18. Funston makes a plan|
The three men met in Funston's office after supper, their task formidable. Written in Tagalog, Segovia could easily translate Aguinaldo's personal letters,
but the other papers were official documents, written in Spanish and coded
using an alphanumeric matrix. If they could discover the key and decode
the text, they'd then need only to translate the information from Spanish to
English. Funston was satisfied with their authenticity. Major
Baston reported there'd been no need to insert the hose, only to roll the water
wagon near Segismundo's head, and the little messenger blurted out the whole
story. He'd received the dispatches from Aguinaldo, and he was sure
of the general's exact whereabouts. The rest of his information had
checked out, and Baston was certain he'd told the truth. Segismundo
had ended his confession by swearing allegiance to the Americans and promising
to be of service.
Funston lit the lamps and contemplated the Spaniard at his table. Lazaro
Segovia had never before been invited to serve the general directly. For
him, a very special occasion and to make a good impression, he'd bathed, worn
his best clothes and sat listening attentively, hands folded in his lap. Funston
didn't trust the man, but right then he needed him.
From Madrid, Segovia had served for years with the Spanish army in the Philippines.
When Spain surrendered, he chose to remain in the Islands with his Filipino
and eventually joined the Filipino insurrection. Soon, however, Segovia
saw which way the war was going and decided to get on the winning team. One
afternoon he presented himself to a sentry outside the 20th Kansas Volunteer
garrison. He declared himself an adventurer, a man of high intelligence
and many talents. He wished to throw himself on the mercy of the famous
fighting General and prayed the great man would accept his offer of loyal service.
Precisely the kind of man Funston was drawn to, Segovia was tall, handsome
in the classic tradition and well educated. His devotion to Funston
bordered on chauvinistic. Whenever he had the chance, he lavished praise
on the general in three languages. Funston had been so taken with the
man he himself administered the oath of allegiance and arranged quarters for
Segovia inside the garrison. How often, Funston had asked himself, do
you come across a non-native who can mingle freely with the Filipinos, and
who is at the same time intelligent and totally unscrupulous?
Funston immediately put Segovia to work translating the letters, starting
with the big prize, the one from Aguinaldo. "Read this one aloud
now," he said, "copy it later." It was addressed to Baldomero,
Aguinaldo's cousin. The two officers listened breathlessly while Segovia's
rich baritone voice filled the room:
After many and risky adventures we were able to reach the Cagayan Valley,
where we are at present. I have not sufficient people of my confidence
to garrison this province. I want in the first place, that you take
charge of the command of Central Luzon, residing wherever you deem best. Send
me about 400 men at the first opportunity with a good commander. If
you cannot send them all at once, send them in parties. The bearer
can serve as a guide to them until their arrival here; he is a person to
be trusted. We are preparing a large arsenal in this camp, which can
furnish Central and even Southern Luzon with ammunition. Some of the
commercial houses of Cagayan and Isabela have promised us machinery and tools. Colon
Funston couldn't believe his ears. He'd just confirmed the location
of Aguinaldo's command headquarters, and he'd heard the little monkey ask for
more men. For a long moment he gazed into the middle distance imagining
the possibilities. For months he'd tried everything to crack Aguinaldo's
intelligence network, and now here it was, handed to him by one of El Presidente's own
people. He looked hard at Segovia. "Are you sure that's what
it says--that you got it right?"
"Oh, yes General, very sure."
"Then continue the translations, and write them out exactly, word for word."
Funston leaned back in his chair, his heart racing. Little beads of
perspiration grew on his forehead. He wanted to act immediately, but
knew he couldn't trust the contents of the letters unless the information in
them was supported by the coded documents. He snapped up a handful of
papers and pitched them to Baston. "Our work is right here in front
of us, Major. Let's start with the little words first; I, a, at, of,
he. Look for repetitions in the letters."
" Yo, un, en, de and el ," Segovia offered.
The two officers began at the top, scanning the rows and columns. The
hours passed slowly as the men labored, bent like vultures over their work. For
a long while the code seemed impenetrable. Numbers and letters jumped
around their brains like popping corn. Bad enough they were written
on rough, water-stained paper, the ink was such poor quality, many of the documents
would have been illegible in English. The men struggled like schoolboys,
the general's pendulum clock striking the night away.
Major Baston figured it out first. In several of the coded supply lists
he'd found a two-word series of numbers frequently repeated. On a hunch,
he substituted the words, "Mauser rifle," and as both words are spelled the
same in Spanish and English, it was only a few minutes before he'd hit on it. That
done, he found it a fairly simple cipher. Numbers had been used in place
of letters in the Spanish alphabet starting from front to back and then back
to front, reversing every twenty-nine characters. With the code broken,
Baston spent the rest of the night copying out the documents while Funston
underlined dates, locations and the names of key personnel.
By noon the following day all the data was translated, decoded and organized.
Exhausted, the men's heads throbbed, and their stomachs burned from too much
opened his office window. Drafts of hot, midday air stirred the stink
of stale cigar smoke. Baston and Segovia sat slumped in their chairs
while the general paced in agitated little circles around his desk, pausing
only occasionally to smile at himself in the mirror. At last he stopped
and faced his comrades. "Major, send an immediate dispatch to MacArthur.
Brigadier General Funston has a plan to end this war!"