CAPTAIN Trevor Leland stopped outside the door, reached for the knob, and froze with indecision. When you worked for a man like General Garrison, this was one of those moments that could make or break your career. The base commander liked his sleep and had left specific orders not to be disturbed. Leland thought of how Garrison would react to the intrusion and lost his nerve. He withdrew his hand and began walking away. After a few steps, though, he slowed his pace and started to reconsider. Hed been an aide to Brigadier General Scott Garrison for nine months, and found it extremely difficult to satisfy the man. It was by far the most tasking assignment hed had in his six years in the air force. Garrison, like Leland, was an Air Force Academy graduate. That was about where their common ground ended, however. They disagreed drastically on how to lead and be led.
Leland thought of his own career. The general wasn likely to do him any favors, even if he performed to expectations. There was something the general didn like about him. Leland thought he knew what it was, but he didn want to admit it. He was a charmer. Hed figured out pretty much every CO hed served under and been able to win them over. Not this time, though. Garrison was a tough nut, and Leland was having a really hard time trying to figure out how to turn things around. He had even tried to win over the other officers on Garrisons staff, but so far he had received little sympathy.
For at least the tenth time in as many minutes, Leland went over his options. If he woke him up, and it turned out to be nothing, Garrison would make his glum job downright miserable. If he didn wake him, though, and the rumors proved to be true… Leland shuddered at the mere thought of what would happen. He remembered the senators who had been at the base earlier in the week. Leland had gone out of his way to smooth things over and make sure the politicians had everything they needed. Garrison wasn about to do it. He hated the politicians and dignitaries who came rolling through his base for a photo op so they could tell their constituents or friends that they had been over there, that theyd been to the war zone and survived.
So it was up to Leland to kiss their asses. He knew how the game was played. Powerful senators regularly lobbied on behalf of the officers they liked. Leland had promised them that the prisoners would be treated humanely and by the book. One of the senators had told him theyd better be or she would haul his ass before the Armed Services Committee and eat him for lunch.
Leland thought about the senators words as he laid out his options yet again. If he woke him up, and it was for nothing, Garrison would go nuts. He was scheduled to go on leave in ten days and planned to meet a couple of academy buddies in Istanbul. Hed been looking forward to it for months. If this turned out to be nothing, Garrison wouldn hesitate to punish him by canceling his leave. If he let him sleep, on the other hand, and the rumors turned out to be true, the man would do a lot more than cancel his leave. He would probably have him transferred to one of the tiny firebases up in the mountains where he could expect to be shelled once or twice a day. Leland took a deep breath and made his decision. A firebase was a far worse punishment than missing Istanbul.
Leland moved quickly now. He didn want to lose his nerve. He tapped lightly on the door, even though he knew it would do no good. The general was a sound sleeper. Gently opening the door, Leland walked over to the bed and cleared his throat.
”Excuse me, sir. ” The general kept snoring, so Leland reached out and repeated himself. The general didn stir. Leland grimaced and lightly touched the generals shoulder.
eneral Garrison flinched and made a loud snorting noise as he snatched a breath. He rolled over and said, ”What… who is it? ”
”Its me, Captain Leland, sir. ”
”Leland, what in the hell do you want? ” Garrison growled through a dry throat. ”I thought I told you not to disturb me. ”
”You did, sir, but theres something… something that I thought I should bring to your attention. ” He took a step back.
” General Garrison said in an irritated voice as he sat up.
”This had better be good, Captain, or you
e going to be out calling in close air support for the rest of your tour. ”
Leland took a dry gulp, his worst fears confirmed. It seemed he would never be able to satisfy the man. ”A plane arrived shortly after midnight, sir. ”
”Planes arrive all the time, ” Garrison snarled. ”This is an air base, Captain. Thats what happens… planes land and planes take off. ”
Leland was suddenly regretting his decision, but there was no turning back. ”I think it might involve the prisoners, sir. The two high-value ones. ”
The news had a sobering effect on the general. ”What do you mean, the two prisoners? ”
”The plane was an Air Force G III. Six men deplaned, all wearing BDUs. They had two Humvees waiting for them. ”
”Who are they? ”
Leland grew increasingly nervous. The next piece of information had been passed along as a rumor. ”I have not been able to verify this, sir, but I was told by someone on the flight line that the men are from the Office of Special Investigations. ”
Garrison threw back his blanket and swung his feet onto the floor. After mumbling a few curses he looked up at his aide and said, ”Office of Special Investigations? ”
”Yes, sir. ”
”How long have you known? ”
”About forty minutes, sir. ”
The general stood. ”Air Force Office of Special Investigations arrives on my base, unannounced, in the middle of the night, and it takes you forty minutes to notify me. ”
Leland stood ramrod straight and looked over the top of the generals head. ”Sir, you left specific orders not to be disturbed. ”
”I left specific orders not to be bothered with all of the trivial bullshit that you think is important. When the Office of Special Investigations shows up in the middle of the night, its about as bad as it gets for a CO. It ranks just an ass hair under a plane crashing or attack on the base. ”
”Im sorry, sir. ”
”Where are they now? ”
”Im not sure, sir, but I think they might be at the Hilton. ”
Garrison was in the midst of pulling on his flight suit. He stopped with both feet in and fixed a stare on the young captain. ”The Hilton? ”
”Yes, sir. ”
The anger spread across the generals face. ”How in the hell did you ever graduate from the United States Air Force Academy? ”
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