Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Drummer Boy and The Harlot

  Going to Europe!  Miles had lived in Europe for a few years so that phrase held a lot less excitement than it would have for, say, a mid-western shoe salesman.  The salesman would nudge his nearest friend and say in a suggestive voice "hey!  I'm going to Yuuuurrip!  Hey hey!"  To the salesman it meant glamorous burlesque houses, deviant sex, pornography, drugs, hookers in glass booths and other unearthly pleasures.

  Miles shook his head and smiled sadly at that imaginary salesman.  Because he'd find that he'd been out-salesmaned by all the people (who, themselves had no clue) had said "Hey, I hear in Europe they...". 

   Oh, you could find some of that stuff - if you were rich and well connected.  And in Europe, the two went together without saying, so even if the salesman were instead a shoe magnate he'd still be unable to get a look in without a lot of luck.  Even the glass-booth hookers were way out of the reach of average tourists.  As for the rest, booze was easy to find, but for the burlesque houses and the rest you'd still need to look hard.  And, upon finding the burlesque bars, you wouldn't be hard for very long.  You could see and do more at a working-class Fargo titty bar than at the fancy European clubs - at least in the ones the imaginary salesman could afford.  Same with the porn.  Back in the 80's you couldn't find the legendary stuff (again, there was far less of it and it wasn't as good as rumor had it) unless you were connected and what you could get was cheap, nasty stuff.  Again, as good or better stuff could be gotten from a back room at a seedy Fargo bookshop.  Despite the truth being on the  internet and the changes since the 80's, Europe still had the reputation of being a lot more interesting than it actually was.

  And the women...?  Again, way overhyped.  There was a notion that European women were uninhibited sex goddesses and that was, of course, untrue.  Europeans were less hung up about nudity sex but were almost as modest as a Fargo church choir about it.  Ursula Rauch worked for the German government.  She started working undercover monitoring student groups at university and moved on to operating a small hotel used by the company as a safe-house.  On his way back from the drop he'd been mugged and beaten.  Not into the hospital but badly enough that Roberts wanted to have him kept out of sight.

  At first glance, Ursula seemed to validate the perceptions of European women.  Tall, buxom, shining blonde hair and an odd aloofness.  The next two weeks stripped away the glamour and replaced it with "unwashed skank".  Maybe the time she spent undercover as a student activist influenced this, but it was nevertheless hard to not remember Ursula as walking around in an unwashed silk mini-robe, stinking of stale sweat and cheap cigarettes.  At least she wouldn't be smoking anymore.

  Waiting at the end of the gate stood Ursula.  Miles noticed the effect of passing years with dull surprise.  Where Bob's color simply faded and Mack seemed to have shriveled, Ursula had completely fallen apart.  Girlstache, skin spotted from overtanning, bulgy midriff and hair dyed a revolting Corona pee-yellow, Miles found himself missing the younger version.

  "Miles!  It is good to see you!"  She said with Teutonic formality.  "Once we get you out of the airport we will take you to your hotel and tomorrow we can get started."

  "Can't we get started sooner?"  Miles asked.  "I'd like to wrap this up."

  "Tomorrow is better.  You know nothing gets done quickly in Europe, right?"  Ursula said  "If you demand action I'm sure we can arrange for you to defuse a bomb or to land a burning plane."

  Mack laughed at that.  Embarrassed, Miles really wanted to punch that guffawing twit but refrained.  Mostly out fear of getting punched back a lot harder but also because it might just make Mack laugh even harder.  They headed towards the exits.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Fifty Dollars of Grey

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Drummer Boy and The Cold Warrior

  It was said that there were old warriors and that there were bold warriors - but no old, bold warriors.  But there were old, bold cold warriors one of whom shared the charter flight out of DC.  Davis had stated that part of the reason for Miles' recall had been to keep personnel involved to a minimum.  It was for that reason MacArthur "Mack" (of course) Halligan shared the flight to Berlin.  Mack had gotten his start with The Company late in the Vietnam war  and never seemed to look back.  He was a true-blue, hard drinking, two-fisted fighter of the Red Menace.  Not the caricature of that type that Bob Davis was of his type, but close.

  Miles had been tempted to ask how Mack handled the end of the Soviet Union.  Elation followed by a creeping depression that the purpose of his life was now missing?  It turned out that he didn't need to even ask before finding out it was outright denial.  "Oh sure, they say they ain't - they say they're good little Demmicrats and just want to be everybody's pal.  But the Russkies are every bit as red as ever they were."

  Focusing on the task at hand seemed best.  Superficially, it seemed simple.  In October 1983, Miles was a part of a courier chain.  Information or small items were passed from one seemingly unconnected person to another with the goal of getting them to someone else who would pass it along to the West (Miles had painful flashbacks reading this in many mid-80's spy novels).  Usually, no one between the ends of the chain knew what it was and this time was no different.  His task was to pick up a box and put it down in a place indicated by a checkmark.  He'd done so and then forgotten about it and felt giddy at being a "real spy" rather than a photo analyst in an office.  After a while, the reality set in and it seemed less and less worth the time.  All too often it seemed that Jane's Defence Weekly scooped the intelligence's services. 

  Unfortunately, the next link in the chain disappeared and the location of the box was covered in 3 feet of concrete before the chain could be rebuilt.  As Miles pointed out, at his initial debriefing, the OPC hearing which saw him eased out, and when Davis briefed him just before his getting on the plane that the box had to be long gone.  Davis just smiled, reassured him that they "just wanted to be sure" and since it meant a free trip to Europe anyway maybe Miles shouldn't be complaining. 

Cash Rules Everything Around Me

Monday, February 9, 2015

First Draft - The Drummer Boy: Part 1: The Drummer - boy and The Patriot

  Miles Stevens was waiting.  He'd been picked up from his house by two very quiet, very serious men from the government and brought to a room which was not quite an office and not quite a cell and told to wait.  The men weren't hostile or courteous and he could leave the room to use the bathroom or read a magazine but it was clear that that was the most he could do.  After three hours one of the men came in.  "Mr.  Davis will be with you shortly".

  "Mr. Robert Davis, by any chance?" Stevens asked.

  "Yes.  In about ten minutes".

  Stevens knew better than to ask the G-Man why Davis wanted to see him.  It was mildly surprising that he'd even responded to one question and pushing his luck was pointless.  Robert Davis, though.  Stevens was a young, idealistic photojournalist back in 1979.  A staunch patriot which left him at odds with the rest of the journalism community.  Through a series of chance encounters, he'd been recruited into the CIA by the very same Robert Davis who was coming to see him now.

  It had been a running gag at the time to think of Davis as a Soviet mole.  Bob was almost a walking Anti-American caricature.  Game-show Host manners and looks, complete with shellacked, side parted hair and gleaming teeth.  Polo shirts for casual day, three-piece suits (plain, unpretentious and very expensive) and he even smoked a pipe.  He ate hot dogs, watched baseball and had a perfect Stepford Wife whom (it was assumed) he shagged every Saturday night at 9:30 with his socks on and the lights off.

  Stevens himself was nothing particularly special.  Back in college, he could describe himself as "Robert Redford in dim lighting" but these days it was "Robert Redford the morning after a tequila bender".  As he still worked behind the camera it didn't matter too much.

  And here came Bob.  He looked like a faded and wrinkled version of himself from 30 years ago.  Still perfect of course, his hair had to be silver - not white, not mousy but a fine silver sheen, but he was still the same old Bob.

  "Miles!"  he said, pouring on the smarm charm with no trace of irony or self-consciousness "good to see you!  '87 was the last time, right?"

  "Yes it was!"  Miles replied, matching Bob's charm but adding in the irony.  "I remember it well, too, because that was when you railroaded me out of the agency".

  Davis let out a hearty chuckle frightening in it's insincerity.  "Now, Miles, that was business.  We all know what happened wasn't your fault entirely.  And it could have been a lot worse.  As it was, someone needed to take the blame.  You were just a drummer boy in the grand scheme of things and it was easier just to let things play out that way."  He took a seat and became serious.  "Some things have happened in the last few days and we need your assistance.  You might just get to catch up with your old friend Ursula if you play your cards right." be continued...