by Silent Draco
0607, 21 Jun 45, Base Gold Four, American Zone of Occupation
“More coffee, sirs?” asked the mess attendant. “May as well,” sighed Sellers, “it’s not like either of us will be sleeping for another day.”
After the attendant left his office, Sellers looked over to the guest chair and said, “It’s broad daylight now, Midsummer Day if I have it right. Tell me, what happened and who was the … older lady?” Griffin shivered and rocked in the chair. “I … we’re too close, perhaps, still? … No, but when we shortly return to England for some much-overdue leave, please go to the British Museum or the libraries at Oxford and ask the librarian for a secure room, to read this book.” He quickly printed a book name and author. “Have your cards on hand, they’ll want to make sure. But … don’t say her name. Don’t even think about what she’s known by on the Continent, if you can. Our Irish friends have a rather quaint peasant warning, ‘naming calls.’ All hocus-pocus blather, right? Incorrect, my friend. Our departed Comrade called Her accidentally, but She was nearby.”
Griffin had grown steadily paler as he talked. Sellers was about to make a joke, when a raised hand got his attention. “Bloody Yank. You’re too young, the lot of you, and you forgot what we tried to teach you. If it’s in that cynical heart of yours, Sellers, or even if it’s not, pray that She returns home safely and without incident.”
“I can practically hear the Capital Letters and Emphasis. Is … She … that deadly, or has that kind of partisan following, like Tito?” Sellers shook out another five antacid tablets, then frowned. After bellyful of coffee last night (what night there was), the ulcer should be ready to burn a hole right through him. However, nothing hurt this morning; even the massive headache was all but gone. Nothing was chewing his insides. “This may sound odd, Griffin, but all of a sudden, my ulcer isn’t screaming at me like a two-star general with starched skivvies. Did we have anything different? Or, uhh, …” Go in peace with my thanks. Oh, Golly Ganush.
“Can you tell me a little more about what can happen if you meet … Her?” Griffin’s face went utterly blank for a moment. “Everything She says is true, to Her standards. Always recall that. She thanked us, and sent us in peace. Tell me, old boy, what’s been troubling you most?”
Golly Ganush, Goggly Gibbles, Googly Gooey Golly Gaboom. Breathe. “This whole commission and zone system isn’t working like it should. It’s like the game is rigged against me – us, all of us, so the Soviets can do whatever they want. You saw that last night! We were about to become ‘accidents’ until … huh … huuurrr … I don’t want to think about that.”
Griffin nodded and spoke softly. “Same for me, old boy. That’s why I had Specialist Jenkins file leave requests for us. Our superiors should take a look at our service jackets and realize we’re overdue for rotation home to depot, or whatever it is that you have. Or, perhaps they’ll have the idea to check the jackets better. By the way … My neuralgia, the trouble in my left arm, all but vanished this morning.”
Sellers leaned back in his chair, thinking deeply and carefully around their problem German in Debriefing Area 3. He would have laughed, and had the MPs bundle them out for a stay in a mental ward, if anyone had come in with a story like that. “The … item he’s wearing. Can you say anything about it?” “Oh, yes,” Griffin replied in wonder, “The amulet has a five- carat alexandrite, of excellent quality, in it. Worth quite a few thousand pounds, should anyone be foolish enough to steal it. Not worth the penny … which reminds me. Is your good Technical Sergeant Rogers done with his photographic wizardry?”
Sellers answered that their sets should be ready in another hour. “He said something about burn-dodge and develop. I don’t follow the details, but he was able to clear up some of the problem areas. Of course, our Soviet friends will get negatives, unretouched and pictures, five- by-seven, direct from negatives unretouched, one each. As it turned out, the sergeant had fresh rolls of film on hand to take all the Soviet pictures and most of the documents … but the German’s extra paper and the special papers for ‘Comrade Colonel’ Simirov were on the remains of a roll used for camera calibration, or some such thing.”
Griffin shuddered, “Good. I can look at the photographs, but I don’t wish to think about that ‘special pass’ again. That was parchment, not paper.” Sellers looked over. “So, what’s the big deal? Someone used the special paper for a pass, gets him in trouble?” “No, NO!” replied Griffin. “When Technical Sergeant Rogers has your set of prints ready, look at all of them, twice. You’ll see it.” He walked out of the office, left arm twitching again.
1218, 21 Jun 45, Base Gold Four, American Zone of Occupation
Colonel Sellers knocked on his deputy’s door. Hearing a murmur, he carefully opened the door and entered, closing the hallway door again. “Martin, you could help me out a lot by pouring me a double of whatever you’ve been having.” He sat in the chair, face gray. “I saw what you meant – including the date and signature. I’ll go look for that book, but I’m not thinking it now. Want to see what came over the wire about an hour ago?” He handed Griffin one of the copies, pointing to a paragraph:
3. GRIFFIN, Martin T: Auth leave NTE sixty (60) calendar days, home of record, R&R. Auth sea and ground travel. On completion of leave, assgnt to 5 Bn, KOSB, as Officer-in-Command, other such duties as consonant with needs of Service. Orders to follow.
4. SELLERS, Richard E: Auth leave NTE ninety (90) calendar days, home of record and/or location within Great Britain, R&R. Sea and ground travel auth, rail priority AAAA, air priority AAA. On completion of leave, assgnd as Deputy Commander, Intelligence School, Ft. Holabird, MD, other duties with respect to needs of Service. Orders to follow.
“Well,” Griffin said after a moment, “it appears that our work relations are about to wind down, with us going our separate … bother!” Sellers raised his eyebrows in curiosity. “… other such duties as consonant with need of Service. I’ve been let out on the leash, but the phrase – they didn’t specify which Service, nor the branch involved. They’re not done with us, and one of us may appear on a threshold to the consternation of the other’s wife.”
“That’s kind of my opinion, too,” answered Sellers with a grin. “Too valuable to turn loose, and too valuable to remove. And, speaking of turn loose, how about our young friend back there?”
Griffin answered with a sigh, “We turn him loose with assistance from Special Funds, to start a new life. Besides,” eyes darkening, “he’ll need … modest sums to travel, and neither of us wishes to be the roadblock.” “Yep,” Sellers replied slowly, “and about the block … is ‘our’ report ready?” “Corporal Summers is making the clean draft now. I assume that you don’t wish to revisit the site either?”
“No!” answered Sellers, shuddering in turn. “I have Need to Know, but no Want to Know. What we don’t really know can’t be used against us.”