It's Oscars time. Somebody wake the Grouch.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Earl's Novel - Chapter XII (Part III)

(Editor's note: Earl Fando is currently writing a novel as part of the insane National Novel Writing Month Contest. As of this post, he has passed the 49,500 word mark, and is literally typing in a crawl with his fingernails, in-between desperate attempts to get the attention of the physically beautiful and intellectually superior judges from The 2006 Weblog Awards.)

Stew, Nuffy, and I looked at one another sheepishly as Mr. Dong removed the remaining gun from my belt (no jokes please). We were caught and well done, too. This was followed by a thought that utterly confused me at first and then angered me.

“You’re turning to the Chinese?” I said, turning to Nixon. You’re turning to the communists that you’ve fought against all your life? No offense, mate, “I quickly added, turning to Mr. Wang.

“None taken,” he politely replied.

“Listen Merle, you ***** ninny! The feds turned on me, just as they’ve always done! I’ve got to think of me now!”

“Oh, like that’s never happened,” Stew muttered.

“They’ve used me and controlled me, and now those ****-******, *****, ****** bastards would do me in!!!”

Even Portia was appalled by the language in this last tirade, although I’m fairly certain she didn’t understand the meaning of at least two of the expletives Nixon used, because I didn’t myself.

“The President is simply acting pragmatically, my friend,” Mr. Wang chimed in.

“And only Nixon could go to China,” Heath blurted out, seeming to hope that a phrase so common that it appeared in a Star Trek film would be viewed as the height of wit. Nixon responded to this by throwing a pen at him, which remarkably hit him square between the eyes.

“At least you have your conscience Mr. Fando,” Mr. Wang continued. “You led him to us, but you did not do so intentionally.”

“It all beautifully fell into place,” Nixon said, an almost rhapsodic quality permeating the ageing, gravelly voice. “Clavin here has long been my personal assistant at home. I accepted him after the CIA dumped him because I figured that if he washed out of there, he couldn’t be very well connected to anyone who was a threat, the dumb ****. I initially used him to make contact with Mr. Wang a few years ago, while Mr. Wang was here on a reconnaissance mission, as it turns out trying to discover the secret behind Phoenix.”

“Which I owe all to you, Mr. President,” Mr. Wang replied graciously.

Nixon half laughed, half coughed. “Yes, well you’ve proved yourself quite resourceful as well. I only managed to funnel some basic information through Clavin to Wang, but it was enough for him to realize who I was and the importance of any potential relationship between his superiors and me. After that was done, I had Clavin make contact with you, so he could keep an eye on you. I knew that if things came down fast, I wouldn’t be able to use him to set up an exit strategy. As I couldn’t trust anyone else at Phoenix - they stuck me with a by-the-book FBI agent for your replacement – I needed you to handle the critical communications. Knowing that you might be uncooperative, I made sure that you’d have all the information you needed to find me and to realize that I wanted you to inform the Chinese of my whereabouts… Yangtze!” he shouted, laughing/coughing again.

“Oh, well that part worked perfectly,” I said sarcastically. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed Mr. Wang smile slightly.

“After the word came down that Phoenix was going under, I had Clavin remove me from under the nose of security, which was almost more than he could manage,” Nixon continued.

“You mean he drove you here instead of Phoenix one day?” I asked, rolling my eyes at Clavin…I mean Heath.

“I had to convince the regular driver that I needed to handle the job that day. It took some convincing acting on my part,” Heath boasted.

“You hit him on the head with a crescent wrench you ****** fabulist!” Nixon interjected. “Best driver I ever had and he left him with a concussion and maybe brain damage. However, we didn’t come here right away. We laid low at some motels south of here until we were convinced that Phoenix and the feds had ruled this place out and also until we were sure you had the first clue. The most miserable week of my life with this **** and his **** wife…it took you ******* long enough.”

“What about the fire at the security guard’s house?”

“That was Phoenix. That guy’s job was to keep an eye on you and any of the security guards who weren’t spooks, to make sure you weren’t spreading stories around. The family, the house, everything else was a front. Once Phoenix pulled out, they staged the arson to clear him and also to eliminate any physical evidence.”

“And how you would you know that?” I asked, genuinely curious.

“Because I’m the one who gave them the ******* idea.” he replied, as though it should be obvious.

The deathly silence in the room told us that the explanation was over. Heath had never really been our agent. My departure from Phoenix had never really freed me from the madhouse. My one decent friend from work had been a spy. The biggest lunatic in the place had seen to all of it.

“I guess I won’t get around to selling that book of yours, ass****,” Heath sneered, breaking the silence. Portia sneered as well.

Stew smacked Heath across the face with the back of his hand, knocking him down again. Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong declined to intervene.

“Now what, Mr. President?” I asked.

“I’ll be flying on a one way ticket to Shanghai, right on the Yangtze, and then perhaps to Beijing,” the President replied. “Oh, these two will come along as well, get a free ride at the expense of the Chinese government working for me,” he added, nodding at Heath and Portia, who was mopping blood from Heath’s cheek. “They might even stay alive if they keep their noses clean.”

“And us?” I added.

“Well, I thought about having you liquidated, but in some ways that strikes me as unfair, given you are responsible for the success of this operation, and given that I’ve kept this bumbler around long enough, despite the fact that he’s nowhere near as efficient as you were. No, I’d really like to offer you a job; your friends here also, if they’re of any use. You’d at least be good for a few laughs and some decent coffee.”

“If we decline?”

“That’s a tough one. I could let you go. I know you can’t say anything about me for fear of Phoenix coming after you. Still, they could ask questions, and you could answer those. So, I’m afraid you work for me or Clavin gets to shoot you in the head out back.”

There was a long pause, except for the sound of Heath quietly laughing.

“If we work for you, can we shoot Clavin?” Nuffy asked.

“I like your style, kid,” Nixon responded, which made Nuffy visibly queasy, “but no, I promised him I’d protect him, and as much as I regret that, I’m going to stick with the little ****.”

Stew, Nuffy, and I looked at each other. It seemed we were all thinking the same thing. The guns were still on the floor as Heath had never bothered to pick them up. Mr. Wang and Mr. Dong had slightly lowered their weapons as Nixon talked. There still might be a chance to grab the guns and make a fight of it, though I wasn’t enthralled with the possibility of having to shoot Mr. Wang, or even Mr. Dong, or for that matter, even Nixon. At that moment though, I would have cut Heath and Portia into tiny pieces with a Swiss Army knife and fed them to the birds.

I looked around. Heath was still laughing in quiet little fits, no doubt at the prospect of assassinating his two clients and their partner. Portia looked at us with plain contempt. Nixon sat, stone faced, apparently waiting for an answer. Stew was edging his foot in such a way that made me realise he was preparing to dive for one of the guns. Nuffy was making nearly imperceptible movements of a similar nature. Mr. Wang had a rather sad look on his face, a kind of regretful smile.

The strangest thing of all in the room though was Mr. Dong. He had slightly adjusted his shades so that I could actually see his eyes, which were startlingly blue, and then he smiled and gave me a quick wink.

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