Winston looked both ways and behind him before he started to write.
“I think the Marxists are about to topple the government. Either they will win the election, or they will take it forcefully afterward rather than concede defeat. The rioting is just the precursor, legitimizing their violence in the streets …”
“Whatcha got there?”
“Wha—” Winston jumped up from the park bench and stepped away from the stranger, who assessed him curiously. “Where did you come from?”
“I saw you writing and wanted to take a peek at what was so interesting, is all.”
“Do you always sneak up on people and look at what they’re writing? I should report you to —”
“But you won’t, will you? It’s too risky.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Well, you know,” said the stranger. “You report me checking out what you were writing, and they’re going to want to read it, too. What was so interesting that I had to see it, and when they see it, well — you know.”
“There’s nothing illegal about what I was writing,” Winston said, clutching the journal to his chest.
“I know that, maybe. But is it something you’d want people to know you were thinking? You sure seem to be a little jumpy about it.”
“I’m jumpy because someone snuck up behind me and scared me.”
“So you say,” the stranger said. “But, like I said, they’re still going to want to know why you were scared someone would read your journal.”
The two men regarded each other warily.
“Why did you decide to spy on me?” Winston asked after a moment.
“Why are you so defensive about it?”
“I’m not being defensive. It’s just that normal people don’t poke their nose into other people’s books, people they don’t know.”
“Granted,” said the stranger. Another pause. “Can I trust you?”
“What kind of a question is that? You don’t know me, and I don’t know you.”
“Well, actually,” a chuckle, “I overheard you the other day at the cafe, the Ishtar’s Nest? The riots were on TV, and I heard what you said to your friend about the —” a whisper now — “Marxists.”
Winston’s eyes widened.
“I don’t know what you’re —”
“Yes, you don’t know what I’m talking about, very good, very good. I just want you to know you’re not alone.”
“Are you saying —”
“Yes. You’re not alone,” the stranger said. “Many people feel the same way.”
“There are more like you?”
“Like us, yes,” the stranger nodded significantly.
“How do I know you’re not one of them, trying to trick me?”
“You don’t, but I’m not. The rioters must be stopped,” the other said. “We are meeting tonight in the warehouse district to discuss what to do about the problem.”
“Yes?” Winston said, gently touching the stranger’s forearm. “When? Where?”
“11 o’clock,” the man said, and gave an address. “Shall I see you then?”
The stranger strolled away into the park. Mourning doves cooed a few meters away. Winston pulled his phone out of a pocket and punched a number.
After several rings came the sound of a connection.
“My friend,” said a voice on the other end.
“They took the bait. It’s confirmed,” Winston said, and gave the address. “11 o’clock tonight.”
“You’ll make sure they’re dealt with?”
“Yes, sir.” The line was broken.
Winston picked up his journal and continued writing.
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