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Authors: Howard Fast

The Winston Affair

BOOK: The Winston Affair
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The Winston Affair

Howard Fast

Contents

Wednesday 9.00 A.M.

Wednesday 9.45 A.M.

Wednesday 10.15 A.M.

Wednesday 11.30 A.M.

Wednesday 2.00 P.M.

Wednesday 4.30 P.M.

Wednesday 5.00 P.M.

Wednesday 9.20 P.M.

Thursday 5.30 A.M.

Thursday 9.23 A.M.

Thursday 4.20 P.M.

Friday 9.20 A.M.

Friday 10.50 A.M.

Friday 12.10 P.M.

Friday 3.10 P.M.

Friday 5.00 P.M.

Saturday 3.18 A.M.

Saturday 8.40 P.M.

Saturday 10.45 P.M.

Sunday 12.20 A.M.

Sunday 10.00 A.M.

Sunday 10.40 A.M.

Monday 8.30 A.M.

Monday 9.40 A.M.

Monday 10.30 A.M.

Monday 12.10 P.M.

Monday 1.00 P.M.

Monday 2.12 P.M.

Monday 2.30 P.M.

Monday 3.00 P.M.

Monday 4.40 P.M.

Monday 7.20 P.M.

Monday 9.40 P.M.

Tuesday 4.16 A.M.

Tuesday 9.40 A.M.

Tuesday 10.37 A.M.

Tuesday 11.30 A.M.

Tuesday 12 Noon

Tuesday 12.45 P.M.

Tuesday 1.40 P.M.

Tuesday 2.45 P.M.

Tuesday 2.55 P.M.

Tuesday 4.20 P.M.

Tuesday 6.25 P.M.

Tuesday 9.40 P.M.

A Biography of Howard Fast

Copyright Page

Wednesday 9.00 A.M
.

General Kempton had just killed a mosquito. He sat behind his desk, under the slow-moving ceiling fan, and regarded its smeared carcass with philosophical distaste. Then he took a piece of cleansing tissue and transferred the smear to his wastebasket—trying to recall whether it was Alfred or Alexander the Great who had found inspiration in a spider. “Spiders are chums,” he said to himself. “Spiders are nice, friendly small animals.”

General Kempton was a large, unhurried and, for the most part, good-natured man. He was both sentimental and imaginative, and like most men who combine these qualities, he was aware of them and countered them with self-imposed attitudes of hard discipline. But as his weakness was bolstered by strength, so was his strength riddled with his weakness; and in this he was perhaps not too different from other Theater Commanders.

Sergeant Candyman, who knocked on the door of the general's office and was instructed to enter, was as knowing as anyone concerning some of the general's strengths and weaknesses. He heard the news of the mosquito with solicitude and shame, and thereby punctured the general's annoyance.

“God damn it to hell, Sergeant,” the general said, “you have a sinecure here and you use it very badly, if I may say so.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Misuse it.”

“I do my best, sir.”

“Any half-wit whines that he does his best, so just can that. If I ever find another mosquito in this office, I'll send you out to Staten Island, which means the lousiest piece of jungle within a thousand miles of here.”

“Yes, sir. You'd be right. It won't happen again.”

“Now what do you want?”

“There's a Captain Barney Adams outside, and he says that he has an appointment with you this morning. As a matter of fact, he has, but that's for ten o'clock and it's only nine now. And you have an appointment at nine-thirty with Major Wyclif—he's PR with the Queen's Own Riflemen, which is one of their dandy little regiments, and—”

“You just send Captain Adams in, Sergeant, and when the major comes, let him wait until I send for him.”

“Yes, sir. I'll do that.”

When the sergeant left, the general went to his desk and took from one of the drawers a large Manila envelope. As he turned with it, Captain Adams entered. The general put down the envelope, looked at the captain and grinned with pleasure.

“Barney Adams.”

Captain Adams said, “Hello, sir,” rather awkwardly, respectfully. He was uncertain of himself, and very ingratiating in his lack of presumptuousness. He had been ten years younger when he last saw the general; and while he had changed considerably, the general was much the same man.

On the other hand, the general evidenced a very real delight in the man that the boy had become. The skinny, long-limbed and awkward eighteen-year-old of West Point had become a good deal of a man: as the general estimated, a hundred and eighty pounds of well-proportioned bone and muscle, tall and erect and good-looking. Although General Kempton was possessed of no more snobbery or caste-consciousness than the next man in his position, he would have admitted to a special pleasure in a solid American lad, and the son of an old friend as well, coming through it as nicely as Barney Adams had. Barney Adams was out of the old blood and the old stock, and both were qualities you didn't mention these days. Everything was too big, the war, the army, the goals—you wallowed in the bigness of it and you looked sour when British colleagues carried on about such things as line and breeding.

Nevertheless, at such a moment as this, you were permitted your own personal satisfaction. The general accepted his own, and he didn't give a damn whether or not theyoung captain realized his approval. He was approving the son of an old friend who had a sterling record of courage and devotion to duty, a better-than-average number of decorations upon his breast, a purple heart, and a good name. In addition, Barney Adams was red-headed, handsome and well-spoken. The general nodded at Captain Adams, told him to come over where he could look at all of him, and then shook hands heartily. Then he asked him to sit down and offered him a cigar. Captain Adams shook his head, his smile still shy and respectful They lit cigarettes.

“What do you hear from your father?” the general asked him.

“Well, sir, he writes every week, and bis health is good, as far as I know, but—”

“But he's still smarting and growling.”

“I suppose he is, sir. It's no secret that he would like to be overseas rather than in Washington.”

“It certainly is not a secret,” the general grinned. “He's the angriest sixty-four years young of any man I know. I had a letter from him—well, I guess three weeks ago, and he was truly pleased to hear that you were to join my staff. You see, I took the liberty of letting him know, Barney, before you yourself were informed. We collaborated in the plot, so to speak, and it's made both of us very happy, believe me.”

“I'm very grateful, sir, and proud, too,” Captain Adams said.

“Are you? I'm not at all sure that you have any reason to be grateful, Barney. You have seen a great deal of action, and you were seriously wounded. By all the dictates of common sense and the regulations too, you should have been sent stateside and called it a day.”

“I suppose so, sir,” Adams agreed quietly, “but I wanted to see it through. It means a great deal to me to have a chance to see it through. I'm grateful to you.”

The general liked his response. As a matter of fact, their few minutes together had already given General Kempton a warm feeling. Barney Adams the man had all the best qualities of Barney Adams the boy, and something more as well, and like any Theater Commander, General Kempton had a proper sense of what such material was worth. He felt that he had gained a good deal more than the young man in front of him, and he felt an obligation to be straightforward and bluntly truthful.

“We will finish the gratitude aspect of it right now, Captain Adams,” he said flatly. “I needed you and asked for you because I needed you. You'll find that this is a very different place from either Italy or North Africa. Given a condition of war, combat is normal and even healthy, to misuse a word. There's been no combat here since the end of the Burma campaign. Neither is there any comfort here. The enlisted men call this area the ass-hole of creation, and the description, while colorful, hits close to the truth. The weather is rotten beyond description, disease is rampant, and the native population is depressed and miserable. There is an absolute minimum of diversion, entertainment and relaxation of any kind. It is a total malaria district, which means a daily intake of atabrine—and explains why we are all somewhat yellow of. complexion, that is excepting those of us who are coming down with jaundice and are just as yellow but for another reason. And on top of all that, we have dual theater responsibilities with our British cousins, who for reasons beyond my comprehension have dung to this land for the past century and a half. A shared command is tolerable in a combat area; in a place corroding with indecision and idleness, it is utterly intolerable and calls for the wisdom of a Solomon, which I do not possess. I do my best—which is what we all do, and which is what I expect you to do, sir.”

“Yes, sir.”

“So we understand one another, Captain Adams, and we waste no more breath on any discussion of gratitude and favors.”

“As you say, sir.” Adams smiled. “Whatever feelings of gratitude I have will be unvoiced.”

“Good. Are your quarters adequate?”

“I think they are magnificent. You know, I am in the Makra Palace, sir. I never roomed in a palace before.”

“The Makra Palace,” the general observed coldly, “is a damp, unhealthy insect-ridden ruin—before you write home and tell them that you are living like a potentate. It is the least desirable place of any of our staff quarters, but unfortunately the only place we have now with any space available.”

“Yes, sir.”

“Now mind me, Barney,” the general said, rising and beginning to pace the room. “We have a mixed relationship, and when you were younger, you were a good deal like a son to me. But I advise you as a military man, not as a father.”

“I understand, sir.”

“Stationed here, you must fear and respect two things, if you wish to survive.”

“Sir?”

“Mosquitoes and water. Sleep under your netting. And drink only water blessed by the United States Army or well laced with good whisky. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Good. That completes your indoctrination.” The general stopped pacing and turned to stare at the captain, who rose. “No, sit down, Barney,” the general said. “Tell me—what kind of a job do you think you want? Have you been brooding over it? Do you have any preferential dreams?”

“No, sir. I thought I'd best leave that entirely to you. Whatever you have for me—” He was going to say that he would be grateful, but he swallowed it. They met each other's eyes. Then Barney Adams was able to put boyhood and boyhood memories aside. As a man, he saw another man who was General Kempton, and he liked him.

“I'm glad you said that.” The general nodded. “I do have something at this moment, Barney. We are holding an important general court-martial next week, and I want you to take the case for the defense.”

BOOK: The Winston Affair
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