Tourmaline: Nedforum (conclusion)
The blue came alive as a moving picture, uniformed journalists furious over their phones, riding moving sidewalks behind bulletproof panels, along the plaza that approached the High Court building. Between the walks a motorcade moved at a footpace….ahead of the press area, past guard units standing in ranks, stopping where two of the G.R.A.’s windowless vehicles sat parked, right and left, like lion carvings of legacy structures.
It is announced today that former president Jocelyn has been returned to the nation. He will be imprisoned below the High Court for the duration of his trial. All proceedings will be closed to the public.
Some hundreds of shoppers watched, buoyed to patriotic mood by the knowledge that everyone, everywhere, did the same, their heartbeats rising for a sight of Jocelyn. They watched him drawn from the car’s back seat, dressed in a suit and tie, still fat. Still, even for a fat man, notably broad of beam (no one, at this moment, laughing), and difficult on pronating ankles for his guards to haul upright…
But at length he was marched to the stairs and turned for the cameras.
A woman began to make noises, insufferable keenings that resolved to sobs. Others were saying shut up, none comforting her. The screens switched off, the room seeming pitch. Anton blinked, and labeled her a traitor, although she might be a Jocelyn victim…
But those people, above all, should keep themselves gone. Not emerge, shrieking forever after hearings and trials, until Jocelyn had keeled from a heart attack, died insensible in a hospital bed. When a public hanging begged.
He clenched his fists and shoved a random woman, who would have to substitute, mumbled below his breath:
“Don’t apologize, Mother. I hear you back there apologizing.”
“Sulya, they have another announcement.”
“Shht!” His workmate poked his arm. “Don’t I have a screen of my own?”
“They’ve appointed his legal team.”
“What are you twitching at, Anton? Settle down. I am seeing everything that you are seeing.”
Her last words were slow and emphatic.
He singsonged to her. “Love, love, love. Or…didn’t you love him? Or do you still?”
“I met him once.”
“What was he like to talk to?”
“Gave me a point of the finger, as if we were sharing a joke. One of his stupid gestures, because he hadn’t caught my name and couldn’t care, of course. He backed off and got busy talking to Zendler, so not to end up shaking hands.”
Zendler, vanished, until the G.R.A. chose bringing him to light, had been Jocelyn’s chief-of-staff.
“Why, then…? Why not refuse? It was your ministry that issued passports. People died waiting. Your little hand rubber-stamping…”
“Oh, shut up. What do you think we’re doing here, the two of us? We’re fingering people. We’re making it easy for the G.R.A. to pick them off.”
She was combative, and hadn’t been with him before. Exciting. So many nice people were not, on the inside, Anton knew. No solace in being powerless and forced to obey orders…
But he saw degrees. “Which is best, then? Killing for Jocelyn or killing for the G.R.A.? Do you like it when you’re in charge, or just a participant?”
“Truly fuck yourself, Anton.”
Associate Leonhardt, you have an appointment at the Hiring Center, tomorrow morning, 13 April, 9.30 am. Your employment at the Public Controls Office is terminated. Your new assignment begins Monday afternoon at the High Court Building, in the Archival Room. You have one hour, from today, 12 April, 4.22 pm, in which to report arrived at your home or face corrective instruction.
“Look at that.”
At the chime, she had come to lean over his shoulder, her nails on his chair back, piercing his skin. It felt so to Anton, a drilling sensitivity through jacket and shirt.
“Run across Jocelyn yourself, maybe,” she said. “Well! I’ve enjoyed knowing you, Anton. I’m sorry you’re off your head. Best of luck.”
He would, though. Run across Jocelyn…? In some unexpected way, but one calibrated, bit by bit. Not to the assassin at all unexpected, for every breath now was mission. Sulya had been a plant, to test his resolve. Laying traps. His assignment in actuality, to think of all things that could be weapons, all ways of killing that were on one’s person or at hand in a room. Innocent articles to port indoors, to place or assemble…
Bit by bit.
(2020, Stephanie Foster)