Divided States: Odyssey

Nomad-22

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March 8, 1937, Monday
New York City, New York, USA


Nineteen years has passed since Imperial Germany’s victory in the Great War. Having remained neutral the United States avoided the global conflict. However, due to its economic ties with the Allies the country suffered financially. Despite recovering for a time during the Roaring Twenties the nation then suffers the disaster of the Great Depression. Taking advantage of the chaos and desperation all around them, radical parties and paramilitary factions swell in greater numbers than ever before. Chief among them is the fascist group known as the Grand Union Party or Iron Eagles led by their charismatic and ambitious leader Albert Thorne.

Despite making a strong showing in the 1936 presidential election Thorne loses to (Democrat-Republican) coalition candidate Marcus Reynolds. Openly disputing the election results, the Iron Eagles secretly prepares for war.


“For the last time my answer is no!”

Shouted an fat old shopkeeper before slamming the back door behind him to an alleyway. In front a young man winced as it happened. Sighing he muttered in Tagalog while the rubbing the side of his neck with the left hand. “Mahusay na could ve na maigi.” Of course, in back of his mind Benjie Delfino knew by now this was to be expected.

Concluding it was useless to stand there any further Benjie turned around and walked away. Back to the streets again. The thought frustrated the twenty-year-old Filipino as he made way toward an exit out of the alleyway. For more than a week he had been trying to find respectable work in the city but to no avail. Frowning at himself but not saying anything Ben stepped on a white cat by its tail. Screeching in pain the feline ran off in the opposite way as the surprised young man looked on.

“Pasensya na tungkol doon.” He called out in apology. While some would find the concept of apologizing to a homeless stray rather strange or just plain dumb but Ben didn’t care. Looking down at his dirt stained shoes he wondered for the thousandth time. How the hell am I going to find work in a place like this?

Resuming his walk Benjie finally came out of the alleyway unto a sidewalk flooded with people going about their day more or less. Taking a right turn the Filipino found himself swept among the masses. Wearing a gray work shirt with blue denim overalls and an newsboy cap one wouldn’t think Ben wouldn’t stand out much. Of course, resentful eyes from many followed him with each step along muttered words of contempt. It was another bitter reminder to Ben that his Asian features marked him as an outsider here. Pretending not to notice the twenty-year-old forced himself to look straight ahead, searching for the next street.

Maybe, I can try my luck in Harlem. It’s better than sitting on my ass if nothing else.

Gands Gands

 
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Gands

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Moe Berg

It was decision time again. He had worked hard to prepare his middle thirties aged body fir another season of baseball. It was apparent though that the world around him was going to hell in a handbasket.. A couple of years earlier he had made connections with a group of old money political movers. Rockefellers & Roosevelts. A place had been made for him in a tour to Japan. Things had been done. The warmonger faction in Imperial Japan had been delt a blow by the mysterious death of its leader.

His connections think very bad things are coming. More people like him had been recruited quietly. Old money from both sides of the political spectrum in New York and around the country were preparing. Moe had spent the winter driving the backwaters of the east coast leaving stashes of guns, ammunition and valuables in hiding places and with trusted allies.

Today though, he had been thinking of his own personal preparations. His own personal demons plagued him. It was rare enough he had won enough space from them to allow anyone in. He was bright, extremely so. But he hid from his demons by playing professional baseball.

He had announced his retirement from the game just a month before. It was long past time to let someone in. He had been walking to streets picking up newspapers. Hed read voraciously. He sometimes could spot workings of the Eagles in print.

He nearly walked into an Asian young man. From the Phillipines he thought.

"Pardon me young man. Are you gainfully engaged at this time?"

Moe is a tall man at 6'1" with an atheletic build. He is wearing a suit of decent quality. His shoes are not new but arent worn yet. Under one arm are several newspapers.
 
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Despite having been born and raised in a poor fishing village Benjie was no stranger to big cities. Living in Manila for a few years prior coming to the States had given him a taste of the urban life. Although New York City felt vastly different in comparison to his nation’s capital. Shivering slightly during the walk the Islander thought. The weather is certainly cooler than back home.

It wasn’t just the weather that was alien to Ben. Even though he had struggled in Manila, the young man had at least family and friends there for support. Sure there was a small Filipino community here but Ben didn’t know anyone personally among them. Well, that’s the price for going to another land, especially one so far away. The US ruled his homeland but as of 1935 it was given a new form of self-government in preparation for eventual independence.

Off the sidewalk to the right-hand side automobiles of various designs drove by another in a seemingly never ending line. Noticing it during his brisk walk Ben smirked briefly, especially at a Ford Covertible parked opposite of him. It’s amazing how many cars and trucks available he thought. Wouldn’t mind driving a nice car myself. Of course, given the hard times and often hostile attitude toward anyone not considered white the young Filipino knew his chances of buying such a vehicle at fair price very, slim.

Beside they would probably assume I stole it and beat the hell outta me anyway even if I proved to be the legal owner. That’s what happened to cousin Marcelino in California last year.

Choosing not to dwell the uncomfortable subject further Ben looked away from the bustling traffic filled street. Keeping both hands in his pockets the twenty-year-old was about to turn the next corner when he nearly bumped into someone. Freezing he looked up and behold a huge man in a suit with athletic stock upon further examination. Benjie was about to apologize when the stranger who held a bunch of newspaper in one side asked him a question. For a moment he was silent and blinked.

Processing what just been said and the polite tone of the voice the
initial shock on his expression gave way to caution. Seconds later Ben replied.

“Uh, no sir I am not.”
 
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Gands

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Moe Berg

Moe took in the look of the young man. He seemed in decent shape, though perhaps a bit short. Moe was looking for someone sturdy, a survivor.

" Would you join me for a meal? After which we could discuss potential business ?"
 

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For a moment Ben believed he misheard what the stranger just said. His mouth dropped in reaction as a truck blew its horn nearby. After having searched in vain for job opportunities in this colossus of a city now one was actually being offered to him. Along a possible chance to eat somewhere not a soup kitchen for a change. Quickly recovering from his utter shock Benjie straightened his posture before answering professionally as possible.

“Y-yes sir I would be honored. Thank you.”

Subsequently, in the back of his mind the younger man silently wondered. Is this American a gangster? Like those in the motion pictures? Hope not, I can’t dishonor my family. Then again it won’t hurt to hear him out first.
 

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"Good ! I know of a good deli not far from here. Follow me!"

The intrepid Berg started moving along at a medium pace. A veteran of the urban jungle of New York city. In no time he and Benji were sitting at a smallish table in a busy, old school Jewish Deli.

"A coffee for me, cream & extra sugar and whatever my friend wants to drink. We'll order from the lunch menu please"

When Benjie was done with his drink order, Moe turned his direction.

" what I have in mind might be considered unusual. It is my belief, and the opinion of others I trust, that there is considerable trouble brewing. I have to ask, and answer honestly.. How do you react in a crisis?" What languages do you speak aside from English?"

Moe looked seriously at his new companion.
 

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It can go without saying that Ben been never to a Jewish Deli before. He wasn’t an anti-Semite by any means just never had the opportunity until now. This is to be interesting to say the least. Benjie thought to himself, examining the establishment briefly after they sat down.

Once Moe gave his drink order, his new Filipino acquaintance followed. “I have some coffee please. No sugar and cream.” As soon as he was done Ben found himself looking back at Moe who gave his somewhat mysterious proposition. Raising an eyebrow the young immigrant absorbed all the words spoken.

Moments later he silently scratched his clean-shaven chin mulling it over. What Moe was offering sounded like dangerous work. Fear and confusion rose within Ben though he managed to put on a neutral expression.

Maybe, he is a gangster after all. Or this fellow is a police officer uncover. Damn it is feeling like those scenes from a motion picture.

Of course, what Moe said of trouble brewing was massive understatement. The seemingly never ending Depression was driving many people to extremes. Reports were flying all over of dissatisfied workers forming militias after the latest series of riots across the nation. Not to mention the Iron Eagles seemed to be in the center of the storm, fanning the flames even more so.

Talk about bad timing on my part. All the same I can’t return home just yet. I need money. Keeping that opinion to himself Benjie finally put his hand down and answered in a confessional tone

“Well sir tell you the truth my experience consists of bar fights and sneaking out at night when in trouble. I’m no Joe Louis and nor a war veteran if that’s what you’re after.” Pausing and looking side to side making sure no one else was listening he continued.

“Beside English and my mother tongue Tagalog, I can speak Spanish and Latin well-enough. Know a few bits of Cantonese, French and understand some German phrases but can’t speak the latter any good.”
 
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Gands

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Moe nods back to the younger man. He starts speaking again, now in Spanish.

"Good, I came to the idea of offering you this opportunity for a number of reasons. First, you seem down on your luck, making mobetary considerations important to you. Second, as a somewhat foreign man, I think your options in the coming conflict will be more limited. I feel that people on the outskirts of society will be targeted by forces my associates and I will be in opposition to. "

He pauses for a drink of his coffee, and bite of bagel that has been served. He is carefully watching Benjie's reaction now.

"Third, you are a young man, hopefully one who is flexible in thought. Meaning you can learn quickly. Again, you should understand my own motivations. I am very much an American. Proud to be... That being said, It is my belief, that forces are moving now that have a desire to force change onto my America. Terrible changes. Fascists, Communists, people whose beliefs dont respect traditional American ideals. Like all men are created equal. "

Again a pause. Moe's manner of speaking is not at the moment passionate particularly. His tone of voice is soft and quiet. But the look in his eye seems fierce enough. Again, there is a drink of coffee, a bite of bagel.

"I will need to move among a wide assortment of people. Hopefully to gather support against the forces of Iron... This will be dangerous work. I will need someone to watch my back. What do you think?"
 

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Speaks good Spanish. Much better than me. Thought Ben impressed by his host’s command of language. He hadn’t met too many Americans who knew other languages or bother to for that matter. Now more interested than before, the Islander listened very carefully to Moe’s next words.


Upon the mention of being down on his luck Benjie briefly lowered his eyes in quiet shame. As much as he wanted to blame the racism he has been dealing with the young man knew the Depression itself had a major factor in lacking a job currently as well. Despite knowing that it still wounded his pride as a man a bit, having been raised from a hard working family. Looking back up Ben nodded in understanding when Moe pointed out that his options will be even fewer once fighting broke out. Having been so focused on finding employment he had tried to ignore the troubling signs in the States until now.

The Grand Union Party never made any secret of its disdain for most minorities and many foreigners. They claim that we have no right to be here and that we’re all a threat to America.

Just two nights ago in Chinatown he and some other bystanders had stumbled upon a elderly Chinese man beaten to a pulp on the sidewalk. Before the old fellow passed out he revealed it was a pair of Iron Eagles in their typical sliver uniforms who had done it while laughing. Apparently they ambushed the poor soul but gave no reason why. The very memory made Ben’s blood boil with anger and it briefly showed in his facial expression. As far as he was concerned to beat an innocent elder was an act fit only for monsters.

Not to mention those rumors of them burning down centers of worship like synagogues and bombing people’s homes.

Subsequently Benjie blinked twice as the other man explained he was part of something in opposition to them and the other fanatics. Quickly in the back of his mind the young man guessed while sipping some coffee. It’s the government. That made sense, the more he thought about it assuming Moe was telling the truth. Of course, the American revealed his motivations that gave Ben pause.

All men created equal...Does he really believe in that? I hope so.

Looking into Moe’s passionate eyes Benjie had a feeling that the former is perhaps speaking the truth. Being a patriot of his own homeland and holding similar ideals himself Ben could relate. Of course, one can try to argue that despite the Philippines still being subject to the US with limited self rule until eventual independence he had no personal stake in the coming conflict. No doubt dangerous as well like Berg pointed out earlier. Yet perhaps out of pride or stubbornness or something else entirely Ben wasn’t sure but he now intended to stay and make something of himself.

Still silent for a moment Benjie drank more of the coffee until it was nearly empty. Staring back at Moe he finally and replied back in Spanish.


(Count me in. To be honest sir I don’t care for those fascist bastards and have no trust for communists. However, my first question is when do we start?)
 
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Moe

It was generally hard to read the former ball player's face. But Benjie found the man's eyes to be expressive in a way. At this point, if not generally pleased... Moe was at least satisfied.

{ still in Spanish } "First a nice meal, I've already done quite a bit of walking. Then an improvement on your manner of clothing. After that, we will need a vehicle and a weapon for you. These are things we can accomplish today. "

The waitress came by and Moe ordered something in Yiddish or Hebrew ? it might be hard for Benjie to tell. Regardless, the waitress understood.

" I ordered for you, hot roast beef and potato salad, with a pickle and a pastry for desert. I hope you don't mind ? "

When the food arrived, it was hot, the bread fresh baked and the salad made that morning. The desert pastry was also fresh baked only an hour before. This served with a constant refresher on their coffee. Moe paid the bill with cash, from a thick money clip, slipped carefully into a hidden pocket on his pants.

After lunch the two men went walking again. Moe was largely quiet, only voicing one question as they walked.

"Are you staying nearby ? "

Getting the answer, he remained quiet about it for a while, thinking to himself.

They arrived at a tailor shop. An older man, probably Jewish, approached and greeted them.

" I have a need for clothing for my associate. More sturdy than a fine suit, less so than a workman's outfit. Something he can move easily in but not be embarassed to be seen in . "

The tailor rubs his chin for a moment.

" I think I can manage that, when will you need it?"

"Picked up first thing in the morning about eight in the morning. I will of course pay extra for your trouble. "

Time then was spent waiting as the tailor measured Benjie in all the ways appropriate for a good tailor. Moe watched silently.
 

Nomad-22

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This fellow moves fast. Guess it comes with the territory of working with the government. Ben quietly considered. Moe’s expression was did say a lot more than the man’s actual words. He was acceptable if nothing else from the agent’s point of view apparently.

The Filipino nodded in acknowledgment though he did feel both nervous and a bit excited. Truth be told this was the last thing Ben expected to be caught up in. Stay professional don’t screw this up. With that silent reminder to himself the younger man listened on to Moe Berg explained what he ordered for him.

Raising both hands Benjie replied. “Thank you sir that is fine with me. It’s a king's feast compared to what’s in the soup kitchens.”

Once the food arrived he crossed himself in the Catholic matter silently blessing his meal. Immediately soon after Ben dig in, really enjoying the roast beef and the pastry. Following lunch the Islander followed Moe. During the walk his new boss asked where he was staying.

With a heavy sigh Ben answered. “Currently a small apartment in Chinatown. It’s not the Ritz Carlton but beats sleeping out in the streets.”

Upon entering the tailor shop Benjie looked around the place in examination. Greeted by an eldery gentleman, obviously the owner he nodded with a sincere smile. Hailing from a culture that empathizes on treating elders with respect tended to do that.

Following Moe’s instructions to the tailor Ben stood still and let the professional do his work. Of course deep within his mind he thought.

Who would’ve thought I get a tailor from white Americans. Not that I’m complaining.
 

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Moe watched the tailor go about his work. When the measurements are done, Moe hands the older man cash in advance. It's clear they know each other. There were some instructions again in either Hebrew or Yiddish.

": Do you know how to drive young man ?" If so, lets discuss preferences ? I'd like I think, a comfortable sedan, with a back seat. Color basic black, we don't need to stand out. Also, reasonable storage. "

This of course was said in Spanish.

" Lastly, ( he continued) are you familiar with firearms ? I would rather you and I are both armed and don't need to be, than unarmed and need to be."

Moe throughout, is pretty much all business. Not particularly emotional, but friendly with waitresses and the tailor. So far today, these have been locations where he is well known.
 

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As measurements went it didn’t take too long from Ben’s point of view. He did quietly wonder what kind of outfit will it be. Likely the traveling type. Hearing the two other men speak he recognize parts of it as Yiddish. Silently it reminded him of an American army officer he knew.

Lieutenant David Stern back at the nightclub I used to work at sometimes blurted out a few words in that tongue. Couldn’t never really understand any of it.

Upon asked if he can drive Benjie looked to Moe and said in Spanish. “I can manage well enough sir. Learned to ride a Austin Sedan from a cousin back home who is a cab driver. As for preference well that black sedan sounds good to me.”

At the last question when it came to firearms Benjie paused for a moment. Then he at last confessed.

“I’m very familiar with a Springfield rifle from hunting. Also was taught on how to use a Colt 45 well enough. Don’t know much about tommy guns other than what I see in the motion pictures to be honest.”
 
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At the end of their time at the tailor's shop, Moe makes a phone call. You can hear him vaguely speaking in Italian.

The two of you start walking again. Moe's stoic expression doesn't change much during the trip.

"We're heading to Little Italy Ben, my contact there likes to have food during his meetings. Do you like pasta ? "

Your destination isn't far. Where you were at near the border of Chinatown and the Lower east side where the Deli and the tailor were it is a bit north and west to the area of Little Italy you head to now.

Once again, you find yourself in a restaurant, this time, the glorious smells of pasta and sauce. You are ushered to a table where this man...

1574189259559.png

and this man...

1574189803765.png

Before sitting down Moe bows his head to the second man briefly. He takes the mans hand and in an act of supplication, goes through the motions of bringing the hand to his own mouth.

(In Italian) "Don Corleone, thank you for allowing me and my associate to meet with you here today"

{Corleone} (In Italian) "Of course, it is my pleasure Moe, please, you and your friend join us"
{Clemenza} (in English) "Good, good, let me order something for you"

{Moe} ( In English) "Don Vito Corleone, Peter Clemenza, this is my new associate, a good Catholic boy, Ben. He is to be my trusted associate regarding what we expect to be further troubles. "

Vito gives you a friendly nod, Clemenza extending a hand to shake. In the meantime a waiter comes by and Clemenza orders two additional plates of food for the two of you. Over the space of an hour or so, having been brought your own plates of steaming pasta. Clemenza engages you and Moe in simple, friendly conversation, Vito, not unfriendly doesn't say much. Only when the meal is done, do the men start discussing business.

Moe discusses openly the need for a vehicle. Something like a family vehicle, that doesn't stand out but has a good engine.

Clemenza mentions that he has a guy he knows that sells cars. He'll take care of this for Moe and have a car ready tomorrow.
 
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Upon being told about their next destination and asked if he liked pasta Ben shrugged his shoulders. “Never had the chance but I keep hearing its delicious.”

Benjie followed his new employer into Little Italy. Despite the desperate conditions that similarly prevailed across the city he noted a strong sense of community here. The Italian tongue intermingled with that of English that Ben can hear during the walk among the people in the street. Reaching the restaurant the young man thought

Second time to eat at a nice joint in New York today. Probably should mark this on a calendar or something.

Jokes aside Benjie appreciated the opportunity of getting another fine meal in one day. Once inside he smell the aroma of the cuisine the young man briefly grinned. Subsequently he and Moe were directed to a table where two interesting men waited for them.

Trying to stay professional Ben remaining standing while Moe greeted their hosts. Quickly introductions were made and he nodded back to Vito and shook Clemenza’s offered hand. “Pleasure gentlemen, thank you for having us.”

Finally taking a seat Benjie sat down and for the most part listened to the conversation between the others. When the two steaming plates of pasta arrived he examined with pleasant curiosity. A moment later he took a bite with one silverware set and his eyes beamed with delight.

Once full and finished talking with Clemenza the Islander sat straight quietly observing as Moe negotiated for transportation.
 
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