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41-a
If You Lead, I will Follow
[A flashback]

And when that I have murdered
The man in the moon to a powder
His staff I'll break and his dog I'll shake
And there'll howl no demon louder.

Refrain: Still I sing bonnie boys, bonnie mad boys
Bedlam boys are bonnie,
For they all go bare and they live by the air
And they want no drink nor money

--Traditional, "Boys of Bedlam"

Star's Hollow Township, Connecticut, Northern Confederation, November
22, 1962

A wet, leaden winter morning had settled over the town square,
spiny-branched trees rising over the common, their swaying
capillary-branches crucified against the pale sky filled with a flock
of black-silhouetted crows, cawing mournfully.  The lanky-legged
schoolgirl counted almost sixty of them clustered sinisterly in the
blasted choirs of the ruinous trees they called home, shaking off
their morbid presence with a laugh as she dashed to the other end of
the deserted square.  She'd checked her watch, and you could set your
clock by Jean-Paul's schedule.  Sure enough, the stuffy Quebecker who
ran the Inn was crossing the street, walking past the porticoed fašade
of the town hall.

The skinny girl was tall for her age, with long awkward pubescent
limbs that gave her motions an odd coltish clumsiness and made her
plaid school uniform jumper seem ridiculously mis-sized for her.  She
wasn't the best looking of her friends, though she had the sort of
physiognomy that suggested those who berated her for her plain
features would, in good time, be quite jealous of her late-blooming
looks.  But whatever the case, such thought were far from her mind as
she scooped up a spheroid of snow in mittened hands, shaping it into a
perfect missile, taking aim for Jean-Paul's immaculately brushed high
hat.

She had just cocked her arm up as a shiny black locomobile with
Confederation government plates roared across the intersection,
Jean-Paul jumping back madly onto the pavement, shaking his fist in
the air as it sped past.  It screeched to a halt right before the
schoolgirl.  A man in a well-tailored black suit slipped out of the
driver's side and dashed onto the pavement, his sturdy face betraying
relief.  He bent down towards her, out of breath, exclaiming, "Your
father wants you to come with us, Miss Gilmore."

Ev was unsure what to make of the strange man in the black suit. 
Nobody'd ever called her "Miss" before.  But he seemed so relieved, so
frantic, so hurried.  "My mother told me never to speak with str--"

"No time, Miss!  No time!  You're in danger," he said, grabbing her by
one hand and opening the rear door.  She stepped in, hesitantly with a
backward glance.

_Danger_!  An adventure, perhaps?  

In her younger days, she had been simpler, lacking the suspicion that
pursued her every move nowadays.  She had seldom resisted orders from
her parents, never questioned, and excepting some slight hidden
rambunctiousness like lobbing snowballs at elderly Quebecois men, was
otherwise a very well-mannered child.  Perhaps it was better then. 
Perhaps it wasn’t.  Trust can be dangerous.

The 'mobile roared through the streets disregarding any and all posted
ordinances concerning speed and direction.  The man was at the wheel,
with a young, pretty woman dressed in equally severe black at his
side, seated shotgun.  "I told you not to tell me that," he snapped at
her.  He turned around to face the girl and smiled, a little forcedly.
 "I am Mr. Adams and this is Miss Feldon.  We're taking you home,
Miss.  We apologize for any inconvenience."

"Can I see my father when I get home?"

Adams looked at Feldon, his mouth open but soundless, looking as if he
did not know what to say.  Feldon managed to force out an answer. 
"Y-yes...maybe--we'll see, dearie, won't we, Donald?"

"Yes," he said, gravely.  "Sorry about that, Miss Feldon."

*****

General the Hon. Horace, Lord Gilmore, was dead.  There was no
disputing that, thought Colonel Hogan, with sick precision as he
looked down at the corpse lying in the pool of blood at his feet--that
had once been his superior.  The closest thing he had to a father
since pop's death.  He'd seen death before, but those were anonymous
deaths, like a butchered chicken in barnyard.  Not in combat, but an
intelligence officer sees things.  It was callous to say such things,
but it was the only thing that allowed him to keep on as a soldier
without losing his mind.

And there were times, boozy evenings in Luke's bar in the Henry IX
Arms across the square from the Town Hall, where he felt that his mind
was on the verge of being unhinged.  He had seen too much.  And so had
the General, when he was younger, before the Staff had rescued him
from the idle world of the barracks and placed him behind a desk in
Military Intelligence, where unspeakable things were done only in far
away countries behind closed doors, even in the name of free nations
like the C.N.A.

There was nothing on his face that suggested pain, though he seemed to
have had aged a score of years: he had always seemed so vigorous for a
man of his age.  He tried to focus on the way he had been last
night...for sense, for clues, for anything--The Mexicans?  It was
possible... Michigan City--my God, the d-mned greaser Yanks, of course
[FN1].  Or even the Kramer clan, for that matter.  No--he was thinking
irrationally.  The great lobed spectre of Taichung, the searing image
of the mushroom cloud that had loomed in the contaminated air over the
north Pacific that August, still haunted him; it haunted everyone who
had glimpsed it on the vitavision news.

Like staring into the mouth of hell, pure undistilled evil.

Salazar...what a madman...  Didn't mean that the Kramer men were
behind this butchery...We didn't have the bomb, and Mason doesn't want
one--

The Michigan City file.  Something was going on up there; he had to
retrieve it before the constable arrived--take all of his files, burn
them, hide them, bury them in a lead box, anything but risk exposure. 
And it didn't matter what the Mexicans wanted in Michigan City--they
may have just been laying the groundwork for something bigger,
something to spring into action when things got interesting.  After
all, Perry Jay had been making noise about a C.N.A. bomb--imprudent of
him; got the Mexicans interested.  The old Chinese curse: may you live
in interesting times.  Blast it.

He went to go open the General's safe.  Then he would slip out before
the constable came.  Maybe Burgoyne was a safe place for him to go. 
But he had to disappear for now.  He sidestepped the body and headed
over to the wall, reaching for the ornate baroque picture frame that
hid the wall safe.  Suddenly, he heard a door creak open behind him. 
He stiffened beneath his khaki uniform.  "Robert?"

Hogan turned slowly on his heel.  Lady Gilmore.  

He spun around, snapping a shallow breath, trying to compose himself. 
He felt his hands fumbling idly with the frame, trying to swing it
closed.  He was never quite sure how much Lady Gilmore knew about her
husband's post-retirement "consultation job" with Intelligence.  She
knew he did something for the boys in Burgoyne, but he gathered that
she had taken Lord Gilmore’s current position to be analogous to
being kicked upstairs, to use the colorful idiom.  He had no
intentions of changing her mind in regard to that.  "Ma'am," he
exclaimed, trying to mask his surprise.

"Oh my God," she muttered quietly, looking at the body.  "Oh my
God..."

Hogan had always thought Anne, Lady Gilmore, quite a handsome woman,
looking somewhat younger than her forty-odd years.  She had seemed
even younger next to her rather old husband.  She had always been a
fashion plate, sporting the latest trends from New York or Buenos
Aires, giving her trim figure and elegant carriage a youthful
springiness.  However, the stylish, vaguely geometric gamine that her
shiny auburn locks had been shaped into seemed incongruous with the
pitiful face beneath.  She looked like she had aged a decade in the
last hour, tears biting acidly into her face, smooth skin cropping
into wrinkles that had never been there, her eyes wild with horror and
loss.  She collapsed into a chair, and began to weep, sobs muffled by
her gloved hands.

Hogan stood there, at once filled with horror and pity.  An electric
uneasiness shot through his frame, leaving him drained of energy.  He
moved towards Lady Gilmore, his hands shaking, and managed a cautious
pat on her shoulder.  "There, there," he murmured.  Lady G. could be a
tiger when her anger was aroused.  It was so—downright terrible
to see such a magnificent creature reduced to an overdressed,
makeup-smeared aged stranger.  Somehow her ageless beauty seemed a
joke, a sham.  She was just a skinny middle-aged woman crying in a
blood-stained study with a pathetic clown of an adjutant, thought
Hogan.  He should be able to deal with these situations, darn it, he
was a member of the Confederation army, the steel-tipped wall that had
kept North America safe, peaceful and free for more than a century
[FN2].

He heard the butler ushering someone into the hallway.  For a moment,
he was frozen with fear but then sprinted for the door.  Too late.

******

Adams and Feldon, holding the lanky Evie Gilmore's hands, led her into
the marble-floored front hall, the tailcoated butler leading the way. 
Overhead, the girl heard stormy mutterings.  Snippets of talk between
the two government agents.

"Where do we take her?"

"Do something, Donald.  We can't keep making it up as we go along."

"Don't tell me that we can't do that.  What do you think the Chief and
I have been doing for the last ten years?"

"Oh, Don, you simply can't keep winging it."

"I told you not to tell me that," he muttered through clenched teeth.

Evie Gilmore suddenly jerked free from them, making a dash towards the
half-open double doors of her father's study.  The doors slammed shut,
but not before she could see something that would shatter her world
forever.

Like a scene in a carnival waxwork house of horror, she glimpsed her
father recumbent, sprawling in a sticky crimson sea of his own blood,
his face turned up, invisible to her, as it stared, fish-eyed, at the
plasterwork ceiling.  "Dad?  Dad?"  The words turned from a humble
question to a frantic scream.  She pounded on the doors, her voice
breaking into a single primal yell of fear, peaked and fell into a
torrent of mumbled sobs, deathly quiet.

She felt something die in her that day, something wither up,
blackened, inside her chest.  A dead weight, a stone hung where her
heart was, and a leaden yoke was placed over her shoulders.  All she
could think of was blood--the spilled blood of her father.  And the
blood of whoever had done this to her.  They would pay, if it took her
to the ends of the earth and the end of her life, but she knew that
life had to pay with life and death with death.  Beneath all her
witticisms and posturing that she hid her cold-heartedness at the
academy lay the primeval hot-headed fear that had been driving her
since that cold grey day in New England.  Someone would pay.


******

[FN1].  Though the CNA did not make a move towards detonating a bomb
until well after the incidents described in this story, there is
nothing to say that Mexico was making moves towards establishing a spy
network in Michigan City.  In fact the death of Lord Gilmore and the
subsequent disappearance of Colonel Robert Hogan in 1965, along with
the papers he carried, may explain the reason that the discovery of
the spy ring was delayed until the end of the decade.  Colonel Hogan's
disappearance has never been explained, though some historians
theorize that a man suffering from a mental illness found wandering in
the wilds of Manitoba might in fact have been Hogan, though his death
in 1975 at the North City Sanitarium before recovering his sanity has
prevented any definitive discussion on the subject.

[FN2].  Whether Colonel Hogan's appraisal of the might of the
Confederation's armed forces is correct or whether it represents a
blithe ignorance of the facts brought on by a century of isolation is
up to the reader to decide.

NOTE: In FAN #21-a "Yankee" should be replaced by N.C.  In FAN,
"Yankee" is an ethnic slur directed towards inhabitants of the U.S.M.,
particularly Jeffersonians.


M.G. Alderman
(Currently Away From) Notre Dame, Indiana