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Bad Ju Ju

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"There's some funky shit floating around you, Cynthia."

About the Author

Gary Phillips
Gary Phillips's short stories have appeared, most recently, in Los Angeles Noir (Akashic) and in Full House (G.P....

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In this last episode we mostly wrap things up, but leave a few strange matters for earthly or cosmic interpretation.

Breakfast turns violent, more is revealed, and while a decent president gets elected, there's no rest for Congresswoman Kang.

"Tell me something I don't fuckin' know, McNair," she told her erstwhile researcher and chef. They talked via secured satellite phones. This shit was making her stressed and paranoid, but wasn't that just another word for being cautious? No slips at the mike like Jesse Jackson for her. Though a snipping was a bit harsh, getting somebody's nuts in the vise wasn't a bad idea if that would produce her chief of staff's whereabouts.

"So what do you know about this shadowy former pal of Countryman's and is there a way to reach him?" Kang asked. At her request McNair had done some asking around among his "happiness is a warm gun" buddies and the aliens-are-controlling-us-from-the-mothership crowd--two groupings that somewhat overlapped. Certainly not the kind of people she'd call up to the Hill to testify, but at this point she couldn't ignore any measure to find Kimbrough.

"There may be, but I'm not gonna try," he answered. "Look, from what I've been able to gather, Chet may have stumbled on this loose cannon as he dug into Gilmore's doings. If he did, and I can't confirm that he did, this guy sticks out because he'd been institutionalized in the mid-'90s after an incident at an indoor mall in Chicago where he went off."

"You mean firing a gun, something like that?"

"This Riggs, at least that's the name he was booked under, strode into the mall after previously, and naturally surreptitiously, setting up explosive devices in everyday items, like a bomb hidden in a toaster, and held a group of customers hostage in a shoe store. To let the cops know he wasn't bullshitting, he set off a couple of low-level charges he'd planted outside the mall."

"What were his demands? Money?"

"That the Military Intelligence Division tell the truth about certain clandestine operations in Central America. Operations I'm guessing from his shadowy record he had a hand in."

An unpleasant taste settled in Kang's mouth. "What happened?"

"After a four-hour stand-off, Riggs got a call patched through from supposedly somewhere inside the Pentagon. At least that's what the local news reported as an unconfirmed rumor."

"And he gave himself up?"

"He did. No shots fired, no one harmed. The bombs were deactivated and Riggs was whisked away to the police station, where he was booked, then at some point taken to a psychiatric facility for observation." McNair paused, Kang noting he must have put his hand over the phone's speaker as he talked to someone else--she could hear a muffled conversation. He returned.

"Was there a public trial?" Kang asked.

"Doesn't seem to be, Cynthia," he replied. The only other info I know about Riggs was that he was locked up in the mental institution outside of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, from that time till around 2002 when he gets released."

"Pretty short time for such a serious offense," Kang remarked. "I guess even if you go a little mad from guilt of the dead you caused in the name of national security, your friends in hidden places don't forget you."

"Now the conspiracy lover in me would suggest if those puppet-masters wanted Riggs gone they could easily have had him over-medicated one night when he was at the funny farm."

"Or he was deemed more useful back in play?" Kang speculated.

"Now you're sounding like the folks I hang out with, Cynthia."

"I'm just wondering aloud, not calling for Congressional intervention--not that such is possible in all this obfuscation."

"A hallmark of the lone gunman set," McNair said. "That's why some of them yahoos loose credibility, trying to make sense of all the interconnections by----"

"By interconnecting everything," Kang finished. "I mean, come on, McNair, the Illuminati control the Masons who have members in Skull and Bones who all sit on the Trilateral Commission."

"All of it under the thumb of the Scientologists," he added.

Kang humphed.

"It was a joke, Cynthia," McNair added, chuckling.

"Maybe I'm the one going around the bend. Maybe Gilmore wasn't just looking to influence the presidential race via his considerable wealth by bolstering the campaigns of would-be spoilers. It could be that Deiter Countryman and Mrs. Gilmore are pulling some strings of their own. Riggs does know Countryman?"

"They seemed to have been in some of the same hot spots at the same time. But I can't confirm they actually ran together."

"I know you've gone the extra on this, McNair, and I really appreciate you doing so." She also knew he couldn't afford any more exposure, and she wasn't going to push it. She wanted to find Kimbrough but wasn't about to put anyone in jeopardy--at least not anyone but herself.

"Cynthia, look, I...," he started, but trailed off.

""Yeah, I know. It's overwhelming, but I can't let these motherfuckers win."

"They always win, Cynthia."

"Fuck that, I'm not rolling over."

"You can't go all Punisher on them--even if you can identify who the 'they' is."

"I know, but time for some offense. Thanks again, McNair."

"If I surface anything else, I'll let you know."

"Keep your head down, you've done enough." She severed the call and then put one in to Lilian McCord's cell phone. McCord was up in Ashland for the weekend to catch a play written by a mutual friend at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.

"Lil, I need you to call Lacy and get a private number from her for Gilmore. He and I are gonna have a come-to-Jesus meeting." Lacy Mills, the onetime assistant and confidant to the deceased Grish Waller, was entangled in this business. She'd disappeared for a time but had recently contacted McCord to set up a meeting with Kang. That meeting was set two days from now in Las Vegas, with McCord as the go-between.

"You know she's not exactly the easiest person to communicate with. She's, I don't know, odd these days."

"I don't care if she's Daffy Duck. You just get in touch with her however you can and get me a goddamn number, por favor. Tell her any other deal I might consider when we meet is off the table unless she can deliver this. And I mean pronto."

"Okay," her friend said, sensing how serious Kang was. "I'll get it."

"I expect to hear back from you, Lil."

"You will."

Meanwhile, in an open ground area in the Angelus National Forrest some miles north of Altadena, California, hikers came upon a still form among some undergrowth at the base of a low hill. Overhead the sky was clear and uncharacteristically smog free.

To Be Continued...

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