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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

BREATHING TOGETHER: DRUNKS, DEGENERATES, JUNKIES AND WHORES

    To conspire: from Old French and Latin, meaning "to breathe together."

   Suppose you had to rob a Lyft driver. The reason doesn't matter: rent, drugs, a dare, boredom. Who cares? The point is that you know this is something you are going to do. Once you  concoct a false credit card identity to avoid subsequent capture, your next concern would be choice of weaponry. You want to persuade the driver to turn over whatever cash he or she might be carrying. Granted, this operation might prove meager in the sense that--unlike taxi drivers--Lyft drivers do not necessarily have hundreds of dollars tucked into their wallets. But you are feeling lucky, so you now determine what level of force to bring upon the presumably unsuspecting ride share facilitator. Unless you are prepared to whip out an unwieldy yet intimidating Philippine barong, a knife is an unwise choice, as would be powdered explosives or a garrote. After all, you are riding in the backseat and if you kill the poor bastard, you may find yourself in an accident which would discombobulate your escape. The presence of some type of firearm would be the probable persuasion of choice, the idea being that merely pointing the barrel at the driver's head would be sufficient inducement to get the Lyft person to disgorge his or her lucre post haste.
   My passenger, on the rainy pre-twilight day in question, chose none of these options. This unkempt, indeed proudly shabby little man whose  moniker declared himself Doug, attempted what might be called a barter. Ghosts whistled through the window.
    He spoke in an amphetamine rush. "Listen, bud. I'm robbing you. I don't like robbing people. I want you to know that, okay? I'm robbing you all the same. Just hand over your money and you can let me off up at the next freeway exit. But hey, don't worry. I'll give you five stars."
   I had seven hundred dollars in the wallet on my hip, having cashed out from the week just ended and the banks not being open for several hours. This rain-soaked puke sack behind me expected me to just hand over what I'd worked a week to earn.
   Before I could quite grok what was happening, he made me an offer. "I want to be clear. I wouldn't do this if things were different. But if things were different, then they wouldn't be the same. That's not your problem, bud. I get that, okay? So you hand over your goddamn money and I will make it worth your while. Nobody gets hurt, understand?"
   "I'm reaching into the glove compartment," I told him, feeling with one hand while keeping my eyes on the rear view mirror. "Just relax."
   "That's fine. If your hand comes out of there with anything but a billfold, I'll blow your fucking head off, just to let you know."
   I snapped the latch and my hand came out with my alternate wallet, the one with only twenty-two dollars in it, the one I keep for just such occasions. Twenty-two dollars is a loss I can afford, and while it isn't much in the world of armed robbery, it is a believable amount. I handed it over the seat. He shoved it in his pants pocket without looking inside.
   The freeway exit was another three miles. Doug sighed, looked as if he might smile, reconsidered it and said, "Just so you'll know, I don't have a gun. Makes me nervous, tell you the truth. But I said I'd make this worth your while and I'm a man of my word."
   My foot tapered off the gas. I said, "No gun? You don't have any weapon at all, do you?"
   His made with a tired, reluctant grin. "You got me there, bud. Oh, I used to be quite the terror, messing guys up just because some Sicilian thug told me I had to, or maybe because I was drunk and just feeling mean. But these days I'm a man of peace, you see. Now before you go getting yourself all heated up and thinking you might kick my ass and get your loot back, just ask yourself if twenty-two dollars is worth that much trouble."
   I did not know how that little weasel knew the exact amount I had given him, but as I would later learn, Doug knew lots of things that he had no reasonable means of knowing. 
   My GPS lady spoke. "In one mile, take exit 178, signs for the VA Hospital, then stay in the right lane."
   "I said I would make this worth your while," Doug interrupted. "When it's all over, this little transaction will make the sale of Manhattan look like genius on the part of the Indians. When I get out up ahead, I'm going to leave a business card on the seat here. The person on that card will connect you with a man who will name once and for all the identities of the people who killed John Fitzgerald Kennedy. And no shit about it, bud. You gonna solve that case, be famous, maybe even rich, and what's more you will have performed a public service. Here, don't miss that exit."
   I pulled over into the pothole-ridden parking lot of a Jack in the Box (which, even if the head of the health department was leaning up against it, I would not eat there), splashed rain water all over a transient who did not appear to mind, and stopped the car. Doug edged open the door. "It's right here, bud. That card. Now you call this gal, Bobbie, and she will hook you up with the info you need. Savvy?"
   He shut the door with some delicacy, called over to the transient, and handed the derelict my alternate wallet. The two men shook hands and walked off in different directions as a rain squall came up out of nowhere. Daybreak was still a couple hours away. I ended Doug's ride on the Lyft app. My payment came to seventeen dollars. He forgot to tip.

   The business card read:
                  Bobbie Shields
                    Bar Manager
               Centerfolds Cabaret
                   602.678.4664
   On either side of the text stood the silhouettes of bushy-haired buxom babes who, one might infer, had spent their formative years in joyful expectation of that glorious day when they could first shake their firm yet tender bodies for the delight of drunken businessmen who had just hit town and were in dire need of lascivious entertainment.
    It might be assumed that Lyft drivers would not be excluded.

    Looking into the eyes of a Scottsdale ho is like looking into the eyes of a goat: no soul, no emotion, just total sociopathy. They feel rudimentary sensations which they amplify on the outside, but the reality is complete superficiality. 
   "Hi! You're going to 1313 North Scottsdale Road?"
   Grunt.
    "I'm sorry. That was a question I was asking you."
   "Whatever. You know how to get there?"
   "I can manage."
   "This car smells awful."
   "I stopped at a pig farm on the way here."
   "Just drive."

   A drunken Indian can ruin a driver's day. As I pulled up to the ghetto shack, I saw Joseph emptying a can of Natty Light down his gullet with one hand while tossing aside the carton into a pile beside the dumpster. 
   "How the fuck you doin', dude?"
   I hate it when a stranger asks me how I'm doing. I hate being called dude. And I don't much care for people who are bombed at ten in the morning. The revulsion is similar to that experienced when in response to my own insincere "Have a nice day" the speaker replies "To you as well." Self-generated human robotics.

   "Janey swears she's holding."
   "Girl, that bitch is never holding."
   "Well, she swears this time she is."
   "Janey is such a liar."
   "Oh, driver, you can turn here. No, to the right. Yeah, we'll just get out here."
   "You ladies have a nice day."
   "You as well."

   "Hey, sexy. Just pull in here, make a left and then we'll go right up the stairs to bliss."
   "That's all right. I'll just let you out."
   "Don't know what you're missing."
   "I have a pretty good idea, pal. Have a nice day."
   "Ooh, I'll have to rate you one star."
   "I don't care."

   After days, weeks, months of this idiocy, the prospect of having Bobbie Shields use me as Centerfold's driver of choice looked like an oasis of sanity.

   "You met Doug? How much did he rob you?"
   That was Bobbie Shields, sitting across from me at her desk tucked into a soundproofed office down one of the subterranean corridors beneath Centerfolds Cabaret. Her eyes betrayed no sparkle of hidden knowledge. Quite the opposite: she asked the question as if she were asking about the weather forecast.
   "Since you're asking, I guess he must be a thief."
   "What he is," she replied while signing off on a waitress' time card, "Is a whale. The biggest fucking whale this club has ever had. Comes in here three, four times a week. Never drops less than ten thousand a pop. Always cash."
   "He steals that well?"
   She grinned a tenth of a second. "I believe Doug has other sources of income. No, the word is that he thinks he's fucking Robin Hood. Steals from somebody everyday, gives it to some junkie or drop-out. He was in earlier. Told me he thought you and I should work something out."
   "Yeah, he said I should talk to you." I expected her to say something about the Kennedy assassination, even though she would have been too young to have known about it. Her parents would have probably been too young. But she surprised me.
   "We think you should be the club driver. We have girls coming here--dancers, waitresses--from eleven in the morning til, oh, no later than ten at night, and in between they go home, or go out, and our thought was that you could be their wheel man and make sure everybody gets in and out safe. Flat fee. Fifteen bucks a head. Double up, triple up, however many you can carry in your--"
  "The Durango will hold eight passengers."
  "Right right right. The club pays you direct. It'll come out of the girls' house fees."
   "How many girls a day on average?"
   "Most days it will be less than a hundred. Figure eighty to ninety. Fridays Saturdays--probably one twenty-five. You'll be busy, put it that way. Deal?"
   "You'll let the girls know?"
   "Yeah yeah yeah. It's a sweet deal."
   "When do I start?"

   This started on Labor Day weekend and Lord did the money roll in. I picked up the first load of entertainers at ten thirty in the morning and dropped off the last of them at four the next morning. I brought in at least fifteen hundred dollars every day and was far too exhausted to spend much of it. Before Halloween I had made a similar pitch to two other clubs owned by the same group that owned Centerfolds, gave those deals and my Centerfolds business to three other moderately trustworthy drivers in exchange for twenty-five hundred apiece weekly and by Thanksgiving I was stashing my money in a safety deposit box at US Bank. 
   For reasons still curious to me, I continued driving for Lyft.

     "You like driving for Lyft?"
    "Sure! But then again, I like jock itch."

    "You like driving for Lyft?"
    "Why? You have a better offer?"

    "You like driving for Lyft?"
    "Yes, but only since my lobotomy."

   The monotony--slow, numbing, paralyzing monotony of the same questions and answers from people with whom any type of meaningful relationship is at best an abbreviated symbol in the spellcheck of existence bothers drivers more than anything else. That may be one reason why fifty percent of all Lyft drivers throw away their keys during their first year on the job. Lyft does not need to care about this. With their brazen version of community ride sharing, they have attracted the cheap fast and easy of all socioeconomic levels. Many is the time I have driven ten miles to arrive at a five star resort where scowling taxi drivers were wasting away in the pull out zone only for me to find some cheapskate millionaire standing next to his luggage, pretending to look at his watch so that I would not get the mistaken impression that he was some typical degenerate. And in between spoken voice texts and observations about how hot it is in the desert, the untypical degenerate would be sure to inquire: "You like driving for Lyft?"
   "Absolutely! But then again, I like thermonuclear war."

   A couple days after the Super Bowl, Bobbie Shields rang me up. I was sure there had been a problem with one of my drivers, but as usual, she surprised me.
   "You remember Doug, our little Robin Hood whale? Well, he says he wants you to pick up a friend of his. Guy named Boggs. By the way, that driver you gave us? The girls all think she's the best."
   "I'm glad. Who's this guy Boggs supposed to be? Wait. Nevermind. Just tell me where he'll be."
   "Fuck if I know who he is. All I know is in an hour Doug wants you picking him up at the Residence Inn off the 101 and Bell. Oh, and Doug says after this, the two of you are even. That make sense?"
   "I'm on my way. Bobbie, tell me something. What else do you know about our friend Doug?"
   "You mean besides the fact that he usually does not go home alone?"
   "Besides that, yes."
   "He thinks you should ask me out."
   "Right. It's just that my wife--"
   "Oh."
   "--died and I haven't--"
   "Oh."
   "I probably should. Maybe I will. But what else?"
   "Pretty sure he used to be mobbed up. He's got plastic under different last names and licenses that match. He's also apparently got leukemia. But as far as you're concerned, he did tell me this Boggs guy, whoever he is, is gonna make you rich. Or famous. I forget which. Either way, when we going out?"
   "Soon. I promise."
   "Cool. I gotta run. We're packed, as usual."

   I introduced myself. Boggs slumped into the backseat. “Can I trust you?” he asked as we roared off.
   I told him I thought so.
   Watching my expression in the rearview mirror, he asked, “Do you know the name Cokie Roberts?”
   I told him I did. “ABC News? National Public Radio?”
   I watched him nod. He said, “I’m her father. I find myself in a bit of trouble. The man who recommended you swears you are reliable. Do you think you can help me?”
   I know my share of history, even when I’m delirious from lack of proper sleep. “Cokie Roberts’ father, you say? That would make you Hale Boggs?”
   “Correct.” Pure charcoal, no soul.
   “Congressman Hale Boggs from Louisiana?”
   “Indeed.”
   I adjusted the mirror and gave my passenger a long, soft stare. “You disappeared back in 1972, you and a guy from Alaska.”
   “Congressman Begich.”
   “Your plane was never found.”
   “I see.”
   “And yet here you are in the backseat of my car.”
   “Here I am.”
   The man plopped into the rear of my Durango with only two briefcases for luggage certainly looked old and crafty enough to have been a politician. I smiled into the mirror. He smiled back. I said, “Hey, you know, a lot of people have been worried sick about you! Where the hell you been?”
   The normal ride to the Airport took twenty minutes. This was not an ordinary ride. So I shut my sarcastic mouth and listened. He told me that he had made trouble for himself a year before he officially disappeared. “I’d been in World War II. I’d met dignitaries and the hoi polloi. So when that pipsqueak Director of the FBI tapped my phone, well, young man, I was mortified. I marched right into the House Galley and called for the resignation of J. Edgar Hoover. Only two people had ever done that before and both of them were dead: John and Robert Kennedy. Shoot, I’d been on the Warren Commission. I knew what these FBI snits were capable of doing. Well, the excitement died out after a while. I calmed down and after a time I didn’t give the matter much more thought. Then one day I had a visit from a fellow in New Orleans. A public figure there. He gave me information that linked the then-recent break-in at the Watergate with the assassination of JFK. He wanted my help.”
   I liked this. It was much more interesting than the guy who told me he was Paula Abdul’s illegitimate grandson.
   My passenger pointed to the Freeway exit, which was not the way to the Airport. I followed his instructions. He continued with his story.
   “October 16, 1972. I was scheduled to board a Cessna 310C in Anchorage and fly to Juneau. My friend in New Orleans called my hotel and said I should miss that plane. I learned later that night that the plane disappeared. The Coast Guard and the Air Force searched for thirty-nine days and never did find it.”
   We hopped on Route 60 westbound towards Wickenburg. I was getting uncomfortable. I asked where he had been all these years.
   “I took up with an Inuit woman and we muled for some Chinese heroin traffickers. Well, we did until Sak Red—that was her name—until she burned one of the Tibetan juice guys. Since then I have been holed up in Nogales, biding my time and watching a lot of TV.”
   “That’s some story,” I said, following his instructions by taking the 303 Freeway southbound. “How may I be of service, sir?” This was where I expected to be asked for a donation.
   He patted my shoulder. “I’m old, son. May not have a lot of spare time left. I want you to take this Route over to the I-10 and go east. That’ll take us to the Airport. Long way around. I’m going to leave one of these two briefcases in your car. Cokie’s at the Biltmore tonight. You bring her the briefcase. Tell her it’s from Tom.”
   “Tom?”
   “She’ll know. Do not ask her a truckload of questions. Don’t go into any detail. Just do this for me. Here, take this.”
   He folded four one hundred dollar bills into my hand.
   “I’m not happy about this,” I said.
   He again patted my shoulder. “We’re public servants, young man. Happy doesn’t enter in to it.”
   I dropped him off at Terminal 2, the United Airlines ticket counter. He left the briefcase with me.
   I floored the gas and shot over to the Biltmore Hotel. I parked alongside the jogging path and examined the case. Oxblood, fake leather, not too heavy. I pictured myself getting arrested by federal agents for handing Cokie Roberts a case full of anthrax and dynamite. I pictured myself screaming at the TSA guys, “Wait! You don’t understand! This belongs to Hale Boggs, the missing Congressman!” That did not fill me with courage,  so I flicked open the dual locks and looked inside. All I saw was a manila envelope. I took it in hand and tore it opened. I found some photographs and a note that read: “Come to my garden at Trenton and Main where the crows and the alligators stick in the drain.” Dr. Seuss had nothing to worry about. As for the pictures, there were seven of them, all shots of Cubans, all of them with the faces circled in red ink.
   It was very much out of character for me to buy into a lunatic’s delusions, having more than enough of my own to consume my time, but this was so bizarre that I wondered if any of it amounted to anything. While wondering, I parked the Durango, walked by the smirking valet and into the old world hotel. I approached the front desk, placed the briefcase on the counter and wondered what to say.
   I read the name tag of the brunette behind the counter. Jennifer asked how she could help me. I told her that one of my passengers had asked me to drop off something for a guest of the hotel.
This Jennifer’s face took on the wide-eyed stare of teenage mania. “Oh my God! Is this the package that’s for Ms. Roberts on that TV show on Sundays?”
   I told her it was.
   “Oh my God! I could get in like just so much trouble for telling you this.” She stopped to breathe. “Ms. Roberts was delayed or something and she won’t be here for like hours. I can put this in the hotel safe for her.”
   So surprised was I to learn that Cokie Roberts was actually staying at the hotel that I stuttered out my answer that what she’d said would be just fine. I gave Jennifer the briefcase. She inventoried the meager contents, placed everything in the hotel safe, and gave me a receipt. I tipped her twenty dollars. “Oh yeah,” I said, over my shoulder as I walked away, “Be sure to tell her that briefcase is from Tom.”
   I watched the evening news every night for a month, read the local and national papers, and even called a guy I barely knew at CNN. There was no news on Kennedy, Watergate, a long-missing Congressman, or anything else besides a raging war and a booming economy.
   The truth is that I probably would not remember all this in such detail except for three things. First, I looked up Hale Boggs on the Internet and there was a faint resemblance to my passenger if you added thirty-five years and used your imagination. Second, it turns out the Congressman’s real first name, which he seldom used, was Thomas. And third, a black Mercedes 450 SLC stayed in my rearview mirror for a solid week. After that it reappeared on and off for another seven days. One morning it was simply gone and I never saw it again.
   The day after I dropped off the briefcase, I called the Biltmore to make sure Cokie Roberts had picked up the item I’d left for her. The front desk person sounded bewildered and transferred my call to the assistant manager, a fellow named Jeffrey. This Jeffrey told me it was against hotel policy to discuss guests with anyone and certainly I could understand that, couldn’t I? He reckoned thus even though I was obviously confused because they did not have anyone named Jennifer working at their hotel and as far as he knew they never had.
   I hung up and grabbed my wallet, where I’d kept the hotel receipt. It had apparently fallen out during one of my financial transactions.


    The date with Bobbie fell somewhat short of what she had in mind.
   She printed out all the names and addresses on the driver's licenses Doug had used since first materializing at Centerfolds more than a year earlier. A third of those addresses didn't properly exist. Another third were dumpy hotels. And a third had possibilities.
   "Phil, just in case you need me to remind you, it is after three-thirty in the morning."
   "You think he might be getting ready for church?"
   "No, I think he might be up to his wrinkled old dick in Monica, Kati or Beth. Or all of them. Who the fuck knows?"
   "I think he's at the house on Baseline. Don't you want to know why?"
   "I'd like to know why I'm on this so-called date with you."
   "That's easy. In spite of the fact that I am light years from what you would call your type of guy, you can't help but be intrigued by this situation and to a lesser extent by me."
   She removed a vial of cocaine from her shirt pocket, sprinkled a bit on the dash, asked me if I wanted some, and when I shook my head, she  removed a straw from her slacks and plugged both nostrils.
   "You're right on all counts," she said after washing the blow down with my bottled water. "Now it's your turn. Why are you out with me?"
   I was ready for that one. "Truth is I do find you attractive. But the bigger reason is you're part of the mystery."
   I pretended to ignore her question. "See, I wouldn't mind owning a strip club. What you have to understand is that all drivers have some kind of weakness. Most of them, it's either gambling, drugs or booze."
   "With you it's strip clubs?"
   "With me it's women. I hate being alone and that's how I have spent most of my life. Because I've been alone, I've read a lot. And a lot of what I've read has been about the JFK assassination. Most of it's bull. But not all of it. So if what Doug told me is true--"
   "And we don't know that it is."
   "Correct. If it is, then I could get enough money to buy my club and live happily ever after."
   "You'd need a bar manager."
   "Bobbie, you can run the damn place."
   She leaned up against me. "Let's get over to that house on Baseline."

   The house on Baseline sat nestled into the side of South Mountain. At times we had to drive nearly straight up winding roads with sharp turns. Abruptly we approached what looked to be the end of everything. You simply could see nothing but space beyond it. I looked over at Bobbie and said, "What the hell? You gotta die of something," and hit the gas. When we pulled into the end of the driveway, Doug and a girl named Kati were sitting on the porch smoking cigarettes. Kati squinted until she recognized Bobbie riding shotgun. Doug looked at Kati, sighed, and waved at us as if we had been expected.
   While Kati showed Bobbie the inside of Doug's house, the strange guy and I talked on the porch.
   He looked a lot worse than the first time I'd met him several months earlier. His eyes sunk into his face. His face sat pale on his thin neck and if he weighed 130, I would have lost a bet with myself.
   "Leukemia," he confirmed. "Had it for years. What the hell. Let's talk about you."
   "You aren't surprised we found you?"
   "Wondered what took you so long. How's our friend Boggs?"
   "Mysterious."
   Doug laughed. It was the first time I'd heard him do that.
   "He give you that cock and bull about the Eskimo broad? Yeah, sure he did. Truth is he was scared to get in a relationship with anybody, but a man his age has his pride. Speaking of which, I'm sorry about your wife. What's it been? Two years?"
   "Almost. No sense in me asking how you know about that. I never talk about it."
   "That's okay. Cubans."
   Where did that come from?
   "I don't mean Fidelistas, okay? I'm talking about anti-Castro Cubans. Every rotten thing that's happened in this country can be connected with them in some way. Who bugged the Watergate? Cubans. Who supplied the means for Iran-Contra? Cubans. Who killed Kennedy? You see the pattern, bud?"
    "Lot of stories have gone around for years. Never quite offers proof, though, does it?"
   "Proof? I picked up that package at the Biltmore. I picked up half a dozen  packages from Boggs over the last year. FBI documents. HSCA classified files. Everything but pictures. Now I've got those. More than enough to put dead men in jail. Now you're gonna have them. Kati!"
   She called back from inside the house.
   "Will you please bring those two briefcases out here?"
   She said she would.

   "How you doing today?"
   "Sitting on a rainbow."
   "Haw! I never heard that before."

   "How's your day going?"
   "Any better I'd have to kill myself."
   "Well, I don't know what to say."

   "How are you today, Phillip?"
   "Just fine, Marge. Just fine."

  Before I had written the first letter of the first word of the first sentence on the first page of my book, I received from the Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix office of the FBI an invitation to arrive for a friendly interrogation.
  Even sitting behind his desk, Special Agent Martin Winters was a big man, although not much larger than your standard gas guzzling sports utility vehicle. His gun metal blue eyes never quite made contact with my own, giving the impression that he could look right into the person he addressed, or that he couldn't quite be bothered with whatever presumed lie that person was telling. His dark blue suit hung just about one size small, amplifying his considerable muscularity. His tanned face and hands declared a recent vacation and the gold Annapolis band on the ring finger of his left hand suggested advanced intelligence training. 
   "I suppose you know why we've brought you in this afternoon," he began with a booming resonance that would not have been misplaced in an opera house.
   I made a quick scan of his office, then turned my nervous smile back to him. His use of the first person plural struck me as quaint.
   As he continued, he occasionally made use of the drumming finger technique, suggesting that he was both impatient with these proceedings and trying to appear disengaged. He said, "Some difficulty exists in assessing the potential damage you may present to the continued legitimacy of our national institutions. You see, Mr Mershon, it is not the moral superiority of a country's institutions that are of concern--right and wrong being a matter of perception. It is the view of the people living in a given country that their institutions have a legitimate right to exist, that their elected and appointed officials are looking out for the best interests of the commonweal, as it were, rather than merely feathering their own nests, so to speak. Are we clear so far?"
   He did not wait for me to answer.
   "If this were any other time in our history, sir, within the context of thousands of books and articles published about various conspiracies to assassinate President Kennedy, the appearance of your book would be less than a minor distraction. However, this is not any other time in our history. This is now."
   Again I began to speak, but he waved me off.
   "Do you see the man in the photograph on the wall behind me?"
   I observed a framed picture of the President of the United States and nodded.
   Winters continued. "This man has done much to blur the once stark distinctions between reality and, shall we say, cartoonism. Should our country be in Vietnam, Panama, Iraq? Heretofore, reasonable Americans could disagree about such matters and could even express their disagreements with violence, give or take the consequences, for the simple reason that the underlying premises were never in doubt, i.e., we actually were involved militarily in those countries. But today CNN could report that our country was carpet bombing the penguins of Antarctica and one-third of the people wouldn't believe it, one-third would be suspicious and switch to a more biased cable news outlet to reinforce their suspicions, and another third would swear the penguins had it coming. Critical thinking, my good man, has become an anachronism. And now you come along prepared to publish what I may say to you in confidence appears to be the unvarnished and long-awaited truth about the Kennedy murder, the proceeds from which I understand are to go toward the financing of the fulfillment of some adolescent fantasy of yours. We in this office, and our colleagues in D.C., are, to say the least, concerned."
   I sneaked in a question. "You seem to be on the brink of making me an offer?  Or is it a threat?"
   His fingers drummed out a bit of Gene Krupa. "The Bureau does neither, my good sir. We do, however, and on the rarest of occasions, make arrangements. You are of course familiar with a man named Douglas Summers?"
   I admitted what he already knew.
   "Then you may have surmised that Mr Summers operates as a contract agent for various intelligence agencies, including this one. Oh, I know that in the old days our office would have arranged some type of witness protection operation for Summers. But due to the value of his continued, let us say, ambiguity in any number of extra-legal matters, we find it advantageous that he handle his own security. Summers possesses a degree of, shall we call it intuition, that has been of considerable value to our operations."
   "He is quite the intuitive fellow."
   "Yes. In any event, very much against the wishes of Mr Summers but nonetheless in keeping with the aims of the Bureau, we are prepared to facilitate the financing you would require to obtain and operate your, uh, gentlemen's club."
   "In exchange for?"
   "You agree to wait three years before publishing the information you have collected. We know you will publish it eventually. What we require is that you wait three years. By that time--"
   "The cartoon network will be off the air?"
   "Quite."    
   I said that I would pass.
   Krupa sat out.
   
   Between 1940 and 1956, George Metesky, a pissed off former ConEd employee, planted thirty-three bombs in New York City. Of those, twenty-two actually exploded, and over the course of those sixteen years, fifteen people suffered serious injuries. Police Captain James Cronin enlisted the services of a friend named James Brussel. Dr. Brussel happened to be a psychiatrist. The headshrinker studied the history of the bombings and came up with one of the first known criminal psychological profiles. He correctly predicted Metesky's age, religion, motivation, and even the fact that when apprehended, the suspect would be wearing a fully-buttoned double-breasted suit. Brussel's profile read in part: 
Male, as historically most bombers were male. Well proportioned and of average build, based on studies of hospitalized mental patients. Forty to fifty years old, as paranoia develops slowly. Precise, neat and tidy, based on his letters and the workmanship of his bombs. An exemplary employee, on time and well-behaved. A Slav, because bombs were favored in Middle Europe. A Catholic, because most Slavs were Catholic. Courteous but not friendly. Has a good education but probably not college. Foreign-born or living in a community of the foreign-born. A loner, no friends, little interest in women, possibly a virgin. Unmarried, perhaps living with an older female relative. Probably lives in Connecticut, as Connecticut has high concentrations of Slavs, and many of the bomber's letters were posted in Westchester County, midway between Connecticut and New York City.

    Metesky was arrested in early 1957 (wearing a fully-buttoned double-breasted suit), was sent to the Matteawan Institution for the Criminally Insane, which released him in 1973. He died in 1994, still angry at ConEd, but relatively harmless.

   One need not be a mad bomber to have a behavioral analysis run by the Criminal Profiling Division of the FBI. As the result of a Freedom of Information Act suit against the Bureau, I received a copy of my own. Here are some of the interesting parts:
    Subject attended Jesuit school education between ages of six and fourteen, after which time he transferred to traditional public high school. Impertinence towards authority likely stems from strictures of early education, yet subject expresses what might be termed a "quiet pride" in his knowledge of Greek and Latin.     Charming, though not gregarious, subject makes use of his considerable learned social skills to enhance personal aggrandizement while remaining a somewhat devout under achiever. Work history bears this out. Tested IQ of 165. Employment history more appropriate to that of high school drop out. Prefers working alone due to the psychological stress experienced while interacting with colleagues, many of whom he considers intellectually deficient. Subject has had above average number of sexual liaisons, though only two known long-term relationships, both of these resulting in marriage. First marriage lasted two years, ending when wife died in traffic accident caused by drunk driver. Second marriage duration was seven years. Interestingly, demise of second wife deemed due to alcohol abuse. Subject himself not known to abuse alcohol or drugs. Expresses a certain self-righteousness in this regard.    Overall assessment is that of a bright, urbane individualist who is facile in switching with chameleon-like skill to the embodiment of the very opposite. Literate, art-oriented, superficially apolitical, quick-tempered, sentimental--he enjoys the approval of others and dismisses as ignorant the values of those who would withhold their approval. While not opposed to criminal activities, potential loss of freedom serves to deter subject from major felonies. 
  As Rick Blaine said to Major Strasser upon reviewing his own dossier, "Are my eyes really brown?"

   Leverage. The FBI did not care about the revelations in my forthcoming book. What they cared about was getting someone close to Doug Summers. While I sat at my computer writing out the names of the JFK assassination conspirators, the FBI busied themselves with my list of clients from a few years earlier when I had worked as a private detective, mostly those who had been on the receiving end of a screwing by the mortgage divisions of banks and other financial institutions. 
   While many of those same clients still had outstanding monetary obligations to me, I had stayed afloat in those years by accepting work from a handful of nefarious types who were suspected of channeling funds to certain anti-fascist organizations within the United States and abroad. I soon began appearing before a seemingly endless series of grand juries. The Assistant U.S. Attorneys would invariably ask me to name names, something I resisted unless my former clients had agreed to it, which most, but not all, graciously did. 

   Defending myself against possible obstruction of justice charges became an expensive process and soon enough the funds in my safety deposit box dwindled to pocket change. 
   Leverage. Jail time and pauperization are two of the most effective.
   I approached Special Agent Winters about making a deal.
   He was happy to oblige.

   If you are going to have the FBI finance your nightclub, you might as well have it be the kind of nightclub you would enjoy yourself. So in addition to the abundant quantity of female entertainers on five stages and a prodigious top tier bar and full service kitchen, Fun also offered our guests a game room with billiards, snooker, tailgate toss, bocce, and darts. We made available an impressive (if seldom used) sound resistant library that featured hundreds of current and recent fiction/nonfiction bestsellers, along with American and English classics. We even had a ninety-seat self-contained movie theatre on the third floor where classic movie fans could enjoy the works of Altman, Kubrick, Spielberg and others. 
   My job was to run the place, which I did, mostly with the help of Bobbie Shields. My other job, my real job, was getting close to Doug Summers.

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