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stepped out among the
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sunshine and flowers and trees, you no longer felt the oppressive weight of
power. Washington became just another city full of busy people, and one
prettier than most.
Off in the distance the thin white spear of the Washington Monument stood out
against the stark blue summer sky like a cloud that had been turned on its end
and rooted in the earth. Around him people oohed and aahed at the massive
piles of stone. Each structure was a monument unto itself, to whichever branch
of the immense bureaucracy it happened to house. Husbands read aloud the names
on the signs out front to their perfectly literate wives.
Street vendors hawked hot dogs and ice cream and Italian ices. Oak fought to
lose himself in the sounds and sensations of the city, but his inner thoughts
wouldn't let him be. Was he really that burned out? Was it finally time to
transfer to a desk where if he had to lie he could do it on paper instead of
to another human being? How could somebody like Wayland help him? By advising
him not to live a lie? Living lies was his profession. Where did that leave a
man emotionally?
Corcoran had been right about the commendations. What he did, Oak did
exceptionally well. A transfer anywhere within the Bureau was his for the
asking. What would it be like to be himself for more than a few months at a
stretch, instead of Cletus White or Andrew Booker or BJ Tree? To be able to go
through a day's work without wondering in the back of your mind if you were
going to wake up floating facedown in some unnamed bayou or ghetto Dumpster
later that night?
That had happened before. Not to him, but to others less skilled in
maintaining the Lie. They had signed away their lives and usefulness in a
single moment of thoughtlessness. So what kept him with undercover?
Why did he continue to trust his life to the flawless maintenance of a false
persona?
Responsibility. The knowledge that no matter how distasteful and unpleasant
the job, he was better at it than anybody else. He'd fully intended to quit,
to transfer out four or five years ago. Three years had been the maximum for
anyone in his position when he'd gone into undercover. Now it was ten, because
he'd done it for ten. Each additional day he stayed with undercover, he was
extending the parameters of his own specialty.
I am the Lie
, he thought, and the Lie is good
.
He felt lousy.
The Bureau needed him. His country needed him. The people needed him. But what
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about Joshua Oak?
Was there anything left of him, or had he simply become an amalgam of all the
different aliases he'd assumed during the last decade? A name on a post office
box, a Social Security number: that much testified to the existence on earth
of a man named Joshua Oak.
God, but he was tired. Maybe Corcoran was right. Maybe he ought to go straight
to Nettles and say that he'd had enough, that he wanted out. Give him a nice
quiet job somewhere researching kidnappings and violations of the Mann Act or
something. He liked Washington. He could see himself serving out the rest of
his years until retirement right here in the city. No more field work, no more
getting shot at in the line of duty.
He halted, blinked. He'd long since passed his intended destination, the
Smithsonian museum.
Somewhere along the way he'd made a right turn, crossed Constitution Avenue,
and gone straight through the Ellipse. Might as well keep going, he told
himself. He crossed onto E Street and found himself walking along the back
side of the White House grounds. The view here wasn't as impressive as the one
from the front, with the fountain and big flagpole, but the flowers and trees
were just as pretty on
E Street as they were on Pennsylvania Avenue.
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It was a fine day for demonstrating and a good place to do it. The serious
protestors always did their demonstrating out back of the White House, where
they were more likely to catch the eye of some high government official being
driven in to see the President. If you wanted to be photographed you paced
around out front. If you wanted to get your message across, you hung around
the back driveway.
Quite a few of the unhappy today, Oak mused. You didn't rally need the signs
to match up demonstrators with causes. The women in the jeans and sloppy
shirts who hadn't washed their hair in a week were radical feminists. Beneath
the shade of a big tree, neat and turned out as though ready for a sermon,
were the anti-abortionists. Across the broad stone driveway and sharing the
occasional frosty glare with their opponents were the pro-choice advocates.
Yuppie fanatics versus the traditional.
There was some shoving and pushing going on among a large homogenous group
that spilled out into the street. Oak identified them immediately. Beige skin,
short haircuts, neatly trimmed black beards, and hints of wildness in their
expressions. Pro-Khomeini Iranians, a heaping helping off Hezbollahs,
asserting their right to tell their hosts where to get off. A few
anti-clericals had infiltrated the carefully organized march and were doing
their best to disrupt it, hence the pushing and shoving. He slowed. Pushes
were starting to turn into punches as the rhetoric heated up. Both groups were
utilizing to the fullest the opportunity to exercise the freedom of speech and
demonstration that was denied to them in the homeland.
Oak turned his amused gaze on the other placard carriers. They had stopped
marching and were staring at the riot-in-the-making. These good people were
used to picketing silently, at the very most chanting in rhythm; but not too
loudly or impolitely. The Iranians, never loath to allow their deepest and
most primitive emotions full rein, must have looked like men from Mars to the
peaceful marchers from Des
Moines and Cincinnati. Anti-abortionists stood shoulder to shoulder with the
Get-U.S.-Out-of-Central-Americans and the anti-vivisectionists and stared at
something utterly alien to most of them: real violence, the intrusion of the
outside world into their familiar venue of all-American protest.
Oak watched for their reactions with interest. After all, these were the
people he'd lied for, stolen for, and risked his life for during the past ten
years. Housewives, grad students with their intellectual girlfriends, [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]




 

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