Alas and alack. Life in Intelligence is like the goddamned Internet. Whole lotta data at your fingertips, but very little wisdom. Clock’s ticking. No, it is not. Clocks don’t tick anymore, they don’t even hum. They just watch (a pun!), silent as Time. Not getting younger. I’ll be dead soon. What has life yielded this spook, but data, raw and scrambled as fresh-killed road-pizza?
Lives lived, none of them my own.
Surveillance of lovers, impassioned moments filmed. Records. Sorted, stacked. I remember nothing but other people’s lives. Mind of a spy inhabited by strangers. Subjects assigned objectively by disinterested parties on behalf of unnamed Authorities.
The Unknown send me, The Unseen, to pursue The Observed.
“A new assignment, Dr. Spaeiouk. Your services required. A most urgent request. Marked imperative.”
And all the usual Top Secret rigmarole. Encryption codes and shibboleths. A string of key-words, like beads, begging extraction, analysis, interpretation: “exotic meat peas sexual.”
And in a strangely circular puddle of liquid grime, my shadow glows. Dead giveaway: step out of the light.
Car-load of subjects stopped roadside. An arm extended through the shot-gun window to a suggestively-clad, near-frozen girl (had she been standing there, waiting, the whole time? Could I have missed her? I am indeed quite old), who proceeded to suck each one to “satisfaction” in about ten minutes, maybe fifteen — one of them was already drunk. I let ’em drive off, they couldn’t shake me, and appeared to the girl suddenly, as I’d learned to do so long ago (must admit, it’s still a neat trick) as if “from nowhere.”
“Oh, you startled me,” she dropped the mouthwash she was tucking back into her purse. Another road-side riddle of shattered glass submitted for inspection. By hoboes — they still call ’em that? — and drunks stopping to puke or pee.
She was about to run, but submitted to the badge, a joke really, a piece of tin I picked up in a toy-store, “just in case.” The people are so frightened. Rightfully so, for they are all indeed guilty as charged. I gave her the once-over. Formality. No use for her at all, really; what could she tell me? Fashionably “dangerous” outfit, goofy shoes and all. Misfortune standardized and packaged. How did we, why did we — she on her journey to her desired End, me on my own — connect, to the extent that’s possible in our respective occupations, there? There where? what place was it, anyway? I don’t recall.
“Let’s see some ID, girl-child.”
Let’s see some ID. What a godforsaken corn-ball thing to say…
Laminated card she proffered was phony as my badge. The audacity! On the other hand: Touché.
“You know those men? Know what kind of trouble they’re in?”
“No, sir. I — they stopped…for directions.”
“Directions? To where, pray tell? Where did you direct these ‘gentlemen?’”
“I don’t know. I mean, they didn’t know — where they were going. They were, they’re lost.”
Aren’t they all. Of course I let her go. Back to the dark wherever whence she came. Like throwing back a fish too small to catch — legally. Lose your license that way.
Of course I caught up with the marks. Car parked within striking range of some allegedly out-of-the-way bar. Nothing is out-of-the-way, every place is someplace watched, listened to, recorded. I phoned in the coordinates and left. What happened after that, whatever happens after that, the many, many “thats” was none of my affair. I don’t even recall this event as an event in itself, rather a jumble of odd and sundry minor assignments. Might have been a compendium of hundreds of girls on side-roads stretched across the vast yawn of the Nation. I only remember the big ones, the cases I’m never under any circumstances to recall, not even if faced with my own near-certain demise.
Hasn’t yet occurred, this much ballyhooed demise. Not that I recall.
My hard luck.