Into The Maelstrom – Snippet 46
Chapter 15 – The Indirect Approach
A few days later Allenson slumped in his office wrestling with the endless and insoluble problems associated with logistics when there was a knock at the door. Military historians like to write about battles and stories of great daring-do. Real soldiers spend most of their time organizing supplies and trying to prevent their men dying of various foul diseases, malnutrition or boredom-induced accidents.
“Yes,” Allenson snarled, irritated at the interruption when he had almost worked out why the camp bakery was churning out loaves wholesale but no one had any fresh bread. Apparently the quartermasters demanded that the old stale bread be eaten up first. The end result was that the troops’ bread was always stale no matter how much fresh bread was baked.
One of Kemp’s men cautiously put his head around the door.
“There’s a lady to see you, boss. I told her you’d ordered not to be disturbed but she was pretty damn rude about it.”
Kemp’s goon had a nose that had been broken at least twice and a vivid-white knife scar that ran across his left cheek. Allenson’s imagination baulked at imagining what he would consider rude.
“You had better show her in,” Allenson said, intrigued.
“Yes, gov., but she also refuses to be searched,” the goon said plaintively, “in fact she told me to stick my detector up my…”
“I get the picture,” Allenson replied.
The goon momentarily retracted his head. It reappeared on the right hand side of a lady in travelling clothes consisting of a lined green cloak and boots. His associate goon on her left hand side fingered his lasercarbine as if escorting a ferocious carnivore who might turn on them without provocation.
“Stand down, men,” Allenson said. “Although undoubtedly highly dangerous the lady has had plenty of opportunities over the years to assassinate me at her leisure. Hello Trina, what are you doing here?”
Trina waited for the honor guard departure before replying.
“Really, husband, getting a little paranoiac aren’t we?”
“Um, well, it’s not me. My Head of Security is overzealous.”
“Yes, I heard Hawthorn was back,” Trina said, neutrally.
“What are you doing here?” Allenson asked. “Not that I’m not delighted to see you,” he added hastily, getting up to hug her in case she got the wrong impression.
“Yes, well, you should be flattered that I bothered,” she said, mollified. “You know how I hate travelling.”
Allenson pulled up a chair for her and, after a suitable inspection of its cleanliness, she sat.
“There are stories circulating that morale in the army is not all it might be.”
“There are always moaners,” Allenson replied, somewhat defensively.
“Yes, but the complaints are increasing in letters home and not just from the usual suspects. I decided to bring a deputation of officer’s Wags to boost them out of it.”
“Wags?” Allenson asked.
“Wives and girlfriends: we’ve formed a club”
“What? How many? What am I going to do with them?”
Trina raised an eyebrow.
“Do? You? With them? Nothing I should hope, husband. No doubt we can leave the various couples to sort out their own arrangements to everyone’s satisfaction.”
Allenson blushed. Trina looked stunning. No, she looked like Trina but she behaved with more energy than she had shown for years. Being thrown back on her own resources to run their demesne obviously agreed with her. He had tried to take the weight off her shoulders after they had married, perhaps too much. He knew he had an unfortunate tendency to take over down to the smallest detail. Had he stifled her? She smiled at him and he forgot about the self-obsession.
He opened the office door and yelled out.
“I’m in conference if anyone asks and I do not expect to be disturbed by anything short of a Brasilian major assault.”
He slammed the door and walking back to his desk touched an icon that sealed his office suite from prying. He lifted Trina’s hand and touched it to his lips.
“You must be very tired after your long journey and there is a comfortable couch in my private room. Why don’t I show it to you? You may want to lie down or something.”
He ushered her into the back room with an urgency that he hadn’t shown for some time.
“Did I teach you nothing about project management?” Trina asked rhetorically. “What do you think you have a staff for? Hmmm? I leave you alone for five minutes and you’re back to your old habit of letting your juniors pass their problems upwards.”
Allenson mumbled something about duty that didn’t sound very convincing even to him.
“You must be the only general in the world who tries to micromanage the bread ration.”
“An army marches on its stomach,” Allenson countered, trying to remember where he had heard the cliché.
“This army won’t be doing much marching anywhere if their commander continues to confuse his role with the chef. Pass the order down the line that you expect the men to have freshly baked bread each day and that you’ll be carrying out snap inspections with a view to making an example of someone. Better still send Hawthorn. That should spread some fear and loathing where it will do most good.”
“It might at that,” Allenson said feebly.
Trina ignored him.
“Come on, get the files open and let’s go through them to decide who’s going to get dumped on – I mean delegated to.”
For the next two hours Trina reorganized his workload. She used a mixture of blackmail, threats and flattery to parcel tasks out amongst various officers. After a token protest or two he let her get on with it and by the end his burden had been significantly reduced.
“There, now you have time to think,” Trina said with some satisfaction.
“That will be something of a novelty,” Allenson replied.
He buzzed for Boswell who appeared in the doorway within seconds which suggested he had been expecting a summons. Trina did a double take at the servant, possibly because of his attire. Today it involved fluorescent orange shorts down to the knees and a shirt decorated with hypnotic whirlpools.
Allenson didn’t turn a hair. He’d seen it all before.
“See if you can find two tolerably clean cups and make us some café, please.”
“Yes, sar, or I can make tea if Lady Allenson would prefer it.”
“Where did you get hold of tea?” Allenson asked.
“Oh, well you know, contacts,” Boswell said vaguely.
“Tea would be most welcome,” Tina replied.
“Right you are, ma’am.”
“Does he always dress like that?” Trina asked, faintly.
“No, sometimes the colors clash horribly,” Allenson replied. He thought for a moment. “How did he know who you were?”
Trina laughed. “If you want to know what’s really going on in a house you visit the servant’s hall. Their intelligence service is second to none.”
Boswell reappeared almost immediately with a silver tray holding a rather decent tea service including an ornate tea pot. A small plate of Garibaldi biscuits accompanied the refreshments.