Chapter Two Thousand Two Hundred Fifty-Seven
12th October 1973
After a couple weeks at Fort Irwin, all Ritchie wanted to do was go home and sleep in his own bed for a night or two before he headed back to work. The trouble was that once he got back to the Regiment’s Headquarters, there was something going on that complicated everything.
“What the Hell were they thinking?” Crispy asked, “Giving you all those stripes?”
Ritchie knew that Crispy, also known as Senior Lead Officer Mark Crisp of the LAPD Central Division, was just yanking his chain. However, that didn’t explain why Crispy was here in the first place. Ever since a traffic stop a year earlier had gone horribly wrong, he had been assigned to Parker Center to play the role of Gofer because the friends of some asshole from up north had been threatening to shoot him on sight. Not only was Inglewood a bit out of his normal jurisdiction, but it also happened to be an entirely different city within the County of Los Angeles. It being a California National Guard Armory was beside the point.
“Being Sergeant Major of a Long-Range Reconnaissance Unit after more than a decade and a half in the Army” Ritchie replied, “It happens. Now what are you doing here?”
“The Mayor, the Chief of Police, the Colonel in charge if whatever Division this is” Crispy said, “Along with a bunch of other bigwigs yacking at each other. Someone needed to babysit the Chief.”
“This the 160th Infantry Regiment, not a Division” Ritchie said, “California Seventh.”
Crispy gave Ritchie a look that suggested that meant nothing to him. As far as most of the Police were concerned, the State National Guard were there in case a fire, flood, earthquake, or a civil disturbance got out of hand. What Ritchie had been doing for the last two weeks out in the Mojave Desert, thankful that it wasn’t happening in August this year, was just a small part of it. A meeting of those who managed the sorts of emergencies that came up regularly in Southern California shouldn’t have been a surprise.
This was supposed to be a compromise, but the whole thing had left Sophie bewildered as she stared at the dull grey bicycle frame that had just been removed from its box. Was this Doug’s idea of a joke?
“You wanted to learn about bicycle repair, what better way than building one, and you joined a club to compete in races” Doug said, “You are going to need another bicycle unless you want to strip down the one that you use for everyday riding.”
It was something that she had not thought about.
“I was thinking that we should paint it red” Doug said.
“We can do that?” Sophie asked.
“It’s just primer on there now” Doug replied, “They do that so it can be painted with just rattle-cans and a bit of sanding. Red would be fun, sporty, but we can do whatever color you want though.”
Douglas had told her that he and Kat felt that she was too young to attend adult courses at the University. Instead, he had bought tools and guidebooks on the subject and told Sophie that she could access them whenever she wanted. She knew that he had bought them as a gift to her, an early Christmas present, but had done it this way because he understood how she was.
Today, a large box containing the frame and the assorted parts needed to assemble a new bicycle arrived. For Sophie, this was a bit too much.
“You talked with Kat?” Sophie asked, changing the subject. “When is she coming home?”
“I talk with her every day” Doug replied, “And she’ll come home when she is ready to.”
“This is not her just taking a Holiday” Sophie said, saying what Marie Alexandra had been afraid to ask her father but had discussed with Tatiana and Sophie. Tatiana told them to leave it alone, that it was an adult matter. Marie had fired back that there had been rumors about what was going on flying around the Imperial Court. That Kat had flipped out and totally lost the plot. Eventually, Empress Suga herself had told everyone to cut it out. “Holidays don’t last for months.”
“You have seen how Katherine has black moods” Doug said, “She is doing something about those.”
Sophie remembered a few times with Kat closing herself off in her bedroom and not talking to anyone. Marie would go in there and spend time with her. She said that she didn’t want her mother to feel like she was alone. Had something happened over the summer?
Lenk im Simmental, Switzerland
Kat was no longer allowed into the group therapy secessions. Her tendency to ask questions that made the problems of the other women look trite had caused problems. There was also the aspect of her problems being real, some of the things she had endured and had done were rather disturbing for someone whose entire life was a staid suburban existence. Still, that didn’t change the requirement that she continue private meetings with Doctor Cremonesi.
“In Belarus” Kat said, “There were these two sentries at the main gate of this radar installation my team had been tasked with neutralizing. I approached them pretending that I was lost and in trouble to get them to let down their guard. They were clearly hoping to take advantage of me, so I didn’t regret shooting them. One of them had this completely shocked look on his face, like it wasn’t supposed to happen, not to him.”
Doctor Cremonesi was scribbling in his ever-present notepad.
“You have said that action was necessary, and that you don’t regret it” Cremonesi said, “But it isn’t that simple, is it.”
“I keep seeing Malcolm in that man’s place” Kat replied, “Which is crap.”
Cremonesi just gave her a look.