Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mr Hevert (fourth installment)

The tall young man who arrived that morning at the stroke of nine at the Director’s office, Peter Huxley, concealed his nervousness so adroitly that the Director’s assistant, a dire-minded individual named Grisby, conceived an immediate antipathy: too young, he thought, too naïve for the assignment. But then, Grisby thought—for he knew his own instincts were often wrong—perhaps this Huxley lad might just fit the bill.
Washington had been informed, as protocol dictated, of Inspector Weymouth Smith’s immanent arrival for a vacation in the States. Smith, an invaluable ally in the war on terror, had necessarily to be accompanied, even on vacation, by an alert and weapons-trained individual, preferably someone from State who wasn’t too trigger-happy. In such cases there were invariably jurisdictional squabbles with the Company, the NSA, the Homeland Supreme Authority, the NYPD, the State Police of New York (or whichever State), and local authorities, of which there were, in Grisby’s view, far too many, all the way around.
In short, Grisby was not a Turd. He felt concern that this young Huxley appeared vulnerable to the influence of various jumped-up law enforcement cruds intoxicated by power, seemed open-handed enough to fall for their various tricks, but then, he considered, I could be entirely mistaken. Huxley has dual nationality: he can get out of this hellish former republic with impunity, if need be, immune to detention on some whimsical juridical witch-hunt, or relatively immune, for certainly British subjects and Irish semi-nationals had been clapped into Gizmo on some Inquisitor’s misapprehension and forced to languish there among “terror suspects” for years at a go.
Weymouth Smith, of course, was Above Reproach, being himself somewhat complicit with the so-called law of this spiritually desolated, economically devastated, and politically fucked up US of A.
“I take it Peter the Director will see you in a couple minutes,” Grisby told him. “Please have a seat, if you care to, he’s on the blower but I’m sure he’ll have gotten off any minute.”
Actually, Grisby thought grimly, the blower was on the Director, a Miss Helmholz from Homeland Secretariat angling for a promotion or a transfer, under the Director’s desk, and she was not, technically speaking, Blowing, but Sucking Avidly.
A red light beamed on Grisby’s desk. Morning blow job complete, he surmised.
“Peter Huxley,” the Director smiled a curdled, thin-lipped smile as the youth, ushered in by Grisby, crossed the office and shook his hand. “Please, take a pew.” The Director, half-standing, paused. He realized that a drop of his seminal fluid had escaped the eager maw of Winona Helmholz and created a wet spot on his Boxer shorts. He’d hurried her, in fairness to the poor wench, propelling her out of his office by the secret door concealed by his revolving bookcase, on which many volumes of the Third and Fourth Homeland Security Acts stood ranged like sentries against the twin menaces of terror abroad and anarchy within the very borders of the US of A.
Peter seated himself and crossed his long legs, enclosed in a somewhat emphatic burgundy gabardine pair of trousers, straightening his Paul Smith tie, which had a striped pattern of blue and muted yellow, clasping his elegantly lengthy fingers in anticipation.
“So.” The Director, still wearing a smile, glanced at Peter Huxley’s impeccable resume. “A Yalie. Skull and Bones?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Are you a member of Skull and Bones?”
“Oh, Skull and Bones. The ultrasecret fraternity at Yale where many of our most eminent men have been initiated into the arcane secrets of rulership. No, can’t say that I am, or was. I understand membership is permanent, and honored as I was by the invitation to join, I have no particular interest in rulership, or in Permanents.”
The Director worked his plump visage into a well-known transient scowl. Then smiled again.
“Not your cup of tea I take it. Permanence.”
“I’m more of a coffee drinker. I like to stay alert.”
A pause.
“How do you take it?” inquired the Director.
“I beg your pardon?”
“Your coffee, Peter. Cream? Sugar?”
“Black, Director Thurkle. But I’m quite caffeinated already this morning.”
Piece of work, Peter assessed the Director. Squat, almost toadlike, something amphibious about him. If he weren’t mistaken, the Director wore a woman’s lace blouse under his indifferently tailored dark brown suit jacket, through which a t-shirt bearing some kind of insignia eluded full visibility. Did have an abundant head of hair, black with orange highlights, which Peter discerned to contain numerous transplanted plugs.
Wonder if they assembled him from scratch, Peter idly wondered, or simply worked with a paucity of core materials.
The Director now became all brisk business.
“As you already know, we’re expecting a colleague from Scotland Yard, Inspector Weymouth Smith. Legendary figure, so the legend goes.”
Peter nodded: he had indeed heard of Weymouth Smith.
“He’d like to do some striped bass fishing.”
“Oh yes?”
“In deep water. Deep water of a certain salinity. Our very own Hudson River, to be precise. Ever fished the lordly Hudson?”
Peter had to admit he hadn’t done, but was no stranger to that once majestic cesspool of tidewater influx and copious spillage from General Electric plants ranged along its vertiginous banks. That fish were still able to survive in its depths and tributaries was something of an ecological mystery, considering the quantities of PCBs that GE had blithely dumped into the drink.
“Smith’s staying at the Algonquin. Our special suite. He’d very much enjoy meeting you today at cocktail hour, in the lounge.”
“Very well,” said Peter, who smiled artlessly. “I’ll just spruce up a bit at my flat and head up there directly.”
The Director glanced at his watch.
“Not much time for that, I’m afraid.” He sized Peter up with almost lascivious attention. “You look quite spruce enough to me. Smith’s not a stickler for that sort of dress code thing, or what have you. How could he be, when he’s had so many adventures involving disguise and sartorial illusion?”
The Director turned pale in stages, and soon began to evaporate into layers of mist. Peter stood up, and since he could not shake hands with a nimbus of fog, strode out of the office after uttering a feeble goodbye.

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