Chapter Thirty-Three

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After David's cable had been sent and receipted, he headed along the hallway to the library to scan the recent editions of the newspapers, greeting as he entered, "Good afternoon, Charles."

The librarian looked up from stacking books on a cart. "Afternoon, Sir."

Half a minute later, after rummaging among the newspapers on the table and doing a visual search of the room, David asked. "Where have you placed the French and German papers?"

"They're in cartons over there." Charles turned and nodded. "Colonel Wyndcom said they don't belong in here." He pointed to the stacks of books on the floor and the cart. "Books neither. I have to remove all the non-English material before I can leave tonight."

David eyed the many stacks of books on the floor. "Do we now have a foreign-language reading room?"

"No, he ordered me to take them to the message centre for destruction."

David slumped into a chair and put his hands to his face. "Idiot."

"Don't worry, Sir." Charles chuckled. "I told him the incinerator was busy with year-end Confidential burns." He chuckled again. "That bought me a bit of time until some sanity returns from the holidays."

"Clever thinking."

"How the fuck did he get this appointment?"

"Through one of the reasons we're fighting this war." David paused as he looked at Charles. "You understand beneath the surface, so I'll offer you this thought. The aristocratic buffoons who have brought us into this war are not restricted to the Germanic side of the conflict."

Charles nodded. "Yes, it's the whole class structure idea, isn't it? Their blind sense of entitlement by birth." He pointed to a carton along the wall. "I heard you'd be back today, so I've placed the last three editions of Le Figaro, Berliner Zageblatt, Frankfurter Zeitung, and Münchner Neueste Nachrichten at the top of that one."

David opened the carton and lifted them out. "May I take these back to the residence and read them there?" He laughed. "They've been ordered destroyed, anyway, so they're no longer here. But I'll bring them back tomorrow afternoon when sanity returns."

He took the long route from the library to the administrative office, avoiding having to pass Colonel Wyndcom's door again. After a long discussion with the Administrative Officer, he headed back toward the residence, pondering as he drove. How many offices have plugs such as this? The system must be peppered with them, and reality has to find ways to dance around the blithering stupidity of their entitlement.

Maria rose to greet him as he entered the suite, and they hugged. "There's something wrong, isn't there?"

He sighed and nodded. "Yes, Colonel Windbag is making a bloody mess of things."

"You mean Wyndcom."

"No, Windbag. You were right." David told her what he had seen at the Embassy, finishing with, "Fortunately, the Admin Officer has been holding back on actioning his most idiotic orders, and the whole place is in a quiet damage-control mode until competent staff return from their Christmas breaks."

"How do people like him get appointed?"

"Family. A son, a nephew, a cousin. Maybe a club member or someone to whom a personal favour or gambling debt is owed. I don't know. It's obviously not for merit or wisdom."

"But why here? You've told me Switzerland acts as an essential buffer between the two sides. Why not send him to a less sensitive place?"

"There are no diplomatic missions in Antarctica or in the middle of the Sahara Desert." David chuckled. "But whoever selected him is also a danger to the system. I'm sure it will be sorted out tomorrow. At least he's not at a desk in the War Office where his decisions would affect lives."

"Maybe he's among those moved out of there. The cleaning you said Mr Lloyd-George was doing."

"Good thought." He kissed her and released the hug. "I've brought the newspapers with me so I can catch up without having to look over my shoulder in the Embassy."

"I'd like to read them also; I need to become more aware."

"A lot of it is propaganda as they —"

"Propaganda? What's that?"

"It's a new word that's now being applied to the manipulated reality and the contrived stories that are published by both sides. It comes from the Catholic Office for the Propagation of the Faith, the Church's office of deceit and lies to convert the heathens."

"So how do you gain any accurate information from reading this?"

"Think about why they would be emphasising something. Suppose the underlying theme of an article is an abundance of food, we can assume there's a problem. Or if they celebrate a new roof on the town hall, we know the copper has been stripped for munitions casings. There are far more subtle things, but you'll soon learn to see the underlying story."

"Like mining through raw data looking for meaning." Maria picked up a copy of Frankfurter Zeitung. "I like this game already."

"I usually begin with the oldest." David pulled it from the stack and handed it to her. "Then read forward to catch the trends, the moods."

"This is essential for your safety as you travel, isn't it?. Knowing what's going on, what the general feeling is."

"That's one of the reasons the Embassy gets a steady supply of foreign papers and has a library of reference books from Germany and Austria, as well as many other countries."

"And windbag ordered them destroyed."

"We need to find a way to have him subdued. A way which won't send ripples up the system and disturb delicate balances."

"There's an internal power struggle, isn't there? The entitled buffoons and the crusty old farts against reality."

"The war would be much easier to fight if all we had to do is concentrate on the external enemy."

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