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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
First online review of MYRRH is now up on Kirkus. Here's the URL:
Due out very soon from Dog Ear Books!
August 29, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 271: The Hostage Situation

“OK, when you need it I have the next slot location after this one…”
Here among the very slowly fading battlefields of color, we kept our attentions wide, tried to fix on where ‘we’ might be. The other ‘we.’ The Anthro/Psych building loomed to our nearing right as we approached. Thankfully our horses had put themselves on a war footing; they kept their eyes open and did not stop to munch on a leaf or the lawn. A large clock at the airport side of the campus showed about three in the afternoon. So it was probably about ten in New York.
/-Best we keep our voices down, I think –D./
-Checking in, folks, all’s well. –P.
“How’s the field strength grid holding up, Robot?” Schneider asked.
“Higgs field remains completely insane, but they don’t appear to be affected by it. CMBR a smidge of a smidge high, but all other interference levels as expected.”
(-For whatever reason, I more or less recall, now. We were in other realities, David, until about 6, when Ozzy expected us home for dinner. –P.)
[-And recreation. –F.]
“Thermos here, gentlemen, Dr. Bernheim would ask about now what your status is, I guess, so please report.”
/-Shame we can’t go visit him –D./
“Good, Thermos, thanks,” agreed the chief engineer.
-Heading for the next slot. Hopefully it’s the right one. What do you say, Tank, another seventy feet? Brothers, we may have to dismount and walk the horses in. –F.
(-…no. It isn’t. Not entirely. –P.)
/-Are you kidding, he’d love doing it to four of us—D./
(-Shhhh! –P.)
{-Uh, on another point … Any idea where Azrael went? Anybody seen ‘im? –W.}
-Not good, somebody might stop us. –P.
-Like them to try –D.
“Tend to your assignment. I will explain afterwards.”
{-OK. I wasn’t worried before, but now I am… --W.}
“When it is His will, the way is easier.”
/Huh! Sometimes –D./
The stares we’d received on the walk to the Psych/Anthro building had subsided, but now a campus policeman halted us near to directly before the turn in the sidewalk. In Swiss French he declared, “Show your Identification, gentlemen. Horses are not allowed on college property.”
In the lead, William proved yet again his mettle and drew his greatsword.
-They are, now. –W.
His French was only serviceable, but anyone understands a bladepoint a quarter of an inch from one’s nose. I heard yelps and hisses all about us as students scattered. I turned to them, my machine pistol in the air.
-No one move! Stay exactly where you are. –P.
“Peter, is what William is doing at all---?!” asked Vortura.
“Steady, everyone, mind your jobs, now,” said Schneider, “I’m sure there’s an explanation for this.”
“Wait, Dr. Bernheim—?“ I heard Tanker say, but Leah interrupted him.
“Sorry, Tanker, everyone, I can’t explain now but I will… Inspector, here are my IDs for CERN and for Cambridge University in the UK.”
“But, Doctor—“
A new, deep voice, Belgian French accent. Yes, Wallon, I think. “Very good, Doctor, we will deal with the remainder. We’ll contact the US Embassy in Bern and tell them to come get their vehicle.”
“Thank you very much, Inspector. Tanker, are they OK in there?”
“Her concern for you four is misplaced, but a good daughter is a good daughter.”
Impossible to tell where he spoke from. Very irritating. One by one, the students turned and approached the path again, hands up.
“Oh, they’re safe as houses…”
“Good. I’ll be right back!”
“Doctor?” asked Tanker, but she was already gone again.
-Keep coming forward, everyone! Hands on your heads. Not in the air. –P.
“I said,” Victor repeated,”I’d hope an explanation was in the offing here.
-So Dr. Bernheim didn’t tell ya? Shame. –W.
-I said, hands on your heads! –P.
-Dr. Schneider, there is no time to explain/ I will say this/ we are mercenaries/ hired soldiers/ we have an assignment for a client and this was the only way we could carry it out/ now, if you’ll excuse us-- --D.
William extended his arm a bit, allowing the bladepoint within an eighth of an inch of the guard’s face.
“Mercenaries for what, might I ask? The Crimean War?” asked Robot World.
-Do not move. We’re goin’ into that buildin’ and yer openin’ th’ door fer us. And then you’re comin’ for th’ ride. –W.
-That was uncalled for, Robot. –P.
“Well, you did know Latin, so I assumed--?” the automaton began.
“Taking hostages?! Is this—“ asked Vortura.
I put away my gun and drew out my bow and a dozen arrows, somewhat in response. Although the woman certainly couldn’t see me.
“I didn’t know—“ Thermos began but failed to finish his thought.
“Yes. Yes, sir,” the guard at last managed, to William. “Just don’t kill me.”
In ‘Verse I, I called out the following in Swiss French, Italian and German, just to make certain everyone got the ‘jist.’
“Gentlemen…” Schneider said, but didn’t know what else to add.
-If anybody thinks I can’t take you down with these, I invite you to make the attempt. –P.
The chief engineer finally found words. “We weren’t asked to agree to this, Peter. Did you at least tell Le—Dr. Bernheim what you were going to do?”
-What, yes. How we’d go about it, no. Pardon me, sir. You! Over here! With the rest of them. –P.
-Like herding cats, ain’t it… --W.
He sounded quite pleased with himself.
-Very nice. Everybody into the building! Line up against the wall. –P.
“All right,” Schneider finally managed, “whatever you do in ‘Verse I, you don’t hurt anybody. Am I--”
Apparently Leah was again on her way to the work table, because most of the techs called to her.
-That so –D.
“I’m back,” she said, clearly preoccupied. “What’s going on?” We heard her refit her earpiece. While the techs caught her up, I waved more students towards the door to Anthro/Psych.
{-Any sign of us? –W.}
[-Do you know.. I had no inkling we were here, that day. This day. Or did I? How did we sneak in under our own radar? –F.]
“G-d is great.”
/-Ah, that’s your answer for everything –D./
“…They’re doing what?”
Now we were in trouble.
“So it is.”
“I admit it, I told nobody, Dr. Schneider. I apologize for that.” To everyone: These men are professionals,” Leah explained. “Don’t forget that the Mercury and Apollo astronauts, the Russian cosmonauts like Gherman Titov and Yuri Gagarin, all were trained fighter pilots. What do fighter pilots do? And the Spanish explorers of the New World, however it may have turned out, were soldiers. These are the men or women you need to go where nobody else ever did or would dare.”
“Dr. Bernheim, I think I speak for everybody here when I say that, your very kind gesture to us a while back aside, you should have told us about this. We would have helped you anyway.” Each of the team agreed, in their way.
“That’s 100%, Doctor,” Robot World concluded, “I’m a celebrity in my hometown,thanks to you. Should’ve told us this.”
“I – I am very sorry, everyone. You’re right. It was my job to fully inform and I blew it. There was a lot of surface noise over the last two days that got in the way. I’ll explain. Hold me to that. Please.”
As the disagreement went forward there, we continued ‘here,’ herding students, teachers, office workers and whoever else we could snare into the Anthro/Psych building.
-Faster, if you would! --P.
“We will, Doctor,” Vortura insisted.
“And I made an order a moment ago…?” He filled Leah in on it. She of course reacted immediately.
“Peter, Francis, David, William, I am sorry to put this on you, but I had no time to do anything but about a fifth of the calculations and none of the team prep. Dr. Schneider is in charge here. Not me. His order is that you four must not do harm. I don’t care to whom. Nobody.”

“I need to have assent from you. All four of you.”
-…Hear ya loud and clear, lady. If that’s how I gotta play it… --W.
“Can I… go open the door now?” stammered the guard.
-…OK, Leah. –F.
-Yeah. Do that. Hand over the walkie-talkie. Now. –W.
-Fine, Leah, I as well. –P.
In a very no-nonsense tone: “David, your response, please? Dr. Schneider will pull this experiment and shut it down now, and I will not countermand him. ”
“She has you, Death. Answer her.”
The mirth in his tone... I won’t, as they say, dwell. William jammed the guard’s communicator in a front pocket.
-…I am not the one with the steel out, Doctor! –D.
Possibly that was not the wisest statement. Our blades had been hidden by our winter cloaks, after all, until very recently.
Steel? What do you mean—“
-Leah, what’re guns made of? And yes; I’m on board –D.
Phew. I nodded to David, he drew his weapon himself and turned to see behind us…
-Petey! –D.
“Safeties on, then, you hear me?” Leah demanded.
-Acknowledged! Petey, look-- –D.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 26, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 270: 'Let Them'

Keying open her desk, Leila reached for the encrypted cellular. She wasn’t familiar with the incoming number, but flicked the ON button, saying, “This is 2247.”
“Leila, good morning, Dr. Bernheim here…” Having just showed her ID to Inspector Jurgens, upon his leaving Leah had found her cellular and walked halfway to the now-abandoned Chrysler.
“Thank you for calling, Doctor, but you are not using the device we sent you. If something’s going on you need to reach me with that.”
“Oh! Sorry.” A click. Leila sat; Bellachiusa’s connectors had already dug out the master files on ‘Silent Running’ and placed them on her desk. Practically having forgotten that they existed, she began to take up the third folder, which contained the Gate’s ‘tactics and strategy’ evidence; the rest would have to lie where they were. Sir Hal would not much care about bear raids and
rogue muckrakers… but the encrypted phone had already begun to ring again.
“This is 2247.”
“Leila, I apologize for the stupid mistake, this is Leah Bernheim again…” Now that she had had a chance to talk, Leah did sound a bit washed out to Miss Al-Adil.
“You’re new at this, Doctor, it’s fine. What can I do?” Leila stood behind her desk, the heat from her floor server very thankfully not so obnoxious as usual.
“If you sent any orders down the line about our talk yesterday, they were carried out a minute ago. He was just driven away by…” She seemed not to know how to be vague. Well, scientists couldn’t be too good at that, probably.
“Our counterparts,” Leila finished her thought. “Understood. Did you have it out with him at all?”
“Very,” Leah admitted. “I recorded it and I’ll send it to you if you give me an e-mail address that works.”
“So something he said might concern us?”
“I don’t really give it a lot of credence but their client, I quote, ‘wants blood’ if they don’t get some token of information from me this morning. And someone they hired apparently blame me for the loss of some of their men. All nonsense, you understand, so I don’t know that you’re directly involved here. But should I be worried, though? What do you think?”
What to tell her? The Gate were all but assured, but for a direct confession, ‘may Allah in His infinite wisdom be so good,’ to have set the bombings up and attempted to carry them out. Forget the other factor (those who had stopped them in Paris…); their concerns remained unreadable, whoever they were, and with any luck they paid no attention to physicists. Only some of the truth would have to do, even less than she could say aloud to her fellow ‘madmen’ at Six…
“Given what you’ve told me today, I’m sorry to have to tell you that I would be careful, Dr. Bernheim. I don’t have any reports of violence to individuals yet in this matter, just to crowds, but you may be a different circumstance to the responsible group .” OK, just one little white lie. No, transparent. “Or groups. If you actually have got in their or their hired help’s way, or if they think you have, and that could be true given how you’ve got this man all but arrested, you may want to take appropriate steps. The main difficulty is, we still don’t know 100% who the actual party is. There is evidence and a lot of it, but nobody has come straight out to name them.”
“Damn it!”
“O’Carlan shouted after me while they were taking him away, something like, ‘Why didn’t you ask me who the client is?’”
“He would not have told you. And that’s why we hesitate to say you should take O’Carlan’s word.”
“I apologize, Leila, I wanted to help. I wanted to help him, too, when I first met him, until he started in with his ridiculous accusations and his bullying.”
“You assisted us, all right! You did exactly the right thing.” I just hope you don’t pay for it, she nearly added; no, that’s a bit too much truth. Considering what almost happened to Leila’s ‘contact’ Alois Zenzinger, however… so she went on, “But caution is the better mindset, right now. If you can go somewhere for a few weeks until we have this situation at least contained—“
“Are you joking?” Dr. Bernheim asked. “I have classes to teach at Cambridge, I have work at CERN, I have research papers to write… if they want me, let them come get me. Whoever they are. I didn’t do anything to be ashamed of.”
“Well, for the government to perform well, citizens have to keep it informed too, so I would certainly agree with that—“
“You sound like a person with a brain, Leila. I think it’s well-established what happens when we just let ourselves get run down by someone or something that thinks they’re more important than we are. When we figure, ‘oh, it’ll blow over, they’ll go on to other targets.’ Whatever it is that I mean! People with money don’t own those who don’t any more than people with lunatic obsessions own those they have obsessions about. As just one example of many,” Leah added quickly.
“Trust your gut instinct, then, Doctor. If you get a feeling that a place you’re considering to visit would be dangerous, given what you’ve told us, don’t go. Vary your habits, too. Don’t go to the same gym at the same time every other day, for example. Walk home using a different route.” She nearly added, ‘Please.’
“Oh, well, I already go to a different synagogue every morning…”
“So you’ve been approached or threatened by someone other than O’Carlan?”
“No, no,” Leah sounded an embarrassed tone, “I, I just haven’t picked one in Geneva and in Cambridge yet, that’s all. I… I only just started going again.”
“Sounds expensive.”
“Well, I just have to. What else can you think of?”
“Keep an eye out for anyone who appears to follow you. In the meantime, your encrypted phone should be with you at all times. If you get into a situation, call me on mine. I always have it with me.”
“I notice it doesn’t have a voice mailbox.”
“Oh, that’s a typical cost-cutting measure around here. You have to ring ten times to get into it.”
“Really,” Leah said, a bit more at ease, “so even the cost of virtual space is going up.”
Chuckling: “Very well put, Doctor! If you ever actually do feel threatened, there is a decent chance we may be able to do something for you, especially given how helpful you’ve been. I have no independent reports that Mr. O’Carlan is in custody yet, you understand, but if he gives us what we need to move on his client, we’ll be indebted.”
“No need! Yet. I’ll watch my own back. May I call to find out how things went?”
Leila grimaced a bit. She wasn’t a good field agent yet, she now understood. She related too closely to others. Leila didn’t know if she could detach from ‘sources,’ and besides, Dr. Bernheim seemed not unlike the kind of person she once might have ‘hung out’ with. Back when she could do that. Whenever that may have been. “Unfortunately,” Leila did answer, “I most probably will not be told about his interview. But I owe you a ring-back or two anyway; I have to get a one-time e-mail box set up for you to send us that recording.”
“All right, so I’ll hear from you whenever it’s ready.”
“Not today, Doctor, I have meetings. But definitely tomorrow. I’ll call, I won’t e-mail.”
“And you’ll need this back. This phone, I mean.”
“The situation is a mess, and no one’s told me to ask you to return it, so that isn’t an issue.”
“Leave me a message if I don’t pick up, then, and thank you.”
“Wait, Doctor, I fogot to ask. What kind of software does your laptop use?”
“Vineyard, of course, why?”
“No exact reason, just wondering. Thanks to you too.” Leila hung up and went back to her file, wishing that she had said more. Although given her traning, how…?
In the corridor between the stands of trees in Geneva, Leah put the encrypted phone away, viewing the techs at table; the clouded glass-like pane that was the ‘companionway’ from behind; the humming airport in the distance. Those ‘shakes’ from before and after her first contretemps with O’Carlan attempted to surface again but she fought them down. Wondering if to refuse help had been the best strategy – if indeed there had ever been anything like a best strategy since Leah had walked into Augustus’ office and met his four acquaintances – she wrapped and belted her winter coat and made her way back to the team.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 23, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 269: Arrested

“Do you actually have anyone to attest that you were in your hotel room last night?” asked the old man.
“Of course I do," Leah replied. "I was.
“Those ‘associates’ of yours again.”
“They were in their room. Don’t get any ideas.”
“You vouched for them to Interpol on Saturday. Will they corroborate you now?”
“They are helping CERN with our research. I told you this. They were in their room last night. I called them several times, they always picked up the phone. They called me twice, and except for my running time, I was in my room. That’s all you’ll hear about them or me. And yes, they will corroborate me.” It did not seem smart to namecheck Augustus’ phone calls to her room, so she skipped it.
“Until this AM they were practically recluses, so no bother about that.”
“Good. I don’t want them disturbed by you or by anyone.” From the corner of her eye Leah saw four black-suited men with their own earpieces lift out from each of the two cars. The European Superstate at work… She concluded, “I’m sorry. I have no more time.” And neither do you, she thought.
Hopelessly O’Carlan said, “If I get any little bit of your research results from you now, they’ll wait until tomorrow early. I’ll tell them to hold back. Maybe it won’t make any difference by then—“
Hand on the door latch again, “Wait a minute, you’re serious?’”
O’Carlan attempted not to gulp, but: “I am a logical being, and I pride myself on that, but I—“ A hard knock came at his car window; he turned.
This was Leah’s cue. She opened the Chrysler’s door, laptop in one hand, and was greeted by four men with Interpol badges.
“Dr. Leah Bernheim?” asked the closest of the four with a Belgian French accent. “Inspector Jurgens of Interpol.” At the corner of her eye she noted four others on the far side of the car.
“I am,” she replied, “if you require it, I have ID in my bag over there.” Leah indicated the CERN temporary research rig. Vortura turned to see what was going on, looked forward again nearly as fast.
“Just as a formality, you understand. Please…” He put his hand out towards the table while O’Carlan was drawn to his feet by one of the officers on his side of the car.
“Leah…” he called.
“Oh, Inspector, O’Carlan brought a man with him. He walked back towards the road and headed east.”
Jurgens gave an order to two of the men on his side of the car; they took off in the direction of the other agent.
In reply to O’Carlan Dr. Bernheim drew out the car keys and tossed them on the passenger seat; as she’d done the previous morning, she said, “Just get him out of my sight,” then turned and followed the team leader.
The old man called out after her once or twice more, “Leah! Why didn’t you ask who the client is?!” but our Fifth Horsewoman was already a ‘verse away and didn’t listen.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 20, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 268: Re-terrogation Two

“Were they expecting them?" Leah asked him. "The French.”
“The bombers?”
“The killings, Mr. O’Carlan.”
“No, I believe that the only group who did were those who committed the atrocity.”
“An atrocity which prevented the commiting of a far worse atrocity.” She sighed. “Unendurable. Completely unendurable.”
“Do you have somewhere to go to ground, Leah—?“
Dr. Bernheim,” she snapped.
“I apologize.”
“’Go to ground.’”
The shock of the news seemed to have robbed Leah of her ability to type. This irritated her almost as much as O'Carlan himself did. “Are you suggesting somewhere in particular?” she demanded.
“Please take this seriously. Since I heard about Paris and I recalled our intelligence concerning the holes on Patmos, I may be a changed man—“
“…You are sitting here in this car at 7:30 AM on a Tuesday in late November and you are advocating that the end of the world has come.”
“Absolutely not. I don’t know what I’m advocating. But I can’t deny the seeming obvious.”
“There is the obvious, and then there is the seeming obvious. If only I could begin to tell you how very different those are--”
“Plato’s cave paintings, yes. The universe as a hologram. Your stock in trade, I’m certain. I am not talking about the secular paradise we both occupy here, Doctor. Messianic cult activity in the USA is at an all-time high. The story about the valley in Patmos received no small amount of play in the States. Some churches have gone so far as to assign sky-watchers.”
“Why does this not horrify me.”
“Here in the part of the world to which you fled, where humanism was invented? I wonder.”
Don’t judge me. You, of anyone.”
“Freedom of worship is guaranteed in the U. S. Constitution. Even to messianic cults.”
“In other words, even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.“
“Then you agree,” concluded the old man.
“It’s completely absurd, Mr. O’Carlan. Some ‘evil spiritual entity’ did what, exactly? Storm into Paris, murder seven terrorists and leave nothing else disturbed in the slightest? While, how did they get involved in this filthy business?”
“What about Carrickfergus?”
“Don’t you dare. Trivialize that… that poor Guard officer. All that blood washing up on the shore, and nobody still knows where it came from. I don’t even have any words for it. Not another word. I am getting out of this car.” Eyes flicking to the rear view mirror, Leah saw how two BMWs drifted off the road and slowed, taking up positions on both sides well behind the big Chrysler and Leah’s rented Mercedes. Possibly this would not be a good time to exit, after all. She left her hand on the door handle anyhow, telling the old man, “You’re out of time, anyway.”
“Wait. One more thing, Doctor, please…”
“Speak quickly.” The BMWs parked, although no one made to exit either one. Looking through their paperwork, no doubt…
“My bosses at the Agency had told us to try that very trick on the woman I was attempting to recruit in London. It didn’t work. I have no idea why our client didn’t learn from our mistake. We told him about it. They said you’d be more vulnerable.”
“You did say she wasn’t Christian. That can’t have helped.”
“We have it that she’s very well read.”
“Then maybe she’s not already broken beyond repair. Like I am.”
“You don’t appear—“
Do not flatter me,” Leah all but snarled. “I am barely human. If you and your superiors didn’t figure that out from whatever ‘file’ you have, the USA is utterly hopeless. Not that that’s news to anyone! And don’t pat yourself on the back. I was in pieces years before I met you. We came to the only English-speaking country that would give us visas. My father changed our name and managed to build us a new life here. But he could only do so much! They had to bring me too, after all, didn’t they? I was the infamous one. I was the whore. The TV said so. I seduced Nathan Serwenstein and had him do my bidding, didn’t I? Had him massacre over two hundred subway riders to prove how badly he wanted me? Isn’t that the common knowledge? I am 46 years old and I have no husband. I have no children and I never will. I have my work, which I love dearly, and I have my students, a lot of whom are far smarter than I am, but it’s not enough. None of it is. Until very recently I had only two close friends. I thought my luck was turning until you showed up.”
“What happened before I arrived?”
None of your damned business!
“Why did you change your name back when you were in college?”
“That’s also none of your business, but it was who we were. it’s who I am. Cracks and all.”
“I am sorry. I was living in the US then, I saw it happen to you and your family. I felt bad for you. I did. I didn't know you were the same--”
“Really? What did you do to stop it?” she demanded. “Failing that, what have you done to make things better? Did you advocate for tighter press laws? How about at least writing your Congressman or somebody and asking that victims of aggravated media assault have some recourse? Nothing, nothing, no and no, because the American government only defends the people who don’t need them to. Whoever your client is, they’re only one more in a line of paymasters. You think America is broke now? It always was. Just not in money. No one knows that better than my family and me.“
...What were the men in the BMW waiting for?
“Then let me help you now by asking that you listen,” O’Carlan nearly pleaded. “They are expecting me to pick up a token of information from you as a down payment for what I’ll be getting at one AM tomorrow morning.”
“Your nerve is…”
“I realize you weren’t expecting me—“
“You’ll get absolutely nothing from me now or then. Exactly as I said yesterday. That request for an injunction will be filed at the World Court today by CERN’s corporate counsel, before close of business.”
“I mean this, Doctor! Give me whatever you possibly can so I can bring it to them this morning. At least it may hold them off long enough. When the news hit about Paris early today I was dragged out of bed and sent here. Our client is screaming. They know that you told somebody how I said a Paris bombing could be arranged. Whoever you told scotched the bombing. This is what they tell me.”
Something clicked for the physicist; was it Agent Al-Adil who’d had the attack averted? If so, she sent exactly who into Paris to wipe out—? But this man wasn’t due the truth. He wasn’t even due an uneducated guess. After half a moment Leah said, “They know this, or they think they know?”
“To them, there isn’t a difference between those two.”
"I was not involved in that..." She couldn't think of a word. "In any way."
The front doors on the BMWs finally opened – all four of them -- but no one appeared yet. O’Carlan went on, “They know as if they read it in Revelations. A bit odd, considering we aren’t talking about millenials here! If they were, they wouldn’t be setting off bombs halfway across Europe and God only knows where else next, for whatever reason. I’ll give you a freebie, Doctor, how’s that? Yesterday morning I posted a photograph of your parents’ house in Belgravia to your flat in Cambridge. It’s in a brown five-by-seven envelope. No return address. Don’t open it, don’t read the note. Rip it up and throw it out.”
“So we’re both barely human,” Leah concluded. “Just in different ways.”
“If you like. I told the client’s rep that I didn’t believe you contacted anyone. We have no indication that you know anyone you could tell who is capable of something like Paris. I told them they might try finding out who their enemies are. They definitely have them, but it’s like still being a lawyer, Dr. Bernheim. They hire a professional but then all they want him to say is what they’ve already decided is true. It’s not the reason why I’m here but they want blood if you don’t hand over something. Now.”
“You’ll never be able to clean the inside of this car.”
“Not here! Elsewhere. Anyplace. I’m not the only person on this assignment. The man who followed you yesterday, who was kicked out of the hotel, he’s part of an independent team also hired by the client. He may have been sent to abduct you. I wouldn't be surprised. This other group lost a surveillance photographer in the building across the street from your hotel a few nights ago. He had a laser microphone, he was keeping an eye and an ear on you and your ‘associates’ in your conference room and in your room. He was bludgeoned to death. I’m sure they too know about Paris as well, they also may think you’re behind that. So that’s two groups of interested partes who think you’ve hurt them.”
“Oh, yes! Scientists who commit mass murders. Happens all the time.”
“Dr. Sir William Withey Gull comes to mind,” O’Carlan replied.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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August 17, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 267: Re-terrogation One

I could barely see our Fifth Horsewoman from our path along the university sidewalk, but I had a fair impression of the following, and the audio was quite good. Somehow or other. Although I hadn’t had all that much difficulty hearing and seeing Dr. James from, ah, “‘Verse II”…
Laptop open on one hand, Dr. Bernheim stalked towards the black car. She turned on the recorder program as she walked, intoning the time, location and date at the microphone. Two men viewed her without much visible affect from behind the car’s windshield: Patrick O’Carlan in the driver’s seat, all aviator sunglasses and flat mouth, and a very nondescript fellow Agency employee. A fourth his age? Leah had no time for any of that. She moved to the passenger side forward door and snapped it open.
“Out. Now. I want to speak to your boss.”
The young suited nonentity didn’t appear used to such a tone, nearly stared at her open-mouthed but O’Carlan’s voice came from next to him. “It’s fine, Vincent. Take a walk along the road and come back in a few minutes. If we’re still chatting, take another one. Get your mac.”
“Yes, sir,” Vincent answered, stepping out and grabbing his overcoat and gloves. Leah moved into his seat, placed the computer on her lap and pulled the door shut as soon as he was a few steps away. About to address O’Carlan, she said, “Wait a minute,” and opened the car door, calling after the young fellow, “Don’t you go near my colleagues over there.” Trudging in the opposite direction, he ignored her. She pulled the door shut again, turned back to the old man.
“This certainly doesn’t look like an armoury show,” he offered. Seems he couldn’t see the ‘cloudy pane’ of glass hanging in the air about 200 feet in front of the table.
“Give me your keys.”
“You aren’t going to drive away with me. You have five minutes and then I’m going back to work.” Leah indicated the CERN rig-up and her fellow employees in front of them. “They’re counting on me, and vice versa. Don’t ask any questions. You already know everything about this project that you’re going to know. Why are you here?”
O’Carlan pulled the car keys out of the steering column and handed them over; Leah stuffed them in her right-hand coat pocket.
“Things have altered in the last thirty-one hours.” Hands placed in his lap, O’Carlan seemed to have lost some of the other day’s head of steam. “A few weeks ago in London, I was attempting to recruit a young woman.”
“Another one?” Dr. Bernheim peeked towards the CERN engineers at the table again. Dearly wishing for her earpiece back, she busied her hands with the laptop, adding a few reactions to the thus far-collected data onto her existing notes.
“We do employ them.”
With somewhat less venom: “She wasn’t buying, either.”
“She’s the fool there. America may be able to hold off the ‘end of days’ just a little bit longer than the rest of the world…”
“That exact crap is yet another reason why I’m here,” Leah pointed out. “Is she also American?”
“She is.”
“I’m not the only one you’ve stalked, then. Because that’s exactly what this is. How did you know where we were?”
“How do you suppose? I went to CERN and asked for you.”
“Four and one-half minutes.”
“I know your background. Now I do. I can’t apologize for early Monday morning. I was ordered, I did my job. Our client thought they understood and didn’t tell me the details. They told my superiors…” He turned to look for his fellow agent, but the young man was not visible. “They do want your tech and they want to break you personally in order to get it, Dr. Bernheim. They think that because of your history, you’re a weak link. Also as an example to anyone else, I assume.”
Taking a quick look at him, Leah went back to her typing. “You didn’t have to try so hard. I told you that at the time.”
“Paris certainly didn’t finish the job for us…”
“What about the woman you were trying to recruit? In London?”
“She’s not Christian, so to trip her up I changed an old lawyer’s cross-examination trick; I mentioned how a satellite that sits directly above the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea had recorded the appearance of four large round trenches near the Cave of the Apocalypse. Earlier this month. I have since learned that a small burst of solar flare-like activity directly above it moved southeast from there a few minutes later.”
“Here we go again…!”
“No. Listen to me.” Now she turned towards him after she finished typing another sentence. “Paris sealed the deal. For me. It’s only fair that I tell you what the setup would have been. You have to know that you had nothing to do with anything.”
Hands still momentarily, Leah indicated for him to continue.
“During our conversation—“
“Excuse me. Interrogation—“
“I was willing to cooperate with you at first. Don’t forget that.”
“If at the time I had been working only for the USA, it would have counted in your favor. Our client pays us nicely and on time, but they don’t trust anyone. Maybe, not even us. I get that now from how little I was informed. At any rate…” He assembled himself. “It worked this way. I recorded our exchange and I sent it to the client immediately on my return to the Consulate, yesterday morning. They cherry-picked something you had said out of it. Late yesterday afternoon seven men dressed as observant and pregnant Muslim women were dropped off in different sections of Paris.” Leah slowly began to go into shock as O’Carlan spoke on; his face never changed, almost as if he wore one of Baudelaire’s masks. “They were to arrive at certain areas at the same time… government agencies, famous charities’ headquarters, various corporate offices. At thirty minutes past sundown or so, around there, the bombs would have gone off,” he added.

“I… I had the news on this morning but I didn’t hear a thing.”
“You must not have been listening.”
“…How many were killed?” she managed.
“All seven men were executed between five and fifteen minutes after sundown. That’s when their GPS sensors went off line. One after another, in ten minutes’ time. These men were miles apart. None of the bombs tripped.”
“It was our client’s determination that you would hand over everything and then some because after hearing of the successful incident yesterday – if it had been -- you would have been so completely traumatized you wouldn’t have known what you were doing.”
“You implicated me in a…”
“They saw how you gave the Interpol agents about twice what it would have taken to get them off your back after the bombing at CERN.”
“It’s called cooperating!”
“Not always advisable.”
“You son of a bitch--”
“Cuss me out another time, Doctor, this is crucial--”
Shut your damned mouth, O’Carlan. You told someone what I guessed and they carried it out!?”
“Attempted to. Yes, with the express purpose of making it seem you were responsible, even if only to yourself.”
“Oh, naturally you wouldn’t have spread that news as far and wide as electronically possible, and -- and what about everyone in Paris who—“
“The client’s experts thought that if one bomb that blindsided you here would loosen your tongue to that extent, what of seven in Paris that you might conclude you had indirectly caused?”
Leah asked deliberately, “When exactly did this happen?”
“Yesterday, early evening,” the old man repeated. “Minutes after dusk. I’m surprised that your ‘associates’ didn’t say…”
“I really don’t think they watch a lot of television, Mr. O’Carlan. We aren’t discussing them, anyway. What exactly do you mean, ‘executed’?
O’Carlan replied, “I want to stress, you had absolutely no involvement here—“
Yes I did. I was within inches of being a mass murderer by proxy, according to you. Answer me.”
With a ghost of his old verbal swordsmanship he said quietly, “I’m armed, you know.”
“You really believe that I’m not?” she lied.
“We have your file, Dr. Bernheim. You have no British or Swiss carry permit, and they’re hell to procure anyhow.”
“Care to search me?” she said. “I asked what you mean by ‘executed.’”
“Not here, and not I,” her adversary conceded. “All right. Three men were pounded into a pulp on sidewalks or on garden paths. They may actually have been trampled or beaten to death. By what, no one’s exactly certain. Four were slashed cleanly in quarters and left where they fell, bleeding out. As I said, ‘executed.’ You’d have thought they were lone travelers on the road, caught by barbarians between cities in the fifth century A.D. The Paris police had not seen anything like it in decades. At first everybody accused everybody else. The French security service is at this time under investigation because it’s assumed they dispatched several kill squads with an ‘exterminate’ order instead of something more subtle. Such as what, I wonder. How one deals otherwise with suicide bombers, I can’t imagine. But only the French are capable of making success look like failure.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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"A good writer is an expert on nothing but himself. And on that subject, if he is wise, he holds his tongue." --John le Carre

Exactly how interesting can the author be, anyway, when nobody has any idea where their creativity comes from or how the mechanics of inspiration works? Maybe it's something we all have access to. Maybe it's a sluice that empties into your head when you're facing in a particular direction and thinking a particular series of things. Then again, maybe not.
However benevolent inspiration really is, to say nothing of what it is, I suspect that any good fictional character is a lot more interesting than the person who dreams it up. So mine speak for me here.

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