It seems I left a few loose ends that a reader was good enough to bring to my attention. This should tie them up. I think…
All That's Left
"Major Brent? You have a visitor. He does not have an appointment but he says you know him. He says his name is Chief." Major Eugene Brent's secretary was in her thirties but looked younger. Quiet, efficient and well organized; she was an officer's dream secretary.
"Yes," he said as he rose. "Send him in." He moved to come around to the front of his desk.
"You do have a meeting in fifteen with the General," she reminded him.
"Yes, thank you."
"Send him in and I'll ask."
"Yes, Sir." She opened the door and motioned to someone in the anteroom.
Chief was nervous but he covered it well. This was not something he was used to doing or was good at but he knew it was what was right in Garrison's world and he wanted to belong to that world. Garrison. Garrison was the stepping stone to a better life, a life that had been denied to him.
As an orphaned half-breed Indian child, he had been taken in by a white couple but never truly accepted. When his 'mother' died in a derailment he was adopted by an Apache woman. This had led to a stint in an Indian Residential school. From there it was a short step to prison. In his short life he had never been accepted except when he was with the Apache woman, Goyen. He was always the outsider, the one who did not belong, the one ostracized and picked on. Garrison had changed that.
When they first got together Garrison had treated him as everybody else did. It didn't take long to notice that he treated Actor better. But then Actor treated Garrison better too. Then it was Goniff. They had returned late from a mission. The only one to get any sleep on the way back was the Englishman so the others had slept in, even Garrison. When they got up Goniff had made breakfast for everyone and Garrison had thanked him.
Then it was his turn. They had tried to break a man out of a German prison but he had been caught while trying to disable the alarm system. Garrison had come back for him and saved him from certain death. He had remembered Garrison thanking Goniff for going out of his way for the others and knew he had to thank Garrison. It had been hard to acknowledge that he needed someone or that he couldn't have saved himself. In his world you didn't, you didn't need, you didn't accept, you took. He was not sure what he expected Garrison to do with his apology but he was pleasantly surprised when Garrison brushed it off. He did not gloat, though he knew he wouldn't, and he didn't look as if he was saving it up for later. Garrison had accepted the offer and thus accepted him. That was the start and he had worked to build on that. The more he worked with the officer the more he was accepted. The lesson was learned.
He walked into the Major's office. It was nowhere near as nice as Garrison's but then this was an Army base not some rich person's house. He nodded and said, "Thank you, ma'am," as he passed the secretary. She had been courteous but cool when he had arrived. Now she smiled.
"Come on in, Chief. Have a seat," said Brent as he approached and held out his hand. "Coffee?"
Chief shook the offered hand and said, "No thanks. I'll only be a minute." The secretary heard the comment and stepped out closing the door softly.
"I take it all went well? Does he know you are here?" Brent asked with a smile as Chief sat in the chair and Brent perched on the desk corner.
"No, he don't know, but I got a twenty-four hour pass says I kin be here."
Brent smiled. "Wouldn't want you to be charged with desertion."
"Yeah," he said as he smiled. Then he turned serious as he said, "I just come by to thank you for helping me. If you hadn't," he paused for a heartbeat, "well, I'd be in prison and the Lieutenant would be dead. I owe you for both our lives and I want you to know I take that real serious. If there's anything I can do … just let me know an' I'll do it."
Brent caught the 'I owe you for both our lives' but let it go. He knew that if Garrison died that there would be no replacement, just dispersal of the rest of the team and they knew where they would be dispersed to. He could also see how serious Chief was about the repayment of a debt.
"Michael is a fellow officer and a friend but that's not the only reason. My rank gives me the opportunity to read the reports he files, our friendship allows us to talk about things that don't go in the reports." He smiled and saw the flicker of concern cross Chief's face. "You're gaining a reputation." Again the look of concern but this one remained. "Garrison's Gorillas may be unorthodox and mayhem follows you between missions but you have a healthy success rate. That is what the Brass understands."
"There's one other thing." Chief paused looking unsure of how to proceed. He wanted to stand and move but there was no window and nowhere to go. "I wanna apologize for lyin' to ya." He looked down at the hands that rested tensely in his lap so he missed the look of confusion on Brent's face. He raised his head and locked eyes with the Major. "I lied to ya in the mess Tent." He saw the look and realized he would have to explain. "I lied when I said the others were injured." He took a deep breath to continue. "I had to. I didn't want to, you bein' the Warden's friend an' all. We had to make everybody think he was alone."
Eugene took pity on the man, he looked so upset. "It's all right, Chief. I found out about the mole and realized what was going on. You were very convincing if that is any consolation. You were on the job, working a con and it worked." He was pleased to see the look of relief on Chief's face. "Besides, I could've been the mole," he added with a smile.
Chief looked shocked but he recovered enough to ask, "An' you got the guy, the mole?"
"Yes, Frederick Adler. He came from old money but over the decades their finances had deteriorated. When he was approached by a German consortium asking him to hold some money for them until the war was over, he saw a solution to his problem, figuring the Germans would lose and not be in a position to reclaim the money. As soon as the money was gone he was contacted again with an order to return the money or they would expose him."
"They blackmailed 'm."
"Yes. He agreed to rat out one of the teams."
"So before he was a traitor, he's a sucker."
"How'd they know he was gonna finger us?"
"Someone was making inquiries about the teams. Adler was not privy to that information so he had to ask."
"Why were we picked? Was it cause..." he started suspiciously.
"No. You were not picked because you're cons. You were selected because you were already one man down legitimately. It was fairly easy to make the others 'disappear'."
"What about my bein' arrested? He do that too?"
"No, that was a matter of bad timing. The arrest warrant was announced to appease the mole and confirm that Garrison was coming alone. You were supposed to have left before it could be acted upon. Once the identity of the mole was confirmed and he was arrested, the warrant was to have been withdrawn and all charges dropped. Sometimes the bureaucracy moves too slowly."
"Yeah, works that way in prison too," said Chief softly. Brent figured he spoke from experience. Chief stood and held out his hand. Brent did likewise and the men shook hands again. "Thanks for all your help, Major. We're lucky to have you on our side. Thanks again." He turned to leave.
"You're welcome, Chief. Look after him for me."
Chief turned back to face him and said, "I always do." He opened the door and left.
Brent returned to his chair behind his desk. When his friend had told him about his team, he had been skeptical. Convicts taking orders from the Army. A long shot for sure but it was working at least it was working with these men. Michael had convinced them to trust and to follow him, but then he was a natural leader. If he did not survive, it would not be from lack of trying by his team. He opened the drawer and removed the file he had been working on.
"Sir, you have a call from a Lieutenant Garrison," interrupted his secretary.
"Put him through." Eugene lifted the telephone handset and placed the receiver to his ear. "Hello, Michael. How are you?"
"Eugene, I'm fine, how about you. Staying out of trouble?"
"Just barely. So how's Scotland this time of year?" Eugene smiled. It would be cold and wet, perfect for survival training.
"I haven't left yet. They owed me some time. We leave in two days."
"Yeah, Chief's going too."
Brent laughed. Garrison's tone did not bode well for somebody. "Does he know?"
"Not yet he doesn't. Anyway, I just called to thank you for your help. I'm afraid my rank wouldn't have gotten me anywhere at least not as fast as you did. We all appreciate your help, especially Chief. I know he, and I'm sure the others do too, have had nightmares of going back to prison."
Major Brent said nothing of his previous visitor. If he had said nothing to Garrison then neither would he. "You're welcome. You've helped me in the past. Besides that's what friends do, help each other. Besides, the big G, might hear of my incredible powers of deduction and give me a promotion."
"Or he sees you aiding and abetting criminals and give you a demotion." The grin on Michael's face came through loud and clear in his voice.
Eugene laughed. "You could be right. Captain Eugene Brent at your service."
"No, it doesn't have the same ring to it. Stay out of trouble; I might need your services again, someday."
His secretary poked her head in the door. That was the signal to go. "Okay, Michael. Give me a call the next time you're in town."
"Will do. Good bye, Major, and thanks again."
"Bye." Brent replaced the receiver and stood. Grabbing his hat he headed for the door.