THE MALL OF HEROES – Part X
Years had passed. Some of the paving stones on the Mall of Heroes had cracked. Weeds, ever resilient, had rooted in the fissures. The grey man, since pensioned off by the Department of Heritage, took his daily walk among the statues. He mingled with the visitors and meandered through them, always studying the faces. Most were set and angry. Some were sad. The crimes on display were an open secret; the people gathered on the Mall but not in the way the Overlord had dreamed. There was something in the air and the armed guards at the great entry were always tense and vigilant.
He thought of his exercise as a vigil. The grey man wondered if today might finally be the day. He reached a bench situated by the statue of Zenodotus. As was his habit, he sat and contemplated the figure of the librarian. The ancient fellow held a scroll and seemed to peer into the distance, the future perhaps.
These days the grey man was deemed to be of little use to his former masters but he kept his contacts up and his ear to the ground. There were whispers that the Overlord had grown increasingly infirm and was beginning to suffer the effects of dementia. There were rumours in certain circles of machinations of succession. The Secretary of Heritage was said to be a player behind the scenes. Some said the Secretary was a power broker. Some insisted he was a candidate. Others said both.
A young man in a drab duffle coat approached the plinth of Zenodotus. He rested a hand on the sandaled foot of the Greek. The grey man watched him; the facial features had hardened into adulthood but there was no mistaking the resemblance to Stefan. The grey man glided up beside the young man. ‘I knew your father,’ he said.
‘I remember you.’
‘How’s your mother?’
‘She has her good days and her bad days. Mostly bad. You people give her no peace.’
‘No, we wouldn’t.’ Magda had been arrested moments after Gingras had got his mitts on Stefan. She’d been eventually released but red flagged. The grey man frowned. Officialdom in an analog state could grind very slowly. A driver’s license renewal could take inconvenient months. A tax audit, a preferred weapon, could take painstaking years.
‘These statues and everything they stand for has to come down.’
‘Who, what and where: always consider them before you speak. Your father was a good man. I told him what was going on here.’
The grey man nodded. ‘I’m still not sure how he got the word out.’
The young man sneered, ‘Do you need to close the file?’
‘In a way.’
‘When the goons came for my mother, they didn’t bother with me, a kid. I knew where to look in the paper for the Underground’s instructions. I went to the meeting and told them everything I knew. When Mom and Dad were talking, I listened at the door. Are you going to take me in?’
The grey man smiled, ‘You’re a bit of a natural. And no, I’m not going to take you in. Anyway, I’m retired. I’d like to help you.’
‘For too many years I did my job or averted my eyes. I have a debt to pay.’
‘You’re an old man. You’re no use to us.’
‘I’m old,’ the grey man agreed. ‘I can’t shoot straight anymore. But I know things. I know people who wish to help you. I know that if you want to tear down these statues, there’s no time like the present.’
The young man thrust his hands into his coat pockets. ‘Okay.’ He looked up at his father’s face. His glance moved over the forest of arms and legs stretching in every direction. This place would be even more horrific under a harvest moon. ‘Okay, in two days’ time there will be an ad in the classifieds -’
‘Companions Wanted, I assume?’
Stefan’s son laughed. ‘We’ve moved way beyond that. You’ll have to check under Real Estate. We’re taking back our country.’