20. Funston assembles his team|
Captain Harry Newton stood at attention for several moments before the general's
big desk. He stole a glance at the young officer beside him, Lieutenant
Burton Mitchell. Neither man was told why he'd been summoned to the commander's
office, only that it was urgent and to say nothing to anyone. They'd been
waiting for some time while the general shuffled papers under an odd looking
dagger with a jade handle. To Newton, Funston seemed agitated, out of
sorts. He thought he'd never seen the general so preoccupied. He'd
sensed the tension the moment he came in and didn't like it. The unexpected
presence of Segovia, the turncoat Spaniard sitting at the foot of the conference
table, made him even more doubtful. Well aware of the spy's treacherous
nature, he'd immediately concluded whatever his commanding officer was up to,
if it involved Segovia, was at the least foolhardy and at worst, dangerous.
At last the general looked up, acknowledged their presence. "Good morning,
gentlemen. Please be seated. I presume you know Lazaro Segovia." The
Spaniard didn't move, said nothing in the way of a greeting, only a slight
flicker of the eyelids at the sound of his own name. Funston walked to
a large wall map and drew back the canvas cover." I am in possession of
certain documents that reveal the whereabouts of Emilio Aguinaldo. In
less than two weeks I intend to launch an expedition to find the insurrecto
bandit and bring him back to face the gallows. I've chosen you two men
to assist me."
Newton felt the perspiration build under his shirt and trickle down his spine. He
looked across the table at Mitchell. Suddenly pale, the boy's thin lips
quivered and his eyes darted first toward the door, then the window. Burton,
my young friend, Newton thought to himself, we've gotten ourselves into something
now. The general continued,"How I obtained these documents is unimportant. What
matters is that both Senor Segovia and I are convinced of their authenticity." Funston
used his jade handled dagger as a pointer." Aguinaldo is holed up in a
mountain village called Palanan, here, on the northeast coast. He's requested
reinforcements. I intend to honor that request."
Burton Mitchell gulped a quick breath and squeaked, "Beg your pardon, sir?"
"You heard me, Lieutenant. Segovia here's been busy recruiting a gang
of Macabebes. How many so far?"
The Spaniard sat at attention, lifted his head." Eighty, sir. All
"Fine. Cutthroat bastards, those Macs. You can't turn your back
on them, but they'll do just about anything to kill a Tagalog." The general
turned to his map." Anyway, in a nutshell the plan is to outfit them to
look like insurrectos and sail up past Corregidor Island to the village of
Casigurian. From there we take shank's pony the last ninety miles to Palanan. Aguinaldo
will think his reinforcements have arrived, but what he'll get instead is a
lethal dose of Yankee-By-God ingenuity."
Lieutenant Mitchell wheezed, lifted a finger to indicate himself and Captain
Newton. "Where do we fit into all this, sir?"
Momentarily taken aback, Funston cocked an eyebrow, then put his arm around
the young officer's shoulder and bellowed, "You're going along! Hell
yes, we're all going! That's the beauty of the plan. We'll send word
the reinforcements are arriving with American prisoners, a survey party they
came across in the mountains. We're the icing on the cake. Aguinaldo
will be busting at the seams to get a look at us. Then just when that
little monkey thinks he's won the big door prize, we get the drop on him and
this war's over. I tell you men it's utter genius. We'll all be in
the God damned history books!" Pleased with himself, Funston sat down
heavily at the head of the table.
Captain Newton's grim forebodings had been justified. All the officers
in the Kansas volunteers were aware of their ursine commander's self-approbation,
and they'd learned to live with it. This time, Newton thought, he's gone
over the edge. Funston was on a suicide mission, and he hated the idea
of going with him, but knew he had no choice in the matter. The general
wasn't taking an opinion survey. The plan was set, and he'd have to put
on the best face he could." It's brilliant, sir," Newton said." The
Trojan Horse in the Philippines."
Funston's eyes lit up." By God, that's a good one, Newton. Ha! Trojan
Horse indeed!" The general slapped the table exultantly, and then leaned
forward and whispered. "I've asked you to join me on this mission because
you're men who can get things done and keep your mouths shut while you're about
it. Lazaro is making lists of everything we'll need. Mitchell, I
want you to handle the victuals. Captain Newton, you'll look after the
weapons and uniforms. Everything is to be on board the steamship Vicksburg in
Manila Bay in one week. Report only to me. I'll inform your superiors
you're on special liaison for the rest of the month. Any questions?"