Disclaimer: The following story has been written with no intention of claiming ownership or solicitation, nor does the author claim the movie character(s) as his/her own. The movie character(s) have been borrowed solely out of a love of the particular movie and is not intended for any other purpose but amusement and entertainment.
It was the best of times,
It was the worst times,
It was the age of wisdom,
It was the age of foolishness,
It was the epoch of belief,
It was the epoch of incredulity,
It was the season of Light,
It was the season of Darkness,
It was the spring of hope,
It was the winter of despair,
We had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
The Opening of ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ by Charles Dickens
For the last ten minutes, John had listened to the tapping of the boot heels across the office floor, the sounds quickening on occasion, then slowing to a hesitant pace.
He imagined her wandering to the windows overlooking the front lawn – that was when the steps would momentarily pause; perhaps she folded her arms over her chest as she stared out at the dark green grass, the perfectly trimmed hedges, and the beginnings of spring flowers carefully tended by a caretaker who kept them constantly surprised. Then it began again. The walk. Perhaps this time it took her behind her desk, then towards the door as though preparing to exit, but moving away as though another thought struck her and required additional consideration.
It had been the same at home. It had been the same for the last few weeks. But tonight was supposed to bring an end to it all…at least in a way.
“Is she alright?”
“Hmm?” John glanced at Arthur Baskin who was seated behind a desk in the reception area. As general manager of the Hotel for a number of years, it was an unexpected but challenging promotion he happily filled.
“The Boss.” Arthur had affectionately called Tina that since she became sole Keeper of the Point. “Is she alright?”
Biebe attempted an expressionless look, something he had long ago learned when he was in active law enforcement, attempting to garner information during an interview or interrogation. It was also good for current times when he was at the poker table. “She’s okay. Just busy, that’s all. As usual.”
“As usual,” Arthur repeated, his head cocking to one side so he looked around his brother’s body and at the door. Sighing he added, “It’s only that…She’s been pacing in there forever. Well, not forever, but…well…you know what I mean.”
John absently bowed his head. “Yeah, I know.”
“I only thought she might have something on her mind. Something more than the usual, and…well, I don’t like thinking she’s troubled. If she is. It’s just…I don’t usually hear her pacing that way unless she’s troubled. I mean really, really troubled. And she hasn’t been that troubled in ages.”
“Yeah, yeah I know,” John drawled. He was thinking back over the time since New Year’s Day, which was when the discussions first began. Funny how – over homemade Belgian waffles, orange juice and coffee – Tina broached the issue with a quiet ‘John…can I ask you something? See, I’ve been thinking…’
Arthur eased a hand to John’s closest arm. “So…is she really alright, John? John?” When the older brother didn’t answer immediately, he sighed and quietly said, “I remember the time she was sick and…”
John shook his head. “No Arthur. It’s nothing like that. She’s not sick.”
“No, Tina’s fine. She just has a lot on her mind. She’s been thinking about things and…”
“Oh, I think I understand now, John. That would be why she’s called the meeting tonight.” The last comment was not a question but a firm statement as though it all became clear.
John smiled. “You know, sometimes it’s hard hiding things from you.”
Arthur shrugged. “It’s intuition, that’s all…with a good dose of deductive reasoning.” He winked. “I think I’ve enough time around you and Bud the others to learn that. And speaking of the meeting…” He stood as he spoke. “I guess I should start over there myself. Make certain everything is organized before everyone arrives. One less thing on Tina’s mind, right?”
“Right and uh…thanks. Thanks, Arthur.”
“You don’t have to thank me. You’re my brother and she’s my sister-in-law and I know it sounds clichéd, but we’re family. If there’s anything I can do to help, all you have to do is ask.”
“Well, I know you don’t want to hear it, but thanks. I mean it.”
Once Arthur had left to give a few final instructions to several of the managerial staff before he headed to the Tavern, John moved to the office door. After a few taps, he waited, not opening it in order to give her time to respond.
“Arthur?” came Tina’s voice.
“No darlin’, it’s me.”
“Come on in.”
Biebe entered, immediately noticing his wife standing before the desk, her hands resting on its’ surface.
“I just figured it was Arthur,” she admitted, laughing slightly as John walked over to take her in his arms. “He’s been trying to take care of me without acting like he is: tea, tea and more tea. I don’t think I could take another cup of Earl Grey. Never thought I’d say that.”
“Which is why he’s such a great guy.” He gave Tina a gentle kiss on the forehead. “You okay?”
“Yeah, just yeah. Nothing’s changed.” Tina reluctantly moved out of John’s embrace, the pacing beginning again. “I’ve been going over and over and over it in my head,” she rambled, “and practicing it the way I used to when I was teaching a recruit class, or testifying in court, and I kept going over things and talking out loud like I was rehearsing my lines, as if I was back in drama in high school, and…and you know what?” Eyebrows knitting, she reached underneath her glasses to massage her eyes. “I realized this is like testifying in court because they’ll come at me like a friggin defense attorney: cross, re-cross, hammering at every single thing I tell them.”
As much as he hated admitting it, John knew she was right. For him to deny it, or pretend it might not occur was unrealistic. “They won’t all be that way, darlin’.”
“I know they all won’t be, but even the ones that seem receptive are going to have questions and Lord knows I don’t blame them.” The toe of her right boot kicked at the hardwood before she twirled on her heels. “I’d have questions too, I mean if I was them. They ought to ask questions. I expect them too. I don’t want them to fall in lockstep behind me just because…Well, just because.”
“Because you’re the Keeper?”
The pacing paused and she turned to look at him. “Yeah, yeah, that. I’m not God…I’ve never been God,” she mumbled.
John sighed, nodding. “Arthur’s on his way over there to make sure the food and drinks are laid out. I’m glad he suggested we do that. Maybe getting their mind on food will…Well…Is there anything you need me to do? Walk over and prepare them or…”
“No, no, that’s okay.” One hand drifted to her mouth when she looked away to think.
John knew that no matter how much she attempted to hide the fact from him, Tina’s mind was figuratively moving a hundred miles a minute. Everything they discussed was being tossed back and forth: options, potential questions, possible replies, practiced lines, ad-libs.
With a furious shake of her head, Tina answered, “No, no, I just need to tell them. I can’t put this off anymore. There’s already too many little rumors running wild around here. We need to do this. Strike that. I need to do this.”
“No, you were right the first time. It’s we. It might sound syrupy, but it’ll always be we.” He watched as his wife lowered her head, red coming to her cheeks. “I might not be standing in front of them with you, but I won’t be far off. You ought to know that.”
“Yeah, I…You know what?”
“You’re a good man, John Biebe. I hate having you keep a secret from your brothers but…”
“Well, it was a secret that needed keeping for a time anyway.”
“Right.” Her voice drifted.
“You needed to approach it the right way.”
“And I’ve told you, darlin’. In the end, they’ll get it. You’ve always been good with this kind of stuff: details and all I mean. That’s why you were always good with testifying. The prosecutors told you that. You never talked down to anybody. You never talked over anyone’s heads. You just laid out the evidence and what you did, and the jurors would be sitting there, nodding their heads ‘cause they got it. Even with half of them had been educated by those stupid ‘CSI’ shows, once you explained they got it. And my brothers will be the same way.”
“When I tell them,” she whispered.
“You know, it’s funny, but this is probably coming at a pretty good time anyway. Considering.”
“You can say that again.”
“It’s probably coming at a pretty good time anyway…” He stopped the joking on seeing that Tina was laughing and shaking her head, even as tears began filled her eyes. Once more, Biebe took her in his arms as she eased her face against his broad chest. “Go ahead, darlin’. Go ahead. You have a good cry. Get it all out. Then go in there, make your case, tell them why it needs to be done. Listen to the arguments and questions and lay it out for them no matter how long it takes. And if after all of that, if they don’t understand and want to argue just to hear themselves talk, then tell them to go screw themselves. They don’t want to understand.”
Sniffing, Tina looked into her husband’s face. It often seemed there had never been a time when he wasn’t there in some form or another: as friend, lover, companion, husband, confidant, and advisor. She would occasionally think back to the evening they had first met or the events which immediately followed. Once all the evidence was considered, one could not help thinking – as Bud White often said – that it seemed predestined John and Tina would become a couple.
Now more than twelve years later, John was again here for her, having already asked his own questions or expressed his initial trepidation. In the end, he realized that yet again, there was an inevitability to where this was going. He had faith in her plans and that helped.
“Darlin’, I was thinking,” John continued. “How about we go somewhere, have a few shots of Camarena; maybe see if we can bum a Partagas off Terry or Cort. That’ll take the edge off beforehand.” All he heard in reply was “Mm-hmm,” which as far as he was concerned was absolutely fine.