Angel Steps and Other Stories
Tim watched his old friend talk. Getting this filled in. Cool, huh? Malcolm shook the bunch of keys in his hand and took a couple of seconds to look Tim up and down. I like it.
Guardian Angels and Other Monsters by Daniel H. Wilson
My boss is based in Switzerland and I work in an office on my own. Posters mainly. Music posters, you know the ones you see around for club nights, DJs, festivals and all that. Oh mate, I fucked that off a long time ago. Yeah, dropped out during the second year. Perhaps it was that piece of metal bolted through his septum. Tim nodded, understanding. His old school friend was a drop-out, a drug dealer, and had an English accent. Like an introductory offer? Tim never heard from Marie or Malcolm again and it was with a nervous energy that he tried to contact both on more than a few occasions.
He also continued to try and strike up conversations with colleagues in the cafeteria at work, not once being rewarded with more than polite smiles or one word answers.
The following morning, Tim woke early. Opening his eyes he saw the sun pushing through his thin curtains, filling his room with light, and this made him think that perhaps today could be a good day. Struck with the urge to feel the warmth of the spring sunshine on his skin, Tim showered and dressed quickly. He stared at his empty fridge briefly before deciding to find breakfast in a nearby cafe.
Nestled in the far corner of the busy triangle squashed between Essex Road and Upper Street, Tim liked saying his new home was in Angel. It sounded like a gentle and special place. Of course, the reality was a bit different.
The Wingpact Team
Emerging onto Essex Road, Tim found that being a Sunday morning, most places were closed. As they did Tim felt a little bit jealous. He eventually found a chain coffee shop open near Angel station. Tim considered the ways in which he could start a conversation with her. He was still looking at her when she sneezed. Without raising her gaze from the paper she wiped her nose with one of the sleeves of the thick wool jumper. And I knew not why, but I laughed, and the sharp needles pierced my heart, and right into my ear some one unseen laughed:.
Opening my eyes I looked at the lighted windows of the lofty house, and they quietly said to me in their blue and red language:. At this very moment whilst thou art wandering, waiting, and suffering, she, all bright, lovely, and treacherous, is there, listening to the whispers of that tall, handsome man, who despises thee. If thou wert to break in there and kill her, thou wouldst be doing a good deed, for thou wouldst slay a lie. But the windows gazed at me mournfully, and added sadly: "Thou wilt never kill her. The silent shadows of my fellow-watchers had disappeared long ago, and I was left alone in the cold void, I—and the lonely tongues of fire shivering with cold and despair.
The clock in the neighbouring church-tower began to strike, and its dismal metallic sound trembled and wept, flying away into the void, and being lost in the maze of silently whirling snowflakes. I began to count the strokes, and went into a fit of laughter. The clock struck 15! The belfry was old, and so, too, was the clock, and although it indicated the right time, it struck spasmodically, sometimes so often that the grey, ancient bell-ringer had to clamber up and stop the convulsive strokes of the hammer with his hand.
For whom did those senilely tremulous, melancholy sounds, which were embraced and throttled by the frosty darkness, tell a lie? So pitiable and inept was that useless lie. With the last lying sounds of the clock the glazed door slammed, and a tall man made his way down the steps. I saw only his back, but I recognized it as I had seen it only last evening, proud and contemptuous. I recognized his walk, and it was lighter and more confident than in the evening:. He walked, as those do, whom the lying lips of a woman have just kissed.
But with a face cold as snow, while from beneath her brows, lifted in surprise, her dark, inscrutable eyes shone passionless and mysterious as ever, she assured me:. She knew that I could not prove her lie, and that all my heavy massive structure of torturing thought would crumble at one word from her, even one lying word. I waited for it—and it came forth from her lips, sparkling on the surface with the colours of truth, but dark in its innermost depths:.
We were far from the town, and the snowclad plain looked in at the dark windows. Upon it was darkness, and around it was darkness, gross, motionless, silent, but the plain shone with its own latent coruscation, like the face of a corpse in the dark. In the over-heated room only one candle was burning, and on its reddening flame there appeared the white reflection of the deathlike plain. Maybe I shall die when I know it, but death rather than ignorance of the truth.
In your kisses and embraces I feel a lie. In your eyes I see it. Tell me the truth and I will leave you forever," said I. But she was silent. Her coldly searching look penetrated my inmost depths, and drawing out my soul, regarded it with strange curiosity. But the truth is not to be extracted by threat. And as I looked at her pure forehead, I thought that truth must be there behind that slender barrier. And I madly wished to smash the skull to get at the truth. There, too, behind a white bosom beat a heart, and I madly wished to tear her bosom with my nails, to see but for once an unveiled human heart.
And the pointed, motionless flames of the expiring candle burnt yellow —and the walls grew dark and seemed farther apart—and it felt so sad, so lonely, so eery. I could not see her face, nor her eyes, for her arms embraced my head—and I no longer felt the lie. Closing my eyes, I neither thought nor lived, but only absorbed the touch of her hands, and it seemed to me true.
The Little Angel and Other Stories/The Lie
And in the darkness she whispered in a strangely fearsome voice:. And oh! Take care of me; oh! I'm so frightened! I opened my eyes. The paling darkness of the room fled in fear from the lofty windows, and gathering near the walls hid itself in the corners. But through the windows there silently looked in a something huge, deadly-white. It seemed as though some one's dead eyes were searching for us, and enveloping us in their icy gaze. Presently we pressed close together, while she whispered:. I killed her.
I killed her, and when she lay a flat, lifeless heap by the window, beyond which shone the dead-white plain, I put my foot on her corpse, and burst into a fit of laughter. I laughed because my bosom heaved lightly and evenly, and within it all was cheerful, peaceful, and void, and because from my heart had fallen the worm which had been gnawing it. The handler returns to the door, clasps his left wrist with his right hand, and keeps watch.
Mother discreetly excuses herself to the Ladies'.
I'll fill her in later, if necessary. He's wearing Pasha de Cartier. I can tell because my son Jim bought me a bottle of that hairspray-smelling stuff for Christmas. I spritzed myself once, just to make Jimmy happy, and got an instant headache. The bottle's still in its box, in the bottom drawer of my dresser, and Mother's told the boys never to buy me anything but Old Spice. Sure, fancy Starbucks swill with whip cream that you're afraid to spill on your expensive shirt.
Anybody can see you're the kind who never spends more than twenty seconds outside, even in May, because a suit like that will kill you in Arizona, and that pretty shirt will be soaked in no time. They might think about it, but then they'll break for coffee and cigarettes and move on to ouzo and mama's casserole and forget the whole thing. You're probably on the wrong track. Makes frequent trips to Turkey, borrowed the Koran from a local library, wrote a letter to Obama about torture in Guantanamo.
Watches Islamic sermons on YouTube. Signs animal-protection petitions. Applied to the Foreign Service three weeks ago. Currently teaches Greek at a local church. You're going to enroll in one of her classes. You'll say you're planning on buying a summer house in Greece. A Syrian national, also suspect, may be in the class. Keep an eye on him. And a warning. Eleni Lekkou — the subject — is slippery. Rarely leaves her house. You're going in as yourself: a bored grandpa who wants to brush up on his Greek. He slides a file across the table. So go ahead and tell her you were an officer.
Sometimes the truth is more distracting than a lie. I shake my head. No broad is too smart for Gus Frangoulis. I skip the first four classes. I don't come back early from summer vacation in Lake Winnipesaukee for anyone, not even Uncle Sam. Instead, from our balcony lined with marigolds in aluminum-foil-covered pots, with its view of the lake and forested tree line below, I write Lekkou a letter with a detailed autobiography and ask for a reply. But a few weeks later those damn birds are laughing at me as they peck away at their seeds because I haven't gotten zip from Lekkou.
So I go to the public library ten minutes from our place, chat up the librarian so thoroughly she's ready to jump in bed with me, and ask her to show me how to use email. She blushes and obliges. I send Lekkou a message asking for the class roster because I'm "bad with names. One item, at least, is accomplished: the Syrian has registered. At pm on the first Wednesday after our return to Tucson, I ready my briefcase and kiss Mother goodbye. By , I'm at the church, but the doors are locked, and there's nobody in sight. I sit down on a stone bench, beneath a newly planted olive tree.
Twenty-five minutes later a slim brunette climbs the steps. A fellow student? There was a photo of Lekkou in the file, but it was an ugly, artistic black-and-white. It led me to believe that my subject would be like most Greek girls: fat and mustachioed. I can't believe my luck. If you're going to spend a lot of time with a woman before you put her behind bars, she might as well be a looker.
Half an hour into the class Lekkou says in Greek, "Mr. Kostas" — that's Gus in Greek — "you can't stay here. You have to go to Level Two. You already speak better than my Level Two students. I don't want to arouse suspicion. Besides, deference always wins women over. The problem is that I've got to figure out a new way to keep tabs on the Syrian.
I stay for Level Two, which starts right after One finishes. The next week I come back with an excuse: Mother and I always go out for an early-bird special on Wednesdays, so it's easier for me to come straight to school after dinner. For observation purposes, I pace the halls during Level One. You've got to keep moving at my age. I look frequently through the classroom window at Hassan Sadi, the Syrian PhD candidate, who has a suspiciously unkempt beard.
From chitchatting with the Level One students before class, I gather that Lekkou often asks him Arabic words from a book she's reading about a Turkish imam. What kind of Greek is she? I report that the book and class assignments could be a means of passing messages. Meanwhile, I bring plenty of pocket litter to show I'm a cultured man of the world and, moreover, one who respects Islam.
I give Lekkou a few Muslim Voice newspapers; the movie roster from a cinema that regularly shows foreign films, including one about a young Palestinian terrorist, which I highly recommend; an invitation to the celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday with some fancy blue and green calligraphy that reads, To Mohammed I'm devoted ; a Los Angeles Times review of a Leftie play running in Phoenix; and menus from Middle Eastern restaurants where we have surveillance teams working regularly.
Every time I give her something she says, "Thank you, Mr. Kostas," as if I were a six-year-old who made crayon drawings of hardly recognizable figures with bulging eyes. Worse yet, she never bites. She doesn't go to the Prophet Mohammed's birthday party, never comments on any of the newspapers, and never goes to the movies. Hell, she even says she cooks at home, which is evidence in itself that she's not a patriot. Once the subject is used to receiving valueless offerings, we advance to little gifts containing wiretaps and tracking devices.
Since the steps of the church building are steep and poorly lit, I give Lekkou a bugged mini-flashlight, but it never goes anywhere and doesn't produce even one conversation. Next I give her a bugged Arizona Cardinals backpack. The backpack, too, sits idle for a few weeks, and then, around Thanksgiving, it starts making twice-weekly trips on a bike path.
- The Fortunate Soldier.
- Kellys Whisper?
- My Breakup So Far - The story of how I felt after my girlfriend ended it.?
- Accessibility links.
- Frances M. Thompson.
- Womens Erotica: My Affair With An American Eccentric.
Finally we've got something. We send two joggers, but they say she isn't meeting anyone out there. She turned the Cardinals pack into a grooming bag for her Alaskan malamute. I pull my record book from the shelf, wheel my chair over the polycarbonate office mat, and inch up to my desk, where I note in my tiny, curly handwriting: "may have jihadist potential, but definitely no training. In December, I notice that Lekkou brightens like an Orthodox church at midnight Easter mass whenever I tell a good story, especially if it has to do with history or espionage, so I start telling her all sorts of things, both true and total bullshit.
I talk about getting drunk on Paske Bryg in a Copenhagen sauna, being run up a tree by a toothless tiger in Japan, learning flamenco in Portugal, narrowly escaping arrest in East Berlin, going after an Armenian weapons dealer called the Merchant of Death, and purposely missing every submarine — minus the first — that I was supposed to bomb during World War II. So I missed every time. She isn't half as smart as the suits said. Does she really think we pilots had a chance to look at body parts after dropping our stuff?
And does she really think that even a doped hippy pacifist could have had qualms about bombing a Nazi submarine, with zero chance of civilian casualties or architectural damage, in the open Atlantic? Jesus Christ.