Monday, June 18, 2007
Sunday, June 17, 2007
The outside temperature matched the fear that had seeped into my bones.
I kept to the shadows and the side streets and hurried along with my collar up, and head down.
The storefronts were shuttered, the lights of the apartments above blackened by shades or sleep. Knowledge that there would be no witness to an assault heightened my sense of vulnerability.
As I neared Deszo’s building, I looked up and saw the lights were on in his apartment. I slipped in the door and crept up the stairs. At his door, I hesitated straining to hear Anna’s voice. It had been more than a year since I’d been here. The last time was during one of Anna’s delusional episodes after the end of their affair, when she’d come to confront Deszo’s wife, Katya, as being her usurper, as Anna believed she was now Deszo’s wife. At that point, our phones still worked and I was called to find the two women facing off in the kitchen. Anna was raging, threatening Katya with a rolling pin. Deszo had the wretched task of facing both his wife and his mistress, neither of who were pleased to see him.
I’d come in and talked Anna out of her hallucination, using a mixture of cajoling and promises I’d never keep. Rather than being grateful, Katya had accused me of conspiring with my sister and threatened to turn us over to the police, as she knew that at the time Ilona and Bela were still living with us.
Her threat was real. She’d been humiliated for ten years. I sympathized with her. She’d married a man, knowing that he’d not been in love with her, but married her because their families had important business ties. I imagined that at the beginning she was willing to accept the bargain, hoping as all people in love do, that with time their beloved will see them differently, will return their loyalty and long-suffering with love. Like a dog waiting for a crumb from the master’s table, day after day, looking with hopeful, pleading eyes.
At some point, the dog’s mind turns from wanton hunger to resentment and then fury. Not so stupid to strike out at the master, but at that which keeps its master’s attention. This had happened to Katya. Though she was the same age as Anna, her bitterness had aged her, creasing her once lovely face with ugly furrows, and withered lips seamed shut by unspoken venom.
We’d grown up together. Deszo, Anna, and I’d known each other since we were children. Our parents were friends, our father’s business associates, and our mothers in the same social clubs. We’d entered those frightful years of adolescence together when childhood playmates begin to recognize the difference in their sexes.
Anna had professed her attraction to Deszo to me many nights in the bedroom we shared in our parent’s apartment. I’d laughed when she’d told me that her flirtations were frustrated by the fact that he was attracted to me. “But that’s impossible, we’re twins. He should like you as much as he likes me!”
In our last year at university, I’d met Max and fallen in love. My parents threatened to disown me for loving a man who was not only twice my age, but also not Hungarin. At first Anna had encouraged my relationship with Max, as much as it represented rebellion and as it afforded her a chance to supplant my place in Deszo’s heart.
It hadn’t. On the night that I came home and announced to my parents that Max had asked me to marry him, Deszo was there. I remember that as I walked him to the front door to say goodnight, he’d pulled me into an embrace and kissed me hard on the lips and said, “Marry me, Natalie. Not him. I love you. Marry me.”
I was hurt by what I felt was his betrayal of my night of happiness. Yet, I saw in his eyes a depth of anguish that touched my heart and which I have never seen since. Not even in the eyes of my beloved husband.
Not more than six months after my marriage to Max, Deszo announced his engagement to Katya. Deszo’s parents had arranged the marriage. I remember the detached look on his face. Anna had attended the ceremony, had sat next to Max and me in the church. She was unable to comprehend that Deszo had chosen another woman, when he could have had her, the replica of the one he loved. Wasn’t that enough? Throughout the service she whispered scathing comments about Katya’s dress, about how unhappy Deszo looked, speculated that he had been forced into the marriage.
Now, needing him more than he needed me, I knocked at the door. The voices stopped and then I heard footsteps in the foyer.
“It’s me, Natalie,” I whispered into the crack between the door and its frame.
The door’s locks clicked open one by one and then I saw Deszo’s face, pale and angry. I knew I was too late.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
“Did she say where she was going?”
Mila shook her head.
“How was she dressed?”
Mila furrowed her brow as if wondering why I would ask such a simple-minded question. “She went to her room and put on a dress. I walked to her door and watched her put on her make-up. I asked her where she was going but she just laughed and said she was going to take care of things. Then she went down the hall and put on her coat and left.”
“Which dress she was wearing?”
“It looked like one of the dresses she wore when she went out dancing.”
I shut my eyes and sighed. Now I knew where she’d gone.
I opened my eyes and grasped Mila’s hands. “I have to go out to find Anna. I don’t want you to stay here alone. Will you go down to Miss Szep’s? You can spend the night there and I’ll come and get you in the morning.”
Mila pulled her hands out of my grasp. “What if something happens to you and Anna? What if you don’t come back?”
There was no point in giving her false assurances. We both knew it was possible that anything could happen tonight.
“If that happens Miss Szep has a friend you can stay with. You’ll be safe with her. And I will come back for you.”
I stood and looked down at Mila. “Get some clothes to wear tomorrow, you can just put your robe over your pajamas.” I tried to smile, “And take a good book to read to her cat.”
I left Mila and walked down the hall to my study. Papers were strewn across my desk. I shoved them aside, underneath was my journal, open, to the entry I’d made this morning.
“You were with Deszo.” A phantom of Anna turned in the chair and looked at me. “Weren’t you?”
“I met him for coffee. We were discussing what to do.”
“About keeping your affair secret?”
“About finding a safe place for Mila.”
Anna pointed to the journal, “You feel pity for me?”
“Yes, I’m sorry that you are losing your mind.”
She laughed, “That would be the only way you could surpass my achievements.”
Anna picked up one of the pages she’d scattered across my desk. “You call this literature?” She tossed the page aside. “You’re pathetic. I gave you my journals to edit so that you wouldn’t continue to embarrass our family name with your insipid little stories.”
“I am a writer, too.”
“Please,” Anna rolled her eyes. “You are nothing. You married a man old enough to be your father and spent your youth playing wife. Now you are forty and a dried up passionless woman who stole the affections of your sister’s daughter. You are a pathetic.”
My eyes returned to the journal…
Deszo kissed me last night. The last time I was eighteen. He said that when he looked into Anna’s eyes he only saw everything I was not. He wanted me. Now after all these years, he wants me still. What do I want? I will always want Max. He is the only one I want. I am sorry that Anna will never know how wonderful it is to be loved as I have been loved.
“So you want him back?” Anna said.
“No, of course, not,” I said, putting down the book and looking at the shimmering image of my sister in the chair. “Where did you go, Anna?”
Her apparition laughed and threw the book across the room. “You’re my twin, where do you think I went?” Then she disappeared, wearing the dress that told me her destination.
Monday, June 11, 2007
There was a time when evening meant quiet community, I would look up from my book and see Anna at the doorway smiling as she waved good-bye on her way out to spend the evening with Deszo at the opera. I would hear Mila down the hall, perhaps with a friend from school visiting, talking conspiratorially in her bedroom about some cute boy’s antics in class that day as they made some effort to get through their nightly homework. We were still a community of women then. Ilona and her husband were rarely around.
Still, I missed my husband. Anna or Mila would never fill the intimacy of understanding that Max and I shared. They filled the void he left with a different kind of love. We shared meals together. Sat and drank coffee afterwards and talked and more importantly, laughed.
Now that community had split apart.
I entered the apartment and found it quiet. In the kitchen the dishes were neatly stacked to dry on the washboard. There was no pot of soup warming for me on the stove, though the smell of the meal remained in the air. My stomach rumbled, reminding me that it had been hours since I’d last eaten.
I walked down the hall. The doors to Mila and Anna’s doors were open. I looked in one and then the other. Mila was sitting on her bed, leaning against the headboard reading. Anna’s room was empty.
“Where is Anna?” I asked.
Mila looked up from her book and said, “Where were you for so long?”
“I had a meeting,” I replied. “Where is Anna?”
“You got mad at us and we were only gone a couple hours.” Mila’s voice became a pout. “You’re a hypocrite.”
“Mila!” I tried fruitlessly to contain my rising anger. She’d never been so arrogantly defiant before. Clearly, this was Anna’s influence. I can imagine the bitter recriminations Anna must have filled her head with while I was gone. “Mila, my absence and yours are two different things. Now, tell me where is Anna?”
Mila hugged herself and turned to the wall. “Find her yourself.”
“Where did she go?”
Mila merely shrugged. Miss Szep had assured me that neither Mila nor Anna had left the apartment since my departure to meet Deszo. Then again, she was an old woman; it was likely that she could have been distracted when Anna left the house.
“Mila you must tell me where Anna went.” I walked over to her bed and grabbed her chin, turning her to face me. “Tell me.”
Mila’s eyes filled with tears, she was visibly frightened of me. I recoiled and dropped my hand. “I’m sorry Mila. You know she’s not well, it’s not safe for women out on the streets at night.”
I sat down on the edge of her bed and took her hand in both of mine. “I know how difficult this is to understand. I know that I seem like a different person to you, but I haven’t changed.”
“No honey, I haven’t changed, the circumstances…”
“Even Anna says you’ve changed!”
I nodded and looked down at our hands. “You’re probably right. I’m not the same person...” I needed to find someway to reach Mila. “It’s just that so much has happened. I’m trying to find a way to keep you safe since…”
“Since Momma left.”
“Yes, since your mother left. I wasn’t prepared for that. I was hoping that she would take you with her, so that you’d be safe too.”
“And you can’t understand why she didn’t?”
“Can you?” I looked into Mila’s eyes, scarred by pain since the scene at the train station.
“She never loved me like you did.”
“Like I still do.”
“But you’re not so nice now. Maybe you’ll…”
“Leave you too?” I softened my voice, caught by grief that my darling child, yes, my child, that’s how I’d always thought of her. Ilona knew that and as much as she’d considered Mila a burden, she resented my relationship. “I will never leave you Mila.”
Mila wiped an angry tear from her eye. She leaned forward and hugged me tightly. I held her to my chest and let her cry for the first time since her mother had left.
I whispered in her hair, “What happened tonight, after I left?”
“Anna went to your study. She shut the door.”
Mila’s sentences came out in slow gulps in between her breaths from crying. “She stayed in there for awhile. And then she came out carrying some books, they looked like notebooks.”
I held my breath, willing myself to stay and listen to the rest of the story instead of running to my study to confirm my suspicions. “What did she say Mila?”
“She was mad,” Mila replied looking away. “She said that you’d betrayed her. That you were going to run off with Deszo and leave us alone.”
“Did she say anything else, did she say where she was going?”
Mila remained silent; I couldn’t decide whether she was recalling Anna’s words or choosing which ones to tell me.
“Mila please, this is important! Anna could be in danger!”
“She said that you’d betrayed her twice. She said you weren’t working on her journals, you were working on your own stories because you were jealous of her.”
I rolled my eyes and yet I could clearly imagine Anna’s reasoning. I’d given up writing in the early years of my marriage. And then, at my husband’s insistence, I’d begun again. I’d chosen children’s stories knowing they were well out of the realm of Anna’s interest. I wrote in obscurity for years, most of my stories published with the assistance of Max’s money rather than public interest. But slowly, I had earned a following.
My popularity was growing, there were requests to publish some stories in other countries in Europe and even in
Sunday, June 10, 2007
I hurried up the stairs trying at once to absorb Jozef’s demands and wondering if Mila and Anna were safe. At the first floor landing, I noticed Miss Szep’s door was ajar. I paused, undecided as to what to do. She lived alone, with no living relatives that I knew of. Even at her age and given the food shortages associated with the war, she’d remained mentally sharp and relatively healthy. It was unlike her to leave her door unlocked. She rarely went out anymore. Mr. Nyugati sent his son Michael once a week to deliver her a small bag of groceries.
I put my hand out toward the doorknob to pull the door close. The door resisted as if someone was holding it from the other side. I heard Miss Szep talking to her cat and then her head popped out from behind the door.
“Come in!” she whispered, opening the door and motioning toward me.
“I’m sorry I really can’t. I have to get upstairs to my sister.”
Miss Szep looked down the stairs and then up towards my apartment. “I need to talk to you. Don’t worry they’re both upstairs.”
“How do you know?” Then I nodded. Miss Szep’s apartment was directly beneath ours and she was able to hear our movements. From her sentry post at her front window, I knew she monitored the comings and goings of the occupants of the buildings and their guests.
I stepped into her foyer and squinted, adjusting my eyes to the dark hallway. “Have you lost your electricity?”
“No, it works,” she replied, taking my hand and leading me toward her sitting room. “I just don’t like to use it much at night. It’s too easy to see in my windows from the street.”
I held back a smile knowing that the darkened room allowed her to watch the street undetected. “You’re sure that Mila and Anna are both upstairs?”
“No one’s left the apartment since you left this afternoon. I saw them go out and come back before that. You should tell them it isn’t safe.”
“They know,” I said. “They just…”
“Yes, yes,” Miss Szep said leading me to a chair and motioning that I should sit. “Your sister is the restless type.”
“She sometimes lets her passion to help the students overcome her judgment,” I offered.
Miss Szep had been a professor of chemistry at the university until she retired. She was also an ardent fan of Anna’s poetry. Before her illness, Anna often came downstairs and sat with Miss Szep, reading her latest poems, discussing poetry and drinking tea and eating the fresh poppy seed rolls that Miss Szep baked.
During the past year, Anna’s visits had become increasingly infrequent. There were days when she’d ask me who lived downstairs since Miss Szep’s death. And then the following week she’d come out of the bath and tell me she’d just had the nicest cup of coffee with Miss Szep, when of course, Anna hadn’t left the apartment all day.
“Anna shouldn’t worry about the students,” Miss Szep said, wearily sinking into a chair across from me. “The students will take care of themselves. If anything they will use her former stature to raise that of their cause, and then when her illness makes her inconvenient, they will abandon her. This is nothing new.”
I nodded knowing she was right. The students felt the revolution was theirs because only a young mind was uncorrupted. Yet, when the police had dragged Anna from the classroom, they’d cheered her call to arms. When she was taken to the Dean’s office, they’d scurried away like mice. Solidarity was admirable; loyalty was the person standing next to you when the devil came to call.
Although I trusted Miss Szep’s assurance that Mila and Anna were upstairs, I longed to see for myself rather than sitting here discussing politics. “Miss Szep was there something you needed?”
“I wanted to make you an offer,” she said.
My heart skipped a beat. “What?”
“I wanted to offer you the use of my apartment for Mila.”
“Miss Szep, I would never endanger you like that.”
“Nonsense,” she replied. “She would be safer here than in your apartment.”
“For a time,” I agree. “But if they came to search our apartment first, yours would be second. They would tear this building apart if they thought there were any chance she was hiding here.”
“But you can’t continue to hide her in your apartment,” she argued. “It’s only a matter of time before they come for her. There are others who know she’s here.”
“You mean Mrs. Nyugati,” I said.
Miss Szep looked down at her hands and nodded.
“I won’t say a word. I already know about her. I know that you are dependent upon the kindness of Mr. Nyugati for your groceries. I wouldn’t do anything to jeopardize that.”
Miss Szep looked up at me and smiled. “I know you wouldn’t. I just wish there was something I could do to help you. Your family has always been very kind to me.”
“I’m trying to find a safe place to take Mila myself.”
“Yes.” I quickly added, “Anna will go to stay with a friend. I wouldn’t leave her here alone.”
“Do you know where you will go?”
“No,” I replied. “I have to contact some of Anna’s old friends. There are so few that would have anything to do with her anymore. She alienated many of them before she left the university.”
“And you and Mila?”
“That will be more difficult. I think it would be best for us to go where we are not known.”
“I know someone in the country.”
“I’ve heard they have it worse than we do here,” I said. “With fewer people to see their brutality the enemy are committing greater atrocities in the smaller villages than they would ever contemplate here.”
“No, the only reason we are not seeing the same massacres here is that they are finally meeting more resistance from our allies, and their attention is distracted.” She shrugged her shoulders. “And they’ve just arrived in our city. Just wait. They haven’t given up their old tricks. They simply haven’t had time to implement them.
I shivered. “Then it is more urgent that I take Mila away.”
“Why not hide her here in the Buda? I have a friend, Mrs. Godel, she has a home, and…”
“No, I don’t want to put your friend in danger.”
“But you admitted yourself that you need to go somewhere no one knows you. She lives in a different neighborhood. Up in the hills. You could be her daughter. Or a niece.”
It was tempting. I had no doubt she would accept Mrs. Szep’s suggestion, or that she would keep our secret safe. I wasn’t familiar with the attitude of her neighbors, would they become suspicious of the timing of our arrival?
“Let me think about it,” I said.
“How is it possible for you to be so different from your twin? Raised in the same house. How is this possible?”
I shook my head. “The answer would take too long to explain, Mrs. Szep.” I put my hands on my knees and stood up. “But now I have to go upstairs to see how my sister and niece are doing.”
“My offer stands,” she said.
“Thank you, I’ll think about it,” I said. “In the meantime, please come up and visit us. I know Anna and Mila would welcome the company.”
I went over to the chair where Mrs. Szep was sitting and leaned down and kissed her forehead. “Please come and visit.”
Mrs. Szep smiled and nodded. “I’ll bring some of Anna’s favorite pastry. Maybe that will make her feel better.”
I retraced my steps down the corridor to the front door and stepped back into the stairway, closing the door behind me. I hoped Mrs. Szep wouldn’t forget to lock it before she went to bed. I looked up toward the next landing and the entrance to my apartment and slowly began to climb the stairs.
Wednesday, June 6, 2007
I couldn’t recall anything in the past that alluded to Deszo’s participation in an organization on campus that would put him in jeopardy. In fact, Max used to tease him about his ardent disdain for the student organizations against the government. “In what way?” I asked Jozef.
“He works with the enemy.”
“You said you don’t know him.”
“I hear things in my line of work.”
I shook my head. This was unbelievable. “Your line of work? You’re a thief!”
“I am a businessman,” Jozef snarled. “It is my business to know where opportunities are, and how I can take advantage of them.”
“Tell me about Deszo,” I demanded.
“He is in contact with their officers,” Jozef explained. “From time to time I talk with those officers’ soldiers.”
“What could you be talking to them about? How do I know that you won’t tell them about Mila?”
“I have no interest in helping them round up victims.”
“They are new in town,” he laughed. “They want to find female friends.”
“You’re a pimp as well as a thief.”
“I simply make introductions. The girls know what is expected of them. They have a variety of reasons to do what they do.”
“Yes, but without your help it wouldn’t be so easy.”
“If it wasn’t me it would be someone else.”
A black sedan bearing enemy flags drove by us slowly. It stopped and a rear window rolled down.
A young solider stuck his head out the window and gestured toward us. “Where are you going so late at night?”
“We’re on our way home,” Jozef answered.
“You’re breaking curfew,” the solider said. “Let me see your papers.”
I reached in my coat pocket but Jozef stopped me.
“It’s not so late is it?” Jozef looked toward the horizon as if he expected to see the sun just setting. He then made a show of looking at this wrist. “I must have left my watch at home!”
“Your papers!” The solider demanded.
Jozef held up his hands as if to show that he was unarmed. “Can’t a man take a stroll with his girlfriend?”
The solider looked from me to Jozef and laughed. He turned to his companion in the car and I heard the laughter of another man. “She’s too old for you!”
I shivered. Was this how Jozef got women for them? I pulled my coat closed and took a step backwards.
The solider’s eyes traced my body. He held out his hand toward me, “Why don’t you join us for a drink?”
“No thank you!” I tried to sound pleasant but my voice was shaking.
“It’s not a suggestion,” he retorted.
Instinctively I looked toward my apartment building. It was within one block, I could see the doorway from where I was standing.
The officer followed my gaze and then looked back at me. “You live there?”
“No,” I gasped. “I was on my way to visit a friend.”
He nodded toward Jozef, “He said you were on your way home. So who’s lying?”
I looked toward Jozef.
“Maybe you have more friends to entertain us,” the solider gestured toward my building, “over there.”
“No!” I exclaimed. “I was going to visit an old friend of my husband’s.”
“A lady friend?” Laughter emanated from the backseat.
“No, of course not, a gentleman.”
“Ah a gentleman, you must be lonely,” the solider said with a wink. “Come with us and you will be less lonely.”
“I have a better idea.”
Jozef stepped up to the car and leaned over placing his hand on the windowsill as if he and the officer were old acquaintances. He spoke in a low tone so that I was unable to hear his conversation. His face turned away from me, but I could see the expression of the solider’s face change from stern accusation to recognition and then a sly smile.
He nodded several times and then turned back to his companion in the back seat to consult with him. Jozef said something and pointed down the street in the opposite direction from my home. The solider followed his gesture and then looked back at me as if trying to decide. Jozef took a roll of money from his pocket and handed pushed it toward the solider. The young man looked at the money and then at Jozef. He shook his head and pushed the money away.
He frowned and pointed to me and then said something as if bargaining. Jozef shook his head and put both his hands on the window ledge blocking me from view. He said something and then the two of them laughed.
Finally, Jozef stepped back from the car and made a mock salute. The solider returned the salute and then blowing a kiss in my direction, he sat back in his seat and rolled up the window. I held my breath as the car slowly drove down the street.
Jozef walked back to me and took my arm. “Let’s get out of here.”
“What did you say to them?”
“You don’t need to know, the outcome is obvious.”
He walked me to the steps of my building. I was surprised when he stopped.
“Thank you for your help,” I said. “This is the second time tonight you’ve come to my rescue.”
Jozef shrugged and then looked up at the windows of my apartment. “They’d think nothing of taking a girl of Mila’s age and using her for their own entertainment instead of sending her to the ghetto.”
I was shocked and yet I knew he was right. “What can I do?”
He hesitated continuing to look at the windows and then looked back at me. “I will come to your apartment tomorrow.”
“When?” I asked. “I have to go out tomorrow.”
“To meet Deszo?”
I wanted to lie. My hesitation gave me away instead.
“Take me to your meeting with Deszo.”
“How do I know that you won’t blackmail both of us?”
“You don’t,” Jozef said. “On the other hand, if I were going to do that, I wouldn’t tell you.”
Monday, June 4, 2007
My head was reeling trying to digest everything he’d said, trying to pick the truth from the lies. “Why did you pay her off?”
“Why do you think?”
“Because you believe you can make more by coming to me.”
Jozef didn’t reply but continued to walk down the street toward my apartment. I tried to imagine a scenario that would get me out of this situation. I would pay anything he asked to keep his silence.
“Tell me how much you want.”
“You are protecting your niece because her mother left her. Is that right?”
“Yes, why is that so strange?”
“Why risk your life for her?”
“Because I love her.”
“Mrs. Nyugati says it’s God’s retribution that people like your niece face now.”
“Ridiculous. God doesn’t stoop to the petty revenges of man. So, why did you pay off Mrs. Nyugati? And how do you know that she still won’t turn in Mila? She could get paid twice.”
“She won’t tell the because she knows that if she does I will stop being her supplier. She also knows that the cost of betraying me is…Let’s just say that money couldn’t fix it.”
I knew he was warning me as well as informing. A boy of his age didn’t become survive by doing things according by the rules. I imagined there were very brutal methods required to operate in his chosen profession.
“But still,” I asked, careful now. “Why pay her off on our behalf?”
“If she informs once, they’ll come back to her for information again and again. I might be her next pay-off.”
“But she needs you,” I countered.
“She’s greedy, which makes her thinking predictable.”
“You want me to believe that you paid for Mila’s safety to protect yourself?”
“You know Deszo Eckhart.”
There were too many coincidences. I couldn’t imagine how Jozef would know Deszo, or why Jozef would be interested in him. What could Deszo possibly have to offer this street thug? How could their paths have ever crossed? I remained silent.
Jozef prompted, “You had coffee with him before this.”
“What do you want with Deszo?”
Jozef squared his shoulders, as if to look older and more mature. “I think he and I could help one another.”
I wanted to laugh. How could this young thug, believe that he could have anything to do with Deszo? They were completely different. Deszo was politically neutral, not given to intrigue. His most daring escapade as far as I knew was his long affair with my sister.
“Deszo is a professor. Are you planning to join the university?”
Jozef laughed. “You know I’m too young to attend university. And in the middle of a war, education of that sort is a waste of time.”
“Then how do you imagine that Deszo could help you?”
“It’s Deszo’s other work that I’m interested in.”
“I am not aware that Deszo has any other work than his job at the University. But if you know differently, why don’t you go to him yourself?”
“He would never listen to someone like me. I need an introduction.”
I looked at him with new understanding. “You need Deszo to have a reason to help you and I am that reason.”
Jozef shrugged. “You’re an incentive.”
“And my incentive is Mila.”
“It’s a small thing I’m asking,” Jozef replied.
I looked up and saw my apartment building on the next block. “I need to think about it.”
Jozef said, “There’s nothing to think about. I want to meet Deszo, it’s a simple request.”
“But you haven’t told me what the purpose of your meeting would be.”
“You don’t need to know.”
“Deszo is a friend of mine,” I warned. “I’m not going to put him in harm’s way for you. Or anyone else.”
“He’s already in harm’s way.”