April 8, 1982
Ian's horoscope led him to believe he was better off spending the day in bed. It was all bad news. Dire warnings of failing business deals, unhappy meetings and broken love affairs were, in all, a poor recommendation for any one foolish enough to believe in astrology.
It was a perfect day in Canada's capital regardless of what the horoscope said. The weather was bright. The sun was practising for spring. The radiant warmth heralded a green crown of growth and the crocuses and daffodils were already pushing through the last of the winter snows. Ottawa was heading for an early and appreciated release from winter's icy grasp.
The day started out just as he had planned. After a holiday in Britain, he was back in Ottawa on reassignment. His usefulness in Rome had been compromised and his duties were best handed over to a less visible person. A two-year sojourn as a commerce officer in External Affairs had ended. The job description included all aspects of agricultural marketing, a position on paper to ostensibly augment and improve the Canadian export of agricultural commodities. His territory included Europe, the Near East and Soviet block countries. Seldom did his actual duties even remotely include Agriculture. The position did, however, provide justification for his presence. It was something to fall back on, something that External Affairs could document for any prying eyes.
Moving days would never shine for Ian as days of satisfaction. After the experience of his move back to Ottawa, he decided there would be no future moves. Those individuals who move on a regular basis must be masochists.
Oh, yes, he had planned everything down to the last detail. All his furniture and possessions which had been in storage during his Rome assignment were to arrive at the new apartment today. The "agricultural samples," acquired in Rome had been cleared under a diplomatic pass and were also were to arrive under the direction of a reputable moving firm. The Agricultural "commodities" carried on his person included a unique walking stick, which to the unaided eye or unsuspecting customs or security officer, represented nothing other than what it appeared to be. Even under the screens of the x-ray equipment, it kept its secret well. With the correct turn of the handle, a single explosion would occur, accompanied by a distinct muffled sound contributed by a very efficient silencer acquired at great expense. Anyone foolish enough to stand in line of the barrel would receive an SSG load canister from this ornate shotgun. This was one of his special tools, and one that had saved his life in a recent experience in Rome.
Strongly-muscled individuals with years of service were to arrive in the early morning, happy and cheerful in their vocation of pleasing the less fortunate individuals who, by force of circumstance, had to change their place of residence.
"Where in the hell have you been?" asked Ian barely under control. The two hours he had spent walking up and down the apartment had not improved his temper.
Two men, clones of Laurel and Hardy, walked in. From that moment on, Ian's day deteriorated. In desperation he came to his possessions? rescue and managed to sprain a thumb. Through the talented actions of the short fat mover and his bean-pole of a wiry assistant, he lost two of his prized records, a complete set of stoneware and a valuable tuner which he knew had worked most satisfactorily in his flat in Rome.
As they were finally tidying up another object was broken and the sound of shattering glass sent a cold chill through his body. The doctors had warned him it could happen again, a flashback to that nightmarish moment.
"Don't you know what you're doing?" his voice was loud, shouting and hysterical. The movers suddenly had fear in their eyes.
"It's O.K., Mister, the company will replace anything that's damaged."
What did they know about it? He could remember every detail, every word that Jill had said that day. He could remember that manner in which she moved and breathed, the way she spoke and the way the day had started out. She had been so full of excitement. She was just bubbling with happiness. This was their first holiday together and they had just arrived the evening before in Rome.
"Damn the Rattan furniture," he thought. If she hadn't wanted to see the latest in modern furniture, they might not have been on that street at that time.
Nothing seemed to mar the joy Jill took in window-shopping. They had looked at, fondled, felt and rejected a score or more styles. Jill seemed to be happy to continue in this seemingly endless endeavor as she peered in yet another window. He was watching her and felt at peace. How could she fall in love with a person like him? He never thought he was good-looking. He had a stubborn streak and a bad temper but Jill had rounded out his square corners and knocked the chips off his shoulder. She had shown him what she thought of him when she kissed him in a way that boiled his blood. He'd do anything for her and knew he was lucky for the chance.
The sudden screech of car brakes and the staccato sounds of burps, the horrible sound of shattering glass, made Ian turn around. He wasn't expecting anything sinister but the scene that met his eyes was forever seared into his memory. Endless hours with a discreet psychiatrist hadn't weakened or dulled the memory.
A black limousine was headed right for them, while across the road a darkly-clad man with a mop of black hair and bushy eyebrows was grinning as he fired his Uzi submachine gun in the direction of the careening car. What they were seeing was an execution, a Red Brigade Special. The people inside the car were shouting, screaming and dying.
Now the car was coming at him--at them.
It was the pain that brought him back to consciousness. The street was a mass of milling, gaping people. The police and the security forces were trying to establish some sort of control. He tried to rise, but a man told him not to move.
"It's better not to move, signiori, there has been an accident and you are injured."
As the clouds cleared and the reality of situation hit him, he turned to find Jill. Where was she in all this? Did she escape being hit by the car? The man, a doctor, responded evasively, his eyes couldn't meet Ian's.
A cry broke from within his body. He could still hear his voice.
"Jill, don't leave me. Tell me it isn't true. It can't be true!"