The Year of the Golden Pig XV
At 7.00 am someone is hammering my door fit to bust it down. I stagger out of bed open it and see McGillicuddy, red with exertion.
- ‘Sir! He’s done it. He’s topped himself.’
I throw on a tracksuit. We run to the Officers’ Mess. A Land Rover marked RMP is parked out front. We go up to the first floor. Havelock’s door is wide open. He’s hanging from a steel beam. A uniform belt is looped over it. I wish I’d booked those personal effects in last night.
It’s a whole day of statements and recrimination. No-one talks about charging me. Everybody’s thinking about it. Last thing, the Colonel’s PA, WRAC Sergeant Phelps, tells me to be in the Colonel’s office in No 2 Parade dress at 0800 hrs. Great, now I can worry about it all night.
0800, I knock, am invited in. The smartest man in Berlin marches in, crashes the parade boots in on the halt and gives the best salute of his life.
- ‘Warrant Officer II Law reporting as ordered, Sir.’
I say this so loud you’d think my career depended on it. It probably does.
- ‘Sit down, Mr Law.’
I do, this is not how these things go though.
- ‘Terrible tragedy. What a waste.’
- ‘What is, Sir?’
He looks angrily at me.
- ‘Young Havelock’s suicide, of course.’
- ‘Of course, Sir.’ I agree.
- ‘I think the matter is closed now. I’ve actually called you in for something else, you know.’
- ‘Posting. Mr Law, promotion to acting Warrant Officer I, probably substantive promotion, if you keep your nose clean.’
- ‘Posting, Sir? When? Only I have a few questions about…’
- ‘Well that’s it, really. You’d have to go tomorrow. On leave, embarcation leave. It’s Singers, Law. Singapore. I’d love to go back, myself.’
- ‘But Sir…’
- ‘But what, Mr Law? You’ve been thinking about a commission, haven’t you. It won’t happen, you know. He died on your watch, didn't he? That sort of thing always comes out in an Officers’ Mess. You wouldn’t be comfortable. Take the promotion. Youngest RSM in the Army. Congratulations. That’s all.’
I salute and leave. A black Mercedes is parked out front, engine running. Barry-Smith gives me the same ironic salute from the passenger seat.
But that was Berlin. Singapore was now. I looked at the Casio, two hours in the cell. I almost wished for a Barry-Smith to tidy it all up.