Power, propaganda and treason
„Don’t give in to fatigue. Fatigue is for weaklings.“ His father’s wise words kept sticking throughout his life. He walked across the room in the now silent house, the only sounds the squeak of the parquet floors and his own wheezy breath. Recently he seemed to have developed asthma. He couldn’t find trousers big enough in the shops, and he could barely waddle along. He was out of breath going up just a few stairs. Up in father’s bedroom it was a huge mess — he evidently hadn’t cleaned up in years. He’d come to pack up dad’s things and begin the process of clearing out the house — but he simply couldn’t do it.
For the first time in his life he realised how wrong his father had been. What bad advice he’d given him. How terribly he had brought him up. His upbringing had been a complete and utter clusterfuck.
He fought back a wave of supressed anger, washing over him like high tide. Honour thy father and thy mother, that you may live long, that you may live long … It was like an echo. Bloody brainwashing.
What did THEY know about real life! Even Father Walsh had had a comfortable existence from cradle to grave, a life of certainty behind the walls of the Benedictine Order, every day just like yesterday, just like tomorrow. What did THEY have to teach anyone? How could I have even thought that load of bookish twaddle would ever be of use to me? In this world!
Honour thy father… He strode back and forth across the room, kicking the furniture and punching objects that got in his way — only ones where there was no chance they would cause him injury, of course. His inner monologue had turned into a shouting match.
You prepared me for a world that had long since ceased to exist. Gone! Great America. What a load of shit! We pretend to be the leaders of the free world, but Lenin discovered the secret, didn’t he. All those idiots need an ideal, to be part of something big. They need leaders and idols so they don’t have to take responsibility for their own lives. The law of the jungle — that’s how it was and always would be. Christ!
Pouring insults on the dead, he needed someone to blame. He’d had enough of all that about happiness and success being in each person’s own hands.
Bullshit! This society is strictly divided into casts, just like in India. If you’re born with a silver spoon in your mouth, you’re guaranteed to die in the lap of luxury. No one even notices the fact you can’t read. Being born to the right parents is the winning ticket. But what about the white majority these days? No one cares about the workers. They just have to keep their mouths shut and pay their taxes. America is fucked.
He stared into the mirror, just like after his mother had died. Looking back at him was a lunatic Nordic troll, ruffled, greasy hair, wild eyes, swollen red nose. Drawing his hand back, he smashed the glass with his fist. He watched as dark blood began to seep between his fingers. It ran in fine rivulets across the mirror glass. It was such an interesting sight he watched the abstract show almost with pleasure. He might have called the work of art it created Rebirth or Touching Eternity.
He recalled a book of poems he’d once bought in a second-hand bookstore. He saw himself wandering the high-stacked shelves of the shop in Hastings Street, taking the book in his hands and reading Ferlinghetti’s verse.
Looking in the mirrors at Macy’s
and thinking: it’s a subterranean plot
to make me feel like Chaplin
snuck in with his bent shoes & beat bowler
looking for a fair haired angel
Who’s this bum
crept in off the streets…
right past the pickets
and the picket line is the People yet?
He poured himself a tumbler of whiskey. He felt he was at the end of his tether.
So it’s Mr. Alienation, is it
like he don’t like nobody?
It’s not me it’s them out of step!
Instead of the alcohol’s warming sensation inside, he felt wrapped in ice. Something was blocking his throat.
My land is your land but all is changed, changed utterly.
The sadness abated, anger returned. He paced the room, yelling. He lost all sense of time. Had he been there an hour? Or three? He had no idea. He had to get out. Long after midnight he slumped into an armchair exhausted, and fell into a deep sleep. Had mother still been around, she would have crept through the darkness to throw a blanket over him. She would also have noticed the tears rolling down his cheeks as he slept.
But there was no one there but him. The house was submerged in complete, airless silence. His parents’ voices remained forever locked in the walls of this once warm, welcoming house. Outside, a gust of wind produced the first and last sound of the night.
* * *
The first rays of light crept into his childhood bedroom. The room was a light green, the paint having faded to grey in the ten years since it last saw a decorator’s brush. No one had washed the curtains at the windows since his mother died, the drooping fabric like a yellowed pendant filtering the cold light of a misty morning into the room.
It was autumn. The unmown grass, matted to the ground and soaked with rainwater, was like a shaggy blanket laid across the mole hills that had appeared that summer.
The garden resembled Scott’s head. Long, unkempt hair, the skin underneath bearing sores which he always scratched at furiously when he woke in the mornings.
After a night spent in the armchair, one of his legs was as stiff as a rod and he almost fell over trying to get up. He tried again, slowly this time. He stood up on the other leg that he could still feel. The air in the room was heavy with the alcohol fumes he’d exhaled in his sleep. Flinging open a window, the air stung his face — cold, damp and carrying the slight aroma of decomposing grass.
Only now did he notice that, at some point during the night, he’d taken his Sig Sauer out of its draw. He’d bought it because that’s what the Navy Seals used, and it reminded him of a time of hope and self-respect. The pistol was something like the bird’s egg for Koschei the Immortal from the Russian fairy tale. Koschei was a wizard who had nine lives. His last, ninth life was concealed in an egg. Whoever broke the egg could kill Koschei. He’d read the story once in a book about Russian culture.
The Sig Sauer lay there on the bedside table next to the lamp. While it was still in his possession, he felt like a real man. His dry mouth was becoming unbearable, so he went down to the kitchen to get a glass of water. While he was at it, he took two aspirin. He always had a family pack of them with him — aspirin was the only thing you could always rely on. His only true ally, always on hand.
Towards evening, when he had all of his father’s things packed in boxes, he sat down at the desk to tidy away the Sig Sauer. But he didn’t. Placing his hand on the gun, he felt it, calmly and caressingly. Then he sat their staring into nothing.
Suddenly his mobile rang in his trouser pocket. He got up and extracted the thing out of his tight jeans. Jesus, he’d put on weight again, he thought.
He took the call. He was rarely inspired to introduce himself when the screen didn’t show who was calling. He remained silent and waited for the caller to begin.
„Hello, Mr. Brennan. My name’s Mackiewicz. You don’t know me, but I know a little about you. You were recommended to me by Norm Ritts — you rescued his company in Florida from a hostile takeover bid. He said you are a kind of Clausewitz of US finance. Do you have a moment?“
Grigory gave his introductory spiel in the most disinterested voice he could muster. He knew how intelligent and paranoid Scott was, and he didn’t want to give away how keen he was to establish a relationship.
Scott took his hand off the Sig Sauer a breathed deeply and slowly. He didn’t hang up.
* * *
Grigory prepared for the meeting a long time in advance. Everything was coming together nicely — Moscow’s permission to recruit a new asset, the insurance policy in the form of a signed witness statement from Lauren claiming domestic violence, and he had found someone to keep an eye on Scott. Talent could sometimes be problematic, and Grigory didn’t like leaving things to chance.
That someone was Father Walsh. The priest had reacted furiously when Grigory had told him he wanted detailed reports of Scott’s every thought at confession. Grigory was well prepared to meet resistance. A mention of how young Shawn’s parents might be interested to know what their son was up to at Walsh’s house was enough to convince Walsh.
Grigory was used to business like this, but he’d never encountered as much anger as there was in the eyes of that old priest. He was almost afraid to turn his back on him. The only thing Grigory didn’t know, was that the priest’s rage wasn’t caused by the fact someone had chanced upon the sordid affair he was having with the young boy. It was the idea someone was blackmailing him into breaking the seal of confession. That was simply something a Siberian trapper could never have comprehended.
The two men sat across from each other in silence. Grigory knew that time was on his side. He didn’t need to rush this. He also knew this whole thing was going to come as a shock to Scott. For every hunted animal, that moment when the trap snaps shut and it finds there’s no way out, was a shock.
Scott, unlike many in his situation it has to be said, sat straight and calm. Grigory could see from his face how he was hesitating between fight and flight. A chess player, he had ensured that Scott had no options left on the board.
„So, I guess your name’s not Mackiewicz. What should I call you?“ Scott began his cautious offensive.
Grigory shrugged. „Would it help if I thought up a Russian name?“
„No. I’d prefer your real name.“
„Well in that case I’m Pyotr Mackiewicz, businessman of Polish descent.“
Scott didn’t take offence. He understood and was ready for a fight. He went through tens of options in his mind but discarded them all.
„Why me?“ he fired off the first direct question of the day.
„Well, at present you aren’t that important. But you will be. And soon.“
„Are you interested in the Hongkong business? Are you after Gaming Capital? What do you want?“
„You Americans are so simple-minded. No offence, Mr Brennan. You are slaves to your own culture. So powerful, but so self-centred, that you automatically expect everyone to be like you. That everyone longs for money and democracy.“
„Don’t make a fool out of me.“ Scott could be easily made to feel vulnerable, his self-confidence had taken a beating his whole life. He was particularly sensitive to comments about his high intellect.
„Excuse me. You’re one of the most educated Americans I’ve ever met. But the fact that your first thought about what might have brought me to you was money, is very American. You interest me. And I enjoy the game. That means more than any money could.“
Scott was trying to make sense of what Grigory was saying. His mind was blank. Grigory went on.
„For a while now I have been thinking how we could do with someone like you. But not just us. America needs someone like you. That might seem strange coming from the mouth of a Russian secret service officer, but it’s a fact. If there was an election today, who would you vote for?“
Scott let himself be drawn. „Reagan.“
Grigory laughed. „I might have known. Isn’t it strange that since he passed away the party has gone to the dogs?“
Scott wondered where Grigory was going with this. He was still thinking about ways of escaping from the trap. Working for the Russians was unthinkable!
Grigory sensed Scott was having difficulty finding words, so he carried on the conversation himself.
„Since a liberal strain took control of Euro-Atlantic politics, our traditional values have been in retreat.“
Scott scowled. These thoughts had occurred to him, but they sounded comical coming from a Russian. And the way he called them „our“ values. As if Russia had ever belonged to this culture. It was truly laughable.
Grigory spoke on, undeterred.
„Your civilization is on the wane. We have been observing the process for a long time, but you don’t seem to have realised it yet yourselves. Russian philosophers such as Ilyin and Dugin commented on this phenomenon. So the question is, what is America going to do about it? You have read Maurras and Evola, haven’t you? They talk about it, too. The West is dying.“
Scott nodded. He had read Dugin, but pride prevented him from saying so. And so he snapped: „What do you want from me?“
Grigory could see that the stoat was in the trap and resigned to its fate. It had been faster than he anticipated. He’d expected a bit more resistance, not a white flag straight away.
„Your colleagues in Virginia tell me you are into politics. They say as a student you dreamt of being defence minister.“
„What do you want from me?“ Scott repeated, maintaining his poker face.
„You’re going to do what you enjoy, what you’re good at. You can begin by putting Gaming Capital into administration. We’re not interested in any Chinese adventures. Then we will move on to the Republicans. Your point of contact will be David Dixie. He’ll bring you up to speed. You’re Catholic, aren’t you? As a member of such a conservative movement you’re gonna like what we have in store.
America has to change. Otherwise it will meet the same fate as ancient Rome. Christ has vanished from the nation’s schools. It’s something we need to rectify.“
There was a pregnant silence. Then Scott said something which took Grigory aback.
„Just to be clear, I couldn’t give a shit about Christ.“