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 Chapter 22


St. Marc, Haiti, June 17, 1937.

Already hot from the short walk up from the wharf, Cynthia paused in the shade of the customs house to catch her breath. As soon as the crowd passed, she got out her mirror and readjusted her make-up. Finally making her way to the hotel, she literally ran into Mr. Pardoe, hurrying in the opposite direction. Amid his apologies, both for being late to meet her and for almost knocking her down, Cynthia laughed and embraced him. Then, leading him to the cafe by one hand, she interrupted him.

"Words mean nothing. I want deeds. Buy me the coolest drink they have."

"That would be a glass of water. If you remember, they don't have ice here, but the well ..."

She interrupted,

"The well produces some of the foulest water I've ever had. It had better be wine, then."

Cynthia was pleased to have met Howard so suddenly and informally. She had been afraid that there would be stiffness on account of the role of Bob Conway in the incident. She now decided to take up the issue directly, but with a touch of irony.

"I understand from Admiral King that my former lover helped organize the assassination of Haitian statesmen. King almost fired me on account of it."

"I'm sure it wasn't Bob's idea, Cynthia, but he did know about it. I'm sorry to say this about your man, but I think there's something very wrong with him. To know that someone is going to do something that crazy, and then help him do it!"

Pardoe left his conclusion in the air with a gesture. Cynthia replied,

"He isn't really my man, you know. No one could be his woman. He's an old-fashioned Moor at heart. He believes that our fates are written on our foreheads in writing we can't read. Everyone must come to solitary terms with that fate. There's no such thing as reaching out to another person. Anything that happens between people is ultimately meaningless."

Pardoe looked down and frowned before replying.

"I wish I'd known a little more about these people a little earlier."

Cynthia felt that this was an accusation of sorts, and realized that it was the first one he had ever made to her. The fate of Angel was still uppermost in Cynthia's mind, and she asked about it. Pardoe replied,

"According to Conway, they both planned to fill their planes with explosives and dive on the platform. Of course, that must have been Moses' idea, not Angel's. She apparently agreed in order to placate him. But then, when it came down to it, she wasn't nearly crazy enough to do anything like that. So she turned away. He followed and shot her down. I thought it was some crazy new stunt, even when her plane was in flames. I expected to see her parachute. Then her plane exploded with a tremendous noise."

Cynthia said nothing as he paused and wiped his glasses with the napkin. He was now just as she remembered him back at BuCon, about to make a cynical observation about a politician. Instead, he spoke, for the first time in her memory, in an absolutely flat tone.

"That is what I find unpardonable. Stenio Vincent would have been no loss, much less his flunkies. Even if Whitby's rather informal way of sparing me had failed, the world would have survived. But there was absolutely no reason to kill Angel, even from Whitby's strange perspective."

Cynthia wanted to ask if Moses Whitby had suddenly gone crazy, but it seemed stupid. Whatever she wanted to know, she hardly knew how to begin.

"Did they seem any different the night before?"

"Not at all. You know how we generally had dinner together? Angel had added a new secret ingredient to the stew, and wanted us to guess what it was. Bob had seen her picking something on the ridge, and joked that it was probably poisonous."

"You don't think ....?"

"No. It was already planned by then."

"So you were the only one at the dinner table who didn't know. How weird!"

"In retrospect, certainly. As it was, I had a pleasant evening, and then came back here."

"Sheldon Stone acted as if he'd expected something like this."

"I didn't. Although the voodoo business had gone way too far. You know about the display don't you?"

"The air show?"

"No. After it happened, we went into their quarters, and there was an elaborate voodoo display on the floor with all sorts of symbols. Bob can probably tell you what it meant. He wouldn't tell me. It seems to have been some sort of joke."

Cynthia didn't understand.

"A joke?"

"Partly. There were some undeniably humorous elements in the display. The whole thing was also meant to shock. Probably me. Whitby told Bob that he didn't think I had a sense of humor."

Although it surprised Cynthia that anyone could think that, Pardoe seemed indifferent. She replied,

"As a matter of fact, I always thought he was rather humorless. I know he was highly intelligent, but he didn't seem to catch certain sorts of subtleties. And the things he thought funny were always so elaborate. I guess I didn't know the half of it."

"He could be gentle in some ways, but I never remember him being gently humorous."

"I imagine Stenio Vincent has little that he finds amusing these days."

Pardoe jerked out of his reflective mood to reply.

"Vincent seemed convinced that we had arranged the whole thing as a warning to him. He was most abject in promising never to ask for money again."

"I would have expected him to send the army in."

"He seems to have a somewhat exaggerated idea of what our little air force can do. I think he imagines our destroying Port-au-Prince. I said almost nothing."

"Which is to say, you encouraged him in his illusions?"

Mr. Pardoe leaned back in his chair and looked out at the square.

"Continued life in Haiti affects one in many ways."

Hotel de Paris, St. Marc, evening, June 17, 1937.

The rain bounced almost at Cynthia's feet as she sat crossways at the table. The candles on the cafe terrace gave just enough light to make it difficult to see out into the square. Wondering whether Conway had gotten her message, she looked fixedly at a dark shape passing the corner of the customs house. It wasn't until the figure had come quite near that she could identify it as a peasant on his way to the hills. Cynthia looked away as the man trudged dismally by, only a few feet from her. If Conway came at all, he would certainly arrive in some sort of vehicle.

That afternoon she had been down at the field, talking with Murphy and Pardoe. Conway, she was told, was up at Gonaives. There may have been urgent business there in the wake of the incident. On the other hand, he must have known that she was coming. He might have gone there to avoid her. If so, it was useless. He wouldn't be able to for very long. Indeed, he was due back, they said, by dinner time. However, not wanting to seem to be hanging around waiting for him, she had decided to return to the hotel.

Howard Pardoe had driven her back before returning to the field, where he was temporarily living in Whitby's quarters. Just as she got out of the car, she asked Howard to give Conway a message, inviting him up for dinner. She was aware of the inconsistency, and was embarrassed by her desire to see Conway. Howard, of course, acted as if it were nothing remarkable.

It would be humiliating if Conway didn't show up. She could imagine no excuse for his not coming. But he was already an hour late. Cynthia didn't want another glass of wine, but she had to order something to justify her presence. While the waiter went for it, she got up and walked the length of the unoccupied terrace. The candles at a couple of tables had gone out, and, bothered by the assymetry, she lit them again. She then stood, leaning against an awning pole, looking out.

The rain had let up rather suddenly. There were now only occasional splashes mingling with reflected flashes of light in the otherwise dark pools. Stepping out a few feet, Cynthia relished the cool fresh air as she surveyed the newly revealed square and looked at the few lighted windows on the opposite side. Unusually far-sighted, she could see a man talking with someone while gesturing dramatically. It might, she thought, be interesting to be with someone who took enough notice of one to bother to gesture to that extent. But, then, the man was probably insincere. Or, if he weren't, it would only be because he was really talking only for his own benefit. Even then, he could easily be insincere, but in a different way.

Just as she was about to return to her table and the glass of beaujolais which had finally appeared, there was a drumming sound in the distance. Then it became the sound of a horse galloping. By the time that the horse and rider were silhouetted against the single light in front of the Mairie, Cynthia was seated in a relaxed attitude. She didn't want it to appear that she had been anxious.

Having secured his horse, Mr. Conway appeared in a poncho and broad hat. He looked happy and more carefree than Cynthia could ever remember him. If the death of a dozen people in the incident had made any impression on him, it didn't appear to have been a lasting one. In fact, in answer to her first question, he responded in a cheerful way that might have been meant to be reassuring.

"Moses had to die. There didn't seem to be much question about it. He'd lived too long."

Cynthia had greeted Conway reasonably effusively, but she now responded rather sharply.

"How could he have been in a position to know that?"

"He explained it to me. He said that, for the first time in his life, he thought he wasn't getting stronger. I agreed."

Conway was arranging his poncho and hat on a nearby chair as he spoke thus. He got his hat at just the right angle so that it dripped on to the tiles. He then turned his cool pleasant gaze back to Cynthia. He looked satisfied. After all, in addition to clearing up any questions surrounding Moses Whitby's death, he had gotten his gear so arranged that it was drying without wetting the tablecloth.

Cynthia, impressed by the care Conway took of his hat, was inclined to feelings of exasperation. It seemed that he had gotten so far involved in some juvenile cowboys and indians fantasy that real death hadn't touched him. She attempted to temper her response.

"For heaven's sake! None of us are getting stronger. I don't want to kill myself just on account of that."

Conway eyed her owlishly, as if he thought that she might become dangerous or emotional.

"You aren't out there doing pushups and leg lifts every morning. There comes a time when you can't keep doing more than you could the week before. As he put it, 'Preparation was maximum.'"

"The more I hear, the crazier it sounds. Preparation for killing Stenio Vincent? Someone who couldn't do any pushups at all could've done that, and probably done it a damn sight better."

Conway sighed. He had, in Cynthia's view, changed suddenly from a third-grader to a school teacher. Or perhaps he was simply a man who had looked forward to a pleasant evening with a woman he still considered to be his mistress. If so, he had just found out that she was going to be difficult. Whatever the reason, he continued without the note of flippancy with which he had begun.

"I think Vincent was just a target of convenience. Moses thought that he himself had reached his peak, and that it was all downhill from there."

"And he just couldn't face the idea of getting weaker?"

"Death my be less scary if you take control of it."

"Is that a euphemism for committing suicide?"

Conway looked as if he were pained by this failure to understand, and attempted to explain.

"The sort of thing he did isn't just suicide. It's also the time when you have absolute freedom. You can do anything you want as long as you die in the process."

"Did he decide that Angel might be on the way down, too, and that it'd be prudent to kill her just in case?"

Conway winced perceptably for the first time.

"Well, that was a very difficult, ah ..."

The instant Conway fumbled, Cynthia was there.

"I bet it was. You and he must have really had to put on your thinking caps over that one."

"Now Cynthia, none of this was my idea. Angel was very upset. She tried to talk him out of it. That was useless, of course."

"Yes. He wouldn't have listened to any woman. That was your job."

Conway smiled and looked much more comfortable as he paused to order dinner. When that rather elaborate French process, accompanied by special instructions about the wine, was completed, he resumed pleasantly in English.

"You really don't understand. I never try to persuade anyone of anything. I just watch people, and then predict, only to myself, what they'll do. I then make my own adjustments and shape my course accordingly. Even if I had thought that Moses was making a mistake, I wouldn't have said so. In fact, his action seemed quite natural in view of his outlook and history. As for Angel, well, she followed people. She'd been in a convent, remember. She left it for him, and had followed him ever since. When he decided on his final action, it wasn't surprising that she decided to join him. There was even a sort of euphoria, and a very festive final dinner with Howard Pardoe. As it happened, she changed her mind at the final moment. Does that really make any difference?"

Cynthia felt defeated. How could one argue with anyone so isolated? It might be only an act, but it probably wasn't. She asked,

"Can you also predict what I'll do, and how I'll end my days?"

"You're not at all like Moses. You won't do anything like that.

"Thank you."

"I suppose you'll go on doing what you've been doing, more or less indefinitely."

"Yes. It seems that my life lacks direction and a goal, doesn't it? I drift. I don't even have voodoo to guide me."

Conway was about to take a sip of chablis when he stopped short.

"I guess Howard must have told you about that."

"Yes. He also suggested that the whole thing might have been intended as a sort of joke. Howard didn't seem to be amused. I can't imagine why not. I find it extraordinarily diverting myself."

Cynthia then produced a loud mock laughter that would have disconcerted the other diners if there had been any. Conway looked embarrassed as the waiter and another man poked their heads out the door to see what was wrong. He finally got her to stop. Cynthia smiled and responded,

"I notice that you don't hesitate to tell other people what to do if they're causing a scene and embarrassing you. Anyway, what was the meaning of that voodoo display?"

"I can't say exactly. There was an element of humor. There were satirical elements directed toward both Catholicism and voodoo. But humorous things can also be serious. Sometimes more so than humorless acts."

Cynthia threw her head back, closed her eyes, and thought for a moment. Any discussion with Conway tended to become acedemic and sterile.

"Bob. Why on earth didn't you stop him? Angel must have been counting on you to."

"I didn't think I could."

"You could have told Howard. He would have found a way."

As Conway now fell silent, his manner was almost the reverse of the one that had characterized his arrival. When he did speak, he said only,

"Do you want me to leave?"

"No. We still have work to do here. You can even stay the night with me. I don't much feel like sex, but I could do with some companionship. Just don't try to pretend that everything worked out for the best."

Conway nodded slowly and took a sip from his glass.

Hotel de Paris, St. Marc, June 20, 1937

It was Cynthia's last night before returning. She had, she thought, helped in various areas. Conway and Pardoe, largely through her agency, had begun speaking again. Pardoe had then been put in charge, with Conway as his assistant. Timmy was in command in the air, but had no authority on the ground. He would, however, be consulted in planning training exercises.

The command was no longer divided, as it had been between Whitby and Pardoe. While that arrangement had worked surprisingly well, because of the two personalities involved, they could no longer afford it. No one wanted to give Conway the power Whitby had had, and there was also reluctance, for quite different reasons, to give it to Timmy. Cynthia would soon learn something on that score, for Murphy was bringing Timmy to dinner.

The two things Cynthia knew about Timmy were that, if he wasn't lying, he was eighteen, and, lying or not, he was mostly silent. He therefore posed a problem for her as the hostess of the little gathering. It turned out that Timmy had never been in the hotel before, and that he spoke neither French nor Creole. Cynthia guessed that he was used to eating little that didn't come from the airfield vegetable patch, and that he might not like the genuinely French food of the hotel. She ordered entrecote and frites for him on the theory that almost any boy would like steak and french fries.

As was natural, the conversation swung to Moses Whitby. Cynthia had never quite gotten Murphy's view of the matter, and it turned out to be quite different from that of Conway.

"The main trouble was that the only vacation he had in four years was a half day in Paris with Paul Filson and myself. I tried to get him to take some time off, but he wouldn't."

Cynthia asked,

"How was he with you?"

"Fine. He decided that the Parisians were too rigid and needed to be loosened up. He tried to get into a museum with a Metro ticket. Then we went into a bakery and tried to buy sausages. The French went crazy and started yelling. Whitby yelled back in a language he made up as he went along."

Murphy had obviously been delighted at the time. Even now, he told the story as if there had been no sinister implications in it.

"Finally, we went to a restaurant for dinner. Filson's French was good enough so that he could get ideas across. Moses had him order dinner backward, so that we started with dessert and finished with appetizers."

Cynthia interrupted,

"God, I know French waiters, and I wouldn't dare do that. Not even here. Did they throw you out?"

"I'm sure they would have if they'd dared. But Moses wasn't someone you threw out of places."

Cynthia realized suddenly that she was tired of hearing stories about the supposedly humorous exploits of Moses Whitby. She replied a little more sharply than she had intended.

"That sounds like Moses all right. It's a wonder he didn't talk you into helping him p]ot the hit on Stenio Vincent."

Cynthia was relieved to see Murphy chuckle, evidently not offended by her remark. He replied without an apologetic tone.

"There was something pleasantly compelling about him. But I suppose you do have to wonder about someone who can't seem to just go out and enjoy himself without doing something unusual."

"Whatever you can say about his death, it certainly wasn't ordinary."

Cynthia realized that Timmy hadn't said anything, and looked toward him. He didn't seem amused by his former leader's exploits. In fact, she had seldom seen anyone look just the way he did at that moment. Unless she misread him, Timmy had hated Whitby. The boy said something under his breath that she didn't catch. Then he spoke to Murphy, as if she weren't there.

"Another year and I woulda got him. Her too."

It had never occurred to Cynthia that Timmy had been trying to kill both Whitby and Angel for years. In the only burst of loquacity she had ever heard from him, Timmy detailed every shot he had fired which holed their planes. There was particular emphasis on the shots that had come close to their heads. Timmy had been convinced that he was gradually gaining on them. He had gotten on their tails a little more often, and had managed to hang on longer. He had gotten to the point where he could realistically aim at the exposed head of the pilot when he got an angle off to the side a little. There had apparently been sleepness nights when he imagined his shots skimming over the minimal armor plating and tearing the pilot's head off. Now that Timmy was started, he spared them no detail. He even smiled.

After Timmy finished, no one seemed to know what to say. There was silence for a minute. Cynthia, horrified, ended it.

"Surely you didn't want to kill Angel."

Timmy didn't seem to understand. One always wanted to kill someone, it seemed. It was just a question of who.

"She spent years teaching you English and other things, didn't she?"

"I coulda done witout it."

And that was it. Timmy had no more to say on any subject. Cynthia wondered who he wanted to kill now, but was afraid to ask.

Murphy was also staying at the hotel, so they remained at the terrace table after Timmy left to get back to the field. Cynthia noticed that he walked off without making any noise whatever. As soon as his shape was lost in the night, she addressed Murphy.

"I'm very uneasy. It seems to me that we're leaving someone much crazier than Moses Whitby in charge of a powerful weapon of destruction."

Murphy looked at her with some surprise and answered carefully.

"Moses was a violent man who covered it with charm and intelligence. He wanted to kill just as much as Timmy does. Perhaps more. But he was complex and conflicted. I don't claim to have foreseen what he was going to do, but I wasn't surprised to the extent that you seem to have been."

"That may be true about Moses, but it doesn't make me feel any better about Timmy."

Murphy relaxed visibly, seeming to feel himself on firmer ground.

"The case here is simpler. Timmy believes that almost everyone feels superior to him, and that they're putting on airs. He resents it and wants to even the score."

"Does he think I put on airs?"

"Oh, certainly. Me too."

"But, Murph, we don't. Neither you nor I. We're both honest down-to-earth people. I play-act at times, but I know when I'm doing it. I haven't done it with Timmy."

"No. But your speech is educated. You like French wine. You read. That's all it takes."

"Would he trust me if I put on some dreadful accent and ate with my hands?"

Murphy laughed,

"Then he'd treat you the way he does the servant girls, which I don't think you'd like. You see, we're civilized, and he's been left behind by civilization. But he and his friends are surrounded by it and aware of it. They think most people think the country and world would be a better place if their kind was just eliminated. They're right. Most people do think that. In fact, the world probably would be a better place if people like Timmy had never been born."

Murphy paused long enough to down the rest of his coffee. Cynthia said nothing, and he looked at her gently as he continued.

"I also came across genuinely uncivilized people in the stokeholds of steamers. You have to have some sympathy for them. They're almost never given any kind of chance, and civilized people talk about them as if they weren't there."

"I do see that. But we're giving Timmy a terrific chance. Anyhow, I thought that Angel, Moses, and Howard were doing a pretty good job of educating these kids. Literacy shouldn't be so rare around here that it should seem strange and suspicious to Timmy."

"They did teach some of the kids a good deal. But it didn't take on Timmy. He's not stupid, though I doubt that he's of more than average intelligence. It's just that all his mental resources are devoted to fighter tactics, and he has no patience for anything else."

"I suppose he's now trying to kill the other pilots."

"He's killed three or four people. But he's only got one thirty caliber single-shot gun. He isn't likely to get too many more. I've got him half persuaded not to shoot at people now that he's in command. But I can't go too far. We don't want any of the others getting him. He isn't the only dangerous one, you know."

The picture that emerged was out of Cynthia's range of experience, varied though that had been. She had, of course, known people of limited gifts. Also ones with no education, charm, warmth, or saleable skills. But most of them had been weak and depressed, the victims of the world. Many, it was true, stole. But they got caught and went quietly. Some of this seemed to be true of Timmy, but he was obviously something else again. She could only say,

"That sleazy little boy with his shifty eyes and thin twisted lips. He looks the last person to turn to in a crisis, let alone a great battle for the control of the Pacific."

"Don't forget how vicious he is. He may be a hero."

Cynthia, hardly pleased at that thought, expressed herself,

"The first time I saw those kids, I knew there was something wrong with them! How did you ever choose them?"

"Well, they were all abandoned. That isn't a good start. But, even then, this isn't like an orphanage, where you usually get all types. We only got the ones with chips on their shoulders. They also seem never to look at themselves humorously or reflectively. There's very little laughter among them."

"They're probably quick to think that others are laughing at them. I did get that feeling with Timmy."

"Yes. If he ever does laugh, it's in contempt. I suppose he interprets the laughter of others in that light."

Cynthia, feeling tired and a little dizzy, put her elbow on the table and rested her head on her hand as she looked sideways at Murphy. She felt like going up to bed, but couldn't get the energy together. Instead, she ordered more coffee and continued to ask about the boys.

"Are they likely to kill Howard or Bob?"

"Howard seems to get along very well with them."

It wasn't lost on Cynthia that Murphy had given her no assurances with regard to the safety of Bob Conway.


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