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For All Nails #117: Hanging on the Telephone

New Orleans, Georgia, SC, CNA
14 August 1974

"Barney La Mosca" was not the rent-a-spy's real name.
But it was good enough for professional purposes, and
carried its own advertisement -- hire "La Mosca" to be 
your own personal "fly" on the wall of your choice.  And
today, he thought, the fly had overheard something of 
interest to his client.

Target Alpha had spent the night at Target Beta's apartment,
as he did about once a week.  That was apparently of no
interest to the client, though as a matter of routine
Barney had produced a photographic record that would allow
anyone who wished to prove conclusively that Alpha was 
having it off with Beta.  (Alpha had a wife in Mexico,
but they were already proceeding with a divorce action.
If his current client finished with Alpha, though, there
might some interest on the part of Mrs. Alpha's solicitors.)
(For that matter, Beta wasn't the only fish in the sea for
Alpha -- he'd also had two one-night stands with different
undergraduate students during the surveillance period.)

The client Barney knew only as "Biloxi Blondie" was interested
in Alpha's contacts with Mexico, particularly any out of the 
ordinary.  And Alpha seemed to consider this one out of the 
ordinary.  He'd gotten a 'phone call from Gamma, his son, 
apparently in California.  As Gamma had asked, Alpha then made 
contact with Delta, a lawyer in Mexico City [1], to set up a meeting
there between Delta and Epsilon, a woman so far unidentified.  He'd
done so not from his own 'phone but from Beta's.  Was he worried
about surveillance at _his_ end, or on Delta's?

Well, that was a matter for Biloxi Blondie once she got his report.  
She'd paid for his best work, and for his total discretion.

************

Aboard Private Yacht _Jonquille_
South Beach bearing WNW 15 miles
21 August 1974

Felipe Jackson paused to admire his wife's body as she
climbed up the hatch from the darkroom.  His helping
hand quickly turned into an embrace, which Astrid broke
off before she dropped the photographic prints.

"Not now, Felipe!  You have to look at this."

"The mail from New Orleans?"  Like much of their mail,
it had contained a pinhead-sized object under the postage
stamp.  Astrid had evidently been at work with the enlarger.

"Yeah, the local guy I've got watching Robert Contreras.
Looks like Robert is up to something.  Bobby, of all people,
has 'information that _must_ get into the hands of the President'."
She waved the photographs by way of illustration.  Felipe
was briefly distracted by some ensuing secondary vibrations 
under Astrid's swimdress, but soon collected himself.

"Well, if it _must_ get into El Popo's hands, it stands to 
reason it _must_ get into our hands as well."

"My thoughts exactly.  But Bobby didn't have the information
itself -- he didn't even know what it was.  He wanted one of 
El Popo's people to meet someone named Bianca Hammer in Mexico 
City.

Felipe sputtered.  "Bianca Hammer?  What kind of a stupid cover 
name is that?"

"I don't know, but Robert _did_ set it up, for this Hammer to 
meet a lawyer friend of his named Osterman.  Unfortunately, 
that was a whole week ago."

"So even if we went to Mexico, the trail would be pretty cold.
And there's not going to be any paper records on this Bianca
Hammer, that's for sure.  Any ideas?" 

Astrid turned up her mouth endearingly.  "Can we maybe figure 
out who this mystery woman is?  Who the hell finds out secret 
information and then uses a professor in California to pass it 
on?  Who does _Bobby_ know who has anything to do with 
investigating anything?"

"Wait a minute-- remember that argument Anna and Bobby had, about
that book he was reading?  Something about the Pedro Hermion
assassination, by a lady historian?.  Anna said it was flimsier 
than any theory she'd ever heard in a courtroom--"  And Anna 
hadn't been too happy about Bobby's enthusiastic praise of the 
glamorous author, either.  Perhaps not the newlyweds' first fight,
but a fight to remember.

Astrid kissed him.  "Felipe, you're a genius!  The author was an 
old friend of his, right?  What if she came up with another crazy 
theory, but this one has something to do with El Popo?  And somehow 
it can't be all that crazy, if both Contrerases are ready to take
it seriously.  What the hell was her name?  We need a library! 
Back to Miami?"

Felipe broke into a smile that he hoped wasn't _too_ self-satisfied.
"Actually, I'm even more of a genius.  I think that book might be 
one of the ones they left behind as a thank-you gift."  As he 
remembered, it had been at Anna's tight-lipped suggestion.  He rummaged 
in a pile of papers and soon emerged with _The Kronmiller Conspiracy_, 
by Joan Kahn.

"Ok, so you _are_ even more of a genius.  Let's see, Justice Press,
Thirty-third Street and Third Avenue, New York, New York, NC, CNA."
Another pause and turn-up of the mouth.  "Let's see, if it _was_ 
Joan Kahn, what do you want to bet she sent the secret information 
to her publisher?  Time for a black-bag job in New York, I think."

"You want to set sail for New York?"  A long way, Felipe thought, and
late in the season...

Astrid gave an exaggerated shiver.  "Not me, I'm staying right here 
where it's warm. No, F&F [3] will have someone up there who can do 
the job and report back to us.  We'll send out a message from 
Nassau [4] when we get there.  I suppose it's probably all nothing, 
right?"

"Probably.  But you never know..."

Notes:

[1] See FAN #111a.  "Alpha" is of course Robert Contreras.  "Beta"
    is Connie Magliazzi, whom Robert has been seeing since FAN #82.

[2] Anna and Bobby Contreras were guests aboard _Jonquille_ from
    Aruba to Cancun after Anna and Astrid met in FAN #87.  Astrid's
    original idea was to learn more about King Ferdi from Anna, but
    she deemed Robert's connections to El Popo interesting enough to
    warrant hiring surveillance on him.

[3] The Factfinding and Forecasting division of United Dry Goods,
    Astrid's principal employer.  United Dry Goods is a subsidiary
    of Kramer Associates, though proving that this is still true 
    would be a major exercise in financial analysis.

[4] The island of New Providence in the Bahamas was actually in 
    _Patriot_ hands at the PoD, having been taken by Commodore
    Hopkins in 1776.  As in OTL, the British secured control of 
    the Bahamas soon afterward.  The islands now form a member state
    of the United Empire.

Dave MB