Letterstime - Ein Geleitzug
- Meeting Engagements, Part XXIV
(Evening, June 20, 1915)
---- Marina, New Jersey coast near channel entrance towards New York
Although Lannon had made arrangements to assure a special menu and to
secure the head table, his party were hardly the only ones there. In fact,
the marina's dining room was filled nearly to capacity. The meal had passed
most pleasantly for all, as evidenced by the background hum of satiation.
Some far-sighted and self-interested diners had even gone to the half-door
into the kitchen to proffer due tribute to their chef. Blueberry chicken
had not previously graced the menu, and they had recognized it to be well
worth encouraging by both speech and specie. Others would soon emulate
them, but the arrival at their tables of baskets of "blondies"
had caused some delighted delay. (NOTE)
"So," inquired Claire, leaning back in her chair, "how
did you come to be a sultan? I mean, was it by inheritance? Election?"
Or conquest, she did not quite add.
Hadi's eyes had half-closed to better savor the exquisite and exotic
taste - it was not honey, nor was it cinnamon - of the dessert cakes.
At Claire's question, they sprung wide open. He swallowed convulsively
and only the sweetness still permeating his mouth allowed him to achieve
a smile. The muscular movement within his trunk of a neck would have been
a mighty semaphore to the least of his servants, but they were all out
of sight on the deck. In fact, at that very moment, they were clustered
about a large cloth-draped basket with their hard, callused hands questing
delicately for what lay within. Even Lannon, however, could not miss the
Great One's hand clenching the other half of his second blondie into caramel-colored
"Perhaps you mean to flatter me, Miss Claire," Hadi got out,
easing his hand the rest of the way from view. "But there is but
one Sultan: His Majesty Muhammed V - may his name be forever praised!
This one is not fit to kneel beneath his sandal!"
"Oh," Claire answered, weakly. "I didn't know that."
Her brow remained delicately furrowed with an unvoiced, residual query.
Hadi nodded benignly, but his pulse was slow to settle. To calm himself,
he began to work on a sequence to unobtrusively rid his hand of the remnants
of his dessert cake. And acquire others. Where were his servants when
"Hey, Lannon!" The booming voice made all their heads turn.
All but Hadi's, that is, who expedited his maneuvers upon the unexpected
"I understand you're our host tonight," the voice from the
other table continued, referring to club custom. Members who made special
arrangements became the "host" for the meal. Ofttimes, cocktails
preceded, allowing social access. Informed of the Islamic alcohol prohibition,
Nate had skipped that part. He had also neither announced nor introduced
his guest, fearing discomfiting him. As a result, no one had approached
during the meal, fearing they'd be barging in, perhaps upsetting delicate
negotiations. Now, though, after the dessert had been served, the "guests"
felt obliged to thank their "host."
Echoing murmurs of praise and thanks emanated from the other tables.
Their actions were typical for the occasion, but their spirit and timbre
exceeded the norm due to the uniqueness of both the entree and the guest.
"Sultan Hadi," declared one yacht-uniformed notable, "my
thanks for inspiring this meal, and may you hasten your return, especially
if it brings us such fare again!"
Hadi's hand, fingers closing in on another blondie, spasmed wide open
Unaware of his guest's reaction, Lannon rose to correct the speaker.
"Thanks, all of you. Of course, as always, we owe the quality of
our victuals to Miz Beulah. Miz Beulah? Are you out there? Would you come
in here for a moment?
"Ah, gentlemen, I give you our chef!"
The applause was quick and spirited. After a broad smile and a duck of
her head, Miz Beulah returned to her dietary demesne.
"As for my guest, a complete listing of his names and titles is
beyond my poor abilities to relate, but he has graciously allowed me to
announce him as the Pasha Hadi. Um, he's just informed me that he is NOT
a sultan, so it just shows that - once again - you can't believe everything
"Oh, yes." "True, true!" "Huh - he's NOT a sultan,
eh?" "You got that right!"
Nate sat down again. "Sorry about that," he began, addressing
his guest, "they really did think you were a sultan."
Hadi licked his lips, nervously. "All this talk of sultan, tell
me, please, how did this come to be?"
"Just a moment," replied Lannon. "I'll do better than
that, I'll SHOW you." At that, he got up and walked over to a side
table and picked up a copy of the day's Philadelphia Inquirer. He opened
it, nodded at something, and started to walk back to the table. The Ottoman
watched him approach as though he bore a serpent. Outside, one of his
fida'iyin spotted the master's posture through the open window and gasped
---- Parker (Destroyer No. 48), 36 miles SE of Long Island
"Welcome back, XO," LCDR Allen Barton greeted. "Report?"
"The Germans told it pretty much straight, Skipper. Mayweather and
Sturz did an outstanding job for me, by the way. Really outstanding."
Barton nodded, encouragingly.
"But, sir, we really need to wash up, though, before we'll be fit
to debrief. And, well, Mayweather should probably just burn what he's
"Ugh, I see what you mean."
"Exactly. They weren't just whistling Dixie when they said they
needed to get rid of the physical evidence. The bodies were already awfully
ripe and getting worse by the minute."
"Very well," Barton replied, struggling with both the odor
wafting from the trio and the image of Germans whistling Dixie. "Just
give me enough for a wireless. Our orders are to report soonest."
Aye, sir. Well, the German account is accurate, so far as it goes."
"Uh, 'so far as it goes'?"
"Yes, sir. The Brits never fired a shot - no arguments there - and
they said the Germans just opened fire, broke down the wireless door,
and came charging in guns a-blazing."
"The problem, Skipper, is that they admitted having struck, barricading
themselves in, and being armed. The Germans got the guns, the armory log
shows the shotgun, and the cleaning kit for the pistol has their captain's
name on it. They said they would have given up peaceably, but that the
Germans just never gave them the chance."
"But they'd already struck their colors?"
"Yes, sir. Exactly. The Germans' position is that anything's fair
once they struck and offered resistance."
"Damn," Barton said, "I think they're right."
"I think so, too. And, Skipper, I don't want to. I really don't.
The captain had his own son aboard - 14 years old! - and the kid had his
dad bleed to death right in his arms. And I had to interview him about
"Oh, dear God!"
"Yes, sir. Exactly. The kid broke down telling it and I wasn't much
better, let me tell you."
"Very well. Get a shower. I'll get something off to Admiral McDonald."
---- Marina, New Jersey coast near channel entrance towards New York
They waved after the departing limousine, wincing as the car threw up
a shower of small stones lurching through a turn at too high a speed than
was prudent in the rutted road.
"Lands sakes," Miz Beulah exclaimed from the kitchen's outside
doorway. "What all got into them?"
"I'm not sure," Claire responded. "We all thought he was
a sultan and he seemed to get all upset when we said that."
Lannon agreed. "I thought he was getting over it until I showed
him today's paper. I just wanted to show him how we'd gotten the wrong
"Miz Beulah," Claire remarked, "you should have seen his
face! He went white as a sheet."
"Yep, I saw that, too," Nate commented. "Five minutes
later, and - boom! - he's gone."
"Well," Miz Beulah said. "I took a shine to those nice
boyz of his'n, waiting outside here, lined up all nice and quiet. Sent
a full basket of blondies back along with 'em. They'll calm him down some."
---- New York Naval Station, Office of the Commander - Atlantic Fleet
Vice-Admiral Stennis was once again on the phone with Admiral Benson
and Secretary Daniels.
"... and Captain Eberle did get some confirmation from the British
as to what happened. It was almost exactly what he and Commander Trimm
had guessed. Actually, if anything, it's worse.
"Yes, Mr. Secretary: 'worse.' No plan survives contact with the
enemy, and certainly not one as complicated as what happened here. It
can't, but this German smokescreen one did. Or else, our good friend Admiral
Hanzik and his captains invented the whole thing on the fly, changing
it as they went."
Stennis did not like either of those. That is, that the Germans could
make up complicated plans that worked, or that their force commanders
were so innovative and flexible that they appeared able to read each other's
minds and those of their enemies, to boot. He fervently hoped there was
a third possibility, but no one had offered one yet.
"Yes, Admiral," Stennis replied, answering a question from
the Chief of Naval Operations. "Captain Eberle is already working
on his report and it should be done and down to you by week's end."
---- Bridge of Destroyer Parker, 36 miles SE of Long Island, course 215,
speed 20 knots
"I must say, you're looking a bit fresher, XO," Barton commented,
as Holgate came onto the bridge.
"Smelling fresher, too, I'm sure. I felt us getting underway. Admiral
"Yes. He wants it first hand. That gives you an hour and some, but
"Can't say I'm surprised. Well, I'll pass the word for Mayweather
and Sturz. We'll need some room to write and lay out stuff. I need to
compare the full text of their report with our observations. Unless there're
objections, I guess I'll use the wardroom."
"Sounds reasonable," Barton agreed. "Anything else come
"Actually, yes, Skipper. One thing. The Brits had their wireless
going and were just trying to buy some time; I'm convinced of it. Well,
it really should've worked."
"You think so?"
"Yes, sir. I do. They just ran into a cold-blooded, professional
killer. A real Jesse James. Skipper," Holgate dropped his voice almost
to a whisper, "that guy went through the hatch with a gun in one
hand and a sword in the other - and then used them both!"
"Are you serious?"
"As a tomb, sir. I wouldn't've believed it either if I hadn't been
there and gone over the scene myself. And, get this! I owe Sturz for this
one - he's the one who spotted it. The dead were both shot to his left
- three shots, three hits - and he landed a sword cut to his right at
what had to have been almost the same damn instant."
"But that's not all. The man's right-handed - I saw it myself. He
shot those poor devils with the gun in his off hand!"
Barton felt his jaw drop. If their naval officers were like that, what
was their army like?
"And the guy's a real snake," Holgate added. "No regrets,
nothing. He had them all tied up, even the captain, lying there with a
hole through his guts, bleeding to death."
---- Bridge of Moltke, stopped, roughly 40 miles SE of Coney Island
"Well?" Admiral Hanzik and Captain Stang were both out on the
starboard bridge wing, binoculars raised, staring off to the SW.
Standing one full stride behind them, Kapitänleutnant Lucterhand
was unsure just what to report. For that matter, he wasn't even sure that
the admiral's question had been directed to him. He shifted his weight
from one foot to the other, uncertainly.
"Do we have a good plot of their course?" Stang asked, partly
out of the side of his mouth. This one was clearly for those at the charting
"South-westerly, sir. I'll have it closer in another five minutes."
"Very well. Speed?"
"Between 15 and 20 knots, sir. But they may still be coming up in
"Very well," Stang repeated. He continued to watch the receding
"Kapitänleutnant? Your report, bitte?"
"Jawohl, Herr Admiral." Lucterhand gave a quick summary. "They
were very professional, sir. Very. They re-constructed it most accurately.
They, they even found the weapons in the ship's records." No one
had thought of that. The Kapitänleutnant could not keep the respectful
dismay out of his voice.
"Admiral, I must be honest with you. If our roles had been reversed,
I could not have done half so well. Either the Americans just coincidentally
had experts on that small ship, or all their officers have a surpassing
skill in the physical sciences. Sir, could the Americans frequently have
violence on their ships, and so must often conduct similar investigations?"
Hanzik frowned. "I have heard no reports of such."
"Herr Admiral, the American officer proved how far the pistolen
was from each wound, where the Leutnant stood at each discharge, where
each set of splinters came from, where each gun had been stored, when
each had last been fired, and more. In fewer than 50 minuten, and before
asking a single question! Herr Admiral, I know of no one who could have
"Hmmph," Hanzick cleared his throat. "Just as well that
we have nothing to hide." This time.
"Good report, Kapitänleutnant," Hanzick added. "A
very good report. Set it down in writing and flesh it out, now, while
it is fresh in your mind. There will be many who will wish to read it."
"Jawohl, Herr Admiral. Und danke."
"Admiral," Captain Stang called, as Lucterhand went to leave.
"I recommend we take advantage of this and begin the Dora group now."
"Yes," Hanzik nodded, glad to turn back to affairs nautical.
"The light should not be wasted. Begin the preparations. Initiate
as soon as the American passes beyond visibility."
"Blondies" were essentially earlier, non-chocolate versions
of what are now called "Brownies." In fact, Blondies were the
original "Brownies", as the recipes for the more common ones
today require chocolate which had only just begun to be widely available
to the non-rich in the years immediately before WWI. Blondies were made
with molasses, brown sugar, and butter and had a taste somewhat like butterscotch,
which was a very popular candy of the period. Source: "The Ultimate
Brownie Book," by Bruce Weinstein.