Sunday, November 24, 1974, dawned sullenly over the Virginia
coast, with raindrops spitting from a wet, overcast sky, and ill-tempered squalls
scuffing white the wavetops of a choppy, gunmetal sea. Looking like a flecked
carpet unrolled upon the surface, a straight, foamy wake extended out of the
eastern mists to mark the course of the nuclear-driven attack submarine USS
Narwhal, now within sight of its home base at Norfolk and being escorted
over the last few miles by a flock of lazily wheeling seagulls, filling the
air with their raucous lament. From the sinister black of the submarines
hull to the dirty off-whites of the seagulls and the spray, the world was a
composition of soggy grays.
The grayness seemed fitting, Commander Gerald Bowden thought
as he stood with the first navigation officer and a signalman, looking out from
the bridge atop the Narwhals twenty-foot-high "sail."
Color came with babies and flowers, sunny mornings and springtimes: new things
beginning. But corpses were pale; the sick, "ashen-faced"; the ailing,
"gray with exhaustion." Along with strength and life, color drained
from things that were nearing their end. It seemed fitting that a world without
a future should be a world without color also.
At least, barring some kind of miracle, the free world of
the West that he was committed to defendwhat was left of ithad no
future. The latest Japanese provocations in the Pacific were clearly the long-expected
prelude to a move against the Hawaiian Islands, aimed at the final strategic
isolation of Australia. There was no possibility of the U.S.s meekly acquiescing
again to such an aggression, as had happened with the annexing of the Philippines
to the Japanese Empire five years previously. War would automatically mean taking
on the might of Nazi Europe plus its Asian and African colonies, too, with the
Fascist South American states doubtless joining in at the last moment to pick
up their share of the spoils. Against such odds there could be little doubt
of the outcome. But the nation and its few remaining allies were grimly resigned
to go down fighting if they had to. President John F. Kennedy had spoken for
all when he pledged America to a policy of "No more surrenders."
Bowden shifted his gaze from the harbor entrance ahead to
the fourth figure on the bridge, whose Russian-style fur cap with backflap turned
down against the wind, and paratroopers jump-smock worn over Army fatigues
contrasted with the Navy garb of the ships officers. The dress was an
assortment of oddments from the ships stores that the soldier had changed
into from the workmans clothes hed been wearing when the Narwhal
picked him and his party up. Captain Harry Ferracini, from one of the Armys
Special Operations units, commanded the four-man squad and its accompanying
group of civilians that had come aboard several days previously at a rendezvous
with a fishing boat off the southwest English coast. What their mission had
been, who the civilians were, and why they were being brought to the U.S., Bowden
had known better than to ask; but clearly, for some branches of the U.S. military,
an undeclared, undercover war against the Third Reich and its dominions had
Ferracini had clear, still predominantly youthful features,
with fine, handsomely proportioned lines, smooth skin, and a sensitive mouth.
His complexion was dark, his eyes large, brown, and brooding, as befitted his
name. If he felt any sentiments about the fate of the nation or the demise of
democracy, his expression revealed no hint of them as he took in the indistinct
Norfolk skyline, his eyes missing nothing, but shifting with the practiced laziness
of somebody adapted to existing inconspicuously for long periods in hostile
surroundings. Bowden guessed the soldier to be in his late twenties, although
his disinclination to smile and the air of seriousness that he wore most of
the time were the characteristics of an older man grown cynical with living.
True, Ferracinis kind of business bred inscrutability
as a safeguard and taciturnity as a habit; but in their few, brief conversations,
Bowden had discerned a remoteness in the young soldiers manner that went
beyond professional habit and revealed an emotional chasm by which he, and others
like Ferracini whom Bowden had met on previous missions, seemed to distance
themselves from the world of personal feelings and everyday human emotions.
Or was it from the world of meaningful things with beginnings, which now meant
nothing and led nowhere? Bowden wondered. Was it a sign of a whole generation
reacting instinctively to protect itself from the knowledge that it, too, had
"Welcome home, Narwhal," Melvin Warner,
the first navigation officer, read aloud as a light began flickering from the
harbormasters shack at the end of the outer breakwater. "Pilot dispatched.
Regret lousy weather."
"Somebodys awake early," Bowden said. "Either
theyre expecting VIPs today, or the wars started already."
He turned his head to address the seaman. "Make a signal back. Thanks.
Compliments on speed of service. Weather better three hundred feet down. "
"Launch approaching, starboard bow," Warner reported
as the signalmans lamp began chattering. He gestured toward the lines
of sleek, gray warships moored in the outer harbor. "Theres one of
the big carriers in, Gerry. Looks like the Constellation."
"Reduce speed, open up forard, and prepare to
take on harbor pilot," Bowden said. He turned toward Ferracini while Warner
translated the command into orders and relayed them below. "Well
get you and your people ashore first, Captain. Thatll free you up as quickly
as we can manage." Ferracini nodded.
A message had been received in mid-Atlantic, sent by a Navy
VLF transmitter in Connecticut on the long wavelengths that submarines could
pick up while submerged, advising that Captain Ferracini and Sergeant Cassidy
were urgently required for other duties and would be met at the dock to receive
further orders. "They dont give you guys much of a break," Bowden
commented. "Im sorry youll be going so soon. At least it isnt
that way all the time, eh?"
"Not quite all the time, anyhow," Ferracini said.
"Just when we were starting to get to know one another."
"Thats the way it is sometimes, I guess."
Bowden looked at the soldier for a moment longer, then abandoned
his attempt at conversation with a sigh and a barely perceptible shrug. "Okay,
well, well be docking in a few minutes. Youll need to be getting
back down to join the others in the wardroom." He extended a hand. "A
pleasure to have had you aboard, Captain. Glad we were able to help. And good
luck with whatever theyve dreamed up for you next."
"Thank you, sir," Ferracini said, sounding formal.
He shook hands first with Bowden, then with Warner. "The men asked me to
express their appreciation for the hospitality. Id like to add mine, too."
Bowden smiled faintly and nodded. Ferracini climbed down into the bridge hatch
and began descending the ladder below.
From the compartment below the bridge, Ferracini squeezed
through another hatch and entered the pressure hull of the ship, beyond which
yet another hatch and a third ladder brought him into the forward end of the
control room, with its confusion of machinery, consoles, dialed panels, and
equipment racks, the purpose of most of which he didnt understand. Crewmen
were busy at stations extending away on both walls aft of the twin periscope
stand and huge chart table. On the port side stood two padded leather chairs
with cockpitlike control columns and arrays of hooded instruments, looking more
like an aircraft flight-deck than the helmsmans and diving officers
positions on a ship. The seats were fitted with safety belts, which said enough
about the Narwhals maneuvering capabilities; the dynamics of handling
fast submarines came closer to flying through water than anything that resembled
sailing in the traditional sense.
Bowdens executive officer and a detail of seamen accompanied
Ferracini forward through the passageway leading between the captains
cabin and sickbay to the wardroom, where the passengers had been given bunking
space for the voyage. He found Cassidy and the two privates, Vorkoff and Breugot,
packing away final items of kit and helping the eight people they had brought
out of England into top clothes suitable for going outside. Several of the civilians
still looked drawn and emaciated, although traces of color were beginning to
show on their faces after four days of rest, proper medical care, and the Narwhals
"Pretty well done, Harry," Cassidy drawled, zipping
up the last of the bags he had been packing. "How are things doing outside?
Are we almost there?"
"Just coming into harbor. Theyre taking on the
pilot," Ferracini replied.
"So hows home sweet home?"
"Wet, cold, and windy. Everyone ready down here?"
Mike "Cowboy" Cassidy had a long, lanky frame,
which he carried with an easygoing looseness that could be disarmingly deceptive,
clear blue eyes, thick yellow hair, and a ragged mustache. Special Operations
troopers were trained to work in pairs, and he had been Ferracinis regular
partner for over three years. By all the measures of mood and temperament that
the psychologists made so much of, they should have been incompatible, but each
had refused obstinately to work with anyone else.
While the seamen carried the kit out, Ferracini looked around
at the people in the wardroom. This would no doubt be their last time together
as a group. Just as they had begun getting to know something about one another
after four days in the cramped confines of the submarine, the voyage had ended,
and they would all be whisked away in different directions. It was like life
in generalnothing permanent; nothing lasting; nothing to attach roots
to. Ferracini felt weary at the futility of it all.
The two scientists, Mitchell and Frazer, were still wearing
oddments of the homemade uniforms of the Prison Guard Section, British Security
Policeeffectively a locally recruited branch of the SSin which they
had contrived their escape from the political concentration camp on Dartmoor.
In earlier years, Mitchell, a specialist in high-temperature corrosion chemistry,
had been forced to work in the program that was supposed to have led to the
first German lunar landing in 1968. Frazer had been working on inertial guidance
computers before Berlin ordered his arrest for alleged ideological failings.
Smithgreencertainly not his real namewas a Jewish
Hungarian mathematician of some kind who had managed, incredibly, to evade detection
ever since Englands surrender to Germany on the first day of 1941. Maliknin
was an escaped Russian slave laborer who had worked on the German ICBM silos
in northern Siberia. Pearceagain, undoubtedly a pseudonymhad bleached
his hands and facial skin and straightened his hair in order to survive the
African genocide of the sixties.
Then there was the woman who was called "Ada,"
slumped in a chair at one end of the wardroom table and staring vacantly at
the bulkhead as she had for most of the voyage. England might have surrendered
in 1941, but Ada never had. She had continued fighting a one-woman war against
the Nazis for over thirty years, ever since the day when, as a young schoolteacher
in Liverpool, she had watched her husband, father, and two brothers being marched
away as labor conscripts for deportation to the Continent, never to be heard
of again. Revenge had become her way of life. Using forged papers, disguises,
and a score of aliases, she had reputedly killed one hundred sixty-three Nazis,
including a Reich Governor, three district commissioners, the Gestapo chiefs
of two British cities, and dozens of British collaborators in local government.
She had been arrested repeatedly, had suffered interrogations, beatings, and
torture; she had been sentenced to death six times, escaping on four occasions
and twice being left for dead. Now, in her fifties, she was burned out, aged
prematurely by a life of hatred, violence, and ordeals of the kind evidenced
by the gnarled scar tissue at the ends of the fingers of her right hand, where
nails used to be. Her fighting was done, but the information that she carried
in her head would be priceless.
Ferracinis survey of the wardroom finally brought
him to the young man with the mustache and the blonde girl who were known only
by their code names "Polo" and "Candy." Both of them were
U.S. agents returning home after an operational tour. Ferracini had no idea
what they had been involved in, and it was better that things remain that way.
Vibrations shook the structure, and the sounds of machinery
came from nearby. There were no pointless dramatics among the company, or pretensions
that their relationships would endure. After briefly muttered thanks and farewells,
Ferracini and Vorkoff led the way into the wardroom passage, down a level, and
forward into the torpedo storage room, where one of the main loading hatches
had been opened. They exchanged more good-byes with the ships officers
standing around the ladder below the hatch and then preceded their charges up
and out through a hooped canvas shelter onto the narrow working space crowning
the ships precipitous sides. Ferracini went ahead up the gangway to join
the sailors who had carried the kit ashore, while Vorkoff stayed at the hatch
to help the civilians across the wet steel plates. Cassidy and Breugot brought
up the rear.
The first thing that Ferracini saw as he came up to the
level of the dock was a naval lieutenant standing in front of a bus that was
waiting to take the civilians. The second thing he saw was the olive drab Ford
sedan bearing government plates and parked fifty or so yards back, with a uniformed
driver inside and an indistinct figure watching from the backseat. Although
the window was misted, making details impossible to distinguish, the figure,
with its rounded facial silhouette and the floppy hat jammed squarely on its
head, could only be Winslade. That the car was flying a generals pennant
and Winslade wasnt even in the Army meant absolutely nothing. In fact,
it would have been typical. He should have expected as much, Ferracini told
himself. He had never heard of personnel on active duty being intercepted for
the next mission like this, before the current one was officially over; and
whenever things started moving in the direction of the highly irregular, Winslade
was usually involved somewhere.
The lieutenant, it turned out, wasnt authorized to
accept the handover documents for the civilians. The bus was just to take them
to the airfield on the far side of the base, he informed Ferracini, where planes
were waiting to fly them to their respective destinations. The people who would
be taking charge of them formally were at the airfield. "Ill see
whats happening here," Ferracini told Cassidy. "Youll
have to go with the bus to take care of the formalities. Well pick you
Cassidy nodded. "Id hate to see em all
sent back because we did the paperwork wrong."
"You guys can go with Cassidy, too," Ferracini
told Vorkoff and Breugot. "Youll be able to find out over there about
transportation back to base."
They exchanged farewells with Ferracini and boarded after
the civilians. The naval lieutenant followed last, and the bus pulled away.
Ferracini looked up and saw the white-capped figure of Commander Bowden watching
from high on the Narwhals bridge. The figure raised a hand, and
after a few seconds Ferracini raised his own in response. Then he shouldered
his kitbag, turned away, and walked across the dock to where the Ford was waiting.
The driver, who had got out and was standing in front of
the car, took Ferracinis bag and stowed it in the trunk. Inside, Winslade
leaned across to open the door opposite him. Ferracini climbed in and shut the
door. Succumbing to the texture and smell of the padded leather upholstery,
he stretched back with a grateful sigh and closed his eyes to savor for a few
precious moments the unaccustomed feeling of luxury and warmth enveloping him.
"I take it we have to collect Cassidy," Winslades
precisely articulated voice said while the driver was getting in. "Where
to? The air base?"
Ferracini nodded without opening his eyes. "Hes
taking care of the papers."
"The air base," Winslade said, in a louder voice.
The car moved smoothly away. "So, Harry, how did it go this time?"
Winslade inquired genially after a few seconds.
"Okay, I guess. We got set up as planned. We got them
out. We brought them home."
"All of them? I counted only eight."
"The three that were supposed to come through from
London didnt show up. We never found out what happened. Pluto thinks theres
a leak at that end."
"Hmm . . . thats unfortunate."
Winslade paused and digested the information. "Does that mean Plutos
"Maybe. Hes closing down the operation as a precautionmoving
to Bristol and opening a new shop there, probably inside a month."
"I see. And our dear friend, Obergruppenführer
Frichter? How is his health these days?"
"Lousy. He wont be hanging any more hostages."
Ferracini opened his eyes at last and sat up with a sigh,
at the same time pushing his cap back off his forehead. "Look, what is
this, Claud?" he demanded. "There are proper places and procedures
for mission debriefings. Why are you handling it, and why are we riding around
in a car?"
Winslades voice remained even. "Just my personal
curiosity. The regular debriefing will be held later by the appropriate people.
However, theres more pressing business to be attended to first. To answer
your other question, were not simply riding around, but going somewhere."
Ferracini waited, but Winslade left him hanging. He sighed
again. "Okay, Ill buy it. Where?"
"We were going to the air base, anywayflying
to New Mexico."
Ferracini tried another approach. "Okaywhy?"
"To meet some people whom I have no doubt youll
"Oh, really? Such as?"
"How about JFK for a start?"
Ferracini frowned. He knew that while Winslade had a way
of playing with people sometimes, he never joked frivolously. Winslade smirked,
his pale gray eyes twinkling behind rimless, semicircular spectacles, and his
mouth stretched into a thin, upturned line.
In his late fifties at least, with a rounded face, ruddy
complexion and nose to match, medium build, and white wisps of hair showing
above his ears, Winslade would have cut a good figure as a jovial but slimmed-down
Mr. Pickwick. In addition to his soft, floppy-brimmed black hat he was wearing
a gray overcoat with fur-trimmed lapels, a dark silk scarf, and brown leather
gloves. He was clasping the carved top of an ornamental cane standing propped
between his knees.
The most anybody seemed to know about Winslade was just
as much as they needed to, which was never very much. Ferracini, for sure, had
never really figured out exactly who Winslade was or what he did; but he did
know that Winslade walked in and out of every department of the Pentagon with
impunity, dined regularly at the White House, and seemed to be on first-name
terms with the directors of nearly every major scientific research institution
in the country. Also, in talking with Winslade over the several years in which
their paths had been crossing intermittently, Ferracini had formed the distinct
impression of Winslade as a man who was far from new to the business of undercover
operationsand not only theoretically, but in terms of hard, firsthand
experience as well. He suspected that Winslade had been operationally active
himself once, long ago, possibly; but he couldnt be sure because Winslade
never talked much about himself.
The sedan slowed as it approached the gate leading out of
the dockyard area. The barrier rose, and a Navy Police corporal waved them through
while the two guards presented arms. Once through the gate, the car accelerated
and turned in the direction of the air base.
Refusing to play further question-and-answer games, Ferracini
clamped his jaw tight and thrust out his chin obstinately. Winslade shrugged,
then smiled and reached into the briefcase beside him to draw out a neatly made,
pocket-size portable radio, with a black front panel, silver knobs, and chrome
trim. It was smaller than anything Ferracini had seen before, apart from secret
military devices, and had a hinged cover on the front.
"Empire-built Japanese," Winslade commented as
he flipped the cover open with a thumb. "You wont see anything like
it here, but the children there carry them around in the streets. It even plays
recordings on magnetic cassette tapes. Want to hear one?" He produced a
tiny cartridge, inserted it into a space behind the cover, snapped the flap
shut, and pressed a switch. Then he rested the radio on his knee and sat back
in his seat, watching Ferracinis face.
Ferracini stared in disbelief as powerful, swinging music
poured from the speaker, with clarinet leading over several saxophones to a
lively, thumping rhythm of accentuated bass. It was unlike anything that he
had ever heard. The popular music of the seventies tended to be a mixture of
militaristic and patriotic marches, Wagner and the dreary dirges of the people
who thought America could save itself by going Fascist, and the wailing about
doom and destruction of liberal-minded adolescents. But this? It was crazy.
It didnt go with the times, eitheror with Ferracinis present
After a few bars of incomprehensible vocal harmonizing,
a male soloist came in with the lyric. Winslade tapped his fingers on the armrest
beside him and nodded his head in time with the beat.
Pardon me, boy,
Is that the Chattanooga choo-choo?
Yeah, yeah, track twenty-nine,
Boy, you can gimme a shine.
Ferracini brought a hand up to cover his brow and shook
his head, moaning tiredly. "Claud, gimme a break. Ive just got off
a sub that weve been cooped up in for days. We were over the other side
for six weeks. . . . I dont need this right now."
You leave the Pennsylvania station bout a
quarter to four,
Read a magazine and then youre in Baltimore,
Dinner in the diner,
Nothing could be finer,
Than to have your ham n eggs in Carolina.
Winslade turned the volume down. "Glenn Miller. Would
you believe I used to dance to that?"
Ferracini stared at him incredulously, as if seriously wondering
for the first time if Winslade really had gone insane. "You? Dance?"
"Certainly." A faraway look came into Winslades
eyes. "The Glen Island Casino was the best spot, off the Shore Road in
New Rochelle, New York. That was the prize booking for all the big bands then.
It had the glamour and the prestige. The main room was up on the second floor,
and you could walk out through big French windows and look right across Long
Island Sound. All the kids from Westchester County and Connecticut went there.
Ozzie Nelson played there, the Dorsey Brothers, Charlie Barnet and Larry Clinton. . . .
You really dont have any idea how the world was before the fall of Europe
and the Nazi atomic attack on Russia, do you, Harry?"
Ferracini stared dubiously at the box in Winslades
hand and listened for a few seconds longer. "It doesnt make sense,"
"It doesnt have to make sense," Winslade
said. "But its got a positive, confident sound to it. Doesnt
it give you an uplift, Harry? Its happy, free, alive musicthe music
of people who had somewhere to go, and who believed they could get there . . .
who could achieve anything they wanted to. What happened to that, I wonder."
Ferracini shook his head. "I dont know, and to
be honest I cant say I care all that much, Claud. Look, if you want to
take off on a nostalgia trip or something, thats okay, but leave me out
of it. I thought we were supposed to be talking about the assignment that Cassidy
and me were radioed about, that you said had something to do with the President.
So, could we get back to the subject, please?"
Winslade cut off the music and turned to look directly into
Ferracinis face. Suddenly his expression was serious. "But I never
left the subject," he said. "This is your next mission . . .
or I should say, our next mission. Ill be coming along, too, this
timeheading up the team, in fact."
"Oh, yes. I told you were on our way to meet
some interesting people."
Ferracini struggled to make some kind of connection. Finally
he shook his head. "So where are we goingJapan? Someplace in the
Winslades eyes gleamed. "Not where, Harry.
Were not going any where at all. Were staying right here,
in the States. Try asking when."
Ferracini could do nothing but look at him blankly. Winslade
made a pretense of being disappointed and nodded toward the radio as if giving
a hint. "Back then!" he exclaimed.
Nonplussed, Ferracini shook his head again. "Its
no good. Claud, I still dont get it. What the hell are you talking about?"
"Nineteen thirty-nine, Harry! Thats the next
mission. Were going back to the world of 1939!"