I changed into my clothes under the watchful eyes of Sally (who seemed to relish the experience), the Ambassador (who tried to maintain an air of dignity), and the guard (who merely seemed bored.) They had brought me a pair of shoes—wingtips in a size too large. As I put them on Sally quipped "You'll grow into them. They were the best we could do on such short notice." I ignored her, thankful that I had three pair of socks to fill the space. After I was dressed the Ambassador spoke:
"Once again, I regret the events which have led to this awkward situation. I hope you realize that we are aware of the sacrifice we are asking you to make. There are several extenuating circumstances which we cannot reveal to you at this time, for your own protection." The Ambassador remained aloof, but there was a glint in his eyes; I sensed resolve, ruthlessness. "Don't underestimate us," he continued, "for we are powerful and many and you are but a single man. Work with us and you will be handsomely rewarded, defy us and you will
suffer grievous consequences."
"Such as?" I still couldn't wrap my head around what they were trying to do.
"Come with us, please,
for a small demonstration."
We went out: into the hallway, through a security door, and then into a meeting room with an oval desk a screen on one wall. A green duffel bag was on the table. There was a man, who I took to be a technician, in a control room with a video projector.
"Mr. Johnson, please put the downlink on the big screen, without sound, thank you. Billy
, and I'll call you Billy from now on, have a seat. The video you are about to see is a live stream from the FBI headquarters in Seattle. There is someone there who I believe you know..."
The room lights dimmed and images on the screen flickered, then became steady. There was a room with a mirror, a clock on the wall, and a desk with papers and photographs lying on it. A man was on one side and Molly was on the other. She had evidently been crying; the man was haranguing her. He was pointing to the photos, he picked up a paper and read from it. Molly hung her head, shaking it.
The Ambassador spoke calmly, as if he were reading from a grocery list.
"It seems that your choice of a partner was unfortunate. Before she met you, this "Molly" as you know her, had been involved with an underground terror cell. Actions of this cell included operating a bomb factory, a plot to destroy government offices, the aiding and abetting of fugitives and known terrorist operatives, the list goes on. Your "old friend" is facing many years in prison. You wouldn't like that would you, Billy?
You wouldn't like to be linked with her as a "fellow-traveler" would you? And this is only the beginning."
"What can I do for Molly?"
"It is really quite simple. You will become Billy, Senator Clarkson's prodigal son returned, make some campaign appearances with dear old dad, when he takes office there will be a nice job for you in the NSA—your line of work—and you keep your nose clean and out of trouble for eight years, you'll be free to disappear again. Molly will be allowed to live her life in relative freedom… as long as you perform your role faithfully.
Do you understand me? It is really a very good deal for everyone."
"I understand. I take it that Molly will think that I have died, and that I am to have no contact with her?"
"Yes. That is, of course, a necessary condition."
"And what happens now?"
"There are still some things that Billy
must do here in Reykjavík. This is the trickiest part, for we have to get you out of the country. As far as we can tell, he was here without a passport, he had a storeroom down by the harbor which he used as a 'crash pad.' We obviously couldn't break in and get his things without creating a stir, but you are the key- or should I say you have
the key. You also need to be seen by some of Billy's
friends so that it will appear that you
, that is to say Billy
, are alive and well, taking your leave, going back to The United States."
"Now. Go to the storeroom, it will be dawn soon, you need to be seen in Grandakaffi, the restaurant out on the west end of the harbor, it's Billy's usual morning hangout. Here are five thousand krónur, roughly equivalent to about forty US dollars. If some one who knew Billy talks to you, tell them you are 'strung-out', that you've been speeding for a couple of days. You won't need to act it- the coffee you drank had more than a little caffeine. After breakfast, walk around the center of town—be seen—but try to avoid any interactions which might give you away. A lot of people knew Billy, but be careful, he had some enemies. Go back to the storeroom, gather Billy's effects together and put them in this duffel. Sleep if you can. We need at least a day to arrange your transport out of the country. Here is a phone. We'll call you when it is time to leave."
"Do you accept our offer?"
"I accept your offer."
Sally picked up a phone and pressed a button.
On the screen, the man at the desk picked up his phone. The ambassador's instruction was terse:
"We've landed the big fish. Let her go."
The man at the desk hung up, picked up his papers and spoke to Molly. She looked surprised, but got up and left the room.
"It's time to go, Billy…
" Sally took my hand, placing it onto the duffel bag. "... nice shoes."