The Scarletti Inheritance - By Robert Ludlum

Chapter One
October 10, 1944 - Washington, D.C.

The brigadier general sat stiffly on the deacon's bench, preferring the hard surface of the pine to the soft leather of the armchairs. It was nine twenty in the morning and he had not slept well, no more than an hour.

As each half hour had been marked by the single chime of the small mantel clock, he had found himself, to his surprise, wanting the time to pass more swiftly. Because nine thirty had to come, he wanted to reckon with it.

At nine thirty he was to appear before the secretary of state, Cordell S. Hull.

As he sat in the secretary's outer office, facing the large black door with its gleaming brass hardware, he fingered the white folder, which he had taken out of his attache case. When the time came for him to produce it, he did not want an awkward moment of silence while he opened the case to extract the folder. He wanted to be able to thrust it, if necessary, into the hands of the secretary of state with assurance.

On the other hand, Hull might not ask for it. He might demand only a verbal explanation and then proceed to use the authority of his office to term the spoken words unacceptable. If such was the case, the brigadier could do no more than protest. Mildly, to be sure. The information in the folder did not constitute proof, only data that could or could not bolster the conjectures he had made.

The brigadier general looked at his watch. It was nine twenty-four and he wondered if Hull's reputation for punctuality would apply to his appointment. He had reached his own office at seven thirty, approximately half an hour before his normal arrival time. Normal, that was, except for periods of crisis when he often stayed through the night awaiting the latest development of critical information. These past three days were not unlike those periods of crisis. In a different way.

His memorandum to the secretary, the memorandum that had resulted in his appointment this morning, might put him to the test. Ways could be found to place him out of communication, far from any center of influence. He might well be made to appear a total incompetent. But he knew he was right.

He bent the top of the folder back, just enough to read the typed title page: 'Canfield, Matthew. Major, United States Army Reserve. Department of Military Intelligence.'

Canfield, Matthew... Matthew Canfield. He was the proof.

A buzzer rang on the intercom on the desk of a middle-aged receptionist.

'Brigadier General Ellis?' She barely looked up from the paper.

'Right here.'

'The secretary will see you now.'

Ellis looked at his wristwatch. It was nine thirty-two.

He rose, walked toward the ominous black-enameled door, and opened it.

'You'll forgive me, General Ellis. I felt that the nature of your memorandum required the presence of a third party. May I introduce Undersecretary Brayduck?'

The brigadier was startled. He had not anticipated a third party; he had specifically requested that the audience be between the secretary and himself alone.

Undersecretary Brayduck stood about ten feet to the right of Hull's desk. He obviously was one of those White House - State Department university men so prevalent in the Roosevelt administration. Even his clothes - the light gray flannels and the wide herringbone jacket - were casually emphasized in the silent counterpoint to the creased uniform of the brigadier.

'Certainly, Mr. Secretary - Mr. Brayduck.' The brigadier nodded.

Cordell S. Hull sat behind the wide desk. His familiar features - the very light skin, almost white, the thinning white hair, the steel-rimmed pince-nez in front of his blue-green eyes - all seemed larger than life because they were an everyday image. The newspapers and the motion picture newsreels were rarely without photographs of him. Even the more inclusive election posters - ponderously asking, Do you want to change horses in the middle of the stream? - had his reassuring, intelligent face prominently displayed beneath Roosevelt's; sometimes more prominently than the unknown Harry Truman's.

Brayduck took a tobacco pouch out of his pocket and began stuffing his pipe. Hull arranged several papers on his desk and slowly opened a folder, identical to the one in the brigadier's hand, and looked down at it. Ellis recognized it. It was the confidential memorandum he had had hand-delivered to the secretary of state.

Brayduck lit his pipe and the odor of the tobacco caused Ellis to look at the man once again. That smell belonged to one of those strange mixtures considered so