NOTES: Thanks for all your thoughtful comments yesterday. As I mentioned in a couple replies, your input is what makes this so effective. I won't go on and on today. I'd rather you got back to the story. Ramping up slowly...
(CAUTION: The following contains unedited material that may be unsuitable for the grammatically inclined)
8:11am, December 4th
Cal Stokes waited as his host finished his phone call. The former Marine staff sergeant didn’t wait on many people. He was silent owner of Stokes Security International (SSI), a company founded by his now-deceased father. SSI provided expert former military to corporations and governments all over the world. He was also now the de-facto leader of The Jefferson Group. In the public eye, The Jefferson Group was a consultancy that provided a wide range of expertise ranging from network stability to personal security. Their real mission was only known to a handful of people.
Sanctioned by the President of the United States, Brandon Zimmer, the warriors of The Jefferson operated out of Charlottesville, Virginia, executing secret missions in the States and overseas. In short, they were President Zimmer’s black asset. Untraceable and highly effective.
The Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Scott Winfield, hung up the phone and exhaled.
“Anything new, sir?” asked Cal. The Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Douglas Ellwood had disappeared while in vacation two days before. Search parties were combing Lake Buena Vista, led by local NCIS agents.
Gen. Winfield nodded. “They found him.”
Another slow nod.
“It looks like suicide.”
Cal’s stomach turned. He’d been the one to recommend that Gen. Ellwood not be allowed to go to Florida. But the commandant overruled him.
“You were right, Cal.”
The normally upright warrior looked deflated.
“You had no idea that he would do that, sir.”
“I should have. You did.”
Cal didn’t reply. Nearly a month earlier, at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball held at Marine Barracks 8th & I, Gen. Winfield and his good friend, Gen. McMillan, USMC, who also happened to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, informed Cal of a new threat to the Marine Corps. The punchline from Winfield had been simple. “We believe that come this time next year, there will no longer be a United States Marine Corps.”
At first Cal blamed the booze. The two generals had been at the sauce for hours. But as they outlined the situation, and asked for his assistance, he couldn’t help but believe them.
The Marine Corps had faced disbanding in the past, most recently in the early 20th century. But World War II and the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi had changed that. In fact, it was James Forrestal, the Secretary of the Navy, who’d said in 1945, “The raising of that flag on Suribachi means a Marine Corps for the next five hundred years.”
It had been the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps himself who’d brought the danger to Winfield’s attention. Incredibly, Gen. Ellwood confessed to being an unwitting participant in the plot to slash the Marine Corps out of existence.
Now on loan to the commandant with the blessing of the president, Cal had pressed for an in-depth investigation. Gen. Winfield preferred a more cautious approach saying, “If General Ellwood was part of this, he will be held accountable. I don’t want to ruin his career if we don’t have to.”
Cal almost lost his patience at that point replying, “With respect, sir, the general has already admitted his guilt. Whether he knew what he was doing or not doesn’t change a thing. You brought me in to help, to take action. I recommend you let me and my team do what we do best.”
Now their key witness was dead. Cal didn’t have to tell the Commandant how much time they’d lost. Gen. Winfield knew.
“I never asked, sir, was General Ellwood a friend?”
“We knew each other, of course, but I wouldn’t say we were friends. My God, how could he do that with his family being so close, at Disney World for Christ’s sake!”
Cal had his opinions but he kept them to himself. Now wasn’t the time to besmirch the name of a Marine general.
After taking a few moments to gather his thoughts, Winfield said, “I know we talked about you putting on the uniform again, but I think we missed that window. Can you and your team do what’s needed without joining the ranks?”
Cal hadn’t thought much of the Commandant’s idea of he and his other former Marines going back in the Corps for the sake of the investigation. The Corps was too small. They knew too many people. They would be recognized. If there was a silver lining to Gen. Ellwood’s death it was that Cal wouldn’t have to pin on fake major’s bars.
“We can do it, sir.”
“Good. Now, how quickly can you get to Florida?”
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