The Marked Field

Carl L. Biemiller's The Marked Field appeared in
Blue Book Magazine
October 1949, Vol. 89, No. 6

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home


The pills had not worked to bring Stuart Slanp real rest. His sleep had been more a gray, numbing fog than the restoring oblivion he had hoped for when he took them. He was grateful for the church bells clanging into the Sunday stillness, for the sound probed his restless torpor and pushed him into a full awakening. With it came a controlled calm. The chase was up, and he would adapt to it. But still, the raged thoughts of last night persisted. Destruction was a form of total adaptability too, with the destroyed seldom in a position to enjoy the versatility of matter. He remembered the old parlor games he had once played with such sophist ingenuity. Is there sound if there are no ears to hear it? At what point does a chicken eaten by a fox stop clucking and begin to bark? At what stage does a fox consumed by a bear lose its cunning and become part of an ursine stupidity?

He shook his head to banish the arrant nonsense. A man of sedentary habit jarred from such a role and forced to ape the part of the harried should gain strength, new stimulation as his instincts of self-preservation sharpened in actual use.

He rose and went into his bathroom, took his shower and shaved. He dressed carefully, but not until he tied the necktie he thought proper to a gray flannel lounge suit, did he accept the fact that he was attempting to post-pone a decision. And with that realization he realized also that somewhere along the line of forces allied with his life, a decision had already been made over which he could have no control. He did not need to re-read the news story to refresh his memory of the central figure mentioned in it. He knew the confessed man, had known his work, and could judge the validity of the evidence he had submitted to the Federal authorities. He was in deeply. Still, there was justification for some forms of that implication. It had been a long time ago. But how much was known or guessed of his more recent activities? It was safe to assume very little. Otherwise he would have been confronted by the direct action of the law. That was simple logic, and it gave him a measure of confidence.

He walked through his apartment to the kitchen. The New York Times had been delivered by now, he thought. It would be an admission of weakness to get it, turn through its news columns. Haste solved no problems.

Never a handy man about a kitchen, he boiled water for make instant coffee. That was an easy enough thing to do. It was equally simple to boil two eggs for his breakfast, to pour a glass of prepared orange juice, which came in a bottle from the same dairy service that delivered his daily quart of milk. He put his food on a table, sat before it and ate slowly, disregarding a tendency of his throat to close as he swallowed. He even poured a second cup of coffee. Then he went to his apartment door, took the Times from a rack over his letter box.

The story was there, on page one in New York as, doubtless, in other cities throughout the nation. There was no elaboration on the essential facts he had absorbed in the Independent, although his heart raced at the condensation of the Independent supporting story which the Times included as a mere line stating that it was believed Federal investigation was under way at Central University.

Incongruously he resented the mention of the University in such a connection. It seemed to be an accusation against learning, a slur on scholarship. He saw nothing strange in his heat, nothing odd in the fact that he knew, better than most, how truly untainted the nation’s academic institutions were as far as organized disaffection went.

He rose from his chair, walked to a window and examined the day. For the first time, inasmuch as he was involved in a personal struggle, he saw the campus as a place of struggle, a microcosm, perhaps of global conflict. Here, as elsewhere, the people who knew what they wanted moved steadily over, around and past those who comfortably, and without knowing, enjoyed a way of life they refused to envision as temporary, an existence to which they personally made no contribution, and in which they saw little need for immediate striving.

There had long been a streak in him clamoring to play God, and up to now a beneficent ignorance that had nothing to do with his intellectual or academic attainment, which prevented him from seeing a simple lack of equipment for such a job. Not for years had he contemplated failure as a possible individual experience; nor had he perceived the basic seeds of failure in the future of the philosophy, which had led him to betray his land.

He contemplated failure now. Exposure! And that, in the work, was failure, unadorned, whether or not legal punishment accompanied it. Enlightenment, when it comes, comes speedily. What his mind had refused to accept as such last night, his nervous system reacted upon automatically in nausea, shock. Now, with both mind and body joined in viewing the facts, he reached the edge of panic.

Panic, controlled, is not panic, and from long studious habit he left the window, where for the past few minutes he had gazed unseeing, and returned to a chair by his long library table. He took a yellow pad and a pencil, let a common friendly doodling marshal his thoughts.

What was the worst that could happen? He had few illusions in this moment of hard reality. He could be punished by the party, and the method would be removal, complete obliteration by bullet, knife or arranged accident. He could be taken, tried, convicted by the Government, and at the very worst, during peacetime, go to jail still possessed of a physical life.

He doubted the eventuality of such a “worst.” Government was still a groping, nebulously managed thing in such cases. It still fell over its own feet attempting to give justice to those whose concepts of such an intangibility scorned that justice while it accepted its benefits. He was a well-informed man. There was a trial in New York which promised to be a “five-year plan” for the accused, and where more influential party leadership than his might ultimately wind up scatheless. What then? There was no proof of his actual criminality either in espionage, or the removal of young Rogalski.

The answer lay in his monstrous pride, in the outward respect, honor and ostensible achievement he had bartered integrity to obtain, and without which he would be no more than an individual derelict moving among men who would scorn him. There would be no pleasant doors open to him. At best, there might be a life under an alias….

The day passed for him on the rack of imagination. He made more coffee for his lunch, ignored the pile of student papers he had intended to go over. He fleetingly debated whether or not to take his customary Sunday afternoon walk and decided against it. He did not want to stroll in the sunshine, with the hills aflame in the crisp blazing autumn day which, in the climate of the region, might be the last fine one before real winter battered the campus. It would take the maximum of his will to drive him out to dinner, into possible discussion of some of the events he pondered, or even worse, the rattling faculty enthusiasm he might hear about the football victory over Catholic.

He did not know exactly when the resentment he cherished focused upon Dipper Dane as a tangible source of his trouble, and the one single personality standing clear against the jumbled background of a situation. A man could be his own persecutor just so long before he had to find an object of transference. If no enemy could be found, the representation of a foe would do, and with it an easing of self-hatred.

Dane was all the things he was not; and while not the cause of the things he was, it was Dane, the symbol, he must face. Arriving at this conclusion, he refused to think further. He rose, cleaned and tidied himself up, and taking a coat, left his apartment for dinner.

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Chapter One Chapter Two Chapter Three Chapter Four Chapter Five
Chapter Six Chapter Seven Chapter Eight Chapter Nine Chapter Ten
Chapter Eleven Chapter Twelve Chapter Thirteen Chapter Fourteen Chapter Fifteen
Chapter Sixteen Chapter Seventeen Chapter Eighteen Chapter Nineteen Chapter Twenty One
Chapter Twenty Two Harvest of Memories Biemiller Home