And so on.
Afterward, Elliott Freemantle wondered if he should have qualified the statement about noise abatement procedures–as Bakersfeld had done–by referring to exceptional conditions of tonight’s storm. But semi-truth or not, the way he had said it was stronger, and Freemantle doubted if it would be challenged. Anyway, he had given good performances–in the second interview as well as the first. Also during both filmings, the cameras panned several times over the intent, expressive faces of the assembled Meadowood residents. Elliott Freemantle hoped that when they saw themselves on their home screens tomorrow, they would remember who had been responsible for all the attention they were receiving.
The number of Meadowooders who had followed him to the airport–as if he were their personal Pied Piper–astonished him. Attendance at the meeting in the Sunday school hall at Meadowood had been roughly six hundred. In view of the bad night and lateness of the hour, he had thought they would be doing well if half that number made the farther trek to the airport; but not only did most of the original crowd come; some must have telephoned friends and neighbors who had joined them. He had even had requests for more copies of the printed forms retaining himself as legal counsel, which he was happy to pass out. Some revised mental arithmetic convinced him that his first hope of a fee from Meadowood totaling twenty-five thousand doUars might well be exceeded.
After the TV interviews, the Tribune reporter, Tomlinson–who had been taking notes during the filming–inquired, “What comes next, Mr. Freemantle? Do you intend to stage some kind of demonstration here?”
Freemantle shook his head. “Unfortunately the management of this airport does not believe in free speech, and we have been denied the elementary privilege of a public meeting. However”–he indicated the assembled Meadowooders–“I do intend to report to these ladies and gentlemen.”
“Isn’t that the same thing as a public meeting?”
“No, it is not.”
Just the same, Elliott Freemantle conceded to himself, it would be a fine distinction, especially since he had every intention of turning what followed into a public demonstration if he could. His objective was to get started with an aggressive speech, which the airport police would dutifully order him to stop. Freemantle had no intention of resisting, or of getting arrested. Merely being halted by the police–if possible in full oratorical flow–would establish him as a Meadowood martyr and, incidentally, create one more color story for tomorrow’s papers. (The morning papers, he imagined, had already closed with the earlier reports about himself and Meadowood; editors of the afternoon editions would be grateful for a new lead.)
Even more important, Meadowood homeowners would be further convinced that they had hired a strong counsel and leader, well worth his fee–the first installment checks for which, Lawyer Freemantle hoped, would start flooding in right after tomorrow.
“We’re all set to go,” Floyd Zanetta, chairman of the earlier Meadowood meeting, reported.
While Freemantle and the Tribune newsman had been speaking, several of the Meadowood men had hastily assembled the portable p.a. system, brought from the Sunday school hall. One of the men now handed Freemantle a hand microphone. Using it, he began to address the crowd.
“My friends, we came here tonight in a mood of reason and with constructive thoughts. We sought to communicate that mood and thoughts to this airport’s management, believing we had a real and urgent problem, worthy of careful consideration. On your behalf I attempted–in reasoned but firm terms–to make that problem known. I hoped to report back to you–at best, some promise of relief; at least, some sympathy and understanding. I regret to tell you that your delegation received none. Instead, we were accorded only hostility, abuse, and an uncaring, cynical assurance that in future the airport’s noise above and around your homes is going to get worse.”
There was a cry of outrage. Freemantle raised a hand. “Ask the others who were with me. They will tell you.” He pointed to the front of the crowd. “Did this airport’s general manager, or did he not, inform us that there was worse to come?” At first a shade reluctantly, then more definitely, those who had been in the delegation nodded.
Having skillfully misrepresented the honest frankness which Mel Bakersfeld had shown the delegation, Elliott Freemantle continued, “I see others, as well as my Meadowood friends and clients, who have stopped, with curiosity, to discover what is going on. We welcome their interest. Let me inform you…” He continued in his customary, haranguing style.
The crowd, sizable before, was now larger still, and continuing to grow. Travelers on their way to departure gates were having trouble getting through. Flight announcements were being drowned out by the noise. Among the Meadowooders, several had raised hastily scrawled signs which read: AIRLANES OR PEOPLE FIRST?… OUTLAW JETS FROM MEADOWOOD!… NIX NOXIOUS NOISE… MEADOWOOD PAYS TAXES TOO… IMPEACH LINCOLN!
Whenever Freemantle paused, the shouts and general uproar grew louder. A gray-haired man in a windbreaker yelled, “Let’s give the airport a taste of their own noise.” His words produced a roar of approval.
Without question, Elliott Freemantle’s “report” had by now developed into a full-scale demonstration. At any moment, he expected, the police would intervene.
What Lawyer Freemantle did not know was that while the TV sessions were taking place and Meadowood residents assembling, the airport management’s concern about Trans America Flight Two was beginning. Shortly after, every policeman in the terminal was concentrating on a search for Inez Guerrero, and thus the Meadowood demonstration escaped attention.
Even after Inez was found, Police Lieutenant Ordway remained occupied with the emergency session in Mel Bakersfeld’s office.
As a result, after another fifteen minutes, Elliott Freemantle was becoming worried. Impressive as the demonstration was, unless halted officially, it would have little point. Where in God’s name, he thought, were the airport police, and why weren’t they doing their job?
It was then that Lieutenant Ordway and Mel Bakersfeld came down together from the administrative mezzanine.
Several minutes earlier the meeting in Mel’s office had broken up. After the interrogation of Inez Guerrero and dispatch of the second warning message to Flight Two, there was nothing to be gained by retaining everyone together. Tanya Livingston, with the Trans America D.T.M. and chief pilot, returned anxiously to the airline’s Offices in the terminal, to await any fresh news there. The others–with the exception of Inez Guerrero, who was being held for questioning by downtown police detectives–returned to their own bailiwicks. Tanya had promised to notify Customs Inspector Standish, who was distressed and anxious about his niece aboard Flight Two, immediately there was any new development.
Mel, not certain where he would keep his own vigil, left his office with Ned Ordway.
Ordway saw the Meadowood demonstration first and caught sight of Elliott Freemantle. “That damn lawyer! I told him there’d be no demonstrations here.” He hurried toward the concourse crowd. “I’ll break this up fast.”
Alongside, Mel cautioned, “He may be counting on you doing that–just so he can be a hero.”
As they came nearer, Ordway shouldering his way ahead through the crowd, Elliott Freemantle proclaimed, “Despite assurances from the airport management earlier this evening, heavy air traffic–deafening and shattering as always–is still continuing at this late hour. Even now…”
“Never mind that,” Ned Ordway cut in brusquely. “I already told you there would be no demonstrations in this terminal.”
“But, Lieutenant, I assure you this is not a demonstration.” Freemantle still held the microphone, so that his words carried clearly. “All that’s happened is that I granted a television interview after a meeting with the airport management–I might say a highly unsatisfactory meeting–then reported to these people…”
“Report some place else!” Ordway swung around, facing others nearest him. “Now, let’s break this up!”
There were hostile glances and angry mutterings among the crowd. As the policeman turned back to Elliott Freemantle, photographers’ flash bulbs popped. TV floodlights, which had been turned off, went bright once more as television cameras focused on the two. At last, Elliott Freemantle thought, everything was going just the way he wanted.
On the fringe of the crowd, Mel Bakersfeld was talking with one of the TV men and Tomlinson of the Tribune. The reporter was consulting his notes and reading a passage back. As he listened, Mel’s face suffused with anger.
“Lieutenant,” Elliott Freemantle was saying to Ned Ordway, “I have the greatest respect for you and for your uniform. Just the same, I’d like to point out that we did hold a meeting some place else tonight–at Meadowood–but because of noise from this airport, we couldn’t hear ourselves.”
Ordway snapped back, “I’m not here for a debate, Mr. Freemantle. If you don’t do as I say, you’ll be arrested. I’m ordering you to get this group out of here.”
Someone in the crowd shouted, “Suppose we won’t go?”
Another voice urged, “Let’s stay here! They can’t arrest all of us.”
“No!” Elliott Freemantle held up a hand self-righteously. “Please listen to me! There will be no disorder; no disobedience. My friends and clients–this police officer has ordered us to desist and leave. We will comply with his order. We may consider it a grave restriction of free speech”… there were responsive cheers and booing… “but let it not be said that at any point we failed to respect the law.” More crisply, he added, “I shall have a statement for the press outside.”
“One moment!” Mel Bakersfeld’s voice cut sharply across the heads of others. He thrust his way forward. “Freemantle, I’m interested to know what will be in that press statement of yours. Will it be more misrepresentation. Another dose of distorted law reports to delude people who don’t know any better? Or just plain, old-fashioned fabrication which you’re so expert at?”
Mel spoke loudly, his words carrying to those nearby. There was a buzz of interested reaction. People who had begun drifting away, stopped.
Elliott Freemantle reacted automatically. “That’s a malicious, libelous statement!” An instant later, scenting danger, he shrugged. “However, I shall let it pass.”
“Why? If it is libelous, you should know how to handle it.” Mel faced the lawyer squarely. “Or perhaps you’re afraid of it proving true.”
“I’m afraid of nothing, Mr. Bakersfeld. The fact is, we’ve been told by this policeman that the party’s over. Now, if you’ll excuse me…”
“I said it was over for you,” Ned Ordway pointed out. “What Mr. Bakersfeld does is something again. He has authority here.” Ordway had moved beside Mel; together they blocked the lawyer’s way.