Lafcadio - Part 6

Part 6: Underface

(Continued from Part 5: Masks)

Some might say Operation Lafcadio was like a ballet, each part danced with finesse. But we’re Marines; we don’t dance any fucking ballets. Personally, I prefer to think of Lafcadio as a suspense thriller, but then, I’m a writer, so of course I would. Actually, it’s more like a symphony, with each section of the orchestra—that's the four of us—playing its own part of the score. As the writer in the group, my job was as composer. I’d rather have a scriptwriter credit, but that would be mixing my metaphor.  
My challenge was to move us toward our finale along unexpected, and hopefully unconnected, routes. The ultimate measure of our success would not be taking down Knight and his bastion of jackbooted mercenaries, though that’s the objective, but to do so without landing ourselves in prison. Thus, my score is a series of interlocking movements. If I‘m successful for once in my writing career, they will all come together in a crashing crescendo.
Ed Patterson, as I’ve mentioned, is our conductor, making sure we are on point and in tune with the others. In keeping with maintaining our seemingly unconnected roles in this operation, we have had no direct contact with each other. Not since we said goodbye at Logan nine years ago, other than a few meetings in out-of-the-way places. Individually, we’ve each visited Kathleen Flanagan from time to time (who is doing fine these days, I’m happy to report, and is planning to marry in a few months), but never together after the first time following Jimmy’s death.  
All our communication goes through Patterson, who is, after all, a telecom expert.  Shortly after he left the Marines, he joined Galaxy Communications, part of the giant family tree descended from Ma Bell.
Early on, “invitations” to meetings came in bizarre costume. The first was a letter offering me a free weekend at a resort in the Virgin Islands if I would attend a sales presentation for a time share in St. Croix. Since I knew the Lafcadio calls to meet would come in disguise, I accepted the offer and went to the resort. Along with a change of clothes, bathing suit, dopp kit, and camera, my carry-on held a small laptop and three thumb drives of tourist information about the Virgin Islands. I’d also loaded my encrypted action plan to date onto the drives. As I boarded the plane, I hoped I wasn’t spending my hard-earned (though hardly-earned would be more accurate) cash to sit through a boring sales pitch.
Two meetings followed during the next few years, one at a Habitat for Humanity house build in East Overshoe, Mississippi, and one at an electronics trade show in Chicago. Each time, I brought the next movement in the Lafcadio piece to the others. The last was close to home for me and Patterson, here in New York. There were just a few loose ends to tie up. The plan was coming together.
Patterson continued to avail himself of some of the advantages of working at Galaxy. Let’s just say, the NSA had nothing on him when it came to access to inside information.  Adam Knight couldn’t sneeze without Ed Patterson saying “Gesundheit.” It became obvious that Alcázar’s involvement in criminal activity didn’t end with Afghanistan. That would help us immensely.
While Patterson kept his ear on things telephonically, so to speak, Carlos Morales was putting his not insignificant computer skills to work picking the lock on the back door into Alcázar’s network. Sitting at his desk in a quiet, all-but-hidden corner of the main branch of the New York Public Library, he was wandering the digital hallways of Knight’s fortress, poking his head into any room he chose. The first thing he did once inside was build himself what he called a secret trapdoor so he’d never have to use their back door again. He’s visited again and again, mapping the comings and goings of the company’s bits and bytes.
Paulie Newton’s access to Alcázar’s hallways is grounded in physical reality rather than the virtual reality that is host to Morales’ visits. About eight years ago, Alcázar turned some of its nefariously earned wealth into real estate. When the former Helmsley Palace came on the market, they snatched it up. Fitting, if you ask me. The hotel may have had the appearance of a palace, but the queen who once lived inside was reportedly a witch. Alcázar left the façade, but tricked out the interior with gilt and ivory, turning it into a true alcázar to house the company headquarters. In both cases, the pretty face hid the face of evil lurking beneath. Our Paulie is the building manager. How great is that?
And me? Well you know what I do. I write.
My new-found companion and I leave Penn Station, her arm linked through mine, and head up 7th Avenue. As we walk, I find myself feeling totally comfortable, as though we’ve walked through the city arm-in-arm before. I feel like I know her, really odd since I’d just met her for the first time 15 minutes earlier.
By the way, my name is Margaret, Maggie for short, Murphy. And I know your name.” She says. “But, have you figured out who I am yet?"

I turn to face her, astonished. “No! How could I know who you are?”
As I speak, my feelings of familiarity are telling me that I should know who she is. But I’m certain I’ve never even heard her name before. It just isn’t coming to me.
“Think about it.” We continue walking as I do. Think about it, I mean.
After we cover a half block, she adopts a different voice and, not looking at me, recites:
“Underneath my outside face
There's a face that none can see.
A little less smiley,
A little less sure,
But a whole lot more like me.”
I stop dead in my tracks.
Swinging around to look at her again, more closely this time, I see it. Jimmy Flanagan.
“But… Jimmy was an only child!”
“Yes. We were cousins, but we may as well have been siblings. We were inseparable as kids. We lived just down the block from each other. Aunt Kathleen is my mom’s twin sister and our families did everything together--holidays, vacations, you name it. Jimmy and I were joined at the hip during the summers.  Well, we were until my dad got transferred to Seattle. And then Uncle Mickey got killed in a car accident. I didn't see much of Jimmy after that.”
I see tears forming in her eyes, and ask if she’d like to sit down. “Could we? It’s still early, and I could really use a coffee.” She nods toward the Starbucks on the corner.
The place is jammed, but as we walk in, a couple gets up and leaves. While Maggie snags the table, I go up to the counter and buy us two coffees and a couple of blueberry scones.
“OK” I say after I’ve settled into my chair, “tell me. What are you doing here?” Given the pack of people all around us, I keep my voice low.
“Well, like I said, Ed sent me.”  She takes a bite of the scone, followed by a sip of coffee, and moans a little. “Sorry, but I didn’t have breakfast. This tastes so good.”
I can’t take my eyes off her. Now that I know who she was, I see Jimmy in her face. Except she’s much prettier. No wonder I’ve been feeling so comfortable with her.
“Go on”
“Ed contacted me a while back. He told me how you guys hung out with Jimmy in Afghanistan, that you were with him when he died. When he asked if we could get together, I jumped at the chance.”
As she speaks, I quickly look around, but it seems no one is taking notice of us. The hum of conversation in the coffee shop masks our low voices.
She pauses to take another sip of her coffee, and regain her composure. When she looks up at me again, her face has softened and her smile is even warmer, if that’s possible.
Just as she speaks, everyone seems to pause at the same time to take a drink or chew their muffin. In the ensuing silence, her words fill the void, and several of the strangers around us smile. Except me. If I thought she couldn’t shock me again, I was wrong.
“He was my first great love, you know. He gave me my first kiss.”

She gives that a moment to sink in, then, eyes twinkling, she continues, “Of course, we were only five.”

Continued in Part 7: The Dark Web.

(Credit, and thanks, to author Shel Silverstein.) 


Posted for River of Mnemosyne Challenge No. 8, Muse 6: “Telling a Roomful of Strangers about My Love Life.


  1. Hahaha! Sorry, the (assumed) inadvertent name-swap made this even more of a double entendre than I think you intended to to be!



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