This is a long story about a long story. Many years ago I was advised to call it a novel.
Over the years I've needed to carry a gun from time to time. It seems to come and go in phases. A couple of years ago I was in one of those phases when I decided to go south and visit my brother.
We cruised in to White Pines, a little after on one of those foggy street light haloed nights. After driving 727 very long miles, we were a little beat. So we decided to take a room at the local motel in town before calling on my brother. Now if you knew my brother, Bob, you'd know why I decided to wait until morning before saying hello.
After we settled in, I just couldn't get to sleep. So I got dressed again and decided to take care of business. I said good night to my partner, locked the door, and set out to find the local Legion bar. It didn't take me long; it was the only store front on Main Street with a sputtering red white and blue neon sign.
At this time of night, I knew the bar would be occupied by the usual regulars. You know the guys who make their living with their hands; some with beards; a mustache or two; some clean shaved, but mostly all good people. So I just walked in and took a stool at the corner of the bar.
By my second beer, I had edged my way into the bar banter. It wasn't long before first name introductions were made. Then after a few rounds of jokes, Reed, the guy sitting next to me, asked the natural question.
"So what brings you to White Pines, John?
"Came to look up my brother, Reed. Haven't seen him is five years."
"No kidding", who’s your brother?"
:"Bob Moran." I replied.
The bar suddenly went silent, but I kind of expected that response.
Then a guy named Cody, who seemed to be at the top of the pecking order, broke the silence.
"No offense, partner, but are you aware that your brother is a card or two short of a full deck?"
I replied with a cold grin, "I think you're a little mistaken about that, Cody."
Then the silence got really loud.
"How so?" Cody braced
"It's more like all of the picture cards are missing" I smiled.
That broke the ice and we all laughed. So I just I asked him, "Just out of curiosity, Cody, How did that fact come to your attention?"
"Well, ever since he moved here, he's been digging holes all over his place up there. I guess he must of dug at least 100 up there by now. So I figured maybe he was trying to put in a well or something. So one day I stopped by to see him. I told him I could get him a well drilled at a real seasonable price. The next thing I knew, he was accusing me of digging tunnels under his house for the FBI. In fact, he's accused everybody in town of spying on him. Just what the heck is his problem, John?"
"Well, it's kind of a long story, Cody. and it took me close to thirty years to fill in all of the blanks.
"Well, get on with it, John. I'd like to hear it."
"Well, you see, Cody, these days sanity has become an uncommon state of mind. Let's say you're just a little guy and you believe that the government is spying on you. That would make you legally insane, right?"
"Sure, that's a real good possibility, John."
"Now let’s say, that you happen to right and they are spying on you. Me, I call that illegally sane.
See, it all started a long time ago, back when we were kids.
Me and Bobby each had our own personal armies of toy soldiers. On rainy days we'd fight World War II on the floor in our old man's house. He always liked being the Germans, me...I preferred being the Americans. See he grew up during the war. Me... I had just missed it. It had all ended the year before I was born, when Bob was six
Living through the war, I guess, might have had a lot to do with his fascination with the Germans. After all, every kid on the block had a Nazi helmet or bayonet, compliments of their old man's service. So as the years went by, Bob became a real military buff. He loved to read history books and he'd go to see every war movie that was ever made. He also had a passion to draw too, and military maps were his favorite subjects. In fact, map making was the first merit badges he earned as a boy scout.
In school, he was just an average student though, except for history and geography or course. So when he finally reached high school, they decided he should take a commercial course of study. Seems the guidance counselor thought that Bob just wouldn't be able to master a foreign language.
Now back in those days, Cody, without a foreign language, college was out of the question. So Bob fought him and eventually got a trial term in Spanish. Four years later he graduated with honors in Spanish and German, after graduation he was accepted by a New YorkCatholicUniversity as a language major. The language he chose was Russian. He didn't know it at the time, but that decision would really change his life.
See, back in those days, Cody, Uncle Sam was looking for former boy scouts with map making merit badges. Being a military buff with a CatholicUniversity education didn't hurt none either. When you added being fluent in German and Russian..Bingo, they had their man."
They finally caught up with him in his first year, as soon as he joined the ROTC. After his second meeting, a Captain Bennett pulled him aside and asked, "Bob, do you have a minute, the Colonel would like to speak to you." “Yes Sir!"
Bob and the Captain reported to the Colonel in his office. After the salutes, the Colonel smiled, "Seats, gentlemen." Then he turned to Bob and smiled, "Bob, I've heard good thing about you. You seem to have a flair for the military. Have you ever considered the possibility of a career with the army?" Bob smiled, "I have given it some thought, sir, and haven't ruled it out." The Colonel beamed, “Excellent, Bob. We have an opening in the "Patton Rifles" and I think it would be a good place for you to start. The Patton Rifles Bob is an elite cadet unit. It's made of young man like yourself who are considering a career in the military. It's extra work of course, and the work is hard sometimes. But if you stay with it, you have an excellent chance of graduating as a first lieutenant. Think you might want to take a shot at it, Bob?" "Yes Sir, I'll give it a shot.” "Excellent!" Then the colonel turned to Bennett, "Take care of the details, Captain." "Yes, sir, I'll see to it right away."
Things went real well with the Rifles and Bob was pulling A's in his Russian courses. Everything looked great, but soon summer recess would begin. Then Bob would have to find a job. You see, Cody, Bob only had a limited scholarship and money was a constant problem. Luckily, two weeks before recess, the Colonel summoned him.
"Bob, what are your plans for the summer after training?" "Well sir, I'm looking for a job, but nothing has turned up yet." "Well then, I think I might have good news for you. I have a job I think you'd like." "What kind of a job, sir?" "Well the job I have in mind involves map making. Do you think you might be interested in it?" "Yes sir, very interested." " Good! Then report back to me, here in the office, on July 18th at 0900 on the dot. Oh, and Bob, just a slacks, shirt and tie, no uniform please" Then the colonel made a note on his calendar and smiled, "Dismissed" Bob saluted with a big, "Thank You Sir!"
"So what happened after that, John?"
"Well, Cody, at on the18th, Bob was seated on the bench right outside of the colonel's office. At nine, he stood up and straightened his tie, but before he could knock, the colonel opened the door and smiled, "Come right in Bob."
When he entered, there was a man in a crew cut standing in the corner next to the flag. He wore a white short sleeved shirt, khaki slacks and a black tie. His salt and pepper hair made him out to be in his late thirties early forties.
After Bob took a seat the colonel turned to the man and made the introduction.
"Walt, this is Bob Moran, he's the young man I was telling you about. Bob this is Mr. Douglas with the Argyle Corporation." Bob smiled and offered his hand, "Glad to meet you sir, is the job here on campus?" "Why yes, Bob, right next door in fact." "When can I start, sir?" “Well, Bob, you can start right now if you take a little walk with me."
Then Walt said his good bye to the colonel, and they walked off the other building."
Douglas began the conversation as they strolled in the warm July sun.
”Where do live Bob?" "I live in Brooklyn with my parent's, sir." "That must be a heck of a trip for you every day?" "Well it is sir, but you get use to it after awhile." "Bob, you don't have to call me sir, Mr. Douglas will be just fine." "Sure Mr. Douglas."
They entered the building and proceeded down a cold gray staircase to the basement. Half way down the hallway they came to a painted steel clad door. The words "Argyle Project" stenciled in red, stared them right in the face. Walt turned his key and they entered an alcove where a uniformed Air Force sergeant was seated at a desk. The sergeant snapped to attention and smiled, "Good Morning, Sir." Walt just nodded, “Good Morning, Buck."
Now talk about your coincidences, it just so happened that Buck was an acquaintance of Bob's. He was a 26 year old Korean war veteran and attending the university at the Air Force's expense. Stranger still, Buck was in a couple of Bob's Russian classes and they had sucked down some beers together on two occasions. In fact, Buck was the guy who pushed him to join the ROTC.
Douglas smiled at Buck, "I'd like to meet Bob Moran; he's going to be working with us, Buck." "We know each other, sir. Bob's in some of my classes." “Well, that's nice to know, carry on sergeant."
Next they proceeded into a large room partitioned off into cubicles. A few of them were occupied, but no other introductions were made. Then Douglas turned to my brother and said, "Let's go into my office Bob and we'll get you started."
Bob quickly took a seat as Douglas hit his intercom button.” Stan, can you come in here for a minute." The voice on the other end replied, "Be right in, Walt." Stan popped in and another set of introductions were made. "Stan this is Bob Moran, he's going to be working with us this summer. Bob, this is Stan Harris, he'll be your supervisor." As they shook hands Walt interjected, "Stan, do you want to fill in Bob on what he'll be doing for us?" "Sure Walt."
Stan straightened his tie and began his spiel. "Bob, after World War II, the army ended up with tons and tons of captured German maps. Even after all of this time, the army still hasn't quite organized them yet. We, The Argyle Corporation that is, were the successful bidder to get the job done for the army, so they can all be neatly stored away. So basically, we'll be giving you captured maps and blank maps. Your job will be to translate the information on the German maps and post it to the blank maps. Think you can handle it, Bob?" Bob smiled, “I’ll sure give it a shot, sir." Then Walt interrupted, "Good, Stan why don't you get Bob set up. Oh...and Stan, don't forget to fill him in on the rules." "Sure thing Walt."
They left Walt's office and Stan walked Bob over to one of the cubicles.” This is your office. Bob." Then he began to point out the items at Bobs work station. "Top shelves, set of encyclopedias. This device is a light box. Top drawer, compass, protractor, rulers, pencils and everything else you'll need. Over here is a world atlas, German English dictionary. This little item is a magnifying scanner. This is your intercom, if you need me, call me, we don't like people wandering around "the office. This is your station stamp and form 20a'S. I'll explain them to you in a minute. Any questions?" "No sir." "Good, now we'll get down to the Six Commandments."
"Number 1! Thou shalt not fraternization with other employees!
This means that you are not to associate with anyone you meet here, inside or outside of this facility. “
"Number 2! Thou shalt not discuss thy work here with anyone!
This means inside or outside of this facility."
"Number 3! Thou shalt report anyone making inquiries about thy work here to your supervisor!....At Once!!!"
"Number 4! Thou shalt not enter any restricted area unless thou art accompanied by me or The Director!
See those doors marked authorized personnel only?" "Yes sir." "Well you ain't authorized personnel Mr. Moran!."
"Number 5! Thou shalt not remove any materials from this facility!"
This includes everything; including pencils and paper clips. The only exception is the dust you pick up on the soles of your shoes. Any questions so far?"
"Yeah, Stan, How come Buck Mitchell is sitting out there in a uniform?" "Fair question Bob. You will see military personnel in uniform around here on occasion. The reason is that we have a government contract with the military. As a requirement of that contract, the entrances to these premises are to be restricted by U.S. military personnel. In particular.... Mr. Mitchell is here getting his education at the military's expense. In their wisdom, the military has decided that sergeant Mitchell will subsidize his tuition by standing duty here in his free time. Which brings us to Number 6. Thou shalt not ask any questions that are not directly related to thy work!
Now if you are wondering why we call these rules the Six Commandments, it's simple. Break anyone of them and you are going straight to hell...Understood?" "Yes sir." "Good, now let's get you started. Take one of those form 20A's, stamp it, and follow me."
They walked over to a desk which was centered between two of those steel clad door marked "Authorized Personnel Only" Stan made the introduction. "This is Tom Woods; he's the senior control clerk here. Tom this is Bob Moran, he's going to be working with us." Tom just smiled, "Welcome on board, Bob." Then Stan proceeded; “Now when you need a file, you will completely fill out section one of this form 20A and stamp it with your station stamp. Tom, then fills out section two, stamps it and brings it to me. Then I stamp it and Tom retrieves the file and brings it to me and I stamp it again and bring it to you. At the end of your work day, you will return all files to me. If you receive a file without the proper stamps, you will immediately call me on the intercom, understood?" "Yup" "Good, let's start you with something simple."
"Hey, John, how the heck do you know of this stuff?"
"Well Cody, that night Bob was pretty excited about this new job of his. Although he wasn't supposed to, he filled me in on all of the details of his first day."
"Wasn't he taking a big risk telling all of that stuff to a kid?"
"Not really, Cody. I grew up in the streets of Brooklyn, and even at that age I knew when to keep my mouth shut. Besides, if you can't trust your kid brother, who can you trust?"