Windmills of the Gods
MARY Ashley's nerves were on edge during dinner. The children were being impossible again. Beth refused to touch her food.
"No one eats meat anymore," Beth insisted. "It's a barbaric custom carriedover from the cavernan. Civilized people don't eat live animals."
. "It's not alive," Tim argued. "It's dead, so you might as well eat it."
"Children! Quiet. Beth, go make yourself a salad."
"She could go graze in the field," Tim offered.
"Tim! Finish your dinner." Mary's head was pounding.
The telephone rang.
"That's for me," Beth said. She leaped out of her chair and raced toward the telephone. She picked it up and said flirtatiously, "Virgil?" She listened a moment, and her expression changed. "Oh, sure," she said disgustedly. She slammed down the receiv&r and returned to the table.
"What was that all about?" Edward asked.
"Some joker. said it was the White House calling Mom."
"The White House?"
The telephone rang again.
"I'll get it." Mary rose and walked over to the telephone. "Hello." As she listened, her face grew grim. "We're in the middle of dinner, and I don't think this is funny- What? Who?
The President?" There was a hush in the room. "Wait, I- Oh, good evening, Mr. President." There was a dazed expression on her face. Her family was watching her, wide-eyed. "Yes, sir. I do. I recognize your voice. H'm sorry about hanging up a moment ago. Beth thought it was Virgil, and- Yes, sir. Thank you." She stood there listening. "Would I be willing to serve as what?" Her face suddenly flushed.
Edward was on his feet, moving toward the phone, the children close behind him.
"There must be some mistake, Mr. President. My name is Mary Ashley. I'm a professor at Kansas State University, and- You read it? Thank you, sir." She listened for a long time. "Yes, sir. I agree. But that doesn't mean that I- Yes, sir. I'm sure It's a wonderful opportunity, but I- Of course. I will. I'll talk it over with my husband and get back to you." She picked up a pen and wrote down a number. "Yes, sir. I have it. Thank you, Mr. President. Good-bye." She slowly replaced the receiver and stood there in shock.
"What in heaven was that all about?" Edward demanded.
"was it really the President?" Tim asked.
Mary sank into a chair. "Yes. It really was."
Edward took Mary's hand in his. "Mary, what did he want?"
Mary sat there, numb, thinking, So That's why that man was questioning Florence. She looked up at Edward and the children and said slowly, "The President read my book and the article in Foreign Affairs, and he thought they were brilliant. He said That's the kind of thinking he Wants for his people-to-people program. He wants to nominate me as ambassador to Remania."
There was a look of total disbelief on Edward's face. "You?
It was exactly'what Mary had asked herself, but she felt Edward could have been more tactful. He could have said, How wonderfull You'd make a great ambassador.
"You haven't had any political experience."
"I'm well aware of that," Mary responded tartly. "I agree that the whole thing is ridiculous."
"Are you going to be the ambassador?" Tim asked.
Edward turned to the children. "You two finish your dinner.
Your mother and I would like to have a little talk." Edward took Mary's arm and led her into the library. He turned to her and said, "I'm sorry if I sounded like a pompous jerk in there. It was just such a-"
"No. You were perfectly right. Why on earth should they have chosen me?"
"Honey, you'd probably make a great ambassador. But you must admit it came as a bit of a shock."
"Try thunderbolt. I still can't believe it." Mary laughed. "Wait until I tell Florence. She'll die."
"You're really excited about this, aren't you?" asked Edward.
She looked at him in surprise. "Of course. Wouldn't you be?"
Edward chose his words carefully. "It is a great honor, honey, and I'm sure they must have had good reason for choosing you'."
He hesitated. "We have to think about this very carefully."
She knew what he was going to say, and she thought, Edward's right. Of course he's right.
"I can't just leave my practice and walk out on my patients. I have to stay here. I don't know how long you'd have to be away, but if it really means a lot to you, well, maybe you could go over there with the children and I could join you whenever-"
Mary said softly, "You crazy man. Nothing means as much to me as you and the children. I could never live away from you."
He took her in his arms. "Are you sure?"
"I'm positive. It was exciting being asked. That's enough."
THE following morning Mary dialed the number that the President had given her. "This is Mrs. Edward Ashley. The Presidents assistant, Mr. Greene, is expecting my call."
"One moment, please."
A male voice on the other end said, "Hello. Mrs. Ashley?"
"Yes," Mary said. "Would yo. "Please give the President a message for me? That I'm very, very flattered by his offer, but my husband's profession ties him down here, so I'm afraid it would be impossible for me to accept. I hope he understands."
"I'll pass on your message," the voice said noncommittally. "Thank you, Mrs. Ashley." The line went dead.
Mary slowly replaced the receiver. It was done. For one brief
moment a tantalizing dream had been offered her. But that was all it was. A dream. This isomy real world, she thought. I'd better get ready for my first class.
Manama, Bahrein. The whitewashed stone house was anonymous, hidden among dozens of identical houses a short walk from the souks, the large, colorful outdoor markets. It was owned by a merchant sympathetic to the cause of Patriots for Freedom.
The chairman was speaking to the men gathered in the living room. "A problem has arisen. The motion that was recently passed has run into difficulty. The go-between we selected Harry Lantz-was murdered. His body was found floating in the harbor in Buenos Aires."
"Do the police have any idea who did it?" Balder asked. "I mean, can they connect this to us in any way?"
"No. We're perfectly safe."
Thor asked, "What about our plan? Can we go ahead with it?"
"Not at the moment. We have no idea how to reach Angel. However, the Controller gave Harry Lantz permission to reveal his name to him. If Angel is interested in our proposition, he will find a way to get in touch with him. All we can do now is wait."
THE man directly responsible for Marin Groza's safety was Roland Passy, the French minister of defense. Gendarmes were stationed in front of the villa -in Neuilly twenty-four hours a day, but it was the knowledge that Ley Pastemak was in charge of the villa's inner security that gave Passy confidence. He had seen the security arrangements himself and was firmly convinced that the house was impregnable.
In recent weeks rumors had been sweeping the diplomatic world that a coup was imminent, that Marin Groza was planning to return to Remania, and that Alexandres lonescu was going to be deposed by his senior military officers.
Ley Pastemak knocked on the door and entered the bookcrammed library that served as Mann Groza's office. Groza was seated behind his desk, working.
"Everybody wants to know when the revolution is going to happen," Pastemak said. "It's the world's worst-kept secret."
Tell them to be patient. Will you come to Bucharest with me, Ley?"
More than anything Ley Pastemak yearned to return to Israel. "I'll only take this job temporarily," he had told Marin Groza. "Until you're ready to make your move." Temporarily had turned into weeks and months, and finally into two years. And now it was time to make another decision. In a world peopled with pygmies, Ley Pastemak thought, I have been given the privilege of serving a giant. Marin Groza was the most selfless and idealistic man Ley Pastemak had ever known.
When Pastemak had come to work for Groza, he had wondered about the man's family. Groza would never speak of them, but the officer who had arranged'for Pastemak to meet Groza told him the story.
"Groza was betrayed. The Securitate picked him up and tortured him for five days. They promised to free him if he would give . them the names of his associates in the underground. He wouldn't talk. They arrested his wife and his fourteen-year-old daughter and brought them to the interrogation room. Groza was given a choice: talk or watch them die. It was the hardest decision any man ever had to make. It was the lives of his beloved wife and child against the lives of hundreds of people who believed in him." The man paused, then went on more slowly. "I think in the end what made Groza decide the way he did was that he was convinced he and his family were going to be killed anyway. He refused to give them the names. The guards strapped him in a chair and forced him to watch his wife and daughter being tortured until they died."
"How he must hate them!"
The officer looked into Ley Pastemak's eyes and said, "The most important thing for you to understand is that Marin Groza does not want to return to Remania to seek vengeance. He wants to go'back to free his people. He wants to make certain that such things can never again happen."
Ley Pastemak had been with Groza from that day on, and the more time he spent with the revolutionary, the more he came to love him. Now he would have to decide whether to give up his return to Israel and go to Remania with Groza.
PAsTERNAK was WALKING down the hallway that evening, and as he passed Marin Groza's bedroom door he heard the familiar screams of pain ring but. So It's Friday, Pastemak thought; Marin Groza's day of penance.
Every Friday night the halls of the villa resounded with Groza's screams. That was the day of the week when Groza would shut himself in his room and whip himself mercilessly, until his blood flowed, even though no amount of self-inflicted pain would 'ever eradicate the terrible guilt that consumed him. Each time he felt the lash of the whip, he would see his wife and daughter screaming for help. And he would cry out, "I'm sorry! I'll talk. Oh, God, please let me talk. . .."
THE telephone call came ten days after Harry Lantz's body was found. The Controller was in the middle of a staff meeting in the conference room when the intercom buzzer sounded. "I know you asked not to be disturbed, sir, but there's a Miss Neusa Mufiez calling from Buenos Aires. It sounds urgent. I told her-"
"It's all right." He kept his emotions under tight control. "I'll take the call in my private office." He went into his office and locked the door. "Hello. Is this Miss Mufiez?"
"Yeah. I got a message for you from Angel. He din' like the nosy messenger you sent."
The Controller chose his words carefully. "I'm sorry. But we would still like Angel to go ahead. Would that be possible?"
"Yeah. He say he wanna do it."
"Excellent. How shall I arrange his advance?"
The woman laughed. "Angel, he don' need no advance. Nobody cheats Angel." Somehow the words were chilling. "When the job is finished, he say you put the money in- Wait a minute. I got it wrote down. Here it is-the State Bank in Zurich. I think That's someplace in Switzerland." She really did sound like a moron.
"I'll need the account number."
"Oh, yeah. Hol' on. I got it here somewhere." He heard the rustle of papers, and finally she was back on the telephone. "Here it is. j three four nine zero seven seven."
"How soon can he handle the matter?"
"When he's ready, sehor. Angel say you'll know when I ees done. You'll read 'bout it in the newspapers."
"Very well. I'm going to give you my private telephone number in case Angel needs to reach me."
He gave it to her slowly.
Thilisi, Russia. The meeting was being held in an isolated dacha bordering on the Kura River.
The chairman said, "Two urgent matters have arisen. The first is good news. The Controller has had word from Angel. The contract is moving forward."
"That's very good news indeed!" Freyr exclaimed. "What's the bad news?"
"I'm afraid it concerns the Presiden's candidate for the ambassadorship to Remania, but the situation can be handled. . . ."
IT was difficult for Mary Ashley to keep her mind on her class. Too much had changed. The Junction City newspaper had carried a feature story on her rejection of the ambassadorship to Remania, and the fact that she had declined the Presiden's offer had made the story even bigger than if she had accepted it. In the eyes of the community and her students she had become a celebrity. It was a heady feeling.
Remania, she mused. Welcome to Remania, Madam Ambassador. Your limousine is here to drive you to your embassy. Her embassy. She had been invited to live in Bucharest, one of the most exciting capitals of the world, reporting to the President, being in the center of his people-to-people concept. I could have been a part of history.
Mary was roused from her reverie by the sound of the bell. Class was over. Time to go home and,change. Edward was taking her out to the country club for dinner. As befitted an almost ambassador.
IT was late by the time Edward and Mary arrived at the country club There was only a sprinkling of guests'left in the dining room. They stared, watching as Mary sat down, and whispered to one, another.
Edward looked at his wife and felt guilty. He was responsible for her turning down the Presiden's offer, and his reasons were valid. But there's more to it than that, Edward admitted to himself I was jealous. I reacted like a spoiled brat. What would have happened if the President had made me an offer like that? I'd probably have jumped at it. All I could think of was that I wanted Mary to stay home and take care of me and the kids.
He sat there admiring Mary. I'll make it up to her, he thought. I'll surprise her this summer with a trip to Paris and London. Maybe Remania. We'll have a real honeymoon. "Any regrets?" he asked her.
Of course there were regrets. But they were castle-in-Spain regrets about the kind of glamorous, impossible dreams that everyone has. Mary smiled. "None, darling. It was a fluke that they even asked me." She took Edward's hand in hers. "I'm glad I refused the offer."
Edward leaned across the table and kissed his wife. "I love you so much, Mary."
"I love you twice as much, darling."
AT THREE o'clock in the morning, when Edward and Mary were fast asleep, the phone exploded into sound. Edward sleepily reached for the instrument and brought it to his ear. "Hello.-. .
A woman's urgent voice said, "Dr. Ashley?"
"Pete Grimes is havin' a heart attack. He's in pain somethin' awful. I think he's dyin'. I don't know what to do."
Edward sat up in bed, trying to blink the sleep away. "Don't do anything. ]Keep him still. I'll be there in half an hour." He slid out of bed and sewed to dress.
"Edward, whays wrong?" Mary mumbled.
"Everything's fine. Go back to sleep."
Five minutes later Edward was on his way to the Grimes farm. It was a cold and raw morning, with a northwesterly wind driving the temperature well below zero. He turned the car onto Route j18, the two-lane highway that went through junction City. The town was asleep, its houses huddled against the bitter, frigid wind.
When Edward came to the end of Sixth Street, he made the turn that took him onto Route 57- How many times had he driven over this. road on hot summer days, with the sweet smell of corn and prairie hay in the air? And how many winters had he driven on this road through a frosted landscape, with power lines delicately laced with ice, and lonely smoke from far-off chimneys?
Edward thought of Mary lying in their warm bed waiting for him. He was so lucky. I'll make everything up to her, he promised himself
Ahead, at the junction of Highways 57 and 77, was a stop sign. Edward came to a halt and looked up and down the deserted road. As he started into the intersection a truck appeared out of nowhere. He heard a sudden roar, and his car was pinned by two bright headlights racing toward him. He caught a glimpse of the giant five-ton army truck bearing down on him, and the last sound he heard was his own voice screaming.
IN NEUILLY church bells pealed out across the quiet noon air. The gendarmes guarding Marin Groza's villa had no reason to pay attention to the dusty Renault sedan that was cruising by. Angel drove slowly, although not slowly enough to arouse suspicion, taking everything in. There were two guards in front, a high wall, probably electrified, and inside" of course, would be the usual electronic nonsense of beams, sensors, and alarms. It would take an army to storm the villa. But I don't need an army, Angel thought. Only my genius. Marin Groza is a dead man. If only my mother were alive to see how rich I have become. ow happy it would have made her.
In Argentina podr families were very poor indeed, and Angel's mother had been of the poorest. Through the years Angel had watched friends and relatives die of hunger and sickness. Death was a way of life, and Angel thought philosophically, Since it is going to happen anyway, why not make a profit from it? In the beginning there were those who doubted Angel's lethal talents, but people who tried to put roadblocks in the way had a habit of disappearing. Angel's reputation as an assassin grew. I have never failed, Angel thought. I am Angel. The Angel of Death.