Bewildering Stories

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The Bridge

Part III, conclusion

by euhal allen

“The Bridge” began in issue 99.
Part III, installment 2 appeared in issue 104.

President Hobart was up to his ears in information about people receiving those cursed postcards. He was up to his ears in information about who could be a part of a new Bridge conspiracy. There were possible cells showing up all over the country. It was getting too big to keep under wraps much longer. Soon he would have to go public and announce the danger from cells of Bridge fanatics. Then he would have to announce a state of emergency and start cracking down on the perverts that wanted to destroy this country.

Still, inside, he felt that of all the evidence of plots in the different places, the Oregon coast town where that Harrigan woman had grown up was a special case. More agents needed to be there. But, before he sent any more men in, he would have to take care of that idiot Neils.

Neils’ idea of making a few lousy immigrants look like Bridge lovers wasn’t bad except that he overdid it. So many people had received those postcards that the people there were starting to wonder about it.

First Niels fumbles his assignment with his wife, and now he can’t even frame a few interlopers without going overboard. He must be scaring those Bridge lovers into hiding.

Pulling his desk drawer open, he took out a scrambling tape recorder. Holding it up to his face he, after flipping the switch, spoke softly into it, saying, “Lockly, take care of Niels. Make it look like an accident.”

Pulling the tape out of the recorder, he got up and walked over to hidden tube that went to Lockly’s office and dropped the tape into it, hearing, with pleasure, the sucking sound of the vacuum drawing the tape to Lockly and sealing Niels fate. Nice idea that recorder and tube. The tape had a voice that would never be identified as his and Lockly never entered his office so no connections would be made to any of the little favors that he asked of Lockly.

* * *

Ferd came home a little early and Elvira, thinking that he must have lost his job to be home already (the boats never came this early), wondered about the little smile on his face. “Maybe,” she thought, “he was trying to find a way to gentle the news for me. It would be like him.”

Ferd went into the dinning room and sat down. “Elvira, I sure could use some coffee. It gets awful dry working all day in the sun.”

“Ferd Hammet, I ain’t been married to you all these years not to know you got something to tell me. Spill it, first, then I’ll get your coffee,” were the words that came out of her mouth. And her tone told Ferd that she meant it.

Ferd just grinned, knowing, like any husband that has been married to one woman for most of his life; that this was going to be enjoyable. “Well, now, Elvira, I’d like to tell you that I still had my job with the fishing boat, but I just can’t say no more till I get some coffee to make my dry old throat a little moister.”

Elvira, hands on her hips, and giving him “the look” reserved for “them” by women since the beginning of the species, knowing she wouldn’t get another word out of him without a cup of coffee, gave up and went into the kitchen to fetch a cup. He was early and she never brewed a fresh pot this early in the afternoon, so she used instant. Just to make it taste a little more like the stronger brewed variety, she used a heaping teaspoonful for the cup.

Ferd took the cup in his hands, feeling the warmth in his arthritic joints, took a sip and promptly choked on it. “Woman,” he yelled, “I just asked for a cup of coffee. You didn’t have to bile the whole pot down for me!”

Elvira just looked at him and smiled. Then she said, “You got your coffee, now spill what you are keeping in your craw before I go burn your supper.”

“You women just don’t have no patience, do you? Okay, don’t get your dander up, I’ll tell you. I quit the boat. I ain’t going to do no more fishing. I got me another job.”

Shocked, Elvira, didn’t know what to say so Ferd just kept on talking, taking advantage of the unexpected silence on his wife’s part.

“I was limping real seeable down to the dock this morning — my arthritis was pretty bad today — when the von Seltzen woman come walking by. “Why, you poor old man,” she says, “whatever are you doing on the dock this early in the morning?”

“I could have asked her the same, but I didn’t, so I just told her that I was heading to the boat and my job.”

“Your job.” she says. “You are too old to work on a fishing boat. And you are too arthritic, also.”

“Well,” I says, “what makes you an expert, ma’am, on how old I am and whether I have arthritis or not.”

“Before,” she says, “I married my husband, Dr. von Seltzen, I was the chief nurse in his practice. Just because I am enjoying myself now doesn’t mean that I have forgotten what I knew then. Besides, you don’t look like a fisherman, anyway. What did you do for a living?”

“So I tells her that I was a farmer and she just gives a whoop and says, “You go tell your boss that you quit and for them to pay you off. You tell them that you are going to work for Dr. von Seltzen’s wife as her gardener.”

Elvira got a mean look on her face and spoke up sharply, “I don’t want you working for that stuck up gal. We don’t need her help!”

“Job comes with a house, Elvira. With three bedrooms. And it pays a bit more than I made on the fishing boat. We can sell this place (we been offered good money several times, you know), and we can have a better life on the von Seltzen ranch.

“I didn’t see that we had any choice, so I took the job, Elvira. I was out there working today. It is a beautiful place, and the house has a better view of the sea that this one does.”

* * *

Niels was reporting to his contact, gloating over his victory over that Russkie, Piotr, and how he was going to rid this whole area of those immigrant interlopers. He didn’t mention his plans for the Martinez woman.

His contact congratulated him and offered to buy the drinks. Neils, never one to turn down a drink or two, jumped at the chance to tell his superior more of what he had been doing, hoping to impress him enough to get that transfer he wanted.

The evening went great for Niels. His supervisor had bought him more than several drinks. Now, walking on the hills above the bay, they were talking about the possibility of that transfer, looking at the different options that would make Niels happy.

The supervisor walked over to the edge of the hill and looked out over the bay at the great pillars of that long ago defeated enemy. He took a drink from the bottle in his hand and then, talking over his shoulder to Niels, said, “The bottle is just about empty, you want to finish it?”

Neils came stumbling over, eager for the contents of the bottle, and didn’t see the foot that tripped him. His supervisor, looking down at Niels broken body on the rocks below, said, “Enjoy your transfer.”

* * *

When they found Neils body the next morning they also found several sets of those postcards in his pocket, all with un-canceled stamps and signed with names that no one had ever heard of. All of them were addressed to people of the village.

Soon the news of Niels death, and the addressed postcards, made its way around the whole village. Many of the people, ones who had received those cards; ones who had known that Neils was an enemy, filled in the rest of the story.

Piotr was sitting on the porch, writing letters of application to businesses around the area, hoping against hope that he could find a job near; hoping that he would not have to drag Blanca off to another strange place to live. He heard the footsteps on the gravel and looked up at the face of his former boss.

Mr. Petersen looked a little shamed, and he seemed to be having a hard time saying what he had come to say. Finally he said, “You knew about Niels death, of course?”

Piotr heard Blanca suck in her breath, and he said, “No, I didn’t know. I didn’t have anything to do with it!”

“No one said you did, Piotr. The idiot got himself drunk and fell over the hillside onto the rocks on the east side of the bay. No one to blame but himself. ”

Piotr let out a big breath, and sat back relieved that no one would blame it on him and that Blanca would never be bothered by Neils again.

“They,” continued his former boss, “found postcards on his body. Some of them were addressed to you. Seems that he is the one who has been sending those cards to everyone in the village. Seems that you were telling the truth when you said you didn’t know those people. Seems that we owe you an apology. And, well, the boys on the boat want you back, even if they have to listen to your stories again.”

Piotr smiled. Now his Blanca could keep her home.

* * *

Tommy Tinker had thought it over, and Niels’ death did not make any difference in this outcome. He knocked on Dr. von Seltzen’s door. When the good Dr. bade him enter he came in, hat in hand and shameful look on his face.

“I’ve come to give my resignation, sir.”

Dr. von Seltzen, surprised, looking up at Tommy, said, “What on earth for? Have you been unhappy here? We certainly have had no complaints. You have done a wonderful job. And your recognizing Ferd Hammet as an old farmer and sending Mrs. von Seltzen down to the docks was a stroke of genius. He is a wonderful gardener. And those grandkids of theirs have become such good friends to our children.

“No, Tommy, I can’t let you do this. We need you here. Has someone offered you more money? If so, I’ll match it!”

“No sir, it is not the money. You more than pay me enough. It is something I have done. It started at that party you gave when I first started here, you know, that “Welcome Tommy Tinker” party. That was the night that your wife introduced Niels to me and that was when he forced me to work for him.”

“Niels,” said the doctor. “Work for him? What do you mean?”

Soon the whole story was out. How his cousin Amelia and her children’s welfare had been used to blackmail him for information on the ranch hands. And how Niels was trying to build up an anti-bridge unit in the village. And how he had been forced to work with him.

“I see,” said Dr. von Seltzen, “and just what did you tell Niels, Tommy? Just what did my ranch hands do that was secret from Niels?”

“Nothing, sir. But I did tell Niels who was working in what field and what they did. I did tell him things he had no business to know. I did work with him. It was wrong, sir.”

“Tommy, my father once told me something that I have never forgotten. ’Son,’ he said, ‘people who don’t make mistakes don’t do anything.’ We all have a quota of mistakes to make in life. This has been one of yours. You have been a man and made me aware of it. Don’t do it again.

“Now, go on back to work and leave me with the headache of these accounts books. ”

* * *

Cyr kept track of the goings on in the village. Some things were going well and perhaps the Plan could start to be implemented more fully in the not too distant future. But, as with anything that any species built, the foundation had to be very solid if the edifice was to last long enough to complete its purpose.

The death of Neils could be a setback, though. He was a bumbler and a known quality. Any replacement sent by President Hobart was sure to be more competent than Niels was. “And,” thought Cyr, “this time I do not have the luxury of being able to eavesdrop on many of our enemies.”

Only the third Pillar was powered so far. It would be all that could be powered until the populace in the village requested a span and the protection that such a structure could bring.

To do that, the people of this little village would have to be convinced that such a thing could come about; that such a thing would make them safe; that such a thing would be better than what the tattered nations of the world could hope to offer.

To accomplish this task the people would have to learn to dream that dream again. It would be hard, and there was so little to work with that even Cyr wondered if there was enough time to complete the first part of the Plan before the enemies they had made could learn enough to react; before they, once more, unified themselves in hate and greed; to once more seek to destroy a Bridge before it could complete its mission.

Still, there was the hope in what Katia’s family was doing. If she could continue to cover her trail; to continue to inch her way forward in fulfilling the details of the operation, it could work. These people, irascible as they were, would, should Katia succeed, have a second chance.

To be continued...

Copyright © 2004 by euhal allen

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