09 November 2012
ABLE WAS I ERE I SAW ELBA
By Curtis C. Chen
"How's Cook doing with his glamours?" Markey asked, turning her head to look at me. Her dark hair and eyes made a striking contrast to her pale skin, and even in uniform—or maybe especially—she turned men's heads at a hundred paces. I wondered if that was the reason she cultivated this persona, of a mysterious and dangerous witch. Though I'd never utter the actual word in her presence. Not unless I was ready to die.
"He's improving," I said, standing at parade rest, with my hands clasped behind my back to prevent fidgeting. "Focus is good, but transitions are still slow. We just need to drill for a few more weeks, and then I think he'll be ready to deploy."
Markey shook her head. "No time for that. Transitions won't be an issue; he's only got to run one identity. Who else do we have who speaks fluent German?"
I rattled off a short list of MAGIC personnel who spoke decent German. "Those are the guys I've heard," I said. "Daisy can probably get you a more detailed list."
"I'm not interested in their records," Markey said. "I want to know about people you've worked with in person. Do you think all six of these men could fool an entire squad of desperate Nazis?"
"Well, Cook for sure," I said. "Not sure about the others. I don't know if they've done a lot of field work before."
"This is OSS," Markey said. "Nobody here has done anything like this before. You're going to drill them, starting this afternoon. I'll get Daisy to make it official." She found a clipboard and started writing out an order for her secretary to type up. "What about our translators? Do any of them speak German as well as reading it?"
I frowned, not sure where she was going with this. "All our German translators are women, as far as I know, ma'am."
"Yes," Markey said, not looking up from her clipboard. "And how many of them speak the language?"
"Begging your pardon, ma'am," I said. "You're going to send civilians into a recently captured Axis stronghold on a potentially deadly mission?"
"Well, when you put it like that," Markey said. She finished writing, dropped the clipboard in a tray at the corner of her desk, and pushed the call button on her telephone. I couldn't hear the buzzer, but I knew it was sounding on Daisy's desk outside. "Everyone here knows they could be called upon to do extraordinary things in the service of their country. Don't worry about vetting the girls; you tell me who's fluent, and I'll interview them to see who's up for a field trip."
"That's a lot of glamours for one operation," I said. "You'll have to disguise the women's voices as well as their looks."
"Good thing you have tons of experience doing just that," Markey said.
"I'm not going to be able to train anyone to do that in time for—"
"Who said anything about training?" Markey blinked at me. "You're going with them."
Image: Marine Corporal, Quantico Flag Day by "England," January, 2008