“You can’t use that tape.” He clenched his hands, and released them.
“You know I can, and I will. Why are you here, anyway? What does Camullus care about my party and our feud with the Cyrs, anyway? He’s got to have bigger fish than that, problems more worth the attention of Jon Fox, Chief Fixer for the Prime Minister.” She leaned back in her desk chair, and smiled at him, like “don’t waste my fucking time.”
Fox sat up in his chair, and leaned forward. “What I’ve got on Duff will send him back to Kaerlud by the end of the day. You use that tape, we’ve got a counter. ‘It’s a fake, he’s an actor, there’s no way anyone could really be expected to believe that the Prime Minister is cavorting with a known sex trafficker and pervert like Durcet.’ Maybe Camullus tumbles in the polls for a couple of weeks, but then we just show him having ice cream with some regular folk and he’s back on top again. He’s stood up to this kind of thing before.”
She shook her head. “If Camullus doesn’t care that we have him on tape with Durcet joking about keeping kids in cages for their weekend depravities, why would he send you? You wouldn’t be bargaining with me if it couldn’t hurt him.”
“You’re prepared to throw Duff overboard, leave him to us? This guy is your star, he’s your only shot at taking back the Senate in a couple months. You want his video splashed over every screen in this country, adult diaper, handcuffed to a table, as a strong young man drips candle wax on his heaving chest? Who’s going to be the laughingstock here? You’ve got outlandish charges you can’t prove, and we’ve got what everyone can see.” He’d said enough already. He stood up. “But let’s find out who hurts more here.”
“It’s not as simple as that, June.”
“It always is, Jon. One drink, and I’ll get you an answer by tomorrow morning.” She reached up and stroked her neck, and Fox was now very aware of her décolletage. He tried to turn around and walk out, but found he couldn’t.
“One drink. Let’s go.”
He met her at a speakeasy, underground, a throwback to when drinking wasn’t legal in Golgonozza. He sat at her right hand in a booth, and they both watched the front door, which helped them avoid eye contact. He had his dark rum, which he’d gotten a taste for when he was stationed in the Aithininan islands. She had vodka, straight, clean, that she sipped from a frozen glass, clear where her fingers had melted on contact.
“Did you ever believe in anything, Fox?” He watched her profile as she spoke. This was a trap, he knew it. He should shut his mouth and get out of there as quick as he could. The rum was already loosening him up.
“What are you talking about? I was in the military, I fell for that whole line of bullshit about serving the empire and doing our duty to the less fortunate savages in Cipangu and Cuahalan, and then I saw enough of my buddies maimed and blown up and shot to hell, only to come back to a country that doesn’t give two shits about anything that happened to us. Now all those assholes are our best friends, and nothing means a damn thing anymore.”
“You’re pretty pissed off,” she said, leaning into him. Her heat radiated off of her. He was so fucked. He took a deep breath.
“I guess so. I got back from the war, I got recruited right away from the Gendarmes, and Camulllus made me his deputy chief a couple of years ago when he got into power. I’ve been working for him ever since. I don’t get paid to believe in anything.” He realized he was shaking. He closed his eyes and breathed. He reached under the table and put his hand on her thigh, and he felt stronger, grounded again.
She put her hand on his under the table, not pushing it away or moving it up, as if to say, “this is OK, but no further.” “So it’s safe to say you’re not a churchgoing man?
He snorted. “Guys in my line of work don’t really go to church. I don’t think the Urizenite priests think very kindly of the kind of work I do.”
“You were raised Urizenite?”
“Yeah, I did all the stuff that you’re supposed to do when you’re a kid. I went to the schools, I served the altar, I went to confession, I learned the ancient languages and the logical proofs. But after my dad died, my mom got into drugs, and I was the only one to take care of my kid sister Callie. Religion just didn’t seem …. helpful, you know?”
He remembered when everything slipped away. The memory came to him every day, at one time or another. The door pounded. Boom boom boom. His heart raced. “Don’t open the fucking door!” He screamed, as the light blinded him and Callie slipped away from him, again. Then he was in the hospital, his wrists bandaged, his arms restrained, the needle approaching him.
“Kill you,” he muttered under his breath, “I’ll kill you, kill you, kill you.”
“Hey Jon!” June snapped her fingers, and he was back in the bar. “Where’d you go?” He oriented himself to his surroundings again.
“Shit, sorry, talking about the church just brings back memories for me. Are you an Urizenite?”
“Not me,” June shook her head, and leaned into him for a moment; her hair smelled of lavender and … incense? “No, I’m an Urthonian.” Her drink was empty; she lifted her glass to catch the bartender’s eye.
“Holy shit, an honest to god Urthonian. June Loos, I never knew. I’m surprised. I didn’t think there were many of you left.” He held up his glass now, too, as the bartender was setting up June’s refill.
“There are more of us than you think, Jon. We make Carmullus really uncomfortable, and that’s why he sends guys like you against us whenever he can.” She took her drink. “You like working for Carmullus? Breaking legs, taking naked pictures of closeted gay guys trying to get off, threatening people, doing evil to protect Chester’s evil empire?” Now she grasped his inner thigh, and he felt himself harden.
He moved away. “He’s just playing the same game you are. I’d have a problem with what I’m doing if everyone I was doing it to wasn’t a total piece of shit. I help people most of the time, believe it or not.”
“What does Chester have on you?” She arched an eyebrow and smirked, moving her hand ever closer to his crotch and the throbbing head of his cock. “Everyone’s got something to hide.”
His breath felt scorching hot as he inhaled. “That’s usually my line,” Fox grumbled. He should leave, he told himself. He was going to get shit from Camullus just for sitting down with June; he knew the bartender was a snitch, and there were at least three undercover Gendarmes in the bar as they spoke. Whatever he said here was as good as repeated in front of the Ministry of Propaganda. Fuck this, he thought. He picked up his rum and drank it in a single gulp.
“Look, this has been nice, getting to know you. Let me know what you decide about the tape by tomorrow, and we’ll be in touch.” He rose, pulling out of her grip, and rummaged in his suit pocket for his money clip.
She shifted to the edge of the booth’s bench, never breaking his gaze. “Jon, I’m going to text you the name of a hotel and a room number downtown. I want you to meet me there in an hour.”
Fox dropped bills on the table, turned, and walked out of the bar. He was going to show up there, despite himself.