Ryan Garrity, winner of two Silver Stars, lost an eye and his dream of an Army career on a battlefield in Korea while leading a selected band of cowards in an experimental unit into combat. The soldier who saved his life also carried three other seriously wounded comrades to safety, but strangely his nomination for a Medal of Honor was squelched. In delving into the reason why, Ryan discovers there is such a thing as artificial courage.
A sample chapter:
Norman Dune first read Gen. Ulmer’s notes on his meeting with Montgomery Gibson and then the thin file of newspaper stories about Bobby Reilly. This was the most thrilling intellectual challenge of his life. He had become an Army CID investigator because he dreamed of being a detective like the Sam Spade character played by Humphrey Bogart in ‘The Maltese Falcon.’ He had solved a murder at Fort Belvoir and broken a drug smuggling ring in Baltimore, but both cases were more routine than exciting. To be confronted by the prospect of humbling a rich, powerful, politically-connected figure like Montgomery Gibson was like being ordered to climb Mount Everest. What an accomplishment standing on the crest would be.
He took a sheet of stationary, wrote the name Montgomery Gibson in the center and drew a circle around it. He sketched a series lines connected to boxes with elements defining Gibson with much of the information coming from Joe Swank’s newspaper column: Oldman’s Grand Department Store, comes from a famous family, married to college professor, never a soldier, always wanted to be a hero.
How could he attack and capture this seemingly impregnable fortress called Gibson? And quickly. He knew Gen. Ulmer would want this mission accomplished as soon as possible.
He tapped his pencil on the name in the circle, his eyes closed trying to draw from his imagination or the ether a solution to the problem. Killing Gibson, not that he was seriously considering that, probably wouldn’t eliminate the gold medal for Reilly. Beating up Gibson would end up with the authorities coming after Gen. Ulmer first and then him. That would be no good. Gen. Ulmer had raised the issue of national security, but Gibson had rejected that approach out of hand.
There was the weapon he could use, he decided, national security. But it would have to take a form that wouldn’t be traceable back to Gen. Ulmer, although of course Gibson would know who must be behind it.
Then he remembered reading a whiny article somewhere complaining that the newsletter, ‘Controlling the Red Virus,’ had been used to damage the business of a chain of supermarkets in Kansas City, contending that the company was using an actor in their ads who had been a communist or a communist sympathizer.
Dune called the city desk of the Kansas City Star. The clerk who answered the phone gave him the name and phone number of the supermarket chain. He called the supermarket asking for the chief of security who, after Dune’s promise that it would not come back to him, pulled his file and gave him the telephone number for H. Ryder Saranson, the publisher of Controlling the Red Virus.’
In the morning, Dune drove to West 43rd Street near Times Square. He stopped his car in front of a seedy, four-story hotel to check his notebook for the address Saranson had given him. The number on the building matched. What a dump. He had expected an office building, something a lot fancier than this place whose entranceway looked as though it were made of poured concrete.
Just past Ninth Avenue, Dune found a narrow space just large enough to slip his 1954 Ford Sunliner Convertible between a box truck and a beat up Mercury. He struggled through the unfamiliar process of parallel parking, something he rarely did. Parking upstate was a breeze in comparison to crowded New York City. He walked back to the hotel, smiling at the pitch of the hooker who called from a hallway, “Hey handsome.” He shook his head, pointing to his watch to indicate an appointment. “A quickie,” she called. He laughed, but continued walking.
The desk clerk responded to his inquiry for Mr. Saranson by flashing the thumb of his right hand in the direction of a hallway to the right. “Straight down and turn right. Suite 101. Name’s on the door.”
The sign on the door said, ‘Patriotic Publications Inc.” He knocked. He could hear footsteps. The door opened a few inches. “Yes?” a young woman asked.
“Norman Dune to see Mr. Saranson.”
“Wait there.” She came back a minute later. “Please come in.”
The wall behind the wooden teacher’s school desk on the right side of the room showed a framed picture of Sen. Joseph McCarthy shaking hands with a tall, smiling man in a gray suit. On either side of the picture were blow-ups of covers of ‘Controlling the Red Virus,’ the centerpiece of each was a big red rat pierced by a hypodermic needle with red-white-and-blue tags imprinted with THE TRUTH in bold black letters. The one on the left had the headline: ‘Don’t Buy from Uncle Joe’s Pal’; the leaflet to the right said: ‘Don’t Support This Red Supporter.’
The man in the photo with Sen. McCarthy came out of the suite’s inner room. “Mr. Dune,” he said extending his hand in welcome. “Right on time.”
Dune settled into a leather high-backed easy chair opposite Saranson, who sat behind a cherry-wood desk. “I’m here to make a proposition that should please your pocketbook and your sense of patriotism, Mr. Saranson.”
Saranson tented his fingers and nodded. He noticed the combat infantryman’s pin on Dune’s lapel. He put on a false smile. “I don’t want to be rude, but I would like to know who I am dealing with and to see some identification.”
Dune was prepared. He took a color brochure from his inner pocket with a photo of the entrance to Courage Farms Research Center. Inside were pictures of Maj. Gen. James Joseph Ulmer III with his Medal of Honor and Dr. Walenty (Wally) Jarocewicz. Ulmer’s title was given as chairman of the board and Dr. Jarocewicz as president and director of research. Dune placed one of his business cards identifying him as director of security on the desk as Saranson studied the brochure.
“Phytochemicals, phytonutrients and similar research projects for the United States Army? What in heavens name are Phytochemicals and phytonutrients?”
“The simplest way of putting it is phytochemicals are chemical compounds that come from plants and stuff like that and the nutrients one is like the name implies research into plants soldiers can eat out in the wild. I can’t go any further than that Mr. Saranson, because we’d treading into the swamp of national security.”
Saranson, oozing mistrust, looked from the card to the brochure.
Dune was prepared for that reaction too. He put a folded sheet of paper on the desk. “There is the number for the PIO officer at Fort Meade in Maryland. He has been authorized to confirm to you that Courage Farms is a legitimate operation and I am the director of security. If you want to be even more cautious call information for Fort Meade’s telephone number and just ask for the office of the chief of public information. Don’t ask too many questions because of course he won’t answer them. As I told you, national security.”
Saranson handed Dune a copy of the latest issue of ‘Controlling the Red Virus,’ suggesting that he read it in the outer office while he checked with Fort Meade.
Ten minutes later he invited Dune back into his office. “What can I do for you?” he asked.
Dune slid a Photostat of a news story about the luncheon honoring Bobby Reilly at Oldman’s Grand across the desk. “The General, for reasons of national security, wants Montgomery Gibson to change his mind about giving this guy Reilly a gold medal for heroism. You have a record of changing people’s minds about who they employ. I thought you might find a way to change Gibson’s mind.”
“I’ll give it some thought.”
“I would think that a big department store that has a lot of competitors would be very vulnerable to the tactics you employ.”
“My policy, Mr. Dune, is to provide whatever services I can legally to my advertisers. Would Courage Farms consider advertising with us? We normally publish quarterly, but in instances such as yours we consider putting out a special edition, which can be very expensive so it requires signing a long-term contract.”
“I thought we might be able to handle this with a cash payment. Off the books so to speak.”
“We don’t do business that way. Everything we do is on the up and up.”
“Of course as long as the nature of our involvement is strictly confidential. National security. You understand.”
“You can assume I will treat your connection as top secret.”
Dune offered Saranson a grim look as they shook hands, hoping the trash publisher would see what his former commander described after watching Dune’s stare in response to a threat from one of the thugs involved in the Baltimore drug ring that he was going to torture him to death and it would take him 15 hours to die, “Norm’s eyes tell you don’t fuck with me.”