Which meant that she was on the road a good deal, most often from Tuesday morning until Friday evening. Which meant that her husband was most often free to rattle around - alone - in either their penthouse apartment in the Foster San Franciscan or their home on the Pacific Ocean near Carmel from Tuesday morning until Friday evening.
While he frequently reminded himself that he really had nothing to complain about - that in addition to his considerable material possessions, he had a wife who loved him, a son who loved him and of whom he was immensely proud, and his health - the truth was that every once in a while, say once a month, he slipped into one of his "Boy, do I feel sorry for Poor Ol' Flem Pickering" moods and, logic aside, he really felt sorry for Poor Ol' Flem Pickering.
"Let's go to Tokyo," Pick said.
"Why should I go to Tokyo?"
"Because your alternative is watching the waves go up and down in San Francisco Bay until Mom gets home," Pick went on. "Come on, Pop. Let her wait for you for once."
It probably makes me a terrible husband, Fleming Pickering thought, but there would be a certain justice in having Patti rattle around the apartment waiting for me for once.
He had another thought:
"I thought it was decided you weren't going to Tokyo," he said.
He hadn't ordered Pick not to go to the conference, but he had happened to mention what Pick's grandfather had had to say about picking competent subordinates and then getting out of their way.
"Bartram Stevens of Pacific Cathay is going to be there. Charley Ansley called me from Hong Kong last night and told me. Charley doesn't want him pulling rank and taking over the conference; he asked me to go."
Bartram Stevens was president of Pacific Cathay Airways, which was to Trans-Pacific Shipping what Trans-Global was to P&FE. J. Charles Ansley, who had been with P&FE longer than Pick was old, was general manager of Trans-Global.
Charley didn't call me. There's no reason he should have, I suppose; he was asking/telling Pick to go, and that would be Pick's decision, not mine.
But if I needed one more proof that I am now as useless as teats on a boar hog around here, voilà!
"And if I showed up over there, wouldn't that be raising the stakes?" Fleming Pickering thought aloud.
"With all possible respect, General, sir, what I had in mind - and Charley agrees - is to stash you quietly in the Imperial, but let the word get out that you're there. In case, for example, Commodore Ford just happened to be in the neighborhood."
Commodore Hiram Ford was chairman of the board of Trans-Pacific Shipping.
And that sonofabitch is entirely capable of showing up there and trying to take over the conference.
"This your idea or Charley's?"
"Mine, Pop," Pick said. "Come on! What the hell! You could see the Killer and Ernie. And I'll have you back by next Thursday."
"If you and Charley agree that I should."
"We do," Pick said, firmly.
What the hell. The alternative is watching the waves go up and down in San Francisco Bay until Patti gets home. And it'll do her good to have to wait for me for once.
"I'm with the State Department, myself," the asshole in the window seat announced.
Why doesn't that surprise me?
"Are you really?"
"I've just been assigned to General MacArthur's staff."
"That should be an interesting assignment," Pickering said, politely.
"I'm to be his advisor on psychological warfare."
"I'm looking forward to working with him," the asshole said. "From what I understand, he's an incredible man."
Reprinted from Under Fire by W.E.B. Griffin by permission of G. P. Putnams Sons, a member of Penguin Putnam Inc. Copyright © January 2002, W.E.B. Griffin. All rights reserved. This excerpt, or any parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without permission.
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