by Michael E. Lloyd
Chapter 25: As You Were!
part 2 of 2
‘Now to the more challenging of the demobilisations.
‘As I have already said, I believe we should indeed allow you, Lucia, to visit the fully-disengaged Salvatore and ensure that all is well with him. And the germ of an idea for his fuller reward is now building in my mind, as you will all of course be observing. If it develops, and later finds favour with you, I feel it could be a most suitable and positive intervention on our part ...’
‘From what I see of your present thinking,’ interrupted the Captain, ‘I suspect it might qualify as a major and perhaps invasive intervention. However, the motivation is immaculate, and the potential for good is immense. I shall ponder it further ...’
‘Thank you, ma’am. Next, our rock of strength Mr Raymond Graves is, as I also suggested earlier, unlikely to suffer any personal withdrawal crises. We shall need to reimburse him handsomely for his efforts and costs and domestic inconveniences, of course, but we still have a ready source of funds for such purposes. And I am minded to offer him another special gift ...’
‘I also wish to consider that idea very carefully, Number Two.’
‘Ma’am. But as for what Raymond should or should not remember ...
‘We thoroughly tidied the books after his huge original contribution in Europe, of course, while we still remained fully unrevealed. The man has long forgotten his Doman encounters over there, and the pretext of Mireille’s abduction with which we hooked him at the start, and his surreptitious, empowered collection of so many true and surprising opinions across that continent. But of course he will always recall every other aspect of that very real, high-level fact-gathering tour itself, and the controversial report which he subsequently wrote.
‘But by stark contrast, none of Raymond’s recent work for us in the USA will need to be removed from his memory. Now that his associations with both the Brighter Vale affair and the trade negotiations are finally “in the open” to various degrees, he will need to permanently recollect all the associated details. And following the declaration of our own presence to a select few, many of whom are still in denial, we are no longer preoccupied with the wholesale covering-up of our own activities here ...
‘Kristy Toresito has her own solid new story, and I shall ensure it ties up fully with Raymond’s. So they will be able to treasure the memory of their various times together, or otherwise, as they wish.
‘Steven Shenner and the three financiers never showed any sign of recognising the ex-Consul in their various meetings. Always too busy making money to watch the bigger world stage, I expect! And even if they have now picked up on the news of his appearance in the House last week, I am certain they will not be making any future waves, and their immunity from legal pursuit has apparently been assured. So Raymond can safely be allowed to remember them.
‘And he has consistently played a very straight bat with Veight and Pruston, and with Kuhler, Smith, and DF, and more recently too with Zilfleger, Blasdale, and Carough. To those and others largely in the know, he is still the all-American hero. He should always be able to enjoy the rewards of that glory.
‘The least problematical is Salvatore Pirone. Apart from the Venetian’s reluctant presence in a couple of very private team meetings in San Francisco, nothing connects him directly with the diplomat. We allowed Pirone to forget Graves, and we should do likewise now.
‘But the real challenge, I suggest, is much closer to home. How should we manage Raymond’s memories of Toni and Maelene?
‘On the one hand, I surely cannot force him to forget about them completely — that would be a gross undoing of a firm set of loyal friendships, and it could pose huge personal risks to Raymond himself, if evidence of their acquaintance were ever presented after he had denied knowing them. We always did our best to keep them apart from him in public, of course, but there is still evidence aplenty if people were to go looking for it, especially after what happened at Midway Airport ...
‘On the other hand, allowing him full recall of all they have done for the Doman cause would surely expose them badly in any future investigation, despite the assurances and promises which I have hopefully secured from the various security authorities ...
‘So, I feel the need for your guidance here, my friends.’
The Captain had no hesitation in supplying it.
‘Your concern for the welfare of all four of our loyal servants is exemplary, Number Two. And here is my opinion. Raymond is, as you have said, still the hero of the hour, and probably of the decade. And let us remember Kristy’s words outside the Capitol Building, as the pair of them broke cover again last Monday: “Here’s where we really do take them on trust.” They both had faith, and so must we. If there are ever any follow-on investigations, apparently implicating Maelene and Toni, we must simply believe that the near-impeccable Raymond will be able to convince the U.S. authorities that his colleagues were working willy-nilly for our cause, and are truly innocent of any crime.’
‘So ... In Good We Trust, ma’am?’
‘Precisely, my friend.’
‘Thank you. That is just the guidance I needed, and I shall ensure that Raymond remembers his partners with the affection and respect which I know he affords them.
‘Now, as for Toni and Maelene themselves — well, I believe that Carla and I should break the news to them quite cleanly and simply. We should then watch their reactions carefully, and assist them in whatever ways we can, without undue pressure of time or influence, onto whichever course they then decide to take. And as far as their final recompenses are concerned ... well, we have all privately shared our ideas on this subject several times already, and I believe the specific details of our rewards will need to be moulded, at the time, by their own decisions on their futures. We shall then need to think carefully about what they should, and should not, eventually remember about their lives during the time spent in our service.
‘Finally, we shall need to terminate our account with Don Giuseppe at an appropriate time, and in several different ways. Some of those “ways” are already clearly defined and agreed by us all. Others, I feel, will again take fuller shape as the individual re-entry plans of our trusty young assistants develop further in the days to come.’
‘Thank you, Number Two. Now, I have been thinking about your idea for Salvatore’s reward, and I have to admit I find it compelling and morally acceptable. Permission to proceed.’
‘And I believe you still have a few thoughts to share about what happened in Florida ...’
‘Yes. Firstly, that television programme on the risk of a tsunami was utterly compelling. The more I learn about the natural problems facing the Earth, the more I see another Dome in the making. I hope with all my heart that they will somehow be spared our own predicament ...’
‘Be spared by whom?’ the Chief wondered incisively.
‘A fine thrusting stroke, my friend, and very careless language on my part. I fully concede!
‘Now, Maelene’s reservations about ourselves were briefly discussed but scarcely dispelled. But I suspect with great sadness that we can do little more to convince her of our good intentions.’
‘Perhaps we have already set our good intentions fully out to view, and all that stays concealed is less than good?’
‘Ma’am, I have rarely recognised the philosopher in you, but I am delighted to have found her now, and I fear your suspicions may be justified.
‘And finally ... the relationship between Maelene and Toni continues to be disappointingly fragile. But that lady is not the only creature to have been mightily impressed with her man’s heroism this afternoon. I have a distinct feeling — and I must admit to a strong hope too — that it might swing the balance more in favour of “on” than “off” ...’
‘Thank you, my friend. I am certain we all share that hope. So, you know exactly what you must now do. And I hope Raymond Graves is not already fast asleep ...’
To be continued ...
Copyright © 2008 by Michael E. Lloyd