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18

General Fordharn "Cruiser" Wilson tightened the belt of his bathrobe as he walked down the long staircase. It was barely 05.00 but the bright morning sun was already seeping through an early fog all over Germany. He loved these crisp, clear German mornings, remembering fondly how many of their sunrises he had witnessed when he was younger. A smile spread across his face and he shook his head like a proud father at the young man he used to be. Ah, well, never again. Not with these kinds of responsibilities.

He tightened his bathrobe again and wandered through the living room into the kitchen. He was surprised to find his houseguest up already, fully dressed, shaved, sipping freshly brewed coffee while he read the morning newspaper.

"Up early, aren't you, Mr. Grimaldi?"

Jack shrugged. "Not for me."

"I see," the general said. But he knew better. He had seen the concern and worry on this man's face ever since he had returned from Munich without the remarkable Colonel Phoenix.

The general was intrigued by the devotion this mysterious colonel seemed to inspire. Hell, he'd even found himself willing to follow the man's orders. The general too had inspired men to fierce loyalty, back when he was a commander in Korea. Despite heavy casualties and biting cold, his men had followed him into the hell jaws of battle after battle. That's where he'd picked up the nickname "Cruiser," because he and his men plowed through the enemy like a runaway battlecruiser. Medals, sure, and plenty of citations, but the one thing he had earned there that really mattered was his men's respect.

That was all that counted. Well, now it was time to let some of the younger men take over the fight.

"You read German?" General Wilson said, pointing at the local newspaper Grimaldi was leafing through.

"Nope, I just look at the pictures and wonder why the people in them look as dopey as the people in photos back home."

"Just guess it's the nature of newspapers to capture people at their worst."?

"Maybe so." Jack toyed absently with the spoon in his coffee cup.

"Look, Grimaldi," the general said, pouring himself a cup of coffee, "I don't know much about this Colonel Phoenix of yours except that he's got a top secret clearance that runs all the way to the White House. And I know a couple other things about him that I didn't get from any report."

"Yeah, what's that?"

"I know from the way he handled Sergeant Grendal that he's a tough man. I know from the way he staged that fake shooto-ut here that he's a smart man. And I know from those reports about the Zwilling Horde massacre of the Black Sunday group that he's got them running in circles chasing their tails. My God, what kind of man convinces one group of terrorists to attack another group?"

Jack Grimaldi grinned.

"Yeah, I just wish I were in there giving him a hand." The general ran his palms through his thick gray hair and sighed. "We all do, son. Believe me. But any man who can do what he's accomplished already, probably doesn't need our help. His methods are the best yet."

Jack Grimaldi nodded. Sure, it was a hell of an achievement, to get as far as Colonel Phoenix had gotten, but it was stretching the odds to the tearing point to hope he could get much further alone. But where to look? How to get him that help?


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