As they passed from village to village, and the crowd grew larger, it became more and more obvious that their demands would have to be met. Such a powerful tide of massed humanity was not to be resisted. In this context it became clear that their forceful emotions would have to crystallize; there would have to be some sort of concrete demand which the government could grant. As they came to the first town on their route, this presented itself to them. Veronica had held her press conference about Harry’s death, primarily for Indra’s reporters, in the editorial offices of his newspapers where she had been brought after she had been discovered at the airport. Various foreign correspondents however had been present too, and before the newspapers hit the streets a few foreign broadcasts had transmitted her eyewitness account. Up in the hills too there were enough people listening for the word to spread rapidly; and it became clear to the marchers what they wanted first and foremost from the government in acknowledgment of the justice and the moral strength of their own mass movement.
‘After the military led the Bishop out,’ Veronica had said, ‘I got up from my seat and followed them. My seat was near the gangway, and in any case they were all too intent on what they were doing to notice me. I got to the head of the steps, where they were all crowded in front of me leading the Bishop down, but I ducked and managed to glimpse what was happening through their legs. As the Bishop reached the ground, two of the officers behind him pulled out guns from their holsters, and fired. I heard two shots, and then the Bishop fell, forward and down to the ground. No one went to his help.’
‘But didn’t they say a man was seen firing a gun from the van in front?’ one of the correspondents had inquired.
‘They can say anything they like. They would have to. Of course I have to admit I could not see the van in front at that point. And I did hear some more shots, which I presume came from there. But those were after the first two, after the Bishop had fallen. About what happened before that I am certain, I saw it myself. In fact I even saw soldiers begin to run towards the van before there were any shots from there.’
‘Then why did they run?’
‘That you must ask them. I presume they were obeying orders. They were all with the Bishop until he fell, and then they did not stop to help him, but all rushed towards the van. That’s when I heard the other shots. After that I could see the area in front of the van, and then some of the soldiers brought out a body from inside and flung it on the ground. It took me a few moments to recognise it, because it was in military uniform too. It was John.’
‘So the shots you heard from the van could have been those that killed him?’
‘I can’t say. I think, though I can’t be sure, that I heard them before any of the soldiers with the Bishop would have had time to get to the van. But they could have been fired by someone in the van already to kill him. Or they could have been fired into the air, in which case he would have been killed before. There didn’t seem to be any blood flowing when they threw him out. After that of course a few of the soldiers outside drew their guns and fired on him as he lay there. Fired on the dead body, I should say.’
‘Why would they want to do that?’
‘How should I know? Perhaps they just like firing guns. Perhaps they wanted to make absolutely certain he was dead and couldn’t talk. Or it may have been a way for the two who shot the Bishop to explain why their guns had been fired.’
‘So you claim it was not John who killed the Bishop?’
‘Of course not. I’ve just told you who killed him. That is, I don’t know their names, but it’s clear there was some sort of official order.’
‘And from whom did that order come?’
‘That of course I can’t say. But you all know what happened afterwards. Mark came on the scene with what you might call perfect timing, and produced a cock and bull story that even a child wouldn’t believe. I don’t suppose even the President believes it.’
‘That’s a very serious allegation to make.’
‘These are very serious times,’ said Veronica. ‘Mind you, I’m not saying the President was involved. After all, the Bishop was his brother and things like that count in this country, unless you’re extremely perverse. But unless he does something very quickly about Mark, people are going to believe the worst. I gather Mark was there when Luke died, or rather when he was killed by the security forces, and now the same sort of thing happens to Harry and even to John, and he was there as well, and from what I’ve heard he also knew about Matthew’s death long before anyone else. If I were the President I would certainly do something soon to make it clear that I was not involved myself. And also to make sure that I was not the next.’
‘You would have to be very sure of your facts.’
‘I tell you I saw it with my own eyes. The Bishop was killed by the military, acting on orders, and such orders could only have come from very high up. So who’s left? I think the whole nation knows exactly what’s going on. They’re trying the same stunt too often if they think that by producing John’s dead body they can start another race riot. We all know who it is precisely who profits from all these deaths.’
So it was that, as Phyllis and her forces swept through the first town on their route, the march for peace turned first and foremost into a march against Mark. As they swept down the hills, the call for his resignation resounded, with the drums and the conches and the clashing of improvised cymbals, across the valleys and throughout the country. The special edition of the newspaper that came out soon after tied everything together, Matthew’s death, and Harry’s and John’s, and the march it was claimed had inspired similar risings all over the land. As the massive tide swept downward, the report began to take on reality…..