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The Art of Rejection
A Railway Waiting Room, Williston, North Dakota, 4 AM, May 6, 1933
Having arrived in good time for the early train, Cynthia was surprised to find an atmosphere of consternation, if not crisis. The Empire Builder, one of the crack passenger trains of the Great Northern Railway, was running sixteen minutes late. Far from being outraged at her unnecessary hustle and bustle, Cynthia was amused at the exaggerated attitudes of the staff. When she was then presented with a complimentary cup of coffee, she settled down happily to await developments in the pre-dawn darkness.
After what seemed a short wait, she was called out to the platform. The north wind was chilling, but she took what shelter she could behind three uniformed railwaymen who stood, pocket watches in hand, peering into the darkness of the west. A porter appeared, looked at her ticket, and conducted her to the end of the platform. It was there that her car, the last one in the train, would stop.
With little warning other than a piercing beam of yellow light, the great engine came charging out of the darkness almost on top of Cynthia. She stepped quickly back as an immensity of hot black steel burst into the empty station yard. It rolled on wheels and rods so precisely honed that, while the earth shook, the engine itself produced no detectable vibration. There was only a ticking clock-like sound from the bearings, and the low hiss of escaping steam.
Quiet as the engine might be, it sucked an alarmingly strong current of air past Cynthia, and seemed to her to be moving too fast to stop. Just after it had passed, there was a horrid wrenching scream as steel brake shoes were slammed hard against wheels. Then, a moment before the train stopped, there were crashes as doors were thrown open and steps dropped. The disembarking passengers were off the train so fast that it looked almost as if the porters had flung them from the cars.
In the short time before she boarded, Cynthia saw pandemonium break loose up ahead by the baggage cars. Wooden wagons were smashed into place against the open doors, and their contents pushed and thrown aboard. Suddenly, the process was reversed and the cars disgorged the material for Williston. One mail bag from the train was flung out so violently that it went completely over the waiting wagon and almost hit a baggage man who had his back turned.
No sooner was she up the steps on the arm of the conductor than there were urgent cries of "All aboard" up and down the platform. These were soon eclipsed by a single hoarse bellow from the whistle. Her romantic feelings fully aroused, Cynthia stuck her head out of the first window she came to as a porter took her things.
Although her view was hindered by the long line of coaches, she could, by craning her neck, just make out the dark shape of the engine in the trackside lights far ahead. In a scene suggestive of midnight in Siberia, volumes of black smoke poured up through the dim yellow light to be lost in the surrounding blackness. Then there came clouds of steam, not white but a dirty greasy gray, and a quick series of explosions. At that moment, Cynthia was knocked off balance and heard the staccato crack of the exhaust as it ricocheted off high brick walls.
Cynthia remained, almost transfixed, as the Empire Builder picked up speed, cleared the outlying lights of Williston, and headed into open space. Then, with all of North Dakota to cross before lunch, she resolved on one last look ahead. Grasping firmly the window frame of the car, which was rocking and jumping with speed, she stuck her head far out into the gale of wind, oblivious of the fact that it was ripping her hair and make-up to shreds.
The engine, rounding a curve in the clear moonlight, pounded on with a fast hard, almost continuous, percussive noise under a barely visible column of smoke. There was fire at its base, and millions of sparks, with the whole mass being blasted upward. The prairie, still black all the way to the invisible eastern horizon, began to soften all sounds, even those of a locomotive at full throttle.
When she finally turned around, Cynthia was embarrassed to see that the porter had been waiting for her the whole time. Apologizing, she let him show her to her seat before heading for the ladies' room to repair herself. Finally returning, she noticed that she was alone in the car. She was, after all, the only Pullman passenger who had gotten on at Williston. The others must still have been in their berths.
At first light, there was no suggestion of a hill or depression in any direction. It was much like a seascape with rows of crops to take the place of waves, and hardly a farm house to disturb the image. Cynthia was asleep in her commodious seat before the Empire Builder, at more than ninety, shattered the early morning silence of the hamlet of Ray, and then heeled to the curve at Wildrose Junction.
It was just as they were slowing for a town that she woke and found herself being addressed by a large genial man in the next seat.
"You're waking just in time to see the most sinful city in the northern plains."
Still a little confused from her nap, Cynthia nevertheless recognized a type of man with whom she felt comfortable, a travelling salesman of the better class. She knew exactly what to expect from him, and, at various times, had found respite from some of life's sorrows with such men. On this occasion, she rose to the bait and asked what city it was.
"Minot, North Dakota. It used to be a completely open town for liquor, gambling, and women. Right in the middle of the Bible Belt, too. Then the governor, Bill Langer, led a mob of citizens up here. They smashed the speakeasies and red-light houses up with axes. Now its coming back to what it was. Of course, I wouldn't know personally."
This last disclaimer was accompanied by the sort of laugh which was supposed to indicate that the speaker was, in fact, quite the devil of a fellow. Cynthia let stand the implication that it was silly to be against sin, and unfortunate to be in the Bible Belt. She was pretty sure that she knew more about sin than the salesman, and that she was more comfortable with it.
As Cynthia had expected, her companion asked where she was going, and quickly replied that he was also headed for Grand Forks. She suspected strongly that he had a ticket for Fargo or Minneapolis in his pocket, and that he had just decided to break his journey.
Speeding into Minot in a seemingly reckless fashion while crashing and jarring across diamond crossings, Cynthia caught only brief glimpses down streets and alleys. She didn't see much, but hadn't expected to. It had always been her experience that places which were fabled for something ended up looking just ordinary. Minot was no exception. The sin which so titillated her companion appeared to take place in ramshackle houses and wooden warehouses. They all looked as if they smelled more of animals and decay than of French perfume.
At the station there was a repetition of the scene at Williston, and Cynthia, safely out of the way this time, watched with a certain admiration. The Empire Builder had picked up a few minutes, but was still late, and it was necessary to spend a few minutes changing engines. When the fresh one backed down on to the train and coupled, there was a jolt that could be felt even in the parlor car. In a short time they were again picking up speed, passing their exhausted former engine several tracks away as it stood with steam leaking from pipes and valves. The town soon gave way to the endless and ever present prairie. According to the salesman, they were now headed for Devil's Lake, Larimore, and Grand Forks.
The next couple of hours passed pleasantly enough despite the lack of anything startling in the landscape. Cynthia hadn't herself relaxed so thoroughly for a long time, and her companion, whose name was Dale, seemed to catch her mood. Devil's Lake, passed at speed, amounted to almost nothing. Hannah Junction turned out to contain only a branch in the line and a wooden grain elevator. Larimore consisted of a few old buildings in addition to the inevitable grain elevator.
They were now close to Grand Forks, where Cynthia was scheduled to conduct her last interview before returning to Washington. It seemed to her that, by the standards of the country served by the Great Northern, her meeting with Whitby had occurred in luxurious surroundings. An interview in Larimore, for example, would likely take place outdoors, with the participants huddling behind the grain elevator to shield themselves from the wind. With this thought in mind, she hoped to see some signs of civilization in Grand Forks.
They first passed a series of huts which, according to Dale, were used by migrant farm workers. Cynthia privately doubted whether anyone really lived in them. Then, more hopefully, there was an airfield with its attendant buildings. She remarked that there must at least be a hotel in a town that had an airfield.
"Oh yes. This is the biggest place we've hit. We're almost to the Minnesota line now. Anything that amounts to anything in North Dakota is on the line with some other state."
Cynthia was pleased to see that Dale had a sense of irony, and asked if the line was a river.
"Yes. The Red River of the North. It's the only river in the country that flows north into the Arctic Ocean. There's the University of North Dakota over there on the left."
Cynthia began to laugh, but stifled it. To her there was something uproariously funny, not only in the idea that North Dakota had a university, but in the fact that it stood on the banks of the only river in the country that flowed the wrong way. It was like building a hospital next door to a slaughterhouse, or putting a bridal salon across the street from a whorehouse. She realized that Dale was unlikely to share her view of the humorous. Moreover, he had gestured toward the funny-looking little university with a certain deference. He might even be one of its graduates. If she did laugh, he might think she was laughing at him. On the other hand, the more Cynthia thought about it, the funnier it seemed. Finally, the dam broke. Dale did look puzzled and hurt, as she had feared. As they arrived at the station, she regained control of herself and said to him,
"I do have to interview a man here this afternoon, but, if you're free, perhaps we could have dinner together."
From Dale's reaction, Cynthia knew that he thought her crazy. He obviously wasn't used to a woman's taking the initiative to that extent. Her forwardness, combined with her hysterical laughter, must have made an unfortunate impression. Still, he quickly made arrangements to meet as the conductor came up with a big smile. The Empire Builder was now one minute ahead of schedule.
Cynthia allowed Dale to carry her bag to the main hotel in town. The building was rather austere, and had probably been one of the first of the five and six storey buildings which constituted the Grand Forks downtown. The lobby was filled with stagecoach memorabilia, even though Grand Forks, again according to Dale, had never been on the route. The overall effect was dark and cheerless, but, there being little alternative, she decided to conduct the interview there.
Things got off to a bad start when Cynthia called Mr. T. Weston Smith on the phone. He had unwarrantably concluded from their correspondence that Cynthia was only the secretary for a naval officer, and that the officer himself would come to see him. He hadn't tried very hard, or very successfully, to hide his disappointment and irritation. Cynthia, herself irritated, nevertheless asked him to come in as soon as possible.
An hour later, Mr. Smith, wearing a business suit with a cowboy hat, came confidently into the hotel, said something to the girl at the newspaper stand which made her laugh, and then spotted Cynthia. Short, cocky, and aggressive, he had a flamboyance lacking in Whitby, and conformed much more closely to most people's idea of a fighter ace. As he approached, it seemed to Cynthia that few people would have guessed that it was Whitby who had the better war record.
Mr. Smith had on his face an expression which Cynthia associated with the possessors of dirty minds. She would have been willing to bet that he was thinking to himself that he "saw it all now." She nevertheless gathered her dignity and rose to greet him as a man would, determined not to wince when he squeezed her hand.
In response to her initial questions, Smith informed her that he now ran a successful aviation business based on the Grand Forks airfield. His company sold planes, had a repair facility, did pilot training, and operated an express freight and passenger service.
It also came out quickly that Smith had a yen to serve the government, and was willing to leave his whole business operation under the stewardship of an assistant in order to take up a challenging appointment. Cynthia wondered if his real motive was to get away from a bad marriage. Still, it had to be admitted that he would look like the ideal man for the job on paper. She was dreadfully afraid that T. Weston Smith was exactly the man D. D. Ricketts, at any rate, would want.
After that, Smith attempted to be charming, something he might better have left to others. By the time he had talked for half an hour about himself and his successes, Cynthia concluded that he was the very model of the small town big shot. Unfortunately, he was probably as capable as he looked on paper. Intelligent and a good organizer, he would be able to put together a training program in short order. If necessary, he would be ruthless. To top it all off, he probably could even be trusted with money. At least, he would be smart enough to know better than to try anything with Howard Pardoe looking over his shoulder.
At one point, Cynthia asked Smith if he knew Moses Whitby. He gave his unpleasant knowing laugh and replied,
"I saw him last year. There always was something wrong with him, even in France. Now he has some kind of flying circus. All fake, of course. Between acts he and his girl friend come out in clown suits and pass the hat."
Smith passed on to more interesting topics without asking Cynthia if she had talked with Whitby.
It was now obvious that, if Smith heard that they had hired Whitby rather than himself, he would be outraged. He would regard it as the greatest injustice ever perpetrated. Then, with that dirty mind of his, he would conclude that Whitby had seduced her in order to get the job. It was just possible that D. D. Ricketts might agree with him.
She next wondered what Murphy would think of Smith. Her thoughts were only a little cheerier. Murphy wouldn't like him, but he might hire him because of his proven administrative ability. After all, Whitby, good as he was in the air, had never really supervised people or run anything that could be called an organization. It might well be true that he occasionally put on a clown suit and passed the collection plate. Cynthia couldn't, in her wildest fantasies, imagine T. Weston Smith doing that.
The best thing about Smith, Cynthia found, was that she could let him run on without listening while she thought of other things. Now, while he was confidently telling her anecdotes, she imagined him in charge of OPERATION TEST. He would certainly insist on the discipline that General Mitchell thought impossible in the circumstances. In fact, she recalled something Mitchell had said.
"There are only two ways the leader is going to be able to control these kids without the whole army to back him up. One way is with his fists. The better way is by flying every day, and doing it so much better than anyone else that everyone looks up to him with awe."
When Cynthia got a chance, she asked Smith,
"Do you do much flying these days?"
"Not as much as I'd like. Too busy on the ground. But I get up now and then, and I could still shoot down Whitby or Rickenbacker, or anyone else."
This last boast was delivered with a weak smile, as if the speaker were painfully aware that it was really only a joke.
As Smith crossed his legs comfortably and explained that his business was the only one in Grand Forks that was prospering in the depression, Cynthia looked closely at him. She saw that he would be quick-tempered, and that he would use his fists. But his face had an unhealthy florid cast, and he had grown somewhat paunchy. Many of his pilots would be young boxers. They'd beat him to a pulp. Afterward, they'd do anything they wanted.
In Cynthia's mind there was now no question, and she thought that Mitchell, despite his rather hesitant recommendation of Whitby, would agree with her. However, Smith was easily capable of going over her head to D. D. and getting the job. It was even probable that he would do so. Just then, she felt Smith's hand snake around her waist as he moved closer to her on the couch on which they were sitting.
Cynthia's inspiration suddenly ran free and clear. She'd tell D. D. that Smith had made indecent advances, or even that he had assaulted her. Never mind that D. D. had made hundreds of indecent advances himself, he'd be incensed that someone else had. She was sure that she could make up a story about Smith that would put him out of the running, regardless of what he wrote to Ricketts.
Meanwhile, overcoming her repugnance, she moved her head closer to Smith's and said, in a naughty voice,
"There's someone coming to take me to dinner, but we can have a drink with him, and then get rid of him."
It wasn't long before Dale arrived, and Cynthia introduced the two men, neither showing much enthusiasm for the other. Immediately afterward, she excused herself.
"I'll just go up to my room to get cleaned up. I'll be back in a few minutes."
As Cynthia approached the elevators, she glanced back at the two men who were sitting not looking at one another. She realized that the right hand elevator, and the back door of the hotel just beyond it, were both out of their line of sight. The left hand elevator, which Dale might have been able to see, was happily in use. Cynthia drifted slowly past it as if she were about to step into the other elevator. Then, without looking back, she stepped quickly out the door.
The hotel fronted on the north side of the main street that ran along the railway tracks. The station was located a few blocks east on the other side of that same street. Perpendicular to it, there were two side streets which isolated the hotel in its own little block. She now found herself on one of these.
The biting wind so chilled her that she was tempted to sneak back upstairs to get her coat, but then realized that it wouldn't fit into her plan. Besides, there might not be time. Clenching her teeth while she crossed the side street, Cynthia saw the hotel doorman watching her from the corner. That was a pity, but there was no avoiding it. On the opposite corner there was a cigar store with a wooden Indian, conceived in heroic size, standing outside of it. By keeping close to the store fronts as she walked down the main street, Cynthia was able to put the Indian between herself and the view of anyone emerging from her hotel.
In the next block there was a Salvation Army headquarters, evidently catering to hobos and drifters from the railway. Even as Cynthia watched, a man jumped out of a slowly moving box car, and tumbled head over heels. Seemingly little more than a bundle of rags, he picked himself up, clutched his sack, and crossed the street, apparently headed for the Salvation Army. She was herself near enough to read the motto emblazoned on its sign: "Everlastingly at it." Looking at the man, she could see what they meant.
Ordinarily, Cynthia enjoyed watching drunks and degenerates because they were unpredictable, and because they had managed their lives worse than she had her own. This time, she was too cold and preoccupied to indulge herself. When, in passing, the man croaked out a request for a bowl of soup, she didn't pause to point out that her handbag was hardly suited for carrying soup.
It was now necessary to cross the main street, and, in doing so, she would be visible from the hotel two blocks away. Running as best she could in her heels, she was relieved to see no sign of Smith or Dale. Then, ducking behind the station building, she happened upon a timetable posted on the wall. There was a local for Fargo in a half hour on the near track. She was about to go into the station to buy her ticket when she stopped. She could get the ticket on the train, and she would be noticed if she went into the station. Now, sheltering against the wall of the building, she worked things out.
Most likely, the men were still sitting exactly where she had left them. But they would soon talk about the length of time it takes a woman to get ready. Each would try to convince the other to leave, Dale with greater subtlety. Neither would leave. Eventually they would go up to her room to see what was keeping her. She was sure that Smith would try the door. Trusting small town honesty, as well as having everything valuable in her purse, she had left the door unlocked. They would see her coat and clothes, and wouldn't get the true picture. They might conclude that she had ducked out to a drugstore, and would ask the doorman. He had certainly seen her leave the hotel. He had still been there when she crossed to the station, and had probably seen her a second time.
Cynthia very much didn't want to confront either Smith or Dale, or both together. She could hardly imagine what to say.
"I just got an emergency call from my mother. There wasn't even time to tell you."
"I have a little trouble with amnesia, you know. Could you please tell me who I am?"
If it came right down to it, it would probably be better to stare straight at Smith and say, in her best Charleston accent,
"I will have nothing to do with a man who attempts to take liberties with me. If you persist, sir, in your beastly attentions, I shall call the police."
That should do it. All this was rather hard on Dale, of course, and Cynthia regretted it. He deserved better. But not, she thought, a great deal better. The national interest certainly justified it.
Cynthia now decided that she wanted Smith to feel deliberatly insulted. She also didn't want a missing person bulletin sent out on her. With these considerations in mind, she went into the station and bought a ticket for Fargo, from where she could get a sleeper for Minneapolis, Chicago, and points east. She then asked, in her best southern accent, how it was that the tracks all ended there instead of continuing on to the east. She was informed that all trains for the east backed out of the station to a wye west of town, from which point they branched off to Fargo. By the time that subject was laid to rest, she was sure that she'd be remembered.
The train was almost due when Cynthia, now a little warmer but increasingly anxious, went out to the platform. There was an elaborate fluted pillar with schedules on it which afforded some shelter from the wind. She could imagine herself ducking around it as a red-faced T. Weston Smith went charging around the platforms with fire in his eye.
Partly from cold and partly from joy, Cynthia clapped her hands when there appeared down the track an ancient locomotive with a tall straight stack. It was only a minute before it chuffed up with a string of rather shopworn coaches. With bell ringing and rods clanking, the engine rolled to a stop almost beside Cynthia, giving off an asthmatic hiss. Suddenly aware of a combination of smoke, steam, and soot, she looked down and noticed a smudge on her skirt. She hoped that she would have time to get a temporary wardrobe in Fargo.
As the passengers leaving the train streamed past her, Cynthia worked her way down the platform to the last car and got on board. Taking a seat on the right side, she could, as she had expected, see across the street to the front door of the hotel. She was pretty sure that she wouldn't be recognizable through the dirty window, but she would have lots of advance warning. She then set to work, with paper and pencil from her handbag, composing a letter to the hotel. She said that she had had to leave unexpectedly, and was enclosing a check to cover the room and the expense of forwarding her things. She could get an envelope in Fargo and mail it.
Only a minute or two after the scheduled departure time, there was a shout which could only have been "All aboard." There was then a lurch and they were underway, going backward as she had been told. Just before they came abreast of the hotel, Smith popped furiously out of the door and addressed the doorman in what must have been an impolite and arrogant way. Cynthia was fascinated, but drew back slightly from the window. To her surprise, the doorman was shaking his head, obviously claiming ignorance. Dale then came out and said something to Smith. The latter rounded on him angrily. Suddenly there were blows on both sides. Dale seemed to be winning before the doorman came over and separated them easily.
By the time that they were lost to sight, it was clear to Cynthia that Smith's pugilistic abilities weren't of a high order. Not nearly good enough to satisfy the Navy's requirements.
Room 612, Mayflower Hotel, Washington D. C., May 9, 1933
It had been impossible to talk seriously to D. D. before the act. Now, the middle-aged bellboy having left the dinner, Cynthia had most of the forty per cent of the admiral's attention that wasn't concentrated on food. She first told him about Smith. He seemed only mildly outraged, and didn't stop eating. However, she thought that he would probably throw any correspondence from Smith unopened into the wastebasket.
Cynthia then looked at her notes and informed D. D. that she would describe only the three leading candidates. She next gave an account of two who were obviously unqualified for any responsible position. There was a satisfying look of anxiety on D. D.'s face. After waiting another dramatic moment, she described Captain Moses Whitby.
Having finished his dinner, Ricketts had many questions about Whitby. Cynthia answered them truthfully, but not always completely. In particular, she didn't mention Angel and the important role she would play in the training program. Finally, her companion seemed fully satisfied. Convinced that he would appoint Whitby, Cynthia brought up the concerns she had about Whitby's battle plan. She concluded,
"So, if he stuck to that plan, it would amount to letting the enemy bomb our ships at will while luring their fighters away. Is there some way we can modify it?"
Ricketts thought for a moment.
"There's another piece of the puzzle you don't know about. Very secret, of course. We've lately encroached on the Bureau of Ordnance as well as BuAero. I've developed a new antiaircraft gun. An old one, really. The Gatling gun."
"I thought that dated from the Civil War period."
"It does. But it has a great advantage over a conventional machine gun or light AA cannon. The limiting factor in rate of fire is always overheating of the barrel. The Gatling gun has multiple barrels that rotate into firing position. So they don't overheat. The gun can deliver as much fire as five or six ordinary guns. And it's simple. All we did was find an old Gatling gun, actually in a museum. I had an electric motor substituted for the crank. It works beautifully, and we can apply the same principle to larger guns."
"Won't everyone else copy it?"
"They would if we put it into service. We're hiding it, but we're going to manufacture the various parts in a seemingly unrelated way. Then, when the balloon goes up, we put them together and arm the fleet. Men trained on ordinary guns will need only a couple of days to learn the new ones."
"Sounds great. I bet it'll work fine until it gets into battle. Then it'll jam and no one'll be used to fixing it."
Ricketts looked at her with an odd mixture of surprise and scepticism.
"You just don't understand guns, or anything mechanical."
"Ok. But, even if it works, what's it got to do with Whitby's plan?"
"Two things. One, our fleet will be in a much better position to withstand aerial attack than anyone else's. Between the rebuilt destroyers and the Gatling guns, we'll have ten times the AA firepower of the Japs. We'll still lose ships, but not a critical number."
Cynthia interrupted before Ricketts could get to the second of his numbered points.
"Yes, I can imagine that we'll lose ships. Particularly if our fighters fly off leaving them to be defended only with a Civil War weapon."
Admiral Ricketts waved her off with an irritated gesture and got back on track.
"Second, our gunners will have to be able to shoot at any planes they see. We can't have our own fighters mixing into the AA barrage. It's hard to mix fighter defense with AA defense in any case. So we might as well have a fighter force that has some different viable battle plan. If the enemy fighters can be destroyed, then we can sink their ships at will. They won't have anything left to stop our bombers with."
Cynthia still had doubts, but was pleased that Ricketts seemed favorably inclined to Whitby. She had discharged her responsibility by conveying the only serious drawback to his appointment. Ricketts was going on boringly in a self- congratulatory way when Cynthia started giggling. He broke off his monologue to object, rather gruffly,
"What's the matter with you?"
"I just thought of something that your plans remind me of. It's a bar scene with a big slant-eyed Japanese bully prowling around. At the end of the bar there's a natty little guy named American Sam with a big bow tie and a navy blue blazer with brass buttons and..."
"I don't want to hear about it."
Cynthia, laughing harder, shouted him down.
"The bully comes over and insults American Sam. Sam quickly grabs a pair of handcuffs out of his pocket and puts them over his own wrists. Then he spits in the bully's face."
D. D. Ricketts groaned and put both hands to his head, but Cynthia was undeterred.
"The bully picks up Sam with one hand and hits him in the face with the other. Then he knocks him all over the room. But Sam has sharpened his teeth with a file, and he occasionally nips a little at the bully's fists. Then the bully throws American Sam across the pool table and keeps punching his head so that it bounces off the cushion. Finally, Sam is covered with blood and lies dazed on his back on the table with his legs dangling over the sides. The bully knees him in the groin so hard that American Sam screams."
D. D. Ricketts involuntarily moved one hand toward his own private parts.
"Now the Japanese bully is back at the bar drinking, and Sam is on the floor. Sam creeps ever so slowly up behind the bully. No one notices until he crawls right up to the bully's bar stool. Then, suddenly, American Sam sticks his head up and bites the bully in the Achilles tendon. The bully roars and goes hopping off on one leg."
Ricketts looked wonderingly at Cynthia, and said,
"And you think that's funny? There are times, Cynthia, when I wonder if there isn't something really wrong with you."
"Well, that story is what your strategy made me think of."
The Freer Gallery, May 10, 1933.
Now that Commander Murphy had moved to BuAero, he could properly have met Cynthia in his office. However, it seemed to both of them that secrecy would be better preserved, both from the Japanese and from their own navy, if they continued to meet at the gallery.
It took about an hour for Cynthia to tell Murphy the whole story. When she had finished, he looked thoughtfully at the fountain out in the garden, rubbed one eye with his hand and said nothing. Unable to bear the suspense, she burst out,
"Did I do right?"
"It does sound as if Whitby is the right man. Anyhow, it looks as if there's no real choice. I think you probably did better than anyone else could have."
Without letting herself dwell in the gratification she felt, Cynthia moved on to the next step.
"We can bring Whitby here to interview you and D. D. What do you think of D. D.'s view?"
"I wasn't thrilled with the idea of using old destroyers as torpedo bait. Now it looks as if we'll serve up a couple of carriers to the dive bombers. It's a terrible kind of war, letting the enemy attack you with everything he has, and then hoping you have enough left to get him. But, .."
Murphy made a gesture with his hands, and said no more. Cynthia replied almost angrily,
"How could a country this size ever get into a position where we have to resort to things like that?"
"Makes you wonder, doesn't it? Our national resources must be several times those of Japan. But they have a political system that allows them to mobilize everything they've got. Anyhow, there's no question but that we're at a real naval disadvantage."
"Ok. What do we do next?"
"Develop a base. I found the perfect place for it. Haiti. Howard Pardoe is resigning at BuCon, and has agreed to be the president of the new company."
"Oh. I haven't seem him lately. I'm rather surprised that he'd do that."
"The spirit of adventure seems to have grabbed him. He's going down
shortly to look around and make advance arrangements. You should probably
go down too, once things are in operation."
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