Chapter Two Thousand Twenty-Nine
19th November 1970
Rio Gallegos, Argentina
“He’s being completely stupid” Kiki said to herself as she reread Ben’s latest letter which had arrived that morning when she was already in a foul mood and was pointedly ignoring the unappetizing tray of food in front of her. He was excited about the new fighter plane he had been assigned to, like a child with an interesting, but fragile toy. The difference was that a child crying over a bit of broken glass or plastic might learn from the experience. The weapons of war were not toys, they broke the user instead.
“Who is being stupid?” Father Lehmann asked.
“My husband” Kiki replied, “Put a man behind the wheel of a sports car or in his case, at the controls of a jet fighter and they instantly revert to the age of four.”
“Few men are free of that sort of thing” Lehmann said, “Or many women, if you are being honest.”
Father Lehmann gave her a look that suggested that he was referring to her.
“I’ve not been reckless because I wanted to be” Kiki replied, “I have always had the public watching me, waiting for me to mess up so that they can gleefully judge my failures.”
“That isn’t entirely true” Lehmann said, “If you had really wanted everyone to think that you were pulling your weight there are many ways you could have done that without it being in the public eye.”
Kiki gave Lehmann a sour look. The migraine headaches she had endured had subsided after she had finally gotten out of Rio Gallegos and had begun doing her job as opposed to waiting around for something to happen. Then the dreams had started. Her sleep had been interrupted for weeks by vivid unsettling dreams of her teeth falling out among other things. The night before had been no exception. With that mixed with the constant smell of roasting mutton in the Mess Hall because the cooks could get it cheaply in this region of Argentina. It seemed like the world was determined to drive her insane on some days. All that was needed was a cloying sound to really drive her around the bend, but she knew she was tempting fate to even have that thought. Go to Argentina and get the full sensory experience, Kiki thought to herself. Korea had not been nearly this miserable though the situation had been far worse. Perhaps she had been too naive or something to understand that at the time?
“Vanity is hardly the worst thing that a woman in your position can fall prey to” Lehmann said, “If she is aware of it.”
“Are you suggesting that everything I’ve done is because I am vain?” Kiki asked, feeling a flash of anger.
“Yes” Father Lehmann replied, “Only to a degree though, I always got the impression that your desire to help people was genuine.”
This was the last thing on earth that Kiki wanted to listen to right that moment. God forbid that she ever spent a moment in her life being less than perfect. If she ever did than there would be a conga line several hundred kilometers long of people delighting in her “Fall from grace.” It had nothing to do with her being vain. Going back to eating her breakfast seemed to be the safest thing to do because she didn’t trust what she might say next.
“Have a good day Kristina” Lehmann said as he got up from the table.
Fat chance, Kiki thought to herself.
Walking out of the Mess Hall, Markus Lehmann regretted that he had not exactly gotten through to Kristina this time because she clearly wasn’t in a receptive frame of mind. When she was in a foul mood she leaned towards self-pity and was a bear to be around. He had been asked to speak with her because of how she was going about doing her job as the Executive Officer of the Medical Services Regiment lately. Whatever impression the public had of Princess Kristina; the actual woman had reverted to her Prussian roots when it came to the standards that she enforced among the Staff of the Field Hospital. Ruled with an iron fist were the words that were used. When she took forays out into the countryside it was often to the relief of everyone who had to deal with her. The Oberstarzt who commanded the Regiment was perfectly content to allow her to do all the heavy lifting.
“Bless me father I have sinned” Lehmann heard a voice say in Spanish to his right followed by an all too familiar asthmatic wheeze. “The world is full of women, and I want to have sex with all of them including your grandmother, well… especially your grandmother.”
“You are in for a disappointment then Ernesto” Lehmann replied turning towards the man, “My grandmother is long dead.”
“That’s why I need you to hold the flashlight while I shovel” Ernesto said with a smile. Lehmann had just walked right into that one.
“Still determined to spend all eternity burning in Hellfire?” Lehmann asked and seeing that Ernesto was wearing the uniform of a Doctor of the Argentine Navy. “And what are you playing at in that uniform?”
“The President conscripted me, and I couldn’t get out of it this time” Ernesto said.
Lehmann was familiar with Ernesto having run across him on occasion in Germany, Korea, and the Pacific Islands. He used the fact that Medical Doctors were welcome pretty much everywhere in order to travel widely. He was also something of a libertine and dabbled in radical politics. That the Argentine Government had seen fit to conscript the likes of him spoke volumes about where they saw the situation going. It was an unsettling thought and Kristina had good reason to worry about what might become of her husband.