Jon Brownstone gazed out
He had developed a mental
skill of not letting everything he knew or thought pass through his mind. Even as the events of the day determine the
dreams of night, what is thought is likely to be spoken. And
It had been heady work. The pay was good and the resources unlimited. But it had been so engrossing that he had spent little time on social activities. No wife. No family. No major hobbies.
He had not gone to church or synagogue during all those years.
When he had taken early retirement, he had expected to be doing things that were fun and refreshing. But he had not developed those skills. Had not made any place of worship his own. Instead he had turned into a bit of a recluse. Well it was a lot easier than work. The big events were things like lunch, the remains of which now sat on the kitchen counter waiting for attention. At a deep level he did not care about anything more demanding or potentially more rewarding.
He had been thinking about
the skyscraper tragedy. While neither so
deadly nor as horrific as the
The doorbell rang.
Brownstone turned off the elevator music he had been playing and went to see who it was. There was a young man in his twenties, his hair done up in a topknot. Brownstone thought there are three ways a man can look. He can look obviously intelligent. He can look obviously dim. Or sometimes, as with a woman, you can’t form an opinion. Brownstone had no opinion.
There was something else subtle about the man. It was an air of command that seemed to call for cooperation, even at substantial cost. He gave one the feeling that any effort to be helpful would never be wasted.
But what was obvious was that he was tall, fit and amazingly good looking. He had raven hair, a clear complexion and large engrossing eyes. Brownstone reflected, “Well I guess you don’t have much trouble meeting women.”
The young giant said, “I’m Ivan Saffski.”
It occurred to Brownstone to say, “We’ve all got our problems.” But he didn’t. Usually strangers coming unannounced wanted to talk you into a church or a purchase. Brownstone wondered which it would be.
Instead the young man said, “I
was a friend of
“You were? Did you have a falling out?”
Ivan winced at the unlucky choice of words. “Do you watch the news?”
“Yes, of course…. That
“We did have an argument. It was something he thought. I didn’t like it.”
“Well come on in. Make yourself at home. I’m so sorry.”
They moved to a sofa set near
the window. There did not seem to be much
to say. Terra Lane and Brownstone had
done some hot air ballooning together a couple of years back, and Brownstone
knew him only as a skinny boy from
It had also cut
The silence was not much good either. Brownstone ventured, “The television said that a terrorist group called Purification of Islam had claimed blame for it.”
Ivan said, “I never heard of them.”
“It seems like nobody else ever did either.”
That seemed to end it. Just another mindless bit of wonton destruction, part of an ongoing cultural conflict that interested so very few but impacted so very many. Then the young man reached out a piece of paper he was holding. John noticed that it was not crumpled even after having been handled for a while by those mighty hands. This was a very careful person.
“Call me Jon.”
Jon unfolded the paper and looked.
Obs,. O epm
y jsbr ,uvj yo,r/ Oy ;ppld ;olr O
br ‘,svr dp,rnpfu trs;;u smhtu/ Og O fpm
y [jpmr upi om yjr mrcy gre ,omiyrd. O jsbr yp ;rsbr yjod yp upi/ Hp yp yjr btofr pg Krtids;r,/ Oy jsd djogyrf ,smu frhtrrd/ Upi lmpe ,u gs,o;u/ Yr;; Js[ O drmy upi/ Upi esmy yp lmpe snpiy Mreyprm/ Smf fpm
y yr;; yjr
sitjptoyorod imyo; yjr rmf/
Terra lane had been right in
the last five words.
“I know that.”
At this point there was the sound of the doorknob being tried and the impact of a shoulder hard against the door.
Basic prudence suggested the
next step. “Time to go,
The other balcony was only
three feet away. Jon swung over the
railing and stood outside, holding on for dear life. He reached across with one foot and stood
balanced, straddling empty space. Then
he looked down and froze at the sight of the drop.
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