GLUE: A Novella

by Steven Soderbergh (@bitchuation)

Text updated automatically from Twitter.

Table of Contents
1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41

I

Amsterdam. It was difficult for you not to assume the worst after the way your funeral went down. The whole thing seemed like a parody of itself. Like anything else, the #&%# was only valuable because everyone wanted it and nobody had it. You’ve become the receptacle for everything forgotten, and an impulse can only be ignored for so long before people begin to wonder. Everything that used to be a foregone conclusion was for sale—cheap—and regret was a dead battery. The window reminds you that you haven’t been in one place for more than a week in four years. A message: Paris by train. Overnight. H always said, “The hours are great if you agree to work whenever they want you to." After all, it’s easy to imagine the worst and the pay isn’t too bad, either. Why else have you been saying yes? But now there’s a new definition of permanent, and the same page is something for everyone to get off of. The smart move is to pull up stakes and head for the nearest cliché. But you don’t. The hotel in Paris is a womb. No message from D. Your first memory of her was her neck. Neither of you said anything worth hearing that night, the first of three at the Nacional. Where the entire 6th floor is wired like Marilyn’s bedroom. But that was okay. You were supposed to be married. The American liaison had a worried look. And the joke about ordering breakfast into the lamp didn’t help. Still... A successful trip all in all, even if death was on the menu and your employer owns your history. Never heard if they found Luis or not. Hopefully not. A text from D. breaks the spell: Meet with S at 2000 hrs at Apt 23. _______ restaurant at 2130hrs to follow. If S was in Paris, then so was the #&%#. Good to know.

II

this kid. this FUCKER. that look on his face. arrogant piece of...what, we’re supposed to treat you like a rock star? like you’re the first person who ever had an idea? fucking kids like you are hanging out in every fucking starbucks in the world. somebody would have come up with the #&%# eventually, why are you so special for coming up with something everyone predicted? turner’s fucking cat food if he doesn’t PHONE yes? BEAT hello? BEAT hi, ted, i was BEAT yes, i know i BEAT i don’t really have one right now BEAT i absolutely will, yes, yes-- BEAT fuck

III

By the time you reached the restaurant, things had changed. You asked D about Madrid, and she smiled an answer. You asked again and she said not to worry, but everything sounded like a worst-case scenario with fuck-you money around the edges. You had to admit you’d lost the thread months ago. Maybe if you could get the #&%# it would buy you some time. Dessert. The room was a lot louder than it was an hour ago, and D knew it. “Have another glass," you said. She refused, and checked her watch. That’s when you spotted M shoulder his way through the door. Under your breath you said D’s name. She looked at you and then the door. You made a mental note of the exits. M sat without a word and gestured for a waiter. H used to say procedure was a masking agent and nothing more, but he also kept repeating himself in the way vermouth sometimes does. When M mentioned something about Madrid, D lowered her head. A series of questions followed, and she answered. His drink arrived. Her deference was nauseating. Every “sir" that came out of her mouth felt like a dagger. You looked at M and thought: A perpetual smirk must be earned, otherwise it lives alone. “Who are your heroes?" What kind of question was that? You needed to get out of there. M’s stale sweat smelled like failure. You downed your drink and said, “The only people who enjoy this kind of thing tend to suck at it." You glanced at D. The crack in her veneer was threatening to become a crevasse. To cover, you said something about H and the company. Something amusing. “Fuck fair!" M said. “It’s not like waving a wand!" Loud laughter from the Americans at the next table turned your heads. And when M’s hand moved, you didn’t hesitate. Did they think you were a fucking child? Mayhem. The French have a word for what came out the back of M’s head: sweetbreads.

IV

what? wait a minute—what was Michel doing at les halles? how he even know to be there? BEAT BEAT where’s the girl? BEAT no. wait for them to move. she’s obviously dirty, and he must know that, but let’s see what he does. where’s sonnenfeld? BEAT well, keep looking. BEAT my guess would be rome...

V

At the safe house her tears came right on schedule. Your stomach tightened, and any and all conclusions crawled away to look for sustenance or an exit. She wanted to hear herself talk. That’s when you learned you can be lonely anywhere. It’s late and your attitude is nowhere to be found. You always said you deserved each other, but the fact is you would be mad if she agreed. You both knew M stepped off the merry-go-round and got exactly what he asked for. There’s nothing to eat or drink here. She sleeps with her back to you. She might be your age when you wake up, and who knows what she’s seen. Follow your instincts before the numbness becomes a symptom instead of the other way around.

VI

well, if she confesses and he kills her, great. the question is will she kill him first? BEAT no, but i can--i can--yes, we can--BEAT (off, left) sherrill, can you--get gary maloney

VII

She said you fell asleep with your fists clenched last night, but she didn’t seem worried. You know what H would say: The beats are a map, not a clue. Thirty minutes later you’re driving, D beside you. The smell of ignited sulfur filled the car, followed by the thin smoke of D’s ultra-light. There was nothing to go back to. Then she mentioned the #&%#. That S had told her where it was. Suddenly all those off-the-record chats with H made perfect sense to you. That's why she was early for the S meeting. Remember? The door was open. As soon as you saw D’s jacket on the floor you should have known this was just part of an attempt to move things along. You drew your gun, and started breathing through your mouth. You called her name, softly. No response. The bedroom next. S was on the floor. Light from the bathroom highlighted his blood. The sound of the sink running his requiem. Then complete silence. Then darkness. A beat. D appeared at the door.

VIII

he is a fucking tumor, and you are going to cut off his blood supply. i want him on a graph yesterday. BEAT sherrill will sort all that out. anything else? BEAT and would this be buffet style or a la carte? BEAT okay. eyes on her. no touching. yet. BEAT how do you know about that? BEAT gary, listen to me: you do not want to be in the blast radius of the #&%# situation PHONE yes. BEAT yes, sir. BEAT i anticipate retrieval of all assets within 24 hours. i have my best man in front of me now. BEAT yes, sir. BEAT jesus. BEAT why are you still here? what the fuck are you smiling at?

IX

You put your gun away, although part of you wondered why. She nodded at S. Three passports. 500 Euros. A boarding pass. Alitalia. “I guess if there isn’t some sort of surprise, then what’s the whole thing for?" D said before stepping past you. An hour later you were at Les Halles. An hour after that, M arrived. No question it was her. Refusing to discuss the courier in Madrid, then this. Were you asleep? Remember what H said: A teaspoon is about earning trust; a tablespoon is something else altogether. Clearly the plan had been changed without your input, and the consequences couldn’t be nullified with the usual cocktail of distractions And especially not while you’re driving.

X

gary maloney’s real name is not gary maloney. not gary maloney felt it was a bad idea for any government agency to know his real name. for obvious reasons. all the people who knew gary maloney’s real name are dead. some from natural causes. on the way to the airport, not gary maloney made three phone calls from three different disposable phones. the first two were dictated messages to voice mail. the third was a conversation that lasted nine seconds. he discarded all three phones before entering the international terminal at dulles. at the gate, he uploaded one encrypted file from an internet cafe computer. thirty minutes later he was on a plane to rome.

XI

She stood in the parking lot and asked what you meant. Listening to her lie was like having your skin pulled off in one strip. Then again part of you would like that. The simplicity of it. You said nothing. You were both quiet for awhile. No tears this time, you noticed. Then she told you everything, and when she was finished you were strangers; anything you shared disappeared. The hole it left behind would become your new obsession. In the audience-friendly version you’d stay together, but it’s never going to be as good as you remember. Time to move on. She feels invaded, judging from her expression, so the only thing to do is book her a round trip to somewhere she won’t stand out. The subtle phrases H left behind suggested a shortcut, but if everyone knows about a shortcut it’s not a shortcut anymore. The conclusion was determined from the start, and there isn’t a word for the taste in your mouth.

XII

not gary maloney took a taxi to the de russi. once there, he showered, shaved, and went downstairs to the bar. ketel one on the rocks with lime. forty-two euros. and a short pour to boot. he wondered what he would do with the gay italian after he got what he needed. the air in the room changed, and not gary maloney looked into the mirror behind the bar. a well-dressed woman had entered, trailing a handful of pilot fish disguised as people. sibilant whispers traced her name in the air. it sounded familiar. american. not gary maloney motioned for a refill. an actress, he guessed. he wasn’t sure, though. because not gary maloney hated movies.

XIII

As you stare at the ceiling of the Pantheon, you imagine the other life. The one where you weren’t recruited. The one where you quit to save your marriage. The one where some geek didn’t invent the #&%# while on the payroll and then drop off the grid. But everyone has a different definition of popular, and in this case the numbers do tell the whole story. When Paolo saw your face he also saw his future. He was too much of a pro to run. And not exactly young anymore. By the time you sat he had arranged his expression into something life-like. His smile was at half-mast and his eyes were focused on the ending. The world is full of misplaced ambitions, and the only cure is a crash rewrite with no interruptions. You both knew your hand had been forced. Not that it helped. He would hear what you have to say, and he would repeat it to his captors. He might even be allowed to live. Never trust what you want, or you might end up staring at the big blue marble from a great height. When you were done feeding him, he filled the silence with talk about Walter. Something about their anniversary. He had switched from wine to bottled water. In preparation. Not a minute goes by where you don’t think it’s pointless, but people need something to do with their hands.

XIV

it’s all there. you can count it if you like BEAT no, i’d like to keep the socks on, if that’s okay BEAT i, uh, i work in…technology. security BEAT exactly. for your computer BEAT PHONE BEAT i’m sorry, i need to take this. can you…i’ll just step in here BEAT yes BEAT put him through BEAT yes, sir BEAT my man is in rome, and that estimate is still--BEAT yes, sir. i understand, the absolute moment--BEAT that shouldn’t be necessary BEAT BEAT BEAT listen, dani, was it? you should…you should just go BEAT yeah something’s…i’m just not...it's not a good time. BEAT i appreciate that, i just need to…i’m just going to stay here for a bit, have one more drink.

XV

You don’t feel anything, so you decide to take another. Not everything can be avoided when your head is in a hurry and reappearances remain a fixture. The pattern is clearly random—what you need to remember is the one thing that eludes you. So you wait, and waiting always makes you think of the mouse. You were in Grand Cayman. 1997. Alone in the bedroom of a resort home belonging to a target. Judging from the spread, selling black market munitions paid very well. Until it didn’t. A strong scratching sound drew you to a sliding door, then to your knees in front of the metal column opposite the door handle. Inside the column: a mouse. Obviously it had climbed in through the top and was now trapped; not enough clearance to escape from the bottom. Droppings indicated it had been there awhile. No way to save it without taking the door apart. You went back to the chair and listened to the mouse struggle while you waited for the target to arrive. And you started thinking. What did the mouse know about its own predicament? How long before it died of starvation and exhaustion? Was it cursing itself for crawling in there? For being curious? Had it been trying to find food for its family? Maybe it fell in. Was its family wondering where it had gone and why it hadn’t come home? Was it usually good at this, or a fuckup? How did it decide when to rest and when to struggle? Was it making deals with the mouse God in order to obtain a miraculous escape? Were you the mouse God? Were you the mouse? Then you thought: how many trillions of creatures, humans included, have died without anyone knowing? Or caring? The kind of thinking H encouraged you to abandon. Maybe the mouse now had some cosmic significance because you were aware of its imminent mortality. At least it wasn’t in some lab having cancer injected into it. It was dying, but it wasn’t being killed. Then again, there were no steel columns before Man showed up. So maybe it was on us. You thought about killing it. But how? You couldn’t reach it and you weren’t in the habit of carrying fast-acting mouse poison. The noise continued. Nothing to do but add it to the suffering you ignore in life. That we all ignore. After you considered that list item by item, you went to the door again, to see how it was assembled. No screws, nothing. It would take a spot welder to solve this. And there would be a lot of explaining to do. You went to the chair again, sat, and listened. Two hours later the scraping sounds stopped. An hour after that the target arrived, and you went to work. A week after that you were promoted.

XVI

From: DBHarriss@cicgov.org/sz/asst_dep_sec
Subject: JCOS/DCI briefing preparation
This memo is not to circulate outside Station Zebra in its present form. It is not to be quoted or referred to in communications to any other organizations, branches, sections, or divisions. The following diplomatic traffic is now being intercepted: Amsterdam/Paris, Paris/Madrid, Paris/Rome. Contents attached. As of this writing, the whereabouts of both Chamasmany and the #&%# are unknown. Chamasmany was last seen in Madrid 72hrs ago, when our Spanish courier escorted him to a rendezvous with Dunsmuir at location Q. Dunsmuir was supposed to escort Chamasmany to Paris, where he would meet Agent _____ and MI5 analyst Sonnenfeld. Instead, Dunsmuir arrived in Paris alone, and Chamasmany and the courier have disappeared. Dunsmuir has not contacted her employer since she arrived in Paris. Whether the Paris meeting took place is unclear, although luminol tests reveal recently cleaned bloodstains in the bedroom. We are awaiting DNA results and stonewalling all MI5 enquiries re: Sonnenfeld as per your instruction. After the killing of Michel Maraval, Agent _____ and Dunsmuir stayed overnight in safe house 9 and separated the following morning. These events lead us to believe Dunsmuir, the Spanish courier and Chamasmany entered into some sort of arrangement in Madrid. Such activity falls outside the guidelines set forth in the Functions and Structures Chapter of the Station Zebra Directive of 11/11. Such activity, should it be confirmed, would be actionable. It is unclear whether Dunsmuir and Agent ______ are working in concert. The Cuba case is being reviewed for indicators. It is unclear why Michel Maraval showed up at Les Halles and whether or not he was expected by Agent _____ or Dunsmuir. It is unknown what events led to his killing. Special Action Service France views Maraval as officially separated as of 02/09, and has no interest in pursuing the matter. There is no record of any embarkation attempts by Dunsmuir under any of the various aliases known to SZ/CIA/NSA, et al. Agent _____ is believed to be in Rome. SZ has engaged the services of Five Continents Imports to track, acquire, and question him about all of the above. In addition, Five Continents will attempt to track Dunsmuir, with instructions not to engage unless so ordered by SZ. All available assets have been engaged to track and acquire Chamasmany, and his immediate family is now in custody. SZ analytics continue to monitor for any indication that #&%# has been deployed.

XVII

So far the benefit of the doubt is the only way to distinguish what’s real from what’s been surgically enhanced. The effort to keep your eyelids open was cruel. You saw him enter Paolo’s apartment and you saw him leave twenty-two minutes later. American, early 40s. Thinning hair. Glasses. Off-the-rack suit. Briefcase. You followed him. He was heading for the address you gave Paolo. Repetition is key, key, key.

XVIII

She was supposed to feel better than this, she thought as she scanned the bar. Forty-five minutes ago it was empty except for the staff. Now it was a scrum of flushed faces and noisy narratives. She listened without hearing. A habit. As she raised an 18£ martini to her lips, she wondered how all these people could afford to live in the city. Of course she could now afford to live anywhere she wanted, for as along as she wanted. That was the problem, she realized: A tested fantasy is no longer a fantasy. She wanted to be done with this martini already. And the next one. Because after the fourth or fifth one the image would start to fade, a little. The image being the look on _____’s face when she told him about the arrangement. She watched as the slow spread of disappointment found every part of him. Scratch a cynic and you’ll find an idealist, she thought, in the parking lot. Had someone written that? Did he understand it wasn’t just about money, it was about freedom? Was the disappointment because she didn’t include him? Was he envious? She finished the drink and signaled the bartender. Three down, two to go…

XIX

Even when they all wore the same clothes, you could tell them apart by the way they drove a bargain. Moscow Rules now. Only H would hire a guy like this. Would know a guy like this. Another sheep-dipped Title 50 ex-contractor. He must be good in the room. You wondered if he saw Paolo for what he was? Or was he pretending not to? Sometimes it’s hard to believe what people do, until you understand people do what they believe. Part of you wanted to impress them, wanted a “mystique". Would the effort required diminish your capabilities or add to them? Let’s face it, the best bargain you’ll ever get is the one you make with yourself. You entered the room, and he turned. You realized you misread him from a distance. The look on his face said he wouldn’t be telling you anything. But that didn’t change what had to happen next, up close. You liked physicality. It was clean. The “radical divestment" of everything unnecessary. You’ve heard people say TIME SPEEDS UP or TIME SLOWS DOWN. Not in your experience. You’re a big fan of the trachea—no one functions well when it’s been damaged. The blanket was a wool blend. Would he try to shake it off and create a scene in the middle of an intersection? You kept driving until you ran out of road. Once there, you went to the back seat and pulled the blanket off him. You were right about one thing: he wasn’t going to talk, because he was dead. By his own hand. Or mouth, rather. What was left of it. His passport was very, very good. Government spec. “Kyle Landry", Five Continents Imports. You put his body in a shed, and thought this might be a good time to call Him. Let Him know what was happening. Within hours, He was there, clasping your hand in greeting. You listened as He talked. It was best that way. This is what He said to you on this occasion: 1. You can argue with success. 2. The lack of a footprint is also a footprint. 3. 50/50 is always a good deal. And then He left.

XX

don’t give me variables and probability, where the fuck is he? BEAT if he had “engaged" with _____ then we would have SPLIT BEAT may i finish? because i really can. if he’s missing it’s because ______ saw him first. what’s happening with DICKFEE’s family? BEAT well, they better start, because i’ve talked to justice. we can send them all to strawberry fields if we want, we can send them to a planet and then have it declared no longer a planet BEAT i actually think we’ll know a lot in the next four to six hours BEAT sorry i got excited, but what can this thing do, in theory? BEAT well, try BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT BEAT how many people know this, exactly? BEAT all right PHONE excuse me BEAT BEAT no, let’s just list maloney as DUSTWUN for the moment—no alarm bells and call the embassy in rome, have mel meet me in london tomorrow

XXI

Not Gary Maloney now existed only in the thoughts of others because he bit the capsule and died. Does it matter when he was found? It would change nothing. Plus, he hated people and people sensed this, so that part about his being in the thoughts of others is actually wrong.

XXII

When he heard about his family he was so furious he nearly installed the #&%# and just…but he didn’t. Who could help him? Between the unthinkable, the unspeakable, and the unstable, it wasn’t a long list… He thought about that woman from the hacking case, that liaison. She was the one only who knew what she was doing. Dunsmuir. He sent her a message. She didn’t reply for seven minutes. The return message was brief but playful. As though she was with someone. He asked to see her. Five minutes went by. She asked where he was. He said Paris. Five more minutes passed. She asked if he would be there tomorrow. He said yes. Eleven seconds, then she wrote: I will call you when i’m there. He acknowledged/confirmed/signed off. Then he headed for Paris.

XXIII

If everything is inevitable, you will know what to do afterward. A year’s worth of contacts would end up as H’s appetizer. They didn’t teach this shit at Camp Peary. Were you a soldier or a spy? Anyone who knew couldn’t be asked. You father might know. But he never knew what you did. Could those cracked, calloused hands of his understood? The eyes that survived the Chosin reservoir? He was nineteen in Korea. And that was all he ever said about it. Spectacle and cheap sentiment mingle in your mind as you enter the alley. You’re analyzing various choices as the music swells and you lose consciousness.

XXIV

Fuck ME, she thought, turning away. What would Harriss be doing in London the day she hears from Chamasmany? She hit the stairs to the downstairs bathroom while she tried to come up with an answer. She stayed calm and thought through the possibilities. Conclusion: Harriss doesn’t know she’s here. Total crazy fucking coincidence. And: the man Harriss was talking to, she knew him. An attaché or something. From Rome. Her breathing slowed, and she ascended the second set of stairs to the lobby. Exiting, she crossed the street to a pub. From a seat inside, she watched Harriss and the attaché talk.

XXV

You become conscious in a trunk. Headache, bound hands (behind). Obviously it’s dark. Moving, smooth pavement. 40-45mph. You think it’s probably a sedan and the engine is definitely diesel. You’re think it might be a Mercedes and you also think it’s weird you aren’t wearing a blindfold. The effort to open your eyelids is not only cruel, but pointless, because you’re blind. When you were five you almost drowned. This seems worse. But you don’t have time to go into that. It must be a drug. How was it administered? You came here directly from seeing Him. Think. When you shook His hand? Was that even conceivable? THINK. Most agency-engineered psychotropics take effect within 45 minutes. That’s just about exactly right. It had to be Him. You don’t just UNPLUG like that in the street with no onset whatsoever and then wake up blind. That doesn’t just HAPPEN to you. Someone has to WANT that to happen to you. The car is slowing for a turn, and you hear muffled voices now. Two. You recognize one of them as H. You can’t make out the words, but the tone is argumentative. You’re on a dirt road now.

XXVI

The decision to go AWOL with the #&%# seemed like a long time ago, even though it wasn’t. She said she just needed one more day. To deal with a "personal issue". Quotation marks yours. He wasn’t sure what to think, but he would stay in Paris to meet her. And hope she arrived alone. He wanted to call his family’s lawyer, but knew that would be a mistake. He would just keep watching the news.

XXVII

Right at the point where everyone should be paid to leave there is a man with pliers. That you were officially dead already was a negative, and what should have lasted an hour stretched to two. H wanted to be sure what you didn’t know. The pain made you vomit. You were on the express elevator to the basement, although “the basement" was a metaphor with way too much make-up on. You thought about the mouse. You thought about how you treated total strangers better than your ex. You thought about any aspect of this world you loved. You counted. Then you could tell things were winding down. This would be a good time to implement your plan. The one that didn’t exist. Your ignorance might save your reputation, but it wasn’t going to save your skin. Game over. You were at peace. Stepping forward, H told the one with the pliers to move away. Even though you were blind you knew what H had in his hand. You imagined it in front of your forehead. Then some part of H exploded onto your face. His body fell forward, knocking you off the chair. A second shot, then the sound of Pliers cursing and dropping to the floor. Both shots from ten o’clock. Sig Sauer. Pliers kept cursing until a set of footsteps came forward and fired a third shot. Then the footsteps approached you. Lighter than a man’s. You smelled her before she spoke. She told you to hold still, and you did. You told her you couldn’t see.

XXVIII

he doesn’t know shit about the #&%#. what a fucking disaster. well, not total; at least we know about moloney now you think you know your asset and they wander off the reservation, stop trusting you well, it’s his own fault for trusting Him. and not coming to me right away after the meeting with dunsmuir and sonnenfeld. sonnenfeld! another fucking mess. fucking MI5. but i can pin that on him and the girl, at least. ALL RIGHT, THAT’S ENOUGH. MOVE BACK he's with the company, he knows how this has to work. he’s making me the asshole here. at least i’m doing it the way—

XXIX

The few who knew the story from beginning to end tended to contradict themselves, a theme we will return to later. By the time you reached Paris your eyesight had returned. You went to meet him in a hotel room. He looked even younger than his age. Scared, angry. He wanted to know if there was something you could do for his family. You told him that would depend on the #&%#. What it was worth. What it did, exactly. He looked at D and started to talk, quickly. And at length. You understood some of it, and what you didn’t only increased the sense of dread brought on by what you did. Apparently it sat inside a cube filled with an irradiated, gel-like, conductive fluid. The “it" being a series of thin, coated, connected plates. He said it could create an unlimited amount of virtual neurons. Exactly like the ones in your brain. He said nothing created after it would ever catch it. If it were activated. He said it was just an idea on a piece of paper, it might not even be possible to build. Yet. You thought about killing him, and D noticed, but it was a fleeting notion, because it wouldn’t help. Because every terrible discovery is inevitable. Five dead, with more to come. Because of a drawing.

XXX

By the time Chamasmany stopped talking she was on her third glass of wine and _____ was looking out the window. Even through the closed window she could hear traffic. She thought about all the people en route to somewhere. They had friends, families, jobs. They had hopes, worries, plans. They expected to arrive safely at their destinations. They expected to have dinner, go to bed, and wake up in the morning. The difference between them and her, she realized, whether they were happy or not: they had futures. _____ said something she didn’t hear and she asked him to repeat it. He said they would need new identities and they would have to separate. She knew he was right but would never have suggested it.

XXXI

Did everyone know you’d lost a step? Did you think a subtle downward trajectory masked your decline? You would all meet once a month in a different city. A no-show would mean you were blown. Then Chamasmany had some questions, and you didn’t believe your answers even though they were all true. He described the deal with D and the Spanish courier. You couldn’t call someone who took it as dumb. Then he asked why you were “dead". You explained the whole thing was a mole hunt; the double you ran in Beirut knew about the #%&# before you did. And only a ghost can find a mole. No one said anything for a while. D was in a trance. You said you needed a shower and acted accordingly. Good temperature and good pressure from the head. There really was no line anymore. Even Moscow rules seemed like rules now. When did this happen? And where to go? Berlin for the first two weeks. North C-burg. Then decide. As you towel off, you hear the suite door shut, loudly. Wrong. What you see when you exit the bathroom: no one and an open window. You hear screams coming from the street. Because D’s crumpled body has collapsed the roof of Audi parked on the street below. The door bell rings. You remove the towel from around your waist and wrap the almost empty bottle of Brunello in it.

XXXII

okay, no answer, of course, you knew that, so use the key card. draw your piece, dummy, first, because you know somebody is in there. okay, drawn, now the card. okay. open, push away from you, piece up. okay. room is empty, except for—

XXXIII

You swing the towel and catch him right on the bridge of his nose. 4.5 seconds later you discharged his gun into the back of his head. Four seconds after that, the phone started ringing. You took the stairs and left through the kitchen. A taxi took you to Gare du Nord. It didn’t seem like you were followed, but you’ve been wrong a lot lately, and the woman who saved your life was dead. At some point everyone needs to acknowledge what the gloves are actually for, or this whole thing will just continue to drag on forever.

XXXIV

It wasn’t normal for Him to be thinking about anyone in particular, but this thing with ______ had Him talking to Himself. They had lied to Him too—could he explain that to _____? Would _____ believe Him? He was Him, after all, so how could He be tricked? He really hoped He would get a chance to explain Himself.

XXXV

All signs point to invisibility as you retrace your steps. Some might call it entertainment, but the entire incident should probably be viewed as a repeat of last week’s episode. You would like the whole thing to be done over again by hand, but not right now. A trap door asset in Dublin is putting you up. You once asked H who the #%&# was secret from, and he said, “Anyone who doesn’t need to know."

XXXVI

They weren’t asking questions, which alarmed him. In fact, Chamasmany hadn’t heard anyone speak at all during the two car trips and the plane ride. When they took the blindfold off he was in a room that looked very much like a suite. Two men watched him around the clock. No phones or TV. Daily Mail and The Times with certain columns cut out. A knock. Both men acted as though this was expected, and one of them moved to the door. A man entered, put his hat down on a chair, sat in front of Chamasmany, and said his name was Tom. Tom was wearing a raincoat over his suit, although it wasn’t raining. Tom said there wasn’t much time. Tom asked if the name Sonnenfeld was familiar. Chamasmany said he knew the name from Dunsmuir, that Dunsmuir said she had killed Sonnenfeld in self-defense. Tom nodded while he said the words “self-defense" to himself. Then he said he wanted to know where Sonnenfeld’s body was. Chamasmany told him _____ had helped Dunsmuir dispose of the body, but they never said how or where. Tom said he wanted to trade Chamasmany to Station Zebra for information about Sonnenfeld’s whereabouts. Chamasmany said Station Zebra couldn’t have that information unless they had captured _____. Did Station Zebra have _____? Tom said that’s what he wanted to find out by making the offer. Chamasmany asked if the trade could include his family being released. Tom smiled and said he didn’t see why not. Tom said belief got him out of bed in the morning.

XXXVII

You took the meeting. No amount of applause would excuse His past behavior, but for obvious reasons the angle of view could not be adjusted. Once airborne, He told you things you already knew, which was a first. And He didn’t know what was coming next, which was a second first. You agreed to everything, and He was so distracted He didn’t notice. He apologized and said nothing made sense to Him anymore. The forced feeling made you look away.

XXXVIII

Chamasmany was brought back to the United States for de-briefing via military transport. He remembered a time when an aisle seat was the measure of success. At the end of a long hall, in a windowless room, Chamasmany was interviewed by the new head of Station Zebra. Her name was Karen. Most of Karen’s questions were about the #%&# and its possible applications. She was also very interested in the rare element needed to coat the plates; where was this element most abundant? Chamasmany told her and explained it would be difficult to acquire the necessary quantity without arousing suspicion. Karen smiled. After answering all of Karen’s questions, Chamasmany enquired about his family. Karen said he would be joining his family soon.

XXXIX

The women of sixty are now pushing twenty, and a lot of people made money off the idea of George Burns as God. Remaining firmly on the fence could leave you covered in plastic, and even though you left the report blank, you said too much. SHAMUS MONEY. What H used to call Chamasmany, which he then modified to DICKFEE. These guys sure knew how to amuse themselves.They called it reassignment, but how can you put a non-existent genie back in a secret bottle? You gave the whole thing two days at most; then everyone would pull up short and all the resources would be staring at the ceiling. The new narrative would be an amplified Gordian Knot of conjured excitement where every lane was a passing lane. That’s when you noticed the car following you and remembered that death was just another form of pressure. Everything seems like a good idea until your conscience straps itself in for a ride. There would be no more deals, no more questions. Nothing and no one left to bargain with. It would appear your role in life was to scare your enemies into each other’s arms. And yet you still felt lucky, because even though what you did will never catch on, some will refer to it as a success. Since they never figured out you were the mole.

XL

The geologist from Palo Alto and the attorney ordered beers at the Lark Creek Bar at the San Francisco airport.The attorney asked the geologist a lot of questions about his background, which the geologist happily answered at length. Whenever the geologist asked the attorney a question, the attorney responded with as few words as possible. The geologist said he had obviously been to Canada before, but not to Peru or Japan or Russia. He also said had never flown first class. The attorney said he had flown first class but had never been to Japan. Within minutes of takeoff the geologist was asleep. The attorney opened up a folder titled TELLURIUM. When they landed at Narita, they were met by a group of suited Japanese men and escorted through a private customs area. The drive to the copper mine took four hours. Once there, the geologist went to where the anode sludges were stored.The attorney stayed behind to speak with two of the escorts. His Japanese was flawless.

XLI

You waited longer than _____ said to just to be sure. After all, it was kind of a big deal. To kill time you read a story online about a British man found dead in Paris. His body was discovered in a sealed rubber bag. Police were inclined to rule it a suicide. Even though after a hundred attempts no one could duplicate the act of securing themselves in a rubber bag. You stopped reading at the part where British authorities promised a full investigation in order to practice your mnemonics. You’d been working on your mnemonics ever since _____ left Dublin because he didn’t want you to write anything down. There was a time you would have expressed disbelief at what _____ told you. Or even a slight skepticism. Not anymore. There was a lot to remember. H, Station Zebra, the #%&#, the double in Beirut, _____’s fake death in Amsterdam.Sonnenfeld and Apt. 23. Maraval and Les Halles. Paolo. “Kyle Landry" of Five Continents Imports.The meetings with Him.D’s rescue of _____ and her subsequent death.And of course Chamasmany, who would be at a black op site by now, if he was even alive.Also: encrypted email addresses of other assets and journalists in Canada, Japan, Peru, and Russia. To be contacted if _____ didn’t show up. Which appeared to be the case. You went over to the café and logged on. You typed everything _____ told you, loaded the first email address, and pressed SEND. Within two minutes you had sent the same email to all the other addresses _____ gave you. You left the café and started your new life as a very lonely person. The definition of a punishable offense could be written on the head of a pin if people would just wait their turn. You thought to yourself: No answer is the answer; just choose.

THE END

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