Barbara Thurmond was on the phone with one of her neighbors, Joanie Sturrock. Joanie was the wife of a lobbyist, and, despite the disparity of their incomes, the two women had become confidantes. While they sometimes went shopping together, or to a movie, their preferred intercourse involved the telephone. Barbara led off,
"I've had a really strange day."
"I bet mine was stranger. Tell be about yours first."
"I must have told you that our awful old admiral has an awful old wife."
"The one who calls women up to tell them that their husbands are cheating on them?"
"Do navy wives really have to take that shit?"
"I'm afraid we do. We can be less than enthusiastic and complain to each other, but, in the end, yes we do."
"And you got the call?"
"She asked me if Went has been getting home about the usual time. I hardly knew what to say, so I just said yes. In fact, he's often been a little late, but anyhow. She then said that he's been leaving JOAD no later than three."
"How does she know that?"
"Her husband has an ugly middle-aged secretary who's extremely jealous of the young pretty ones. I imagine she's the spy."
"Okay, Barbara, you're not the first woman in this position. Did you ask Went?"
"Because you thought it might be true?"
"Old Trudy Benson was right in at least one other case. And any man can stray, can't he."
"Oh my, yes. I've had two strayers. So?"
"I parked on the street outside JOAD, and, sure enough, Went came out just about three. There wasn't much traffic, and he never looks in his mirror. It was easy to follow him to Georgetown."
"A little love-nest tucked away on a back street?"
"No. He parked near a movie house and went in."
"Aha, innocence vindicated! The navy might not like his sneaking off to a movie, but it's not your problem."
"Well, sort of. It's not an ordinary movie house. I parked and went in. I sat in the back, and I could see Went up front."
"Was it pornography?"
"Not exactly. I mean, the movie house is that little one right on Wisconsin Avenue, not in some basement or something. It was erotic, but no one got completely naked or anything like that. It turns out that there's a whole genre like this. It doesn't get censored, but it isn't mainstream."
"What did it show?"
"It was divided into sequences of a half hour or so. I only stayed for one. A good-looking well-dressed woman, rather like me actually, goes into an office building and goes to a doctor's office. She gets examined, shedding clothes bit by bit, but not all the way, and then they fall into each other's arms and kiss. At that point, it cuts out."
"Was it well done?"
"Medium. The acting wasn't great, and I've never had a doctor put a stethoscope on my tummy, but it wasn't embarrassingly bad."
"Were there any other women in the audience?"
"I don't think so. But it was respectable. I didn't see any man masturbating."
"Well, that's certainly no big thing. Except that Went might get in trouble for sneaking out early."
"I'm almost inclined not to mention it to him. But, then, it's a little sad. I'm not going to say that I'm not providing him with what he needs, that old saw. But it is a sort of yellow light."
"Did you find the movie exciting yourself?"
"A little bit, in places."
"You could make a joke out of it, your following him."
"I'm not sure he'd think it was funny."
"Well, you could take the bits of the movie you liked and adapt them to your bedroom. Or, better yet, your living room. When I do that, my Johny imagines that he's trysting with Mata Hari."
By the time Went got home a half hour later, Barbara handed him a pretend stethoscope she had made out of a coat hanger and unbuttoned her blouse.
When the dust had settled, Barbara asked Went,
"Are you getting where you want to be at this CASP place?"
"Not really. I'll never be a programmer, and that's what it's all about. But things are working out surprisingly well in another direction."
Barbara was used to being told things about the navy that she really didn't understand, but she always hoped. Went continued,
"I think we sort of ignored Admiral Benson for almost too long."
"I'd rather strangle him than ignore him. And that wife!"
"We can't do anything about her, or him either. He is bitter and cranky, but he hasn't actually accused me of behavior treasonous to the submarine force, the way he did with Heike. When I talked with him this morning, he became gradually more friendly. Then, perhaps on impulse, he let me in on something he's cooked up with Stallman. They've already gotten the sub force to secretly modify some of our standard subs to fire small anti-aircraft missiles."
"What good will that do?"
"Well, it could do a lot. We could train the men and work out a lot of the bugs, even with little missiles with a range of some fifteen or twenty miles. Benson also supports, at a lower level of priority, the attack submarine."
"I thought you were already doing that."
"Subs can already torpedo other subs on the surface. But we want to be able to do it underwater, and that's a matter of developing three dimensional detection and attack techniques."
"This all sounds as if you're getting back into it, not retiring."
"Don't worry, kid, I'm positioning myself. Both kinds of subs mean lots of construction contracts. If I retire at the point where I know the most about them, I'll be able to do the builders the most good and get paid the most."
Heike and Jones were sitting at the counter of the little luncheonette at Union Terminal, waiting for Jones' night train to Cincinnati to be called. They whispered, somewhat in the manner of lovers, but, even though there were no other customers and the counter-man was engaged in making noxious coffee, there were considerations of security in such a public place. Heike murmured,
"I wish I knew what our current standing at JOAD is."
"The critical thing is probably whether Captain Stallman thinks we helped steal their computer."
"The admiral exploded at me, but he may have gotten over it. If they're reasonable, they'll blame Dean Jensen and General Smith. But, of course, people often aren't reasonable."
"We've certainly kept our lines open to Went."
Heike made one of her little nervous gestures with her hands and said,
"Unfortunately, I think Went's status at JOAD has gone down."
"A few months ago, he was Admiral Benson's favorite, but I don't think he is any more."
"Do they think we've corrupted him to the point of his acquiescing in the computer theft?"
"Perhaps not. But there are signs of his diminishing commitment to JOAD. He doesn't have much to say in meetings, and he often leaves at three in the afternoon. I've even wondered if he has a girl friend somewhere."
"While I'm in Cincinnati this week, maybe you could go to JOAD every day, scurry around industriously, and make eyes at Captain Stallman and Admiral Benson. Wear that blouse that shows through a lot. Even if you have all the lady-like things underneath, it still titillates."
"Actually, I think it's General Smith who shows some interest."
"Well, yes. He's more energetic and direct. But I bet old Benson still has a dirty thought now and then."
"Jones, do you mind very much if we leave the locker room for a bit?"
Heike seemed more irritated than amused, but Jones persevered,
"Okay, but, remember, the locker room lurks deep within men who might seem more interested in other things."
"I know it does in you. But Stallman is just a grump. He'd rather fuss with his papers than watch the pretty secretary cross the room."
"He revels in pornography in the privacy of his apartment."
Jones found it fun to shock Heike, but she showed signs of dumping her water glass on him. He backed off his adjoining stool, replying,
"Seriously, these people respond to femininity. They're more likely to suspect me of double-crossing them than you."
Judging from his reception at JOAD on Friday morning, Jones concluded that Heike had done her job well. He got no bad looks, and the secretaries, a remarkably sensitive barometer of general opinion, were as solicitous as ever. Nothing but routine mail had accumulated on his desk during the week, and a reasonable man might have concluded that he wasn't viewed as a turncoat.
In mid-morning, Jones was asked to meet with Admiral Benson in his office. Captain Stallman was also there, and it was he who asked Jones how he thought the simulation of a missile attack by submarine was going. Judging by the tone of his voice, Jones gathered that he had already asked either Heike or Went, or both. Making some effort to be relaxed, Jones replied,
"We've completed what might be called the first version and run it three hundred times. Heike's given you the results, hasn't she?"
She had, of course. Admiral Benson allowed that he was encouraged by them. But it was like someone saying that something was funny without laughing. In this case, the admiral eyed Jones, a little slantwise, with his mouth open just enough to show his gold tooth.
Jones had never been able to figure out whether the admiral liked him or not. His manner didn't vary a great deal from person to person, and it always had the element of trying to sell a point of view that he didn't think would be accepted. The result was that he didn't project much warmth. Captain Stallman's manner was also notably lacking in warmth, but, in this case, Jones was pretty sure that it was an indication of ill feeling. The captain asked, in quite a suspicious tone,
"Is anyone at CASP taking these results seriously?"
Knowing that it was better to start with the unadorned truth, Jones replied,
"It's mostly General Smith's opinion that counts. He doesn't think that the missiles that our simulation assumes will be ready for some years."
Stallman looked at Benson and said,
"Yet another smart man who misses the point."
Benson nodded, and even smiled a little. Jones wondered desperately what point Smith was missing, which he himself must also be missing. He was sure that he would be snubbed if he asked directly, and he instead said,
"At the moment, the people at CASP are mainly concerned with the Strategic Air Command. They have atomic bombs, and the means to drop them. They could, in theory, attack tomorrow at dawn. So General Smith is searching for some alternative to break SAC's monopoly. There's even talk of giving the army atomic artillery shells."
At that, both Benson and Stallman laughed. The navy knew all about big guns, much more than the army. Jones replid weakly,
"I guess the submarine missiles will be available long before atomic artillery shells."
Admiral Benson replied, somewhat pityingly,
"The launching tube on a submarine will have a larger diameter than the bore of any artillery piece."
The interview ended soon afterwards. Jones saved as much face as he could by going about his usual business. When he stopped by the open door of Heike's obviously insecure office, he simply made a thumbs down gesture. She tore a piece of paper off a pad, put it on the glass on top of her desk, and wrote,
"They're nice to me, but won't tell me anything."
Jones wrote in return,
"I bet they think anything they tell us will go straight to CASP".
Heike nodded and wrote,
"Went is our only chance."
She then tore the paper into pieces, and put the pieces into her purse.