as a member of the highest aristocracy, the marquise annette de normand had been trained from birth in the twin arts of diplomacy and duplicity.
so it was with no visible trepidation that she accompanied her captors to the carriage they had brought for her arrest. the younger, and apparently better bred of the two men in gray, opened the door of the carriage for her, waited until she was seated, and then, to her mild but unexpressed surprise, followed her in and seated himself across from her. one of the two blue-uniformed guards put his pistol in his belt and jumped up beside the coachman.
the other guard joined the coachman on top of the second carriage. the door of the second carriage opened from within and the older man in gray entered it unassisted.
the guard on top of the first carriage glanced back and signaled to the second coachman. he tapped the coachman beside him on the arm and in seconds they were off down the hill.
annette could not forbear looking out the window at the castle. but the carriage gained speed so quickly that she had no opportunity to see if anyone was at the front window, or to wave to them even if she had.
she leaned back. the carriage was surprisingly comfortable. she looked around the interior. it was also surprisingly clean. suddenly she lurched forward, as the carriage raced around a bend in the road, but she quickly recovered without falling all the way forward into the young man's arms.
leaning back again, she favored her companion with her most dazzling smile. "are we in a hurry?"
"i am afraid so, mademoiselle. the revolution is in a great hurry." he smiled at her. "i, myself, not so much. but i am only a servant of the revolution."
"yes, you mentioned that before. if it is not too impolite, might i inquire your name?"
"manfred. citizen manfred."
"manfred! rather a romantic name, for a humble servant of the revolution."
Landon (unfortunately nicknamed “Rooster”) Crow waited with Alice “Sniffy” Smith in a booth at the back of Bob’s Bowery Bar, waiting for “the two Bills” (Grey and Leighton) to return from God knows where with an ounce of marijuana, an ounce which Rooster and Sniffy hoped to parlay into a twenty-five thousand dollar profit.
Rooster sipped his tepid flat Rheingold beer, then he stubbed out his Philip Morris, and quickly lit another one, not so much because he wanted a cigarette, but because this bar smelled like the interior of the most vile men’s room in the world. If it smelled like this in the barroom, what could it possibly smell like in the bar’s actual men’s room?
Sniffy didn’t seem to mind at all. As soon as they had sat down she had taken the cap off a Benzedrine inhaler, pulled out the cloth strip, wadded it into a little ball, popped it into her mouth and begun to chew it with relish, chattering away about how rich they were going to be, smoking Rooster’s cigarettes, and occasionally taking a sip from her own glass of tepid Rheingold.
It had come to this, as the drunks in the bar screamed and shouted and cackled in dubious hacking laughter, and as Gene Krupa pounded his traps on the jukebox, yes, it had come to this...
Rooster had been something of a celebrity at the University of Oklahoma, the president of the Poetry Club and the editor of the campus literary magazine, The Covered Wagon Review. At the commencement ceremony for his class, in May of 1942, he recited one of his own poems, “Lest Fascism Triumph”, and then the next day, along with several of his fellow young littérateurs, he had gone down to the army recruiting office and enlisted. Rooster happened to be a physical coward who was also completely devoid of patriotic feeling, but he knew he would probably be drafted anyway; it was his plan to use his education to get a safe clerical posting far from battle, but he need not have worried, because his first day of basic training at Fort Dix he woke up screaming, cawing, crowing uncontrollably.
like many of his fellow humans in this distressed and distressing modern age, georges groy, second clerk at m hobart's fine foods wholesale business, suffered most terribly from ennui.
on this particular morning his unfortunate condition was more pronounced than usual, and is often the case, for no particular reason. had there been a particular reason his anguish might have been eased, with the prospect of the particular reason being overcome or dealt with. but as the brotherhood and sisterhood of this dreadful malady know only too well, its very nebulousness is its most pitiless attribute.
under the circumstances the comtesse d'a...............'s bill, which m hobart had thrust upon him when he entered, was something of a blessing to him, as it would occupy at least a small portion of his mind.
it would also provide him with an excuse - not that he needed one - to ignore the murmurings and soft complaints of little paradin, the third and lowest ranking clerk in m hobart's establishment. that is, when paradin arrived, for he had not yet done so.
groy took his place upon his high stool and placed the comtesse's bill on the wide wooden counter before him. groy was somewhat above the average height, and forced to stoop uncomfortably over the counter, said counter being unfortunately too high to allow of his working standing up, as he had done in some of his previous clerkly employments.
the long counter he shared with the not yet arrived paradin was surmounted by two shelves divided into compartments of varying sizes, and from one of the centermost compartments he extracted a sheaf of papers on which were recorded the most recent entries to the accounts of the regular customers. after a period of two or three months, if these entries had been paid up and not challenged, they would be entered into the formidable main account book by m due, the chief clerk.