The Invisible Hand: Inimical (episode nine)
“We must make provision for the winter,” said the cat, “or we shall suffer hunger. And you, little mouse, must not stir out, or you will be caught in a trap.”
The Cat and the Mouse in Partnership
February 19, 1937. On North Capitol Street, in Washington, D.C., stood a building of undistinguished character, one that resembled the home office of a small utility…a gas company, perhaps. Constructed a decade earlier, it had a façade of dark glazed brick, with opaque blocks of glass obscuring its lower story interiors from public view. Subsidiary administrative offices belonging to the Department of Naval Intelligence were housed within. The rooms were large and square, the lighting fluorescent, the walls pale green. In one of these uniform spaces on the second floor, Admiral Wenham had scheduled a meeting with British embassy attaché Arthur Newbolt.
Newbolt was here introduced to Dennis Campbell, a man of about thirty-five, with a stocky build and greying hair, brush-cut. Campbell’s presence was a surprise. Newbolt had spoken only to Wenham; thus, he had expected a private talk with Wenham. He was not introduced to the fiftyish stenographer stationed shadow-like, at a corner desk.
“I’d like to begin with Mr. Campbell’s photos,” Wenham told him. These were not photos per se, but slides, loaded into a projector that faced the wall. Wenham himself obligingly closed the blinds. Neither were they Campbell’s; but the covert work of an unnamed agent. Campbell, with flat professionalism, sequenced through images of the German Daimler and Dornier works, briefly commenting as needed.
“We also have pictures of improvements and additions to the airbases at Friedrichshafen and Frankfurt,” Campbell said, “but those aren’t substantially different from intelligence we’ve already received on that point.” Newbolt felt that he was not qualified to judge the technical aspects of these images; he frankly said so.
“Arms production in itself is less significant than a change in the level of activity. Any concentration of a particular type of production, or in a particular region, could indicate preparations. You have to begin with transportation routes and supply lines…so you might be building roads and laying rails; you have to have a short-term plan for mobilization and a long-term plan for re-supply. Of course, Mr. Newbolt, you’re concerned about an air attack. Air strength is suitable for a limited, retaliatory action…or…softening. A country that thinks of expanding its borders…”
Campbell allowed Newbolt to speak; Newbolt chose rather to wait.
“Anyway,” Campbell said, “we know where the borders are.”
“It is all one,” Newbolt answered. “An attack on one of our allies amounts to an attack on Britain.”
(copyright 2014, 2018 Stephanie Foster)