Fact or Friction

Pete’s eyelids fluttered open. Barry, sitting in a chair, swam in and out of focus, “Where am I?”

“Under observation in the County General until you get shipped off to the county jail.”

“Any particular reason?”

“You made the paper. Well, the incident did. Shall I read it to you?”

Pete nodded and winced.

While Barry rustled through the newspaper to find the article Pete tried to get his eyes working again. The front page blared out something about Eisenhower suffering a heart attack. He tried to get the story, but the newspaper swirled one way while the room swirled the other. Pete closed his eyes, but the swirling didn’t stop.

After some further rustling Barry straightened the pages and read, “Communist Cell Uncovered. A small group of unsuspecting young men, merely interested in satisfying their curiosity, accidentally stumbled onto a secret communist cell in the deserted Tredegar Theater two blocks off Slauson Avenue. Alarmed at being discovered the communists attacked the youths. Police were called to the scene and made four arrests.”

“Communist Cell?”

“That’s what it says.”

“They’re a poetry group for crying out loud.”

“Since when did you indulge in poetry?”

“They needed some work done. Asked if I’d help.”

“There’s a young lady involved in this isn’t there?”

Pete hesitated before confessing, “Perhaps.”

“Care to enlighten me?”

“Just some guys I know, Professor Dragamanoff, Vladimir Stepniak and El Campesino.”

“Exotic names.”

“Pen names, it’s Brian Faker, Sydney Schwartz and Stephanie Greenstreet. We all went to school together.”

“Sydney Schwartz? Weedy kid with glasses? Father’s on the city council or something?”

“That’s him. They’ve all gone bohemian.” Pete tried to get comfortable and failed. “Meet up at the Tredegar where they read and write poetry.”

“Doesn’t sound particularly subversive —”

“They aren’t.”

“— and, I take it, they didn’t attack these,” Barry referred to the paper, “unsuspecting young men.”

“They were neither young nor unsuspecting. They were Harry Buck’s crew. He’s been after that site for months. Last night he sent his goons in to clear out the old place so he could grab it, bulldoze it and sell the land.”

“So how did you manage to get arrested in all this.”

“I was rescuing a damsel in distress.”

“Stephanie?”

“Yeah, she’d climbed up onto the back of this brute of a cop. Had him in a headlock, but was starting to lose her grip. A fall from that height could have been fatal so I ran to help her.”

“By?”

“Giving the cop a swift kick.”

“On the shin?”

“Guess again.”

“A bit harsh.”

Pete shrugged, “Got him to bend over.”

Barry re-read the article. Shook his head and said, “So … no communists.”

“Hell no, that’s Harry Bucks planting a story to fit his purpose. He’s got links into business, politics and the police. Hell, he’d call the army if he could. With his connections he can spread any kind of crap he likes. He lines their pockets and they look the other way. It’s one great big fat money making machine and you can’t believe a single word that comes out of it.”