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Hebephrenica/ It's Time You Knew
by:  Ken Egbert (aka K. Griffiths), One More Haggard Drowned Man
MYRRH is now available on and from Barnes and Noble as both an Ebook and as a paperback.
There is a new review of MYRRH in PUBLISHERS WEEKLY's 11-17-14 issue; see our Facebook page ( ==K.G.
November 19, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 298: 'No Longer Any Top'

“So who’s buying?”
Entering Leila’s favorite teashop on Nine Elms Lane, O’Carlan and Trier viewed the customers and the counter. They did not at all fit into the crowd. True to form, the old CIA rookie wondered if they had coffee as well.
“I’ll be glad to.” Somewhat at sea, the Six veteran signaled the woman behind the counter.
“Sit where you like,” the proprietor said with a Punjabi lilt. “I’ll bring you menus momentarily.”
“Thanks,” O’Carlan answered her as Trier gave an imperious nod and selected a table with a good view of the street and the door.
“Been unbelievable, you know, O’Carlan.” On the walk from the Cross the head of CT’d had difficulty not looking over everything like a tourist. “Had the occasional test operation here at night, among the derelict warehouses, in and out the Power Station.” Sitting, he left his coat on. “Old days. That sort of thing.”
“Couldn’t much manage it now,” O’Carlan replied. Noting his rescuer, he left his ‘mac’ on as well, taking the chair opposite.
“I’ll warrant you, had the US Embassy not moved, the money would not have followed.” He indicated one of three empty chairs.
“The world society props up what it can.”
“Do you think so?”
“I’d say, Sir Lawrence. At one time the US government would have taken on this entire area while the embassy was under construction. Made a theme park out of it, practically. Can’t possibly afford that today, but any number of multinationals have thrown in their dime instead. Power Station’s burning garbage, all the apartment blocks have solar panels on the roofs, and the upshot is it appears all is well and the USA is still on top. Appears.”
Trier thought of The Gate and decided not to mention them. “Mr. O’Carlan, I would have to say at this time that there no longer is any top.”
“Unless ExxonMobil wants pole position.” Not entirely certain what Trier had in mind, the older man asked, “When they discover both you and I are missing…”
“I’m not above suspicion any longer, I suspect, but they’ll still concentrate on you.” He pulled at his cellular again. Still no calls. “Why I brought you here.”
“They’ll assume I went to, what do you in the Service call it…?”
“The Castle,” Sir Lawrence said, eyeballing the street.
“We shouldn’t be complimented.”
“Not overly.”
“Better assist you while I’m able, then.” Their route here had been direct, but the night traffic remained at full blast so anyone looking for them on the Net of Steel would have their work cut out. O’Carlan waited to see how Trier would reply. When he didn’t, the Agency man added, “Are we improvising?”
“We are going to attempt to collar an agent about whom I have suspicions.”
“And you need me, why again?” O’Carlan at last demanded. In a friendly tone. The lady in charge appeared, handing over menu boards.
“I want to turn her over to you.” Without looking at the proprietor, he intoned, “Earl Grey, strong, please, and a plate of assorted biscuits.” She nodded and turned to O’Carlan.
“Is coffee available, ma’am?”
“Only the usual, sir, nothing out of the ordinary.”
“I was a police officer once, I’ll take ordinary. Black, please.” Away she went.
Once she was out of imagined earshot… “The US Dept. of State would be interested…”
“You know her quite well. Or, would like to.”
“So this is it.”
“While also I have chosen to do Gibstein a favor and get one of his men out of the Cross before a major disagreement ensues.”
“I’ll admit I couldn’t believe I was taken.”
“I am not convinced that our target had no hand in that.”
Now it made sense. “Young, female, Arab…”
“Arab-American. Quite. I want her out of Six and out of the country.”
“You think I can get her into the Embassy? What? Chloroform?”
“We both know the SIS has no ‘arrest’ capability by Britain’s unwritten constitution,” the peer answered, unwilling to fence. “They will not contact Scotland Yard or, say, CO19 to do the dirty work; too much loss of face. While the Agency doesn’t always ascribe to similar constraints. Let us put it that way. Take her and go home, is my way of looking at it.”
“So I’m as unwelcome, or less so?”
“You of course are your own affair, or Gibstein’s.”
“Generous of you. Appreciate your letting me call them.”
“You had every right to tell what really occurred.”
“Thought you wanted to prevent a scrum.”
“Indeed.” The goodies arrived. “Thank you,” Trier told the woman, ever more preoccupied with the street. “I am not above, or below, the truth either...”
“Now, Sir Lawrence…” O’Carlan had at the coffee. Black, hot, not at all bad. He cast an eye about for the newspaper table. There it was. Too far away. “You asked that I call Bern down the street from here, so that the the tidal wave started offshore.”
“Which is where it should.”
“To give yourself time to escape?”
“Escape where, sir?” The peer tried out the Earl Grey. “This is my country. All I have done is correct a callow agent’s overreaction.” The tea appeared to satisfy. “They’ll eventually thank me. Very eventually.”
“But my arrest, I’d think, was OK’d by someone with far more avoirdupois than she.”
“Our ‘young hopelessness’ goaded them to accept her conclusions, I’ve no doubt.”
“Still, if you had me call the Embassy up the road, there’d have been giants in crewcuts doing an American football play straight into the Cross’ lobby and upstairs to get at whoever gave the order to have me detained. Everybody would have arrested everybody else, and we'd all have ended up being towed home in disgrace. Since Bern got the ball first they’d naturally protest to your local consulate and ‘cc’ Langley. And who knows how long it'd be before that e-mail was opened? There's as far as it might get.” Another ‘go’ at his coffee. “Since you requested that I not tell them from where I’d called.”
“Well thought out.” Trier sipped the tea. "Would they trace their own agent's call? Possibly not. Possibly. So, then. I will assist you in convincing her. Once she is gone from our shores, I will make the appropriate obeisance and resign or be retired forcibly.”
“Toss your career, Sir Lawrence?” O’Carlan eyed the ‘biscuits,’ but decided against. “Just to get an American out of your midst? I can’t entirely believe this is me talking, but she is very sharp. Parries my every jab. Refused to even listen to my suggestions she double for us. Only reason I bested her in Prague was, I’ve been around longer.”
“You do realize to what you’ve just now confessed.”
A challenge. “I do.”
Neither needed point out that there was no recording in process. Trier thought a second and went on, “Were you armed, that day?”
O’Carlan placed a hand on his invisible holster. “With this.”
Trier nodded with some respect. “While you implied before ‘skyhooking’ out that you were not.”
“Only reminding the ‘girl child’ that she ought to defer to her elders. One day she’ll still be our boss, though.”

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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November 16, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 297: Causal Distribution

“Our Dear Leader neglected to perform a full count, that’s the explanation,” Edith observed while she and Leila, appropriately coated and scarved –especially scarved -- made their way towards Nine Elms and Leila’s mosque. She reconsulted her list. “We will never get all these done today.” Most probably not, as dusk had come and night all but followed. A limn of color remained in the visible west, not a lot more.
“We have some advantage here, at least they know me.” Leila was pleased for the exercise and that she had expected to shiver more. Looking for the correct folder in the hated black solicitor’s bag, she viewed Edith’s shoes, somewhat more stylish than her own almost-flats. “You’re not in pain yet.”
“Give me a few more seconds.” Busily on her ‘e-notebook’ she wrote as they walked, far too neatly, ‘Abrar Mosque, Chelsea Embankment: Less than forthcoming. Pretended not to speak English. L.A.-A.’ scotched that. Keep this one! Received flyers, promised to cooperate.’
“There’s a tea shop on the main drag over there.” They’d been deposited in Chelsea at about three by a Five staff car, they’d shown their badges and dropped off flyers at half a dozen mosques; having crossed the Thames at Queenstown Road Bridge, Leila at last took note of the Christmas decorations here and there. Oh, yes, that time of year. Wasn’t it. They’d probably been out some weeks as many had begun to tatter. “If you’d like to stop,” she continued to Edith. “It isn’t that far.” Asking her home did not seem proper, but aching feet were aching feet.
“’Main drag,’” Edith pretended to disapprove. “You need more time ‘in country.’” The railways rumbled beneath the auto and pedestrian roadbed.
“Very amusing,” Leila pretended to snip. She’d begun to enjoy Edith’s company. The older woman was hardly glib but she had a dignity and a keep-calm-and-carry-on cynicism that Leila enjoyed countering. Edith had even sat without complaining outside the sanctuary while Leila prayed ‘asr’ in the fourth masjid they’d visited. To preserve her feet, perhaps, but once Leila was done Edith had asked questions about Islam that were a cut above those most Westerners might; not as probing as Dennis’, but she’d also proved quick-witted and genial enough once one got past her standard urban female defenses. “We will get to them all,” Leila insisted. “What was Sir Hal’s latest window?”
“Compensating for the passage of time, GMT, thirty to forty-seven hours.”
“I admire your precision. Do you mind me saying that?”
“Most of it’s faked, Leila.” The rush hour was well under way, passers going hither and yon, but the women kept their pace less brisk, allowing others to amble by. “We didn’t even synchronize our watches.”
“Don’t they only do that on spy movies?”
“That I know of, it’s not even ‘the done thing’ in spy films any longer,” Edith quipped. “Maybe I last saw it attempted in ‘Topkapi.’ But there are always levels of information we can’t reach. Its unavailability doesn’t mean it’s unimportant. So all precision really isn’t, to my mind. Like time. What governs how it moves quickly to our perception now, not at all when you’re waiting impatiently on the kettle?”
“Certainly explains Philip’s crack about ‘cloud castles’…” The Nine Elms Islamic Center, unused minaret to left front and left rear, welcomed them to the South Bank.
“He would! You want to watch him, he’s one of our best.” They crossed the Road with the light; Edith cast an eye towards the newly rebuilt Battersea Power Station, steam just now rising from the right A and B funnels. “He’s been our ‘fixer’ for ages, and he gets it right the vast majority of the time. Also a gentleman of the old school. Not a lot of those about, either. Another Islam question for you?”
“I’ve heard you and your fellow Arabic speakers use the word ‘hamdulillah’ or ‘alhamdulillah’ repeatedly tonight. Can you give me the translation?”
“Of course. It means ‘All praise to G-d.’”
“One can’t argue with that! Pardon. Church of England to the bone,” Edith dissembled.
“No need! I appreciate your thoughts about our informant’s situation.” Leila had wished to say this for some time. “By the way.”
“When I tell you something, when I tell anyone anything of this kind, it’s exactly as I see it, you understand.”
“Of course.”
“Unless there’s another layer of slag under those we can evaluate, as I’ve already held forth, and no doubt there is, she may have less to worry about than you think.” The mosque approached, Edith touched up her scarf once more.
“It’s fine, Edith, they’ll be grateful.”
“Good to be doing this bit of ‘outreach’ with an expert! You’re kind to worry about Dr. Bernheim, you know, but if you do this too often you won’t make it to your thirtieth birthday, especially with the Ministry of Intelligence.”
Leila here recalled Edith’s ‘older relative’s’ tale of ‘La Masquerade Infernale’ and decided only to say, “Understood. Thanks.”
“Any answers on my questions from earlier?”
“According to my boss 90 minutes ago, O'Carlan’s in an interview room waiting for his first appointment. Ah, your other question…” Leila removed her encrypted mobile, had a look. “IT will know soon.”
“I can wait…” Edith cast about while Leila reholstered her phone. “Cleaned this area up nicely, didn’t they. I’ve counted far more than nine new elm trees.”
Something she did know something about… “I saw photographs of the neighborhood twenty years ago. Unless I’d come to live here I’d never believe it looked this way now.”
“May yet live up to its hype,” Edith agreed, adjusting her scarf anyway. Again. “It’ll to some extent depend if they actually scoured out the dirt it’s built on. An awful lot of chemical spills over the years.” She opened the mosque door and let Leila enter first. Voices sounded from the right. “Should you grow a third ear…”
“Thanks. Maybe.” Slipping out another flyer from the appropriate folder, they entered the mosque office to find three familiar, unwelcome faces, armed, and a very intimidated Imam Itab.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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November 13, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 296: An Early Release

It had been any number of hours. O’Carlan was grateful for the heat in the basement interview room but removing his ‘mac’ didn’t appear a good idea. Anything he did would be considered evidence he was getting worried. He wasn’t. There had to be a camera in this room somewhere. Remaining stock-still, he let the minutes pass. And pass. And pass.
The room and his position in it didn’t allow for a view of the door. Too busy concentrating upon remaining as he was, O’Carlan near to cursed himself for not hearing it open.
“No turning around.”
Very unpleasant order, even here, but O’Carlan had no problem obeying.
A cultured older male voice, definitely not Al-Adil. O’Carlan was just about to make known his displeasure…
“Here. Now. Are you shackled in any way?”
“I am not. Where is Agent Al-Adil?”
“She will not be coming. You, however, are leaving. With me.”
“To what do I owe the--?”
“Steady on. Stand and walk towards me. Even movements, as if you were just stretching your legs. I am in the doorway. The camera in this room won’t see you if you stand directly in front of me.”
O’Carlan did so; turning he saw a man about ten years his junior, parade-ground moustache, well-tailored business suit, overcoat on one arm. Sir Lawrence Trier. When O’Carlan arrived at the doorway the head of ICU proffered a cloth cap. The older man put it on, gave a crocodile smile of sorts. “So we’re not going anywhere by cab.”
“An American I can deal with,” Sir Lawrence replied. “Ask me nothing at the moment. It is essential that I get you out of here. Give me your mac.” O’Carlan did; without stepping back or forward, Trier shrugged into it. It almost fit him. He handed his winter coat over to the older man. It almost fit him. “I am going to step from this room and move left,” Trier added. “Follow me exactly.”
Obeying this man that he did not at all recognize, O’Carlan drew the cap brim down and allowed the slightly younger man to lead.
“There is the odd blind spot in the hallway camera net,” Trier informed him. “We are going to leapfrog from one to another.”
“I appreciate what you’re doing, Mr.--?”
Trier introduced himself. “I’ll shake your hand later. We have to prevent a mare’s nest or two, here.”
“If only Mr. Propinq had thought the same…”
“With any luck at all he won’t be missed for a bit longer. That I expect, everyone believes he is in your interrogation room.”
“What about the camera in–?“
“Remotely disabled.” The men turned a corner; O’Carlan saw how Trier did not keep his own head lowered, and did his best to follow his orders. “Or it was, twelve minutes ago. I don’t know how long it was or will be before someone notices.“
“How did you manage that?”
“I keep up on all sorts of things. They don’t believe that I would, but as soon as I was told in the morning consensus the other day – AM debrief, I suppose you Yanks’d call it – that you’d had a file opened on you by certain of our higher-ups, I went to the IT department and pretended an interest in these, ahm, IP cameras, I believe they’re called.” In a hall door and up a set of stairs. “Easy enough to poll them if you’re ‘dialing in’ from within the facility, so said a young fellow. Paraswaram-Rehm or some such.” Trier stopped and looked straight up the stairwell. “Inadvertently showed me how to knock ‘em out as well. Can you make five flights?”
“I’ll give it my best. Where’s Propinq?”
“Off telling Al-Adil’s mother in New York City that she is missing.”
“…Is that so?”
“No, at Five doing liaison. I recall when that was my job...”
“Since when do section chiefs make phone calls regarding missing agents?”
“I informed Matthias that Mrs. Al-Adil is actively hostile to her daughter’s choice of countries to reside in, so someone senior would be needed to inform. Someone with gravitas. Someone she wouldn’t hang up on, straight off.”
Three flights. “Ah,” said O’Carlan, not puffing yet, “a hangup wouldn’t be considered a proper inform.”
“According to her file, Al-Adil’s mother and she don’t get along so they do not talk very often. It would be easier for her mother to believe the bad news.”
“While she wouldn’t be able to act on it quickly.”
“Divorced middle-aged Muslim woman living alone in Brooklyn? Quite.”
Four flights.
“Almost there,” Sir Lawrence announced. “Over here, by the by. Face me.”
Apparently another camera blind spot. Taking a deep breath, O’Carlan did so and received his wallet, keys, firearm and CIA badge. “Very good. Thank you, Sir Lawrence.”
“Certain of us are ready with the ‘eject’ button but as was learned in the war against Japan, I think, old allies work best together.”
The men turned and made it to the next flight. “What’s our assignment?”
“What else? Save your country.”
“Yours or mine?”
“Oh, very well,” Sir Lawrence approached the stairway exit to the lobby. “Both. Best we swap coat and ‘mac,’ now…” Another blind spot. That done, Trier listened for the ‘bong’ of a nearby opening elevator; hearing it, he opened the door and the two meandered out into the homegoing traffic. On the near wall today outside the building, the day’s new banner read:


Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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November 10, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 295: From Without

Some distance away on le Route de Meyrin, Philomen and two associates wielded a laser microphone, going from window to window on the distant CERN headquarters building… thus far, not much but mutters and the odd shriek of feedback. Above them, late November midday clouds lowered.
“Mastico, you can stop plying that thing as if it were a deadly weapon.”
“Teo found out it was. For him.”
“We can’t afford to airlift in another one from Lyon. We really can’t. Use his.”
“Will do…”
“Techies shouldn’t be superstitious anyhow—“
“Quiet!” Mastico said this with some relief. As if in reply a voice, decidedly South Asian, arrived in the miniature speaker.
“…We have had a momentous day, and it’s only midafternoon, ladies and gentlemen.” Some laughter. “So I expect you all to work much harder after the party!” More laughter.
“Somebodys enjoying himself,” Philomen allowed. “Are we recording?”
“Oui,” Artis the tape jockey replied.
“I’ll want to know who that is, at whatever point…”
Heedless, the voice continued, “There will be changes once we have done the tabulation and interpretation. Alterations in scheduling, procedure, and so forth. All will be advised in plenty of time to remake schedule changes, of course. Suffice to say that our impromptu honorees Drs. Leah Bernheim and Victor Schneider have made some serious discoveries this morning that may force us all to rethink quite a bit concerning what is possible in the physical sciences.”
“He will eventually shut up, I hope,” whispered Artis, far more interested in the
ebb and flow of chatter in the room which of course the speaker’s amplified voice
all but doused.
“Any idea what’s up?” Philomen asked nobody.
“Guimard did get booted out of the lot, after the Agency idiot was caught.”
“And with that, fellow scientists and technicians,” Singh concluded, “I’d think it is time for a snack. Please enjoy, and please be back at your desks, if at all possible, within two hours.”
“So something is happening,” Artis said.
“I don’t think he was Agency, he was the client’s,” Philoment reminded them. “Big difference. An Agency idiot would have locked the door to the UPS room.”
“He’d still be an idiot.” A goodly wash of applause answered the announcement. Several rooms back of the dreaded main floor cafeteria, we peeked through the shuttered windows of an empty laboratory to see the parked vehicle on the far verge. Our mounts did the same, clearly wondering if we’d clue them in.
In the car Mastico pointed out, “We saw her Mercedes in the lot…”
“Her rented Mercedes. What if somebody else drove it here?”
“The blowhard just mentioned her by name.” Mastico manipulated the fine-tuning. Scraps of conversation within some feet of the windows began to emerge.
“Which does not mean that she is in the room,” admonished Philomen. “Or the building.”
“Are your binoculars for show? It’s getting cold in here…”
“Wait!” Further adjustments from Mastico.
“…I have had enough of these cheap visors we get here, Kowacki. My eyeballs are killing me. I’ve ordered a new research grade set and I expect CERN to reimburse me.”
“All right, all right, how much can they possibly be…”
“Those are both male voices, Moustache,” intoned Philomen. “I am going for a cigarette.”
“How far?” wondered Artis, but the boss had left the car door open.
A new snipped appeared. “…I tell you, the next target is London. It’s a mathematically sound extrapolation.”
“I didn’t know terrorists could count anything more than RPG rounds….”
“Erase that. Move on,” came the order from the smoking figure behind the Land Rover.
Continuing to enter commands, Mastico wondered, “Fine, but why?” The microphone meandered on to the next window in the caf.
“We don’t want the client to get any ideas and we don’t want the Agency to give them any. Deep six it.” At last he raised the binocs.
“I’ll also be erasing your order to erase it.”
“You’ll erase that statement, too.” Pause. “And this.”
Next conversation. Two other men.
“…Yes, Therm.”
“Did you hear?”
“Sorry, daydreaming. Was that --?”
“What exactly did we accomplish, today?”
“You heard Dr. Singh. That’s what we did.”
“He gave the press release version—“
“Wait…” Mastico suggested. “Wait. Two women. One American accent, one Bangladeshi…”
“…What are they going to do?”
“The effects will wear off. I’m almost sure of it.”
“Almost. You heard what they’re capable of. If ‘almost’ doesn’t work for them…”
“Well, how do you expect them to act if I’m wrong?”
“Leah, we could have ruined their lives today…”
“Got her!” observed Mastico. “She’s right at that window.”
“…First, they will not do anything to any of us. You heard me. They listened. And nobody else is going to be doing this for a very long time. We have to go over everything and design a better entry and exit strategy...”
Philomen turned his glasses on the fourth window from the rear. “Description…”
“…That’s not the only reason why I’m asking…” replied the other woman, but
Mastico had had enough; he scrambled the device’s aim, and pushed it back towards the room we occupied. First mistake! We headed for the window in its sights; David placed his lips against the cold glass and waited.
Philomen continued, “Can’t see much but she has Veronica Lake hair, dark brown, I think, and is wearing a black sweater. Given the window height, it’s all I can see.” He turned to make for the open car door, and encountered David’s voice upon arriving.
-We’ve had enough/ of you –D.

“Moustache, what is—“
-Go ahead/ answer me, I’ll hear –D.

-Bashful all of a sudden/ why? –D.

“Who are you?” Artis managed.
-Stay right where you are/ and you’ll find out very quickly –D.
“Turn that off!” hissed Philomen, but Mastico was frozen. I don’t know why he acted that way. He had certainly never heard my brother’s voice before. Neither had any of his relatives or ancestors here in whet Leah had called ‘Verse II.. How long had we been here? I should have thought on this sooner. There were things we could have done differently. No matter now, though. Assuming that ‘now’ has any meaning, at this point...
“Are you involved with—“ Philomen wanted to ask, but then realized he’d just pushed himself to the precipice. How was this taking place? The microphone had no two-way capability. Why answer the voice?
-Yes, actually/ –D.

-Best if you decided for yourself/ is it your time? Or not? –D.
Philomen fumbled for the ignition key, in lieu of a reply.
-If I pick for you, there may be some disagreement/ too late to do any good, of course –D.
Of a sudden it occurred to the boss that he could not drive the Land Rover from the back seat, so hurrying for the proper location, he hit the ignition and began to lurch onto the road. An oncoming Citroen sounded its horn, so Philomen dashed off the middle line and made for ‘le centre-ville.’
“We know she’s there.” He sounded as if he wasn’t certain anyone was listening. “Is the mike off?”
A bit frozen, Mastico thawed and did the deed. “It is.”
“Call team three to enact, come dusk. There has to be a way in there.”
“Maybe even out again,” agreed Artis, cellular in hand.
Back in the lab, we congratulated David for the usual fine job. Midnight snuffed as if to ask what was in it for him and his fellows. Francis stroked his
-We’ll have to see how badly they want her, old friend. –F.

Copyright 2010 by K. Griffiths. All rights reserved.

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November 7, 2014

The Human Game, pt. 294: 'Someone else has a mole for once...'

“Well, once the tech is seriously re-engineered,” Leila managed, not sure how else to respond to Philip.
Drily Edith added, “View the classic field agent’s logic, Al-Adil.”
“While what I took from what from what you said in the meeting was,” Philip said, “the bombers in Paris, and most probably elsewhere also, were all but human garbage— one moment!”
“Yes?” asked Leila, her younger self ready to pounce if necessary. Which would not have been wise.
“The term I use is indicative of what I think is the CIA's ‘client’’s attitude, not my own. Considering whom was used, and for what purpose.”
“Sorry,” Leila admitted.
“Why else would they employ them? If that’s even the word.”
“Considering how difficult it is to get anyone to die for their country these days…” noted Edith.
“They’re untraceable, as are their families. Each one of the 8 is either from a poor country with bad record-keeping or an ignored section of a more well-off state which might as well be. Yes. O’Carlan saying Zenzinger had ‘already been sorted’ in that context is a ‘possible.’ Add the chain of attacks which started in Iran, the use of nonpersons – again, forgive me – the sudden fruition of Dr. Bernheim’s prediction… I could interrogate a man and break him in four hours with a series of events like that. Depending on how you present it to him, depending on how you worded it, you could convince him you didn’t even need his part of the puzzle. He might as well give it up. For the sake of his own peace of mind.”
“Overrated concept,” said Edith. “Thank you, Philip. This may just do until O’Carlan is processed and interviewed. Depending on what he lets slip.”
“Just what I meant, before. Interrogate and break.”
“Al-Adil, do you suppose Six has the old reprobate yet?”
“Shouldn’t be long,” Philip thought aloud. “Interpol will consider him a practically molten commodity.”
“Haven’t yet heard, but I can try to find out.”
“Please, it’ll be one less call Sir Hal will have to make.”
“…You know, though I haven’t got the latest sound file from Dr. Bernheim yet, O’Carlan also told her earlier today that ‘the client wants blood’ if she didn’t give them some information before the deadline.”
“Oh, yes, one AM tomorrow,” Philip recalled. “Am I right?”
“She said he was on edge?” Edith said. “The client may have gone too far for O’Carlan’s liking. Isn’t he new at the Castle?”
“I’d say less time in than I have at SIS.”
“Whose deadline do you suppose that really is, then?” thought Philip. “Who will be most affected by it?”
Leila considered. “Cards on the table? I guess.”
“Please.” Edith nodded as well.
“I am very afraid that it’s Dr. Bernheim’s, and we’re going to see her on the BBC tonight, if not tomorrow morning.”
“In a body bag.”
“…Yes. I didn’t entirely inform her of my suspicions.”
“Well done. If you had you might not be getting her second sound file.” Philip sought the correct words, and then, “Cold, yes. I admit it. Interstellar cold. It is. Though she might also disappear without the client’s intervention. We guess that the client only tells or assigns the Agency what they must. You remember Training. Better than I do, I’m certain. I won’t short you.”
“I admit I didn’t like not telling her. That first file was damning. O’Carlan knew her background, he definitely felt that she could be got around, or through, and he didn’t care how. What he knew of her, the client most probably got him what he couldn’t get from the Agency.”
“What was there to get?” Philip queried.
“Leah Bernheim was 14 when an obsessed classmate committed mass murder on a ‘tube’ train in New York City, so that she’d notice he existed. The mass outrage and the news outlets pretty much hounded her family out of the country.”
“Oh, dear,” offered Edith, without entirely seeming to mean it. To be fair, she was at that moment scouring her e-mails.
“Oh, yes, she’s responsible for her own bad luck in suitors!” Philip dissented. “But she is her own master.”
“Leah, I mean Dr. Bernheim, went so far as to say, ‘Let them come get me,’” Leila told Philip. “If she knew what we do…”
Rather sagely, Edith rejoined, “Well! If I were the Gate – let’s at long last name them as the monster du jour so we can convince the Home Secretary that we’re convinced! – I would not be thinking of a junior CIA employee’s fate or about the woman who turned him in – of which if there is only communication when absolutely needed, the Gate may not even yet be advised, let’s consider – than the massive, unspeakable internal security cock-up evidenced by the slaughter of the bombers in Paris. Someone in their organization gave up chapter and verse to this unknown third group, Leila. Philip. They have a mole and they will be far more interested in silencing him, her or it. Or them.”
“Joy unconfined,” Philip snarked, “someone else has a mole for once…”
“So you would say that the one a.m. deadline no longer exists.”
“Oh, it exists,” Philip replied, “but Edith has it right; it’s a question of what’s more important and their manpower level.”
“Now that I consider,” Edith added, I may have something to help fill the puzzle.”
“Can’t wait,” Philip said.
“Didn’t appear to figure five minutes ago, but it may do now.” Edith picked up the Financial section of that day’s Times of London on her desk. “Yesterday two regulating agencies who work out of the Bourse in Paris dropped US government bonds to a flat B, three levels above junk. Today, both their Web sites are off line. No explanation has yet been given.”
“They both use Gateware, don’t they?” asked Leila.
“Just now confirmed by a source! Clever lad.’” Edith stood and gestured toward Sir Hal’s office. “He’ll be very relieved. Thanks, Leila.”
“Yes.” The analyst stopped.
“If it is the Gate, they’re getting scared. Has to be.”
“Indeed,” Edith turned to face her and Philip.
“In conversation at the Cross with Sir Hal, my superior pointed out how the Gate might be using ‘passive hacking’ techniques to stay under your and our radar. But about these two sites which tanked after both dared to challenge the imperial American credit rating” – this won an actual smile from Ms. Quecture – “well that’s not passive any longer! Number one, it’s a possible warning to anyone else that outspoken. Number two, if the Gate’s continuing to prop up the USA, they may not believe that the CIA was the leak.”
“Means they won’t be sacked,” muttered Philip. “Yet.”
“Does further cloud things. Keep your mobile on, Philip.”
“Number three,” Leila continued, “maybe your IT department or Six’ can attempt to backplot where those DOA attacks came from?”
“Mine or yours? I’ll take both,” said Edith. “Can you please make that call as well, Leila? Encrypted mobile on you?”
She went for the hated bag. “Never without it.”
“Please. Now. Sir Hal will be further relieved.” Edith began to make for the sanctum once again, but…
Philip chose to add, “Tell him to come scrape me off the ceiling.”
“Oh, come tell him yourself,” she riposted, still threading her way across the room.
“But then he won’t believe me…” Once Edith had gone into the sanctum, he observed to Leila, “You were going to tear my head off.”
“…I’m new.” That she, Edith and Philip had all but used the same procedure of crafting the evidence for Sir Hal and the Home Office that O’Carlan had done to unnerve Dr. Bernheim… no point finishing that thought so Leila tossed it. The physicist’s safety, however… if the Gate’s IT Department would do such a great favor for its ‘service provider’ as to knock out two offending web sites, what else might some other part of the company do…? Or hire the Agency to do?
“Bonne chance staying that way…” Philip wished her, himself rising. “Think I’ll go see if the master will accept the cloud castle we’ve built.”
They were in the DG’s office a while; plenty of time, among other things, for Leila to complete her third draft and begin, if remotely, to wonder again how Dr. Bernheim had known Leila’s office e-mail address. Quecture would not forget that he’d asked. Time to make those calls...

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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