A Friendly Demonstration

Chapter 1

A/N: I decided to try for an image for this story. But I thought that my choice might confuse some of you a little. The image is of WRNS Second Office Anne Davies, in WW2 WRNS Uniform, who in this story is Gillian Shephard's Paternal Grandmother (Davies was her maiden name), and to a great extent the inspiration for both Gill and this story.

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Gilly Shephard scowled at her telephone as its insistent double ring broke into her concentration. Sighing she pushed the 98 (Seringapatam) Battery Canteen Account book to one side – she hated audit time, it barely seemed to have been finalised before the next quarter had rolled around and it was time to do it all over again.

"Captain Shephard," she said into the mouthpiece.

"Hi, Gill, it's Tony Latham. Can you pop down to RHQ please; the Old Man wants to see you."

"Dammit, Tony, I'm right in the middle of nine eight's audit…"

"Hey don't shoot me, I'm only the messenger. Hey… a thought's just occurred; maybe he wants you to take over as Adj!"

Gill chuckled, "What? After my performance as Ack-Adj? I don't think so! OK, Tony, I'll be there in a few minutes."

Gill locked the account books in her safe, and then clapping her beret on her head she locked her office and pausing briefly by the Battery Office she stuck her head around the door, "I've been summoned to RHQ, Bom," she told Bombardier Walker, the Battery Clerk, "So if the BC comes looking for me…"

"I'll tell him you had a date with a tall dark, not so handsome and not so stranger," 'Johnny' Walker grinned.

"That tongue of yours is going to get you into some deep doo-doo one day, Bombardier," she told him with mock severity.

"Very probably ma'am, and when it comes to my DCM, I'll ask for you to act as the Prisoner's Friend!"

Shaking her head in amused resignation Gill stepped out at a brisk walk heading for Regimental Headquarters, returning the salutes of the assorted soldiery she passed on the way.

Stepping in through the double doors, she turned right into the long corridor lined with doors to the right but with just the door to the Orderly Room and the Chief Clerk's office to the left, before she passed through the double glass doors that led to the Adjutant's, Second-in-Command's and the Commanding Officer's offices.

Tapping gently on the Adjutant's door Gill stepped in and rendered a salute, "Well here I am, Tony… Good Morning, Sue," the extra greeting for the benefit of Sue Marshall, the Lieutenant who two years ago had succeed Gill as Assistant Adjutant on Gill's promotion to Captain

Tony Latham got to his feet, "I'll let him know you've arrived, Gill." He tapped quietly on the connecting door to the CO's office and paused briefly before entering.

"So, Gill, how's life with One Seven Four?"

"Pretty good," Gill smiled, "But it would be better if wasn't for the damned audits!"

Sue grimaced, "I know exactly what you mean; I'm on the reviewing board with Harry Tucker and Simon Jackson!"

Gill winced, "The QM and the Paymaster on the same board? You must really have upset somebody!"

Sue nodded a rueful grin appearing on her face, "Yeah, I did… it's the fallout from the last Ladies' Dinner Night!"

Gill grinned in sympathy but before she could make any reply, the connecting door re-opened, and was held open by Tony Latham.

"Go on in, Gill," he said quietly.

Gill nodded her acknowledgement and entered the CO's Office, halting in front of his desk. "Good morning, Colonel, you wanted to see me?"

"Yes, Gill, I did…" Lieutenant Colonel Michael Harrington rose to his feet even as Gill spoke. He was a tall man, easily topping six feet two inches, made to seem even taller by his spare frame. What hair he had remaining was so dark as to almost be black, and with his beak of a nose he reminded Gill of some sort of Eagle. Maybe a Bald Eagle she had once, giggling silently, told herself.

"Take a pew, Gill," Colonel Mike said affably, as he perched on the corner of his desk and picked up a sheet of paper.

Gill sat down as she'd been invited, a vertical crease appearing between her brows.

Colonel Mike looked at her and smiled reassuringly, "Don't look so worried, it's not really bad news, just damned inconvenient." He took a breath, "Larkhill Day, next month…"

"Yes Colonel? I thought we'd dodged that bullet this year?"

"Most of us have! You unfortunately haven't. It seems that our colonial cousins from across the pond have appointed some new Navy Type to head up their Legal Services in Europe. Their Embassy approached the MOD asking that he be given a Cook's Tour of our forces to help get the bigger picture. The Army Board have been given this… Captain Rabb… to look after for a week, and some bright spark decided that as Larkhill Day falls within our allotted week that the Gunners should look after him for a couple of days. You know the sort of thing, take him down for Larkhill Day let him watch the fireworks and comment that the Yanks do it better."

Gill nodded her understanding but the frown remained in place, "But what's this got to do with me, Colonel…" and then the penny dropped, "Oh, no, please Colonel, I'll be right in the middle of packing for my posting!"

"I'm sorry Gill," her CO spoke sympathetically, "but the Army Board passed it to the DRA and as you so rightly said, we are not involved in this year's show, so the DRA passed the buck to me, and it is precisely just because you'll be leaving us so soon that you are the one officer I can spare to baby-sit this American matelot. I'll have Tony speak to Gregory Morrison and make sure that you and he complete the handover/takeover as One Seven Four's BK before you leave for darkest Wiltshire!"

Gill had no option but say "Yes, sir!"

"Cheer up, Gill, it's only two days. Combat kit for the day and Mess Kit for the evening. Tony will make sure you're both booked into the RA Mess overnight, and you know it will be a damn good dinner!"

'Yes, it will be a damn' good dinner, and a damn' expensive one, and it will end up on my damn' Mess Bill!' Gill thought bitterly as she stood, recognising the note of dismissal, "Very good, sir!"

Colonel Mike nodded, "It's a rough duty Gill, especially considering Five Four Regiment's OP Party, but despite our feelings, we still have to play nice with the Americans!" He drew a breath before adding in a more conversational tone, "Tony will issue joining instructions by the end of the week!"

"Yes, Colonel."

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

The United States Navy Attaché for the United States of America Embassy to the Court of Saint James, Rear Admiral John Joseph Taylor III, glared across the desk at the junior officer who had just been openly insubordinate.

"Suck it up, sailor!" he growled, his jowls wobbling as he spoke. "You have received your orders, and you will attend this damn dog and pony show! Understood?"

"Yes sir!" Captain Harmon Rabb snapped in response to the question.

Admiral Taylor seemed to deflate as he sank back in his chair, "At ease, Captain… Look, I know you've barely set foot on this crummy little island; I know that you are still trying to find your feet in your first command. I know that your XO's position has been gapped for the last God knows how many years and that you still need to get know your staff… Not just those in your building but those deployed as well! But remember, it's not just a career in the Navy, Rabb, it's an adventure!" Taylor thought for a moment as faint memories coalesced, "Hell, you should know that Rabb! Weren't you once, literally, the Navy's poster boy?"

Rabb winced, yes, thanks to Renee Peterson and her damned Navy advert campaign! He drew a deep breath and tried again, but this time in a more conciliatory mode, "Yes, sir. But I really don't see how this 'adventure' can be of any relevance. I mean what does our Navy have to do with the British Army?"

Taylor looked across the table at Rabb, he was trying his hardest to treat the officer opposite as a Captain in the United States Navy, but the younger man's petulant attitude was beginning to get on his nerves. Still…"Rabb, although the British Government have stuck by us, both in Afghanistan and Iraq, the great British public aren't so enamoured of our policies. They also dislike seeing flag-draped coffins coming home from a war in which they feel their country should not be involved. And it doesn't help when five of those coffins that will be arriving in the next couple of days were the result of a misdirected strike by a squadron of Hornets!"

Harm groaned, "Blue on blue, sir?"

Taylor nodded, "Exactly that!"

Harm foresaw a nightmare for him and his staff if this was an error involving aircraft from any ship forming part of US Naval Forces, Europe, a theatre designation that covered the Mediterranean and could quite easily involve aircraft from ships deployed in that sea.

"No, don't worry about this one from your perspective, Rabb. "The Hornets were from…" he glanced at a sheet of paper on his blotter… "The 'Razorbacks', VMF/A 833 flying off the Iron Ike out of the Indian Ocean, so this headache will fall to either the Fleet JAG, or more likely, given its nature and serious consequences to HQ JAG Pacific at Pearl!"

"So… you have been nominated to attend this Artillery display for two reasons. One, it was an Artillery recon group that got hit by the Jarheads, so your presence will hopefully restore peace and harmony to the 'special relationship' between our two countries armed forces, and two you are a pilot as well as a lawyer, so you can bring a unique perspective to bear and if asked you will be able – diplomatically, and without prejudice, remember – to try and explain the difficulties faced by pilots and controllers in trying positively to identify targets at night in extremely rough country, particularly when said pilots and controllers are unaware that there are friendly forces in the vicinity!"

Harm nodded as the gravity of the situation dawned on him, "I see sir, so I'm to make nice and let myself be the whipping boy?"

"Just so," Taylor nodded, setting his jowls wobbling again. "However, I understand it's not all bad news. The Brits are usually well behaved, so I wouldn't expect anyone to get physically violent." He paused for effect, "Anyone! Do I make myself clear, Captain?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Good! Now, from what I understand, the whole affair takes two days and it's down in Wiltshire, that's about eighty miles south west of here and you'll be accommodated in the Royal Artillery Mess. The junket involves a formal Mess Dinner so you'll need Woodland BDUs for the day and Summer Mess Dress for the dinner. I'll have my Yeoman send over the full details of dates and timings once their Ministry of Defence have got their asses in gear!"

Harm nodded in acknowledgement. He still didn't like the idea, but now that the circumstances had been explained, he could see some sort of reason as to why he had been selected for this tricky duty. "Aye, aye, Sir! Permission to dismiss, sir?"

"Yes, go ahead Rabb, Dismiss!"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Gill Shephard walked briskly back to Battery Headquarters, "Anything earth-shattering happen while I was gone Bombardier?" she asked as she stopped at the Battery Office's open door.

"Not a lot, ma'am, "Johnny Walker replied with his lazy grin, "But the BQ says he needs to see you at your convenience."

"In just those words, Bom?" Gill asked as her eyes twinkled with amusement.

"Er… no ma'am, not quite. I took the liberty of paraphrasing!"

"Yes, I thought you might have! Let him know I'm back please!" Gill threw over her shoulder as she headed down the corridor her grin still on her face. Staff Sergeant James, Jesse to practically everybody in the Regiment, was a damn good BQMS, but he was also one of the last of the dinosaurs, who still hadn't fully adjusted to the presence of women in the Gunners. Doubtless his message for her had been couched in less salubrious terms than the carefully edited version just delivered by Bombardier Walker.

Just as she reached her office door, a thought struck her, and she retraced her steps to the Battery Office, "Bombardier, dig through the KAPE files please and come up with everything you can on next month's Larkhill Day, please."

"Larkhill Day, ma'am? I thought we'd skived off from that this year!"

"You have; I haven't!" And as she saw the question forming on his face she added, "I'll tell you all about it later!"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Harmon Rabb returned to his own office in an Annexe to the Embassy proper, to be greeted by a cry of "Captain on Deck!" as he entered the bull-pen, a smaller version of the same room at Falls Church, staffed with no more than a dozen Yeoman, Legalmen and two Personnel Specialists. His own Yeoman had a desk in a small office leading to the JAG's just off the bull-pen and rose to her feet as her chief entered.

"Anything come in Martinez?"

"Nothing much sir, just a couple of messages, one from Falls Church, saying that the JAG would call at thirteen hundred Zulu, and would appreciate it if you be at your desk at that time!"

"H'mm… did he say what he wanted to speak about?"

"No sir!" the young woman replied

"Anything else?"

"Yes sir, the other message was from Miss Coates at Blacksburg… she said it was good news and that she'd call back later!"

Harm let out a breath he didn't even know he's been holding. It was the same every time Jen Coates called, he expected to hear that Mattie Grace had had some sort of set-back; Jen had scolded him time after time, telling him to adopt a more Positive Mental Attitude, and each time Harm had tried to explain that his training as a pilot led him to prepare for the worst and that was the best way to avoid unwelcome surprises. He grinned to himself as he recalled Jen's exasperated reply the last time he had trotted out that excuse, "Well, Mattie's not one of your damned Tomcats - sir!" the young woman had retorted.

Martinez saw the grin on Harm's face, "Sir?" she queried.

"Nothing, Yeoman Two," he answered and then his grin faded as he eyed her speculatively, "You do realise that Jennifer Coates is a Petty Officer Legalman, don't you?"

"Yes, sir, why?"

"You keep referring to her as Miss Coates… If she were here, I don't think she'd even react to that…"

"Oh… " Julia Martinez flushed, "It's just that she doesn't sound like she's Navy, sir… she sounds…" the brunette shrugged, "I dunno, sir… she just sounds different."

Harm couldn't fight the smile any longer, "That she is, Yeoman, that she is…" 'In fact she's so totally different, she's unique!' He continued to eye his Yeoman gravely and then said, "I've got a couple of jobs for you. Firstly, find out all you can about Larkhill Day, it's scheduled for next month…"

"Larkhill Day, Sir?"

"Yes, it's some sort of British Army Firepower Demonstration that I've been ordered to attend, and I'd like to know just what I'm getting into!" 'Preparing for the worst again' he chided himself. "And when you've done that see what you can dig up on a Blue on Blue incident involving our forces in the sandbox. Look for anything that happened in the last two weeks, concentrating on air strikes."

"Aye, aye, sir!" Martinez replied, reaching for her keyboard even as she retook her seat.

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Harm's faith in Martinez' ability wasn't misplaced, she found out as much as she could but it took her four days to come up with a report. Harm was sure that Jennifer Coates would have at least halved the time, and he looked forward to the day when she would join him at her new duty station.

Still… it could have been worse; although Cresswell had said that no-one was off-limits when it came to he and Mac choosing staff to accompany them to their new stations, he definitely wasn't happy when Jen had first asked to accompany Mac to San Diego and then changed her mind to stay in Falls Church, and then later yet had unhesitatingly jumped at the chance to follow Harm to London.

And Mac… that was an entirely different matter… For years he had believed himself in love with her, and despite all the fluctuations in their Relationship and working partnership he had believed that she loved him… and then on that fateful night before they had both left the DC area she had visited him in his loft apartment, and he… had finally said those three little words to her that she had been aching to hear. He had said "I love you," but to his dismay, and despite the searing kiss they had just shared, she had been unable to say them back. He had pressed her and she had finally answered, but he had seen the dawning realisation in her eyes even before she spoke, and for an instant he had felt as if he had been kicked in the stomach.

She had looked at him in… horror? And had said, "Oh God, Harm… I thought I loved you… For years I've thought I loved you … but… I've just discovered… I don't!"

She had raised a hand to cup his face as she said, "Oh Harm… I'm so sorry… I didn't mean…"

All he had been able to do was stand there, speechless until her fingers made contact with his face, and then he jumped as if burned. Mac saw the desolation in his eyes masked as his emotional shutters came crashing down, "You… you… you'd better leave, Mac," he'd said in a level voice.

But Mac had stood her ground, "Harm…"

But he had interrupted her, "Mac… please…"

Mac had bowed to the inevitable, she had turned and walked out of the apartment, desperately sorry to have caused her friend so much pain and hoping almost against hope that she wasn't walking completely out of his life.

Harm gave himself a mental shake and returned to his office and the review of a shipboard Special Court Martial. The accused, a Boatswain's Mate Second Class, had been found guilty of Dereliction of Duty and sentenced to six months in the brig, loss of rate down to E-1 and forfeiture of two thirds pay for three months. He was appealing against both finding and sentence, and on a first reading of the file, Harm felt that the unfortunate seaman had good grounds for his appeal.

Harm had already noted that the two attorneys involved in the case, Edwards for the prosecution and McMahon for the defence were both Lieutenants JG barely out of NJS, and had been assigned the case by his predecessor. There was no explanation as to the reasoning behind the choice of attorneys and Harm could only assume that the previous Naval Force Europe JAG had decided that this was simple case where two inexperienced attorneys could sharpen their courtroom skills. That was all well and good, in most cases, but not in cases where, and this looked like one, the accused was deprived of due process. Harm would now have to recommend to the appeals board that they accept this case. Who to detail for the task of presenting could wait until he gotten to know his staff a bit better. Of course, by the time the case was heard by the board, the seaman in question would have been in and out of the brig having served his time. So even if the findings of the court martial were reversed and rate, pay and benefits were restored, nothing would erase the trauma the young man had been put through.

Harm pressed the 'call' button the inter-officer intercom, "Martinez, come on through please, and bring your shorthand pad!"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Johnny Walker hefted the bundle of internal mail the Battery Runner had just collected from RHQ and nodded in approval. "Thanks Bunny… now how about making yourself really useful: put the kettle on, eh, lad?"

The baby-faced Gunner Warren sighed silently to himself, it looked like the hated nickname was going to stick, so he might as well get used to it! "OK, Bom," he replied and grabbed the battered electric kettle from the tray on top of the filing cabinet and disappeared to fill it with water.

Walker quickly sorted the mail into two piles, one pile was official mail addressed to the Battery Commander, or Battery Captain as the case might be and needed placing on file and flagging for action before forwarding it to its intended recipient. The other pile was for mail intended for a person, rather than an appointment. None today for the BC, but a brown envelope bearing the RHQ date stamp and addressed to "Capt G A Shephard RA", in the Adjutant's distinctive scrawl.

Walker quickly picked out two more official envelopes addressed to WO2 (BSM) Mallory, and quit his office to deliver those items to their intended recipients.

Gill looked up at the double rap on her door, "Come in!"

"This morning's holy writ from Hindquarters, ma'am," Walker said as he proffered the envelope.

"Thank you Bombardier." Gill smiled, almost knocking off Johnny Walker's socks.

"My pleasure, ma'am," her grinned, successfully concealing just what her smile did to him, "I've got Warren making a brew, fancy one?"

"God! Yes, please!"

"Tea or coffee, ma'am?"

Coffee, please." Gill said as Johnny Walker paused by the door for her reply.

Gill's peace was disturbed again some few minutes later by Gunner Warren who delivered her coffee so nervously that she stood to take it from him before he spilled it all over her desk.

Sitting down again she reached for her coffee and then her hand changed direction and she picked up the brown envelope, opened it and took out the single sheet of paper.

Frowning a little at its contents, she picked up the 'phone and dialled Tony Latham's extension.

"Hello, Tony? It's Gill Shephard."

"What can I do for you this morning?" Tony asked with his habitual teasing note in his voice

"Um… I've just received the written briefing for this damn Larkhill Day business. I see that I am to host a Capt H Rabb, USN. Tony, that's the equivalent of a full Colonel… isn't that a bit high-powered company for a Capt RA?"

"If you really want to argue it, Gill," Tony's voice had become quite serious, "I think the Old Man could fit you in at about fourteen thirty hours, but…"

"But what, Tony?" Gill asked impatiently.

"But I really wouldn't recommend rocking the boat, not on this one…"

Gill paused, "He's taking this thing that seriously?" she asked.

"You'd better believe it! So… you'll just have to suffer in silence. Besides, if you can't take a joke…"

"I know, I know," Gill half-laughed as she finished the well-worn saying "I shouldn't have joined!"

"Got it in one! Now is there anything else I can do for you? Us poor overworked Adjutants don't have as much time to sit and gossip as you chaps and chapettes in the batteries!"

"Else?" Gill exclaimed, "You've actually done nothing for me – well, except given me a chuckle!"

"Then my day is made!" Tony grinned.

"Clown!" Gill accused him and with a grin on her face, replaced the phone in its cradle. Right from the start, Tony Latham had let her know that he was attracted to her, and right from the start Gill had let him know that while she was more than happy to have him as a friend, that was as far as their relationship went, or would ever go.

Gill studied her briefing again frowning once more over the rank of the visitor, wishing she knew more about him than just his name and rank. She sat for a while, tapping the folded sheet of paper one hand and then a slow smile spread over her face. She was forgetting an important asset…

"Bom?"

"Yes, ma'am?" Johnny Walker looked up from where he was typing the daily Battery Orders.

"Your int network still up and running?"

"Of course 'tis," he grinned, "who do you want the dirt on this time, ma'am?"

"You make it sound as if I'm looking for some sort of blackmail evidence!" Gill protested.

"Well aren't you, ma'am?"

"No! Merely looking for int, after all, isn't 'know your enemy' still as true today as it was back in the days of Sun Tzu?"

"Sung who, ma'am?"

"Oh, never mind. Look, I've got a bit of a challenge for you; see what you can find out about a US Navy Captain, name of Rabb – two 'B's"

"Rabb, with two 'B's, Captain, Yank Navy. Got it ma'am. I'll get on to it as soon as I finish orders!"

"Thanks, Bom!"

Ten minutes later orders finished and printed, ready for the BC's signature, Johnny Walker turned to the message pad on which he'd scribbled Rabb's name, and threw a quick glance at the clock, 'Fifteen thirty hours… H'mm… So… you think you've set me a challenge, hey? OK, Miss Shephard, let's see…"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Julia Martinez stretched and looked up from her VDU, thank God it was nearly seventeen hundred hours, and so far Captain Rabb hadn't asked her to work late this evening. He was a nice guy, she supposed, but unlike the previous Force JAG he was single, and didn't seem to care how late he worked. Which as far as she was concerned was fine, but when he worked late, he was getting into the habit of asking Julia to stay as well. 'Asking' she thought indignantly, 'When he knows that a request from a Captain to a Yeoman Two is just the same as a direct order!'

Still, he hadn't said anything today, and if she was lucky, then in ten more minutes… her train of thought was interrupted by the ringing of her phone. A glance at the desk-top switchboard showed her that it was an outside line. 'This probably isn't good,' she told herself resignedly as she reached for the 'phone.

"Naval Force JAG Headquarters, Yeoman Two Martinez speaking, sir!"

"Um… Good afternoon… I'm trying to reach the office of a Captain Rabb, USN?"

'A Brit!' Martinez exclaimed silently, 'Unusual! Not unheard of, but unusual!' "You've got the right office, how may I help you?"

"Uh… Yeah, hi, I'm Bombardier Walker, One Seven Four Battery, Three Eight Regiment Royal Artillery. My BK – Battery Captain – has been detailed to host the Captain at the Firepower Demo next month… She's never met him… and she's well… being a woman you can probably appreciate… she's a little bit cautious…?"

"She has nothing to worry about!" Julia snapped, automatically going on to the defensive, "Captain Rabb is an officer and a gentleman!"

"Oh…" Walker hadn't meant to sound accusatory, but he sensed even over the 'phone that the woman… girl? On the other end of the line was unhappy with him, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to give offence, and it's just that there are so many weirdos out there these days that…"

Martinez nearly laughed out loud, the guy was trying to apologise, and all he succeeded in doing was digging himself in deeper "OK," she smiled, "Apology accepted. Just what do you think I can do?"

"Well… have you got any information on him, where he is, what he's done… that sort of thing… anything to give my officer a handle on him…"

"Well, his service record is confidential…" Julia said thoughtfully, and then brightened up slightly, "Look, it won't be the full low down, but there was a PA release when he took up his post, I could send you a copy of that… and… do you have internet access?"

"Yes… why?"

"Look, write down this URL, that'll give you access to the on-line filed copies of the Navy Times. If you enter 'Rabb' into the search box, then you'll be able to access all the public information on the Captain that you'll need."

"That's great, thanks… uh… when can you send me that PA – that's Public…"

"Public Affairs," Julia helped him out.

"Oh, yeah, right. It's PR in our lot! It's just that I'm up against a deadline, here."

"OK, soldier, what's your e-address, and I'll e-mail it right away?"

"Thanks… uh…?"

"Yeoman. Yeoman Two, Julia Martinez." Julia answered.

"Well, thanks… Julia. 'Bye."

"Yeah… bye…" Julia put the 'phone down, and then thought, 'Why did I tell him my full name? Well, he was polite, and he sounded a bit… nervous in a cute kind of way. Oh get over yourself girl! He's probably fat and forty and with bad teeth! But he did sound cute, and he was polite, and he had a nice voice… a bit of a funny accent… but…'

"Is there something amusing you, Martinez?"

Julia shot to her feet, she had been so absorbed in her thoughts she had failed to see that the JAG had quit his office and was standing at her desk

"Uh… No, sir. Sorry sir!"

"Relax Martinez! Just to let you know that I'm securing for the day. I'll see you at oh seven thirty hours tomorrow!"

"Oh seven thirty hours, aye!"

xxxxx-xxxxx-xxxxx

Gill sat in one of the over-stuffed but remarkably comfortable armchairs in the Mess Ante Room,a glass of tonic water stood on the table that was also littered with the ream of paper that had resulted from her casual challenge to Bombardier Walker. She shook her head in amazement, when would she learn that the artillery clerks' grapevine was about the most efficient intelligence and communications network in the whole damn army! Sure, she like most officers, had come to rely upon and appreciate the unofficial sources of information that the clerks had managed to tap, but on this occasion Gill freely admitted Walker had done himself proud!

Her solitude was interrupted by the arrival of Sue Marshall, who carefully set her own drink down on the table before she plumped down in the armchair opposite.

"What's all this .Gill?" she asked with raised eyebrows, "Surely you're not bringing work into the Mess?"

"Not bloody likely!" Gill grinned, "I learned that lesson a long time ago! I can't afford a round of drinks for all members, these days. Mind you, I couldn't afford it back then, either!"

"So…?" Sue persisted.

"You know I've been lumbered as a baby-sitter for some Yank sailor at Larkhill Day. Well. I got Bombardier Walker to do some digging, and this is what he's come up with!"

Sue picked up a couple of pages that seemed to be printouts of an on-line newspaper and ran her eyes down the page, "Who exactly am I supposed to be looking for?" she asked.

"Captain Harmon Rabb, Junior," Gill said desperately trying not to giggle.

Sue wrinkled her nose, "Funny name," she commented and then caught Gill's eye and both women allowed grins of complicity to flash into being.

Sue became quiet though as she continued to read…"Hey Gill… this guy's a Navy pilot…"

"A Pilot? I thought he was a lawyer?"

"Well, he must be a Pilot…" Sue's voice took on an awed hush, "Gilly… he's got the Yank DFC… and two bars!"

"Here… give me that… H'mm you're right… still…"

"Gill, even the Yanks don't issue DFCs with the rations!"

"No… I suppose not…" And then as Sue gasped again, Gill looked up, "What now?"

"This photograph, Gill! You lucky girl! I hate you! He's gorgeous!"

Gill took the photograph and studied it, taking a sip of tonic before she replied, "Do you really think so?" She shook her head as she continued to look at the picture, "No… he doesn't do anything for me."

Sue looked at her friend in exasperation, "No, of course not!" she said dryly.