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For All Nails #119: The Defector

News Item, /The Times of London/, August 12, 1974

MEXICAN AUDIENCES CONFUSE REALITY WITH VITA

VERACRUZ, U.S.M.-Reality and fiction came close to blurring on July 13 in
Mexico when the hit vita show /Sábado gigante en vivo/ was interrupted for the
live news bulletin announcing the arrival of defecting C.N.A. pilot Lt.
Alexandra Stapleton. The agitated lady pilot, shouting pro-Jeffersonist
slogans, had to be forcibly restrained and removed from the view of the
cameras. While the diplomatic controversy over the evidently deranged Miss
Stapleton's defection has since died down, the issue was once again returned to
the news after the firm of Sánchez-Ruyters Statistics, based out of Novidessa,
issued a report on August 8 saying that almost 60% of Mexican viewers polled
initially thought that the news bulletin was another part of the comedic
variety show, which sometimes spoofs current events using sketches mirroring
popular vita news magazines. Miss Stapleton, at last report, was still in
residence in Mexico City, though President Moctezuma's government has not taken
any interest in her claims of knowing important secrets, which may be just as
fictional as the sketch comedy she interrupted.


Mexico City, C.D., USM
14 August 1974

Joan Kahn was a happy woman, which was unusual given the circumstances.  In her
bag she as carrying what was probably the most important set of documents in
the world, and she was on a mission (God how she had come to loath that word!)
to hand them off to a Mexican government official.

Stepping off the airmobile at Jackson Field the night before had felt like
waking up from a bad dream.  Despite the red wig that hid her hair and the
mirrored sunshades that hid her eyes, she felt more like herself than she had
since . . . well, if truth be told, since that night in San Cristóbal back in
January. [1]

Getting away from New Orleans was part of it.  She had been there exactly three
times before in her life, each time on one of Steven Taylor's silly book tours,
being interviewed on vita and radio shows and doing signings in various
bookstores.  She hadn't had a chance to do any sightseeing, so all she knew
about the city was what she'd seen from the back of the livery [2] while being
shlepped from place to place.

Going there with Timothy Liddy ten days before had been worse than the book
tours; habits of caution that had been sensible in Ciudad Camacho seemed
horribly out of place in the CNA.  If anything, Tim had been even more furtive
and paranoid, perhaps because he feared that his former employees at the CBI
were scouring the country in search of him.  He was absolutely convinced that
he was being followed by spies from around the world, and Kahn had grown sick
of the whole routine very quickly.  Every phone call, whether to Bobby
Contreras in Palo Alto or to his father right there in New Orleans, had to be
made from a pay phone, and each time from a different pay phone.  They couldn't
go anywhere or do anything without scouting ahead of time to make sure they
weren't walking into an ambush.

Now, she was all alone in Mexico City, and it felt like being alive again.  She
felt as much at home here as she did in Brooklyn City.  This was where she had
assembled the materials for her Pedro Hermión book.  Hours spent poring over
century-old documents in government archives, reading through secondary sources
at the Hamilton National Library, even the waitressing she had done to support
herself, all now seemed to shine brightly through a warm haze of nostalgia. 
Walking along United States Boulevard across from Alameda Park on a clear
Wednesday morning, Kahn was on top of the world.

Her meeting with Osterman and subsequent flight back to New Orleans were a few
hours away.  She was tempted for a moment to stop in at Macchio's on Andrew
Jackson Boulevard for brunch, but decided against it.  It had been, let's see,
eight years now since she had worked there, but there was still a chance that
Ralph or one of the regulars might recognize her, despite her disguise. 
Instead, she decided to try something called the Big Bang Burger Bar, wedged in
between a goods emporium [3] called Norton's and a Pineapple Inn. [4]  She
doubted whether the burgers were kosher, but you could never go wrong with a
garden salad.  She was making her way towards the order line, thinking with
distaste about those oversized rats they ate in Ciudad Camacho, when another
woman nearly ran into her.

"Holy s-t! Ev!" the woman burst out in an unmistakable Manitoban accent, though
most of the Manitobans Kahn knew were pretty fastidious about swearing.

This put Kahn in something of a dilemma.  She didn't want to be recognized as
herself, or as Martha Stewart for that matter, but neither did she want to be
mistaken for this Ev person. [5]

The profane Manitoban solved her dilemma for her by saying, "Oh s-t, I'm sorry,
lady, I mean señora, I thought you were someone else.  Habla ingles?"

"Like a native," Kahn couldn't help saying.

"Jesus Bl--dy Christ, am I glad to see another Tory," the woman said.  "You
wouldn't believe the kind of s-t I've been through."

Kahn was about to disengage from the profanity-spewing Manitoban with whatever
politeness she could muster when her steel-trap memory came through once again.
 Right after she and Tim met in New Granada, there was a big stir about a North
American air force pilot who had defected to Mexico along with a surveillance
airmobile, a big enough stir that the one and only daily paper in Ciudad
Camacho had put it on the front page.  By the time the two of them had reached
New Orleans the diplomatic flap had been resolved by Monaghan and Moctezuma,
but the Liberals had managed to turn the whole thing into a major domestic
political scandal, and the uproar had still been going on.  Very probably, that
pilot's defection had cost Monaghan the election, and now Kahn was face to face
with her: Lt. Alexandra Stapleton.

There had been all sorts of speculation about Lt. Stapleton's motives.  She had
appeared on Mexican vitavision spouting fervent Jeffersonist dogma, denouncing
the CNA as a hotbed of tyrrany and corruption.  Since Kahn firmly believed that
the CNA /was/ a hotbed of tyranny and corruption (and about to become more so
under Skinner), she had found herself sympathizing with the pilot.

So instead of walking away, Kahn joined Stapleton at her table and said, "Well,
you know what they say about the tree of liberty."

Grinning, Stapleton said, "Now I /know/ you're not Ev.  She'd rather cut her
tongue out than quote Thomas Jefferson.  And I'd be bl--dy happy to do it for
her."  Turning thoughtful, she added, "Do I know you?"

Judging from the pilot's vitavised rhetoric, she had probably read some of
Kahn's political pamphlets.  In fact, Kahn thought she had recognized a phrase
>from "The New Intolerable Acts", one of her more popular efforts.  But she was
supposed to be in Mexico City incognito.  What to say?

Maybe it was just being back in Mexico City, but Kahn suddenly felt sick to
death of disguises and aliases.  Just this once, just for a few minutes, she
was going to be herself.  Pushing the sunshades to the end of her nose, she
looked at Stapleton over the rims and said, "I'm Joan Kahn."

"No bl--dy s-t!" exclaimed Stapleton.  "I've read all your books!  This is
unbef-----glievable!  Did you know there's a copy of your Kinkaid book in the
Air Force Academy library?"

"Must be a mistake on someone's part," said Kahn with a chuckle.

"And Martin had never heard of you!  Can you believe it?  As soon as he said
that, I should have known there was something wrong with the G-dd----d
m----rf-----g b-st-rd!"  Stapleton snarled in hatred.  "It's his bl--dy fault
I'm here."

"Martin who?"  Suddenly Kahn's professional interest was piqued.  There hadn't
been any mention of any Martin in the stories she had seen and read.

"Martin Hawke.  He said he was a Mexican spy, and he said I owed it to the
cause of liberty to . . . "

"Defect?" Kahn suggested quietly.

Stapleton nodded angrily.  "Then when I got here, nobody had even heard of him.
 Nobody from the police, nobody from the government, nobody!  They acted like I
was crazy, wouldn't give me the bl--dy time of bl--dy day, like I was some kind
of bl--dy embarrassment.  Jesus Christ, he played me for a G-dd----d fool.  I
bet his name wasn't even Martin Hawke."

"Falcone," Kahn said without thinking.

"What?"

Speaking slowly, as her conscious mind was busy following the connections made
by her unconscious mind, she said, "Falcone.  His name is Martin Falcone.  He
works for Secretary Mercator.  That's why nobody from the police or the
government has heard of him."

Stapleton was looking at her in astonishment.  "How do you know about him?"

"He's been turning up lately in New Granada," said Kahn.  "Keeping an eye on
one of the Mapmaker's projects there.  I know someone who's seen him."

"Where?" Stapleton demanded.  "Tell me exactly where he is."  Kahn was taken
aback by the intensity of Stapleton's expression.  Her gray eyes were like
diamonds, cold and hard, as they drilled into her.

"Bogotá," Kahn said.  "He was seen in Bogotá two months ago."

"Bogotá," Stapleton repeated, nodding.  "Thank you, Miss Kahn.  Thank you very
much."  Dropping a twenty dolar bill on the table, she stood up and walked out
the door without a backward glance.

Kahn checked her watch, and saw that she'd have to skip her salad if she wanted
to get to the airpark in time to meet Osterman.  As she left the restaurant,
Kahn found herself feeling a little sorry for Martin Falcone.

Notes:

[1] See FAN #78, "Water on the Brain".

[2] Limousine.

[3] In OTL it would be called a department store.

[4] Before the War of the Rebellion it was a custom in New England for
returning seafarers to place pineapples on their doorsteps to let friends and
neighbors know that they were back in town and receiving visitors.  This custom
was carried to Jefferson during the Wilderness Walk, and has now given its name
to a chain of moderately priced Mexican hotels.

[5] Captain Gilmore's short yet elegant hairstyle while attending King
Ferdinand's coronation in June was immortalized by the CNA's top fashion
weekly, _Style_, which ran a photograph of her on the cover of its June 24
issue (which appeared on newsstands on June 18th).  The hairstyle, known as the
Evangeline, swept the country in the next few weeks (cf OTL's "Farrah" and
"Rachel" styles).  Miss Kahn, who was out of the country at the time, is
unaware of her wig's origins.

[Thanks to M.G. Alderman for the newspaper clipping.]
-- 
Johnny Pez
Newport, Rhode Island
September 2002