Wednesday, April 18, 2012

T. E. Story #32

The man dressed in black!  What the devil is going on, I bade the guard to come with me after explaining the situation to the Sergeant of the Guard.  We went immediately up the stairs to the third floor, and stepped into the alcove where a civilian secretary asked if she could help me.  I immediately asked her about a visitor "dressed in black"  The lady eyed my uniform and the armed guard with me and asked,"Is there some kind of problem?"  

I was concerned about finding the mysterious man and getting some answers, so, I said in answer to her query, "Yes, there is a problem, and it is military and a secret, so you will have no information about it."

Then beckoning the guard to follow me I pushed past the secretary and went through the door into the drawing room itself and approached the large table where the map-makers were at work.  In this room is where the maps are actually created from the notebooks and rough sketches submitted by the field engineers.  It is also the place where maps are made up and colored for stowage in the archives.  This is an idea of Col Abert and has on several occasions to be proven to be quite valuable.  It was also the place where our future maps would be drawn up.  I approached the gentleman who looked like he was in charge, a civilian wearing a worn brown suit, and leaning over a large map of the Shenendoah Valley. I asked, "Are you the manager here?"  The gentleman looked up and seeing my uniform straightened immediately.

"May I be of some service Major?" He said.

"This morning a man visited you according to the visitor's log downstairs, I replied.  "He was dress all in black and his name was Gether Agnane.  Is he still here, and what did he want?  I am a member of Col. Abert's special forces." As I spoke I offered my credentials.  

The manager glanced at them and then seemingly satisfied with what he saw he said, "Why yes, such a visitor was here and he had a similar set of credentials.  He wanted to see if there were any completed maps in the archives of the route from Washington City down to Fredericksburg, Va and further South.  I believe the maps he was looking at are still on this other table, "The manager gestured to the next table where three maps were spread out.  "However, he left here after asking that the maps be copied for him and sent to -- let me see.  Oh yes here it is," pointing to a Log Book entry before him on the table.  "He wanted the maps sent to the military post at Port Royal.  All his papers were quite in order for this service Major."  

The manager was now somewhat doubtful of what the mysterious Mr. Agnane had asked for.  "Is there a problem? " The manager asked, apparently fearing an  answer.  

"Do you have a messenger here?" I asked hurriedly.  "One who is cleared for secret security correspondence?"

"Why yes, we do," replied the manager and without any further delay called, "George, please attend us at the main table for a moment."  

A small man halfway back in the long drawing room raised his head to see who was calling.  "Yes, sir, on my way," He replied clearing his chair and walking swiftly toward us.

"Do you have pen and paper here," I asked in a rush?

"Yes," replied the manager as he gathered up a notebook and pen.  He followed those items with a small jar of ink. I took the pen and wrote:

"Col Abert;

A man by the name of Gether Agnane has visited the mapping archives and asked for any maps covering the area from Washington City to Fredericksburg and further South.  He has asked that three maps showing the road layout between those two cities be copied and sent to the military office at Port Royal.  I am ordering these maps held here in secret and no copies go anywhere without your personal approval.  The description of this man is exactly the same as the man who was on the train with me to Washington City and was later searching for me in Alexandria where I left the train and took a coach into the city.  I await your reply.

Very Respectfully;

Ian McKay, Major, Topographical Engineers

I hastily folded the paper and sealed it with a letter wafer that was offered by the manager.  I turned to the messenger.  "Take this to the telegraph office, and have this message sent directly to the U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers Office, Military Building in Washington City.  Code the message for an immediate return reply.  

The messenger said, " Yes Sir", and taking the message in hand immediately headed for the stairs.

I turned to the manager and asked,  "Will you hold the maps that Mr. Agnane has requested on my word alone, until I or Col. Abert release them orally?  You have read the message I sent?"

"Uhh, Yes Sir," the manager said in a shaky voice.  "I hope that you have found the cooperation of the Mapping Office to be satisfactory."  The man was obviously worried about his job.  Was he someone who might be a part of this?

"Do the map copies then, but hold them for me, and place them in a security vault.  No-one is to review them or the originals without my personal okay. I want the name of the copier that is to make copies of the maps and I want that copier to be a security individual. Is that fully understood?"

"Uhh, Yes Sir," the manager replied again in a still shaky voice, and gathered up the three maps.

"My thanks for the information and the cooperation.  I shall mention such to Col. Abert when I see him."  I said to the manager as he stood by the mapping table with the three maps in hand.  "Just maybe we have stopped whoever or whatever was going on."  I said to the guard, "Take me to the Officer of the Day."

"Yes, Sir," the guard replied crisply, and led the way down the stairs.


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