Thursday, March 07, 2013

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 not surprised 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 between is gobbling of the spicy cuisine:

“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.”






Fiction

By Professor Batty