Chapter Eleven

So Sybille traded her green dress for slacks, a heavy black sweater, and closed-toed shoes, and Laura stayed behind.

Nobody passed her in the apartment house hallways as she treaded down each step (even so, because she had left her coat, no one in the house would have assumed she was leaving) and between the house and the box office she saw not the same face twice.

The line was shorter than usual. She paid for a stub for The Music Man, and the usher said she had missed an hour and a quarter of the film, but Sybille said she didn't care. She was given a puzzled look. Once inside she went straight to The War Lover screening.

The theatre houses there were small, second rate and always chilly, but the stubs were cheap and, to her, the films were never diminished by these inferiorities.

It was the first time she sat in a theatre without a care of what the film was. Something staring Steve McQueen. According to the Tiffany's watch from Timothy, what felt like a bloody half hour was only thirteen minutes.

Seven minutes later Laura entered and sat with Sybille but as if she didn't know her. Sybille impatiently asked,

"I wish you'd explain these theatrics."

"Let the smoke settle."

"Something about your father, I've no doubt."

"Correct."

"And what may I ask do you expect me to do? Make a citizen's arrest? I'm not even a citizen."

"There's something you need to know. Did anyone come in here after you?"

"Yes."

"Oh, damn it! Where? Who?"

"You, you imbecile."

"I don't call you names. Even if I were kidding."

"Fine."

"Watch the film."

About every ten seconds, Laura looked back at the door. Though both their eyes were on the screen, neither absorbed a thing happening on it. Quietly, Laura began,

"I've overheard something unspeakably maniacal. I've no idea what to do. I've been in a cold sweat ever since. I've never been so enveloped with fear in my life."

Laura noticed her hands were trembling; she crossed her arms. Sybille noticed this too and asked,

"What did you overhear?"

"You won't like it."

"Let me be the judge of what I don't like."

"Sybille..."

"If you're not going to tell me about it, why did haul me all the way down here?"

"I overheard an assassination plot, and you need to know about it because your father is involved."

"Involved with who?"

"Who do you think? Where is he night after night? Where are the holes under his fence?"

"I don't understand you, Laura."

"Jonathan and Daniel are Communists. As is my father and yours. Maybe even the Pogues. All of those strangers scattering in and out of our house. All of those parties they have are meetings of Communists."

"I speak two languages, Laura. Anytime you want to give it to me straight, I'm listening."

"As I told you before, already I had known my father was up to something. I had just finished getting ready for the dance tonight. My father's camera has that self-timer feature and I wanted to get a group picture of the four of us before we left but I couldn't find the tripod. I knew my father was at Jonathan and Daniel's apartment to so I went up to ask him where the tripod was. I don't think anyone there noticed me. I couldn't find my father at first until I went into the kitchen and heard him talking with a man in Jonathan and Daniel's bedroom. The door off of the kitchen was slightly ajar and I was about to go in, but the tone in their conversation and in their voices stopped me. I listened and watched through the crack in the door. My father was going over the details of an assassination plot with the gunman, some horrid ex-marine that Jonathan and Daniel met in Russia. They didn't even come home for Daniel's parents' funeral."

"How does this involve my father? Was he in the room too?"

"No."

"Did he ever enter the room and join the conversation?"

"No."

"Then how does this involve him?"

"Association."

"You're jumping to way too many conclusions, Laura."

"When entering a neighbor's house and seeing a pentagram drawn on the floor surrounded by black candles, assuming every member of that household is a Satanist is not jumping to conclusions."

"Apples and oranges, Laura."

"Let me finish. My father and the gunman studied a set of floor plans to a building; I never found out what building it was. My father and the assassin discussed in explicit detail the best entrance, floor numbers, stairwells, which doors would be locked, which ones would be kept unlocked, escape routes – you name it."

"You're sure you didn't misunderstand? What if it was just some kind of elaborate parlor game?"

"No Sybille, I heard it all. They talked about 'thirty feet away,' and 'archive storage,' and 'get in at least three shots,' and 'leave by these stairs and take the magnet off the metal doorframe.'"

"What are Communists?"

"A Communist is a political title. Capitalists are typically Americans. They believe in private property rights, and they capture markets to expand their wealth. Socialists believe in fair redistribution of the wealth. And Communists believe in equalizing the classes and eliminating the states, private ownership, religion or any difference between any two citizens."

"Communists don't believe in religion?"

"No. Communists believe the government is the only higher power from whom all blessings flow. Whomever is going to be assassinated must be someone who's obstructing their agenda or maybe someone whose elimination will make way for a coup. I know how crazy this sounds. I can hardly believe it myself."

"I second that! My father would never be a party to foul play; he doesn't associate with people like that. He's here on a work visa."

"I know. He may've asked for that transfer. I wouldn't be surprised to find he went out of his way to get it. Nor would I be surprised to find out your residence in our apartment house wasn't coincidental. He may've been in contact with Jonathan and Daniel, my father – all of them for that matter – before he ever thought of moving. Just think it over. It all fits."

"No it doesn't, it's absurd. They wouldn't all be living in the same house if they're all involved."

"Actually, Sybille, it makes perfect sense. Whether they're living across town or one floor apart, it doesn't mean it's any less possible. They're residing in the same house so they can contact each other in a hurry without phones. Sybille, you'd believe it if you were there. Why do you think my father started hitting me every time he thought I was nosing into his affairs?"

"Well what would my father want with those crazy people in the first place? You think one day he just wandered into a Communist party like a half-blind amnesiac?"

"You'd suit yourself well to assume the worst until you learn otherwise. He may've been a Communist before you were born. His whole adult life even. The French Communists do things differently. They've the same goals, but they work towards them in a democratic fashion. For this reason or another, your father probably became dissatisfied and he transferred jobs as a front for transferring to a low-key organization of Communists, harbored in a Manhattan brownstone apartment house about to launch a colossal revolt."

"Laura, you'd better be careful trying report something like this. And you'd better keep my father out of it too; you've no proof of his involvement at all."

"Exactly, we need proof before we make any accusations."

"You're a witness."

"Witnesses have a way of disappearing into thin air."

"All these vague details and suspicions about the assassination and you don't know who's going to do it, where it'll happen, or when?"

"I do know who. The assassin's name I mean. I forgot. It was something like Oscar Wilde. But of course that's not right. ...No, it... it was Oswald. Jonathan had introduced the marine to my father as something-Oswald."

The film then jumped the track in the projection room and the screen shown a solid, spotless white.

"Oh God!" Laura whispered, panicked, looking around the room. "They're listening!"


Coming Soon

Part II

"...a servant to paranoia..."