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Book Jacket

Trade Paperback
320 pages
Aug 2003
Thomas Nelson

Whose Voice the Waters Heard: A WWII Novel

by Robert Vaughan

Review  |   Author Bio  |  Read an Excerpt


Chapter 1

New York

October 22, 1941

Patrick Michael Hanifin was six feet tall, thin, with red hair and the barest suggestion of freckles. He looked a little like the young actor Van Johnson, and most women found him good-looking, though not classically handsome. After graduating summa cum laude from Boston College with a degree in music, Pat did his graduate study at the New England Conservatory of Music. Now, sitting on the windowsill of a seventh-floor suite at the Algonquin Hotel, he was sipping a Coca-Cola as he looked out at the city. Pat had an apartment on Lexington Avenue, but was visiting his parents in their hotel suite. Though they lived in East Chatham, New York, they had come to the city for a few days.

Below him on Forty-fourth Street, a delivery truck was parked in front of the hotel, and cars were maneuvering around it with difficulty. As a result, traffic was beginning to back up, and the honking horns of im-patient drivers echoed back from the canyonlike walls of the buildings.

Pat’s father, Sean Hanifin, came into the room. Sean was only fifty, but his white hair made him look a bit older. He was a big, barrel-chested bear of a man with massive shoulders, muscular arms, and a noticeable belly-rise. His bushy beard seemed to add to his overall bulk.

“Did you see section seven of Sunday’s Times?” he asked, dropping the paper on the coffee table. “Gossamer Wings is number three.”

“Yes, I saw that. Congratulations.”

“Have you read it?” Sean asked.

Pat took a swallow of his drink and smiled. “Not yet, but I’ve been meaning to get around to it.”

“You’ve been meaning to get around to it, huh? Well, I’m glad everyone isn’t like you. If they were, my books would never sell.”

“Sure they would, Pop,” Pat replied. “Don’t you know there are people who buy best-selling books and never read them? They just put them on the bookshelf in the living room so everyone can see how cultured and well-read they are. And what do you care? You get your royalties from the sale whether the book is read or not.”

Sean laughed. “I suppose you have a point there,” he said. “Oh, and I appreciate your agreeing to play the piano at the reception. It means a lot to your mother.”

“I don’t mind. It’s good to be able to play a little classical music now and then.”

“If you would audition for an orchestra somewhere, I’m sure you could get in,” Sean said.

“Yes, for thirty-five dollars a week,” Pat replied. “I’m making twice that at the club.”

“I sent you to college so you could play for drunks?”

“The Emerald Club is a supper club,” Pat said. “There’s more eating than drinking.”

“I suppose so. But you’ll never become a classical conductor by playing silly little songs for a bunch of tone-deaf gluttons and drinkers. Besides, how can anyone hear your music over the sounds of gnashing teeth and mindless conversation?”

Pat chuckled. “I play forte, Dad. Forte.” He made a vigorous piano-playing motion with his hands.

Katie Hanifin came into the room then, fussing with an earring. Slender, with shoulder-length red hair, high cheekbones, and blue-green eyes, she still revealed a great deal of the beauty that had drawn Sean to the young Irish immigrant twenty-four years earlier.

“Sean, an’ would you be lookin’ at yourself now. When are you going to get dressed? Or is it a pub we’re going to, and not a fine reception?”

“I’ve got plenty of time,” Sean replied.

“Sure’n didn’t Mr. Pendarrow himself say that he wanted you there early for publicity photos?”

“You are a slave driver, Katie O’Malley,” Sean said. “I’ll get dressed now, if it’ll make you happy.”

“Aye, that it will. Patrick, do you know what music you are going to play?”

“I’ve got it all planned.”

“And will you be playing ‘Clair de Lune’?”

“Sure now, an’ what kind of a son would I be if I didn’t play me own mither’s favorite?” Pat replied, perfectly mimicking his mother’s thick Irish brogue.

“Don’t you be makin’ fun of your poor immigrant mother, now,” Katie scolded, a smile in her voice.

The phone rang, and Sean grabbed it as he was passing by. “Hello.” He listened for a moment, then said, “I’ll tell him.” Hanging up the phone, he looked at his son.

“John Henry?” Pat asked.

“Yes. He’s waiting in the lobby.”

Pat finished his Coca-Cola, then reached for his jacket. “I’ve got to go.”

“Go? And where is it you’re going?” Katie asked.

“I promised John Henry I’d have lunch with him today.”

“But the reception?”

“Don’t worry, Mother. Mr. Pendarrow doesn’t want any pictures of me. I’ll be there in plenty of time.”

The reception given by Sean’s publisher, Pendarrow House, was to serve two purposes. One was to honor Sean for having yet another book on the best-sellers list. The other was to wish him bon voyage for his upcoming trip.

Sean’s latest novel, Gossamer Wings, was about a group of passengers crossing the Pacific on a huge, four-engine flying boat that Pan Am called a Clipper. As part of the publicity for the book, Pendarrow was sending Sean and Katie on just such a trip.

Sean was paying for Pat to come along too. They would be leaving shortly for San Francisco, where they would catch the China Clipper for Hong Kong. Katie was a little apprehensive about such a long flight over water, but Sean and Pat were very much looking forward to it.


“You’re sure I’m not intruding?” John Henry asked as the cab stopped in front of the Flatiron Building on Fifth Avenue, where Pendarrow House had its offices. “I mean, after all, this is your father’s reception.”

“No, you’re not intruding,” Pat answered. He paid the driver, and then started toward the building with John Henry right behind him. “They welcome drop-in guests. In fact, they’ve been known to stand out in the street and snare the unsuspecting passerby, luring him up with false promises of wild debauchery. Publishers’ receptions are so boring that most people use every excuse they can to avoid them.”

John Henry laughed as he followed his friend through the revolving doors.

John Henry Welsko was a Virginian, a graduate of the College of William and Mary, and the son of a very wealthy tobacco farmer. He had the double name that was common among his peers in the South, but along with John Henry came the surname Welsko. And neither his father’s wealth, nor the fact that his great-grandfather had served as a brigadier general on Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s staff could overcome the latent prejudice against a last name that ended with a vowel.

John Henry had further alienated his peers by getting a degree in business rather than the more genteel and acceptable disciplines of philosophy or the fine arts. After all, one went to college—especially a school like William and Mary—for cultural betterment. One did not go to college for something so crass as to make a living.

John Henry then compounded his sin by leaving Virginia to come to New York, where he intended to work in the stock exchange. However, he found that he could earn more money by keeping books for the Emerald Club than he could by interning for the New York Stock Exchange.

By coincidence, both John and Pat had been distance runners in college. When they began comparing notes shortly after they met, they realized they had actually run against each other a few times. The comparison did not bode well for John Henry, who sometimes described himself as “two inches shorter and ten seconds slower than Pat.”


For his program, Pat replaced his normal Cole Porter, Sigmund Romberg, and Rogers and Hart with the works of Vivaldi, Beethoven, Bach, and Debussy. Against this background, publishers, publicists, editors, authors, and others drifted about the room, nibbling the hors d’oeuvres, talking, and laughing loudly. In other words, these “listeners” were just as non-attentive as Pat’s regular audience, the guests at the club. Only when he played “Clair de Lune” did they grow quiet enough to hear the music, and then only because Katie insisted on it.


Yokohama, Japan

Sunday, October 26, 1941


Diane Slayton stood in the doorway of the Kokusal Odori Presbyterian Church of Yokohama, handing out pew sheets to worshipers as they arrived for the Sunday morning service. Her father, McKinley Slayton, had been pastor of this church for ten years. Just last week he had announced to his congregation that he would be returning to America before the end of the month. The Church World Missionary Headquarters had pulled him from this ministry because of “deteriorating conditions between the governments of the United States and the Japanese Empire.”

From his chair at the front of the church, McKinley watched as his daughter met each arrival, smiling and greeting them easily in their own language. Twenty years old, tall and willowy, with long blonde hair, Diane was lithe and very pretty—and completely unaware of her own beauty. McKinley found her like her mother in so many ways that it was sometimes unnerving.

His wife, Anna, had died of pneumonia three years ago. Shattered by her death, McKinley had almost returned to the States then. He was begged to stay not only by the missionary group that sent him, but also by every member of the church. Even Diane had asked him to stay.

McKinley stayed, telling himself that he was doing God’s work. Sometimes though, he wondered if he hadn’t done Diane a disservice by denying her the right to grow up in America. She had never tasted a malted at the corner drugstore, listened to American music on a jukebox, attended a high-school football game, or gone to a prom. She had never had a Saturday-night movie date or a Sunday-afternoon ride in the rumble seat of a jalopy.

Diane did not lack for schooling, however. She was tutored in Yokohama, then attended an all-American boarding school in the Philippines. As a result of her privileged education, she was well-read in classical literature, spoke and read five languages, and was exceptionally fluent in Japanese. She had absorbed Japanese culture and was proficient in flower arranging and calligraphy and even the tea ceremony. She also enjoyed discussing Japanese literature and theater with the most ardent devotee.

After graduating from high school, Diane returned to Yokohama. McKinley offered to make arrangements for her to return to the States to attend college, but Diane didn’t want to leave. And in truth, her father didn’t want her to, so he didn’t press the issue.

As Diane continued to greet the arriving parishioners, a staff car belonging to the Imperial Navy came to a dignified stop in front of the church. Diane didn’t have to see the passengers to know who they were. This would be Comdr. Yutaka Saito and his family.

Commander Saito walked up the steps, followed by his wife, Hiroko. Their daughter, Miko, was nineteen and was Diane’s best friend.

Miko had once confided to Diane that her father’s career in the navy had suffered because of his Christian faith, but it was not so much an issue of religious intolerance as it was of social nonconformity. Despite the social separation his religion caused him, Saito refused to abandon the faith he had found when he was a student at UCLA.

Diane had a great deal of respect for Saito and the other parishioners of her father’s church. Christians made up less than 1 percent of the population and were a small and nearly invisible minority in a nation where it was extremely difficult to be different from those around you. To be a follower of Jesus Christ, and to owe supreme obedience to Him, was contrary to Japanese culture.

As they came up the steps, Diane smiled at them and greeted them warmly. Saito, as was his custom, merely nodded, his expression never changing.

“Although my father is a Christian, he follows the code of the Samurai,” Miko had explained, when Diane asked why she never saw her friend’s father smile. “It is not his way to show emotion.”

Miko made no effort at all to hide her emotions; she laughed easily and was completely open in expressing her feelings for friends. She was crying now as she climbed the steps to the church.

“I have been sad for the entire week, ever since learning that you are going to leave,” she said.

“I have been sad as well,” Diane said.

Miko smiled through her tears. “Then, stay. I know your father must go back to America, but you could stay with us,” she said brightly. “Father, can Diane not live with us?”

“I think . . . such an arrangement would be difficult,” Saito replied, choosing his words carefully. “Come, now. We do not want to be late for the service.”

Miko bowed slightly in acquiescence, then dipped her head toward Diane. Diane returned the gesture and, as Miko and her family went into the church, turned back to the job at hand, passing out the church bulletins she had run off on the mimeograph machine the day before.

Just before Miko entered the church, she turned back toward Diane.

“You will not forget Miko?”

“I will never forget you, Miko,” Diane promised.

From the top of the steps Commander Yutaka Saito watched the exchange between Diane and his daughter, and though neither of the young women noticed it, his expression softened slightly. He knew something that neither of the young women knew—in fact, something that very few people in all of Japan knew.

Despite the ongoing peace talks in Washington, war between the United States and Japan was now a virtual certainty. Saito knew this because he had just been given his sailing orders. He would report for duty aboard the aircraft carrier Kaga as part of a fleet that would depart for Hawaii. Their mission: to bomb the American fleet at Pearl Harbor.


With the Japanese fleet, North Pacific

Tuesday, December 2, 1941


On board the Japanese carrier Kaga, Comdr. Yutaka Saito lay in his bunk looking at a small photograph of his wife and daughter, wondering if he would ever see them again. He could feel the throb of the ship’s engines as it beat its way through the North Pacific at a speed of twenty-four knots. The fleet was in these waters—far, far north of the normal shipping lanes—in order to keep their presence, and their progress, secret.

Unable to sleep, Saito got out of bed and made his way through the ship to the hangar deck. Maintenance men swarmed around the airplanes under the blaring lights.

On the floor of the deck was a beautiful plaster-of-paris relief map of Pearl Harbor, and though Saito had already studied it many times, he decided to look at it once more. He walked around it so he could approach the model from the north, the same way their approach would be made when the time came. He stood there several minutes, scrutinizing every detail.

After climbing the ladder to the flight deck, Saito had to stand still until his eyes adjusted to the darkness. Once he could see where he was going, he walked across the deck, passing the hulking shadows of the attack planes already in position. Then he saw a guard come to attention at his approach.

On the bow, he stood with his legs spread and his hands on his hips, riding the pitching deck as the ship plowed through the rough seas. Saito savored the splash of water on his face as some of the waves broke high enough to spray onto the deck. He licked his lips and tasted salt and squinted into the blackness ahead of him. His thoughts broke loose.

If he could take off now and fly far enough, fast enough, could he get a glimpse of the future? Would he be able to see the results of the adventure he and his country were about to undertake? And if he could see it, could he return to govern his life by what he had seen?

With a slight shake of his head, Saito cleared his mind of such thoughts, then started back across the flight deck to the hatch leading down into the pilots’ compartments. He didn’t believe that anyone could see into the future, though many went to the fortune-tellers to try to learn what their future was to be. Saito wouldn’t do such a thing. Even if it were possible, Saito didn’t think he would want to know what lay ahead.


Royal Savoy Hotel, Hong Kong

Wednesday, December 3, 1941


So far the trip had been longer, more tiring, and more boring than Pat could have imagined. He actually found himself wishing that he hadn’t come along. But his parents had given him this trip as an early Christmas present, and he was very careful to show them his appreciation.

Sean Hanifin considered travel an essential ingredient for writing. As a result, young Pat had traveled all over the world with his parents. As a boy, he went hunting with Ernest Hemingway. Miró entertained him with drawings on the backs of envelopes. And as Pat was learning the piano, he sometimes found himself sitting on the piano bench alongside such friends of his father as Vladimir Horowitz and Sergei Rachmaninoff.

But all that had been when Pat was much younger. This was the first time in quite a while that he had gone anywhere with his parents. Now he found himself in Hong Kong, sitting on a padded sofa that made a circle all the way around a column in the hotel lobby. He was reading a newspaper when he happened to look up to see a man coming through the front door, accompanied by a very pretty, young, blonde-haired woman. The arrivals were so laden with suitcases and parcels that they could barely move. The woman dropped some of her load, and Pat jumped up and hurried to her aid.

“Thank you,” the woman said, as he gathered up the suitcase and bundle.

“I would have thought a bellboy would help us from the cab,” the man complained, “but there was no one there.”

“There’s the bell captain’s desk. I’m sure if you asked, he would get someone for you,” Pat suggested.

“Thank you, young man, I shall. Diane, you wait here with the luggage.”

“All right, Dad.”

“Did he call you Diane?” Pat asked.


“A pretty name. And you called him Dad. That is good too.”

“It’s good that I called him Dad?”

“It means he isn’t your husband, or fiancé, or anything like that.”

Diane laughed.

“Are you and your father visiting Hong Kong?”

“We’re passing through. We have passage to the States on the China Clipper.”

Pat smiled broadly. “So do I! We shall be traveling companions.” He stuck out his hand. “I’m Pat Hanifin.”

“I’m Diane Slayton.”

At that moment Diane’s father returned. “I am assured that a bellboy will be with us shortly,” he reported.

“Good,” Diane said. “Mr. Hanifin, this is my father, the Reverend McKinley Slayton. Dad, this is Pat Hanifin. He’ll be going to the States with us.”

“I’m pleased to meet you, Mr. Hanifin,” McKinley said. “Have you been vacationing in Hong Kong?”

“Yes, I guess it was a vacation of sorts. My father’s publisher paid for a trip for him and my mother. I just came along for the ride.”

“Your father’s publisher?” Diane echoed. “Wait a minute . . . Hanifin? Would your father be Sean Hanifin?”


“And he will be on the flight as well? Oh, how exciting! I love your father’s work.”

“Sean Hanifin?” McKinley asked, a look of confusion in his face. “Is that someone I should know?”

Diane laughed. “He is an author, Dad, a wonderful writer. He wrote Becalmed and Conversation in the Shadows, among others. His latest is Gossamer Wings. I haven’t read it yet, but I intend to.” To Pat she added, “You’ll have to excuse my father. We have lived in Japan for the past fifteen years, and I’m afraid he hasn’t kept abreast of things literary.”

“You’ve lived in Japan for fifteen years?” Pat echoed, obviously impressed.

“Yes,” McKinley said. “I was pastor of the Kokusal Odori Presbyterian Church of Yokohama. And my daughter is right, I’m afraid. My reading has been limited to theological tomes and letters from the mission office. I apologize.”

“No apology is necessary. Besides, my father is the author, not I. However, we do have several copies of Gossamer Wings with us. If you’d like, Miss Slayton, I’ll be happy to have a copy sent to you as soon as you are checked in.”

“Oh, that would be lovely.”

At that moment a bellboy arrived with a cart, which had a wobbling, squeaking wheel and a barely legible sign declaring it to be “Property of the Royal Savoy.” The bellboy, who was well into his seventies, handled the suitcases and bundles with little show of effort. Once the cart was loaded, he began pushing it across the lobby.

“Well, we must get checked in now,” Diane said. “I’m sure we’ll be seeing each other again.”

“Yes, I’m sure,” Pat called to them, as Diane and McKinley started after the bellboy.