Story 8 - Shadow in the Night.
Heather said that the language that was used scared her the most. They were calling Hitler their brother. She said it was devastating to see how many fields were left bare once the farms were auctioned off. She could certainly see how this Hitler-type violence could attract a simple-minded farmer who had worked all his life on the land. And in a way she couldn't fault them for being so angry, seeing all this productive capacity being idled while human beings in Africa, and even at home in the slums of the cities, withered with malnutrition. The empty fields meant that plagues and deadly diseases could spring up again, which for a long time were deemed a thing of history.
"I'm sorry you had to go through all this," said Sylvia.
"No don't," Heather replied. "I've come through it richer. I've come to realize that no one in the world has any power over me; no man - not even Pete - nor any thing, not even nuclear war. If a Russian bomb kills us tomorrow, so be it. I had life, and I had wonderful experiences. If it ends tomorrow, fine! The threat of it won't get me down today. This attitude, I got from Pete. He was so alive!"
I noticed with some surprise that Heather sounded like Lora the stripper. She even told Sylvia about the day when Tony and I had taken her to a pub that turned out to be a strip palace.
"Even there it was nice to watch Pete enjoy life unimpeded, though he would never admit that he enjoyed what he saw. I just couldn't help loving him," she said. "Life is too short to let anything that is good slip away in self-imposed poverty, don't you agree?"
There was silence again. Sylvia nodded. I could still see her reflection in the hummingbird feeder. They were embracing one another.
"Would you like to spent a night with Pete again?" Sylvia asked quietly.
"If he still wants me," Heather replied. "It's up to him."
Luckily Ross came back at this point. I was beginning to feel uncomfortable by then. I needed an excuse for going out on the balcony to stop them talking about me. I picked on the first thing that came to mind.
"Say, Ross, what's with that boat out there in front of our bay?" I said to him, pointing to a fishing boat that seemed so vulnerable in the storm which had already caught up with the boat. "Do you think they are in trouble?"
Ross turned around and looked, setting our drinks down without taking his eyes off the fishing vessel. "My God, here we go! That isn't a fishing boat, Pete." He stopped smiling. "This is a Russian surveillance ship, disguised as a fishing trawler. Damn! They shouldn't be so close to the shore!"
Ross grabbed a pair of binoculars that were hanging near the door and rushed out onto balcony.
"Damn!" he shouted and slammed his fist on the railing after a brief glance. He stood on the balcony like a naval commander overseeing a battle.
"Here, take a look!" he said, handing me the binoculars, shaking the hand he had hurt hitting the railing. "That's a Russian boat all right," he said and went back inside to the telephone. "It's too heavy," his voice came thinly from his office. "Besides, our fishermen aren't that crazy to stay out in a storm like that!"
He closed the door while he spoke on the phone.
The boat seemed to be in trouble. I gave the glasses to Heather and Sylvia. Moments later Ross called us into his study. "We'll watch them with the big telescope," he said.
He was considerably calmer now. He turned the lights off in the study, opened both windows and removed the black velvet cover that had hidden a large reflective type telescope. He aimed it carefully towards the boat. It was an exquisite instrument, finished in velvet black and chrome, with not a scratch on it. He had mounted it on a heavy table. I was just about to comment on it when Sylvia and Heather came in.