The Destiny of Rhaetia: Part V.

9 Mar

Maia finished narrating the statement she had written, then disconnected the tefer cable. She looked up at the campaign manager standing in front of her.

From the street came a low, continuous rumble.

“The protesters,” muttered Garo. “They are stirred up emotionally, but the police can keep them from causing any damage or harm.”

As this was said, a sound of breaking glass could be heard.

“Are they stoning the building?” Maja trembled.

“Let’s go and see for ourselves.” He led the way to the door and opened it, allowing Maja to exit, then following her out.

As they headed toward the entrance, Albuin Maxse appeared from a side room. “The city did not send enough officers,” he noted. “They are unable to control the crowd out front.”

Another sound of smashed glass reached them.

Garo turned to Maja. “Stay here. Albuin and I will up front and take a look out.”

The two men moved toward the entrance door, where several party workers had congregated. “The mob is growing by the second,” reported one of them. “They aim to destroy our headquarters, if they can.”

Garo moved to the door, moved the curtain over the window to one side, and peeked out through the glass.

A low metal gate on the edge of the sidewalk was all that held back the milling throng. Irate, maddened faces were clearly visible. Pressure from behind was those in the front line forward.

“The situation is becoming more hazardous by the second,” whispered Alluin.

Garo looked into his face. “Evacuation may soon become necessary.”

“We can flee through the back alley. There should not be anyone out there now.”

“It does no good to wait,” declared Jenatsch. “We must escape this place at once. Tell everyone to go to the rear, so that there will be no one left behind.”

A piece of cobblestone struck the large main door as the campaign manager rushed back to where Maia was waiting.

Bruno at first thought that a bolt of electricity had hit him. A mammoth amount of voltage, an overpowering charge of electricity. But then he realized that it was a polymer shell from a handgun. What was he now to do? Had a vital organ been damaged? Was he about to become a goner?

His legs kept going, despite the burning sting in his back. The pursuers were still chasing, so he had to continue his running down the Via Da Vinci.

The hospital: I must reach it quickly, before I die.

What is that crowd of people blocking the street down at that far end?

Bruno remembered what was located there: the Nation’s Party.

Enemies of his family. Liars and traitors.

Feet still moving at a trot, he suddenly had a new, unprecedented thought.

Who was it that had swindled him? Who had just shot at him like he was wild game?

Who had tricked, fooled, and exploited stupid Bruno?

His entire life had perhaps rested on a terrible falsehood.

The sound of running footsteps from behind grew closer and louder.

How can I save myself in the next several minutes? the fugitive, out of breath and desperate, asked himself.

If he fled into the City Hospital, they would follow him in and finish their job there. No, the way out of this had to be on the opposite side of the avenue.

The party workers exited through the rear door first, then came the leaders.

“Where shall we go now?” said Garo to Maia.

“My flat is not too far, over on Via Marconi. We can make it there in a few minutes time.”

Albuin spoke to the two of them. “I will telefer this once I get home.”

Garo took Maia by the hand and the two started down the alley going northward. They had walked only a few steps when the rear door of party headquarters opened. A short, fat stranger whom they did not recognize rushed out. He held his right hand over his upper chest.

“Where is everyone?” he shouted. “The mob is breaking in and starting to set fires.”

Bruno Biasco hobbled over toward them.

“Help me,” he pleaded. “I am wounded. They shot me in the back.”

“We will get you to the hospital,” promised Maia. “But the rioters are blocking the street. Come, climb into our autom. It is just down this alley.”

“No,” bristled Bruno. “I can’t go there. My enemies will follow me and shoot me there. You have to conceal me. I have a story to tell about the Integral Party and Cuno Siusi. You must take me away from here at once.”

Maia and Garo exchanged rapid glances. Each of them nodded to the other.

The campaign manager stepped closer to the round man with the Tyrolean hat and placed an arm under his shoulder. The two walked rapidly to where the autom was parked. Maia took the keycard from Garo and unlocked the door. They put the injured man in the rear and then climbed in the front.

Garo drove out of the alley, into the open, unimpeded street.

Garo was thankful that night for the emergency medical training he had long ago received in the local militia. Removal of a bullet was a combat operation that was within his area of practical capability.

Once the two political activists had brought Biasca inside the front parlor of Maia’s flat, they eased him down into a long sofa couch.

“We will need hot water, towels, and a sharp but clean knife,” whispered Garo.

“I have a first-aid kit and some emergency supplies,” she informed him. “It will take only a minute for me to fetch them.”

While she was gone, Garo succeeded in taking the coat and shirt off of the body of the groggy fugitive they were sheltering. He examined the shoulder where the shot had entered Bruno’s torso. The wound, red with blood, appeared to be a very serious and dangerous one. Would his limited knowledge and experience suffice in this emergency? he wondered for a second or so. But there was no alternative, since this stranger refused hospital treatment. It was this or nothing, Garo decided.

Maia returned with all she could find that might be of use to him in what he was about to try. Towels, linen sheets, pans, antiseptic, bandages, ointment, ammonia, and a stainless steel paring knife were in her heavy load. Garo sprang toward her and helped with it. The two set the articles down on a small spruce coffee table next to the sofa where the injured man lay.

Garo picked up the knife that was to be his only scalpel.

“You have flame heat on your kitchen stove?” he asked.

“Yes, from a hydrogen tank.”

“I’ll sterilize it the best I can,” said the impromptu surgeon. “Watch him until I can come back here.”

Maia shivered, then moved beside the sofa couch and the writhing victim.

All of a sudden, Bruno set his yellow gray eyes on her face.

“Who are you?” he moaned. “Where did your friend go? Is he planning to betray me to Siusi and his gang of thugs?”

Momentarily, Maia gave a start. But her nerves then tightened into hard wire, it appeared to her.

“The Integralists tried to kill you?” she inquired.

The large head on the end of the sofa gave a single nod.

Garo then returned with the heated knife in his right hand, so that she had to halt her questioning.

“This, I am certain, will cause cause a lot of pain to you,” he told the stranger about to be cut open. “Please, it would help if you tried to be as still as possible. Keep all movement to a minimum, for your own good.”

“Yes,” replied Bruno obediently. “I’ll do the best I can.”

Jenatsch glanced at Maia, then started on the perilous job of removing the bullet.

Bruno talked and talked and talked, once the polymer shell was out of his body.

How he carried out his assignment, gunning down Miss Deutsch and lightly winging the candidate in Brixen, then returning to his flat in Balzano to await payment. How the henchmen of Cuno Siusi had attempted to trick and snare him, their goal being to rub him out and avoid any possible future problems he might present to his sponsors.

The assassin went on to explain his hatred of the Nation’s Party and all Ladins. “I think that my mind was influenced by those evil people and their Integralist propaganda. They poisoned my mind in order to make me their tool.”

Only after an hour of rambling confession did Biasca fall asleep.

Garo turned to Maia. “Contact Albuin on the telef,” he softly told her. “He must learn about this at once.”

“Emer Ardez will be greatly interested, too,” she murmured to him.

Before leaving for the flat on Via Marconi, the provincial chairman called a police inspector who was a personal friend of his.

By the time that Albuin arrived, plain clothesmen had surrounded the building in all directions, providing secure protection to those inside.

Bruno was deep in sleep when Chairman Maxse entered the front parlor.

“I reported briefly all I know to Emer in Chur,” announced the latter. “He wants the two of you to telef him at once. There is an important decision you must learn about. All I received was a broad hint about what it might concern.”

Garo gave him a blank look.

“We can use my kitchen transponder to reach him,” said Maia.

When the two of them reached the back room, it was she who coded in the number of party headquarters in the Grisons.

First of all, Emer congratulated the pair on having the killer in hand.

“This means that Cuno Siusi is now finished. He and his circle will end up in prison, that is for certain. The election will be ours. But there is something new that only arrived here tonight. It promises to change the entire landscape.”

The candidate paused, as if for emphasis.

“Switzerland has offered to make a new alliance-like confederation with Rhaetia. The plan is to establish an alternative to a single Federal Europe. Others may join it later, but the initial proposal is going to be made to Rhaetia. I plan to position our party squarely behind this scheme. It fits our philosophy of nationhood perfectly. The Integralists (what is left of them) can oppose it if they dare.

“Alcuin tells me that Cuno Siusi will be placed under arrest before morning. We have won this fight, mostly thanks to the two of you. The destiny of Rhaetia is secure, because it is in our own hands.

“I’d like to see the two of you here in Chur by morning. The helioplane I’ve been using will fly down there to bring you back.

“That is all for now. Get some rest. Both of you have earned it.”

As the connection was broken, Garo took Maia’s hand in his, holding it firmly. Almond and hazel eyes gazed into each other unblinkingly, envisioning an unknowable future with the other.

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