Chapter 19: Our Tale
Your hair is reminiscent of a glutching grub as you sit across from me in my splendid dining room quaffing clever cocktails prepared by the versatile JoeL.
“What a funny little man,” you whisper when JoeL retires to the kitchen to prepare our repast.
“Decidedly risible and waggish,” I agree, gazing into your eyes which glow with the glory of a discarded diversion.
“You are a strange fellow, Roger.”
“Definitely outlandish and idiosyncratic,” I reply amiably, “but you are a bit of a rebus yourself.”
“I have the distinct impression that you are not altogether what you seem to be.”
“Who is? You, for example, are clearly much more than a simple MI-5 operative.”
“Yes. I am a complex MI-5 operative.”
“You’re very good at evasion but my intuition about people is seldom off the mark and I sense that you’re playing a much deeper game than you pretend.”
I wish I could unburden to you at this moment but I know that all the best relationships are founded on deceit. Honesty is the pest policy. You are a senior member of the Devil’s Own and a confidante of the formidable Hank Himmler. I am unable to fathom the reasons for your deception but regard them as essentially unimportant. I have my own reasons for concealment, the most important of which is my loyalty to Father. Nor do I wish to reveal to you the fact that in the two weeks we have known one another I have had sex twelve hundred times with seventy-one different women. This is simply a biological imperative. But once you succumb to me I will be faithful to you, albeit with some regret. I remain perplexed that you have not already swooned into my manly arms. What am I doing wrong?
“I may be complex,” I reply, “but I am profoundly shallow.”
“See, you’re doing it again.”
We are interrupted by JoeL, who is on suspiciously good behavior as he serves the appetizer course of Tropical Salad topped with Thai green curry.
“Madame, Sir, may I suggest a splendid pinot blanc to accompany the salad?”
“Just so long as it is truly splendid or you know what the consequences will be,” I remark. JoeL regards me with undisguised antipathy but nonetheless bows in what I take to be mock servility.
“Very good, sir,” he says and pours the wine which is, in fact, exceptional.
We are only part way through our salads when JoeL reappears.
“Inspector Shank is at the door, wants to see you both. Shall I tell him to scram?”
“Oh no, JoeL,” you say somewhat resignedly, “you better ask him in. He wouldn’t disturb us if it weren’t important.”
“As you wish, madame.”
Shank enters, looking as disreputable as ever, and shoots an undisguised leer in your direction.
“Thornhill, Agent Dribble. This is cozy.” He looks around the room. “Nice digs. Beats even the Fairmount, I bet.”
“Is there a purpose to your visit, Shank or did you just want to exchange unpleasantries?” I say with obvious irritation.
“Yeah, there’s a purpose. We got ourselves another vic and I think I’ve found a connection.”
“Who is the victim?” you ask.
“Guy named Jim Hammermill, nineteen years old, the youngest vic so far, found by Fort Point, same MO, throat slit, cross-shaped stab wounds, removal of the breast nipples and genitals.”
“And the connection?” You shudder.
“Guy is Army Reserve and a veteran of the Fourth Gulf War.”
“So?” I ask.
“So I got on the horn to a buddy of mine in the Pentagon and asked him to look up the names of all five vics and lo and behold they are all vets. He’s faxing me copies of their DD-214s as we speak. Anyway the old guy was in Vietnam during the last days, only seventeen at the time and the others were in Gulf Wars One through Three. Two were Marines, one army (not counting Hammermill), one Navy and one Air Force.”
“That’s kind of a stretch, isn’t it? There must be hundreds of thousands of veterans of various American wars around.”
“Not so many Vietnam vets anymore but you’re right. According to my buddy, the only other thing they all had in common was that they were involved in combat at one time or another. But basically they were ordinary grunts. No major disciplinary actions against them and no citations or medals for valor. Just run of the mill GIs with honorable discharges. But I’m thinking to myself suppose this Teddy Teawater has a huge grudge against the entire U.S. military?”
Shank, I concede, has a point. I immediately telemessage Father to find out if Alecto could possibly be trying to kill off all U.S. combat veterans one by one.
“Of course, you dunderhead,” Father replies. “Remember, she is indefatigable. Obviously she has concluded that all American wars over the past fifty years have been dishonorable and she is avenging the wars’ innocent victims.”
“But why wouldn’t she go after the politicians who sent these poor bastards off to war or the generals who ordered them into combat?”
“I told you the Erinyes aren’t very smart. They are single-minded and exceedingly powerful but incapable of reason.”
“It’s the best lead so far,” I reluctantly say to Shank.
“It’s the only lead,” you say thoughtfully. “I have an idea. Let me put our best investigator on this. He’s amazing, really. If anybody can locate this bitch, he can.”
“And who is this guy?” asks Shank.
“Sidney Reilly. You’ve perhaps heard of him.”
“Oh yes,” says Shank, unaccustomed respect in his voice. “I’ve heard of him but I thought he was a big time administrator now.”
“He is but I’m sure I can persuade him to help us. He owes me.”
“Really? And how is that?”
“None of your beeswax, as Sherlock Holmes might say.”
I am not happy to enlist the assistance of Sidney Reilly. Not only do I fear that he, of all humans, might very well locate Teddy Teawater before I do, I am suspicious of his relationship to you and yours to him. I’m afraid I don’t deal at all well with competition.