found the beautiful older woman in the mirror again, she was looking at him, via the mirror.

And she was smiling.

In amusement, he thought, not in encouragement, or enticement.

He found his pack of Chesterfields and lit one with his Marine insignia decorated Zippo, pretending to be in deep thought. He was unable to keep his eyes away from the mirror. Sometimes he got a profile of her face. Twice his eyes were drawn to her legs; they were crossed beneath the table, ladylike, but they still offered a forbidden glance under her skirt.

You are not only about to make a flaming ass of yourself, but you are going to embarrass that nice woman.

He drained his rye and ginger ale.

I will leave by the side door, so that she can't help but see me leave and will understand that I am leaving, and not making eyes at her, or anything like that.

He determinedly kept from looking at her as he walked to the side door. As he reached the door, a half dozen people started to come into the bar from the street. He had to stop and wait for them. He glanced at her. She was no more than five feet away.

She was looking up at him. She smiled.

"The Club Car, right?" she asked. "You don't read very much, right?"

"I just came in for a drink," he blurted.

"I thought it was something like that," she said.

Christ, she knows I followed her in here!

"I have to meet someone for dinner," Moore said. "Just killing a little time."

"So do I, unfortunately," she said, more than a little bitterly. "Have to meet someone for dinner, I mean."

She ground her cigarette out in the ash tray and then looked up at him. Their eyes locked for a moment, and John felt a constriction in his stomach.

She broke eye contact, fished in her purse, and came up with another cigarette.

She just put one out. What is she so nervous about?

He held his Zippo out to her. She steadied his hand with the balls of her fingers. It was an absolutely innocent gesture, yet it gave him immediate indication that he was about to have an erection.

She raised her eyes to his again.

"Well, nice to see you again," she said.

There was nothing to do now but leave.

"I'll remember it a long time," he heard himself say.

She laughed softly, deeply.

"Oddly enough," she said. "I think I will, too."

As if with a mind of its own, his hand went out.

She caught it, as a man would, and shook it. But of course she wasn't a man, and the warm softness of her hand made his heart jump.

"Good-bye," she said as she took her hand away. "And good luck."

He didn't trust his voice to speak. He nodded at her, and then went through the door onto the street.

I'm in love.

No, you 're not, asshole. All it is is that you 're not getting saltpeter in your chow anymore.

For Christ's sake, she's thirty, you never saw her before the train, and you'll never see her again.

You are an asshole, Sergeant Moore. There is absolutely no doubt of that.

He walked up to Broad Street and turned north, back to the Union League Club.

What did she mean "unfortunately" she had to have dinner with someone? Was she suggesting that she would rather have dinner with me?

Back to Conclusion One, Sergeant Asshole, you 're an asshole.

"May I help you, Sir?" the porter asked, barring his access to the Union League.

"I'm meeting Mr. Marston," John said. "William Marston."

"Mr. Marston is in the bar, Sir," the porter said, pointing.

William Dawson Marston IV, forty-six, a tall and angular man in a nicely tailored glen plaid suit, was sitting in a leather upholstered captain's chair by a small table, his long legs stretched straight in front of him and crossed near his ankles.

He smiled and waved when he saw his nephew, then made a half gesture to get up.

"Sit you down, Johnny my boy, and have a drink."

"Hello, Uncle Bill."

"Christ, you even look like a Marine," Marston said.

"Thank you."

"What will you have to drink?"

"Rye and ginger."

"Ginger ale will give you a hangover," Marston said. "I'm surprised you haven't learned that yet. Or are you that impossible contradiction, a teetotal Marine?"

"What would you suggest?" John asked.

A waiter had appeared.

"Bring us two of these, will you please, Charley?" Marston said.

"What is it?" John asked.

"Scotch and water. Very good scotch, and thus with very little water. They call it 'Famous Grouse.' "

That will not be Uncle Bill's second drink. More likely his fifth or sixth.

"I have been here some time," Marston said, as if he had read Moore's mind. "Absorbing some liquid courage. That would annoy your father, but if you report on our conversation, you may feel free to tell him that yes indeed, Uncle Bill was at the bottle."

"Why should I report on our conversation?"

"When you learn the topic, you will understand," Marston said.

He looked around impatiently for the waiter, then turned back to John.

"When are you leaving, John?"

"Thursday."

"Where are you going? Did they tell you?"

"Not specifically. Somewhere in the Pacific, obviously. From here to San Diego, and then to Hawaii."

The waiter appeared. Marston picked up his glass immediately and took a swallow.

"Not surprisingly, when I spoke with him, your father was rather vague about your status," he said. "How is it you're not an officer?"

"I can't talk about that," John said.

"You in some sort of trouble?"

"No. I've been led to believe the commission will come along later."

John sipped his scotch. He would have preferred rye and ginger ale.

But he's probably right about the ginger ale giving me a hangover.

"Getting right to the point," Marston said. "There are those, including your father, who would hold that this is absolutely none of my business, but I have chosen to make it my business: Has your father discussed your trust fund, funds, with you?"

"No," John replied, and then asked, "Is there any reason he should have?"

"That sonofabitch," Marston said, bitterly.

"Excuse me?"

"I shouldn't have said that," Marston said. "I beg your pardon. I really hope you can forget I said that."

"What about my trust fund?"

"Funds, plural. Three of them. Together, two comma trust funds."

"Two comma?"

"Think about it."

What the hell does "two comma" mean? Then he understood. When figures in excess of $999,999.00 are used, for example, $1,500,000.00, there are two commas.

"What about my trust funds?"

"There are three," William Dawson Marston said. "The first is payable on your achieving your majority-how long have you been twenty-one, Johnny?"

"I'm twenty-two," John said.

"Then you should have had the first one turned over to you. You say that hasn't happened?"

"No. I don't know what you're talking about."

"The second is payable on your marriage, or your twenty-fifth birthday, whichever comes first. And the third on your thirtieth birthday, or the birth of your first issue, whichever comes first. Your father hasn't mentioned any of this to you? Even in his marvelously opaque way?"

"No."

"Then I'm very glad that I decided to butt in," Marston said.

"I don't understand you," John said.

"I need another drink," Marston said. "You ready?"

John looked at his glass. It was three quarters full.

"No, thank you," he said, and then changed his mind. "Yes, please, I think I will."

Marston held his glass over his head and snapped his fingers loudly until he had the waiter's attention.

Father often says that Uncle Bill is crude on occasion.

John took a deep swallow of his drink.

"I love my sister," Marston said seriously, and then unnecessarily adding the explanation, "your mother. I really do. But she has a room temperature IQ, and when your father and/or the Bible are concerned, she is totally incompetent to make decisions on her own."

I wonder why I have not leapt loyally, and angrily, to Mother's defense?

"If she has ever raised with your father the question I just raised-and I will give her the benefit of the doubt on that subject-your father doubtless explained that you're only a child, and not nearly as well equipped to handle your financial affairs as he is. And she was surely reassured by those words."

"Why are you bringing this up?" John asked.

"You may have noticed over the years that I am not among your father's legion of admirers," Marston said.

"No, Sir, I never thought anything like that."

"To put a point on it, I can't stand the sonofabitch," Marston said, and then quickly added, "Hell, there I go again. Sorry."

"I think I better get out of here," John thought out loud.

"Keep your seat!" Marston said, so loudly that heads turned. "I have started this, and I will finish it."

"I don't like the way you're talking about my parents."

"I'm talking about your money. Two comma money."

"I don't understand," Moore said.

"That's the root of the problem," Marston said. "I presume that you have considered the possibility-God forbid, as they say-that you won't come back from the war alive?"

"Yes, of course."

"And I presume that the Marine Corps encouraged you to prepare a will?"

"Yes."

"And I will bet you a doughnut to a bottle of scotch that you left all your worldly possessions to your parents, yes?"

"Something wrong with that?" John asked, a little nastily.

"Nothing at all, so long as you know what you're doing," Marston said. "But at the time you signed your will, you thought that your worldly possessions consisted of your civilian clothing and your ten thousand dollars worth of government life insurance, no?"

"Yes," John agreed.

"You now know that your estate will be somewhat larger than you thought it would amount to. I want to make sure that you understand you can dispose of your estate in any manner you see fit. You can for example leave all or part of it to your sisters. Or to your rowing club. Or the Salvation Army. Even-God forbid-to Missions."

"Jesus Christ!" John said.

"Him, too, I suppose. But you would have to route that through some churchly body, I think."

John looked at his uncle. Their eyes met. They smiled.

"I'm sure I don't have to say this, but I will. I don't want any part of it," Marston went on. "I want you to come home from this goddamned war and spend it yourself. Preferably on fast women and good whiskey. At least for a while. I..."

He reached over and snatched up John's Zippo. He ran his fingers over the Marine Corps insignia.

"This is all I want in way of remembrance, Johnny. May I have it?" Marston's voice broke, and John's eyes teared. "I'll give it back when you come home."

"Of course," he said, and his voice broke.

There was a full minute's silence as they composed themselves. John broke it: "What should I do? About the trust funds?"

"Change your will as soon as you can," Marston said. "If you're curious about the numbers... hell, in any case, go to the Trust Department of the First Philadelphia and ask for Carlton Schuyler..."

He interrupted himself to take a card and write the name on it.

"Schuyler's a good sort, and he's probably already a little nervous that your father's 'handling' your affairs for you. If I know it's not legal, he damned well does too. Anyway, Schuyler will have the numbers and can answer all your questions."

Moore nodded, and then asked: "When I have all this information, what should I do with it?"

"You're asking my advice?" Marston asked. "You sure you want to do that?"

"Yes."

"OK. Have Schuyler set up another trust for you, using the assets of the trust fund that should have been turned over to you. Let the bank manage your assets while you're away. I've asked about this. It's a common practice for people in the service. Put all of it, save, say, a thousand dollars, in the trust."

"I don't quite understand," Moore confessed. "What would the difference be? I mean, it's already in a trust..."

"Your father has access to it the way it is now. This way he couldn't touch it."

It was a long moment before Moore replied, "I see."

His uncle nodded.

"And why everything but a thousand dollars?" Moore asked.

"Good whiskey and wild women, Johnny, are expensive. Have a good time before you go over there."

"Christ!"

"I didn't exactly have Him in mind," Marston said. "I was thinking more of the long-legged blondes you might bump into. Pity you're not going through San Francisco. The long-legged blondes around the bar at the Andrew Foster Hotel are stunning."

Like that woman, that stunning woman, in the bar at the Bellevue-Stratford?

"OK," John said. "I'll do it first thing in the morning."

"Then I accomplished what I set out to do," Marston said.

"Thank you," John said.

"You mean that, Johnny? Or was I putting my nose in where it had no business?"

"I mean it," John said. "But what I don't understand is why? I mean, why did my father do what he did? Why is he always doing something like that?"

"In this case, it's pretty obvious. Neither his mother or your grandfather left him or your mother very much in their wills. They left everything in trust to the grandchildren. I won't say-though I have a damned good idea-why they chose to do that, but they did."

"Tell me what you think."

"They didn't particularly like him, obviously, and they knew that leaving the money to your mother would be the same thing as leaving it to him. Ten minutes after she got it, he would have talked her out of it."

"Oh."

"In his mind, he was right about not bothering you with the details of your inheritance. He was protecting you. He's been that way as long as I've known him. He really never questions the morality of anything he does. He thinks I like to buy his goddamned first class cabins on the Pacific Princess, and pay his tailor bills, for example. But I shouldn't have called him a sonofabitch, even if he is a sonofabitch, and I'm sorry."

John chuckled.

Marston smiled at him.

"Finish your drink, and we'll have dinner. I'm not sure I'll be able to find the dining room as it is."

William Dawson Marston IV found the dining room without trouble, and he got through the cherrystone clams and half his steak; but then, without warning, he lowered his chin to his chest, dropped his wine glass, and went to sleep.

John was alarmed, but quickly learned that the Union League was prepared for such eventualities. The maitre d'hotel and an enormous chef quickly appeared, hoisted Marston to his feet, and carried him out of the dining room.

"We'll just put Mr. Marston up overnight, until he feels better," the waiter said softly in John's ear.

John was back across Broad Street and almost to the First Philadelphia Trust Company parking lot before he realized that the last thing he wanted to do now was get in the car and go home, where he would probably have to face his father.

If I go back to the bar in the Bellevue-Stratford, maybe she'll be there.

There you go again, Sergeant Asshole For one thing, she won't be there, and for another, what do you think you would do if she was?

He went back to the bar in the Bellevue-Stratford and she was not there.

Well, asshole, what did you expect?

He took the same seat at the bar he had before.

"Scotch," John said. "Famous Grouse, if you have it. With a little water."

He laid money on the bar, but when the bartender delivered the drink, he said, "It's on the gentleman at the end of the bar."

John, uncomfortable, looked down the bar. A middle-aged, silver-haired stout Irishman waved friendlily at him.

Well, he doesn't look like a pervert.

He waved his thanks.

"I wondered if you would come back in here," the beautiful older woman said, behind him.

"Jesus!"

"How was your dinner?"

"The food wasn't bad," John said.

"But the rest was awful?" she asked. "Mine, too."

"Can I get you a drink?"

"Yes, please," she said. "But I insist on paying."

"I can pay," he said. "I want to."

"I think I have a little more money than a Marine Sergeant," she said.

"Don't be too sure," he said. "You weren't at my dinner."

"It was a money dinner? Have you noticed that talking about money at dinner ruins the taste of the food?"

He laughed.

"Yes," he said. "Is that the voice of experience?"

"Yes," she said. "Unfortunately. Over a Bookbinder's lobster, my soon-to-be ex-husband and I fought politely over the division of property."

"I'm sorry," John said.

"Yes, Miss?" the bartender asked.

"What are you drinking?" she asked John.

"Famous Grouse," he said.

"Fine," she said to the bartender. She turned to John. "Why is it that now that I see you again I don't think you're a lonely marine, far from home and loved ones?"

"I'm from here," he said. "That may have something to do with it. And I just had dinner with my uncle."

She chuckled. "You are also far more articulate than you were on the train," she said. "What was with you on the train?"

"I thought you had caught me staring at you," he said.

"I had," she said. "Why were you?"

"Because you're the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"I can't believe that," she said.

"Why did you come back in here?" John asked.

"Ooooh," she said, and then looked at him. "Right to the bone, right? OK. I thought maybe you would be in here."

"I am."

"Did you come in here to pick up a girl?"

"I came in because I didn't want to go home and face my father," John said evenly.

"You did something wrong?"

"He did."

"That's the money you were talking about?"

He nodded.

"And because I had the crazy idea you might be here."

"I am," she said.

"I think maybe I'm dreaming and will wake up any second," John said.

"It's like a dream for me too," she said. "A bad dream. I had the odd notion that when I met my husband, that we could... patch things up. But what he wanted was the Spode... his beloved saw the Spode and wanted it... You know what I mean by Spode?"

"China."

"... and the monogrammed silver. I mean, after all, it would have no meaning for me anymore, would it? I'll certainly remarry in time, won't I?"

"I'm sorry," John said.

"And then here I am, in a bar, more than a little drunk, with a Marine. A boy Marine. Bad dream."

"I'm not a boy," John said, hurt.

"Yes, you are," she said, laughing.

"Well, fuck you!"

There you go, asshole. You fucked it up. Why the fucking hell did you say that?

"Sorry," he said, in anguish.

She opened her purse and he thought she was looking for a cigarette and remembered that Uncle Bill had taken his Zippo so he couldn't light it for her.

But her hand came out of the purse with a five-dollar bill. She dropped it on the bar and stood up.

Now she's going to walk out of here, and I will never see her again.

She looked into his face.

"Come on," she said. "Let's get out of here."

She walked to the side door; and in a moment he followed her. She waited for him to open the door for her, and walked out. Then she put her hand on his arm.

"As long as we both understand this is insane..." she said.

"Where are we going?"

"Rittenhouse Square," she said. "We-I-have an apartment there."

There was a hand on Sergeant John Marston Moore's shoulder and a voice calling gently, "Hey!"

He opened his eyes. He was lying belly down on a bed, his arm and head hanging over the edge. He could see a dark red carpet and a naked foot, obviously a female foot. This observation was immediately confirmed when he saw that the leg attached to the foot disappeared under a pale blue robe.

He remembered where he was, and what had happened, and rolled over onto his back.

She was standing there, holding a cup of coffee out to him.

I don't even know her name!

"Hi!" she said.

"Hi," he replied, looking into her eyes. "What's that?"

"Coffee," she said.

"Coffee?"

"You said you had your father's car. I don't want you driving drunk."

"You're throwing me out?"

"I'm sending you home."

"Why?"

"Didn't we both get what we were looking for?"

"We gave each other what the other needed would be a nicer way to put it."

"All right," she said. "Yes, we did. I hope I did. I know you did. But now it's time to come back to the real world."

"And for me to go home."

"Right."

"I don't want to go home. I want to stay here with you, forever."

"That's obviously out of the question."

He sat up. She tried to hand him the cup and saucer. He avoided it.

She touched the top of his head.

"You are really very sweet," she said.

He tilted his head back to look up at her. She smiled.

He reached up for the cord of her robe.

"Don't do that."

He ignored her.

The robe fell open when he pulled the cord free.

He put his arms around her and his face against her belly.

He heard her take in her breath, and her hand dropped to the small of his neck.

"Oh God!" she said.

Her navel was next to his mouth and he kissed it.

"I'm going to spill the coffee."

"Put the coffee on the floor and take the robe off."

"And if I do, then will you go?"

"No."

She dropped to her knees and put the cup and saucer on the floor, shrugged out of the robe, and then turned her face to him and kissed him.

"Oh, Baby, what am I going to do with you?"

"I don't know about that," he said. "But I know what I'm going to do to you."

He put his hands on her shoulders and moved her onto the bed and looked down at her.

"God, you're so beautiful!" he said.

"So are you," she said.

And then he surprised her very much by pushing himself off the bed. She raised her head to look at him. He walked to the other side of the bed and sat down and reached for her telephone.

"Father," he said into it. "Uncle Bill and I have had a long talk and a lot to drink, and I think it would be best if I stayed over with him at the Union League, rather than driving."

There was a pause, and then Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, said: "You're going to have to understand, Father, that I'm no longer a child. I can drink whatever and whenever I wish."

There was another pause.

"There's something else, Father. My orders have been changed. I have to leave tomorrow afternoon. When Mother's awake, please tell her that I'll be out there sometime before noon to pack. I have to see Mr. Schuyler at First Philadelphia, first."

One final pause.

"I think you know why I have to see Mr. Schuyler, Father," John said.

A moment later, he took the receiver from his ear and looked at it.

It was clear to Barbara Ward (Mrs. Howard P.) Hawthorne, Jr., that John's father had hung up on him. There was pain in his eyes when he turned from putting the receiver in its cradle and looked at her.

"Oh, Baby," she said. "Whatever that was, I'm sorry."

"Do you think you could manage to call me 'Darling,' or 'Sweetheart,' or something besides 'Baby'?... I'll even settle happily for 'John.'"

She held her arms open.

"Come to me, my darling," she said.

He didn't move.

"I thought you wanted me to leave."

She put her arms down and pulled the sheet up and held it over her breast.

She found his eyes and looked into them and said, "I want what's best for you."

"You're what's best for me."

"You really have to leave tomorrow? Which is really, now, today?"

"No. Thursday."

"Then why... ?"

"I want to be with you until I go."

She took her eyes from his and lowered her head and fought the tears. Then she raised her eyes to his again and opened her arms again and said, "Come to me, John, my darling, my sweetheart."

And this time he went to her.

Chapter Six

(One)

HEADQUARTERS

MARINE AIR GROUP TWENTY-ONE (MAG-21)

EWA, OAHU ISLAND, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1325 HOURS 19 JUNE 1942

Lieutenant Colonel Clyde G. Dawkins, USMC, Commanding MAG-21, was a tall, thin, sharp-featured man who wore his light brown hair so closely cropped that the tanned and sun-freckled flesh of his scalp was visible.

He was wearing a stiffly starched khaki shirt with a field scarf tied in a tiny knot. A gold collar clasp held the collar points together and the knot in the field scarf erect. He had heard somewhere that the collar clasp was now frowned upon; but that brought the same reaction from him as the suggestion from Pearl Harbor that since Navy Naval Aviators were now discouraged from wearing their fur-collared leather flight jackets when not actually engaged in flying activities, it behooved him to similarly discourage Marine Naval Aviators from wearing their flight jackets when not actually on the flight line: He said nothing; thought, Fuck You; and wore both a collar clasp and his leather flight jacket almost all the time, fully aware that if he did so, the Marine Naval Aviators of MAG-21 would presume it was not only permissible but encouraged.

He was not at all a rebel by nature. He did not relish defying higher authority, even when he knew he could get away with it. But he was a practical man, and the wearing of flight jackets by aviators seemed far more practical and convenient than forcing his officers to waste time taking off and putting on their uniform tunics half a dozen times a day. And the gold collar clasp, in his judgment, struck him as a splendid means to keep an officer's collar points where they belonged, even if some people in The Corps thought of it as "civilian-type jewelry." An officer with one of his collar points in a horizontal attitude looked far more slovenly than one with his collar points fixed in the proper attitude with a barely visible piece of "civilian jewelry."

The officer standing somewhat uncomfortably before Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins's desk had performed well in the Battle of Midway. His name was Captain Thomas J. Wood. He was young and newly promoted; he was wearing a fur-collared flight jacket and a collar clasp; and he was standing with his hands clasped together behind him in the small of his back.

But there was something about him-an impetuosity, an indecisiveness-that Dawkins did not like. Dawkins believed that a good officer made decisions slowly, and then stuck by them.

"It's time to fish or cut bait, Tom," Dawkins said, not unkindly.

"Uh... Sir, I decline to press charges."

"So be it," Dawkins said.

"Sir, I saw what I saw, but I can't..."

"That will be all, Captain," Dawkins said. There was now a hint of ice in his voice. "You are dismissed."

The captain came to attention.

"Yes, Sir," he said. He did an about-face and started to march out of the room.

"Ask Major Lorenz to come in, please," Dawkins called to him.

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Major Karl J. Lorenz, who was the Executive Officer of MAG-21, walked into the office. Lorenz looked, Dawkins often thought, like a recruiting poster for the Waffen-SS-in other words like an Aryan of impeccable Nordic-Teutonic heritage, blond-haired, blue-eyed, fair-skinned, and lithely muscular.

"You wanted me, Skipper?" he asked.

"Close the door, please," Dawkins said.

Lorenz did so.

"After some thought," Dawkins said, "he declined to press charges."

"Huh," Lorenz said thoughtfully. "Probably a good thing, Sir. It would have been hard to make those charges stick."

"Not a good thing, Karl," Dawkins said.

"You think we should have tried him?" Lorenz asked, surprised.

"I think before young Captain Wood started running off at the mouth, he should have made up his mind whether or not he was prepared to carry an accusation of cowardice through."

"Oh," Lorenz replied. "Yes, Sir, I see what you mean."

"He doesn't really know any more than I do-and I wasn't there-if Dunn ran away from that fight or not. Cowardice in the face of the enemy... that's the worst accusation that can be made."

"I presume you told Wood that?"

"No. I didn't want to influence his decision, one way or the other."

"Can I ask what you think?"

"I already told you, I don't think Wood-really knows. Or, if you were asking, do I think Dunn ran?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I think we're going to have to give him the benefit of the doubt. He says he doesn't remember when, or under what conditions, he broke off the engagement. I don't think he does. He lost his windscreen and he was wounded. The question is, when did that happen? Before or after he started back to Midway? He didn't run before the fight. He got a Kate. There's no question about that. And then he got a Zero. Again, confirmed beyond any question. And then the next time he's seen, he's on his way back to Midway. Close enough to be recognized beyond any doubt, but too far away for anyone to be able to state with certainty that he had, or had not, already lost his windshield."

"I realize, Sir, I haven't been asked, but in those circumstances I would be prone to give him the benefit of the doubt."

"Ascribing Wood's charges to post-combat hysteria?"

"Something like that, Sir."

"Unfortunately, although he elected not to pursue them, Wood's charges are going to be remembered by a lot of people for a long time-made worse in the retelling, of course."

"What are you going to do with Dunn, Sir?" Lorenz said, after a moment.

"You and I are about to visit Lieutenant Dunn in the hospital; there I will express my pleasure that he will be discharged tomorrow, present him with his Purple Heart Medal, and inform him that he is now assigned to VMF-229. I think he will understand why it would be awkward for him to return to VMF-211. I hope he doesn't ask me for an explanation."

"Two-twenty-nine, Sir?" Lorenz asked, surprised.

Dawkins nodded. 'Two-twenty-nine."

"Sir, we haven't activated VMF-229 yet."

"It is activated," Dawkins said and paused to look at his watch, "as of 1300 hours today. Its personnel consists of one officer, absent in hospital, and one officer, en route, not yet joined. See that the order is typed up."

"Who did you decide to give it to, Sir?"

"A good Marine officer, Major," Dawkins said, "is always willing to carefully consider the recommendations of his superiors."

"Sir?"

Dawkins chuckled, opened a desk drawer, and handed Lorenz a sheet of yellow teletype paper.

ROUTINE

CONFIDENTIAL

HQ USMC WASH DC 1445 14JUNE42

COMMANDING OFFICER

MAG-21 EWA TH

CAPTAIN CHARLES M. GALLOWAY, USMCR, HAVING REPORTED UPON ACTIVE DUTY, HAS BEEN ORDERED TO PROCEED BY AIR TO EWA FOR DUTY AS COMMANDING OFFICER VMF-229. WHILE THIS ASSIGNMENT HAS THE CONCURRENCE OF THE COMMANDANT AND THE UNDERSIGNED YOU ARE OF COURSE AT LIBERTY TO ASSIGN THIS OFFICER TO ANY DUTIES YOU WISH. D.G. MCINERNEY BRIG GEN USMC

"I will be goddamned," Lorenz said.

"I thought you might find that surprising," Dawkins said.

"The last time I saw Charley, I thought they were going to crucify him," Lorenz said. "And I mean, literally. What the hell does that 'concurrence of the Commandant' mean?"

"I think it means that Doc Mclnerney went right to the Commandant. They had Charley flying a VIP R4D around out of Quantico." The R4D was the Navy designation of the twin-engine Douglas transport aircraft called DC-3 by the manufacturer and C-47 by the Army Air Corps. "What I think is that Mclnerney went to the Commandant and told him how desperate we are for people with more than two hundred hours in a cockpit. As furious as the Navy was with him, nobody but the Commandant would dare to commission him."

"The last I heard, they wouldn't let him fly-hell, even taxi-anything. He was still a sergeant, and they had him working as a mechanic on the flight line at Quantico. But this sort of restores my faith in the Marine Corps," Lorenz said.

" 'Restores' your faith, Major?" Dawkins asked wryly. "That suggests it was lost."

"Well, let's say, the way the brass let the Navy crap all over Charley, that it wavered a little."

"Oh ye of little faith!" Dawkins mocked, gently.

"When's he due in?"

Dawkins shrugged helplessly. "The TWX didn't say," he said. "And knowing Charley as well as I do, that means one of two things: He will either rush over here as fast as humanly possible, or else he will still be trying to find a slow ship the day the war's over."

Lorenz laughed.

Dawkins stood up.

"Let's go pin the Purple Heart on Lieutenant Dunn," he said.

(Two)

U.S. NAVAL HOSPITAL

PEARL HARBOR, OAHU ISLAND, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1505 HOURS 19 JUNE 1942

When Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins pushed open the door to his room, First Lieutenant William C. Dunn was lying on his back on the bed; his bathrobe was open and his legs were spread; and he was not wearing pajama pants. Dunn was obviously not expecting visitors.

What Dawkins could see, among other things, were several bandages in the vicinity of Dunn's crotch. One of these was large, but most were not much more than Band-Aids. He could also see a half-dozen unbandaged wounds, their sutures visible, on his inner upper thighs. The whole area had been shaved and then painted with some kind of orange antiseptic.

He was almost a soprano, Dawkins thought. Whatever had come through the canopy of Dunn's Wildcat had come within inches of blowing away the family jewels. From the number of fragments, it was probably a 20mm, which exploded on contact.

Soon after the door opened, Dunn covered his midsection with the flap of his hospital issue bathrobe; and then when he saw the silver leaf on Dawkins's collar, he started to swing his legs to get out of bed.

"Stay where you are, Son," Dawkins said quickly, but too late. Dunn was already on his feet, standing at attention.

"Well, then, stand at ease," Dawkins said. "Does all that hurt very much?"

"Only when I get a hard-on, Sir," Dunn blurted, and quickly added, "Sorry, Sir. I shouldn't have said that."

"If I had been dinged in that area, and it still worked," Dawkins said, "I think I would be delighted."

"Yes, Sir," Dunn said.

"Do you know who I am, Son?"

"Yes, Sir. You gave us a little talk when we reported aboard."

"And this is my exec, Major Lorenz," Dawkins said.

Lorenz gave his hand to Dunn.

"How are you, Lieutenant?"

"Very well, thank you, Sir."

"Why don't you let me pin this thing on you," Dawkins said. "And then you get back in bed."

He took the Purple Heart Medal from a hinged metal box, pinned it to the lapel of Dunn's bathrobe, and then shook his hand.

"Thank you, Sir."

"That's the oldest medal, did you know that?" Dawkins said. "Goes back to the Revolution. Washington issued an order that anyone who had been wounded could wear a purple ribbon-and in those days that meant a real ribbon-on his uniform."

"I didn't know that, Sir," Dunn admitted.

"You have literally shed blood for your country," Dawkins said. "You can wear that with pride."

Dunn didn't reply.

"Why don't you get back in bed?"

"I'm all right, Sir. And they have been encouraging me to move around."

"They tell me you're being discharged tomorrow," Dawkins said.

"I was about to tell you that, Sir, and ask you what's next."

"You've been assigned to VMF-229," Dawkins said.

"Pending court-martial, Sir?"

"No charges have been, or will be, pressed against you, Dunn," Dawkins said.

"But they don't want me back in the squadron, right, Sir?"

"I ordered your transfer to VMF-229," Dawkins said. "The commanding officer of VMF-211 had nothing to do with that decision."

"Yes, Sir," Dunn said, on the edge of insolence, making it clear he did not believe that answer.

Dawkins felt anger swell up in him, but suppressed it.

"VMF-229 is a new squadron. It was activated today. Right now, you are half of its total strength. The commanding officer is en route from the States. I assigned you there because I wanted someone with your experience..."

"My Midway experience, Sir?" Dunn asked, just over the edge into sarcasm.

"When I want a question, Son," Dawkins said icily, "I will ask for one."

"Yes, Sir."

"You will be the only pilot in the squadron who has even seen a Japanese airplane, much less shot two of them down," Dawkins said. "I want the newcomers to look at you and see you're very much like they are. To take some of the pressure off, if you follow my meaning. Additionally, perhaps you will be able to teach them something, based on your experience."

"Yes, Sir."

"I'm personally acquainted with your new commanding officer, Captain Charley Galloway," Dawkins went on. "I will tell him what I know about you, and the gossip. And I will tell him that I personally feel you did everything you were supposed to do at Midway, and then, suffering wounds, managed to get your shot-up aircraft back to the field."

Dunn for the first time met Dawkins's eyes.

"Now, you may ask any questions you may have," Dawkins said.

"Thank you, Sir," Dunn said after a moment. "No questions, Sir."

"Unsolicited advice is seldom welcome, Dunn, but nevertheless: Do what you can to ignore the gossip. Eventually, it will die down. You now have that clean slate everyone's always talking about, new squadron, new skipper. If I were Captain Galloway, I'd be damned glad to be getting someone like you."

"Colonel, I really don't remember a goddamned thing about how I got back to the field," Dunn said.

I believe him.

"The important thing is that you got back," Dawkins said.

"Sir, where is VMF-229?"

"Right now, it's on a sheet of paper in Major Lorenz's OUT basket," Dawkins said. "When you get out of here, check into the BOQ. When Captain Galloway gets here, or something else happens, we'll send for you. Take some time off. I was about to say, go swimming, but that's probably not such a hot idea, is it?"

"No, Sir," Dunn said.

For the first time, Dawkins noticed, Dunn is smiling. I think it just sank in that he's not going to be court-martialed, and maybe even that someone doesn't think he's a coward.

"Check in with the adjutant, or the sergeant major, once a day," Dawkins said.

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Dawkins put out his hand.

"Congratulations, Lieutenant, on your decoration," he said. "And good luck in your new assignment."

"Thank you, Sir."

Major Lorenz offered his hand.

"If you need anything, Dunn, come see me, or give me a call. And congratulations, too, and good luck."

"Thank you, Sir," Dunn repeated.

(Three)

U.S. NAVAL HOSPITAL

PEARL HARBOR, HAWAII, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1535 HOURS 19 JUNE 1942

Lieutenant Colonel Dawkins and Major Lorenz left the room, closing the door after them. Dunn lowered his head to look at his Purple Heart Medal-he had seen the ribbon before, but not the actual medal-then unpinned it and held it in his hand and looked at it again. It was in the shape of a heart and bore a profile of George Washington.

He picked up the box it had come in and saw that it contained both the ribbon and a metal pin in the shape of the ribbon, obviously intended to be worn in the lapel of a civilian jacket.

"You're a real fucking hero, Bill Dunn," he said wryly, aloud. "You have been awarded the 'Next Time, Stupid, Remember to Duck Medal.'"

He chuckled at his own wit. Then he put the medal in the box, snapped the lid closed, walked to the white bedside table, and put it in the drawer. As he was closing the drawer, the door opened again.

Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Mary Agnes O'Malley, Nurse Corps, USN, entered the room, carrying a stainless steel tray covered with a wash-faded, medical green cloth.

"Hi," she said and smiled at him.

Lieutenant Dunn was strongly attracted to Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley, partly because she was a trim, pert-breasted redhead, and partly because he had heard that she fucked like a mink. He'd heard it so often at the bar in the Ewa Officer's Club that it had to be something more than wishful thinking.

"Hi," he replied.

He thought she looked especially desirable today. When she put the cloth covered tray down on his bedside table, she leaned far enough over to afford him a glimpse of her well-filled brassiere, and the soft white flesh straining at it.

Despite her reputation, Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley had so far shown zero interest in Dunn. In his view there were two reasons for this. First, since someone as good looking as Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley could pick and choose among a large group of bachelor officers, she would naturally prefer a captain or a major to a lowly lieutenant. Second, but perhaps most important, he knew that his reputation had preceded him: She had certainly heard the gossip that he had run away from the fight at Midway. To a young woman like Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley-for that matter, to any young woman-a lowly lieutenant with a yellow streak was something to be scorned, not taken to bed.

"What did the brass want?" she asked.

"The war is going badly," he said. "They came for my advice on how to turn it around."

"I'm serious," she said, gesturing for him to get on the bed. "What did they want?"

"They gave me my 'You Forgot to Duck Medal.' "

"What?"

"Colonel Dawkins gave me the Purple Heart," Dunn said. "And my new assignment. Why should I get in bed?"

"Because I'm going to remove your sutures," she said. "Or some of them, anyway. Where's your medal?"

"In the table drawer."

"Can I see it?"

"You've never seen one before?"

"I want to see yours."

You show me yours and I'll show you mine.

He went to the bedside table and took the box out and handed it to her.

She opened it and looked at it and handed it back.

"Very nice. You should be proud of yourself."

"All that means is that I got hit," he said.

"You realize how lucky you were that it wasn't worse, I hope?"

Does she mean that the 20mm didn't hit me in the head? Or that it didn't get me in the balls?

"Yeah, sure I do," he said.

"Get in the bed and open your robe," she said.

"I'm not wearing my pajama bottoms."

She tossed him the faded green medical cloth.

"Cover yourself," she said. "Not that I would see something I haven't seen before."

He got on the bed, arranged the cloth over his crotch, and opened the robe.

She pulled on rubber gloves, an act that he found quite erotic, dipped a gauze patch in alcohol, and then proceeded to mop his inner thighs.

He yelped when, without warning, she pulled the larger bandage free with a jerk.

"Still a little suppuration," she observed, professionally. "But it's healing nicely. You were really lucky."

Without question, that remark makes reference to the fact that I didn't get zapped in the balls.

As she scrubbed at the vestiges of the tape that had held the bandage in place, he got another glimpse down the front of her crisp white uniform at the swelling of her bosom. He could smell the perfume she'd put down there, too. With dreadful inevitability he almost instantly achieved a state of erection.

Lieutenant O'Malley seemed not to notice.

"Where are they sending you?" she asked, as she jerked the smaller bandage free.

"VMF-229," he said.

"Where's that? Or is that classified?"

"Colonel Dawkins said that right now it's in the exec's desk drawer," Dunn said. "It was activated today. Right now it's me and a captain named Galloway, who's en route from the States."

"Galloway?" she asked. "Does he have a first name?"

Dunn thought a moment. "Charley, I think he said. Mean anything to you?"

"I don't know," she said. "I used to date a Tech Sergeant Charley Galloway. He was a pilot. I wonder how many Charley Galloways there are in the Marine Corps?"

Socialization between commissioned officers and enlisted personnel was not only a social no-no in the Naval Service but against regulations, and thus a court-martial offense. The announcement startled him.

"You used to date a sergeant?" he blurted.

"My, aren't you the prig? Haven't you ever done anything you shouldn't?" she asked as she dabbed at the gummy residue of the second bandage. "I think we'll just leave the bandage off of that."

"I didn't mean to sound like a prig," he said. "I guess I was just a little surprised to... hear you volunteer that."

"Well, I didn't think you would tell anybody," she said. "You mean you never heard of Sergeant Charley Galloway?"

And then, all of a sudden, he realized that he had. He hadn't made the connection before because of the rank.

"I reported aboard VMF-211 after he left," Dunn said. "That Galloway?"

She chuckled.

"That Galloway," she confirmed.

"The scuttlebutt I heard was that he and another sergeant put together a Wildcat from wrecks of what was left on December seventh, wrecks that had been written off the books, and that he flew it off without authority to join the Wake Island relief force at sea."

"The Saratoga," she said. "Task Force XIV," she said. "They started out to reinforce Wake Island, but they were called back."

"I heard that he was really in trouble for doing that," Dunn said. "That they sent him back to the States for a court-martial. What was that all about?"

"He embarrassed the Navy brass," she explained. "First of all BUAIR." (The U.S. Navy Bureau of Aeronautics, which is charged with aviation engineering for the Marine Corps.) "They examined the airplanes after the Japanese attack and said they were total losses. But Charley and Sergeant Oblensky..." "Who?"

"Big Steve Oblensky. He was VMF-211's Maintenance Sergeant."

"I know him," Dunn said. "As far as I know, he still is."

"So after the brass said all of VMF-21 l's planes at Ewa were beyond repair, Big Steve and Charley got one flying; and then Charley flew it out to Sara, which was then a couple of hundred miles at sea. The whole relief force was supposed to be a secret, especially of course, where Sara was. So the brass's faces were red, and since the brass never make a mistake, they decided to stick the old purple shaft in Charley."

"Why did he do it?"

"Hell," Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley said, "the rest of VMF-211 was on Wake and had already lost most of their planes. Charley figured they needed whatever airplanes they could get. The only aircraft on Sara were Buffaloes. They could have used Charley's Wildcat, if the brass here hadn't called the relief force back."

Dunn grunted.

It had occurred to him that despite the smell of her perfume, her well-filled brassiere, and the other delightful aspects of her gentle gender, Lieutenant (j.g.) O'Malley was talking to him like-more importantly, thinking like-a fellow officer of the Naval Establishment, even down to an easy familiarity with the vernacular. It was somewhat disconcerting.

"We don't know if we're talking about the same man," he said.

"Probably, we're not," Mary Agnes O'Malley replied, matter-of-factly, "considering how pissed off the brass was at Charley. It's probably some other guy with the same name."

He sensed that she was disappointed.

She put the alcohol swab on the tray and picked up a pair of surgical scissors. Next she bent low over his midsection; and he sensed, rather than saw-her head was in the way, and he was unable to withdraw his eyes from her brassiere- that she was cutting the sutures.

The procedure took her a full ninety seconds. Sensing that she was concentrating, he did not attempt to make conversation.

She straightened, finally, and he was suddenly sure from the look in her eyes that she knew he had been looking down her dress.

She laid the scissors down and picked up surgical forceps and a pad of gauze.

"Now we pull the thread out," she said, and bent over him again. "It shouldn't hurt, so don't squirm."

"Okay."

The green surgical cloth was somehow displaced. He grabbed for it in the same moment she did. She got to it first and put it back in place. In doing so, her hand brushed against it.

"Christ, I'm sorry!" Dunn said.

"Don't be silly," she said professionally.

"I thought, I heard..." Bill blurted, "that when something like that happens, a nurse knows where to hit it to make it go down."

She chuckled, deep in her throat.

"I wouldn't want to hurt it," she said, matter-of-factly. "I think it's darling."

He felt a nipping sensation, and then a moment later, another one, and then a third. He realized that she was pulling the black sutures from his flesh.

She stood erect and wiped two short lengths of thread from her fingers with a cloth, and then a third from the forceps. She looked down at him.

"We're supposed to be very professional-I think the word is 'dispassionate'-when something like that happens," she said. "But the truth is, sometimes that doesn't happen. Especially when the patient is sort of cute."

Her fingers slid up his leg, found his erection, and traced it gently.

"You're going to be discharged tomorrow, which means that if you ask for one, they'll give you an off-the-ward pass until 2230."

She took her hand away, wiped the forceps with the gauze again, and bent over him. He felt another series of nips in the soft flesh of his groin, and then she stood up again.

"Cat got your tongue?" she asked.

"I don't suppose you could have dinner with me tonight?"

"I think that could be arranged," she said.

"Put your hand on it again."

"We'd both be in trouble if somebody saw us," she said, and then ran her fingers over him again.

"What time?"

"I go off at 1630," she said. "How about 1730 at the bar?"

"Fine."

"My roommate has the duty tonight," she said.

"She does?"

"If we have gentlemen callers, we're supposed to leave the door open," she said. "But I always wonder, when the door is closed, how anybody could tell if we have anybody in there or not."

"I can't see how they could tell," he said.

"Well, maybe you might want to get a bottle of scotch and pick me up at my quarters. We could have a drink, and then go to dinner. Or would you rather eat first?"

"What kind of scotch?"

"I'm not fussy," she said.

"You better stop that, or I'm going to...'"

She immediately took her hand away.

"We wouldn't want to waste it, would we?" she asked. "Now be a good boy and let me finish this. Before old Shit-for-brains wonders why it's taking me so long and sticks her nose in here."

(Four)

APARTMENT MC"

106 RITTENHOUSE SQUARE

PHILADELPHIA, PENNSYLVANIA

22 JUNE 1942

Barbara Ward (Mrs. Howard P.) Hawthorne, Jr., slid the frosted glass door open and stepped out of her shower. She took a towel from the rack and started to dry her hair. Then she stopped and wiped the condensation from the mirror over the wash basin.

She resumed drying her hair as she examined herself in the mirror.

It's not at all bad looking, she thought, they're not pendulous, and the tummy is still firm, but ye old body is thirty-six years old. Nearly thirty-seven, not thirty-two, as you told John.

When he is thirty-seven-she did the arithmetic-you will be fifty-one. Fifty-one! My God, you 're insane, Barbara!

She finished drying herself, put the towel in the hamper, and went into the bedroom. There she took a spray bottle of eau de cologne and sprayed it on herself, and then she took a bottle of perfume, which she dabbed behind her ears and in the valley between her breasts. She pulled on her robe, walked back to the bathroom, and began to brush her hair, looking into the reflection of her eyes in the mirror.

Why did you put perfume on? There will be no one to smell it. Specifically, John has probably nuzzled you between the breasts for the last time. He is at this very moment ten thousand feet in the air over Western Pennsylvania, or Ohio, or someplace, on his way to the war. Even if he survives that, the chances of his coming back to you are very slim.

What he got was what he wanted, a willing playmate in bed for four days. But when he comes back, what he is going to want is a quote nice unquote girl his own age, not some middle-aged woman who he picked up-or vice versa-in a bar.

He says he loves you...

And he probably really thinks he does, because he would not say something like that unless he meant it. But what he is really doing is mistaking lust, and a little tenderness, for love.

He's not much used to love, that's for sure. From everything he told me, his father is really a despicable human being. He got no love from him. Or anything like tenderness, either, for that matter. Nor from his mother, either, I don't think. I got the idea that, in the Moore house, hugging and kissing were unseemly.

And while I am not all that experienced in the bed department myself, it was perfectly obvious that he can count his previous partners on the fingers of one hand. He had an enthusiasm factor of ten and an experience factor of one. Maybe minus one.

I am absolutely convinced that no one ever did to him some of the things...

So why did you do them?

He probably can hardly wait to get back to the boys.

"So how was your leave?"

"Great I met this older woman. Not bad looking. But talk about hot pants! Talk about blow jobs! I'm telling you, she couldn't get enough, wouldn't let me alone. Once she did it while I was sleeping."

I did do it to him while he was sleeping, and I loved it Which goes to show, therefore, that beneath your respectable facade, you are an oversexed bitch.

Or, more kindly, just your normal, run-of-the-mill unsatisfied housewife, whose husband has been off gamboling with a sweet young thing for the past five months. Or maybe longer. Only he and the sweet young thing know for sure.

After she finished brushing her hair and rubbing moisturizer into her face, she took a paper towel and wiped the mirror clean of vestigial condensation, and then went into the bedroom. She lay on the bedspread and turned on the radio; then she turned it off and went into the living room and took the bottle of scotch-from where John had left it-from the mantelpiece and carried it into the kitchen and poured two inches of it into a glass.

She took a sip, and then a second, larger sip, and then she exhaled audibly.

God, I wish he was here/

The door bell went off. It was one of the old-fashioned, mechanical kind, that you "rang" by turning a knob.

She looked at the clock on the wall. It was quarter to nine.

Who the hell can that be?

Did that damned fool somehow not go? Did the airplane turn back for some reason and land at Newark again? If that happened, he would just have time to come back here now.

She went to the door, just reaching it as the bell rang again.

She opened the door to the length of the chain and peered through the crack and saw the last person in the world she expected to see, Howard P. Hawthorne, Jr.

"It's me, Barbara," Howard said, quite unnecessarily.

"So I see," she said, instantly hearing the inanity in her voice.

"May I come in, or... have you guests?"

She closed the door, removed the chain, and opened it fully.

"Come in, Howard."

"Thank you," he said.

"I'm having a drink," she said. "Would you like one? What do you want?"

"Scotch would be fine, thank you."

"You're welcome to a scotch, but that's not what I meant to ask."

"Oh. Yes, I see. I wanted to talk to you."

"Well, come in the kitchen while I make your drink. We can talk there."

"Thank you," Howard said, and then asked, "I'm not interrupting anything am I? Interfering with your plans?"

"My plans are to go to bed," she said. "I've had a busy day."

She poured whiskey in a glass and handed it to him. With the familiarity of a husband, he turned to the refrigerator, found ice, and then squatted looking for the little bottles of Canada Dry soda habitually stored on the lower shelf.

His bald spot is getting bigger.

He opened the soda bottle, mixed his drink, and stirred it with his index finger. Then he raised his eyes to hers.

"I know," he said. "I was here earlier."

"Cutesy-poo think of something else of mine she wanted from the house?"

"I was worried about you," he said.

"I'm touched, but there is no cause for concern. I was visiting friends in Jersey."

"I know about him, Barbara," Howard said evenly.

Oh my God!

"I beg your pardon?"

"I said I know about you and the-young soldier."

Not very much. John is a Marine, not a soldier.

"And I said, 'I beg your pardon?' "

"Honey..."

"Don't you call me 'Honey,' you sonofabitch!"

"Sorry."

He took a swallow of his drink.

"Barbara, you're well known in Philadelphia," he said.

"You must have known that someone would see you, recognize you..."

Great, now I will be known as the Whore of Babylon as well as Poor Barbara, whose husband dumped her for young Cutesy-poo.

"I have no idea what you're talking about. Who saw me? What soldier?"

"The young one," he said. "The one you had dinner with two nights ago in the restaurant in the Warwick."

"God," she heard herself say, "people have such filthy minds!"

"I don't understand that," Howard said.

"I'm guilty, Howard. I did have dinner in the Warwick two nights ago. But he's not a soldier. He's a Marine."

"What's the difference?"

"In this case, the difference is I'm nearly old enough to be his mother."

"You're not that old," he said. "You're thirty-eight."

Thirty-six, Goddamn you!

"I had dinner with Bill Marston's nephew, Johnny Moore. He's a sergeant in the Marines and about to go overseas, since you seem so hungry for the sordid details. And if I had had him when I was eighteen, I would be old enough to be his mother. He's eighteen. Or maybe nineteen."

"How did that come about?"

"I don't even know why I'm discussing this with you," Barbara said. "You have given up any right to question anything I do. I would love to know who carried this obscene gossip to you, though."

"Friends," he said.

"Some friends!"

"The same friends who have been telling me all along that I was making an ass of myself with Louise," Howard said.

She met his eyes.

"Tell me about this... young man, Barbara."

"I'll be damned! What if I said, 'tell me about Louise, Howard'?"

"Then I would say it's all over," he said.

"Since when?"

"Since about nine o'clock this morning," Howard said. "I told her I was going to see you, and she said if I came over here, it was all over between us. And... here I am."

"You've been trying to find me all day?"

He nodded.

After a moment, Barbara asked, "What did you think you were going to do here?"

"I realize that I've hurt you, Barbara..."

"Huh!" she snorted.

"I didn't want you to hurt yourself."

She exhaled audibly.

"With... my young man, you mean?"

He nodded.

"Bill Marston found out that Johnny's father was-I don't know how to put this-fooling around with Johnny's trust fund."

"His father? Who's his father?"

"The Reverend John Wesley Moore," Barbara said. "He's with that Methodist Missions thing. What do they call it? The Harris Methodist Missions to the Unchurched, something like that."

"The missionaries, right? In the Orient someplace?"

"Right."

"What about it?"

"Bill Marston found out that Johnny's father had not turned over a trust fund from his grandparents to the boy. So, since the boy is on his way overseas, he decided he had to tell him. And did."

"The father, the minister, was stealing the kid's money?" Howard asked.

He's interested. More important, he believes me.

"I don't know if 'stealing' is the right word, but he didn't turn it over to him when he should have."

"I'll be damned!" Howard said, outraged.

He's really angry. Why am I surprised? Before Cutesy-poo came along, he never did anything dishonorable.

"So the boy was upset, obviously," Barbara said. "He's really very sweet. He's on a home leave before going overseas, and he couldn't even go home."

"That's absolutely despicable!"

"So I felt sorry for him. And had dinner with him. And took him to the movies."

"Where was the boy staying?"

"Bill got him a room in the Union League."

"And that's where you heard about this?"

"Yes. I met Bill on Broad Street. He was with the boy. And he insisted I have a drink with them..."

"In his cups again, I suppose?"

"Don't be too hard on Bill, Howard. It was a terribly hard thing for him to have to do."

"I've always liked Bill Marston. He just can't handle the sauce, that's all."

He's not at all suspicious. He wants to believe what I'm telling him. He's a fool. Obviously. Otherwise Cutesy-poo couldn't have got her claws into him the way she did.

"Where's the boy now?"

"On his way to the Pacific. That's what I was really doing in New Jersey today, Howard. Putting him on the plane. Bill couldn't get off..."

"That was very kind of you, Barbara."

"He had nobody, Howard. I have never felt more sorry for anyone in my life."

"I should have known it was something like this. I'm sorry, Barbara."

"It's all right."

He smiled at her.

"I'm sorry things... didn't work out between you and Louise."

"And I would expect you to say something like that," he said. "It could have been worse. I could have actually married her."

"And it's really all over?"

"It's really all over."

"So what are you going to do?"

He looked at his watch and drained his glass.

"I don't really know. Except that right now, I'm going to leave here and see if I can catch the 9:28 to Swarthmore," he said.

"You'll never make the 9:28," Barbara said.

"There's another train at 10:45."

"You left some things here. Shirts and underwear. Why don't you stay here?"

"Barbara-"

"What?"

"That's very decent of you."

"Don't be silly."

"But where would I sleep? There's only one bed in this place."

"I know you don't think I'm very smart, Howard, but I really can count," Barbara said.

(Five)

THE ANDREW FOSTER HOTEL

SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA

22 JUNE 1942

The tall, long-legged blonde shifted on the seat of the station wagon so that she was facing the driver. Her fingers gently touched the beard just showing on his upper jaw, and then moved to trace his ear. When he jumped involuntarily, she laughed softly.

"I learned that from my husband," Mrs. Caroline Ward McNamara, of Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, said to Captain Charles M. Galloway, USMCR, whose home of record was c/o Headquarters, USMC, Washington, D.C.

Mrs. McNamara was wearing a pleated plaid skirt, a sweater, a string of pearls, and little makeup, all of which tended to make her look younger than her thirty-three years. Captain Galloway, who was wearing a fur-collared horsehair leather jacket, known to the Supply Department of the U.S. Navy as "Jacket, Fliers, Intermediate Type Gl," over a tie-less khaki shirt, was twenty-five. He was a tanned, well-built, pleasant-looking young man who wore his light brown hair just long enough to part.

The jacket was not new. It was comfortably worn in; the knit cuff on the left sleeve was starting to fray; and here and there were small dark spots where oil or A VGAS had dripped on it. Sewn to the breast of the jacket was a leather badge bearing the gold-stamped impression of Naval Aviator's Wings and the words CAPT C M GALLOWAY, USMCR. The leather patch was new, almost brand-new. The patch had replaced one that had identical wings but had designated the wearer as T/SGT C M GALLOWAY, USMC.

Captain Galloway had been an officer and a gentleman for just over a month. Before that, since shortly after his twenty-first birthday, in fact, he had been an Enlisted Naval Aviation Pilot (all Marine fliers are Naval Aviators), commonly called a "Flying Sergeant." He had been a Marine since he was seventeen.

"You learned that from your husband?" Charley Galloway asked, turning to Caroline McNamara. "How to play with his ear, or how to bullshit your way into a hotel?" The hotel they had in mind was the Andrew Foster, one of San Francisco's finest, and therefore also probably already stuffed to the brim with people who had thought to make reservations.

Her fingers stopped tracing his ear.

"Well, fuck you," Caroline said, very deliberately.

"Oh, Christ," he said, sounding genuinely contrite. "Sorry."

In Caroline's mind, Charley's language was too loaded with vulgarisms. A dirty mouth was certainly understandable, she knew, considering his background. But for his own good, now that he was an officer, he should clean it up. Since he did not like to hear her use bad language (except in bed, which was something else), she had settled on doing that as the means to shame him into polishing his own manners.

Every time he said something like "bullshit," she came back with "fuck." He really hated that; and so words like bullshit and asshole were coming out far less often now than they did not quite four months before, when they first met.

At that time Caroline had been divorced for not quite five months. It was far from a glorious marriage, of course; but it ended more or less satisfactorily, as far as she was concerned.... In other words, she came out of it, as she put it, "with all four feet and the tail," meaning that she got the house in Jenkintown, the cars, and almost all of the bastard's money. Her prosperous stockbroker husband had an understandable reluctance to reveal in court that the person he'd been having an affair with also wore pants and shaved.

During the divorce process, she had scrupulously followed her lawyer's advice to do nothing "indiscreet," correctly interpreting that to mean she should keep her legs crossed.

When she met Charley Galloway, then Technical Sergeant Galloway, she had been chaste for more than eighteen months.

He had flown into Willow Grove Naval Air Station, outside Philadelphia, in a Marine version of the Douglas DC-3 transport, acting as both pilot-in-command and instructor pilot to two young Marine aviator lieutenants, one of whom, Lieutenant Jim Ward, was her nephew.

Jim had called from the airport, and Caroline had driven out to Willow Grove to fetch him and the others home. The moment she saw Charley Galloway, she knew he might be just the man to break her long period of celibacy. After all, she would probably never see him again.

Until she met him, she had come to believe-after all manner of sobering, painful experience-that the real love of her life was a delightful, wholly improbable fantasy. But what happened between them, the very first time, told her that that very delightful and improbable fantasy had landed six hours before at Jenkintown.

It wasn't long after that before she started worshiping him.

Jimmy Ward worshiped him, too, which had been at first rather difficult to understand. Enlisted men are supposed to worship officers, not the other way around. But when she asked him about it, Jimmy explained that Charley probably would have been an officer-he had all the qualifications- if it hadn't been for what he'd done a few days after Pearl Harbor.

He and another sergeant had put together a fighter plane from parts of others destroyed by the Japanese. Charley had then flown it out to the aircraft carrier Saratoga, then en route to reinforce Wake Island. Half of Charley's squadron was on Wake Island. Charley was riding, so to speak, to the sound of the guns.

The reinforcement convoy was ordered back to Pearl Harbor. And so an act that was to Jimmy's mind heroic-dedication worthy of portrayal on the silver screen by Alan Ladd and Ronald Reagan-became quite the opposite. An enlisted man had made flyable an airplane commissioned officers, in their wisdom, had concluded was beyond repair. He had then had the unbridled gall, against regulations and policy, to decide all by himself to take the airplane off to war.

The only reason that they hadn't court-martialed him, Jimmy Ward told her, was that the witnesses were either dead or scattered all over the Pacific and could not be assembled.

So what they had done was take him off flight status and return him to the States for duty as an aircraft mechanic. It was only a critical shortage of pilots that had found him- the very morning of the day Caroline met him-back in a cockpit. The Marines were demonstrating parachute troops to the press and couldn't run the risk of having a less than fully qualified pilot fly the plane.

After their first night together, Caroline couldn't have cared if Charley was a PFC. Or what anyone thought about her taking up with an enlisted man eight years younger than she was.

On the twelfth of June, ten days before Caroline and Charley were driving into San Francisco, she went to Quantico to be with him. But he wasn't there.

And then two days later he showed up as Captain Galloway, USMCR, having been pardoned and commissioned by the Commandant of the Marine Corps himself. There was a price, however. He had five days leave, plus travel time, to report to San Francisco, there to board a plane for Hawaii, and there to assume command of a newly activated Marine fighter squadron.

Caroline decided she didn't give much of a damn what anyone-God included-thought about her traveling across the country with a man to whom she was not joined in holy matrimony. She was going with him.

And given a little more time, she thought, she would have been able to clean up his vocabulary so that even the Protestant Episcopal Bishop of Philadelphia could have found no fault with it.

Unfortunately, there was hardly any time left at all. And then there was the matter of finding a room to make time in.

" 'Conspire' is the word you were looking for," Caroline said. "We are going to 'conspire' our way into the Andrew Foster Hotel."

"You think it would really work?" Charley asked.

"They make mistakes," Caroline said. "Everybody does.

All we have to do is make them think they made one with us, and we get a room."

"Sound like bull-aloney to me," Charley said.

"Better," she chuckled, "better."

"This hotel is important to you, isn't it?" Charley asked. "What did you do, stay there with your husband?"

"No," Caroline lied, easily. "With my parents."

My conscience, she thought, is clear. I don't want him in there thinking of me being there with Jack. All I want him to remember about the Andrew Foster Hotel is the luxury, and the food, and the two of us together in one of those lovely beds. Or together in one of those marvelous marble-walled showers with all the shower heads. I don't think Charley has ever seen anything like that. I want him to remember us there.

"And you think that would work?"

"Yes, I do," Caroline said, trying to put more conviction into her voice than she felt.

"OK, Baby," Charley said. "If that's what you want, we'll give it a shot."

"Good," she said.

"We'll have to pull over somewhere and get a tunic and a tie out of my bag," Charley said. "I can't walk in a fancy hotel wearing a flight jacket. I wish I could shave. I feel as cruddy as the car."

The light oak bodywork of the 1941 Mercury station wagon was covered with five days and several thousand miles of road grime. They had driven practically nonstop from Quantico, Virginia. There had been a light rain during the night, and the half-moon sweep of the wipers showed by contrast just how dirty the rest of the vehicle was.

"Well, when we get to our room, Mommy will wash your ears," Caroline said. "Or anything else you think needs it."

"I told you to knock off that 'Mommy' shit," Charley said, coldly. "I don't think it's funny."

Caroline did not respond with a dirty word of her own. She was wrong, and she knew it.

Why did I say that? I know it angers him. There's probably something Freudian in that Mommy shit. Obviously. We both know I'm thirty-three and he's twenty-five. There is probably a hint somewhere in there of perversion, too. Charley can't understand why I stayed married to Jack for so long after I learned that he was homosexual. First she was married to a fairy, he thinks, and now she's shacked up with a Marine eight years younger than she is and doesn't give a damn who knows it. Obviously, there is something strange about that dame. Strange is not all that far from perverse.

Charley pulled off the highway and stopped.

"I won't say that again, Baby," Caroline said.

And now he will take affront at 'Baby'! Why did I say that? What the hell is the matter with me?

"Forget it," Charley said, and smiled at her. "My bag will be the one on the bottom, right?"

"Probably," she smiled. "Would you like me to drive? I know where the Andrew Foster is."

"Go ahead," he said.

He got in the back and she slid behind the wheel.

There were four men behind the marble reception desk of the Andrew Foster Hotel, flagship of the forty-one-hotel Foster chain, atop San Francisco's Nob Hill. Three wore formal morning clothes, wing collars and tailed coats. The fourth man, older than the others, wore a double-breasted gray coat and striped trousers and had a rose-bud pinned to his lapel.

"Madam, I'm terribly sorry," one of the men in formal clothing said to Caroline McNamara. "I just don't seem to be able to find any record of your reservation."

"Well, as long as you can put us up, I suppose no harm is done," Caroline said.

"That, Madam, I'm afraid, is going to pose a problem," the desk clerk said. "The house, I'm afraid, is absolutely full. I'll call around and see if we can't find something for you..."

"Excuse me," the older man said to the desk clerk. "There has been a cancellation." He handed the clerk a key. "Why don't you put this officer and his lady in 901?"

"Yes, of course," the desk clerk said and snapped his fingers for a bellman.

"Thank you," Caroline said.

"I'm sorry about the mix-up with your reservation," the older man said. He nodded at her, and then at Charley, and disappeared through a door in the paneled wall behind the counter.

Nine oh one turned out to be a corner suite consisting of a sitting room, a bedroom, and a butler's pantry.

As soon as Caroline tipped the bellman and he was gone, Charley said, "Jesus, what do you suppose this is going to cost us?"

"What you are supposed to say, Darling, is 'I was wrong and you were right, and I'm sorry I doubted you.'"

"Consider it said," Charley said. "And what do you think it's going to cost?"

"Do you really care?" Caroline asked. "And anyway, I've got a bunch of traveler's checks."

"No. What the hell," Charley said. "Why not?"

"Why not, indeed?"

"I'm going to take a shower," Charley said, and headed for the bathroom. In a moment, he was back. "Hey, look at this, they even give you a bathrobe!"

He held a thick, terry cloth robe in his hands, embroidered with the logotype, "ANDREW FOSTER HOTEL San Francisco."

"Between the hotel and me, Darling, you'll have everything your heart desires," Caroline said.

As soon as I hear the shower running, I'm going to get in there with him. Surprise, surprise!

She looked around the room, hoping that there would be something to drink-preferably something romantic or erotic, like cognac. She was disappointed, but not surprised, to find a liquor cabinet full of glasses, but no booze. She considered calling room service, but decided that getting in the shower with him was the highest priority. She could call room service later.

She found the bottle of scotch they'd bought in Nevada and set it on the bar. Then she changed her mind and took it and two glasses to the bedside table. And then, after taking Charley's clothes from where he had tossed them on the bed and throwing them onto the floor, she took off her clothes, added them to the pile, and went into the bathroom.

When she opened the glass door, she found him shaving. He told her he'd learned how to do that in boot camp at Parris Island when he had first joined the Corps. She found it delightfully masculine.

She wrapped her arms around him from the back.

"I'll wash yours if you wash mine," she said.

"Mine's already clean," he said.

"Bastard!"

He turned and put his arms around her.

"Christ," he said. "This is like a dream."

"If it is, I don't want to ever wake up."

"We have fifty-six hours," Charley said, "before I have to report to Mare Island."

"Say, 'Caroline, you were right about driving straight through so that we would have some time in San Francisco.' "

"You were right, Baby," he said.

"Fifty-six hours?" Caroline said. "However are we going to pass all that time?"

"Well, for openers, I'm clean enough," he said, and turned the shower off. "How about a quick game of Hide the Salami?"

"And then what?" she said, dropping her hand to his mid-section.

"And then another game of Hide the Salami," Charley said. "The second time we'll start keeping score."

"You're on," she said.

There came the sound of chimes.

"What the hell is that?" Charley asked.

"I think it's the doorbell."

"One of the characters in the fancy costumes is out there, and he's about to tell us they've made a mistake and we'll have to get our asses out of here."

"We're going to have to see what it is," Caroline said.

"Yeah," Charley said.

He turned her loose and stepped out of the shower, put one of the terry cloth robes on, and went out of the bathroom.

Caroline got out of the shower, quickly toweled herself, and pulled on a robe. She wiped the steam from the mirror and looked at herself.

I can't go out there looking like this!

But, of course, she had to. Charley was ill-equipped to deal with people who managed a world-class hotel like the Andrew Foster.

She went out of the bathroom.

There were three people in the sitting room. Two bellmen, one of whom was stocking the liquor cabinet with liquor, and the other in the act of taking the cellophane from a large basket of fruit. Caroline also saw a bottle of champagne in a cooler.

"I'm so sorry to disturb you, Madam," the third man announced; he was the older man who had announced the reservation cancellation downstairs. "But when I checked, I found that the bar wasn't stocked, and I thought I'd better remedy that."

"Thank you," Caroline said.

"And I wanted to make sure you understood that because of our mix-up about your reservation, your bill will be for the room you reserved; I mean to say there will be no increase in price."

"Oh, hell," Charley said. "I can't let you do that."

"It's the pleasure of the Andrew Foster," the old man said.

"No," Charley said. "That would be stealing. I mean, we didn't really have a reservation. I don't mind talking you out of a room, but I couldn't cheat you out of any money that way."

I can't believe, Caroline thought, that he just said that!

"Your husband, Madam, is obviously an officer and a gentleman," the old man said.

Charley is really a gentleman, Caroline thought. And touchingly, innocently honest. And not of course, my husband.

"My husband is on his way to the Pacific," Caroline said. "I wanted to spend our last night, our last two nights, in this hotel. I didn't much care what I had to do to arrange that."

"The Andrew Foster is honored, Madam. And so you shall. As guests of the inn."

"We want to pay our way," Charley said.

"I would be very pleased if you would be guests of the inn," the old man said.

"Why would you want to do that?" Caroline asked.

"How could you fix it with the hotel?" Charley asked.

"I noticed your wings, Captain. I gather you're an aviator?"

"Yes, Sir, I am."

"Are you familiar with the F4F Wildcat?"

"Yes, Sir, I am."

"Charley's on his way to take command of an F4F squadron," Caroline blurted.

My God, don't you sound like a proud wife!

"My grandson, my only grandchild, is training to be an F4F pilot," the old man said. "I don't suppose you've ever run into a second lieutenant named Malcolm Pickering, have you? They call him 'Pick.'"

"He's a Marine?" Charley asked.

"Yes. He's at Pensacola right now."

"No, Sir, I don't know him," Charley said. "Sorry."

"Nice boy. His father was a Marine in the first war, so of course, he had to go into the Marines, too."

"Yes, Sir," Charley said. "That's understandable."

"I don't know anything about the sort of training they give young men like that, or about the F4F," the old man said. "I don't want to know anything I shouldn't know, classified information, I think they call it, but I really would like to know whatever you could tell me."

"Yes, Sir. I'll be happy to tell you anything you'd like to know."

"Perhaps at dinner," the old man said. "If you did that, I'd consider it a fair swap for you being guests of the inn so long as you're here."

"You don't have to do that," Charley said. "And, how the hell could you square that with the hotel?"

"I can do pretty much what I want to around here, Captain Galloway," the old man said, with a chuckle. "My name is Andrew Foster."

"I'll be goddamned!" Charley said.

"I live upstairs," Andrew Foster said. "Just tell the elevator man the penthouse. My daughter, Pick's mother, lives here in San Francisco. I'd like her to join us, if that would be all right with you."

"Certainly;" Caroline said.

"Eight o'clock?" Andrew Foster asked.

"Fine," Caroline said, softly.

"My daughter, of course, knows as little about what Pick is doing as I do, and my son-in-law hasn't been much help."

"I'm sorry?" Caroline asked.

"My son-in-law, who is old enough to know better, and had more than enough to keep him busy here, couldn't wait to rush to the colors."

"He went back in the Corps?" Charley asked.

"The Marine Corps wouldn't have him back," Andrew Foster said. "So he went in the Navy. The last we heard, he's in Australia."

Chapter Seven

(One)

UNION STATION

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

1625 HOURS 24 JUNE 1942

"The Lark," as the train from Los Angeles to San Diego was called, was probably one hell of a money maker, Sergeant John Marston Moore thought; it probably should have been called "The Pigeon Roost."

There was not an empty seat on it; and the aisles and even the vestibules between the cars were jammed with people standing or, if they could, sitting on their luggage. At least half of the passengers were in uniform; and there was something about most of the civilian women that told Moore they had some kind of a service connection. They were either wives or girlfriends of servicemen.

He had recently become convinced that air travel was not only the wave of the future, but the only way to travel. Having a good-looking, solicitous stewardess serving your meals and asking if you would like another cup of coffee was far superior to this rolling tenement, where if you were lucky you could sometimes buy a soggy paper cup of coffee and a dry sandwich from a man who made his way with great difficulty down the crowded aisle.

When nature called, he waited half an hour for his turn in the small, foul-smelling cubicle at the end of the car; and then when he made his way back to his seat, he found a sailor in it, reluctant to give it up.

The ride wasn't smooth enough, nor his seat comfortable enough, for him to sleep during the trip; but he cushioned his head with his fore-and-aft cap against the window and dozed, floating in memories of the time he and Barbara spent together. Aware that it was ludicrous to dream of his return from the war before he had actually gone overseas, he nevertheless did just that.

By then, certainly, the temporarily delayed commission would have come through. He would be Lieutenant Moore, possibly even Captain Moore. In any case, an officer. That would certainly tend to diminish the unfortunate differences in their ages. One simply could not treat a Marine lieutenant, or a Marine captain, like a boy. He even considered growing a mustache-once the commission came along, of course.

But most of the images he dwelt on concerned the scene that would take place once he and Barbara went behind a closed and locked door somewhere, either in the apartment on Rittenhouse Square, or preferably, in some very nice hotel suite.

The astonishing truth was that physical intimacy-he did not like to think of it simply and crudely as "sex," because all that he and Barbara had done together was much more beautiful than that-between people who were in love with each other was everything-and more-than people said it was.

Such images were pleasant. But the ride was long, and the seat uncomfortable, and he was glad to hear the conductor announce their imminent arrival in San Diego. Somewhat smugly, he did not join in the frenzied activity to reclaim seabags and luggage and get off The Lark. When all these people left the train, the station was going to be as crowded as the train had been. If he just sat and looked out the window and waited, by the time he got to the station, much of the crowd would be dispersed.

Finally, he jerked his seabag from the overhead rack, carried it out of the car with his arms wrapped around it, hoisted it to his shoulder in the vestibule, and went down the stairs to the platform.

A hundred feet down the platform toward the station, he was surprised to see a Marine with corporal's stripes painted on his utility jacket sleeves holding up what looked like the side of a cardboard box. Written on that in grease pencil was, SGT. J. M. MOORE.

He walked up to him.

"My name is Moore."

"I was beginning to think you missed the fucking train," the corporal said. "Come on, the Gunny's outside in the truck."

He tossed the sign under the train and started down the platform. Outside the main door was a Chevrolet pickup truck, painted in Marine green. A short, muscular Gunnery Sergeant, a cigar butt in his mouth, was sitting on the fender.

"You Moore?" he asked as he pushed himself off the fender.

"Right."

"I was beginning to think you either couldn't read or missed the fucking train," the Gunny said. "My name is Zimmerman. The Lieutenant, Lieutenant McCoy, sent me to meet you. Throw your gear in the back and get in."

"Right," Moore said. "Where are we going?"

"Would you believe the San Diego Yacht Club?"

Moore smiled uneasily. Obviously, he was not supposed to ask where he was going, otherwise he would not have been given a sarcastic reply.

"Sorry," he said.

Gunnery Sergeant Zimmerman grunted and got behind the wheel, Moore got in the other side, and the corporal got in beside him, next to the window.

As they drove away from the station, Zimmerman said, "I checked out how those fuckers at Outshipment work, the way they handle people like you with priorities like yours."

"Oh?"

"What they do when you report in is send you over to the transient barracks, and then get you put on some kind of detail. Then, when they're making up the manifest for the flight, they see who else is on it with rank and no priority, or not so high a priority. If there ain't anybody, then they call you back from the transient barracks and you get on the plane. But if there is some commander or some colonel who's going to give them trouble about being bumped by a sergeant, they 'can't find you' on your detail, you miss the flight, the commander or the colonel gets on it, they don't get no trouble, and everybody's happy."

"I see."

"So I told the Lieutenant, and he said 'fuck 'em, stash him until thirty minutes before the plane leaves and then take him right to operations. Then they can't lose him, he'll be there.' "

"I understand," Moore said, although he wasn't absolutely sure he did.

"So I asks the Lieutenant where he wants you stashed, and he says take you over to the boat, he'll call Miss Ernie and tell her you're coming."

"The boat?"

"I told you, we're going to the Yacht Club," Gunny Zimmerman said, impatiently.

"How'd you know when I was arriving?"

"You ask a lot of fucking questions about things that are none of your fucking business, don't you?" ,the Gunny replied.

"Sorry," Moore said.

The corporal beside him snorted in amusement.

"Miss Ernie"? "The Yacht Club"? Am I being a snob because I suspect that the yacht club he's referring to is not what usually pops into my mind when I hear the words "yacht club"? Odds are that this yacht club is going to turn out to be a Marine bar somewhere, with a picture of a naked lady and the standard Marine Corps emblems hanging above the bar, and whose proprietress, Miss Ernie, will bear a strong resemblance to Miss Sadie Thompson?

And then another question popped into his mind: Lieutenant McCoy? He did say "Lieutenant McCoy," didn't he? He damn sure did! Killer McCoy? Am I really going to get to meet the legendary Killer McCoy?

Discretion, however, overwhelmed his curiosity. Having just been told by the Gunny that he asked too many fucking questions about things that were none of his fucking business, he decided that it would be best to just ride along in silence.

Fifteen minutes later, he was more than a little surprised when the Gunny turned the pickup truck off the highway and through two large brick pillars. On each of these was a bronze sign reading, SAN DIEGO YACHT CLUB-PRIVATE- MEMBERS ONLY.

Three minutes after that, they stopped at the end of a pier.

"You carry his seabag onto the boat for him," Gunny Zimmerman ordered the corporal, "and you come with me."

They walked down the pier until they came to the stern of a large yacht, on whose tailboard was lettered in gold leaf, "LAST TIME, San Diego."

The corporal went up a ladder carrying Moore's bag and went aboard. Gunny Zimmerman touched Moore's arm in a signal to stop.

What the hell is going on? This thing is at least fifty feet long. Without question, by any definition, a yacht.

A startlingly beautiful young woman wearing white shorts and a red T-shirt emblazoned with the insignia of the U.S. Marine Corps appeared at the stern rail. She had jet black hair cut in a page boy, and the baggy T-shirt seemed to do more to call attention to a very attractive figure than to conceal it.

"Hi!" she called down.

"The Lieutenant call, Miss Ernie?" Gunny Zimmerman asked.

"Yes, he did. And I told you the next time you called me 'Miss Ernie' I was going to throw you in the harbor," she said. She looked at Moore. "Hi! Come aboard. I've been expecting you."

"Go aboard. I'll be back for you in the morning," Gunny Zimmerman ordered.

"You want a beer, Zimmerman?" the girl asked.

"Got to get back, Miss Ernie," Zimmerman said. "The Lieutenant said he might be a little late."

"There, you did it again!" she said.

"Jesus Christ, Miss Ernie," he said uncomfortably, "you're the Lieutenant's lady."

"Just don't stand close to the edge of the dock, Zimmerman," she said. "You're warned."

Zimmerman hid his face from the young woman. "You watch yourself with that lady, Moore," he said, with more than a hint of menace.

And then he marched back up the pier to the truck.

As Moore walked to the ladder, the corporal came down it.

"Nice!" he said, as he walked past Moore.

The black-haired girl was waiting on the deck with her hand held out.

"I'm Ernie Sage," she said. "As Zimmerman so discreetly put it, I'm Ken McCoy's 'lady.' Welcome aboard."

"How do you do?" Moore said, taking the offered hand. "I'm Sergeant Moore."

"Have you got a first name?"

"John."

"Would you like a beer, John? Or something stronger?"

"I'd love a beer. Thank you."

As he followed her down the deck to the cabin, Moore observed that she was just as good looking from that perspective.

She opened a refrigerator door and took out a bottle of beer.

"Mexican," she said. "Ken says it's much better than the kind they make in 'Diego. Would you like a glass?"

"The bottle's fine, thank you," he said.

"Where are you from?"

"Philadelphia," he said.

"Oh, I'm from Jersey. Bernardsville. I've spent some time in Philly. I used to go with a guy-nothing serious-who was at U.P."

"I went to the University of Pennsylvania," he said.

"And then you joined the Corps?"

He nodded.

"Ken's from Norristown," she said. "But he's only been back once since he joined the Corps."

"Oh," Moore said, aware that he was tongue-tied.

"I told Whatsisname, Zimmerman's driver, the one he won't let drive, to put your bag in a cabin-second door to the right when you go below-so if you'd like, when you finish your beer, you could have a shower."

"I need one," Moore said. "I've been traveling for forty-eight hours."

"And you've been on The Lark," she said with a smile. "Anyone who's been on The Lark needs a long, hot shower."

She smiled at him, and he smiled back. He had no idea who this young woman was, but he liked her.

Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, came back in the cabin just as Second Lieutenant Kenneth R. McCoy, USMCR, entered it from the deck.

Lieutenant McCoy, who was in dress green uniform, looked not unlike other second lieutenants Moore had seen. That is, he was young-about my age, Moore thought-and trim, and immaculately shaven and dressed. But there was one significant difference. Above the silver marksmanship medals which all second lieutenants seemed to have- although McCoy seemed to have more of these, all EXPERT -he had five colored ribbons, representing medals. Moore had seen very few second lieutenants with any ribbons at all.

Moore didn't know what all of them represented, but he did recognize two. One was the Pacific Theater of Operations Campaign Medal. McCoy's had a tiny bronze star, signifying that he had participated in a campaign. And on top was the ribbon representing the Purple Heart. This second lieutenant had already been to the war in the Pacific and had been wounded.

Miss Ernestine Page kissed Lieutenant McCoy. It was a wifely demonstration of affection, Moore judged, although it had been made clear that whatever her relationship was with Lieutenant McCoy, she was not his legal spouse.

"I'm Ken McCoy, Moore," he said. "I'm a friend of Captain Sessions. Ernie been taking good care of you?" He put out his hand. His grip was firm, and there was something about his eyes that made Moore decide that this was a good man.

"Yes, Sir, she has."

"Let me get a beer, Baby, and get out of this uniform," McCoy said. "Give Moore another one."

"Aye, aye, Sir. Right away, Sir."

McCoy patted her possessively on the buttocks.

"Be nice," he said.

"I'm always nice," Ernie Page said.

"How about eighty percent of the time?" McCoy said, and, carrying a bottle of beer, went below. By the time Moore had finished his second beer, McCoy reappeared, wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He looked even younger than he had before.

He caught Moore's eye.

"Why don't I loan you a pair of shorts and a T-shirt?" he asked.

"I don't want to trouble you, Sir."

"You'll trouble me in your greens," McCoy said. "Come on."

He took two fresh bottles of beer from the refrigerator and led Moore below again. He sat on the double bed in the cabin as Moore changed out of his greens.

"Zimmerman tell you about Outshipment? The way those feather merchants handle difficult passengers like you?"

"Yes, Sir."

"And that we figured out how to-fuck them-get you on your way to Australia?"

"Yes, Sir," Moore replied, and then took a chance. "Is that where I'm going, Sir, to Australia?"

"Sessions didn't tell you? What the hell is the big secret? He told me you were going to Australia when he called and asked me to make sure you got on the plane."

"No, Sir, he didn't tell me."

"OK. Well, keep your mouth shut, about where you're going, and who told you."

"Yes, sir."

"You're going to Australia. You know the outfit?"

"My orders say 'Special Detachment 14.' I don't know what that means, Sir."

"Well, I guess that's the reason for the secrecy. So I won't go into that. But your new CO is one of the good guys. His name is Major Ed Banning. I used to work for him in Shanghai. So did Captain Sessions. For that matter, so did Zimmerman. What he's doing is very important, and the reason you're travelling on a Six-A priority is that he needs someone, yesterday, who speaks Japanese."

Moore nodded.

And then he put everything together.

"Lieutenant, are you the one they call 'Killer McCoy'?"

The friendly smile that had been in McCoy's eyes vanished. Moore did not like what he saw in them now.

"Where did you hear that?" McCoy asked, and his voice was as cold and menacing as his eyes.

Moore knew that it had been the wrong question to ask, and tried to frame a reply that would be placating. When he did not immediately reply, McCoy, now visibly angry, asked, "Did that fucking Zimmerman run off at the fucking mouth again?"

Moore didn't reply instantly.

"I asked you a question," McCoy snapped.

"No, Sir. I heard that at Quantico. There was a Master Gunnery Sergeant there..."

"Name?" McCoy snapped.

"I don't remember his name, Sir," Moore said, and then remembered. "He said he was the S-3 Sergeant of the 4th Marines..."

"Nickleman," McCoy interrupted. "He always had a bad case of runaway mouth."

"... and he was talking about the 4th Marines, and Shanghai, with Captain Sessions."

McCoy stared at him for a long moment. Gradually, the cold fury in his eyes died, and blood returned to his lips.

"I'm sorry, Sir, if..." Moore began.

McCoy waved his hand to shut him off.

"To answer your question, Sergeant," McCoy said. "There are some people who call me 'Killer,' including people who should know better, like Mike Nickleman and Captain Sessions. I don't like it a goddamn bit. But you didn't know, so don't worry about it."

Moore's mouth ran away with him. "Why do they call you that, Sir?"

The ice came instantly back into McCoy's eyes, and his lips drew tight and bloodless again. He looked at Moore for a long moment, and then shrugged.

"OK. Let me set that straight. I had to kill some people in China. I didn't want to. I had to. It just happened that way. Some Italians, the Italian equivalent of Marines. Three of them. And about a month later, when Sessions and Zimmerman and I were fucking around in the boondocks, trying to find out what the Japs were up to, we had to kill some Chinese. They were supposed to be bandits, but what they were was working for the Kempae Tai-Japanese secret police. There was about twenty of them got killed. The word got back to Shanghai and some wiseass-I still don't know who-in the 4th heard about it. He didn't know what we were really doing up there, just that we got in a fight with Chinese bandits, so what he did was have a sign painted, 'Welcome Back, Killer' and hung it in the club. The name stuck. It makes me sound like a fucking lunatic, like I go around getting my rocks off knifing and shooting people."

"I'm sorry, Sir, that..."

McCoy held up his hand to cut him off again, and then, switching to Japanese, which startled Moore, said, "I'd be damned surprised, Moore, if you haven't figured out you're now in the Intelligence business, that we both are. Rule One in the Intelligence business, and I'm surprised Captain Sessions didn't tell you this, is to disappear into the wallpaper. The one thing you can't afford, in other words, is to have people point you out and say, 'there he is, Killer McCoy, who killed all those people.' Understand?"

"Yes, Sir," Moore replied in Japanese. "I understand."

McCoy looked at him appraisingly for a moment before he went on. "Well, we know that you speak Japanese, don't we? And damned well. Where'd you learn that?"

The subject of Killer McCoy, Moore understood, was closed.

The truth of the story is that he is called "Killer" because, very simply, he has killed people. Three Italians, probably by himself, and "about twenty" Chinese with Captain Sessions and Gunny Zimmerman. It would be hard to believe if I hadn't seen his eyes. I would hate to have Killer McCoy angry with me. Or, hell, just be in his way.

"I'm fairly fluent, Sir. I lived in Japan for a while," Moore replied in Japanese.

"There's damned few people in the Corps who speak Japanese," McCoy said, "for that matter, anything but English. On the other hand, about one Jap-or at least, one Japanese officer-in three or four speaks English. You'd be surprised how important that is."

"Yes, Sir."

"Well, what happens now is that in the morning, Zimmerman will go to Outshipment at the Seaplane base. When he finds out they're making up the manifest for the Pearl Harbor flight, he'll send his driver out here to pick you up. So you'll have to be dressed and ready after, say, seven o'clock in the morning. Standing by. You show up with your orders and they'll have to put you on the plane."

"Yes, Sir."

"Any questions?"

"No, Sir."

"Not even about the boat? Or Ernie?" McCoy asked, wryly.

"They're both... very nice... Sir."

"Yes, they are," McCoy chuckled.

As if on cue, Ernestine Sage appeared at the door.

"Dorothy and Marty just came home," she said. "He brought abalone. Unless you two would rather stay here and tell some more dirty stories in Japanese."

McCoy switched to English. "Ernie thinks that whenever people speak Japanese around here they're talking dirty," he said. "Not true, of course. I'm perfectly willing to say in English that she has a marvelous ass and spectacular boobs."

"You bastard!" she said, but Moore saw that it was said with affection.

Dorothy and Marty turned out to be a First Lieutenant and his wife, who was heavy with child. The lieutenant's tunic had no campaign medals above his marksmanship badges. And although first lieutenants outrank second lieutenants, it was immediately apparent not only that McCoy gave the orders on board the Last Time, but that the lieutenant was just about as impressed with Lieutenant McCoy as Sergeant Moore was.

"I didn't mean to disturb you..." the lieutenant said.

"No problem," McCoy said. "Ground rules: This is Sergeant Moore. John. You didn't see him here. You don't ask him where he came from, or where he's going. But feel free to talk about the Raiders. He's cleared for at least TOP SECRET. Moore, this is Marty Burnes and his wife, Dorothy."

Lieutenant Burnes crossed the cabin to Moore and gave him his hand.

"How are you, Moore?"

"How do you do, Sir?"

"Hello," Mrs. Burnes said.

"Hello."

"Is he going to have to call you two 'Sir' all night?" Ernie Sage asked.

"Whatever he's comfortable with," McCoy said.

"I think we can dispense with the customs of the service, tonight," Lieutenant Burnes said to Moore.

"Yes, Sir."

"Hell, he's as bad as Zimmerman," Ernie laughed. "You better not start calling me 'Miss Ernie,' John."

"No, Ma'am," Moore said, but he said it as a joke, and they all laughed.

"I filled the car with gas, Ken," Marty Burnes said.

"You didn't have to do that," McCoy replied.

"Well, hell,-we used it."

"Otherwise I would probably have had Little Martin, or Little Mary," Dorothy said, patting her swollen belly, "on the bus on the way to the Maternity Clinic."

"What did the doctor say?" Ernie Sage asked.

"Three weeks," Dorothy said.

"Your mother called," Ernie said. "I told her where you were. You better go call her. She's concerned."

Dorothy heaved herself with effort to her feet and went to a telephone at the far end of the cabin.

"Ken and Ernie took us in," Burnes said to John Moore. "We couldn't find a place to stay, and Dorothy wanted to have the baby here. If it wasn't for Ken and Ernie, Dorothy would have had to go back to Kansas City."

"Ernie took you in," McCoy corrected him. "This is her boat."

"Go to hell!" Ernie said, and then looked at Moore. "The boat belongs to a friend of a friend of my mother's. And since we're being such a stickler about the facts, my mother pretends that I am not living in sin with Ken. But, romantic fool that I am, I pretend that this is our first home, Ken's and mine, our barnacle-covered little boat by the side of the bay."

Moore smiled at her.

"Tell him about the Raiders," McCoy said.

Burnes looked at him in surprise.

"He's going to meet a friend of mine where he's going," McCoy explained. "He'll be curious."

"Then why don't you tell him about the Raiders?" Ernie challenged.

"Because I am only a second lieutenant. Everybody knows that second lieutenants can't find their ass with both hands. Isn't that so, Sergeant Moore?"

"Yes, Sir. We were taught that at Parris Island," Moore said.

"I'm almost glad you're not staying here longer," Ernie Sage said. "I think you and Ken would be dangerous if you had time to get your act together."

"Give the sergeant a beer, Dear," McCoy said, sweetly, "while Lieutenant Burnes tells him all about the Raiders."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Ernie Sage said. "Right away, Sir."

(Two)

U.S. NAVY BASE

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA

0815 HOURS 25 JUNE 1942

Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, was the fifth person to board the seaplane, a U.S. Navy Martin PBM-1. Boarding was supposed to be in order of priority, in which case Moore would have been first. But among those ordered to proceed via air to Pearl Harbor, Territory of Hawaii, by government air transport were a Vice Admiral of the U.S. Navy and a Brigadier General, USMC, whose priorities guaranteed them a seat.

Rank hath its privileges and the admiral and the general and their aides-de-camp were boarded first. Moore stepped inside the fuselage of what had been designed as a Patrol Bomber. A sailor in undress blues, with the insignia of an Aviation Motor Machinist's Mate First Class sewn to his sleeve, showed him where to stow his bag and where to strap himself in for the take-off. He found himself seated next to the admiral.

"Good morning, Son," the admiral said.

"Good morning, Sir," Moore replied.

"First flight?"

"No, Sir."

"Then you can reassure me," the admiral said. "I am not wholly convinced that something this big is really meant to fly."

I will be damned. He really went out of his way to be nice to me.

The sailor, a red-haired man in his late twenties who was obviously the crew chief, waited until all the passengers had come aboard and then passed out yellow, inflatable life preservers, first giving simple instructions about using them, and then checking the passengers to see that they had each put them on correctly.

Then he climbed a ladder in the front of the fuselage. A moment later, the airplane shuddered as first one and then the second of its engines started. The plane immediately began to move, but with a curious motion that made Moore wonder for a moment if he was going to get seasick.

Next, one at a time, the engines roared and then slowed to idle. Then they both revved together, and the seaplane began to pick up speed. The noise of the engines was deafening, and the noise was compounded by a series of metallic crashes as the hull encountered swells. Then suddenly there was only the sound of the engines, and the crashing of the hull against the water was gone.

Through the window on the far side of the cabin, Moore saw that the float-there was one on each side-which had kept the wing from dipping into the water was retractable. As he watched, it moved upward and outward until it formed the tip of the wing.

He turned in his seat and looked through the window behind him. They were already out over the Pacific. Some ships were visible, and the wakes of small boats; and then, suddenly, there was nothing outside the window but an impenetrable gray haze.

"I am solemnly assured by my Naval Aviator friends," the admiral said, "that the young men who drive these things are extensively trained in navigation."

They looked at each other and smiled.

Moore put his head back against the metal wall of the fuselage.

He had really had a good time the night before, he thought. And not only because Ernie Sage and Lieutenant McCoy had gone really out of their way to make him comfortable. More than that, they had made it sort of a party for him.

And what he'd heard about the Marine Raiders had been fascinating. With obvious pride in what he was doing, Lieutenant Burnes had explained that they were sort of American Commandos whose mission it was to make surprise landings-raids, hence the name-on Japanese-held islands. The idea was not to capture the islands, but to blow up enemy installations and supplies, and then leave. That, Burnes said, would force the Japanese to station troops wherever they had supply depots or airfields so they could protect them from the Raiders, troops that otherwise could have been used to invade New Guinea or even Australia.

As he went on, Burnes had mentioned on more than one occasion the 2nd Raider Battalion Commander, Major Evans Carlson, and Carlson's executive officer, Captain James Roosevelt, who was the son of the President. Every time the names of these two came up, his voice dropped to nearly reverential tones.

It was also pretty clear that Burnes was very impressed with the legendary Killer McCoy, who had taken out three Italian Marines with a knife, and then killed the Chinese bandits, and who had been wounded in the Philippines. So, Moore admitted, was he.

Moore could also see that Lieutenant McCoy wasn't quite so boyishly enthusiastic about the Raiders as Burnes was. McCoy never said so directly, and his face was in no way easy to read; but Moore sensed that as far as McCoy was concerned, the Raiders might as well be a gang of ten-year-old boys playing war games. At the same time, it was more than pretty clear to Moore that Burnes had no idea McCoy was involved with Intelligence. He wondered what McCoy was doing that had an Intelligence connection, but obviously he couldn't ask.

In fact there was no sense wondering what kind of Intelligence work McCoy was doing, or what he himself would be doing once he got to Australia. The only thing he knew about Intelligence was what he had learned watching spy movies, and McCoy was certainly not going to tell him what Intelligence was like in the real world.

But it had really made him feel good to see how Lieutenant McCoy and Ernie and Lieutenant Burnes and his wife had behaved to each other.

It would, he thought before he dozed off, be that way with Barbara when he came back. He would be an officer then, and maybe they could all get together and have a welcome home party.

(Three)

HEADQUARTERS

MARINE AIR GROUP TWENTY-ONE (MAG-21)

EWA, OAHU ISLAND, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1105 HOURS 27 JUNE 1942

"The Colonel will see you now, Sir," the staff sergeant said.

Captain Charles M. Galloway, USMCR, hoisted himself out of a battered, upholstered armchair whose cushions had long ago lost their resiliency, nodded at the sergeant, walked to the commanding officer's door, and rapped on the jamb with his knuckles.

"Come," Lieutenant Colonel Clyde G. Dawkins ordered.

Galloway marched into the office, came to attention eighteen inches from Dawkins's desk, and announced, "Captain Galloway reporting as ordered, Sir."

"Good morning, Captain, welcome aboard."

"Thank you, Sir."

"You get settled all right, Charley?"

"I told the kid in the truck to take me to the NCO billet," Galloway said.

"Did you really?" Dawkins chuckled. "Well, I guess being an officer-a squadron commander-will take some getting used to. But I'm sure you can handle it, Charley. Stand at ease, for Christ's sake. Sit down, as a matter-of-fact."

He pointed to an armchair, and Charley sat down. Its cushions were as exhausted as the cushions on the chair in the outer office.

"Thank you, Sir. That was after he told me he'd never heard of VMF-229."

Dawkins laughed.

"That's because most of VMF-229 resides in Karl Lorenz's desk drawer," he said. "You remember Lorenz, of course?"

"Yes, Sir. Sure."

"Right now VMF-229 consists of you, another officer, and eleven F4Fs on a wharf at Pearl Harbor, covered with all the protective crap they put on them when they ship them as deck cargo."

Galloway's eyebrows rose.

"What about men?"

"Lorenz levied the other squadrons for personnel for you. They came up-after a lot of breast beating-with a list of sixteen enlisted men. Some of them are alleged to be mechanics, and there is an alleged clerk, an alleged truck driver, and an alleged armorer. None of them is more than a buck sergeant. You have authority, of course, to draw whatever equipment and personnel is authorized for a fighter squadron."

"How much of what is authorized is going to be available when I go try to draw it?"

"Not much, Charley," Dawkins said. "Supply is a little better than it was, but not much."

"What about pilots?"

"Right now there's two of you. They dribble in all the time. Sometimes one at a time on a courier plane, sometimes two dozen when a carrier or cruiser from 'Diego or 'Frisco puts into Pearl, sometimes lately, three or four at a time on tin cans and merchantmen. As you get your planes operational, I'll see that you have pilots. They won't have much time, I'm afraid, they'll be right out of Pensacola."

"Ouch," Galloway said. "I've got some pilots, pretty good pilots, coming. General Mclnerney authorized me to steal five from Quantico and Pensacola." "Only five?"

"I sent him nine names. I didn't have to ask for volunteers. When the word got out I was getting a squadron, people came looking for me. Everybody wants to get over here, even if it means being in a squadron commanded by a flying sergeant." "Hold it right there, Captain," Dawkins said sharply. He had just been thinking that Captain Charles M. Galloway looked like everything one expected a Marine captain to look like. He was erect and trim, neatly barbered, in a well-fitting uniform. There was an aura of competence and command about him.

"Sir?"

"That's the last time I ever want to hear you refer to yourself as a 'flying sergeant,' " Dawkins said. "I don't even want you thinking of yourself as a 'flying sergeant.' When you pinned those bars on, you stopped being a flying sergeant. Is that clear enough for you, Captain?"

"Aye, aye, Sir."

Dawkins held Galloway's eyes with his own for a long moment.

"Scuttlebutt going around is that someone interesting personally gave you those bars, Charley. Anything to that story?"

"Yes, Sir. They had me flying a VIP R4D out of Quantico. I'd just come back from a round robin, Pensacola, New River, Philadelphia, and back to Quantico. When I parked the airplane, the Operations Officer told me to report to the VIP quarters. I walked in expecting some congressman or movie star needing a ride, and what I got was the Commandant."

"No crap?"

"Him and General Mclnerney. Five minutes later, I was a captain."

"Just like that?"

"He gave me a little speech, Sir, that I won't forget for a while."

"Oh?"

"He said that, acting on General Mclnerney's recommendation, and against his own better judgment, he was going to give me captain's bars, and that I goddamn well better forget thinking I was Errol Flynn or Ronald Reagan and start acting like a Marine captain."

"Sounds like sound advice," Dawkins chuckled. "Christ, you really had the Navy mad at you. For a while, there was guilt by association."

"Sir?"

"There was talk-serious talk-about court-martialing Lenny Martin for being conveniently absent when you flew that F4F out of here to rendezvous with Task Force XIV. 'Dereliction of Duty' was the way they put it."

Captain Leonard Martin had been the senior officer of VMF-211 present (and thus in command) when Galloway reported that he and the maintenance sergeant, Technical Sergeant Stefan "Big Steve" Oblensky, had repaired one of the shot-up F4Fs and that he intended to fly it out to the Saratoga.

Captain Martin had reminded Tech Sergeant Galloway that BUAIR engineers had officially classified the F4F as totally destroyed and that therefore, it was obviously unsafe to fly. He had also pointed out that even if there had been an officially flyable aircraft available, orders would have to be issued before it could be flown anywhere. And obviously, since the location of Sara was a closely guarded secret, Tech Sergeant Galloway had a practically nonexistent chance of finding it.

Quite unnecessarily, he had informed Tech Sergeant Galloway that his intended flight was against regulations and thus forbidden. And then, as he shook Tech Sergeant Galloway's hand, he had mentioned idly, in passing, that he had business at Pearl Harbor and would not be at the airfield at the time Galloway said he wanted to take off.

"Sir, is Captain Martin-still in trouble?"

"Not anymore, Charley. He was shot down at Midway."

"Shit!" Galloway said bitterly, adding, "I hadn't heard that."

"He was flying a goddamned Buffalo. We lost all of them but one."

"He was a good guy," Galloway said, softly.

"Most of them were," Dawkins said.

Galloway looked at him with a question in his eyes, and then put it in a word: " 'Most'?"

"I didn't mean that the way it sounded," Dawkins said. "But I was thinking-speaking ill of the dead-that it is possible to be both a dead hero and a prick. But you've touched on something else that needs to be discussed."

"I'm afraid you've lost me, Sir."

"The other officer presently assigned to VMF-229, Captain, is First Lieutenant, USMCR, William C. Dunn. He was also at Midway with VMF-211. Flying an F4F. He has- confirmed-both a Kate and a Zero."

"Dunn?" Galloway asked, thoughtfully. "I don't think I remember..."

"Nice-looking young kid. He came aboard after you were returned to the States in such glory," Dawkins said dryly. "He took what we think was a 20mm round, an explosive shell, in his windscreen. It almost turned him into a soprano. He managed to get the airplane back to Midway, totaling it on landing. It was full of holes, in addition to the 20mm, I mean."

"Sounds like a good man," Charley said.

"Very possibly he is," Dawkins said carefully. "But there is some question, I'm afraid -serious question, about whether he took the round that filled his crotch with shrapnel and fragments while he was engaging the enemy, or after he'd already decided to fly back to Midway."

"You're saying he ran?"

"Listen carefully. What I said was 'serious question.' The officer-there was more than one, but the officer who made the most serious accusations-decided, on reflection, not to bring charges against him."

"Who was that?"

"I don't think giving you his name would be appropriate," Dawkins said.

"What has... you said 'Dunn'?... got to say for himself?"

"Dunn says that he has no memory of flying back to Midway at all."

"What do you think?"

"I believe that Dunn doesn't remember flying back to Midway."

"How come I get this guy?"

"I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt," Dawkins said.

Galloway started to say something and changed his mind. Dawkins saw it.

"Say it, Charley."

"Nothing, Sir."

"Say it, Charley," Dawkins repeated.

"Actually, I was thinking two things, Sir. The first was that when a good Marine gets an order, even one he doesn't think he can handle, he says 'Aye, aye, Sir' and does his best."

"You mean you don't think you can handle a squadron?"

"I can handle a squadron. But there are squadrons and squadrons, and it looks like mine is staffed with sixteen enlisted Marines who are almost certainly the ones their squadron commanders figured they could do without; plus pickled aircraft that I have to unpickle with somebody else's rejects; plus, of course, an officer one jump ahead of a court-martial."

"Is that all one thought? You said you had two?"

"I was thinking, Colonel, that you wouldn't screw me unless you had no choice. But if the brass is making you set me up to fuck up so I can be relieved, why don't we just jump to that? Give the squadron to somebody else, and just let me fly. I didn't ask for the bars; all I ever wanted to do is fly fighters. I mean, I'll take a bust back to sergeant..."

"That's quite enough, Captain," Dawkins said furiously. "Shut down your mouth. How dare you suggest, you sonofabitch, that I would be party to something like that?"

"Sorry, Sir," Galloway said after a long moment, during which he realized that Dawkins was waiting for a response.

"You're going to have to learn, Galloway, to engage your brain before opening your mouth," Dawkins said more calmly. "Just for your information, I was given the option of not giving you VMF-229. I'm giving it to you because you're the best man I have available to take the job."

"Yes, Sir."

"I wish I had an operational squadron I could just turn over to you, fully equipped with flyable aircraft, qualified mechanics, and whatever else is called for. I don't. All I have to give you is what I told you, airplanes sitting on a wharf and a handful of half-trained kids to get them up and running. I'll do my damnedest to get you anything else you think you need, but the shelves are pretty goddamned bare."

They looked at each other without speaking for a long moment.

"Can I have Oblensky, Sir?"

"What?"

"Tech Sergeant Oblensky, Sir," Galloway said. "I know he's here. I asked."

Dawkins looked unhappy. He made three starts, stopping each time before a word left his mouth, before asking, "Do you think it is a good idea, Captain, theoretically or practically, for a non-commissioned officer to be assigned to a squadron commanded by an officer with whom he served as a non-com? Who was his best pal when they were sergeants together?"

"From what you've told me about the men you're going to give me, Sir," Galloway said, "I'll either have to have Big Steve, or somebody like him, or get those airplanes flyable myself."

"Captain Galloway, if I hear that you have been seen with a wrench in your hand, you will spend the rest of this war with a wrench in your hand. Clear?"

"Does that mean I get Oblensky, Sir?"

"I finally have something in common with the Commandant, Galloway. Acting against my better judgment, I'm going to give you something I don't think you should have."

"Thank you, Sir."

"That will be all, Captain Galloway. Thank you."

Chapter Eight

(One)

HEADQUARTERS

MARINE AIR GROUP TWENTY-ONE (MAG-21)

EWA, OAHU ISLAND, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1135 HOURS 27 JUNE 1942

PFC Alfred B. Hastings, who was seventeen and had been in the Corps not quite five months, had just about finished drying with a chamois a glistening yellow 1933 Ford convertible coupe, when he noticed that his labor had attracted the attention of an officer.

The Ford was parked in the shade of Hangar Three. When Hastings was finished, his orders were to return the car to the other side of the hangar, to a parking space lettered MAINTENANCE NCO.

For a long moment, PFC Hastings pretended he did not see the officer, who was a captain and an aviator. He did that for two reasons. First, he had slipped out of the sleeves of his coveralls and tied them around his waist, which left him in his sleeveless undershirt and thus out of uniform. Second, despite the dedicated efforts of his drill instructors at the San Diego Recruit Depot to instill in him a detailed knowledge of the Customs of the Service as they applied to military courtesy, he was not sure what was now required of him.

The basic rule was that officers got saluted by enlisted men. But it wasn't quite that simple. You were not supposed to salute indoors unless you were under arms. That meant actually carrying your rifle, or a symbol of it like a cartridge belt. And you were not supposed to salute when you were on a labor detail. The NCO in charge of the labor detail was supposed to do that, first calling "attention" and then saluting the officer on behalf of the entire labor detail.

I suppose, PFC Hastings finally decided, that since I am the only one on this labor detail, I am in charge, and supposed to salute. And that sonofabitch obviously isn't going to go away. He's looking at the car like he never saw a '33 Ford before.

And I don't think anybody ever got in real trouble in the Corps for saluting when they really didn't have to.

He gave the chrome V-8 insignia on the front of the hood a final wipe, stepped back a foot; and then, as if he had first noticed the officer just then, he popped to attention and saluted.

"Good afternoon, Sir!" PFC Hastings barked. At the same moment, he realized that coming to attention had rearranged his hips so that the bottom of his coveralls was sliding down off them.

"Good afternoon," Captain Charley Galloway said, crisply returning the salute and doing his best not to laugh. "Stand at ease and grab your pants."

"Aye, aye, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

PFC Hastings quickly untied the sleeves of his coveralls, shoved his arms through them, and buttoned the garment as regulations required. When he looked up, he saw that the Captain was carefully inspecting the Ford's interior. He took a chance.

"Nice car, isn't it, Sir?"

"Yes, it is," Galloway said, smiling at PFC Hastings. "And Sergeant Oblensky lets you take care of it for him, does he?"

"Yes, Sir," PFC Hastings said, a touch of pride in his voice. "I try to keep it shipshape for him, Sir."

"And you seem to have done so very well," Galloway said.

"Thank you, Sir."

"Do you happen to know where Sergeant Oblensky is?"

"Yes, Sir. He's inside, in the hangar, I mean."

"Would you please find Sergeant Oblensky and tell him I'd like a word with him, please?"

"Aye, aye, Sir," Hastings said, and started to walk away, then stopped. He had forgotten to salute; and he also hadn't done what Sergeant Oblensky had told him to do with the car when he had finished washing it.

"Sir, I'm supposed to put the car back in Sergeant Oblensky's parking space."

"It'll be all right here," Galloway said. "Just go get him, please."

"Aye, aye, Sir," Hastings said, and this time remembered to salute.

Galloway, fighting the urge to smile, returned it; and then when the kid had disappeared, at a fast trot, around the corner of the hangar, he leaned over the mounted-in-the-front-fender spare tire and raised the left half of the hood.

The engine compartment of the nine-year-old Ford was as spotless as the exterior. The first time Charley had seen the Ford's engine it was a disaster; where it wasn't streaked with rust it had been coated with grease. Now it looked as good as it must have looked on the showroom floor. Better. And mechanically it was better too. The engine had not just been completely rebuilt, it had been greatly modified. The heads had been milled to increase compression. The carburetor had been upgraded. There had even been thought about "blowing" the engine, getting an aircraft engine supercharger from salvage, rebuilding it, and adapting it to the flathead Ford V-8. That probably would have happened had the war not come along.

Captain Galloway lowered the hood, fastened it in place, and stood erect. Technical Sergeant Stefan Oblensky appeared at the corner of the hangar.

He was known as "Big Steve" because he was big. He stood well over six feet, had a barrel chest, and large bones. He was almost entirely bald, and what little hair remained around his ears and the back of his neck was so closely shorn as to be nearly invisible.

He was forty-six, literally old enough to be Charley's father. Seeing him, Charley realized with surprise that he had forgotten both how old and how big Big Steve was. And how formidable appearing in his stiffly starched, skin-tight khakis, his fore-and-aft cap perched on his shining, massive head.

There was no suggestion on his face that he had ever seen Captain Charles Galloway before in his life. He raised his hand in a crisp salute.

"Good afternoon, Sir. The captain wished to see me?"

Charley returned the salute.

"Good afternoon, Sergeant," he said. "Yes, I did."

"How may I help the captain, Sir?"

"I think we might as well start by putting this back in my name," Galloway said, waving at the Ford. "Does it run as good as it looks?"

"I don't think the captain will have any complaints, Sir."

"Well, then get in, Sergeant, and we'll go see the Provost Marshal."

"Sir, with the captain's permission, I'll have to inform the maintenance officer that I will be out of the hangar."

"That won't be necessary, Sergeant. I've explained to your squadron commander that we have some business to take care of."

"Yes, Sir."

That's bullshit.

What I did, with absolutely no success, was try to placate his squadron commander after he had been told five minutes before that he had just lost his Maintenance NCO to VMF-229, and that the decision was not open for discussion or reversal When I walked out of his door, the man was still steamingly pissed off-not only at his Wing Commander but, if possible, even more at Captain Charles M. Galloway, CO, VMF-229. I wonder why I didn't tell Big Steve that he now works for me?

Obviously, because I don't want him to think that Santa Claus has come to town, and that he now has a squadron commander in his pocket

Galloway got behind the wheel of the Ford. Oblensky, after first removing it from a well-filled key ring, handed the ignition key to him.

The engine started immediately. Galloway slipped it in gear and made a U-turn away from the hangar.

"I heard you were back," Oblensky said.

It starts. "You," not "the captain" No "Sir."

"I got in yesterday," Galloway said. "I got a ride on an Army Air Corps B-17."

"Do they give them guns and ammo now?" Oblensky asked.

Again, no "Sir," Galloway thought. What the hell is he talking about?

And then he remembered. During the attack on Pearl Harbor, a flight of B-17s had arrived in Hawaii. Since they had left the United States in peacetime-and to decrease the parasitic drag the weapons would cause if in place-their.50 caliber Browning machine guns had been stowed inside, and they had carried no ammunition for them. They had arrived in the middle of a battle absolutely unable to defend themselves.

"These had ammo," Galloway answered, remembering. "The side positions were faired over, and their guns were on the deck. The turrets were operational."

"I heard they were giving you a squadron."

Of course you did. If you could find out from the Navy the course of the Saratoga at sea, it was no problem at all for you to find out from the sergeant in Colonel Dawkins's office that I was going to get VMF-229.

"VMF-229," Galloway said.

It was not far from the hangar to the Provost Marshal's office. Oblensky did not attempt further conversation.

There was a lanky buck sergeant on duty. He stood up behind his desk when Galloway walked into the small frame building.

"Good morning, Sir," the sergeant said. "Can I help you?"

"I want to register a car," Galloway said. "You got the papers, Sergeant Oblensky?"

"Yes, Sir," Oblensky said, taking the vehicle registrations, military and civilian, from his wallet and handing them over.

"Sir," the Provost Marshal Sergeant said, "if the captain is buying the car from the sergeant, you'll need a notarized bill of sale."

"I'm not buying it," Galloway said. "I already own it. I gave Sergeant Oblensky a power-of-attorney to use it when I went to the States."

"It's on file," Oblensky said. "Look under 'Oblensky.' "

"Let me check," the sergeant said, and he went to a vertical file cabinet. In a moment, he found what he was looking for. He returned with a manila folder, reading from it as he walked.

"You're Tech Sergeant Galloway, Sir?"

"No. I'm Captain Galloway. But I was a Tech Sergeant when I signed that power-of-attorney."

"Yes, Sir. That's what I meant, Sir. I'll get the forms, Sir."

He went into a small storeroom.

"I think he knows who you are," Oblensky said, softly.

"Who am I?"

"I mean, I think he knows what happened, who you are," Oblensky said.

The sergeant came out of the storeroom with several printed forms and a small metal plate. He sat down at the typewriter and fed the forms into it. He asked for Galloway's serial number and unit.

"There's a new regulation, Sir," the sergeant said. "You'll need your CO's permission to have a car on the base."

"Colonel Dawkins, you mean?"

"No, Sir, your squadron commander will do."

"I command VMF-229," Galloway said.

"Yes, Sir," the sergeant said, visibly surprised.

Big Steve was right. That guy did make the connection. It will be interesting conversation at the Staff NCO Club tonight-for that matter at the Officer's Club, too-and all over the base by tomorrow:

"Remember that story about the Flying Sergeant of VMF-211 who fixed up the F4F the Japs got on December 7? Fixed it up and flew it out to the Saratoga at sea and really pissed the Navy off? The guy they sent back to the states for court-martial? Well, he's back, and guess what, he's a captain, no shit, and a squadron commander!"

The sergeant came from his typewriter and handed Galloway forms to sign and then the small metal plate.

"You screw this on top of the Hawaiian plate, Sir," he said. "That'll be fifty cents, please."

Galloway handed him two quarters.

"Thank you," he said.

"Excuse me, Sir," the sergeant said. "You used to be a flying sergeant with VMF-211, right?"

"Right."

"I thought I remembered the name," the sergeant said.

Would you like my autograph? How to Succeed in the Corps: Really fuck up!

He became aware that Oblensky was tugging at the small metal plate, and released it to him. When they went outside, Oblensky opened the rumble seat, took a screwdriver from a small tool roll, and replaced the tag (for enlisted men) above the license plate with the new officer's tag Galloway had just been given.

"Thank you, Steve," Galloway said. "And also for keeping the car so shipshape."

"Don't be silly," Oblensky said. "I was using it, wasn't I? I owe you."

I'm not very good at this psychological bullshit, "How the wise commissioned officer should deal with the enlisted swine." Fuck it!

"Steve, I had you transferred to VMF-229," Galloway said. "Is that going to cause any problems?"

"You're starting with problems," Oblensky said. "What you have is fourteen pickled F4Fs on a wharf at Pearl, Christ only knows what shape they're in; a dozen-maybe fifteen, sixteen-kids who are not sure what a wrench is used for;, and a young pilot scuttlebutt says runs from fights."

"I mean with you and me," Galloway said.

Oblensky's eyes narrowed. Galloway knew him well enough to know that meant he was angry. Very angry.

"I don't think I deserved that, Captain Galloway," he said, coldly, after a moment. "I would have thought you know me well enough to know that I have been in the Corps long enough to know where the line is between those of us who wear stripes and those of you who wear bars."

"Christ, Steve!"

"If the captain can remember not to call the sergeant by his Christian name where other people can hear him, the sergeant will remember not to remember that he knew the captain when he was a wiseass little fucker who made tech sergeant before he was old enough to be a pimple on a buck sergeant's ass."

"I'll keep that in mind, Sergeant Oblensky."

"The captain would be wise to do just that," Oblensky said.

They met each other's eyes for a moment, and then, Oblensky first, they smiled at each other.

"Thank you, Steve," Galloway said.

"When does my transfer come through?"

"I don't know about the paperwork, but you're in VMF-229 as of now."

"In that case, why don't we ride over and see what shape our airplanes are in? Unless there's something I don't know about, that would seem to be our first order of business."

They got in the Ford. En route to the wharfs at the Pearl Harbor Naval Station, Oblensky asked, "Remember when we painted this thing? And that Lieutenant Commander wanted to know where we got the paint, and you showed him the can from Sears, Roebuck?"

Galloway chuckled. The paint can from Sears had been labeled, HIGH GLOSS YELLOW ENAMEL. $5.95. After they'd bought it, Oblensky had dumped the contents into a five gallon can of Navy yellow paint intended to paint lines on hangar and flight line floors. He had then refilled it- "borrowed" it from Navy stocks-with a very high quality aviation paint that was reported to be worth sixty dollars a gallon on the civilian market.

The Ford's new paint job had been spectacular, as the Lieutenant Commander had noticed. He had run right down to Sears to get a gallon of their $5.95 "High Gloss Yellow Enamel" to paint his own car. His Studebaker, somehow, hadn't come out looking nearly as nice as Galloway's Ford, and he had been disappointed and mystified.

His own reaction at the time, Charley remembered, was that was the sort of stupid behavior you expected from a fucking officer. He was aware now that he had switched sides, that he was now a fucking officer, and considered fair game by old time non-coms like Big Steve.

"I got some more bad news for you," Oblensky said. "Your Lieutenant Dunn's been fucking your girlfriend."

"You mean Ensign O'Malley?"

"Yeah. You mean you forgot her?"

"She was never my girlfriend, Steve."

"Well," Oblensky chuckled. "You were pretty fucking chummy, as I remember."

In the early morning of December 7, 1941, Technical Sergeant Galloway had been in bed with Ensign O'Malley in a cabin in the hills Technical Sergeant Oblensky had borrowed for the weekend from an old and now retired Marine Corps buddy. When Oblensky had burst into the room to tell Galloway that the Japanese were attacking the Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Ensign O'Malley had been performing on Technical Sergeant Galloway's body a sexual act that he had not even heard of previously, not even in the French movies he had sometimes seen on stag night in the Staff NCO Club.

"What about Flo?" Galloway asked, to change the subject. "You still see her?"

Flo was Lieutenant Florence Kocharski, Navy Nurse Corps, a lady a few years younger and not much smaller than Oblensky. They had met when Oblensky had gone to the Naval Hospital for his annual physical. It had taken them about twenty minutes to decide that it was time to break a rule both had followed for more than twenty years: Officers do not become involved with enlisted personnel.

"I knew you'd get around to asking that, sooner or later," Oblensky replied.

It was not the reply Galloway expected.

"Is there some reason I shouldn't have asked? You were pretty fucking chummy, too, as I remember."

"Off the record, Captain?"

"Off the record."

"We got married," Oblensky said. "The day after you flew out to the Saratoga."

"Married?" Galloway asked, in disbelief.

"We were going to get married when one of us retired anyway," Oblensky said. "We both got our twenty-years in, and then some. So when this goddamned war came along, and they weren't going to let us retire, we figured, fuck 'em. We got married. Flo knew a priest who can keep his mouth shut, and we didn't put ranks or whatever on the marriage license."

"You mean you got married without permission?"

"They don't let officers marry enlisted men, or vice versa, you know that."

"Well, you know I like Flo," Galloway said, honestly. "So the first thing I've got to say is 'congratulations.'"

"Why don't you just stop there, then?"

"Christ, what are you going to do if they find out?"

"Hope they don't, for openers," Oblensky said. "I don't think they'd court-martial us."

"Goddamn, Steve, I don't know."

"After Flo and Hot Pants O'Malley dropped us back at the base on seven December," Oblensky said carefully, "Flo went down to Battleship Row. She was on board West Virginia taking care of some sailors when there was a secondary explosion... one of the five-inch magazines blew up. She caught some fragments and got burned a little, but she was still able to work, so she stuck around for a while. Some Commander saw her and put her in for a medal and the Purple Heart. We figured the Navy and/or the Corps would look pretty fucking silly court-martialing a wounded hero for marrying a Marine. Or vice versa, a Marine for marrying a wounded hero."

"They're going to be pissed," Galloway said.

"Well, they were pissed at you, too, and now look at you," Oblensky said.

"I didn't think to ask," Galloway said. "Were you in trouble because of what I did?"

"They were pretty excited for a while right afterward," Oblensky said. "But you were the one who flew the airplane, not me. I don't expect to get promoted any time soon, though."

"What are you going to do about the paperwork?" Galloway asked. "Who's the dependent, for example? You, or Flo?"

"We've been a little wary about getting into that," Oblensky said. "The only thing we did was change our life insurance. She gets mine, and I get hers, if anything happens. I changed my home of record to her brother's, in Chicago. And we didn't say we was married. You can leave your insurance to a friend."

"Let me look into this, Steve."

"Don't rock the fucking boat, Charley," Oblensky said.

"I won't, trust me."

"I guess I have to, don't I?" Oblensky said. "You don't seem very pissed off that Hot Pants is fucking Lieutenant Dunn."

Just in time, Galloway stopped himself from saying, "I met somebody special in the States."

I can't tell him about Caroline. If I told him that I actually met a woman from a background like that, that she drove across the country with me, that we stayed at the Andrew Foster Hotel as the guests of Andrew Foster, he would think it was one hundred-percent bullshit, probably concocted because he had just told me Hot Pants O'Malley is now screwing this guy Dunn. If he believed there really was a woman named Caroline who drove out to the West Coast with me, he would be sure she was some tramp I met in a bar. Be would not believe the suite in the Andrew Foster at all. Not that he thinks I'm an imaginative liar, but because all of that belongs to a world that he can 't even imagine.

Instead, Galloway said, "You seem pissed off about it."

"Pussy's in short supply in Hawaii, as you damned well know. A girl like that, she can do great things for morale. But it seems to me that if she wants to pass it around, she could find somebody who's not afraid to fight to pass it out to."

Oh, shit! I can't let him get away with that!

After a moment, Oblensky sensed the tension.

"I say something wrong?" he asked.

"Yeah, Steve, you did," Galloway said. "Did you really think I would just sit here, as your commanding officer, and let you accuse one of your officers-one of my officers-of cowardice?"

"Everybody knows he ran away from Midway," Oblensky said.

"No, goddamnit, everybody doesn't know that. Colonel Dawkins doesn't know, I don't know, and you goddamned sure don't know. You keep your mouth shut about Lieutenant Dunn. Not only in front of me, but everywhere."

Oblensky looked at him in surprise, but said nothing.

"There is an expected reply from a non-com when an officer gives him an order," Galloway said, coldly.

Oblensky wet his lips. There was a just perceptible pause before he said, "Aye, aye, Sir."

That was pretty chickenshit of you, Charley Galloway, pulling rank on him that way, Galloway thought. And then he thought: Fuck him. He was wrong. And that's why they give officers rank, to use it And then he had a final, more than a little satisfying, even a little smug, thought: I didn't handle that badly at all Maybe I just can hack it as an officer, a squadron commander.

(Two) OFFICER'S CLUB

PEARL HARBOR NAVAL BASE

OAHU, TERRITORY OF HAWAII

1630 HOURS 27 JUNE 1942

Uniform Regulations of the United States Naval Base, Pearl Harbor, specified the white uniform for wear after 1700 hours in social situations, e.g., while dining in the Main Officer's Club. But because there were exigencies of the service which brought officers to Pearl Harbor without their whites-such as for example the fact that there was a war on-there was a caveat: The words "whenever possible" had been added.

It was a loophole through which most Marine and many Naval aviators leapt en masse. White uniforms were expensive to begin with, they soiled easily and often permanently, and as a general rule of thumb they could be worn only once before requiring a trip to the laundry/dry cleaners.

When Captain Charles M. Galloway came into the Main Officer's Club, he saw at the bar another Marine officer dressed as he was. They were both wearing a tropical worsted uniform, shirt, trousers, and the khaki necktie that the Corps called a "field scarf"-for reasons Galloway never understood. "TWs" were not only more comfortable than whites, they did not require very extra careful movement of cup or fork to the mouth, and could often be worn three times before a visit to the dry cleaners.

That has to be Lieutenant William C. Dunn, Galloway thought. He's a first John aviator, "a good looking kid," as Colonel Dawkins called him, and he is rubbing knees with Mary Agnes O'Malley.

As he walked to the bar, Charley noticed that Dunn was wearing his wings, but no ribbons. He was entitled to wear the Purple Heart after the Japs almost turned him into a soprano.

As soon as Lieutenant (j.g.) Mary Agnes O'Malley, Nurse Corps, USN, recognized Charley, she discreetly withdrew the knee she'd draped over Lieutenant Dunn's and smiled at Galloway. There was, Charley thought, more than a little hint of naughty invitation in her eyes.

"Well, look at what the tide threw up on the beach!" she cried, and got off the bar stool.

Just looking at her, you 'd never guess what she likes to do- have done to her-in the sack. I wonder if she's doing that to Dunn? Or got him to do it to her?

"Hello, Mary Agnes," Galloway said. She stood on her tiptoes and gave him her cheek to kiss, managing in the maneuver to rub her breasts against his abdomen.

"Charley, this is Lieutenant Bill Dunn," Mary Agnes said, touching Dunn's shoulder with her hand. "Bill, this is Captain Charley Galloway."

"Hello, Dunn," Charley said, offering his hand.

"Good evening, Sir."

Christ, you can cut that Rebel accent with a knife! He sounds like he thinks there's no "e" in "evening" and that "Sir" is spelled "Suh."

"I sort of hoped you would be here," Galloway said. "So I would have my chance to hold my very first officer's call."

It was an attempt at humor, and it failed.

"Yes, Sir," Dunn said, adding, with absolutely no suggestion of invitation in his voice, "Would you join us for a drink, Sir?"

"Oh, of "course, he will," Mary Agnes said. "Charley and I are old friends, aren't we, Charley?"

"Absolutely," Charley said. He caught the bartender's eye. "Another round here, please. I'll have whatever the lieutenant's drinking."

"I'll just get in the middle," Mary Agnes said. "Move over a stool, Bill."

Dunn shifted to the adjacent stool; Mary Agnes sat on the one he vacated; and Galloway slid onto the one where she had been sitting. It was still warm from her body, which served to trigger a remarkably clear image of what that bottom looked-and felt-like when not covered with the crisp white of a Navy Nurse's dress uniform.

Galloway looked past Mary Agnes at Dunn.

"I left a message for you at the BOQ," he said. "Did you get it?"

"Yes, Sir. Hangar Three at 0730. I'll be there, Sir."

"I talked Colonel Dawkins out of Technical Sergeant Oblensky," Galloway said. "You know him, I guess? Big Steve?"

"Yes, Sir."

"I told him to find us someplace for a squadron office...", Galloway said.

"Yes, Sir," Dunn said, when Galloway paused momentarily to take a breath.

"... and I'd be surprised if he didn't have us one by 0730 tomorrow," Galloway finished.

"Yes, Sir."

He doesn't like me. I wonder why? I don't think Hot Pants is likely to have told him much about us, if anything. Maybe because he heard I used to be a flying sergeant? And he's not thrilled by having an ex-sergeant for a CO?

"When I was a flying sergeant in VMF-211," Galloway said, "I got to know Oblensky pretty well. He's what they call 'The Old Breed'; he's been in the Corps since Christ was a corporal. Damned good man."

"So I've heard, Sir," Dunn said.

The bartender delivered the drinks.

"Here's to old friends," Mary Agnes said, raising her glass. "The best kind."

"How about here's to VMF-229?" Galloway said. "And particularly to its pilots, both of whom are here with you?"

"All right," Mary Agnes said agreeably; and then realizing what Charley meant, she added, "Is that right? All the pilots there are is you two?"

"That's right," Galloway said and then added to Dunn, "But there was a radio this afternoon..." He stopped, took a sheet of yellow paper from his hip pocket, handed it to Dunn, and continued, "... with these names on it. They'll be in the next couple of days."

Dunn took the sheet of teletype paper, read it, and handed it back.

"Know any of those people?" Galloway asked.

"I knew a Dave Schneider, went through Advanced with him at Pensacola, but they sent him on to multiengine. Not an F4F pilot." |

"It's probably the same guy," Galloway said. "He was learning to fly R4Ds when I met him."

Galloway had met Lieutenant David Schneider on a very important day in his life. Not only was it the first time he had been permitted to fly since he had landed the Wildcat on Sara's deck, but it was the day he met Mrs. Caroline Ward McNamara.

Headquarters, USMC had laid an important mission on Quantico. They were to furnish an R4D to drop parachutists at the Marine Corps Parachute School at Lakehurst, New Jersey. It was important because Major Jake Dillon, a legendary Hollywood press agent who had come back into the Corps when the war started-he had once been a staff sergeant with the 4th Marines in Shanghai-had arranged for Time-Life to do a major story on what were being called "ParaMarines."

Colonel Robert T. "Bobby" Hershberger, of the 1st Marine Air Wing, decided that he could not entrust flying the plane to the only two pilots he had who were checked out in the R4D. Lieutenants David Schneider and James L. Ward simply didn't have the necessary experience. On the flight line, however, wrench in hand, removed in disgrace from flight status, was a Tech Sergeant named Charley Galloway who not only had several hundred hours in R4Ds but had graduated from the U.S. Army Air Corps School for dropping people and equipment by parachute from R4Ds.

After a somewhat heated telephone conversation with Brigadier General D. G. Mclnerney, during which both officers said things they immediately regretted, it was decided that the situation required Galloway's restoration to flight duty for the Lakehurst mission. It was either that or run the risk of allowing a new R4D with MARINES lettered on the fuselage and a load of parachutists aboard to crash in flames before Time's, Life's, and The March of Time's still and motion picture cameras.

Lieutenants Schneider and Ward were called into Colonel Hershberger's office and told that they would fly the mission with Technical Sergeant Galloway, who would be Pilot-in-Command.

Lieutenant Schneider, who was an Annapolis graduate and a career officer, was very unhappy to find himself under the orders of a Flying Sergeant. And he did nothing to conceal his unhappiness. On the other hand, Lieutenant Ward, who was a reservist, was not knocked out of joint because he had to learn from someone who knew more than he did, whatever his rank. And far more importantly, Ward had a just-divorced aunt named Caroline Ward McNamara, to whom he introduced Technical Sergeant Galloway in Philadelphia.

"Schneider's an absolute asshole," Dunn said. "Annapolis. The reason he hates this war is because they have to let civilians into the Corps to fight it. Civilian savages pissing on the Corps's sacred potted palms, so to speak..."

Then Dunn saw the look on Galloway's face and stopped.

"My mouth ran away with me, Sir, I'm sorry."

The test of a truly intelligent man. Galloway remembered hearing somewhere, is the degree to which he agrees with you.

"The thing about Lieutenant Schneider, Lieutenant Dunn," Galloway said sternly, "is that he not only is a skilled, knowledgeable pilot, but, in my judgment, he is one of those rare people who are natural fliers. With those characteristics in mind, I asked Lieutenant Schneider to join VMF-229, even though he is personally an absolute asshole. Fortunately for you-and for me too-you outrank him."

Dunn's eyes widened, and then for the first time he smiled.

"Yes, Sir, that thought has occurred to me."

We're going to get along, Galloway thought, this Rebel kid is all right.

Mary Agnes swung around on the stool so that she faced Galloway and her knee pressed against his leg.

"Why don't we carry our drinks into the dining room and find a table?" she asked. "They've got a band in there, and I'd like to dance."

"On the table?" Galloway asked.

Her knees pressed harder against his leg, and her hand came down to rest on it.

"No," she said, giving his leg a little squeeze. "With you, silly."

(Three)

THE ELMS

DANDENONG, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA

1730 HOURS 28 JUNE 1942

When the telephone rang, Captain Fleming Pickering, USNR, was in the library of The Elms, sitting in a high-backed red leather armchair, jacketless, his shoes off, his tie pulled down, and his feet on a footstool. He was just about ready to take his first sip of his first drink of the day.

He eyed the instrument with distaste; it was sitting out of reach on a narrow table across the room. It had been a busy day, and it was his considered judgment that anything anyone on the phone wanted could wait until tomorrow morning.

The telephone kept ringing. There was a staff of four at The Elms: a housekeeper, a maid, a cook, and a combination yardman, chauffeur, and husband to the housekeeper. They were all personal employees of Captain Pickering. The house was leased from a Melbourne banker Captain Pickering knew from before the war.

The Vice-chairman of the Board of the Pacific and Far Eastern Shipping Corporation (that is to say, Mrs. Fleming Foster Pickering) had arranged for the salary and expense allowance of Chairman of the Board Fleming Pickering to continue while he was on "military leave" from his duties. After having been assigned quarters (a small, two-room hotel suite to be shared with a portly Army Colonel who snored) Captain Pickering had decided that since he damned well could afford something more comfortable, there was no reason not to leave the colonel to snore alone.

Besides, he rationalized, he needed a place where he could discreetly meet people in connection with his duties. The brass hats of MacArthur's Palace Guard could give lessons in plain and fancy gossiping to any women's group he was familiar with. The gossip was at the least annoying, but it could also spread information that deserved to be sat upon, and at worst it could cost people their lives.

"Christ," Pickering asked rhetorically, vis-…-vis his domestic staff, "where the hell are they all?"

He hauled himself out of the chair and walked across the two-story library in his stocking feet and picked up the telephone.

"Captain Pickering."

"Major Banning, please."

It was an American voice.

"I'm sorry, Major Banning isn't here at the moment. I expect him within the hour. Can I take a message?"

"Am I correct, Captain, that you're an American officer?"

"Yes, I am."

"This is Commander Lentz, Captain, of Melbourne NATS."

It took Pickering a moment to decode the acronym: Naval Air Transport Service. Next it occurred to him-after a moment spent digesting the superior tone of the commander's voice-that the NATS officer had jumped to the wrong conclusion: Lentz thinks I'm a Marine captain, and thus inferior in rank, rather than what I really am, an exalted four striper.

"How may I help you, Commander?"

"We've got an enlisted man down here, Captain, one of your sergeants..."

Bingo, I was right. He thinks I'm a Marine. Actually, I wish to God I was.

"... he just came in from Hawaii on the courier plane. He's headed for some outfit called Special Detachment 14. Ordinarily, I would have sent him over to the transient detachment, but he's traveling on a Six-A priority, so I tried to find this Special Detachment 14..."

"He's there now, Commander? Is that what you're saying?"

"You people really ought to make an effort to keep us up to date on your phone numbers," Commander Lentz said. "I spent an hour on the telephone before I managed to get through to some sergeant, who said Major Banning could be reached at this number."

"Tell the sergeant I'll be there in about thirty minutes to pick him up," Pickering said.

"You're going to come get him yourself?"

"Certainly," Pickering said. "I think it behooves those of us who are Naval officers to concern ourselves with the welfare of the enlisted men of our sister service, don't you, Commander?"

Commander Lentz was not stupid.

"Yes, Sir," he said. "Of course I do, Sir. Sir, it won't be necessary for the Captain to come himself. I'll arrange transportation if the Captain will give me an address."

"I'll be there in thirty minutes, Commander. I know where you are," Pickering said and hung up. His annoyance at having to drive into town was easily overwhelmed by his pleasure at having pricked the Commander's balloon of self-importance.

He was sitting on the footstool in front of the red leather chair tying his shoes when Mrs. Hortense Cavendish, the housekeeper, came in. She was a plump, gray-haired, motherly woman in her late fifties.

"I'd hoped to be back before you got here," she said.

"No problem."

"I bought a couple of nice, fresh barons of lamb," she said. "I know you like to feed Major Banning well when he comes. And Charley and I were in the country buying them, which is why we weren't here."

"I've got to go into town," Pickering said. "There was another young Marine for Major Banning on the courier plane. I'm going to fetch him."

"Couldn't Charley fetch him?"

"I'll get him," Pickering said. "What this boy needs after flying from the States is a hot meal, not a wild ride through Melbourne on the wrong side of the road with a crazy Australian at the wheel."

She laughed.

"There's plenty of food," she said. "I'll just slice the barons before I serve them."

"I'm not going to bring him here," Pickering said, as he stood up. "The one thing that kid does not need is dinner with a Navy brass hat. I'll get him a hotel and let Banning take care of him in the morning."

He drained his glass of scotch and walked out of the library.

First Lieutenant Hon Song Do, Signal Corps, U.S. Army Reserve, arrived at The Elms ten minutes after Pickering left, and Major Edward J. Banning, USMC, arrived five minutes after that. Both men were there at Captain Fleming Pickering's invitation.

Major Banning had called Captain Pickering on the telephone that morning to tell him he had "something interesting" and was about to fly to Melbourne to show it to him. Pickering asked him then to go directly to The Elms, not only because he liked Banning and wanted to have him to dinner, but also because he liked to keep Banning away from MacArthur's headquarters as much as possible. If the gossips didn't see him, they didn't ask questions. Pickering had also asked Pluto for dinner, not only because he-and Banning-enjoyed Hon's company, but also because he believed that Hon should know about anything "interesting" Banning had found.

After Mrs. Cavendish told them that Captain Fleming would be a little late, she set out a half gallon bottle of scotch, a soda siphon, and a silver champagne cooler full of ice for them in the library.

Major Banning had been driven to The Elms from the airfield in a Ford station wagon bearing the insignia of the Royal Australian Navy. He had just flown in from Townesville, Queensland, where he commanded Special Detachment 14, USMC. The very existence of Special Detachment 14 was classified CONFIDENTIAL. Its presence in Australia was classified SECRET. Its mission, "to support the Coastwatcher Establishment, Royal Australian Navy and to perform such other intelligence gathering activities as may be directed by Headquarters, USMC," was classified TOP SECRET.

Lieutenant Commander Eric A. Feldt, Royal Australian Navy, who commanded the Coastwatcher Establishment, had surprised a large number of Australians and Americans by taking an immediate liking to Major Banning. He had previously run off every other American officer sent to work with the Coastwatchers. In the process he often used language so colorful that some thought it inappropriate for a senior naval officer.

But Captain Pickering heard from Rear Admiral Keith Soames-Haley, RAN, a pre-war friend of long standing, that Feldt had described Major Banning as "the first sodding American officer I've met who could find his sodding ass with both hands."

Admiral Soames-Haley and Captain Pickering both agreed that the rapport between Feldt and Banning was probably based on the mysterious chemistry that sometimes developed between seemingly dissimilar men-each surprisingly recognizing in the other a deep-down, kindred soul, the two of them bobbing along alone and unappreciated in a sea of fools.

Soames-Haley and Pickering also agreed that the friendship between the two men almost certainly had much to do with the long years that Banning had spent in the Orient before the war. Banning understood the Japanese as well as Feldt did-which is to say as well as any Westerner could. Both officers spoke fluent Japanese. And finally, Feldt probably felt a connection with Banning because of Banning's personal stake in the war: Banning had been forced to leave his Russian-born wife behind in Shanghai when war came.

Whatever the reasons, both Soames-Haley and Pickering were truly delighted that the problems of Australian-US Cooperation vis-…-vis the Coastwatchers was solved. Soames-Haley was all too aware of how valuable that cooperation would be to both allies. For his part, he was not just eager, he was hungry to get his hands on some of the logistical largess available from Americans with the right connections. The Coastwatcher Organization needed desperately the latest communications equipment, as well as access to aircraft and submarines. And for his part, Pickering was fully aware of the value of the intelligence that would now flow from the Coastwatchers. Now that Banning was close to Feldt, and not regarded by him as one more arrogant, sodding American over here to tell us how to run the sodding war, the intelligence Feldt could provide would arrive far more quickly than through standard channels.

Major Banning had been met at the airport by a RAN Lieutenant, and transported to The Elms in a RAN Ford station wagon, because Commander Feldt had spread the word that Banning was "not too sodding stupid for an American." This was, for Feldt, praise of the highest order. Commander Feldt was highly regarded by his peers in the RAN, and any friend of his...

Lieutenant Pluto Hon had driven to The Elms in a 1941 Studebaker President, which had the letters USMC on its hood and the Marine Corps insignia- stencilled on its doors.

One of the sixteen enlisted men assigned to Special Detachment 14 was Staff Sergeant Allan Richardson, who was a scrounger of some reputation. Richardson had learned that shortly after the war broke out, a transport under charter to the U.S. Navy and loaded with equipment intended for the Chinese had been diverted to Melbourne. The cargo, which included a large number of Studebaker trucks and twenty President sedans, had been off-loaded and turned over to the only U.S. Navy group then in the area, a small Hydrographic Detachment. Richardson reasoned-correctly-that since Special Detachment 14 needed vehicles and had none, and since it was, furthermore, under the control of Captain Pickering, all it would take to get the needed vehicles would be a call from Captain Pickering to the Commanding Officer of the Hydrographic Detachment, a Lieutenant (j.g.). As a general rule of thumb, Lieutenants (j.g.) tend to comply with requests of Naval Captains.

Captain Pickering made the call. Special Detachment 14 got all the trucks and sedans it needed, plus one additional President. Two days after he made the telephone call on behalf of Staff Sergeant Richardson, Richardson gave Pickering the extra President, now bearing USMC insignia.

Pickering's rank entitled him to a staff car. Nevertheless, in order to avoid worrying about a driver, he had borrowed a Jaguar drophead coupe from a pre-war business associate for his personal transportation. Consequently, he promptly turned the Studebaker over to Lieutenant Pluto Hon. Pickering was immensely fond of Lieutenant Hon; he also felt himself to be in Hon's debt, for many courtesies rendered.

It did not surprise Pickering at all that Commander Lentz was waiting at NATS Melbourne, a small frame building plus a warehouse on Port Philip Bay. What surprised Commander Lentz was Captain Pickering's automobile; he was expecting either a Navy or an Army staff car, with a driver; and so a frown crossed his face when the Jaguar drophead coupe with Victorian license plates pulled into his OFFICIAL VISITORS parking space.

But Commander Lentz noticed the gold braid and the four gold stripes on Pickering's sleeves when he stepped out of the car, and he was suddenly all smiles.

"Captain Pickering? Commander Lentz, Sir."

"How are you, Commander?" Pickering replied, returning Lentz's salute with a far more crisp salute than was his custom.

Sergeant John Marston Moore, USMCR, stood at attention beside his seabag.

"Welcome to Australia, Sergeant," Pickering said.

"Yes, Sir. Thank you, Sir."

"Put your gear in the back," Pickering said, and then turned to Commander Lentz. "Do I have to sign for him or anything?"

"No, Sir. Nothing like that. I hate for you to have to have driven all the way down here, Sir. I would have been happy to arrange..."

"No problem," Pickering interrupted him. "Thank you for your diligence in finding somebody to take care of the sergeant, Commander."

"My pleasure, Captain."

Pickering got behind the wheel, and after John Moore got in beside him, he drove off.

"My name is Pickering, Sergeant."

"Yes, Sir."

'That's a long flight. I suppose you're tired, Sergeant? Sergeant what, by the way?"

"Moore, Sir."

"Are you tired?"

"I'm all right, Sir," Moore said, although that wasn't the truth. He had had trouble staying awake waiting for Captain Pickering.

"You don't have to be afraid of me, Sergeant," Pickering said. "I'm one of the good Naval officers."

"Sir?"

"Major Banning, your new CO, identifies good Naval officers as those who have previously been Marines. I was a Marine Corporal in what is now known as World War I."

Moore looked at him directly, for the first time, and saw that Pickering was smiling. He smiled back.

"And I have a boy about your age in the Corps," Pickering said. "What are you, twenty-one, twenty-two?"

"Twenty-two, Sir."

"How long have you been in the Corps?"

"About four months, Sir."

"You made buck sergeant in a hurry," Pickering said. But it was more of a question than a statement.

"When they took me out of boot camp to send me here, they made me a sergeant, Sir. I was originally supposed to go to Quantico and get a commission."

"Oh, really? You went to college, then?"

"Yes, Sir. Pennsylvania."

"Well, I'm sorry about the commission. But the Corps needed your skill here and now. What is that?"

"Sir?"

"Why did they take you out of boot camp and rush you over here?"

"Captain, I was told not to talk about anything connected with my transfer here."

"I understand, but, for all practical purposes, I'm Major Banning's commanding officer."

"Captain, with respect, I don't know that."

Pickering chuckled. "No, you don't. Good for you, Sergeant."

"Are we going to Special Detachment 14 now, Sir?"

"They're i