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The General

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They waited impatiently around the two jeeps parked beside the plane they had just disembarked from. None of them had been able to change into their usual clothes so it looked like an invasion of French peasants had occurred on the British air base. Casino and Goniff, dressed like farm workers, leaned against the back of one of the jeeps, smoking and gripping as they usually did. Nobody paid attention to them. Chief was standing close to the tall man and the young woman. Actor, stood, deceptively relaxed, smoking a cigarette. For once the clothing he had obtained on the mission was large enough for his tall frame. The young woman beside him stood with arms crossed in front of her chest, clad in the billowing armed shirt tucked into rough pants over boots.

These three watched their leader talk to the Commando officer. It was unusual for Major Richards to come out to the air base to meet them on their return from a mission. However, the microfilm Garrison had in his possession held such critical information Allied Command was eager to get their hands on it as quickly as possible. Terry was watching her brother for signs of trouble with the Commando officer so she saw the double take and startled look that crossed his face when he turned away from the officer. The look quickly closed over. Terry turned her head in the direction of his continued gaze and did a double take of her own.

An army transport plane was parked on the tarmac about quite a few yards from the group. It was not so far away she could not recognize the three generals, two army and one air force, none under two-star, who were standing together, flanked by lesser officers. They seemed to be deep in conversation, oblivious to the other group sharing the tarmac with them. Terry watched with interest but said nothing to her companions. Actor and Chief had followed her gaze but did not understand the interest the young woman had in the officers. It was obvious by the tension in her stance it was not a pleasant interest.

“Teresa?” asked Actor.

Terry shook her head, declining to answer. A firm grasp of her shoulder had her head turning toward her brother. She twisted her head closer to Garrison’s.

“Stay here,” he said quietly by her ear.

Terry shook her head. “Not on your life, Brother,” she said just as quietly back. “We have each other’s back like always.” Fingers squeezed her shoulder before releasing her.

“Wait here,” Garrison told his men, a bit more sternly than was probably necessary.

There was confusion on the men’s faces as they watched the two Garrisons stride across the pavement toward the group of officers. From behind, they looked like brothers instead of brother and sister. Both wore the same large sleeved peasant shirts and tight French pants above boots. Terry had a beret on her head, hiding her hair. Three quarters of the way there, she pulled the beret off and shook her auburn tresses loose.

Casino and Goniff had joined the two other men.

“Wot’s going on?” Goniff asked their unofficial second in command.

“I don’t know,” replied Actor, watching with interest. He dropped his cigarette on the ground and rubbed it out with his foot. If there was going to be trouble, he wanted to be ready.

“Jeeze, I hope it ain’t another mission,” groused Casino.

“If it is, that’s big Brass,” remarked Chief with his sharper vision.

Two of the generals started to climb the mobile metal stairs to the aircraft. The third General, tall, sturdy and gray-haired remained behind and walked slowly forward to meet the Warden and his sister. Garrison oddly did not salute, but reached a hand out and shook the officer’s hand. Terry stood next to her brother. She and older man merely exchanged looks.

Chief was the only one who could see the tension in her. “Don’t look good,” he said. “They’re talkin’.

“Odd the Lieutenant did not salute,” remarked Actor. He wondered what could be going on here. It was unusual to say the least.

They saw the General give Terry an exaggerated once over. He gestured sharply toward the plane as if ordering her to get aboard. A conversation ensued between the three, followed by Terry’s adamant shake of her head. The Army Air Force general, a tall man with a strong bearing and gray hair and mustache on a chiseled face, came to stand at the top of the steps. He seemed to be calling to the general on the ground. There was another brief conversation and Garrison nodded. Terry nodded a second later.

The officer on the ground turned and walked to the stairs. Craig and Terry looked up at the man by the doorway. Garrison saluted him smartly and got an almost salute back with a shake of the head. Terry wiggled her fingers at him and got a kiss blown back at her. She turned away with a laugh and walked with her brother back towards the group. The man they had been conversing with pushed angrily past the general at the top of the steps, who chuckled and shook his head.

The cons were silent until the Garrisons returned. Neither seemed inclined to mention anything about the encounter and were not even talking to each other.

“So, who was that general you were talkin’ to, Warden?” Casino had to ask.

“Our dad,” replied Garrison, climbing into the passenger seat of the nearest jeep.

The men exchanged surprised looks and glanced at the plane, whose door was closing. They turned back and started climbing into the backs of the two jeeps. Chief and Actor joined Garrison. Casino and Goniff climbed in behind Terry who had taken the front seat of the second jeep.

“Wot about the one wot come outta the plane?” asked Goniff.

“That was General Max Gallagher, Kit and Joe’s father.” Terry’s tone indicated no further questions would be answered. She leaned forward to exchange a look with her brother around the young man who was driving her jeep. Just before the jeeps started rolling, she called out, “Doves tonight on me.”

“You ain’t gonna get any complaints from us,” said Casino brightly.

“Didn’t figure I was.” Terry managed a grin.

GGGGG

Later that day, after a rest and supper, the four cons had assembled in the upstairs common room. They were waiting for the Lieutenant to get off the phone in his office and accompany them to the Doves. It was a rare occasion when the Warden joined them. Up here they could talk. Actor was sitting at the piano in the corner of the room, slowly fingering the keys with one hand, quietly turning out a simple exercise. Chief was sprawled in the high-backed chair the Italian usually occupied. Goniff and Casino were seated at the table, each with a deck of cards and playing the inevitable games of solitaire.

“Hey, Actor?” said Goniff. “So ‘ow come the Warden didn’t introduce us to ‘is dad?”

Before the con man could answer, Casino piped up disgustedly. “Because the bottom line is we’re cons, Baby. We’re okay, but not for family.”

“I don’t believe that was the issue,” countered Actor, carefully.

“It wasn’t,” said Terry entering the room. Four pair of eyes shot toward her. She figured they would be discussing it. “If you noticed Craig told me to stay with you guys. He was trying to protect me and you.”

“From yer old man?” asked Casino with a frown.

Terry shrugged and nodded. “Ours is not the – uh – friendliest relationship.” She pulled a chair away from the gaming table and took a seat between Casino and Goniff.

“Why?” asked Casino, turning his attention to the girl. “I thought he sent you here?”

“He did,” affirmed Terry. “Now he wants me out of here.”

“What for?” asked Chief.

Actor had ceased playing with the piano keys and swiveled around to face them. “Because he does not wish his daughter to be under the somewhat degenerate influence of the four of us,” predicted the confidence man sagely.

“Wot’d ‘e say?” asked Goniff.

“That Gen. Garrison don’t want his daughter associatin’ with ‘common garbage can hoods’,” Casino explained with disgust, using the oft heard quote.

“Speak for yourself,” said Actor haughtily.

“You ain’t any better than the rest of us, Actor,” fired back Casino.

Terry backhanded him on the chest as Actor began to rise from the piano bench. “Stop it!” she commanded the safecracker. “There isn’t anything common about any one of you,” she added with affection, watching Actor resume his seat. “And that pretty much is the reason.” She leaned back in her seat. “In the beginning, Dad was okay with Craig and this little experiment with you guys. Especially when you showed how effective you could be with each of your special talents.” Her gaze swept each of the men before turning into a frown. “But Dad had other plans for Craig. First born always has to follow in the father’s footsteps. And Craig started out living up to our old man’s expectations.”

“Until us,” said Chief quietly.

Terry smiled. “Not just you. You know Craig. He can think for himself, and sometimes he doesn’t agree with the way the army runs things.”

“So, he got in trouble, did ‘e?” asked Goniff.

Terry had to tread carefully here. “Let’s just say he ruffled a few tail feathers he shouldn’t have. And it didn’t help he was right.”

“So, that is why they broke his rank,” said Actor coming up to sit at the table. Terry looked sharply at him. “He was a Captain at one point in North Africa,” added the Italian.

“That’s classified. How did you . . .” Terry shook her head. “Oh, never mind. I don’t want to know.” She settled back to continue. “Anyway, when Craig decided to stay with you guys after that first mission, Dad realized his army career wasn’t going to advance too quickly. So, Dad sent me here to spy on you guys. You know how well that worked,” she said with a grin. “He didn’t expect me to join ranks with you so to speak.” She grinned. “He can’t control Craig without forcing the issue and losing his son, but he thinks he can control me.”

“An’ you ain’t lettin’ him,” said Casino.

Terry shrugged one shoulder. “Having a whole ocean between us isn’t hurting.”

Goniff cocked his head, “So wot about the Warden? Can’t your ole man pull rank on him?”

Actor answered that one. “He most probably could. But it would not look good on either of their records. It could be construed as the general taking a biased interest in the Warden’s career. And the Warden could be seen as gaining rank without the merit of his abilities. It happens, but it is frowned upon in the military.”

At that point, the door to the common room opened and Garrison entered. Five pair of eyes turned to look at him. He crossed his arms in front of him, eyes focusing on his sister. “What have you been telling them?”

Terry smiled a tad insincerely. “Nothing much more than what they already know.” She turned her head to give Actor an accusing look.

“You still comin’ wiff us, Warden?” Goniff asked brightly to diffuse what might turn into a situation.

“As long as my sister is paying, I’ll join you.”

The five got up from their seats and headed for the door.

“Hey, Babe, can we take the car?” asked Casino. “You walked our legs off on this mission.”

“You are such a wimp, Casino,” teased Terry.

“Oh yeah, just ‘cuz you were hoppin’ around all over the place on the way back…”

“Knock it off, Guys.”

They all headed downstairs.

“I’m not a guy.”

“You act like them; you get included with them. Yes, we can take the car.”

Garrison herded his motley crew down the stairs. His second stayed back with him and gave him a grin. Craig just shook his head and had to grin back.