Questions and Answers
The congressional hearings on what the press had lamely referred to as “Billygate” were a bit of a letdown. Sean had the top billing, of course, but it felt to him as if his presence there was only for its marquee value. There was no talk concerning his stabbing—it remained ‘under investigation’—and very little about Billy. ‘Professor’ Shallbetter, the would-be academic who Sean had met in Iceland, was the real star of the hearings. He was the one who published Billy’s ‘evidence’ concerning Senator Clarkson. Sean had learned from Mrs. Robinson that she had deliberately kept the copy of the files that Sean had mailed to her from going public. Her reluctance in releasing them allowed the focus of the investigation to shift away from Sean—as well as keeping ADR out of the spotlight.
The hearings focused on Billy and his relationship with his father, especially when a subsequent blood test proved Billy’s assertion that he and Sean were half-brothers. Sean was unsurprised at that line of inquiry, he thought it had been instigated by enemies of the Senator. The big surprise, however, was the blood test that was performed on Silu’s daughter. Billy was not the father. Sean suspected that Billy’s ego had blinded him to the fact that he had been nothing more than a ‘fling’ as far as Silu was concerned. No wonder she despised him. Silu’s sister, Þora, wasn’t mentioned at all. Sean was glad that she had been left out of it, anything that would have been brought up concerning her and Sean would have been humiliating for both of them. There was a possibility that the Embassy staff, in the chaos around Billy’s death and the subsequent cover-up, hadn’t even been aware of Þora, outside of her having had coffee with Sean in the diner. She made no effort to contact Sean.
After the hearings, Shallbetter came up to Sean in the hall. He suggested that they go for dinner. Sean, who was finally free of being under house arrest, readily agreed. He still had several questions about the whole affair and suspected that Shallbetter knew some of the answers.
They took a taxi to a Thai restaurant in a suburban D.C. shopping mall.
“It’s one of Tyler Cowen’s favorite places!” Shallbetter said as the men walked into a small, nondescript restaurant. Sean’s stab wound had healed enough so that he was able to eat solid food again but, after looking at the pepper icons which sprinkled the menu listings, Sean went with the mildest option available. Throughout the meal Shallbetter kept up a steady stream of patter:
“So you see, Sean, we were both in Iceland for the same purposes—to meet Billy and to find out what he was hiding. We ended up with different results, It's too bad that you had to suffer they way you have.”
“How did you get the information which Billy had compiled?” asked Sean. Outside of Mrs. Robinson, there was no one else who knew about the files. Sean didn’t mention that he had the files as well. He thought it best that Shallbetter remained in the dark. The FBI, having thoroughly searched Billy’s computer and phone, had found nothing about them either.
“I already told you—when we met in the Flybus on the way into Reykjavík,” said Shallbetter excitedly, “The ‘newly discovered manuscripts.’—Billy’s ‘evidence.’ I needed that information. Billy needed cash. We made the deal the morning before he was killed.”
“Three thousand dollars?”
“Exactly right. How did you know, or did Billy tell you more than came out in the hearing today?”
“I knew that he had the money but I didn’t know how he got it. It isn’t important.”
“No Sean, I guess it’s not, not now. What is important is that the Senator’s presidential campaign has been derailed, and the unholy alliance behind it has been exposed.”
“And why is that was important to you?”
“I have my reasons.”
“Is one of them Sally O’Donnell?”
“I have my reasons.”
“You were with her in Reykjavík, weren’t you?”
“Sean, my boy, you will find that certain types of espionage operations are classified under the heading of sleeping with the enemy.”
As the 737 touched down at the Sea-Tac airport, Sean thought about all the things had gone on since he had last been there. All he had to show for the experience was a scar on his belly and a cheap suitcase. Billy’s death hurt Sean more than he thought it would. Although Billy was a jerk, he was Sean’s brother, albeit only for a couple of hours. Molly’s on-line breakup wasn’t completely unexpected, but it didn’t hurt any less than a face to face one would have done.
“My break-ups are always the same,” thought Sean, “Anger, confusion, feelings of failure, doubts about self-worth.” He was still troubled by his ordeal.
The one big difference between this time and the others was that Sean knew exactly why he felt so bad: he really deserved to be dumped. Although Molly had never discovered his tryst with Þora, Sean could empathize with Molly’s desire to distance herself from the ugliness of his political espionage. The Sean returning to Seattle was, as Molly had written, a different person than the one who had left two months before. He felt broken and unlovable.
When he walked out of the secure area, Sean saw Mrs. Robinson was waiting by the exit doors. Smiling, she walked up to him. He could see that she had tears in her eyes.
“Welcome back,” she said softly while embracing him timidly. Except for a handshake, they had never touched before. Now it was Sean’s turn to tear up—the emails they had exchanged while he was recovering in DC had deepened his relationship with her. Although he knew they had been growing closer, when he held her in his arms he knew that she felt the same way.
“Mrs. Robinson, I… I can’t thank you enough,” stammered Sean. She looked at him closely, with a different kind of smile than he had ever seen her display. As she continued holding him her embrace became more than friendly.
“Mrs. Robinson, I think you are trying to seduce me.”
“Why, yes I am.”
“What about Mr. Robinson?”
“Sean, there never has been a Mr. Robinson. He was a fiction I employed for professional purposes.”
In that moment, Sean felt his life-path taking an irrevocable turn. He had always been attracted her—right from their first meeting in the Pub a year ago. He had always known that she was the brains behind ADR. Her handling of the Billy case had been brilliant—she even managed to get the Senator to pay for Sean’s hospitalization! Her poise under pressure was astounding, and she was always a few steps ahead of everyone else on the team. Sean finally managed to gather his wits enough to be able to form a coherent sentence:
“Since the position of Mr. Robinson is open I’d like to apply for the job.”
“Let’s conduct an in-depth interview at my place,” she said, kissing him again, “Welcome home, your things are already there.”