knock on the door and a runner entered upon her summons.  He delivered a manilla folder with several newly printed pages.

Dismissing Sam to take lunch she said "excuse me a moment Corporal while I look through these records."  Several of the men still at the Bunker in Virginia had been asked the same question as of this morning.  Ben was not on that truck.  But yet he appeared on the battle field.

She would be sending these guys back on a flight heading to Virginia Bunker on a much smaller plane than before.  They would be going back without the corpse of Ben Stodges.

At lunch Ladasha sat beside Andrea and inquired as to how the investigation was going.  "How did you know about the investigation Ladasha?"

"Well I ought to.  I was there when Doc. sent in his report."

"I'm sorry Ladasha.  I'm guess I'm on a completely different investigation.  Of what investigation are you speaking?"

"Well, Doc. Wilson started looking closely at some of the wounds on the guys here in our hospital.  Then, he called in the corpses to the two from the Virginia Bunker that died in the battle.  Upon seeing the entry wounds, he noticed they were from a small caliber bullet with the exception of one which was from a military rifle.  And . . . they were all from the back . . ."

"Whoa" Andrea exclaimed.  Maybe that's the connection!  Thank you so much Ladasha!  I think you just saved a young man's life!" Andrea hugged her then quickly got up and bussed her table, then rushed over to speak with Jerry and Sam.

"Hi guys, please excuse the interference to chow.  But I've got a quick question to ask you.  What nationality was Ben Stodges that you met?"

"Mexican" stated Jerry.

"No, he was a dark complected white" Sam argued.

"That's how you knew immediately without much more than just a glance at the Ben Stodges in the brig right now.  The real Ben Stodges was black!

She took a trip by the Ready Room and asked an audience with William and General Randolph.  Beau was discussing some minor details but acknowledged Andrea as she approached.

Within two minutes she announced what she knew.  And, another two minutes later William called the brig to talk to the MP.  After identifying himself and quoting a couple of numbers, Andrea heard the MP ask "What can I do for you Commander?"

"There has been a stay of execution for Ben Stodges.  Release him to the hospital attendant who will be coming to collect him.  Doc. Wilson has questions for him" he finished.

"Consider it done Commander."

"Thank you Sergeant."

Andrea made a call to the mess hall Sergeant.  "Are there still two guys over in the corner by the ice machine from Virginia Bunker?"

"Yes ma'am.  One is just getting up to bus his table."

"Will you give them a message for me Sergeant?"

"Anything for you Major Cummings!"

"Please tell them I'm on the way and I have another person for them to identify" she stated.

"Done! he stated.

"Thank you Sergeant.  I'm on my way."

"She turned to William. "If my hunch is right, I may have found an answer to two mysteries.  I'm headed to the mess hall to pick up a couple of guys to have them identify someone . . . in the morgue.  William, will you call the crematorium and stand down all cremations until we get some light shed on these mysteries?"

William said "Beau see to that request.  I'm wanted on the phone."

Beau made the call then stated "I'm coming with you Andrea.  I think I see where you're going but you'll be opening up another mystery if what you say is true."

"So be it Beau" she said wistfully as she stepped out the door.

"Hello again men.  I trust you know colonel Adams?" Andrea asked when they saluted.

"Yes ma'am."

"I'm going to take you one at a time to identify someone else - " she paused then finished "in the morgue."

"No problem" each said.

"Jerry, please come this way."

In the morgue, Ladasha zipped open a body bag lying on a portable gurney.  "Do you recognize this man?" she asked.

"No ma'am.  On the third corpse he state "That is the Ben Stodges whom I knew."

"Very well.  Ladasha, I'll be right back with another guy to take a look.  Shouldn't be over five minutes" she finished as she walked out the door.

"Okay Sam, maybe you can clear up this mystery for us."  She lead him into the hospital and acquired Ladasha to show him the corpses starting in the same order as before.  At the third body bag he said "Yep.  That's Ben Stodges.

"Bingo!" she told Beau and Doc. who were conversing in the hospital office.  "Both men identified the same man as being Ben Stodges with whom they'd both fought beside.  There was a name of John Doe on the toe tag.  The man had no identification?" she asked.

"No.  And he was shot in the back through the heart by a military rifle?"

"That is correct.  A field death report states his rifle was of our issue but the serial number had not been recorded.  Also, this man had a .22 caliber Luger style pistol on him.  The rifle had not been fired, but the .22 had.

"What are you thinking Major?" Doc. Wilson inquired.

"I know this sounds crazy, but here's my theory.  I think somehow Ben was incapacitated and his military issue was taken.  I think an imposter somehow got on the truck in his place and into the battle line where he took shots at our men from the back with the small caliber pistol.  I also think one of our military men saw what was happening and took him out of the battle with their own military rifle.

"Well, that sure clears up a lot of questions, but it opens up a whole new plethora of questions" Doc. Wilson stated.

"So now the question is, who is the guy they just identified as Ben Stodges?"

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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Chapter XXI