They stood on the cobbled street while the film camera was being set up. Susan looked at the road leading down and away, and the highway going to Acapulco and the sea, past pyramids and ruins and little adobe towns with yellow walls, blue walls, purple walls and flaming bougainvillea, and she thought, We shall take the roads, travel in clusters and crowds, in markets, in lobbies, bribe police to sleep near, keep double locks, but always the crowds, never alone again, always afraid the next person who passes may be another Simms. Never knowing if we’ve tricked and lost the Searchers. And always up ahead, in the Future, they’ll wait for us to be brought back, waiting with their bombs to burn us and disease to rot us, and their police to tell us to roll over, turn around, jump through the hoop! And so we’ll keep running through the forest, and we’ll never ever stop or sleep well again in our lives.
A crowd gathered to watch the film being made. And Susan watched the crowd and the streets.
“Seen anyone suspicious?”
“No. What time is it?”
“Three o’clock. The car should be almost ready.”
The test film was finished at three forty-five. They all walked down to the hotel, talking. William paused at the garage. “The car’ll be ready at six,” he said, coming out, worried.
“But no later than that?”
“It’ll be ready, don’t worry.
In the hotel lobby they looked around for other men traveling alone, men who resembled Mr. Simms, men with new haircuts and too much cigarette smoke and cologne smell about them, but the lobby was empty. Going up the stairs, Mr. Melton said, “Well, it’s been a long hard day. Who’d like to put a header on it? You folks? Martini? Beer?”
The whole crowd pushed into Mr. Melton’s room and the drinking began.
“Watch the time,” said William.
Time, thought Susan. If only they had time. All she wanted was to sit in the plaza all of a long bright day in October, with not a worry or a thought, with the sun on her face and arms, her eyes closed, smiling at the warmth, and never move. Just sleep in the Mexican sun, and sleep warmly and easily and slowly and happily for many, many days. . . .
Mr. Melton opened the champagne.
“To a very beautiful lady, lovely enough for films,” be said, toasting Susan. “I might even give you a test.”
“I mean it,” said Melton. “You’re very nice. I could make you a movie star.”
“And take me to Hollywood?” cried Susan.
“Get the hell out of Mexico, sure!”
Susan glanced at William and he lifted an eyebrow and nodded. It would be a change of scene, clothing, locale, name, perhaps; and they would be traveling with eight other people, a good shield against any interference from the Future.
“It sounds wonderful,” said Susan.
She was feeling the champagne now. The afternoon was slipping by; the party was whirling about her. She felt safe and good and alive and truly happy for the first time in many years.
“What kind of film would my wife be good for?” asked William, refilling his glass.
Melton appraised Susan. The party stopped laughing and listened.
“Well, I’d like to do a story of suspense,” said Melton. “A story of a man and wife, like yourselves.”
“Sort of a war story, maybe,” said the director, examining the color of his drink against the sunlight.
Susan and William waited.
“A story about a man and wife who live in a little house on a little street in the year 2155, maybe,” said Melton. “This is ad lib, understand. But this man and wife are faced with a terrible war, super-plus hydrogen bombs, censorship, death in that year, and—here’s the gimmick—they escape into the Past, followed by a man who they think is evil, but who is only trying to show them what their duty is.”
William dropped his glass to the floor.
Mr. Melton continued: “And this couple take refuge with a group of film people whom they learn to trust. Safety in numbers, they say to themselves.”