Neither Five Nor Three Online - Helen Macinnes

I. THESIS

1

The dawn came slowly, cold and clear, thinning out the night sky.

It’s coming slowly, Paul Haydn thought, because we are running ahead of the sun. Then he smiled at his fancy as he looked down at the floor of clouds below him. He watched them change from blanched shapeless ghosts into a foaming sea of sun-streaked waves, their curling crests held motionless, poised but never spent. A traveller, fifty years from now, hurtling through the skies, would find that dawns came even more slowly for planes flying westwards. Or would he be travelling in a plane, fifty years from now? Then suddenly, Paul Haydn noticed that the clouds were no longer a sea beneath him, hiding the real ocean. We’re coming down, he thought, at last we are getting near land, we’re getting near America. Yes, there was a stretch of the Atlantic, a dark grey sheet of corrugated iron. He sat up abruptly, stretched his back muscles and his legs.

His excitement, controlled as he tried to keep it, woke Brownlee sitting beside him. The other passengers in the plane—the two congressmen and their secretaries and the brigadier-general who had accompanied them from Berlin, the silent worried sergeant who had joined the plane at Frankfurt, the three ECA officials returning from the Rhineland—were still slumped in sleep, their faces wiped clean of expression, their troubles, their hopes, their failures, their achievements all forgotten.

“Won’t be long now,” Paul said to Brownlee by way of apology. His smile made him younger, more like the Paul Haydn whom Brownlee had first met in London eight years ago.

Brownlee, still not moving, still gathering all the parts of his mind together that sleep had unlocked and left lying loosely around, answered Paul’s smile slowly. He yawned, stretched his arms, eased the muscles on his neck, and rubbed the blood back into his cheek where, as he had slept, it had rested too heavily against the eagle on his shoulder. He said, his smile broadening, “For a man who stayed away so long, you sound pretty eager to return.”

“I guess I’ve been away long enough,” Paul Haydn said. Then his grey eyes looked sharply at his friend. “And what’s amusing you?”

“The difference that eight years can make in a man.”

“Don’t know if I think that’s altogether funny.”

“You wouldn’t be altogether pleased if eight years left no differences.” Brownlee studied Paul’s face. “When we first met in London in 1942, you were a very new lieutenant in a very smart uniform, an enthusiastic young crusader—”

“On the brash side,” Paul amended. He shook his head as he remembered himself then. “At least,” he added, “I’ve learned that life is not all that easy.” Besides, his watchful eyes seemed to say, I’m not the only one who has changed a lot in eight years. Brownlee was thinner and more worried, his hair was almost white now; and yet, since the war had ended, he had been stationed in Washington, not in Germany as Paul had been. When Paul met him in Berlin only a couple of days ago (Brownlee had been taking the congressmen around the DP camps), Paul was as much surprised by the outward changes in Brownlee as he was by their meeting. A lucky meeting, though. If it hadn’t been for Brownlee, he wouldn’t have had this quick transportation home. And a good meeting, too. He liked Brownlee, even if Brownlee had been his superior officer all through the war.

“Yes, life seemed easier eight years ago,” Brownlee was saying. “In spite of everything, it seemed easier. All we had to do was to win that damned war, and then—if we were lucky—slip back into peace. Everything was more black and white, then. You knew where the dangers lay.”

Paul Haydn only nodded. He was glad of the stir around them as the others in the plane were wakened and warned of the landing ahead. He wasn’t going to get entangled in any more discussions. Brownlee was still very skilful at steering the conversation his way.

Brownlee seemed to be concentrating on fastening his safety belt, too. But he was still remembering Paul Haydn in London, eight years ago, excited about his assignment to the Free French and his work with the underground resistance in Brittany. He had done well in that job, including some extremely active service inside Occupied France. After the Liberation, Brownlee had lost immediate touch with Haydn, but he had kept track of him. Captain in Intelligence, examining German prisoners. Then Frankfurt. Assigned to counter-propaganda.