PYRAMID POWER – snippet 52:
When Hel freezes over
The senior CIA official looked at the list and frowned. “Remember, Miggy, I never said this to you. But, these men… three of them were ours. They were… well, we were trying to get rid of them. They should never have made it through training. We had a bad patch a few years back.”
He made a face. “The truth is the agency was furious when the PSA was formed. We were asked to second some staff.” He pointed to the list. “Guess who.”
Tremelo nodded. “Was Megane one of yours?”
“Sad to say, he was. There’s a story—I’ve never tried to confirm it, but I know the agents involved swear it was true—that when he was stationed in Venezuela he got the bright idea of publicly embarrassing the Venezuelan government. We haven’t had good relations with them in a long time, as you know. So, the screwball put sugar in the gas tanks of several official limousines which were to be used in an official motorcade the following day.”
Miggy winced. “Oh, Lord. He got caught, I assume?”
“No. But when the motorcade got stalled in Caracas, the Venezuelan government was not amused. Neither was the special U.S. envoy who was making a semi-secret visit to see if we could iron out at least some of the controversies. Not only was he stalled in one of the vehicles himself, but the Venezuelans immediately accused us—the CIA, I mean—of being responsible for the affair, and broke off the talks as a result.”
The official sighed. “Of course, we denied it vigorously. Even after we found out it was true. That was Megane’s last overseas assignment. We were in the process of figuring out how to quietly ease him out of the company, when the PSA got set up and Garnett demanded that we provide her with some agents.”
He leaned back in his chair and gave Tremolo a considering look. “You’d better know one thing, though, Miggy. Whatever else he is, Megane’s not a stoolie. Even if you nail him for something, I doubt you’ll be able to follow it up any further. He’s the kind of person who can get the goofiest notions of what constitutes his duty, sure enough—but he also takes it dead seriously. I guess you could call it part of the syndrome. He’ll clam up and take the rap himself, even if it means a long prison sentence.”
“I can live with that. In a perfect world, I’d be able to get rid of Garnett and the PSA altogether. But I’m sure the best I can hope for is a much muddier conclusion. Garnett aside, there are a lot of powerful people and special interests who are backing the PSA for their own reasons.”
He shrugged. “So it goes. I don’t really care all that much if the PSA would simply restrict itself to gathering intelligence about the Krim pyramid, even though they’ll make a royal nuisance of themselves when they try to insist on their authority to ‘co-ordinate’ all intelligence activities. It’s when the stupid bastards try to create intelligence that they became a real threat to the nation. Intelligence, yes, so-called ‘operations,’ no. We simply don’t know enough to be trying to conduct operational efforts. None of us—me included—much less people who are so inattentive to the intelligence they’re supposed to be ‘co-ordinating’ that they send some poor schmucks into the pyramid with fancy technical equipment that won’t work.”
“Good luck,” said his friend.
Common sense would have had PSA headquarters somewhere in Chicago. Political sense had the office exactly where it should be, in Washington. The meeting that was going on there right now, was anything but cordial. Agents Reno,
Schmitt, Erskine were considerably the worse for wear, still, from the prequel to their visit to the cells at Fort Campbell. Agent Supervisor Megane and his two men were less battered, perhaps because the Greek hoplite outfits had protected them to some extent.
But the only protection that would really have worked against the fury of Ms. Garnett would have been to be like Agents Sternal, Bormann, or Liber—dead.
“This has turned into a complete fiasco,” she said coldly, grinding her words out between gritted teeth.
They all stood looking at her, like a bunch of dumb oxen. “Get out,” she said. “I’ll deal with you later.”
After the agents had filed out, Garnett swiveled in the chair behind her desk and looked at Assistant Director of Operations James Horton. She was actually more furious with him than any of his subordinates, and was deeply tempted to order him out of the room also. But, at least for the moment, she still needed him.
She had one satisfaction, though. “You’re coming with me, Jim. No way I’m sitting through that so-called cocktail party this evening on my own.”
Horton looked alarmed. That made her feel a little better.
After the drinks were served, and the waiter withdrew from the private room in the very exclusive club in the nation’s capital, Garnett looked around the table. The expressions on the faces of the four men and one woman who’d joined her and Horton for cocktails were subdued, of course. They were all long-time veterans of the Beltway, and, like experienced poker players, knew better than to wear their sentiments on their sleeves. Still, only someone a lot more obtuse than Helen could have failed to detect the anger, irritation—and apprehension. The room seemed practically saturated with those emotions, especially the latter.
Nothing for it, as much as Garnett hated doing so. She had to start with an apology. These people were beyond her control, if not her influence, and she had to stay on their good side.
“Sorry about this, everyone. But we’ll get it straightened out soon enough.”
The Secretary of Defense exchanged a glance with one of the two senators at the table, Senator Andrews from Texas. Then, Secretary Antonelli said: “How soon is ‘soon enough,’ Helen? I warn you, you don’t have much time. Tremolo’s already arrived—and don’t ever let that tweedy academic image he loves to cultivate fool you any. When it comes to Beltway knife-fighting, he’s as tough as anyone.”
“Tougher, you ask me,” chimed in Senator Andrews.
Roger Delacorte, the lobbyist from the defense industry, made a face. “Yeah, he’s a real shithead.”
The Texas senator gave him a hard glance. “Cut it out, Roger. I like Miggy Tremelo personally.”
His fellow senator from California chimed in. “So do I. And whether you do or don’t, Mr. Delacorte, I’d advise you to remember that most Congressmen who’ve dealt with the man like him also—and so does the public. Unfortunately, while I enjoy it in private, Miggy’s got a good sense of humor—which means the talk shows love having him as a guest. “ Senator Martinez took a sip from her cocktail glass. “The problem isn’t Miggy’s personality, it’s his policy. And since he won’t budge on it—and, for the moment, has the confidence of the President—we have to do an end run around him.”
She used the glass to gesture at Garnett. “Hence, APSA and the PSA. But let’s not lose the forest for the trees. If we could have persuaded Tremolo, I’d have had no problem at all leaving him in charge. God knows, at least he’s competent.”
Helen did her best not to stiffen angrily at the sideswipe. There was no love lost between Paula Martinez and her, and never had been—not since they’d first encountered each other years back in the course of a clash over environmental policy, when Helen had been on the staff of one of the senator’s opponents. But she simply couldn’t afford to lose Martinez’s backing. The big money on their side of the dispute came from the defense industry, and no senator in the country had more clout there than the senior senator from California.
Roger Delacorte held up his hands in a placating gesture. “Fine, fine, fine. Professor Tremolo’s the greatest guy in the world. He’s still got his head up his ass when it comes to dealing with the alien pyramid—and let’s also not forget that that’s the name of the forest in the first place.”