Page 91 of Overload


As it was, two policemen and three firemen died. Two more firemen were badly injured. All were close to the fire bombs which exploded.

As dawn succeeded darkness, mopping up continued.

Most former guests of the Christoper Columbus were provided with makeshift accommodations elsewhere. Later in the day, those who could would return to collect their belongings and begin a dispirited trek home.

By unanimous agreement which no one even bothered discussing, the NEI convention was abandoned.

Nim took Ruth, Leah and Benjy home in a taxi. He had wished to thank Nancy Molineaux for her phone call, but observing her still a center of attention for some reason, he decided to do it later.

As Nim and his family left, morgue wagons were joining the other vehicles at the scene.

* * *

Soon after the explosion which killed Art Romeo, Georgos Archambault was sobbing as be ran toward where his "Fire Protection Service" truck was parked.

It had all gone wrong! Everything!

Georgos couldn't understand it.

Some thirty-five minutes earlier, just after 2:25 am, be had been puzzled to hear many sirens approaching the area where he was waiting in the pickup. Moments later, fire engines and police cars sped past, obviously headed for the Christopher Columbus. As minutes went by, the activity increased and more vehicles followed. Georgos was now thoroughly alarmed.

At twenty to three be could wait no longer. He got out of the truck, locked it, and walked toward the hotel, getting as close as he could before a barrier of police cars stopped him.

He was near enough to see-to his great dismay-people streaming from the hotel, many in nightclothes, and being urged by police and firemen to move faster.

Those people were supposed to stay inside until the bombs went off and the hotel was burning! then it would be too late to leave.

Georgos wanted to wave his arms and shout, "Go back! Go back!" But, despairingly, he knew it would have no effect and only draw attention to himself. Then, while he watched, some of his carefully planted fire extinguisher bombs were carried from the hotel by people who had no right to interfere with them, and then were rushed away in trucks, preventing what Georgos had so painstakingly planned. He thought: If he had only booby-trapped the bombs, as he could have done with extra work, they could never have been moved. But he had been so confident that nothing would go wrong. Now it had, robbing Friends of Freedom of their glorious victory.

That was when Georgos began to cry.

Even when he heard the high explosive bomb go off in the street, it did not console him and he turned away.

How had it happened? Why had he failed? In what devious way had the enemy found out? He watched the firemen and police-blind, ignorant slaves of fascist capitalism-with bitterness and anger. At that point, Georgos realized that his own identity might now be known, that perhaps he was in personal peril, and he began to run. The pickup truck was just as he had left it. No one seemed to notice him as he unlocked the truck and drove away, though lights were going on in nearby buildings and sightseers were hurrying toward the hotel, attracted by the sound and activity. Instinctively Georgos beaded for Crocker Street, then wondered: Was it safe?

The question was quickly answered. As he turned into Crocker at the far end from number 117, be saw that the street further on was blocked by police cars. A moment later he heard the sound of gunfire-a fusillade of shots, a pause, then a second fusillade as if fire was being returned.

Georgos knew that Wayde, Ute and Felix, who had elected to stay in the house tonight, were trapped; be wished desperately be was with them, if necessary to die nobly. But there was no way now that he could fight his way in-or out.

As quickly as he could, hoping not to attract attention, be turned the truck around and returned the way be had come. There was only one place left to go: the apartment in North Castle, intended for a crisis such as this.

While he drove, Georgos' mind worked quickly. If his identity was known, the police would be searching for him. Even at this moment they might be spreading a dragnet, so he must hurry to get underground. Something else: In all probability, the pigs knew about the "Fire Protection Service" truck and would be on the lookout for it; therefore the truck must be abandoned. But not until he was nearer the North Castle hideaway. Taking a chance, Georgos increased his speed.

One chance must not be taken, he reasoned. The truck could not be left too close to the apartment; otherwise it would betray his whereabouts, He, was approaching- North Castle. How near to- his destination dare be drive? He decided: Within one mile. When Georgos estimated he was that distance away, he pulled to the curb, switched off the engine and got out, not bothering to lock the truck or take the ignition key. He reasoned further: the police might well assume be had had a parked car waiting and changed vehicles, or he had boarded a late night bus or taxi, any of which assumptions would leave his general whereabouts in doubt.

What Georges did not know was that a drunk, recovering from a quart of cheap wine consumed earlier, was propped up in a doorway opposite where the "Fire Protection Service" truck had stopped. The drunk was sufficiently lucid to observe the truck's arrival and Georgos' departure on foot.

For his part, Georgos began walking briskly. The streets were silent, almost deserted, and he was aware of being conspicuous. But no one accosted or appeared to notice him and, in a quarter of an hour, he was unlocking the apartment door. With relief he went inside.

At about the same time, a cruising police patrol spotted the red pickup for which an alert had gone out a short time earlier. The patrolman who transmitted a radio report noted that the radiator was still warm.

Moments later, the same officer noticed the drunk in the doorway opposite and elicited the information that the driver of the truck had left on foot, and in which direction. The police car sped away, but failed to locate Georgos.

The police patrol did return, however, and-with base ingratitude took their informant into custody, charging him with being drunk in public.

* * *

Davey Birdsong was arrested, shortly after 5:30 am, outside the apartment building where he lived.

He had just returned there by car after the lecture and study group session which kept him outside the city through the night.

Birdsong was shocked. He protested heatedly to the two plainclothes detectives who made the arrest, one of whom promptly informed him of his legal right to remain silent. Despite the warning, Birdsong declared, "Listen, you guys, whatever this is about, I want to tell you I've been away since yesterday. I left my apartment at six o'clock last night and haven't been back since. I have plenty of witnesses to that."

The detective who had cautioned Birdsong wrote the statement down, and-ironically-the "alibi" proved Birdsong's undoing.

When Birdsong was searched at police headquarters, the p & lfp press statement deploring "the bombing at the Christopher Columbus Hotel last night" was found in a jacket pocket. The statement was later proved to have been typed on a machine kept in Birdsong's apartment -the apartment he claimed he had not entered since six o'clock the previous evening, nearly nine hours before the bombing became public knowledge. As if this were not enough, two torn-up, earlier drafts of the statement, in Birdsong's handwriting, were also discovered in the apartment.

Other evidence proved equally damning. The cassette tape recordings of conversations between Georgos Archambault and Davey Birdsong matched a voiceprint of Birdsong, made after his arrest. The young black taxi driver, Vickery, whom Nancy Molineaux employed, made a statement confirming Birdsong's devious journey to the house at 117 Crocker Street. Birdsong's purchase of fire extinguishers, which had been converted to bombs, was also attested to.

He was charged with six counts of first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit a felony, and a "shopping list" of other charges. Bail was set at one million dollars, a sum which Birdsong could not raise and no one else seemed inclined to. Hence, he remained in custody, pending his trial.

* * *

Of the remaining Friends of Freedom, Wayde, the young Marxist intellectual, and Felix, from Detroit's inner city, were killed in the gun battle with police at 117 Crocker Street. Ute, the embittered Indian, turned a gun on himself and died as police stormed the house.

The evidence of revolutionary activity at number 117 was captured intact, including the journal of Georgos Winslow Archambault.

7

Around the California Examiner newsroom and the Press Club bar, they were already saying that Nancy Molineaux was a shoo-in for a Pulitzer.

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