After a national catastrophe, two newspaper journalists become separated and fight for several years to find each other again. The man is unaware during that time that his lover has given birth to their child.
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The Blog of Writer Stan A. McCown
The Blog of Writer Stan A. McCown
Alamo Square is an epic novel that follows the lives of a man and woman who are separated for six years by war.
In that time, each struggles to survive and to learn the fate of the other, while becoming participants in the rebuilding of the shattered nation.
The core of the story is the battle between social intolerance and hatred in its fullest expression, against the power of love and human kindness.
In Alamo Square, Mike Lansford and Jenny McGuire, who have been reunited after meeting each other and falling in love two years before, are again separated by a nightmarish war; in the aftermath, white separatists seize control of large sections of the country, with visions of a renewed Confederacy, holding not just African Americans, but every other minority as slaves.
Jenny, carrying Mike’s daughter, is caught and passed from one group to another; using her strength and intellect not only to survive, she is able to influence even the most virulent racists to improve conditions for all her fellow captives.
Mike, who as an internationally known journalist, has already brokered the end of one war, while mourning Jenny, unaware his daughter was even conceived, must now help rebuild the government, working with the help of Canadians and Europeans, by breaking the power of the separatists, without causing the unnecessary death and suffering of those they enslave.
Working toward the same grand purpose, with Jenny and their daughter on the inside and Mike on the outside, over the course of six years the two bring about a resolution which may heal the nation, yet lead to both their deaths, unaware they are only miles apart when the end approaches.
BOOK I CONTINUED
BEFORE THE WAR
Waiting to hear from Folger, Mike and Jenny took the next weekend to house-hunt. It seemed morbidly futile to try and find a place of their own, because if the war couldn’t be stopped, their home would be destroyed with the rest of the city. Yet they agreed that for as long as they were able, they had to act as if life would go on.
Jenny’s first choice for location was the neighborhood around Alamo Square, where they had come the day Mike had to leave for Alonzo. From that point, the city spread before them in a sweeping view, and Jenny confessed this was where she would love to have a home.
“It’s funny, I don’t know the city very well, yet I already I know this is one of my favorite places in town,” she told Mike. “But I hardly imagine we can afford anything in the whole neighborhood. And that’s assuming there’s anything for sale around here. Ah, but we can dream, can’t we?”
“Angel, we’ve got to keep dreaming,” Mike told her. “If this is what you want, we could find a way to afford it.”
“Well I won’t say no, if that’s what you think. Let’s just look. For drooling purposes, if nothing else.”
So they spent part of the day driving up and down streets until they found a place for sale that was hardly bigger than their current rented apartment. When they called the number to arrange a visit, however, they learned the cost was so ridiculously high that Jenny herself turned it down. Since it had been the only house in the entire area they had found that was for sale, a little sadly they made their way down and back home, to begin poring through newspapers for a place to buy somewhere else.
But they had at least made their first attempt to find a home together.
Two days later Mike looked up to see a stranger standing in the office door. With hardly a word, the visitor delivered a written message then walked away.
YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT WITH GENERAL FOLGER AT
0900 WEDNESDAY. CALL THIS NUMBER BELOW IF YOU CANNOT MAKE IT AND SAY ‘ALABASTER’. YOU WILL BE RESCHEDULED.
The message included further instructions Mike was to follow when he reached Washington. Soon as the man had disappeared, Mike handed the message to Jenny.
“Two days,” she said. “This is big news, isn’t it? You have to make this meeting.”
“That’s for damn sure, but I don’t want to go without you,” he said. “I don’t know what happens if you show up, but let’s find out. You’ll come with me, won’t you?”
“Look, I don’t want to be separated from you any more than you want me to. You’re damn right, I’ll go. You want me to make reservations? How soon should we leave?”
“Maybe we should fly out tomorrow, make damn sure we’re there. What do you think?”
“I guess if we just go over and back, we can drop everything and do that. I’ll set it up.”
Relieved to let Jenny take care of the details of the trip, Mike spent the rest of the day polishing his own ideas to present to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
The rendezvous with General Folger did not come quickly or easily. Evidently concerned about being observed meeting with them, he had set up a covert arrangement which placed them on a certain street corner at an exact time, to be picked up in a nondescript car and driven to a park outside the Beltway in Virginia.
Deposited there and left alone, Mike and Jenny suffered through some nervous minutes, speculating whether they might have been set up somehow for an ambush.
Before them lay fields near where the two Civil War battles called Bull Run had been fought, both losses by the North. Mike wondered aloud if this little park was the place where citizens of Washington had come to watch the first Bull Run, and then had nearly been overwhelmed by the charging Rebels and forced to flee back to town in disarray and terror. Thinking about the art of war then, compared to now, he turned around and faced the direction of Washington.
The firepower available to the forces of North and South had seemed frightening in those days, but compared to thermonuclear warheads, the most potent weaponry of the Civil War era was comparatively no more than pop guns.
In that moment, a motorcycle came whining in off the main road outside the park, careening onto the narrow turnout, kicking gravel when it skewed almost to a stop before serenely gliding around the parking area to their position.
Mike and Jenny clung to each other in alarm. They had nowhere to go, even the nearest tree was farther than the motorcyclist, who remained in place, still on the seat, in a commanding position. Mike moved Jenny behind his body, providing what immediate protection he could, then waited to face the worst.
The rider was all in black leather, his helmet visor dark, so no details showed through, and he took his time dismounting the cycle, taking a couple of steps toward Mike and Jenny before stopping. By then, although Mike had not spotted any weapon, he was not ready to yet relax.
Finally, the helmet came off, revealing a handsome, totally bald African American man: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Hoyt Folger.
“General. Jesus, man, you had us going,” Mike said. “I think you just about scared me out of ten years there.”
In a deep, resonant voice, Folger laughed. “Good. I’ll have you know, I busted my tail getting out here unseen. Nobody but you two and my aide know where I am right now. I wanted an isolated place like this. That way, unless somebody else shows up, we can speak completely in the clear.
“But before we do, may I know who your lovely companion is?”
“This is Jenny McGuire, my partner at the Sentinel. You have to give her the same consideration as my aide that you do Colonel Bryant. In every way.”
“Wow. Okay, that’s better. I’d be pretty concerned and more than a little pissed off if you’d just brought along a date.
“So in that case, it’s good to meet both of you, but our window of security isn’t very big, so let’s get down to business, shall we? I’d have preferred a more comfortable setting, but this is more prudent.
“For starters, we are all agreed that we’re trying to stop this war before it can start, right?”
“We’d be insane if we didn’t, wouldn’t we?” Mike answered.
“Yeah, but right off the top, we’d better be sensible and realistic and admit it might be impossible to prevent it.”
Mike assured Folger that Jenny and he had already accommodated themselves to that hateful prospect.
“That being the case,” Mike added, “I understood I would be expected to go to the Europeans and try to do something, but I can’t say I quite understand what.”
“What I need is someone who is invisible to my own organization, to carry a message to people I trust in NATO. I can’t send Bryant, he’s too well known. I can’t send anybody in uniform, and nobody, obviously, in any intelligence outfit. But I can send a journalist. Or rather, allow a journalist to go, and there is a distinction.”
Folger reached into his leathers and brought out a portable drive in a small transport case and told Mike all the information he needed to know was there.
“I want you to only read this on a computer that’s totally isolated to any outside links. If after you go over this, you decide you can’t do what I’m asking, let me know immediately so I can try to find somebody else. I’m not going to recruit a backup until you tell me no, okay?”
In bare explanation of his plan, Folger told Mike and Jenny that he wanted and needed operational capability to be set up outside the United States in case the war could not be prevented, so he would have a base that survived and wasn’t touched by Kelcher’s loyalists.
“I intend, afterward, to bring European military forces into play to protect their own part of the world, in cooperation with NATO. But here’s the key inspiration, guys. I want Europe in position to help us survive here, as a population, if we’re hammered. I want Europe to stay untouched, I want them to negotiate themselves security so they can hold their own and pick up the industrial slack while the US is physically out of action. And I want them to be prepared to send help to the surviving population here, then help us get back on our feet as early as possible.”
“Jesus, that’s a better idea than anything I’ve heard so far,” Mike told him.
“Good, I’m relieved you agree.”
Mike asked where he would be set down in Europe to begin and Folger told him he would see that Mike went wherever he preferred, as long as he ended up in Germany at the base where he was to meet Folger’s contacts.
When Mike agreed, Folger asked if he had anything else he wanted to bring up.
“Yeah, but this is where Jenny comes in.”
Folger nodded to her to explain and she told him the plan she had devised to hopefully prevent the war, or at least to improve the aftermath. She told him that before the war could be set off, Folger should try to use the power of his army to approach and challenge the Air Force and Navy members of the Joint Chiefs, to warn them they were suspected of conspiring with Kelcher to trigger nuclear war.
“You should be prepared to warn them you’ll arrest Kelcher and Smithson himself and hand them over to Congress for impeachment, along with all the evidence, and if they don’t stand down, they’ll be charged and removed, and possibly imprisoned.”
Mike braced himself, expecting Folger to bristle at the idea but he nodded.
“That’s not...completely beyond my own line of thinking,” Folger said. “As a last resort. But I’ve held off on the grounds that it would be essentially a military coup.”
“No,” Jenny responded, “because it isn’t an empty bluff. You really would go to Congress with all the evidence. We know that at least one senator from Kelcher’s party will jump in, and Buckner can rally those from the other party, by showing them the evidence. And when all that’s presented, Congress will be pressed to impeach them. You, the military, will never take control of the government, you will only conduct the kind of arrest of an out of control president that’s been needed more than once in the past.”
“That’s a hell of a responsibility,” Folger muttered. “The issue of evidence is a sticking point. It has to be damn foolproof.”
For a moment, Mike struggled with the urge to tell Folger what he might be able to bring back from Europe as evidence against Kelcher and Smithson—which revolved not around the plan to trigger nuclear war, but the complicity in shooting down the airliners. Mike had already decided that his first move once in Europe would be to try and reach the former CIA officer known as “Molly,” but he had never even admitted this to Jenny or Bachelor because it was too much of a wild hope.
In that moment of decision, Mike faced the fact that it was still too much so to dangle before Folger. Instead, he left Jenny’s plan and his endorsement of it for Folger to ponder.
She had one more thing to add, however. “If the war goes off, or just before it does, and Kelcher tries to suspend elections and stay in office, you must arrest him, because we don’t want him running what’s left of the country. If you can bring European support to help us all live through the next couple of years, it has to be with a different government in Washington. That is an absolute minimum of what you have to do. Can you agree?”
Folger had the look of someone staring an angry bear in the eyes.
“You...think that’s his game? To set himself up as dictator? Before the war?”
Jenny assured him it seemed possible. The general only nodded and said by all means if it reached that point, he would step in.
“That I can promise.
“Then if there’s no more, I’m antsy to get back where I’m expected. I’ll see that a cab makes it out here in the next few minutes.”
For the first time, Mike and Hoyt Folger finally shook hands. Then he turned to Jenny, clicked his heels and dipped his head. She offered her hand and he shook it, too.
“Jenny, I’m charmed to know you.”
“Thank you, Hoyt. I hope to see you again some time, too.”
“I’d love that.
“Good luck, you two.”
He pulled on his helmet and climbed astride the cycle.
With a half-wave, half-salute, he roared back out and soon hit the road beyond the park. Fifteen minutes later, a cab arrived to take them back to town.