In our last episode, Lieutenant Colonel Candace Dare was mired in paper work. She met an internal auditor from Recalcitrant Laboratories who offered to help as far as his company was concerned. While they we at dinner, she was slipped a drink that knocked her out. For those who missed it entirely click here.
“Good morning, Will,” General Daniel Fitzhugh said as he walked in to his office at the Pentagon. “I trust you had a good weekend?”
“Yes Sir, thank you. It was a very good weekend. Yours?”
“It was great to get away from the folks at Aberdeen. They don’t have much of a sense of humor,” Fitzhugh said. He nodded to Dare’s office. “Speaking of which, has her royal highness decreed today’s least favored contractor?”
“I haven’t seen her yet, General.”
“Funny,” Fitzhugh replied. “I parked right next to her.”
“Maybe she’s terrorizing requisitions, Sir. She complained about being low on red pens,” Hutton said. “If you don’t mind me saying, Sir, the Colonel doesn’t fly a desk really well, if you know what I mean.”
“Yes, it’s pretty obvious. I’ll have to send her somewhere soon. Most of our contractors have been pretty in line. Especially since we nuked the last one! Well, Will, when she gets here, I’ll need to bring her up to speed on Emily.”
“Will do, Sir.”
Fitzhugh looked at the accumulated pile on his desk. Most of the files were checked by Colonel Dare. Numerous paper clips marked irregularities that Dare found in the accounting. It was his job to decide how to investigate them. At least she knows what she is doing, Fitzhugh thought.
Fitzhugh piled into the work, putting some files in piles for further investigations, other he put in inter-office envelopes for the General Accounting Office to follow up. In all the files, Fitzhugh noticed the money added up to more than the IG office cost. Well, at least Dare gives us some clout.
A knock at the door interrupted Fitzhugh’s work flow. “Yes?”
“General, I’m going to step out for lunch,” Hutton said.
Fitzhugh glanced at the clock; it was a quarter past twelve. He was getting a little concerned about Dare. “Do me a favor, call Dare’s quarters before you go,”
“Will do,” Hutton said as he went to his desk. A few moments later he reported back to the General, No answer, Sir. I’ll ask around in the cafeteria.”
“Thanks Will.” Fitzhugh decided to take a break too.
He reached in his bag and brought out his peanut butter sandwich and a couple of carrots. He really didn’t enjoy the officer cafeteria. All the lower ranked officers clustered around generals and colonels, vying for attention. It was like Berlin in ’48 when the blockade was on.
As a major in intelligence, he was working on keeping track of the Russians. When the airlift started, however, it was “all hands” in keeping the supplies moving. The Germans were mostly orderly, but they were persistent in trying to be noticed. The captains and majors in the Pentagon reminded him of starving civilians. Not that they were starved for food, but certainly the notice of the higher grade officers.
He hated the political game in DC. He hated working at the “Pimple on the Potomac,” as he called the Pentagon. He hated feeling guilty on taking Emily to Aberdeen – that should have been Dare’s assignment. I just needed to get out of this accursed building, he thought. He sighed and wondered if he should call the Criminal Investigation Division and report her missing.
Hutton came back from lunch and knocked on the general’s door. “I checked the sign in sheets, General, she signed out last on Friday pm. Hasn’t been backs since. I know she went to dinner with some auditor from Recalcitrant.”
“Sounds exciting, Will. I’m thinking about calling CID.”
“It has been over 48 hours, Sir.”
“You’re right, give them a call Will.”
The conversation was interrupted by a knock at the door. Hutton called, “Come.”
A colonel dressed with CID patches walked in.
“You guys are good,” Fitzhugh said. “We were just about to call you.”
The colonel smiled, “Usually we’re not too welcome. My name is Colonel Ed Parker, Sir. I’m here in connection with an investigation. Is there a reason you were going to call us?”
“Yes, Colonel Parker. My Chief Investigator, Lieutenant Colonel Candace Dare, seems to be missing,” Fitzhugh said.
“When was the last time you saw her?” Parker asked.
“I saw her last Friday night, Sir,” Hutton said. “She was going out to dinner with some auditor from Recalcitrant Laboratories.”
“Do you have his name?”
Hutton checked his log. “Yes, Sir. It is Owens, Winslow Owens.
Parker pulled a photo from the file. “Is this the man, Warrant Officer?”
Hutton looked at the picture and nodded, “That’s him.”
“What’s this all about, Colonel?” Fitzhugh asked.
“Mr. Winslow Owens was shot to death Friday night, Sir. That is what I’m investigating.”
“And Dare, is she all right?”
“Don’t know, Sir. We are just starting to look for her. We just had info that he was with Dare. We’ve put the word to look out for her.”
“If we can help with anything, Colonel, please let us know. Also please keep us informed if you hear anything.”
“Yes, Sir, we will. Just a quick question, does Dare own any 9mm pistols?”
Fitzhugh felt a cold chill in his spine. “Yes, I believe she does.”
“Do you know how many?”
Fitzhugh felt a spasm in his stomach. He didn’t want to tell the truth, and he certainly couldn’t lie. “I was told about seventy lugers.”
“Seventy lugers? That seems a little high, Colonel. Especially when the army was under orders to not take souvenirs.”
“She explained to me that she was not in the army, she was with the French Underground.”
“Technically, General, she was AWOL. I know that was expunged from her file, but technically she was AWOL. As she is now.”
Fitzhugh was getting flustered, “Colonel, I’m not sure about your tone. I would be more worried about who shot Owens did something with Dare.”
“General, until the evidence points that way, all I can say is that I want to talk to her. You’ll let me know if you hear from her.”
“Colonel, you’ll be the second person who knows,” Fitzhugh said.
Parker nodded. “By the way, I need your authority, as her commanding officer to search her place.”
Fitzhugh was going to object, then thought better of it. “I’ll meet you there at 0830 tomorrow morning.”
She began to feel conscious. She learned after being captured by the Gestapo – once by accident and twice planned – so she knew what to do. She knew she should not open her eyes until she really had to.
She listened first. She felt a little nauseous; she thought that it might have been some sort of drug. She barely wiggled her fingers and toes to make sure she had use of her limbs. She touched her fingers beside her to figure out what she was lying on. It felt like concrete.
She heard a noise and stopped moving. There was a big clank and a fan kicked on. The temperature dropped. It must be one of those air cooling systems they’re talking about putting in the Pentagon, Dare reasoned. She decided that the noise could cover up some noises from her.
She scratched the floor with her fingernail. It was concrete, but covered by that coating that she saw in hangers. She wondered what it was called. The noise stopped.
Again she listened. Nothing. She decided to chance it. She opened her eyes to just a slit. It was tough to see through her lashes, but she could make out some things. The room was dark, but well-lit just around the corner. There was a blackish haze she couldn’t quite figure out.
She noticed they dressed her in an orange jumpsuit and nothing else. No shoes or belt. She scanned the room as best she could and saw no one. The Gestapo used to have someone watch at all times. The moment one would open their eyes, they would be all over them. She liked making them wait, that made them a little off-balanced. There was no one here to play with. She decided to open her eyes all the way.
The black haze was a wire mesh, attached to strong stainless steel looking bars. She was in a cage.