The incident that would later become known as "The Murder of Bittie MacLeod," which would bring the planet toward war, cost many men their lives, and later become the subject of ballads, romances and legend, began at noon that day with Bittie's unfortunate spotting of Jonnie in the capitol area of Denver.
This chapter is mostly narration leading up to this event, which doesn't actually occur until Chapter 8. Nice of Hubbard to give us the head's up on what'll happen, though.
Bittie tagged along with the Russians who took over and locked down the American missile base, so he could take care of Jonnie's horses like a good squire. He and his good Russian buddy Dmitri Tomlov, who I'm sure will be a very important recurring character, were in Denver doing some shopping. Dmitri bought Bittie a riding crop which is, as a minor plot point, about the length of a Brigante bow. Bittie gets a golden locket and has a new Swiss immigrant, who is of course a skilled craftsman and jeweler, engrave "To Pattie, my future wife" on it.
He wouldn't have been able to afford it, but the Swiss family who runs the shop was selling out and packing up after suffering an attack by Brigante "police," who tried to rob the place and beat up their son. This has caused some confusion among the locals.
The council, when approached by the few people now in Denver, had admitted that yes, the Brigantes were "police," and that law and order was vital and that it was a felony to resist "police." Nobody really knew what "police" meant as a word, but they had come to realize it was something very bad.
Yet again, I call "wha?" Nobody's society in the thousand years after the Psychlo invasion had any sort of a police force? No warrior caste to carry out the chief's will? No sworn upholders of tribal law? No sheriffs, prefects, constables, watchmen, or reeves? Did everyone just get along when they weren't feudin' or warrin' with other tribes?
I'd complain about crappy worldbuilding, but I think this is some more social commentary by L. Ron, about how policemen are thuggish thieves who can't be trusted, unlike a man who spent over a decade roaming the high seas after cheesing off the FBI by attempting to infiltrate the US government to protect his home-brewed religion.
Anyway, on the way back from the shop Bittie and Russian #2 sees Jonnie walking out of the capitol towards a ground car. After he gets in, someone else (Lars) exits, yells about Jonnie going back to pick up his horses to someone inside the building, and gets in the car too. Bittie freaks out, not because anything about this situation strikes him as suspicious, but because dealing with the horses is his job. He and Russian #2 run around Denver until they find Russian #3, hop in a car, and take off after Jonnie.
Back to Chapter Five