This is the last one of the first lines sent to me by blogging friends. The first line of this fictional short story was suggest by Chuq, who blogs at https://lobotero.com/ and resides in the American state of Mississippi.
”Durell awoke knowing that today was both an end and a beginning”.
By any reckoning, Edward Durell Jr had enjoyed an easy war. Like many others, he had been inclined to volunteer almost immediately after Pearl Harbour. However, after going to see his superiors at the FBI field office in Los Angeles they had told him that wasn’t going to happen. “You will be needed at home, Eddy. Don’t forget about the fifth column, the presence of spies, as well as the routine work that won’t go away even though there’s a war on. You can forget the military, and do good work right here”.
At least Pam was happy. That meant the wedding could go ahead as planned next summer, and they could move into the nice apartment she kept talking about.
And his boss had been proved right, of course. Federal Agents were busier than ever, as paranoia swept the country. In a land made up of immigrants from almost every named country on Earth, there were enough people of Japanese, Italian, and German background to keep a check on. Then there was the German-American Bund, a large organisation of Nazi sympathisers that had been around long before the outbreak of war.
At first, Durell found himself transferred to the group dealing with the many Japanese-Americans who had settled around Long Beach. Most were going to be interned in special camps, and the FBI was involved in going through their records to find names to put to the top of the list for internment. Regular procedures were quickly abandoned, and no-warrant wire taps and covert searches became the norm.
Pam got the wedding she wanted in forty-two, and even though the apartment she had set her heart on had gone, she found something better. A two-bed house with a small shared yard at the back. “Perfect for when little Jimmy comes along, honey”. She was sure it would be a boy when it came, and wanted to name him after her idol, Jimmy Stewart. She was less pleased about Eddy never being home. Federal work didn’t have regular hours, or a fixed office. During those next two years, Eddy was away more than he was at home.
But he was home long enough for little James Stewart Durell to appear in the spring of forty-four.
Late that same year, he was called in, and told he was going to be reassigned. “Top secret, Durell. New Mexico, all you need to know for now. We are running a close security team over there, very hush-hush”. Pam didn’t take the news well. Nine hundred miles away, and no home leave. The length of the posting was indeterminate too.
He hugged her and the baby the morning he left, but he was unable to stop her crying.
Thousands of soldiers were dying every day in Normandy, and all across the Pacific theatre. He told Pam she should be grateful that he was a very long way from combat. They parted on bad terms, and that niggled him.
The place was hot, no better than a desert. The director insisted that they always wore a suit and tie, and that made it even worse. Then there was the accomodation. Shared trailers that felt like ovens most of the time, with the small fans offering little relief from the heat. Eddy used to look forward to night shifts outside, when the desert temperatures cooled down, and the skies were clear and wonderful.
Fortunately, it was a big setup, so he was able to call Pam once a week. She continued to complain. Little Jimmy was missing his dad, and so was she. When would he come home? It was hard not to get angry with her. That same week in July hundreds of US troops had been killed or wounded in the Pacific, and he was safe in America. He just about stopped himself from shouting at her. But he told her it would all be over soon.
He couldn’t tell her how he knew that, just that he knew it. The tests in New Mexico had worked well, but he was sworn to secrecy, and he was an FBI man through and through.
Then the news came to them in Los Alamos. On August 6th and 9th, the atomic bombs tested in New Mexico had been dropped on Japan.
It was really all over. Eddy could go home at last.
But that morning of his departure, he woke up knowing that the end of one thing was the beginning of another.
And he was scared for little Jimmy Stewart Durell.