“Are you still in town?” he heard her say.
“What ever happened to ‘hello?’” he said into his phone while he sat in a café in downtown Albuquerque.
“I guess caller ID killed it. What do you want?”
“Jesus Christ,” he said. “Did you wake up on the wrong side of the coffin this morning?”
“Fuck you,” she said. “Like I said, what do you want.”
“There’s a guy from the FBI that wants to talk to us.”
“Did they find out about what you did to that alien?”
“Would you just stop for a second,” he said. “It’s about our girl. She’s in trouble.”
“And the FBI is involved?” she asked. There was a pause in their banter. “Fuck.”
“There’s an agent that wants to talk to us.”
“Why us?” she asked. “What us?”
“C’mon,” he said.
“Look, I’m having staff and legal check this out,” he said. “We’re probably all going to prison. But hey, that might not be so bad.”
“What are you talking about.”
“Look,” he said. “I’m giving you this as I get it. Give me some time to figure out how we do this meeting without committing a crime. Ok?”
“This just fucking pisses me off,” she said. “You’re such a drama queen.”
“I think this is serious,” he said. “C’mon. Work with me.”
They sat there on their phones for a second looking at their cards. Then they looked over the top of their cards. Then they both folded.
“Ok,” she said. “Call me when you know something.”
“Thank you,” he said. “As always, it’s good to hear your voice.”
She hung up. He looked at his phone. It lit up with another call.
One of his staff reported that the agent was legitimate and they would be violating no laws by meeting with him. The information was all in the interest of law enforcement and trying to limit the impact of terrorism. He wasn’t listening all that closely.
“So, if we meet with this guy we’re not going to prison?” he asked.
“I didn’t’ say that,” the voice said. “And I can’t promise it won’t get legs in the media.”
“The media?” he said. “I don’t give a fuck about the media. I just worry about dropping the soap in the shower. Just move on. I’ve got enough. You understand?”
The aid laughed and said nothing and hung up.
“Fuck,” he said to himself. A waitress passed by. “Do you have any booze here?”
“What would you like?”
The Dennis Chavez Federal Building in Albuquerque was part of the built environment he grew up with. The brown façade with unevenly punched out windows was as familiar to him as the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument. He couldn’t remember whether he’d ever been in the building as he waited outside for her.
When she arrived, she looked as good as she always did. She was wearing a leather purse with tassels and beads, sunglasses and a purple headband. Purple was her color. She was wearing her hair in braids.
“How!” he said when he saw her raising his right hand. “When’s the construction worker and cowboy get here?”
“I have a gun in this purse,” she said. “And I’ll fucking use it.”
“But the photographers,” he said pointing around to what he was sure a squad of them looking for their latest fight.
“You’re drunk,” she said.
“And you’re hot,” he said. “How about a kiss.”
She embraced him and looked at his face, putting her hand on his cheek.
“You’re looking older all the time,” she said.
He started singing a song.
“Gracias mi pecosita, tu me robó mi corazón, Tu quiero y tu es toda mi ilusión, Cuando tu veo quisiera besarle sus labios, Tan rojos, tan rojos como el sol”
They had a long kiss.
“Very sweet,” she said. “But I prefer Antonia Apodaca’s version. Let’s go do this, can we?”
“Yes,” he said. “And I hope you’re fucking around about the gun. We have to pass the detectors.”
“I hate you,” she said. “Of course, I left it at home.” She turned and walked toward the entrance. He watched her walk, staring at her ass.
“Poetry in motion,” he sighed and followed her in.
“You are her parents,” the agent said. He was a thin bald man wearing a suit. He spread pictures of their daughter across the table. “This is something of a courtesy because you’re an elected official.”
“So can you just sum it all up for us,” he said.
“I’m not comfortable with this,” she said. “We’re selling her out to this fascist.”
“I don’t think that means what you think it means.”
“Fuck off,” she said. “This is blackmail. It’s simple.”
“No,” the man said. “It’s not. If I may, I’d like to lay out our position.”
“Go ahead,” he said. “You’ll have to excuse Sacajawea here.”
“Oh my God,” she said. “I’m finally going to kill you! Right here in front of an FBI agent.”
“Please,” the man said. “We’re aware of the tension in your relationship. I’d like to lay our position.”
“Fine,” she said. “I’ll take care of this – him – later.”
“Your daughter is moving across the country with one of our informants. He’s not that bright. In fact, he’s an idiot. She’s becoming aware of this because she is very intelligent. She’s going to discover he’s compromised. When she does, we believe she’ll eliminate him.”
“She’s going to kill him?” her mother asked.
“We think she will.”
There was some silence.
“Where are they now?” he asked.
“They are moving across the Midwest. The reason we’ve brought you in is that first, you are high profile. The forces we’re dealing with would be happy to use her as a trophy.”
“What the fuck does that mean?” she said.
“Headlines,” the man said. “It’s that simple. Headlines.”
“What do you want us to do?” he asked.
“You need to call her, contact her, and ask her to come home. Make up a pretext. We’ll take care of the informant. But we’re doing this for you.”
“What the fuck,” she said. “You’re doing this as a favor?”
“Just stop with your stupid shit,” he said. “They’re trying to help us, and her.”
“They’re trying to put her away.”
“Why not just arrest her now?” he asked.
“You fucker,” she said. “Are you fucking serious? You’re trying to get her arrested?”
“There is a real chance she’ll eliminate him,” the man said. “There is a real chance she’ll kill him. He was supposed to turn her into an asset. He’s failed. He’s an idiot. He’s about to be discovered. If we move in now, it will save her life.”
“Really,” she said. “Save her life. Because you’re going to kill her.”
“Do it,” he said. “Just kick in the door and take them in. We’ll sort it out later.”
“Goddamn it!” she said. “You’re even more of a fucking asshole than I ever thought. Is this payback for what she did, for getting pregnant? Why are you just going along with this?”
“Fuck you!” he shouted. “They have just told us she’s in danger. Get over yourself!”
“Excuse me,” the man said. “We realize this is an emotional situation. But this is a high-risk situation for the country. If there is blackmail it will be committed by them, not us. We’re asking for your help not for your benefit but for the benefit of the country.”
Things got quiet.
“Would you do us a favor and leave us alone for a few minutes?” he asked.
“Of course,” the man said standing up, “Take your time.”
He left them alone in the dark little room.
Silence filled the room. They looked at other they did at these moments, as commanders of opposing armies, bent on destruction.
“Is that blonde they took your picture with your new girlfriend,” she asked.
He put his face in his hands.
“Oh mom,” he said. “You never change. Are you still giving Greek lessons to frat boys?”
At that her eyes widened, she folded her arms, and smirked at him.
“I’m going to let that slide,” she said.
“That’s exactly what you did,” he said. “Let it slide.”
“You’re disgusting,” she said leaning toward him. She stood up and walked toward him.
Rarely did they ever bring up infidelities real or perceived; it would somehow signal they cared.
“Our girl is going to get hurt,” she said. “I think you’re taking revenge on her right now. I think they’re using what they know about you, your jealousy, and your political plans to put her away and blackmail you. And you’re just going along with it.”
“You’re not an idiot,” he said. “Revenge? How in the fuck is this revenge?”
“You want something bad to happen to her?”
“That’s why I’m saying just take her in,” he said. “For Christ’s sake they’re helping us here.”
“You know her,” she said.
“Yes, and you know me,” he said. “Would I just walk in here without checking this out? You think I’m that gullible and stupid?”
She looked at him and sat back down.
“Well, I’m not,” he said. “They know that I checked this out. Yes, they know everything about us. But there’s no upside for me. What the fuck is wrong with you? I can’t believe how many times I’ve asked that question of both you and her.”
“She’ll never forgive you if she finds out.”
“Or you,” he said. “You’re sitting right here with me.”
“So maybe the revenge is on me,” she said.
“Thou hast undone thyself, thy son and me;
And given unto the house of York such head
As thou shalt reign but by their sufferance . . .
And yet shalt thou be safe? Such safety finds
The trembling lamb environed with wolves”
“That’s just bullshit,” he said. “Complete bullshit. They have no control over me. This isn’t about revenge. It’s not about blackmail. I don’t care about how this effects my career or yours. I believe what they’re saying. She’s in trouble. We’ll work on getting her out once she’s safe.”
He stood up.
“And Henry VI,” he said. “You know that’s my prayer,” he said.
“The Henry VI prayer,” she said. “Yes. ‘Lord Jesus Christ, thou hast created me, redeemed me, and brought me hither to that which I am.’”
“Thou knowest what to do with me, do with me according to thy will, with mercy,” he finished.
“Amen,” she said.
“That’s what I’m doing.”
“Do you blame me?” she asked.
“What,” he said. “That’s she’s a criminal?” He laughed.
“Fuck you,” she said. “C’mon, tell me.”
“Blame you?” he said. “She’s a strong motherfucker because of you. I’m proud of her. I’m proud of you. Fuck, they should put all of us in jail. If it wasn’t for the kid, I’d ask for that. As long as we have separate cells.”
“You’re getting hysterical, Pyramus.”
“Did you fuckers here that?” he said to the ceiling. “Yeah, you heard it. I’m proud of my daughter. She’s fucking American hero.”
“But what about law and order,” she said leaning forward in her chair.
“This isn’t a campaign strategy session,” he said. “I’m going to call her tomorrow. Just to ask how things are going. I’m going to tell her we would like her to come home. The boy, you know.”
They looked at each other.
“Alright,” she said. “I hope we’re not too late. And I hope this isn’t the wrong thing to do.”