Page 81 of Overload

There was something else. This time not subconscious.

Why should Mr. Justice Yale have made such a heavy-handed point -as he did at the meeting with Eric Humphrey, Harry London and Nim-about never having heard of power theft? Of course, it was entirely possible be hadn't. True, there had been reports in the press and an occasional mention on TV, but no one person could be expected to know everything in the news, even a Supreme Court judge. Just the same, the insistence had seemed-to Nim-overdone.

He returned to his first thought: the nagging doubt. What in hell was it that he knew? Maybe if he didn't try so Hard it would drop quietly into his mind.

He continued working on his speech for the National Electric Institute convention, only four days away.


A day of glory nears!

The valiant people's army, Friends of Freedom, fighting the vile capitalists who keep amerika in chains, will strike a blow to be acclaimed in history.

All preparations are A-okay for countdown.

Georgos Winslow Archambault, writing in his journal, hesitated.

Then, using his stub of pencil (it was getting uncomfortably short and the would have to discard it soon, Gandhi's precepts or not), he crossed out the last four words. They had capitalist overtones, he realized, as he substituted:

have been brilliantly executed by the Friends of Freedom high command.

Better. Much better! He went on writing.

The people's enemies, consorting under the infamous, fascist-front banner of the National Electric Institute, begin assembling in two days' time.

They are in for a grand surprise-and a deserved punishment.

Georgos smiled as he put the pencil stub down and rested from composing, which, as usual, tired him mentally. Standing, he surveyed the basement workshop, now jammed tightly with new supplies and equipment. He stretched his lean, lithe body. Then he dropped to the floor in a space he had deliberately kept clear and did forty push-ups rapidly. It pleased Georgos that he sailed through the exercise easily and his breathing was normal at the end. Three days from now he might be glad of his physical fitness.

He would get back to the journal in a minute. With significant history in the making, it must not be neglected because some day it should find an honored place in the archives of revolution.

He reflected: Everything for the impending operation was knitting together perfectly-planning, supplies, the logistics of getting explosive and incendiary bombs into the Christopher Columbus Hotel. The first set of bombs (containing high explosive) would detonate at 3 am during the second night of the NEI convention, the fire bombs from five to ten minutes later. Both sets of bombs, disguised as fire extinguishers, would be placed in position the preceding day-roughly sixteen hours before detonation.

Thanks to Georgos' resourceful leadership, all was proceeding like . .. he groped for a metaphor . . . like those excellent clockwork mechanisms Davey Birdsong bought in Chicago and delivered here.

Georgos had revised his earlier opinions about Birdsong. Now he felt admiration and love for the big, bearded man.

Not only was Birdsong's original idea sheer genius, but in helping implement it he was taking active risks. In addition to the shopping trip to Chicago, Birdsong had helped to buy up fire extinguishers locally, a few at a time from different sources. In the basement workshop there were now almost three dozen-ample for the Friends of Freedom plan. Georgos had been cautious in bringing them to the house, mostly after dark. He had taken one calculated risk in delivering six extinguishers in daylight-he urgently needed the space in his VW van to pick up more -but had surveyed the street carefully first- then moved quickly, and was satisfied afterward that he had not been observed.

As well as collecting the thirty-odd extinguishers, Georgos had already done the needed work on half of them. First he had emptied the original contents, then machined the insides of the casings to weaken them. After that, in those which were to be fire bombs, be inserted plastic bottles filled with gasoline, plus explosive charges with detonators, and timing mechanisms. In the case of the high explosive bombs, which would block off exits from the hotel, he substituted four pounds of dynamite for the gasoline.

Soon, when he had finished writing his journal, he would continue with the remaining extinguishers. It would be necessary to work steadily through the next forty-eight hours-and with great care because the amount of explosive now in the workshop was sufficient to wipe out the entire block if anything went wrong. But Georgos had confidence in his own ability and that he could finish in time.

His thin, ascetic face lighted in gleeful contemplation as be recalled Birdsong's words when they first discussed their plan to block off escape from the hotel, then start fierce fires on the upper floors: "If you do it right, not one person on those upper floors will leave that building alive."

A further plus for Birdsong: He had come through with all the money Georgos asked for, even though the cost of everything had been greater than expected.

Then there was the diversion Birdsong had planned. It would help Georgos, aided by the other freedom fighters, to get the bombs safely into the hotel.

As he had done several times already, Georgos went over the details in his mind.

With some more of Birdsong's money, Georgos had bought a Dodge pickup truck-used, but in good condition and by happy coincidence painted red. He had made the purchase with cash and employed fake identity papers, so later the ownership would not be traceable.

The truck was now hidden in a locked, private garage adjoining a second Friends of Freedom hideaway-a recently rented apartment in the city's North Castle district which only Georgos; knew about. The apartment would serve as a location to fall back on if the Crocker Street house became unusable for any reason.

The red truck was already lettered neatly on both sides: FIRE PROTECTION SERVICE, INC. A masterstroke (another of Georgos' ideas) was the choice of an open pickup rather than a closed van. The vehicle's contents-seemingly innocent fire extinguishers-would be exposed for all to see.

Georgos' own regular transportation-his old VW van-was in a private parking garage not far from the Crocker Street house and would not be used in the NEI attack.

How Birdsong's diversionary scheme would work was that he, with about a hundred p & lfp supporters, would stage an anti-GSP & L demonstration at the hotel at the same time that the load of fire extinguishers-cum-bombs would be driven to the service entrance and unloaded. The demonstrators would make themselves sufficiently a nuisance so that any police or security forces on the scene would be kept busy, permitting the red Dodge pickup to pass unnoticed. As to other details, Birdsong had come through, as promised, with sketch plans of the Christopher Columbus Hotel main floor and mezzanine. After studying them, Georgos had made three trips himself to the hotel to verify details and decide on exact placement of the high explosive bombs to go off first.

Another thing Georgos learned was that behind-scenes service activity was so busy, at times frantic, that in the daytime almost anyone could walk through the hotel's service areas unquestioned, provided they appeared purposeful and on some business mission. To test this, on the third trip to the Christopher Columbus, Georgos wore one of the neat blue-gray coverall uniforms, embroidered with the words "Fire Protection Service, Inc." which he and the other freedom fighters accompanying him would wear three days from now.

No what. No problem. He had even received friendly nods from several hotel staff members who found his presence unremarkable, and, for his part, Georgos practiced the role to be played when the time came to put the bombs in place. Then, he and the others would become obsequious flunkies-the way capitalists liked their serfs to grovel. Chameleons all, the freedom fighters would smile sweetly, mouthing inanities -"Excuse me," "Yes, sir," "No, madam," "Please"-a sickening abasement to inferiors, but one to be suffered for the cause of revolution.

Results would make it all worth while!

For extra cover, in case any freedom fighter were stopped and questioned, Birdsong had had some Fire Protection Service, Inc. work orders printed.

These were now filled in. They instructed that supplementary fire extinguishers were to be delivered to the hotel and left in place for subsequent mounting. Birdsong had also typed, on hotel stationery, an authorization for Fire Protection Service personnel to enter the hotel for that purpose. He acquired the stationery during one of his sorties into the Christopher Columbus where it was available, for use by hotel guests, at desks on the mezzanine.