For the past 3 days I have enjoyed the company and attentions of the beautiful Margaret Houlihan. Apparently, she and Burns had something of a falling-out, so her words on him were brief. Tellingly, though, she went on for an hour as to why Ben Pierce was the sort of man she could never love.
"Well, Duncan, if you must know, he's just far too undisciplined. Always a joke, never a serious comment. Always gawking, never admiring. Do you know he once scammed me into looking at his behind? The nerve! It wasn't even good-looking--much."
"Margaret, how did he scam you into such a thing?"
"There were these flu shots. I took mine in the arm. But he insisted on having it placed into his rump! I mean, what an ego! Did he really think my staring at his terrific behind was going to undo all the lousy stuff he's pulled?"
"I thought you said it wasna memorable?"
Without missing a beat, she downed another part of her drink, and said, "It wasn't."
I had bad news for Ben Pierce, Connor. If he was content to play out this dance between himself and Margaret, I wasn't. Her boiling Celtic manner had me entranced. Hot and cold running love. Mortals think they have forever to decide these things. Oddly, we all know better. When an Immortal sees the chance, they---- seize the chance. Not now, but soon I will tell the Major of my true feelings.
But something interrupted our little afternoon together--the Voice of young Walter O'Reilly-another expatriate fellow Celt as calls himself Radar. A nice, shy young man I've yet to meet. But I hear his voice near everyday -informing us that the unpleasant business of the MASH 4077th has arrived. It rarely goes less than 10 hours.
At the end of it, Colonel Potter called over to me. Given the awkward nature of my ill-chosen surname, everyone has taken to calling me Duncan, or Sarge. I didna mind. I am here to help the wounded, and you, not to work my way up. Potter's words to me were shocking, indeed. But at first they seemed somewhat innocuous.
"Excellent tracheotomies, Duncan! I fact, anything that seems to involve minor cutting you just ace like nobody's business!"
"Thank You, Colonel. I've had enough practice to last me several lifetimes!"
Sorry, Connor. But sometimes you just have to say it out loud, or you'll crack.
"Y'know, Sargeant? I lost a lot of buddies back in WW1. But the one that hurt the most was Ferdie Johansen. I'd seen men, even pals, die before, but that was the first time I'd lost somebody I was sure was gonna pull through. Damn stupid kids. We thought we were gonna live forever, never grow old. You know who I blamed for his death?"
Hoping against hope, I merely said "The Kaiser?".
Vain hope. "No, I blamed the British medic. Poor guy was only doing what he could, but I shouted my damn fool head off. Clued a German patrol as to our location. They--used Ferdie's body for target practice. Kraut officer was a pure SOB. Had us POW's beaten regularly. Except for the medic. I still hated him at the time. Was still suspicious when he helped us to escape. Guess what happened then?"
Oh, Connor, I knew where this might be leading, but I could not let my fear rule me. A wrong move either way could expose us all to the worst of it.
"Well, I guess maybe he was a collaborator and betrayed you back to the Germans. Am I close?"
Colonel Potter's eyes betrayed his impatience with me.
"Not even. He dueled with the German officer using some fine Prussian cutlery. He told us to run for it, but I watched it all. As I say, I was suspicious."
If you'll recall, Connor, I sent you that saber as your 400th birthday present. In the Game or out, I believe such milestones should be observed.
"Well, then, the man gave his life to save yours. Redeemed himself, in your eyes."
"You wanna know WHAT HAPPENED? Or do you wanna finally tell me?"
He had me. Only the truth, now. Any half-measures could destroy all chances of earning his trust.
"I finished Krause. Before that, I offered him his life, and he laughed. Reached for his pistol, saying something about sheep and wolves. They all say something like that. I cut off his head. The lightning effect-which we call the Quickening-shot out a stray bolt that caught you in the back. I was hoping you wouldn't remember."
The Colonel just stood there, dumbfounded. I'd just broken the rules, Connor. Told our truth to a man with old friends in high places in the US Military. But I had one edge-he had not expected so straightforward a confession. Sensing advantage, I moved in to solidify my position.
"Colonel-Sherman-my life, and the lives of a good many others like me, are now in your hands. We're just like other people, some Pierces, some Burns. I know an amazing woman who has none of Margaret's morals but all of her fire. I know another, cloying, possessive, and dangerous, despite her beauty. I have a mortal foe with no sense of honour whatever but who once had the voice of the gathered Angelic choir. For all we do, we are just people."
"People don't shoot lightning from their necks when they die, Duncan."
I thought I was done for, Connor. I would have to kill Colonel Potter. To protect us all, I would have no choice. I wondered if I could do it, nevertheless.
Then, Father Mulcahy motioned for the Colonel. Potter told me we would talk later. When we did, he apologized and said he was never really thinking about telling his superiors. While it seemed an honest choice he came to of his own free will, I wondered if he had not spoken to Father Mulcahy. He's a good man, the Padre. Had the Church more of him and fewer Borgias, the Reformation might not have occurred. I could only wonder what changed the Colonel's mind.
"Padre, make it quick. I have an important call to make to one of my pals in DID. Suffice it to say that this is a big one!"
"Colonel, please do not make that phone call. It could prove disastrous!"
"Now, Padre, I...Wait a darn minute..You don't even know why I'm calling!"
Mulcahy gathered himself, then spoke again.
"This regards our friend Duncan being an Immortal."
Potter was silent. But not for long.
"Blast it, Father! That was a private confab! I don't go listening to your confession sessions!"
"Colonel, hear me out...."
"If you're gonna play Father Flagg, then I'm gonna have to show you out. Where in Bloody Blue Blazes do you get off...."
"SHERMAN! I didn't listen in! I've known about Duncan since long before he came here!"
At that, Potter fell silent again. He bid his friend sit down and explain himself.
"Thank You. Now, when I was at Father Darius' Paris church, I helped him catalog his many, many books. One day, I fell over the upper banister. He broke my fall-with his own body. I crushed him. Weeping, I then saw a miracle."
"He came back?"
"Indeed he did. Just as he had many times since before the Fall Of The Roman Empire. He entrusted me with that secret, then. As I now entrust it to you. As Duncan-Macleod I believe his real name is-has also done to you. Can you imagine the public outcry at their revelation? Darius told me of his many students. I didn't let on to Duncan that I knew because of my other secret."
"Padre! You tellin' me you've reserved a box seat for the Second Coming?"
"ME?! Oh, my, No,no. Though I do want to be in that number. Besides, Duncan-like any other of his kind- can sense another Immortal. No, my secret is that I was approached by individuals who take it upon themselves to record the activities of Immortals throughout their varied lives."
"Sounds to me like a bunch of peeping Toms."
"Not...Peeping Toms, Colonel. More like...Watchers. I've already failed at one of my duties, by telling you the truth. But I could think of no other way to prevent your phone call."
Potter looked at his friend with sorrowful eyes.
"Francis, I am so sorry. But I am regular Army. I like Duncan, and I've never known a more pious man than yourself. But I have to include everything you just told me in my eventual report. Please understand, this is just too big! I can't whitewash it!"
Mulcahy grabbed a pen and pad. He wrote two names, and then threw it back to the Colonel. His eyes were not angry at his CO for wanting to do his duty. But the Father's resolve was unyielding. Potter's evaporated.
"Padre! These two people! It can't...HIM?! Oh, my...Did Henry Blake know?"
"Colonel Blake...more than knew. You see, it was Henry that I was sent to watch. Each Watcher is assigned someone to keep track of."
Sherman T. Potter had blood pressure medication he rarely used. He would use it today.
"You mean Blake was an Imm...Wait a sec...Are you sayin he's still alive?"
"No. I am afraid the plane crash quite effectively decapitated him. I checked, of course. I was then reassigned to the two names you see before you. One awake, one asleep."
Potter was no longer going to call anyone; But his mind raced with questions.
"Can it be passed on to your kids?"
"Immortals are barren, I'm afraid. Like many other immortals, Colonel Blake had arranged with a friend to give his wife one child of her own. The others were adopted."
Not wishing to doom the two people on the Padre's roster, Colonel Potter relented after a battery of more questions.
Whatever the reason for Potter's decision, Connor, it was a relief. After waiting to see if he would again change his mind, I went back to the Swamp, where I am staying while Frank Burns is in Seoul for the week. Realizing my filth from the long OR session, I undressed, got on my robe, and went to the showers. Luckily, everyone else had come and gone, and there was a goodly amount of hot water to be had. I would need to be alone with my thoughts upon Margaret, and whether or not to stay under the circumstances.
At first, seeing the nurses on the move made me think there were more wounded. Assured that this was not the case, I went in and showered. The only stall that was working was one that had no door. But it was on the inside of the tent, so I could have my solitude. I thought.
After the Presence of Another, the first thing an Immortal senses is eyes upon him. You either learn to feel their heat quickly, or end up dead. At first, I thought mere paranoia from my encounter with the Colonel was the culprit. But still I felt eyes upon me in the shower. Grabbing my robe, and the Jim Bowie knife I kept in my kitbag, I ran out and confronted my foes-the nurses of the 4077th.
The shower-tent had more view-holes in it than a battleship. They were all loving smiles and predatory grins. I felt like a piece of meat - the kind that is served in links. I should have been flattered, Connor, but those women didna want me for my mind or exotic accent.
"LADIES! Do you mind?"
One called Kelly cooed: "No, we don't mind at all. If you wanna lose that robe, we won't tell!"
"Lose It? I say we take it from him! Can't leave the whole package to Hot Lips!"
"I'm for letting him keep it if he just goes in and finishes showering!"
"I'm for taking it, AND sending him back into the shower!"
"Ladies, let's be reasonable! We're being unfair to poor Duncan. We should ALL go in the shower, and lose the clothes-and anything else we can figure out to lose."
Sensing it might be time to withdraw-er, to pull out, er-to interrupt this-I got the hell out of there!
"Ooh, look at those cheeks blush!"
I found out that what had happened to me was something of a camp tradition-I suppose I should have been grateful that I was one of a few men that the nurses excercised their option on. But I now understood the Burns' boys a bit better.
A bit later, Pierce brought me my dinner. I felt a trifle unsafe in the mess tent.
"Thanx, Ben. It's not that I fear those ladies. But all at once I felt like I was facing a pack of wolves!"
"Two pieces of advice, Duncan. When you're in that position-FEAR those ladies. They once got like that on me. My ego still hasn't recovered."
"What could they have possibly done?"
Ben whispered it to me. My eyes grew wide.
"That HADDA hurt!"
"It was the most painful pleasure I've ever experienced. I get a warm feeling when I think about it-before the chills and nausea kick in. Sidney Freedman-he's our traveling shrink-had to talk me back to relative normlacy."
"I've heard of Dr. Freedman. Will he be here anytime soon?"
"Sure. Next Thursday's our monthly poker game. Why?"
"Oh, no reason. My--cousin knows him, asked me to say hi. What was the second piece of advice?"
"When you eat that meal, keep your Bowie knife handy!"
So it was Connor, that, for the 3rd time today, my well-being was placed in jeopardy.
Meanwhile, in Seoul....
"Its not that I suspect him of being a spy, you understand, but if he is, weeeellll, he'll have to be shot, won't he?"
"Burns, I decide who's shot and who merely has their life ruined! REMEMBER THAT!"
"Of course, sir! I-I-I just meant that he's gotten awful chummy with everyone really fast! That's a sure sign of a confidence man!"
"Little Man, you are soooo transparent! He took your squeeze, and now you want me to put the squeeze on him! Well, I've been after this "Duncan Burns" for some time now. It'll be a pleasure to cut him off-WHACK! where it counts!"
"Oh, what an interesting tattoo on your wrist, Colonel Flagg! I'd never seen it before!"
"And you didn't see it today."
"And I didn't see it today."