The two men stood one on either side. He knew them both, Village security guards.
“What … “And before Number Two could form the question he was cut short by the man on his right.
“Number Two, you’re informed that you are now in legal custody,” and the man on his left quietly, quickly placed a narrow gold tone band on his right wrist, “and denied access to those sections of the Village listed here,” and the man on his left handed him a sheet of paper. “You will be informed as to the date of your Committee meeting. You’re advised to consider your defense or your confession in the meanwhile. Until further notice and until such time as the Committee makes it’s decision,” and the man on his left removed his numbered tag from his lapel, “your designation is Number Eighty One.” And the man on his left handed him his new button. “Be seeing you.” And, silently, they both walked away.
He was dumbfounded. He looked at the paper and saw that he was bared from only two places. The Green Dome and the Citizens Committee. He knew this routine well. He had implemented it numerous times. And the charges? They would tell him what they were at the Committee meeting and not one second before. That meeting might be in the next few days, or weeks, or even months. The not knowing was a part of the emotional torture. That part he had devised himself, having borrowed the technique from South American firing squads. They would take the prisoner on different days, perhaps many days apart, stand the person against the wall, the execution squad ready. “Ready, aim, fire!” And the rifles would fire, either empty or loaded with blanks. The prisoner never knew when they would come for him, never know when the guns were loaded, would never know. He had liked the idea. Until now. Now … What?
“Number Eighty One?”
He turned to see the cheerful face of Number Two Hundred Five.
“I’ve come to escort you to your new flat. I’ll be contacting you from time to time to advise you of any progress towards your Committee meeting. Please follow me.”
“Yes, things have changed. For the better, you’ll see.” The “new” Number Two, the “old” Number Four, smiled brightly.
“Yes, well, you know what they say,” Number Six smiled back, “the more things change the more things stay the same.”
“Ah, yes, I’ve been informed about your wonderful humor.” And Number Two chuckled. “But you see things have changed. Have you ever been invited here before by the new umber Two so that they could properly introduce themselves to you? I’d say not.”
“The thrill is mine.”
“We can only hope, Number Six, we can only hope.”
Number Six walked towards the Cafe. He wasn’t the least bit concerned about this new Number Two. He’d seen him a few times before, as Number Four, in passing. A Village promotion no doubt. And then he saw Number Two, the old Number Two that is, setting at a table looking blankly into a cup of coffee. Well this was something new. Every other Number Two, when the new one arrived, had seemingly disappeared into the ether. And so curiosity got the better of him.
“Beautiful day, wouldn’t you say?”
Number Eighty One jumped with a start, looking up at Number Six. “What?”
“I said beautiful day, wouldn’t you say?” Number Six saw the new badge, pulled out the chair across from Number Eighty One and, as he sat down, quipped, “Mind if I set down, Number Eighty One?”
Looking directly into Number Six’s eyes Number Eighty One bellowed at the waitress, “Check, please!”
“So there’s been a coup?” Number Six spoke to the Bishop over his shoulder.
“That’s the rumor. Believe it if you like. I don’t know what to believe anymore.” The Bishop spoke low, his mouth nearly closed.
“King’s Pawn to rank three!” The bullhorn blared, announcing the next move.
“You might like to have coffee with Number Two Hundred Five. I understand he’s been designated his keeper. He might know something, but its doubtful.” The Bishop shifted his weight from one leg to another. This game was rather tedious. Neither player was very experienced.
“Yes, the rather short ‘grape vine’ we have here is currently full of rumors about the new Number Two, along with our new Number Eighty One.” Number Fifty Seven kicked at a stone as they walked. “But you never know what to believe, or,” and he shot a quick glance at Number Six, “who you can trust.”
“Truer words were never spoken. Be seeing you, Number Fifty Seven.” Number Six began to deviate, walking towards another path.
Part 3 … Later.
- The Prisoner … “Putsch” … Part 1 (theprisonerfanfiction.wordpress.com)