Rottweiler Soup: Only Darkness Has the Power
I found my way down the mini-maze of corridors at the hospital but got held up at the entrance to the crimson wing. I didn’t have the credentials to get in on my own, so I gave Frank’s name and he came to the desk to collect me. He’d been wearing his suit from the night before but now he had the top button of his shirt can i take viagra with high blood pressure open, his tie off and his sleeves rolled up. I’d obviously interrupted him in the middle of his work.
‘Joe. You’re okay? The head alright?’
‘Sure, sure. How about you?’
‘Not a bother. Just busy, as you can imagine. Shit hasn’t just hit the fan. It’s in the air con. Come on in.’
To reach Frank’s office we had to walk past the ante-rooms of Gehenna, wards and private rooms crammed with kids crying, women rocking themselves and moaning, nurses, some shouting, some prim and professional and applying vindictive calmatives. As we approached the office, I noticed one, very insistent voice getting louder. Frantic. Screeching. As we turned the last corner before Frank’s, the source became apparent: a tiny old woman. Very old. Very tiny. Teeny tiny. A grey toddler. Presumably, that was why she had been put in a crib and wrapped in what looked like swaddling. She knelt, her face scrunched up like an angered brown paper bag, and rattled the crib’s wooden bars as she harangued a male nurse attending her.
‘Give me back my teeth! Give me back my teeth!’
I’m not sure who was more embarrassed, me or Frank. It was bad PR. Looked like he he didn’t have things under control.
‘I want my teeth! You’re all cruel, you are. Cruel.’
Cruel? Frank? Surely not.
‘What’s the deal here?’ asked Frank, edging up to the nurse.
‘Nothing, guv. She’s just a bit loopy. Bit of the Alzheimer’s I’d say. Doesn’t know what’s going on.’
‘That makes two of us’, I interjected, failing to introduce a bit of levity to the situation.
‘Ninety-two I am. Ninety-two and they won’t let me have my teeth.’
Now I remember why I joined the CIA. Excitement. Intrigue. Glamour. Shouty old ladies.
‘She’s been like this all morning. She was pulled in at six after a raid in Phibsboro. Still in a state of shock, maybe. She’s attached to one of those EU monitoring agencies. Kraut, I reckon. Fecking meddlers.’
I could tell Frank had already lost interest but for the sake of form felt obliged to show me how he handled recalcitrant subjects. He leaned forward and calmly addressed himself to the crone with a benign smile pasted unnaturally across his face. The old woman was still rattling her bars.
‘Calm down, dear, calm down. We’ll soon have you sorted out. It’s only for a little while that you have to do without your teeth. It’s because you’re going to theatre.’
Well, of course, that just confused her more. Her face lit up.
‘The theatre? The theatre? Who’s on? Is it a good show?’
‘Should be,’ I thought, ‘With you in it.’
‘The operating theatre, love’, Frank explained considerately. ‘They’re going to make you better.’
Either she didn’t believe him or she didn’t care. She was off again.
‘I want my teeth! Give me my teeth, you stinking pig.’
And with that, she let fly the oldest, greenest lump of spittle I’ve ever seen. She was obviously inexperienced or out of practice, or perhaps age had reduced her accuracy, because the gob landed on the breast pocket of Frank’s shirt, on the cap of his biro, instead of in his face, which is where I imagine she was aiming it. The nurse and I took a deep breath and waited for Frank’s smile to crack, but he held firm, pulled a handkerchief from his trouser pocket—there was some blood on it, I noticed—and wiped the thick mucus off his shirt. It came off cleanly; Frank always wears easy-clean shirts because of all the bodily fluids he deals with on a daily basis. It’s said that even babes in arms spit in the street at the mention of his name.
Conscious that he was being watched and that all was suddenly quiet, Frank turned to the nurse and raised his voice so all could hear.
‘Give her back her teeth. I’ll see that she gets looked after.’
The nurse wisely chose not to demur.
‘And give her something to eat. Whatever she wants.’
Frank’s office in the hospital is much sparser than the one in the embassy. Few luxuries on offer but piped music through the speaker system: the Waco Brothers and Ludovico Einaudi were playing while I was there. One luxury he did have, though, was a drinks cabinet, from which he obligingly drew a Club Orange for me, simultaneously mocking my refusal of an alcoholic beverage. He took a Rémy for himself and sat down behind his desk in his black leather swivel chair.
‘What’s the latest on the bombing? Any clues as to who’s behind it?’
‘Fucking travellers’re behind it, Joe. The rebels. Who d’you think’s behind it? Jimmy Saville?’
I shrugged. No point contesting it. Because the knackers are behind everything, aren’t they? Bombings, theft, arson, embezzlement, tax evasion.
‘What evidence do you have? Have you managed to get a confession from anyone?’
‘Dozens. But we haven’t decided which ones we’re going to use yet.’
‘Well let me rephrase my question. Besides confessions, have you got any evidence as to who did it?’
‘I’m sure we have, Joe.’ He took a slurp of Rémy. ‘That’s not my job, mind. That’s forensics. I’m just handling the interrogation side of things.’
Indeed. Hence the confessions.
‘What about the choice of target? Any suggestion the bomb went top pharmacy school in canada off early?’
‘Couldn’t tell you, Joe. Train stations, though, a classic target. Atocha, Bologna, Mumbai. London Underground. Tokyo Underground. Jean Charles de Menezes.’
‘I’ll give you all of them except the last one.’
‘Thanks. They’re an easy target, for one thing. Lots of people milling round. And nobody of any consequence uses public transport, so low security. Plenty of escape routes.’
‘Not a suicide bomber, then?’
‘Haven’t ruled it out, but who wants to die in a train station?’
We don’t have that many suicide bombers in Ireland, thanks to Catholic guilt, although there was, of course, the Sylvia Plath Battalion, a crack unit of circus performers formed five years ago and dedicated to suicide missions against top-ranking military and government officials. On one occasion, several members were dispatched into the countryside to contract rabies and were then infiltrated into Dublin, where they attempted to bite the President himself and three of his aides at the parade celebrating the death of Gay Byrne, when everyone gets a day off work in lieu of pay. Fifty-three people were shot dead in the ensuing melée on that day, including the minister for education.
The president survived, even though he was bitten by several people. It turned out that none of them were rebels, just ordinary citizens taking advantage of the opportunity.
Frank finished off his Rémy.
‘Enough of this persiflage, Joe. We’re going to need to liaise closely over the next couple of weeks on intelligence, see if we can’t close this one up quick. We’re going to have Washington on our backs like randy mastiffs if we can’t find a credible explanation. Can you pull in your agents and see what the word is? I’m going to step up the interrogations, increase the number of roundups. We’ve got to get something.’
‘Sure.’ I got up to go.
‘Oh. I forgot to ask. How’d it go with Maggie last night? At it hammer and tongues, I bet.’
‘Yeah, right. I bet, too.’
‘Though given that we had to carry you to the cab, it wouldn’t surprise me if you don’t remember a thing.’
He could tell from my silence that he’d hit the nail on the head. His success pleased him no end.
‘I knew it. You couldn’t have raised an eyebrow last night, let alone anything else.’
He pulled open his drawer and tossed a bottle of pills over.
‘Have some Viagra. You need it.’
‘Ha fucking ha.’ I placed the bottle back on his desk. ‘Your need’s greater than mine, Frank.’
He shook his head. ‘They’re not for me, you dick. They’re currency. Some of my guys insist on being paid in them. The stress of the job. Takes its toll.’
‘Not that Maggie’s that kind of girl, as I’m sure you’ve realized by now.’
I nodded, inwardly dejected at the news.
‘Her idea of a good night out is midnight mass. You’d prelox vs viagra be much better off trying some extramural activities, if you get my drift.’ He picked up the bottle of pills and fiddled with it, thoughtfully. ‘Have you heard anything from Ellie recently?’
‘Not a thing. We don’t have much to do with each other since . . . well, since . . .’
‘Sure, of course . . . canadian pharmacy tampa bay I understand. I only meant that it’s better not to confuse business and pleasure. Know what I mean?’
‘And how did you get on with that . . . what was it . . . the Turkish human rights woman?’
‘Dilara? Oh, excellent, Joe. Excellent. I’ve always liked Stiff Little Fingers. Just never had them up my ass before.’
I was out at the front of the hospital and half way to the taxi rank before I realized that the little old lady in the crib had gone.