I finally felt relief, if you want to call it that. I finally talked with Henry and told him the truth about the decade we’ve been apart mostly (it was there for him, despite everything he was feeling at the time, and he was happier for it). I could tell, in the weeks afterward, that Henry was grateful for my telling him the story and being there for him when I needed it, and vice versa. He loosened up, “allowed” me to stay with Hawkeye more and started to calm down, going back to the Henry I knew in Bloomington, the Commanding Officer that even played poker in the Swamp or tried to cut everybody some slack.
A week went by peacefully afterward, happy as ever, despite my lack of moments with Hawkeye (once in the Supply Room was good, but I wanted more and more and the moments were becoming scarce). Christmas preparations were underway again and everybody was actually getting along for once. Around the middle of December, Father Mulcahy held a special service in the Mess Tent, which had record numbers, allowing us members of the 4077th to come closer together and remember how far away we were from home. Afterward, the orphans from Sister Theresa’s Orphanage came inside the tent, given some Christmas spirit from all of us. It went from one poor soul to another, from service personnel to Korean orphans.
To me, the season seemed perfect. I danced, laughed and even socialized. I felt like I belonged, even getting along with those who normally don’t like me, like the nurses in my tent or even Frank and Margaret (despite the fact that the two Swampmen played a prank on one of their dates nights, courtesy of joke candles, pudding in the pillow and even Margaret’s tent falling down on them). One night, I even got drunk enough not to feel much of anything (with Henry standing there, shaking his head and wondering how I became such a lush), danced with Frank as Hot Lips looked on with disapproval, and kissed him with passion at the end of the music number.
It made Trapper and Hawkeye laugh for sure (I heard them, I think, and they claimed they poked fun at Frank later on about it), but Margaret was not pleased with me. She looked ready to kill me, but could not with the Captains and Henry watching me. I remember seeing as much, even her fist balling up, ready to punch me.
Christmas itself was approaching fast, a holiday full of more spirit, cheer and orphans (not a bad thing, I say!). However, the wounded never stopped pouring in and we were as crowded as ever. Many of them were stuck in our quarters because we had no room in Post-Op. Worse, with more and more wounded with frostbite and blackened digits, we worried about the cold. Our wood supply was slowly coming down to nothing and all we had for supplies were mosquito nets and even sunscreen (it got to the point where some of us stole parts of Henry’s office desk, little by little, just to get by). Henry was pissed as hell for sure and I heard him yell at Radar more and more about getting on the ball and asking for proper winter supplies. They came soon enough, of course…with more netting, sun hats and, for some odd reason, tongue depressors.
With the cold Christmas season, as well, we all had to team up in tents. My only complaint about all of it was sleeping in the same tent as the other nurses and Margaret Houlihan (and Klinger too, when he was kicked out of the men’s tent and then sent back!) and not with the men, who I usually socialize with. I wanted Hawkeye’s warmth for the night and was denied it, aching painfully for more. I could not help myself. I was selfish about something…for once in my life.
One person in all of this mess, however, remained fairly quiet. And he stood in corners, waiting for the verdict to come in about accusations of cheating the U.S. Army, raping women and other charges that Daddy piled on him after he left our little hellhole. He sat in a V.I.P. tent in a remote corner of the camp, waiting to hear for what was going to happen to him next. And since no answer from forthcoming immediately, he paced his tent, getting his meals through the door and being treated as a prisoner, ever since Henry ordered it.
Soon, though, his time would come. He would come out once more before disappearing from us again.
* * * *
Major Simmons was barely allowed of the V.I.P. tent. Guarded by an M.P. and not allowed to talk to anyone as he walked through the camp (to his meals sometimes when they were in the Mess Tent, latrine trips or whatever) and, most certainly, he was not allowed in the O.R. Henry had barred him forevermore and was willing to go through the investigation that Daddy had started, although we were short of a doctor and in need of more M.P.s, which Frank was willing to fight for (and for once, we all agreed with him). However, they never came and we were stuck with the one watching Simmons.
On my way back to my quarters, I always passed Simmons in his tent. I would hear of him complaining of something, demanding to come out or trying to escape his guard, screaming that he only needed to talk to Henry and that all will be well. Of course, this was denied, especially after Simmons tried to run away from the M.P. on his way to the Mess Tent. After this particular incident – in which our very own Major Simmons almost blew up the Mess Tent and held up some hostages (Frank being one of them), using a grenade as a weapon – he was watched more closely and never allowed out of his tent ever again, even to the latrine. A corner was made for those purposes only.
Then, we all heard the news of his fate and breathed a sigh of relief. One month remained until Simmons was going to be transferred to the stockade (heavy labor), as the accusations that Daddy put forth were proven true and no trial date set, but punishment swift. Until then, because we were all in a war zone, he was to stay at the 4077th: fed, clothed and cared for by all, officers included. Henry ordered it (a lack of volunteers), usually asking for pairs or groups to see him, with the M.P. present and armed at all times. Of course, it was orders from Headquarters, and, after the incident in the Mess Tent, everybody followed the regulations to the letter.
However, soon enough, most didn’t want the responsibility of watching Simmons. The nurses stayed away, even Hot Lips Houlihan, and they asked that the proper authorities take care of Simmons. However, even with Margaret on the horn asking for more M.P.s, nobody would step up to care for the former doctor.
In the holiday spirit (sort of) and trying to be nice to this “enemy” of ours, as Father Mulcahy was teaching me (well, I took it to heart), I volunteered for the job of taking care of Simmons. I could not help myself. I had to do something or else Simmons would be let loose again and I would feel the blame in it. And I was the one who felt up to facing him.
Nobody liked it, especially Henry, Trapper and Hawkeye. But I was firm in my argument (Father Mulcahy had rubbed off and was an inspiration to me), pointing out that somebody needed to help the M.P. before the proper people came to take Simmons away, but otherwise, I was old enough to take care of myself. With hesitation, of course, they accepted it. They said that I was adult enough to take care of my enemy (finally, repeating my own words back at me!), with the M.P. watching me, and that I was capable of fighting when I needed it. Of course, I had been pretty damned good at it before. Why couldn’t I be now?
“Fight tooth and nail, Jeanie,” Hawkeye called to me as I went to Simmons’ tent, delivering his first meal of the day, early in the morning. “Make sure he doesn’t do anything stupid to you.”
“Sure, honey,” I teased, smiling from ear to ear, knowing that Hawkeye was worried, as always. “Like he can do anything to me now! He’s as powerless as a newborn, really. It’s all harmless, Hawkeye. Don’t worry about me!”
Little did I know…little did I know then how powerful Simmons had grown and how he could use it. And I was powerless to stop it.