Expediter

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• Black Man's Burden (1961) • The Common Man (1963) T he knock at the door came in the middle of the night, as Josip Pekichad always thought it would. when the knock had come that first time and the three large men had Josip follower of one of whom Josip had never heard in any other context oth- But though his father was now a hero, Josip still expected that knock. The first of the zombi twins said expressionlessly, "Comrade Josip Pekic?" He said, "That is correct. At least they still called him comrade. deprecation, Josip Pekic's personality didn't exactly dominate in a group. all the thing, these days, to look proletarian, whatever that meant. he said as evenly as he could make it come. Josip Pekic sat in the back between the two, wondering just where he vantage Josip could think of that Zagurest had over the cities of the West Josip Pekic, in surprise, opened his mouth to say something to the secur- Yes. Josip Pekic knew where they were going now. Somewhat to Josip Then, to Josip Pekic's astonishment, the other came to his feet quickly, Josip hadn't considered the possib- "Aleksander Kardelj," he said in self-introduction, sticking out a lean Josip shook, bewildered. Josip to the two. Josip fingered his chin nervously. suspect you see yourself as a present day Transbalkanian G-Man." "Yes, Comrade," Milka said, and then shook his head. "Oh, hush up and get out," Kardelj said. He looked at Josip and "I've been looking for you for months." Josip Pekic ogled him blankly. Aleksander Kardelj was Number Two. Right-hand man of Zoran Jankez himself, second in com- "Looking for me?" Josip said blankly. "Of course, of course," Kardelj said, humorously impatient. a folder from his desk and shook it absently in Josip's general direction. Comrade Jankez is expecting us. In a daze, Josip Pekic followed him. Comrade Jankez, Number One. Zoran Jankez, Secretary General of the Number One. Josip could hardly remember so far back that Zoran Jankez wasn't head of the Party, when his face, or sculptured bust, wasn't to be seen in Jankez, never a Telly newscast but that Number One was brought to the Josip Pekic followed Aleksander Kardelj in a daze, through a door to table, looking some ten years older than in any photo Josip had ever seen, sat Zoran Jankez. He looked ten years older, and his face bore a heavy weariness, a gray- Kardelj said in pleasurable enthusiasm, "Here he is, Zoran. rade Josip Pekic. of Josip Pekic. Zoran Jankez growled an invitation for them to be seated and Kardelj Josip fumbled himself into one of the sturdy oaken chairs, staring back one had said anything that made any sense whatsoever to him since he Zoran Jankez rasped, "I have gone through your dossier, Comrade. "Yes, Comrade Jankez," Josip got out. It wasn't exactly the way Josip knew the story, but there was little He said, unhappily, "Comrades, I feel some mistake has been made. He held up a hand to cut Josip short and turned to his superior. A most average, laudable young man. man." Zoran Jankez seemed not to hear the other. He was studying Josip which Josip had not noticed before. laden wagon to within reach of the heavy-set Party head, his face in Jankez grunted something and the waiter, not quite bowing and scrap- Kardelj said easily, "Let me, Zoran." He arose and brought a towel- He took up another and raised his eyebrows at Josip Pekic who Jankez, his eyes small and piggish, took up a heavy slice of dark bread Josip's eyes went to the hors d'oeuvres wagon. Number One rumbled, his mouth full, "Comrade, I am not surprised at must consider yourself a very fortunate young man." He belched, took "I … I don't know … I mean think so, Comrade Jankez." "Comrade Kardelj an industrial successes during the Second World War. They were at- Josip fidgeted, still uncomprehending. "We're adapting the idea to our own needs, Comrade. If anything, Josip Pekic was more confused than ever. said blankly. "To … to expedite what?" "That is for you to decide," Kardelj said blithely. You feel as the average man in the street feels. Josip said plaintively, "You keep saying that, but I don't know what you mean, Comrade. this about me being uh, the average man? "Exactly," Kardelj said triumphantly. You're the average man of all Transbalkania. "Comrade, we have made Your tastes, your ambitions, your … dreams, Comrade Pekic, are Josip Pekic and his associates had wondered at some of the examina- Number One had pushed himself back in his chair, and Josip was only Zoran Jankez took up a paper. the West who but recently returned from a tour of our country. The Party head looked hopelessly at first Josip and then Kardelj. Kardelj said, a light frown on his usually easygoing face, "I believe it is Josip took courage. On those occasions I … ah … met various young women of Kardelj said triumphantly, "See what I mean, Zoran? This comrade is Jankez looked at his right-hand man heavily. Kardelj held his lean hands up, as though in humorous supplication. "Because, Comrade, to this point we have not had expediters to find out such desires on the part of women comrades." He glared up at his right-hand man. Kardelj cleared his throat. Jankez growled, "The tourist trade is important. hard currencies." He glowered across at Josip. At this time of the year, obviously in four hours the meat was spoiled." He glowered at Kardelj and then at Josip Pekic. Why, Comrades? Aleksander Kardelj became brisk. He said to Josip Pekic with a smile, Josip said glumly, "But suppose … suppose they ignore my findings?" Number One snorted, but said nothing. Kardelj said jovially, "Tomorrow the announcements will go out to every man, woman and child in the People's Democratic Dictatorship. You are answerable only to Comrade Jankez and my- Josip was flabbergasted. "But … but suppose I come up against some … well, someone high in the Party, or, well … some general or ad- Kardelj said jocularly, "You answer only to us, Comrade Pekic. Comrade Jankez did not exaggerate. Josip was aghast, all over again. "Don't misunderstand, Comrade," Kardelj told him with amused com- Josip Pekic stared miserably back and forth between the two, wonder- an Jankez. He looked at Aleksander Kardelj, and in spite of the other's smiling face, he decided you didn't turn down Number Two, either. Josip said carefully, "From what you say, I … I can override anyone in You know … with something I think I find wrong?" Comrade. Kardelj, winced when he saw the Party head approaching. But Zoran Jankez was now near enough that he might hear, and Veljko Even as his right-hand man looked up from his work, Jankez was Kardelj was close enough to the other personally to at least pretend He grinned and said, "You mean young Josip? The Number Two Party man swiveled slightly and punched out a Jankez snorted his anger but took up one of the glasses. "If I don't start looking before that time," he added ominously. Kardelj sipped part of his own drink. He said lightly, "That is the only "But what is it that young Josip has done?" Zoran Jankez had lowered his clumsy bulk into a chair. Now he said Party man, Comrade Crvenkovski, never failing to vote with you in "Yes," Jankez growled ominously. "And your precious Josip Pekic, Aleksander Kardelj cleared his throat. Ah, Comrade Crvenkovski evidently had "A well-known fact," Jankez rasped. His right-hand man had not failed to note that he was now being giv- He said, still cheerfully, however, "It "Well?" his superior said ominously. "Um-m-m," Kardelj said placatingly. Zoran," he said with a wry smile, "I would suggest we find another posi- tion for Comrade Crvenkovski." The secretary-receptionist looked up at long last at the very average looking young man before him. "Yes," he said impatiently. The stranger said, "I would like to see Comrade Broz." Josip Pekic shook his head, almost sadly. "No," he said. "Throw this man out." He pointed at the secretary-receptionist. Josip brought forth his wallet, fidgeted a moment with the contents, "State expediter," he said nervously. direct authority of Comrade Zoran Jankez." He looked at the suddenly The other scurried from the room before Josip thought of more to say. Josip Pekic looked at the guard for a long moment. He said finally, un- "Why yes, Comrade. "You didn't answer my question." Josip's hands were jittering so he Finally he came up triumphantly with, "Yes, Comrade. Comrade Broz and the others from assassins. Josip said, "Go back to your superior and inform him that I say you are If … well, if our people "Oh, get out," Josip said, with attempted sharpness. door leads to Comrade Broz's office?" At least he knew how to obey orders, Josip The average young man looked at some of the lettering on the charts He said, his voice hesitant, "Commissar Broz?" He said, "Yes, young man?" Josip presented his credentials again. Comrade Jankez and ably assisted by Aleksander Kardelj. expediter was not needed in the Transbalkanian Steel Complex. "Yes," Josip began glumly, "but—" Josip Pekic said, almost apologetically in view of the other's enthusi- "That's what I came to discuss with you, Comrade. "This new policy of yours." Josip's voice was diffident. "You mean overtaking the steel production of the West, by utiliz- you Comrade, the germ of this idea originated with Zoran Jankez him- We are old comrades and friends from back before the revolution." "I'm sure you are," Josip said pessimistically, and suppressing an urge "However … well, I'm not so sure Num- Comrade." Josip half nodded, said discouragedly, "You forget. By Comrade Jankez's own orders I … I can do no wrong. "Scrapped!" the Commissar of the Transbalkanian Steel Complex so small as to be operated by a handful of comrade citizens, in backyard The younger man said, his voice seemingly deprecating his words, ing project, not in use that time of the year. The commissar began to protest heatedly, but Josip Pekic shook his "Comrade," he bit out, "I warn you. Comrade Jankez is enthusiastic about Beyond that, not only is he an old comrade, but my Josip Pekic nodded, unenthusiastically, and his voice continued to However, Comrade Broz, you are … well, no longer Commissar of the My report has already gone in to Comrades Jankez and Kardelj." Kardelj had always thought it would. The fact was, Aleksander Kardelj was not asleep when the fist poun- Jankez. For the past ten years, Kardelj had been able to placate Zoran Jankez, Yes, Number One was increasingly subject to his rages these days. was Aleksander Kardelj's deepest belief that Jankez was finding himself Zoran Jankez's face had come onto the Telly-Phone screen already en- He had snapped to his right-hand man, "Kardelj! He said now, cajol- "Don't call me Zoran, Kardelj! He said placatingly, "Comrade Jankez, I had already come to the conclusion that I should "I am not interested in what you were going to do, Kardelj. I know the Pekic blood. Kardelj had enough courage left to say, "Comrade, it would seem to me that young Pekic is a tanglefoot, but not a conscious traitor. "Don't call me comrade, Kardelj!" Number One roared. said, wryly, "Very well, sir. But would you tell me what Josip Pekic has Kardelj cleared his throat at this point. "What has he done?" Kardelj asked, intrigued in spite of his position of Jankez, Kardelj knew, had been a miner as a youth, with no experience Number One was raging on. Jankez, and betray the revolution to the Western powers, but he, Zoran He, Zoran Jankez, Aleksander Kardelj grinned humorously, wryly, and reached to flick Zoran Jankez sat at his desk in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, a heavy petent, Kardelj, he had been through this thing before. that he was Number One. After a time he put a beefy hand down on the reports. Josip Pekic, within the next twenty-four hours, or answer to me." He "But … but, Comrade, I—" early days of the expediter scheme to reverse matters to the point of hav- Jankez had been through it before, though long years had lapsed since it And there was the youthful face of Josip Pekic, currently being sought Youthful, yes, but even as he stared his astonishment, Zoran Jankez Before Jankez found his voice. Josip Pekic said diffidently, "I … I un- derstand you've been, well … looking for me, sir." "Looking for you!" the Party head bleated, his rage ebbing in all but Pekic said, his voice jittering, "I had some research to do. this … this project you and Kardelj started me off on—" "Ah," Jankez said as smoothly as he was able to get out. encouragingly, "What are you driving at, Josip Pekic?" "What is all this about?" Number One growled. Josip took a deep breath and hurried on nervously. employment, at the very time that there are millions of people who need Josip said reasonably, "Why, sir, I've come to the conclusion that the "Just that," Josip said with dogged glumness. "I … well, I don't know Zoran Jankez growled ominously, "Are you suggesting that I am in- "Yes, sir," Josip said brightly, as though the other had encouraged him. ern world, governments seem to be taking over the running of industry "Where are you calling from, Pekic?" he de- Josip Pekic cleared his throat, apologetically. "No, sir," he said. were a traitor, Pekic. The younger man looked worried. "Well, yes, sir," he said. Josip Pekic, rubbed his nose nervously, and said, in the way of uneasy I just … well … expedited Zoran Jankez sat there for a long time, staring at the now dark then, Zoran Jankez had always thought it would … finally.