“No sign of him, Cynthia,” Brian Bettors told her over the phone. “I’ve been by his place, a few of his haunts and the situation room we set up. No one’s seen anything.”

“This is going on three days,” Kang responded, worry coloring her voice.

“Should I call the police?”

The Congresswoman’s immediate reflex was to alert her new lover, Detective Second Grade Desdemona Valdez, but she checked herself. Valdez was already more than busy with other cases, and Kang was pretty sure Chet Kimbrough’s disappearance wouldn’t fall under her jurisdiction anyway, assuming the search would have to start at Chet’s home. When in LA, her chief of staff lived out of the top half of a Koreatown duplex.

She said, “Yes, please do that, Brian. But in a just-the-facts-ma’am way, understand? Don’t mention Gilmore or the shit that’s beginning to surface. I don’t want us to sound alarmist or like we’re drinking the Kool-Aid on the grassy knoll.” How would it be for a sitting representative’s office going off suggesting a grand conspiracy was afoot? Kang wasn’t about to get lumped in with the other Cynthia, McKinney, the former Congresswoman and ex-Dem, who was pushing for a “truth commission” regarding the events of 9/11. In her heart of hearts, Kang didn’t believe the Warren Commission findings or that James Earl Ray acted alone in killing Martin Luther King. That didn’t mean she was going to commit political suicide by expressing her beliefs. The going had to be careful through this minefield. Very careful…

“I get you,” the staffer in her Monterey Park office agreed. “But what if it is something to do with Fallenbee?”

“My stomach’s in a knot worrying about this,” she said. “But if Lil can get this meet with Lacy hooked up, we might get a few leads.”

“For sure something’s going on, he said. “I’ll play it straight and tell them we can’t find him and haven’t heard from him. Want me to call our contact in the DA’s office?”

“No, let’s not get too many carts ahead of the horses. Go to the division that would be his station house. I’m pretty sure it’s Wilshire. You know where that is?”

“I do. I’ll let you know what’s up.” He paused, then: “And what about the press? This is gonna leak.”

“The same tack. If the news calls, you give ’em the party line. That the authorities are looking into this, and that we… we, of course, hope and expect a swift and positive resolution of the matter.”

“Okay, on it. I know he’ll turn up.”

“Of course he will.” She didn’t express her dread and neither did Bettors.

They severed their call and Kang sat and worked out a diagram on a piece of yellow notepad paper. She put certain names in circles with other names in orbit around them. Cenine Gilmore was in the center of one with Dieter Countryman as a satellite. At the center of the entire chart was Mace Gilmore. She drew little balloons around his circle, connected via lines. The smaller circles indicated Gilmore’s board.

It wasn’t surprising that it was made up of the same kind of clean-environment-espousing postmodern plutocrats found on other such boards of power and influence. A former Secretary of State and a onetime senator sat on the Fallenbee Directive, along with an oil exec and a high tech guru worth a billion or two less than Bill Gates. McNair had gathered pertinent information on a few of them, bringing the investigation within two or three degrees of separation, to people who knew someone on the board and whom Kang could contact. She needed a direct approach to Gilmore, and she’d already put in some calls to make that happen.

According to Joanie Halstead, Gilmore was stirring up shit in an effort to sway the upcoming presidential election. But why single out Kang? Months ago, she and her camp had considered and dismissed the idea of running for the nomination as a progressive independent or as a Green. Not to really win but–in the best of lefty counter-punch tactics–to put the heat on the establishment Dems to do the right thing on such issues as healthcare and energy policies. But the crazy one-upping of state primary dates, and Obama’s blowing the roof off Internet fundraising, had made such a bid futile and infantile to pursue. How else could you describe Ralph Nader running yet again, from somewhere beyond the pale?

Kang also considered that Halstead was being used to distract and to sow misinformation. Maybe the story she told about falling out with Cenine, her former high school buddy, was bullshit. Could be she’d been put in place to further muddy the waters. The Congresswoman had McNair checking into the story about her brother getting busted in college, essentially taking the hit for the clever cheerleader.

Sitting at her desk in her DC office, staring at her crude chart, she dully noted the debate on the radio. Kang functioned with background noise going and kept the radio in her inner office on most of the time, when not meeting with staff or a constituent (and it was always on when a lobbyist dropped in). She tuned to NPR or local gabfests to keep up on current hullabaloo. Lately the airwaves were hot, post the Supreme Court decision affirming gun ownership.

“The American people consider the handgun to be the quintessential self-defense weapon,” Antonin Scalia had opined, as the majority voted to overturn the District’s ban on handguns even in the home. The acerbic Justice also stated that the swell thing about a gun was that “it can be pointed at a burglar with one hand while the other hand dials the police.” One of the yakkers on the radio just quoted this and he and a caller on the line were cracking up.

“Jesus,” the caller intoned, “does Scalia think the average guy or gal is Mannix?”

“Yeah, yeah,” the radio host enthused. “That private eye in that ’60s show who every other week somebody cut the brakes on his car and he had to stay alive driving down this steep road right on the edge of a mountain without breaking a sweat.”

They cackled again. “Who the hell wouldn’t be scared pissless with some crackhead in their house, you trying to control the shakes with a gun on this chump, and then, oh yeah, let me call the law.”

As they guffawed some more, Kang dearly hopes that Kimbrough didn’t have a gun pointed at him… or worse.

Chet Kimbrough didn’t bother to scream, the fresh piece of duct tape firmly in place around his mouth.

To Be Continued…