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acts-of-faithIt was at this point that Gerry came in. The little bit of brandy left she had poured over the money to encourage the conflagration at suitable points, and then, in an uncharacteristically aggressive burst of sentiment, she had smashed the brandy bottle and her glass by flinging them against the opposite wall. The coffee things she placed carefully on a tray to take outside, and then she set a match to the money. Haying waited to make sure that everything was well alight, she slipped out of the room and locked the door behind her. Then, forcing herself to remain calm and steady, she headed towards the breakfast room to get Dick. When from the door she saw him with his arm around a strange female, she was furious. Determined to give him a sharp and sudden shock, she moved slowly and on tiptoe right up behind the pair. Just as she got to them, Dick put his hand once more upon the breast, a little more forcefully on this occasion than previously.

It was not for nothing that his political opponents were wont to fear the Leninist when roused. Once he had darted across the floor of the house to hit somebody who had said something rude about his exploits during the war. On this occasion he had a far more subtle method of asserting himself at hand. Lifting up his stiletto heel, he brought it firmly down upon Dick’s foot. Dick yelped in agony, and promptly pulled his hand away. The breast went with it. At precisely that moment Gerry loomed over the pair and grabbed hold of Dick’s hand.

‘You filthy beast,’ she exclaimed. ‘You should be ashamed of yourself.’ She pulled the breast from Dick’s unresisting grasp, and dashed it down forcefully upon the ground.

There was a terrific explosion. It was the Leninist’s secret weapon, carefully concealed where the security forces would never have dared to search. Dick was blown to pieces before he knew what had hit him. The Leninist too died at once, his beautiful dress torn to shreds, his wig knocked askew. Gerry however was still alive, though only just, as the smoke cleared and a horde of reporters and television cameramen rushed in. Luke was at their head. He got to Gerry before everyone else, and lifted her up in his arms and cradled her, while the television cameras swept over the whole scene.

She was nearly dead, but as her eyes flickered about they caught sight of the familiar features of the Leninist, clearly revealed by the displaced wig. ‘It’s those damned Socialists again,’ she said, faintly but with her familiar determination, and then she expired.

A few of the reporters dashed off at once to file their stories, but before the majority could decide what to do they noticed that more smoke was billowing past the door of the breakfast room. Some of them rushed off and traced it to its source, the room under the stairs. Crowbars were called for and with much effort the door was thrust open, by which time the television cameras too were at the ready. The fire was blazing so strongly that no one could enter, but they managed to take a few shots of the burning piles of money before the staff and the security drove them away and tried, though with no success except that they stopped the fire from spreading, to douse the flames.

Luke meanwhile took the opportunity to get back to Tom, and managed to coax him out from under the sofa where he had taken shelter at the first sound of the explosion. Hurriedly he explained to him what had happened, and also that there was no further danger to be feared, except only that the Press was present and might want to see Tom. Tom was still quite shaky, but he brushed aside Luke’s suggestion that he allow him to deal with the Press.

‘However great the loss I have suffered,’ he said, ‘I am still the President, and an Executive one too. I must fulfil my obligations. I wish to retire to the solitude of my own room, but before that I will address them with a few words. But could you bring me a glass of water first, please?’

Luke did not want to leave him, but Tom insisted, so Luke went in search of water. Tom allowed himself a moment to gather his strength, and then he went slowly but with dignity down the verandah and into the hallway. The reporters rushed up to him, but he held out his hand to keep them off, and waited in silence till Luke appeared and gave him his water.

Tom took a delicate sip, and laid his hand on Luke’s shoulder. ‘I shall retire to the solitude of my own room for the rest of this day,’ he told the reporters. ‘You must ask my trusted minister to explain to the nation what has happened.’ He turned then to his Chief Security Officer, who had fallen fearfully at his feet. ‘Do not trouble yourself,’ he said graciously, and lifted him up. ‘Man proposes, and God disposes. When a man’s time comes, or a woman’s, there is nothing you or I can do to stave it off. Do not allow anyone to disturb me for the rest of today, except my other ministers, and of course the widow of my dear brother who must be in need of even more comfort than I am. I mean Dulcie, of course. Make sure they all come to see me.’

He took another sip of water, and gave the Security Officer the glass. Then he motioned everyone away, including Luke who tried to follow him. He did not look into the breakfast room as he passed it, but when he reached the foot of the stairs he turned and walked back to the door and stood there for a moment, his hand resting on its frame. ‘Et tu, Brute,’ he said sadly and turned once more to Luke. ‘I do not think we have any option but to proscribe all the communists.’

‘That has been done already, Sir,’ said Luke respectfully.

‘Practically at the very start of the riots,’ the Security Officer added helpfully.

Tom looked at him for a moment, but said nothing. Then he addressed the assembled reporters. ‘In that case, there is nothing further for me to say,’ he said simply. ‘My wife is dead. My brother has been blown to pieces. My house lies in flaming ruins around me. Yet it is not for me, your leader, though I am an Executive one too, to demand vengeance. I leave it to the nation to remember me in their prayers. I leave it to my trusted minister here to take what action is required today. I only hope that no leader in the future, of whatever sort, has to live through what I have undergone this morning.’

Ceylon Today 24 Nov 2014 – https://www.ceylontoday.lk/96-78373-news-detail-taken-at-the-flood.html

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