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Girl Talk

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Lillian McCord picked at her vegetarian Cobb salad. Flavored cubes of tempeh had been substituted for the chicken, and savory tofu for the bacon. "Why the hell are you even contemplating this, Cynthia? You have no proof that Gilmore was behind the attack on Chet." She speared a piece of romaine and hard-boiled egg and chewed on this with nervous energy. "This is something you should take to the authorities."

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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.

"I'm not worried about Gilmore's toadies at Fox News lambasting me," Kang cracked. "They're too busy hiccupping over Obama or arguing about how much is too much in their never-ending quest to whip up senseless paranoia about him. Fact, as I also have to start ramping up for re-election, I could use a few attacks from those chuckleheads. It's good for my street cred."

"That's not all they do," her friend observed.

"Yes, I know, evil never sleeps over there." She did a low sibilant laugh à la the Shadow.

"Be serious."

"I am, Lil. My staff has already put together a detailed file on this plutocrat--he's not exactly a Howard Hughes recluse, you know. He's put his boat in yacht races, sponsored the Iditarod and what have you." Kang had more of her own salad, made with real slivers of chicken. The flesh of dead animals helped keep her aggressive, she reasoned. Politics was not for chumps nor wussies, and you had to be fortified to do battle against the mastodons and the saber-tooths. And Mace Gilmore was damn sure a predator of the highest order.

Kang swallowed. "He's been hauled before the SEC and Commerce and has had to pay the piper."

"Those millions in fines are just the cost of doing business, as far as he's concerned," McCord said.

"True. But he's aware of, and cultivates, his public image."

"Then why," she said, briefly pointing her fork at her lunch companion, "would he sanction this attack on Chet? Something could have gone very wrong and the blowback catch Gilmore full in the face... to use a Cheney-like hunting metaphor."

"As I said, that's a question that needs answering." Kang had more of her Arnold Palmer.

"Wheels within wheels turning, but not in the same direction?"

Before answering, Kang reflexively looked off for a moment across the patio of the Beverly Hills eatery.

"Don't worry, no one here knows who you are," McCord declared. "I picked this place because it isn't where pols hang, and for you it's like hiding in plain sight. These west-of-LaCienega denizens are far too consumed with the latest in botox advancements or locking down their next three-picture deal."

Kang smiled ruefully. "Busted," she admitted. She told McCord about her conversation with her brother about Gilmore's wife, Cenine, and the suspicion that she was running ecstasy through the Pasta Grotto restaurant chain. "She's about three decades younger than Newsome and according to what my staff dug up has a, shall we say, colorful background. He met her when she was a cheerleader for the Barons, a team he has interest in."

McCord absorbed this. "So what's that got to do with Chet getting attacked?

"Cyrus said Conrad reported to some hard-nosed fixer type named Countryman. Brian on my staff talked to a couple of contacts of his and found out that this Dieter Countryman is a trip. A Gulf War vet at one point doing work for a Blackwater-like merc outfit. He led sorties into Bosnia and Columbia. Human rights abuses follow this dude around like dogs after pork chops pulled on a rope."

"How colorful," McCord said. "So why would he come after your chief of staff if he was overseeing the ecstasy investigation?"

"Exactly. It doesn't follow--or that is, it doesn't appear that it does." Kang enthusiastically had some more of her lunch. "Chet was asking around about Lacy Mills before he was ambushed."

McCord frowned. "Getting us back to Grish's death."

"And the Fallenbee Directive," the Congresswoman reminded her. "This outfit only has a handful of paid staff in a bofunk little town, Fernley, Nevada. Yet it's a conglomerate through myriad cut-outs and holding companies that controls the Dollarville discount chain, the aforementioned Pasta Grotto chain, some golf courses and spas where naturally they can entertain their clients and so on. Then there's the military contractor side."

"That's done some of the rebuilding and truck convoying in Iraq," McCord added, "particularly around Kirkuk and Musul."

Kang said, "Iraq's proven oil reserves of 112 billion barrels are the world's second largest, behind Saudi Arabia. That's more than five times what we have here in the US. There's oil fields not being tapped, like say in the west toward Jordan. I'm not sure how many wells have been drilled, but I know it's a hell of a lot less than Texas, which is supposed to be around a million."

Her friend sat back. "But that's old news, Cynthia. As Roger Clemens said, 'It is what it is.' The rapaciousness of global capitalism will out. Your role as an elected is to ameliorate the impact of that as best you can for your constituents I know you bridle at just putting your finger in the dike, but you knew that was the job when you took it."

"No doubt," Kang answered, nodding her head and blowing air through her pursed lips. "But Lacy's still missing, and somebody tried to scare Chet off with buckshot."

McCord was silent for a few moments, then said, "From what you've said, this sounds like your little blond gangsta hottie Cenine might be the instigator. Could be she's what that faker Margaret B. Jones slash Seltzer aspired to be."

"You might have something there, Lil," Kang said. "Far as I can tell, she still has her position with the chain, and nothing we've unearthed to this point indicates that she and Gilmore are on the outs. Though it seems she does maintain a separate house in Vegas."

"Where Connie was arrested," McCord noted.

Congresswoman Kang considered her words. "Connie reported to this Countryman, which my brother and him took to mean this was an investigation conducted by Gilmore."

"That Countryman could also be foolin' around with Cenine, maybe reporting to her too to help cover her tracks," McCord postulated. Kang declared, "All this still means I need to get a handle on this, Lil. I owe it to Grish."

Her friend bestowed a strained smile.

...

Across town, someone silently and efficiently broke into Congresswoman Kang's apartment.

To Be Continued...

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