Monday, September 30, 2019

The Shrewd King 11.1: Gimp

“Mr Spackle, may I have a word with you in private?” ‘Gimp’ Sullivan asked Quinn Spackle.

Chernovsky gave Quinn a nod, indicating that he was OK with the request.

“Sure.” Quinn said, less than happy at having been singled out of the crowd. That was rarely a good thing.

If there was one person in all of Kates Store-Pray Church-Chernovsky’s Annex that creeped Quinn out, it was Gimp Sullivan.

At first Gimp had been almost totally invisible. He was Chernovsky’s shadow. Always there to carry something or write down information.

It had nothing to do with his appearance. Sure, he had a limp because the bones in one of his ankles were fused.

It wasn’t his reputation. Uncle Larry Tomanica, the man who had taught Quinn how to shoot both quickly and accurately held Gimp in high regard.

Nope. The roots of Quinn’s trepidation were that Gimp suddenly seemed to be excessively interested in everything Quinn did.

It started just after Chernovsky uncharacteristically took a day off. The rumor mill suggested it had something to do with a girl, although Quinn discounted that possibility. Guys who looked like Chernovsky always had plenty of girls, Quinn was sure.

Gimp took them by surprise the day Chernovsky took the day off. He suddenly showed up in camp. No dogs barked. No friendly neighbors rang a bell or announced him. Perhaps it was because the dogs were trained to pick up the ticking of the ratchet in the rear hub of Chernovsky’s bike. Perhaps it was because the neighbors were looking for two bicyclists or were keying on Chernovsky’s bulk.

Quinn’ detachment had just rotated from the Columbia Highway bridge to the Waverly Road bridge. He found that the other half of the crew, the complement that rotated clockwise, was even more ‘entrepreneurial’ than the half-crew they had rotated away from. And there was this one guy, ‘Squirrel’...not because he looked like a squirrel but because he was squirrelly...

That day was a Keystone Cops episode as Quinn tried to reel-in the fighters who were off running trot-lines.

Gimp just stood, placidly waiting. If he was agitated or noticed anything wrong, he gave no indications.

What Quinn could not know is that his was the third camp that Gimp had ridden into and found massive ‘irregularities.’

A smaller-minded man would have thrown them under-the-bus as soon as he saw Chernovsky.

A less thoughtful man might have simply written it off as an anomaly and forgotten it.

A man who did not care would have dismissed the importance of following orders.

Gimp Sullivan was none of those things. He had learned a long time ago to know the answer before asking the question when it was important that things not go sideways.

That, and he was truly curious as to what was going on.

Gimp told Chernovsky that he needed to perform inspections of the regions around the camps. Chernovsky had much better woods-craft skills than he had seven months ago, but he was still a bull in the china shop compared to the kids who had grown up around Eaton Rapids. Chernovsky was more than happy to add forty minutes to one stop a day to let Gimp snoop around.

Most days, Gimp chose to snoop around Quinn’s camp.

It was not a matter of personal attraction. It was because Quinn was the acknowledge opinion leader and a genuine hero. If Quinn was doing something, it was for good reasons. Gimp wanted to puzzle out exactly what Quinn was doing, and why, before he made any decisions about what to do next.

The first few “deep inspections”, as Gimp came to think of them, revealed two things. One was that the observation posts were death-traps. Two was that there was almost no signs of scuffing or wear on the dirt floors of those posts.

The observation posts were well located, well constructed and well concealed but they were death-traps nonetheless. Any standalone stationary defense can be picked out, surrounded and destroyed with relatively few, lightly armed forces. There is no way five men can defend 360 degrees out to 300 yards with just a door, a window and a few shooting ports.

The other observation was that the fighters were spending almost no time in the death-traps even though Chernovsky’s instructions were to do exactly that. The mud was not trampled and the tracks were either very, very fresh or the edges of the tracks had dried to several shades lighter than the damp soil that made up the floor.

The question in Gimp’s mind was, “If they aren’t in the observation post, then where were they and what were they doing?”

Had they been fifty yards away, tucked behind trees at a higher elevation, then Gimp would have happily forgotten the evidence of wrongdoing. Really, the post was there so observers could have protection against inclement weather. Gimp, for one, would applaud their initiative for leaving the post and working from a better position.

But that is not what he found. The few natural positions that were within two-hundred yards of the observation post showed little traffic. Gimp filed that away in his mind, partially because those natural positions were also natural sniper hides and the logical place to stage attacks against the observation posts.

Gimp found the first, solid clues of what the fighters were doing in their spare time at the camp dump.


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