"BRING ALONG that portable public address system," Elliott Freemantle commanded. "We may be glad of it."
The Meadowood community meeting in the Sunday school hall of Meadowood First Baptist Church was sizzling with excitement which Lawyer Freemantle had skillfully generated. The meeting was also about to move on to Lincoln International Airport.
"Don't hand me any bilgewater about it being too late, or not wanting to go," Elliott Freemantle had exhorted his audience of six hundred a few minutes earlier. He stood before them confidently, impeccable as ever in his elegant Blue Spruce suit and gleaming alligator shoes; not a single barber-styled hair was out of place, and he radiated confidence. The meeting was enthusiastically with him now, and the rougher tongued he was, it seemed, the more they liked him.
He continued, "And don't let's have a lot of footling excuses for not going. I don't want to hear about baby-sitters, mothers-in-law left alone, or stews on the stove simmering, because I couldn't care less; neither---at this moment---should you. If your car's stuck in the snow, leave it there and ride in someone else's. The point is: I'm going to the airport tonight, on your behalf, to make myself obnoxious." He paused as another aircraft thundered overhead. "By God!---it's time somebody did." The last remark had caused applause and laughter.
"I need your support, and I want you there---all of you. Now I'll ask you a plain, straight question: Are you coming?"
The hall resounded to a roar of, "Yes!" People were on their feet, cheering.
"All right," Freemantle said, and the hall had hushed. "Let's get a few things clear before we go."
He had already told them, he pointed out, that legal proceedings must be the basis of any action to gain relief for Meadowood community from its overwhelming airport noise. Such legal proceedings, however, should not be the kind which nobody noticed, or which took place in some out-of-the-way, unpeopled courtroom. Instead, they must be conducted in the spotlight of public attention and public sympathy.
"How do we get that kind of attention and sympathy?" Lawyer Freemantle paused, then answered his own question.
"We get it by making our point of view known in such a way that it becomes newsworthy. Then, and only then, can the attention-getting media-press, radio, and television---feature our viewpoint prominently, in the kind of way we want."
The press were good friends, he declared. "We do not ask them to share our point of view, merely to report it fairly, which---in my experience---they always do. But it helps our reporter friends if a cause can engender some drama; that way, they get a better story."
The three reporters at the press table were grinning as Freemantle added, "We'll see if we can stage some drama for them tonight."
While Elliott Freemantle was speaking, he was also observing shrewdly the progress of the legal forms, retaining himself as legal counsel for individual homeowners, which were now circulating through the hall. Many of the forms---at least a hundred, he estimated---had been signed and passed forward. He had watched ballpoint pens appear, husbands and wives bend over the documents to sign jointly, thus committing each family to payment of a hundred dollars. Lawyer Freemantle did some happy calculation: a hundred completed retainers meant ten thousand dollars for himself. Not a bad fee for---so far---an evening's work, and in the end the total fee would be a great deal more.
While the forms were still circulating, he decided, he would continue talking for a few minutes longer.
As to what was going to happen at the airport tonight, he instructed his listeners, they were to leave that to him. He hoped there would be a confrontation with the airport's management; in any case, he intended to stage a demonstration---within the airport terminal---which people would remember.
"All I ask is that you stay together and that you raise your voices only when I tell you."
Emphatically, he cautioned, there would be no disorder. No one must be able to say next day that the Meadowood anti-noise delegation violated any law.
"Of course"---Freemantle smiled suggestively---"we may get in the way and cause some inconvenience; I understand that the airport is extremely busy tonight. But we can't help that."
There was laughter again. He sensed that people were ready to go.
Still another aircraft reverberated overhead, and he waited until the sound had died.
"Very well! Let us be on our way!" Lawyer Freemantle raised his hands like a jet-age Moses, and mixquoted: "For I have promises to keep, with much ado before I sleep."
The laughter changed to renewed cheering, and people began moving toward the doors.
It was then that he had noticed the portable p.a. system, borrowed from the Meadowood First Baptist Church, and instructed that it be brought along. Floyd Zanetta, the meeting's chairman---virtually ignored since Elliott Freemantle eclipsed him in attention---hurried to comply.
Freemantle himself was stuffing signed retainer forms into his briefcase. A quick count showed that he had underestimated earlier---there were over a hundred and sixty forms, or more than sixteen thousand dollars' worth of collectible fees. In addition, many who had come forward to shake his hand within the past few minutes, assured him they would mail their own forms, along with checks, in the morning. Lawyer Freemantle glowed.
He had no real plan as to what would happen at the airport, any more than he had arrived tonight with a fixed idea about how to take over this meeting. Elliott Freemantle disliked fixed ideas. He preferred to improvise, to get situations rolling, then direct them this way or that, to his own advantage. His freewheeling methods had worked once already this evening; he saw no reason why they should not do so again.
The main thing was to keep these Meadowood homeowners convinced that they had a dynamic leader who would eventually produce results. Furthermore, they must remain convinced until the four quarterly payments, which the legal retainer agreements called for, were made. After that, when Elliott Freemantle had his money in the bank, the opinions were less important.
So he had to keep this situation lively, he reasoned, for ten or eleven months---and he would do it. He would give these people all the dynamism they could want. There would be need for some more meetings and demonstrations like tonight's because those made news. Too often, court proceedings didn't. Despite what he had said a few minutes ago about legal proceedings being a base, any sessions in court were likely to be unspectacular and possibly unprofitable. Of course, he would do his best to introduce some histrionics, though quite a few judges nowadays were wise to Lawyer Freemantle's attention-creating tactics, and curtailed them sternly.
But there were no real problems, providing he remembered---as he always did in these affairs---that the most important factor was the care and feeding of Elliott Freemantle.
He could see one of the reporters, Tomlinson of the Tribune, using a pay phone just outside the hall; another reporter was nearby. Good! It meant that downtown city desks were being alerted, and would cover whatever happened at the airport. There would also, if earlier arrangements Freemantle had made worked out, be some TV coverage, too.
The crowd was thinning. Time to go!