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Friday, September 4, 2009

The Last War: Chapter 56, Part 1

El Nariz walked into the American's headquarters, a large tent which had been erected for the occasion. He snapped to attention, and laughed inwardly at how stupid the Americans looked in their uniforms with all of their military pomp and circumstance.

King was sitting at a desk, and El Nariz was standing just slightly in front of him.

"Have you forgotten how to report, captain?" demanded the new brigadier general.

"Captain Joseph Hecht, reporting as ordered, sir!" he spat out in the best English he could muster, which was actually very convincing, even to natives.

"I need to speak to you, Captain Hecht," said King.

The American looked fatigued. El Nariz had never seen a soldier who looked quite that bad. Of course, being almost completely personally responsible for the loss of an important and expensive scanner station would ruin any man or woman.

He'd been thinking so hard he missed the last thing King had said.

"Excuse me, general?"

"I said, 'Or should I say El Nariz'."

Suddenly icy cold fear gripped El Nariz. He willed his face not to grow pale or green, but he knew it would. His eyes were no doubt gaping as well. The Colombian put as much willpower as he could into stifling the physical response to this terrifying piece of news. King knew who he was. If he didn't act guilty, perhaps he could convince the man otherwise, and then disappear at the next opportunity, and return back to Colombia. He had a lot of money coming to him.

"Pardon me, sir?" he said as calmly as he could.

King was standing by now, and slowly rounding the desk.

"It seemed impossible to me," King said, "That the coalies could possibly have known about our train shipment or our scanning station. They were both very closely guarded, and completely secured. So, I thought about how many people actually knew about it, and how there could have been a security leak.

"There were very few people who knew. The train crew and engineer had been paid well so that they would not speak, and in fact none of them knew where their cargo was going. Some of our highest generals knew, but I would trust in their honesty because that's my job. So, who else knew?

"I did. I had to guard the shipment. Of course, I couldn't let every soldier in my brigade know, but I did tell my staff."

The general had fully rounded the desk and now suddenly shoved El Nariz backwards into a chair. He closed in on the Colombian man, and pulled his pistol. El Nariz actually had been considering making a dash for it, but now he was pinned down.

"That's when it occurred to me that I didn't know my staff very well. I graduated from West Point with Lt. Colonel Baker, I trust him implicitly. I've fought with Major Waxler since the beginning of The Last War, I trust him too. I checked the backgrounds of Webster, Packard, Mannheim, and Page. A dozen generals I know and don't know gave me shining character studies on each of them. Then I came to you, 'Hecht'.

"No background. Faked computer records - and rather poorly faked, I might add. Forged signatures, a whole past that leads nowhere. I called your mother, Hecht, since your poor father died fighting bravely for his country back during the Cuban War. Seems your mother is actually the manager of a motor lodge, way up in Vermont. Certainly not a kindly old lady living in New Mexico."

El Nariz was sweating bullets. He looked around the tent as if something there would be able to help him. Suddenly King grabbed his chin and turned his face toward him. The general's face was turning red with rage. El Nariz felt the man's grip tighten around his chin as he grew angrier, nearly crushing his jaw.

"You lousy Colombian son of a bitch. There's not a corporal or a chief of staff in this army that's heard of a 'Joe Hecht'. But there are a lot of records for a weaselly little pint of shit spy called The Nose. Guess what? He looks dead on like you. You know what the penalty for being a spy is in America? Being set before a firing squad. Maybe you'll be hung if it's a lenient judge.


King fairly screamed the last. Two burly corporals came inside the tent.

"The captain is actually a coalition spy. Take him to the brig and keep him there until we can get word from on high as to what to do with this little prick. Now get him out of my sight."

King turned away from El Nariz in disgust, flinging his head away so that the man fell out of his chair. The two corporals grabbed him up and led him off.

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