“You two have been very bad boys I see. Picking fights with respectable citizens. Very unmutual, very unmutual,” she shook her head from side to side, sadly. “But there is, I’ll have you know, hope on the horizon, glorious hope for the both of you.” She rose from her chair and approached a screen on the furthest wall. “Please do set down.”
Number Six and Number Thirty Five looked at each other, shrugged simultaneously, and sat down at desks that looked for all the world as though they’d been pulled out of a sixth grade classroom.
“Please, give me your attention for the next fifteen minutes, that’s all I ask. After that you’re free to go home …”
“London?” Number Six queried.
“YOU’LL BE FREE TO GO HOME,” rather loudly, with a shrill tone, “and think about what you’ve seen.” As she turned down the lights a projector, from a small aperture in the opposite wall, began to click and whir. On the screen, in grainy black and white, they saw the words “Oral Hygiene, your guide to health” appear. Looking at each other with muted surprise they spent the next fifteen minutes bored to tears learning how to brush and floss their teeth. Number Six’s chair and desk remained normal. Number Thirty Five’s chair and desk throbbed silently with a vibration and slight electrical charge that worked in unison with the subliminal messages that were part of his oral hygiene lesson.
“Now, I understand,” Number Thirteen flipped on the lights as the screen went blank, “that you both consider this odd. But believe me, all will be made clear in time. You see, I’ve been given the option of making your social conversion a very simple affair beginning with such social basics as personal hygiene. We’ll progress to other subjects soon enough. We’ll resume tomorrow promptly at three. And I know you’ll enjoy our next film. It’s all about the joy of personal grooming.”
As they left the building Number Thirty Five turned to Number Six and said, “This is the most asinine tactic conceivable. They think what? That they shall make us model citizens in this way?”
“It’s never as simple as it seems. They’ve a plan, and we’ll see evidence of it soon enough.”
The next day they sat through another film, this time with tea and cakes. The time release drug that laced the rim of Renault’s tea-cup was slated to begin its activity in twenty-four hours, at exactly five p.m.
“Thank you so much for your attention,” Number Thirteen smiled at her two star pupils. “I’ll be giving the Citizen’s Council a glowing report as to your progress! Tomorrow you’ll have a day of rest from your journey towards social conversion. Please, please take some time tomorrow to consider the wonderful privilege it is to be a part of the well-adjusted citizenry. We will resume the day after tomorrow at precisely two o’clock. Our next session shall be slightly different. There will be a written exam at the end. But not to worry. I’ll be here with you to help with any difficulties. Be seeing you!”
“Yes, mum, and you.” Number Six saluted her and walked, with Number Thirty Five at his side, briskly out the door.
The next day was a rather grey day, with low clouds and mist coming in from the sea. It was four forty five p.m. and Thirty Five was walking along the retaining wall, looking at the stone boat. Number Six was in the bell tower looking at what little of the sea was visible through the mist. It was from this vantage point that he saw Renault.
The mist began to part, or so it seemed to him. Memory reeled for just a moment and The Village, every vestige of it, disappeared with the fog. And he was standing on the Pont Neuf, watching the brown waters of the Seine below. Home. To his left a man was approaching with a small package. Under the man’s left arm there was a folded newspaper. He removed it, reversed the fold, and placed it under his right arm. This was the signal, this was the man.
“You have the merchandise in good condition?” Renault asked the stranger.
“Certainly, but the price has gone up.”
“No, no, monsieur. The deal is set. You must learn to be satisfied.”
Number Six could see Thirty Five talking with a man he didn’t recognize.
“The price HAS gone up. You will give me the name of the person responsible for Strasser’s killing. Then, and only then, you will receive the merchandise.” And the man waved the package in front of his face.
Number Six saw the stranger wave his hand in front of Renault’s face. Was there an argument? Number Thirty Five made a grab for the package. He would NOT be cheated, he would NOT be played with! The man side-stepped, Renault making another attempt to get the package away from him. He twisted on his ankle and felt his foot slip. He tried to catch himself. He saw himself falling over the railing. He saw the water below. And then …
Number Six watched as Renault crumpled to the ground. And in an instant he was racing towards the stone boat.
“You fool! Do you know what you’ve cost us?!” Number Two was screaming at Number Thirteen as she stood there wringing her hands, a frightened look on her pinched face.
“But I had no way of knowing … ”
“Number Thirty Five was our only link to Strasser’s assassin. The assassin obviously had contacts in Moscow AND Washington AND Tokyo. Do you have any idea the range of information someone like that could supply us with?!” Number Two slammed both fists down on his desk.
“But … ”
“There is no excuse! OUT! Get out! And you WILL be called for before the day is done!” Number Two watched, his rage still building, as the woman left the room trembling.
“A heart attack! A bloody heart attack over an illusion!” He was screaming into an empty room. Elsewhere the Supervisor, in no way involved in any of this, watching him on the monitor, cringed.
Number Six walked calmly around Number Two’s desk. They were face to face, Number Six a full five inches taller than the other man. Looking down into his eyes, in a low and even tone, he said, “I don’t know what you did to cause his death, but you know this and mark it down. You will pay!” The last three words were in a shout of anger. And as he turned and walked towards the door it was Number Two who cringed.
- “We’ll always have Paris.” … Part 1 (theprisonerfanfiction.wordpress.com)