Chapter Two Thousand Three Hundred Twenty-Eight
18th September 1974
Getting together with Kiki for lunch was normally the highlight of Berg’s week. That was unless Kiki was in a snit like she was today.
“I am starting to think that Zella is right” Kiki said, “That bringing a child into this world is an act of cruelty.”
“Is that how you feel about Nina?” Berg asked.
“Please, don’t, Nora” Kiki said as sat there staring at the plate of food in front of her. She had been poking at it for the last half hour after complaining about how it wasn’t to her taste today. “I love Nina and couldn’t imagine things without her, but what the Hell were Ben and I thinking?”
Berg knew that Kiki was difficult to reach when she was in a mood like this. Probably it had to do with the news. Blood and fire on television, the incoherent rage of people who had endured systematic inequity for generations lashing out, opportunists of every stripe taking advantage of the chaos. Anyone who was informed about the situation in Los Angeles wasn’t surprised that there were similar incidents in other cities that were not allowed to spiral so out of control. Still, Berg was uncomfortably aware that the same thing could just as easily occur in their own city with the wrong sort of prompting.
For Kiki it was worse because she had worked in Los Angeles for a few days, the very city that was in the news. She knew people on the ground there and her first instinct was to get involved. The trouble was that it was on the other side of the globe and Kiki knew full well that her presence alone would just make things worse. She had also mentioned in passing the death of a retired General who had helped her when she had been recovering from a skull fracture a decade earlier by letting her live on his property for a couple of months. She had needed a place to rest without the constant barrage of stimulus that came with everyday life. An isolated chalet with no electricity on a mountainside in the Alps had been perfect for that. Berg sort of felt like that was something that Kiki could use again.
“I think that you and Benjamin have a wonderful family that you would welcome a new addition to” Berg said, “Just life has gotten in the way. You didn’t bother taking a holiday this year during the summer, perhaps you should consider doing something this winter. Get some perspective and reduce the amount of stress.”
“We can try, but as Ben said, even our holidays are not really holidays” Kiki replied, “Do I need to tell you about what the trip to Russia was like?”
“I saw it in the news” Berg replied, “You did a world of good on that trip as a Goodwill Ambassador to Russia, then facilitating the reunion of Stalin’s children to show everyone that the war was truly over.”
“Not exactly a holiday” Kiki said, “Ben said that if we go on a holiday then we should go as a family and the rest of the world can go on without us for a few weeks.”
“It seems to me that he has the right idea” Berg said.
“I guess” Kiki said as she just stared at her plate with no appetite. “I should just tell Ben that is exactly what we should do, that I don’t care where we go, we just need to leave as soon as it can be arranged. We also need to stop it with this whole baby nonsense before we do something for stupid reasons.”
Looking at Kiki, Berg noticed that she looked a bit feverish and tired. That coupled with what she had already observed, there was a good chance that it was a bit late for that last part of what Kiki had just said. Berg had decades of experience in these matters. She figured that Kiki would likely take it badly if she said anything. Let her figure it out on her own, Berg thought to herself. Unless this turned into another bout of cryptic bullshit like the last time that is.
It was the smell that bothered Ritchie.
People thought that when a building burnt down it was like the woodsmoke from the fire when they went camping. The truth was that everything that went into a building burnt along with it. Wood, wall insulation, the plastic in the wiring, the paint on the walls, the tiles on the floor, everything. All of that went up in flames and the smell was awful. Frequently, soldiers from the 40th had been seen wearing gas masks and that had little to do with the threat of the tear gas that was being used, it had everything to do with that smell.
Ritchie was reminded of this as he shined his flashlight into the burnt out remains of what had been a grocery store just week earlier. There were quite a few insurance companies that were going to get soaked from the events of the last few days, was the thought that running through his head as he looked at every building.
It had taken some doing for Ritchie to get himself and the rest of the 160th Regiment’s LRRP section out into the field where they belonged. He had gotten tired of being the Spokesman for the Division and the Department. They had people whose specialty that was, so let them do their job.
Big Mike had taken full advantage of the situation. It seemed that Lieutenant General Keith Ware, who commanded the 40th Division, knew Mike from watching him on TV when he had played for UCLA back in the day. So, the General had been more than happy to make the phone calls to have Mike made the Police Liaison for the duration of the crisis. It wasn’t as if he was getting called to do anything, that was until he got a call from Clair. It seemed that his wife had been trapped for the last week with their children and wasn’t happy about it. She had made him pick Little Mike and Derik, his two oldest boys from his house. Clair didn’t care where they went, just so long as they weren’t there. Things had worked out because the 40th had need of “civilian volunteers” and there they were. Ritchie had joked that if Little Mike got the smell of Army all over him then the Navy wouldn’t take him when he turned 18 next year. Big Mike didn’t find that funny, though everyone else within earshot did.