Arlo's War (3)
'No, Sheriff. It was his choice. He... er... left the company a few months ago.'
The Sheriff recognised a note of guilt in Bernie's voice. Years of listening to countless interviews had trained his ears to know when somebody was trying to hide something. That was what he was hearing now.
'With less than a year to go before he was due to retire? He sure must have had a reason. Can you think of a reason, Mr Dimaggio? After all, you say you've known him a long time. Not that I'm accusing anybody of anything, you understand, but I have to ask these things.'
Bernie had felt bad about the way the promise he and Diego had made to Arlo had been broken. He felt bad about his own weakness before Diego's daughter - his boss - who had not respected that promise. He knew that Arlo must have been disturbed by the loss of The Havens but he hadn't been brave enough to talk to Arlo about it after he had given him the letter. Could Arlo have used his expert skills to make these explosions?
Bernie told the Sheriff everything about Arlo, about Teckno-Toys and The Havens and how he thought Arlo might be responsible for the explosions. Bernie felt glad to have finally told somebody how he really felt about things.
'So, what will happen to Arlo now?' Bernie asked.
'Now hold on, Mr Dimaggio. You may have given us a motive for Mr Penton, but we don't know that he did any of these things. There have been a number of explosions: at the Tucson radio station, some heavy machines blown up and the one a few nights ago at a fireworks factory. That caused serious damage. But we can't be sure that any one person is responsible for all of these crimes. For all we know, there may be any number of people out there making their own bombs.'
'But you don't really think so, do you Sheriff?' Bernie asked.
Sheriff Calhoun took a few more thoughtful chews of his gum and wished he had a cigarette. He looked again at the photograph of Arlo.
Suddenly, he noticed a model aeroplane, like a child's toy, fly past and before he could reply, there was a loud BANG! from outside. Bernie rushed to his window to look.
'Sheriff, it's the factory. It's on fire!'
Arlo had been working hard. He could not see the results of his work immediately because the television cameras were destroyed once his models hit their targets. He had to listen to the radio for news of his work - not the loud music stations, of course. His last action had been against the electrical generator at the Teckno-Toys factory. Without the generator they would not have the power to work their loud machines, and the hated factory noise would be silenced at last.
Unfortunately, though the action had been a success, three people had been badly burned. He heard about them on the radio. It upset him. 'But it's not my fault,' he told himself. 'This is war. Every war hurts some innocent people. It's the enemy's fault, not mine. Once the enemy is defeated there will be peace. I have to fight on for peace. There's nobody else. I have to.'
But Arlo had no peace. His heart was saddened by the news of the three injured people. And the noises that disturbed him had not been silenced. The enemy was strong and there was much work left to do.
He made his way to the garage again.
Arlo began working immediately. He had to do the next one right. He had no idea that the Sheriff and a large number of police officers were, while he was working, speeding towards his house in their cars. All he was concerned about was putting the finishing touches to his model Mustang fighter plane. He had saved the Mustang for the new radio tower they were building at the place where The Havens used to be. They would never finish it. No way. Not if he could help it.
It would not need much explosive, just enough to bring the tower down. That would be enough. He got his little computer ready as he switched on the video camera attached to the model aeroplane. It was time to fly.
Arlo placed the Mustang on the ground by his garage then sat down by his controls. He did not see the Sheriff's men, but they saw him. They had positioned themselves some distance away from him. They all had powerful guns. They saw the Mustang as it started to take off. A shot was fired before the model had gone far enough to leave the ground.
There was an explosion.
Arlo felt a force hit his ears and he was knocked to the floor. There was a pain in his arm. He had closed his eyes.
Was he dead? Had the enemy beaten him? He opened his eyes and saw that his arm had blood on it.
As he started to get himself up, Arlo did not see the pieces of broken glass on the floor behind him. He did not notice the angry shaking sound of the snake whose sleep had been disturbed. He hardly felt Susie's bite before he sank to the floor again. His eyes felt heavy as the daylight turned to darkness and death ran with the poison in his blood. But he was happy.
Arlo's world was, at last, a silent one.
- THE END -