Uncommon Distinction

.... by John Davis Collins - All Rights Reserved -

Military Police Blotter was published by the legendary Bill Loepkey's Inditer Dot Com of Canada.

Against advancing illness and frustration which the legal system imposed, Bill Loepkey promoted literature and culture on the internet. It is no small recognition that his countrymen have hono[u]red Bill in their Bibliotek Nationale.

"Uncommon distinction,? Huh?" Captain Whiz White read from a paper in his hands. " In a business obsessed with reputation and acclaim, there is a fundamental inconsistency; You win major victories quietly. No one ever hears. No one gives you credit." Captain Whiz White of the Army Defense Services tossed the scrap of paper across his desk. His mellon head turned to stare across the glare of the Texas summer sun at 6 p.m., at the cars in the parking lot: too drained to continue working, too fatigued to go home.

I was a new lawyer in the Army. My boss gave me the benefit of his worldly experience. Three months seniority gave Whiz some crust whenever we had to stand our ground...

The situation on the worn black and white checkered titled floor of Army Defense Services Office had developed innocently enough when Lieutenant Brisket, jaw muscles tightened in revulsion came into the reception area of the office several days earlier, clutching a sheath of official looking papers in his hands. "I'd really like to speak to Captain Grimes about this, sir." He emphatically waived the papers at me menacingly. An attempt at an impervious swagger in his despondence made him stagger like a drunk.

I looked at the Lieutenant. It was my day to intake new cases; Army clients were supposed to take who or what was available, but at Fort Gates, Texas, the case load was so brisk that I'd never miss someone who wanted a different lawyer.

"Captain Grimes is in Court." I pointed to an empty chair amidst six enlisted men slouched, head propped back against the wall dozing away. You're first on my list, 'L.t.' for Captain Grimes you must wait." I returned to the sign in sheet, stopped before I called the next name. "Poke that man..." I called out to one of the waiting soldiers... "This ain't a rest home..."

I'm not sure how much later the boss, Captain Whiz White strode into the office with his lively bouncy gait which concealed how far he exceeded Army weight standards.

Blotting sweat off the brows of his rounded face, White looked toward the Lieutenant uneasily sitting stiffly among a gaggle of slumbering enlisted men. "For Captain Grimes..," I replied softly to the unasked question with a nod.

"Grimes cornered the market on the junior officers." Whiz grimaced and scratched his head. "I have one, you have one. The rest found Grimes."

Whiz might have pursued the thought, but the door slamming open to the stale dry Texas heat announced Captain Grimes.

Under constant attack from the Army Command on one side and the politicians on the other, Army Defense Service stood fire on its efficacy with Captain Grime's trial record and Captain Grimes never failed to say so.

At the entrance, Grime's small face beamed a brightly cherub red. A ring of closely cropped black hair shone like a dark halo. Breezing in, the swish of his khaki uniform echoed his exuberance.

"Beat the deal. Judge gave Lt. Teknik less than the plea bargained sentence," Grimes proclaimed as he retreated to his office on the right side of the waiting room.

Lt. Brisket's expression brightened with Grimes' entrance. Turning to the Lieutenant with poise, Grimes smiled reassuringly. " Give me one second to celebrate."

I turned to Whiz White. "And Grimes' case of today."

"Lieutenant used a credit card to pay off a prostitute... and somehow..." Whiz's whisper trailed off. "It's a federal offence..."

"And how could anyone find out about this ?" I demanded voicelessly.

"This is Fort Gates with the highest court-martial rate in the Army, we have no time to gab about past glories. We have to create new ones ! "Lets get back to work." Whiz commanded.

We had no time for gossip. With the Armored Division's disciplinary rate, we'd be busy through the long sun drenched Texas afternoon.

The summer sun in all its Texas glory stood high in the sky at 6 p.m. when the last soldier shuffled out. I crashed into one of the boss' green army issue chairs.

"How do they get caught ? You asked." Whiz closed his eyes, over his expressionless face.

"Oh ?" I tried to shake myself into sensibility. Had I missed part of the conversation ? Listening to people explain problems all afternoon could have been too taxing for me.

"The Lieutenant with the credit card scheme... They get caught opening their yaps."

I had forgotten about the officer case in the whirl of in-processing now files. I shook myself awake. "Where's Grimes ?"

"Saw that 'L.T.' and rushed out. Said he was wound-up from his trial."

I was opening the door the next morning at 7:30 when I heard voices coming from the boss' room rung across the dusty checker board floor. Grimes was arguing or pleading with Whiz. "I carry too much work here. I defend more than you two put together !"

"Army Defense Services wants you in Fort Collins... temporarily." Will's voice bristled with firmness. "That's where you're needed."

"And my clients here... like the new one Lt. Brisket..?"

"They take who the Army has available... like everybody else." Whiz's voice turned empathic in warning, "Stay and argue with me. You'll lose those few minutes you have to throw a duffle bag together."

"Damm," I cursed to myself as I crashed my bag on my desk. "Intake yesterday and now again today." I muttered in disgust.

Exhausted from Court in the morning and intake in the afternoon, I did not at first notice Lieutenant Brisket in front of the grey metal reception desk with a look somewhat frozen between desperation and determination, Brisket reminded me, "Captain Grimes told me to return today." That sheaf of papers was clutched in the Lieutenant's hands.

"Legal problem ?" I asked.

"Personal, Sir." The Lieutenant's poor imitation of an impervious swagger would have amused the half dozen enlisted people if they hadn't been snoozing.

"Grimes was sent to Fort Collins. I don't know when he's expected back. If it's personal, it'll wait. If it's legal, I'm here."

"I'll wait for Captain Grimes."

After the Lieutenant pivoted and left, Captain Whiz White asked, "Problems ?"

"'L.T.' wants to see Grimes. Frankly I don't mind avoiding political officer stuff. Defending in the Army is already hard enough."

"Several Grimes files may come up. I'll leave a couple on your desk."

"Hopefully, they'll all be as obliging as Lt. Brisket." I greeted in disgust.

Whiz paused with a reflective smile. "Captain, the Army in the university of life; every good men do, all their evil is there before you -- without the distractions of everyday life."

The Lieutenant was back in front of the grey metal reception desk a day or two later. He turned tentatively to glance at the enlisted men waiting on chairs, while I checked the sign in sheet.

"Grimes is still away." The Lieutenant nodded hesitantly and looked around.

"Today is Captain Whiz White's intake day, you can wait for Captain White or I'll see you right now."

Inside the overgrown closet that I used for an office. I looked over the sheath of papers soiled with sweat that the Lieutenant had handed me.

"Off post accident with your car." I studied the papers and looked up at the Lieutenant, "Okay 'L.T.' what's the military's interest ? With all the 18 year old GI's playing bumper cars, there are more fender benders here than in Los Angeles !"

The Lieutenant bit his lip and looked around hesitantly. "I took the ticket for the driver... He had no license... The civilian cop didn't care as long as all the lines on his form were filled out."

"Who else knew... besides the driver.. ?" I asked suspiciously.

"Captain Grimes... I talked with him in the Officer's Club. Maybe I was overheard ?"

I shook my head. I needed to think. No officer could not leave a challenge or reprimand unanswered, but how much could Lt. Brisket say without lying ? Dishonestly with a superior was a military offence, even if there was little the military could do with the ticket or the accident.

"I need to think over your answer," I said.

"Answer is due tomorrow..." Lt. Brisket reminded.

"Better a well thought out answer that we rush over with than a rushed out answer we live to regret."

Whiz's intake day was rougher than either of us had expected. Even with my help interviewing a few new clients, his door was closed most of the afternoon. I had made no progress formulating Lt. Brisket's answer: An officer must always defy any dare and yet always speak the truth.

Rushing to a meeting, Whiz had time only to offer one prosaic word of advice, "Sometimes if you look at a dilemma from a different perspective, the answer comes naturally."

I agonized in quarters over the answer. My efforts were knotted into balls of paper tossed in a small waste can.

I came in at break of day, 0530 in Texas to pound out an answer at the office's thrifty manual typewriter. Looking over the checkered floor's sharp contrast in the bath of first light, I wondered; How could I side skirt the issues?

During a break, I examined the office files Grimes had left behind. In each case the Lieutenant had received a reprimand; the answer formed the charge against him. The pattern was clear. Lt. Brisket could not afford to answer; yet he had to. "I need an answer that's not an answer !"

I persued Lt Brisket's papers. "Military people are like pack rats with records," I muttered turning the pages "routine notifications from the insurer, a notice prohibiting the insured from making statements..."

I typed Lt. Brisket's response:

To: Commanding General Armored Division
Fort Gates, Texas
From: Lt. Frank N. Brisket
Subject:Response to Letter of Reprimand

1. Receipt of letter of reprimand regarding off post auto accident acknowledged.

2. The terms of my policy of insurance state, "The insured shall make no admission of liability, nor any statement regarding any accident..." This prohibition is reinforced by written instructions from the insurer to the undersigned.

3. This constitutes my response.

Frank N. Brisket
1Lt., Armor

My typing was completed when Whiz White opened the door.

"A clear pattern." I told Whiz as he stood with his brief case on his desk leafing through the papers.

"Unfixable ?" Whiz asked, looking carefully at me.

I shook my head. "Except for Lt. Brisket who hadn't yet filed an answer. Legal malpractice like this probably isn't a defense."

There was a long grave pause. Through gritted teeth, Whiz White growled. "We have a real problem.. Army Defense Service intends to award Grimes a medal." White read from a paper, "For Uncommon Distinction."

Whiz stared with vacant eyes as he handed the papers back. "Rescue or resuscitate what you can."

"Lt. Brisket?" I questioned.

Desultorily retrieving from the brief case Captain Grimes's award, Captain Whiz White remarked, "Reputation and ability are deceptive. In a business obsessed with both, one must appreciate the real conflict..."

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