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Chapter 55: Dissembler

Bruno had scheduled a meeting in KPCC for the DESs. I went with Brielle’s partner, leaving her and Wati to mind our districts. My heart raced, its beat throbbing rhythmically and painfully behind my eyes, but my discomfort wasn’t from frustrated lust. I assumed that Bruno, the king of passive aggression, would ambush me in some way. I took my seat, smiling with more boldness than I felt, and tried to look interested.

Once all of the logistical briefings had been completed, Bruno took to the podium. The air suddenly turned heavy and still. “I understand CJ’s and Brielle’s frustrations, but I’m not the originator of their problems.” Looking at me with his face contorted, the muscles at his jaw line pulsed slightly. “I, too, am a victim of the mixed signals and failure to follow through coming out of Phnom Penh,” he addressed his audience, dripping with sincerity. “I call on you, all the district supervisors, to close down your registration activities and take your local workers to Phnom Penh, surround UN HQ and protest the lack of payment to the local staff.”

On a roll, he continued. “If the head honchos see that people are fed up with their treatment, they will be forced to address the issues.” His words had the tone of a stump speech, and he did a convincing job. His premise was plausible. I left the meeting feeling energized and hopeful, until my rational side took over.

I said aloud, to no one in particular, “Transporting that many people, seven hundred or more local staff, along the unprotected and unpaved roads to Phnom Penh and losing a day of registration to form a picket line is utterly ridiculous and dangerous.”

When I returned to Skon, Brielle and Wati were sitting on a hammock outside the office, drinking warm cola and talking about radio chatter they had heard in the aftermath of the meeting. “Is Bruno really seriously considering such a debacle?” I asked rhetorically. He is and it will be, they agreed. My confidence buoyed by their support, I radioed Raena, who had been transferred and was officially working as Bruno’s assistant. “Skon and Battheay won’t support the march on Phnom Penh, since there are other actions that make considerably more sense—especially given road conditions, the lack of transportation and other logistical nightmares.”

Waiting for Bruno’s reaction, I was sure that things would get very nasty before they got better.

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