Five People Who Knew Charles Emerson Winchester III's Reputation (and Knew It Was A Lie)...and One Who Said So Out Loud
by Amy L. Hull
written for mashfanficchick in the LJ help_haiti fundraiser
Thanks to Partly, Ayiana, Merlin Missy, Rache, and Lady Chi for the betas, read-throughs, and bouncing of ideas.
Richard Archibald Staton III married Honoria Mathilda Winchester in 1956. The social and financial connections of the match were sufficiently advantageous for him to overlook her shortcomings. Her kindness and intelligence were endearing, and he found he did not have to feign tenderness at her halting vows to "love, honor, and obey." Mr. and Mrs. Charles Emerson Winchester II were appropriately effusive in their gratitude, appropriately formal in their manner. They behaved with appropriate decorum for nuptials which would be heralded by the Boston Globe (except for inviting those horribly gauche middle-America farmer peasants who served with Charles Emerson III in Korea).
Staton wondered if Charles Emerson III had mistaken the petty Korean conflict for something properly glorious like The War, or if he was foolishly patriotic. Either way, Staton knew that Charles Emerson III was at the top of his field: a fine doctor and a fine patriarch, ready, when the time came, to join the leaders of Boston's fine aristocratic legacy, alongside Staton and the rest of their generation. At the reception, he carried two stiff drinks and offered one along with a cigar to his brother-in-law. "Charles. A toast. To the new guard."
The eyes that turned to him were small, piercing, startlingly blue. Staton wondered absently if Honoria also had eyes so blue. He made a note to look at her closely tonight in their marriage bed.
Charles Emerson III sipped from the glass. "This is excellent cognac." He looked away, examined and sniffed the cigar. "And a fine cigar. Cuban?"
"It is." Staton moved his face in a smile. This man's connections could be valuable, and their shared backgrounds, beliefs, and now family ties promised significant influence. The bonds they forged here would surely be profitable.
"Staton," Charles Emerson III said, sipping again, "I love my sister very, very much, and I am here to celebrate with my sister, not to discuss your business, politics, or machinations of either." He smiled broadly. "But you should know that I, ah, like the old guard."
Staton watched him walk to Honoria, say something, and they smiled and moved to the dance floor. Charles Emerson III gestured to the musicians, who struck up a waltz.
Staton knew a warning when he heard one, but shrugged it off. He shook hands with several doctors, fundraisers, and their wives, but he had instructed Honoria to make sure they were all greeted with due courtesy. Cognac in hand, Staton spent the rest of the night personally speaking to each of the lawyers and businessmen his father and new father-in-law had invited.
At eleven his mother, flushed and winded, kissed his cheek, "You've chosen well, Richard; these Winchesters are the soul of refinement and elegance. Your Honoria's brother is quite the better dancer than ever you were, and he made sure I was never without a partner tonight. Do promise me to have at least one dance with your bride." She patted his arm and they were gone, and Staton felt his teeth pressing together.
In the years that followed, Charles Emerson III was the picture of courtesy and decorum, never visiting without a formal invitation. He never intruded on Staton family time or holidays, never demanded anything. He showed up at Staton's office only twice, every inch the slightly-rumpled doctor from dwindling money. It was what came of being in service rather than in the market. After both visits, however, Staton knew Winchester's formidable network extended beyond a hospital operating room and as far as the hotel rooms that Staton had, in one case, been considering visiting with a young blond employee. Winchester might have been a fool for serving overseas in some godforsaken hole, but his insights into matters to do with his sister were uncanny.
No matter how hard Staton worked, Winchester always seemed a step ahead in prestige and accomplishment. His connections expanded like a living thing, while Staton felt the effort of building each section of his web of contacts. He tried to impress upon the children the importance of one's associations, but only Richard Archibald IV would accompany him to the links, while Charles Emerson (not the fourth) and Mathilda Winifred developed contacts with those volunteer organizations that kept Honoria so busy.
Like Winchester, Staton donated publicly to a number of suitable organizations, and like Winchester, he expressed his opinion openly that donations too great would create dependency. Staton family members had never before succumbed to the charitable activities that were such a very Winchester failing. Still, he did not forbid it his wife or the younger two children who seemed so taken with the notion.
At least Richard Archibald IV understood that Saturday mornings were better spent networking, researching cases, and investigating foundering businesses for takeovers. His younger two, swayed by their mother and their Uncle Charles, spent tireless hours volunteering their valuable time and minds for the riff-raff of Boston. By the time Mathilda was ten, she was determined to visit and assist the people such as Winchester described having met at war. Staton had visions of his beautiful daughter covered in sweat and mud and filth, wearing rags, possibly dying or giving her health or strength. He thought of her in some Third World--possibly communist--region, in a hovel, caring for the stricken with a smile and a sure hand. He began mentally preparing his denial of her request to join the Peace Corps.
The contracting muscles squeezed tightly. It was a familiar pain, one that took her breath away. It was reminiscent of, though stronger, than the spasms in the lovemaking that had gotten her here. Just as then, she gripped handfuls of the sheets and exhaled a high-pitched trill as she rode out the rippling in her pelvis.
In the spaces between she felt the pressure on her womb, her privates, and her heart. All of these would soon be equally empty, just as her bed and her heart had been since she'd left Boston, ostensibly for this job in Boise, Idaho. She looked around her tiny ward room, as nondescript and bare of fancy equipment and amenities as any East Coast socialite would expect of the frontier. But she'd never been a socialite.
They'd spent a glorious five and three-quarters months together during her surgical practicum at Boston General. He'd courted her. Flowers, candies, glasses of wine, chaste kisses, private dinners, gentle touches to her cheek, heated touches elsewhere (with passion most thought him incapable of). When her time was nearly up, he said he wanted to marry her. He told her how, once before, he'd passed someone over for being the "wrong kind of people," and lived to regret it.
Alice Hollinger, however, was not one to accept being anyone's second best. He'd argued with her. Insisted that she was second-best to no one and nothing. That if Boston and his swanky society saw her as such, that was their loss. That he would always be proud to walk with her on his arm, showing them how wrong they were.
She'd weathered the storm that shuddered through her, so much more powerful than the physical one now, as she'd fought her desire for him and won. She'd steadfastly shaken her head, and made the decision to go even before learning he was not as sterile as he feared. He was destined to do great things, and he'd accomplish so much more without the weight of disapproval hanging about him.
Leaving him was the right thing to do. The only thing to do. She wanted to remember him--and leave him--with the vision of himself as the controlled, proper, aristocratic doctor he'd cultivated: the arrogant, emotionally distant man he used to hide the man who'd softened with her.
She tried to breathe, rubbing soothing circles where his hands used to rest. Their absence hurt almost as much as delivering his child.
The memory of his promises bit into her like these new contractions that she felt would rip her in half. Head nurse on the Emergency Response Team, single mother...those had never been her dreams. And if he was wrong about his ability to withstand his peers' judgments, she could not bear living with his sense of his resounding failure of character. If she had to rob their child of him to save him, sobeit. Some dreams were not meant to be.
The maelstrom took her body in its maw and she knew nothing but pain, urgency, smooth needles, cottony distance, pressure, and a wish for a surgeon's skilled hand to hold and a loving voice.
When her colleagues placed her daughter in her arms, the edge of her loneliness faded slightly for the first time. She cast out a prayer that Charles, too, would find someone suitable he could love.
Max slipped into the bathroom to open the letter from Immigration. They just didn't have enough money to sponsor Soon-Lee's entire family. It was clear by now that none of them would come without all of them coming. Soon-Lee was expecting their first child in four months, and Max wasn't sure he could stand to see her cry again, or to watch her become a mother without her own mom there.
The rowdy chaos of his family was full of welcome and love. That had been a relief after some of the stories he'd heard of other families and war brides, but it was not at all soothing to his beautiful, homesick wife. She wasn't used to being touched and kissed, or to six women talking...well, shouting...Arabic and English at the same time, then looking at her and saying, "Well?" and expecting an answer.
He scanned the letter twice, then a third time, and then again as his chest began to vibrate with energy that had to escape. He flung the door back, wincing as he heard the knob crack the wall, but running and waving the letter.
"Soon-Lee? Soon-Lee!! Soon-LEE!"
This time when she cried he couldn't stop grinning as she kissed his whole face.
The foundation that sponsored her family's immigration and travel was one Max had never heard of, in spite of months of searching and begging. Gift horses, though, and he wasn't asking.
A week later, he got another letter from the foundation asking if his family would be willing to give a testimonial after Soon-Lee's family's arrived that month to support their fund-raising to help other families. Neither of them had stopped smiling since the first letter so they figured, why not, and if they got some great family pictures out of the deal, even better.
At the thing, one of the foundation guys mentioned they were opening an office in Toledo and Max thought, well, what the hell. He asked if they needed an office manager, mentioned his clerical experience in the army, how organized he could be, how well Colonel Potter had said he could finagle, his knowledge of Korea and Korean culture (and wow, was he learning he had lots to learn there!).
To his surprise they offered him a job--so much better than the factory jobs he'd been eking by at--and it was like being Company Clerk all over again. He was good at it. He was proud of it. He was helping people again in a way he never thought he'd be able to do in civilian life. They were busy, too. He'd never realized how many guys--and gals--there'd been in Korea, and since the foundation was still helping reunite families of war brides from World War II as well, there were calls and letters to fill up his time every day.
He got to thinking, though. Sure, it had been hard for Soon-Lee, waiting for her family, and it had been hard for him to watch her suffer. It would have so much worse if he'd had to leave Soon-Lee behind. Or if he'd had to leave Soon-Lee and their child behind. He'd have been wondering all the time if she had shelter, anything to eat. Wondering how she was being treated. Wondering what names people were calling her or how badly they were hitting her or even the baby. Wondering how long she'd last before having to leave their child on the steps of an orphanage to ensure both their survival. Wondering if men were taking advantage of her like the whore he knew they'd assume she was. Wondering how long before she'd have to become just that.
He planned on the bus for weeks. The notes, carefully made on his brown lunch bags, were tucked away, and he didn't mention a word to the family. He didn't want to disappoint any of them, especially Soon-Lee.
On the anniversary of the family's arrival he picked up a treat for dessert to show them how glad he was they were all safely here. He held the baby and Soon-Lee for extra long and made sure he made them laugh. Even his narrow-eyed and critical mother-in-law let him kiss her good night as he said, "Annyonghi jumushipsiyo, jangmonim." She smiled and patted his cheek, nodding though he knew he had mangled the pronunciation he'd been practicing.
In the time he'd been working for the foundation he'd handled all its details, finagled all its resources, found where every saddlebag and halter of it came from and who held the reins. So the next day when he wrote his letter, he addressed it to one Charles Emerson Winchester III. He outlined his ideas about expanding the foundation to search for G.I.s' girlfriends and babies and finding ways to bring as many as possible home.
Charles never wrote back.
Two months later the President of the Board sent out a directive. The foundation's mission would now include the initiative to find American babies born to G.I.s overseas and try to bring those children and their mothers to the United States.
Klinger couldn't restrain his smile as he began typing letters to the guys he knew who'd left kids back in Korea.
The flights, cars, trains, and, ultimately, carts needed to reach the remote Amazon villages on the 1964 aid trip were scheduled. David Kaestner handed the itinerary to his secretary to ship to the participating surgeons, then set about making the personally modified schedule for the most reliable--and particular--member of his team.
He heard the complaints in the office about their Dr. Persnickety. The staff groaned about having to type a single special schedule just for Himself. The travel agency snarled about booking special, individual flight and passage for the lone member who would not, as they saw it, stoop to travel with the rest of the group. The other surgeons muttered, none too quietly, that Dr. Persnickety was clearly too high and mighty to share accommodations or a schedule with them. No, no, he had to be treated like spun glass, had to be catered to, they sneered.
Dr. Persnickety himself had told Kaestner over a shared drink on their first surgery tour that if the reasons for his modified schedule were ever to become known, he would withdraw his participation from the program. Kaestner knew that without him their success rate, particularly in thoracic and pediatric thoracic surgery, would plummet.
So it was only Kaestner who knew why Dr. Persnickety insisted on staying in each village longer than the other surgeons did. That he took on at least five "hopeless" cases per region. That he spoke personally to the family of each patient, no matter the outcome. That he insisted on operating on middle-aged and elderly patients --the "nearly dead" as so many termed them--to give them longer lives, better quality of later life.
Kaestner himself had begun staying an extra two days to assist, and consistently learned something new to use in his own O.R. He could not remain longer without drawing attention, and he knew he had little discretion when he drank, so he kept his involvement minimal.
Ultimately, it simply felt discourteous to deny the wishes of a man who freely offered three weeks of his vacation every other year, who gave dozens upon dozens the ability to participate in daily life and work, the opportunity to live and contribute to their own livelihoods. No, Kaestner wouldn't betray his confidence; it was the only payment Dr. Persnickety received.
John Q. Abernathy smiled gently as the elderly man signed his name with a steady hand to page after page. They exchanged niceties, and he gestured his secretary to show the gentleman out.
Everyone knew that the Winchester family had, for generations, given generously of its bounty. The family gave at appropriate times of year, in appropriate sums, to fitting and reputable charities. It was as it should be: they were never ostentatious, but their names appeared regularly in programs at the Boston Symphony, the Lyric Opera, and other celebrations of proper arts; on plaques at the Presbytery Seminary, Orphanage, and Home for Wayward Boys; engraved in dedications of parks and fine arts galleries and his own favorite band shell. One could barely walk the high-brow displays of Boston without--if looking closely--seeing evidence of the Charles Emerson Winchesters and their forebears.
Everyone also knew better than to petition donations from the family. They knew how to do things and chose the disposition of their funds with independent counsel and never, ever, on a whim or at the behest of beggars or solicitors. A few would approach--and be reproached by--him as the senior attorney of the law firm that had counseled the family for generations, but most knew better. Or they had, Abernathy frowned, before this vulgar trend toward continual begging from schools and radios and every direction.
Charles Emerson Winchester III was the end of a dignified and enduring line. Since he'd had no children, he'd set up generous trusts through the family inheritance for his niece and nephews. The trusts were kept within reason, of course, so as not to insult R.A. Staton's pride. Abernathy had facilitated all of this with the proper discretion and care and no small measure of pride.
The good doctor had chosen his accountant and investment manager well. The provisions for the trusts were still hearty, as were funds for ongoing donations as well as the newer projects.
The documents included support for Médecins Sans Frontières, which, though a relative newcomer, was experiencing a steady gain in international prestige. There were monies to expand collaboration between the Idaho Rockies Search and Rescue Program and the Boise Emergency Response team, as well as bringing on a new staffer to learn the techniques proving so successful, who would then move on to teach and establish anchor programs elsewhere. Dr. Winchester had long supported the spread of cutting-edge medical knowledge and Abernathy, though he did not know how the good doctor knew of this remote effort, was unsurprised at the addition.
Dr. Winchester created a scholarship for conservatory students willing to teach music in impoverished areas worldwide, and a reciprocal scholarship to any musical prodigy discovered by those teachers to study at the Boston conservatory. There were provisions to connect communities hosting a music teacher to programs that would train for sustainable agricultural and business. Abernathy knew Dr. Winchester hoped his niece Mathilda might manage the business connections amongst these groups and the various prongs of the rest of the lavishly envisioned program, funded with the sale of the family properties. It seemed a fitting end to long-owned properties; if they were not to remain in the family, for the proceeds to go to support so many of the family's long-standing charities. The older Winchesters--and Abernathies--would be satisfied.
He gathered the papers; the division of such an estate was a weighty thing, as was the sense of melancholy he felt. The execution of this will would see the final business partnership between their two families, and he set the seal to the page and signed--his hand not nearly so steady as Dr. Winchester's--as witness of that history.
Abernathy thought back on the past July Fourth, listening to The Pops together at that particular band shell, his wife squeezing his hand. Someday people on three or four continents, whether or not they knew the name Winchester, would likewise forge lives or memories because of this man, who was embracing the entire world in a way that sent a flood of warmth through the old lawyer's belly.
After coming home Hawkeye didn't leave Maine for over three years. He basked in the time with his dad, the changing of the leaves, the lobster bakes, the scent of brine blowing in off the sea, the simple surgeries on simple people with simple illnesses. If sometimes he found his fingers moving to resect a perforated bowel or graft a severed aorta, he didn't admit it.
In 1958, at Dad's urging, he went to the national conference of the American College of Chest Physicians. Just to see if there were any major advances in the field, that was all. He sat in on a smattering of lectures, making a point slip into "Advances in Peripheral Vein Grafting" presented by one Charles Emerson Winchester III on behalf of Boston General. Charles stood there with a more noticeable paunch, his Bostonian vowels drawn and clipped, wearing half-moon glasses and crisply pressed clothes, with his hair neatly trimmed. He was strange and unfamiliar, more like the Charles Hawkeye remembered from the first time they'd met than the last.
He slipped out without a hello.
Within two years Hawkeye had relocated to the teaching hospital in Portland and felt once again the weariness and exhilaration of the hours-long surgery that could bring a patient back from the brink. His students cried as much as they laughed. Patients were always the absolute first priority, before family, before sleep, before self.
His team developed techniques and equipment, became his family, comforted him when Dad died, and he wrote papers and did studies, trying to help more surgeons save more lives. He read journals, and occasionally saw familiar names: John McIntyre, Charles Emerson Winchester III, B.J. Hunnicut (still just the initials). Never Frank Burns, of course. Henry Blake and so many others never got the chance to do studies or even try to write about them, their absence part of the bitter aftertaste of war that gnawed whenever he let himself dwell.
The first meeting of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons in 1964 went very well. Drs. Pierce and Winchester, along with other founding members, greeted one another with formal handshakes and nods. Hawkeye flashed one broad smile and wink when no one could see, but let Charles have his aloofness and the pretense that they did not know each other apart from organizational planning. Charles presented a paper and three studies for Boston General, and everyone seemed impressed at the hospital's advances and attention to detail. The audience responded similarly to Hawkeye's presentation. He saw a raised eyebrow and frown that he knew conveyed complete, though silent, respect from Dr. Winchester.
Hawkeye attended the College of Chest Physicians end-of-year banquet thanking Charles for his service as president. When they announced that membership had increased by fifty percent and donations had doubled during Dr. Winchester's tenure, Hawkeye led the standing ovation. The presenter noted that Boston General's contributions to research in Thoracic Surgery, with major developments in Pediatrics, all led by Dr. Winchester, had continued steadily as well.
He drove the two hours to Boston for Charles' retirement dinner. Charles sat between two well-dressed women who looked like older and younger reflections of one another. There were two men and four children as well; it looked like the Winchester line had done well. There was a sign, a nod, and Hawkeye walked to the microphone. When he faced the room, Charles looked startled and a touch concerned. Hawkeye grinned, and he could have sworn Charles looked positively frightened, like when he and B.J. had suggested using the man's records for flying discus practice.
"Good evening. My name is Dr. Benjamin Franklin Pierce, but when Dr. Winchester--Charles--and I met nearly thirty-five years ago, he knew me as Hawkeye.
"Many of you probably don't know that Charles served in the Korean War. I suspect that's because he's equal parts ashamed of having been there and humble about all the lives he saved on the front lines, all the kids who got to come home, and the ones who got to walk when they got here.
"It's the same way he's always quiet about his role in all he's accomplished in his field. You probably don't know that Dr. Winchester has been instrumental in fine-tuning twelve different thoracic surgery procedures, or that if you look them up, the records show that those procedures were honed by Boston General Hospital. You have to dig even to find his name as one of the researchers, and you have to know someone to know he was the lead. There are two new instruments in the field that Dr. Winchester pioneered--and probably designed--and I've watched at least four surgeries where the patient survived solely because that instrument was available.
"Charles lets everyone believe he works for the money. For the good name of the hospital. For the personal prestige. But that's not true. Most of what he's done, no one knows. And all of it is for the good of the patients. That was what was most true about him in Korea, and it's been his guiding principle, along with his core of humility and his sense of honor.
"I'd like to invite you all to raise your glasses as we bid farewell to an irreplaceable member of our profession, thanking him for all he's done and what his contributions will continue to do. I say ye: Dr. Charles Emerson Winchester III."
Hawkeye raised his glass and met Charles' gaze, which was, for once, open and grateful, even friendly. Charles raised his own glass in response, though his smile was touched with embarrassment as the room filled with the sound of knuckles rapping against the tables.