Losing the Plot (Stanley’s Girl)

By Maniza Naqvi Kiss-lips

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop

Chapter Two: The Hotel

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles

Chapter Four: Sovereign Debt or Civil War

The terminal entered, Pakistan left behind she adjusted for the gained time. Younger by an hour—she smiled, fiddling with her watch. One of the perks of the job: eternal youth and its secret: jetlag. Staying put could change all that. As she followed the other passengers she recalled her earlier conversation with Stanley. She had said to him in frustration: Dying—Death—Yes Stanley—precisely that. You do seem to be setting off all the alarm bells which are usually associated with men of your age. I suppose it’s that whole last gasp…

In the immediate aftermath of dying would it be like this? A long steep escalator moving slowly towards the light, a glass encased place, shielding the inhabitants from the terrible heat and fire outside. And inside, an abundance of the essentials for life: energy, cool air, gushing fountains, the sound of music, and light aplenty. And all that you could buy all the time, everywhere: Duty Free. And people, many but still in the scheme of things, a few, moving towards their separate journeys—towards that plenty! Towards that abundance. She watched a man in front of her wave a light blue passport and walk through immigration—unquestioned—no border restrictions:, Let Them Pass and So It Was and So it Shall Be! This was Freedom, this was liberty this was the essence of modernity. She had a pang of panic. Was this true? Was this it? Were the chosen few the ones who fit, the “good”, the ones with the right nationalities and those who were granted passports and visas? Had the system distilled itself down to this? Had all of history, ended at this distillation of itself? She thought about being the chosen, being privileged, being powerful, having God’s grace smile upon her. And she was gratified. That it was so.

If only Stanley had the wisdom to understand this! Instead he had gone on about social apartheid! Zarmeenay struggles against social apartheid, Eileen! That was his sole feeble defense. Pathetic. How gullible did Stan think she was! A privileged upbringing like his would only lead to such conclusions—everything coming to him easy, no need to struggle. If he had known what a privilege it was to get here—he would have had more respect for it, more fear of losing it. Yes Eileen, respected it, valued it and cherished it. It was a long way and lifetime away from the childhood winters on the farm in Iowa. She had wanted to get away so bad back then when she was sixteen that she had escaped it through a scholarship to the State University. And from then on continued to move further and further away till she never went back, not even for Thanksgiving. Now she had seen the world! She had evolved. She had lived in Pakistan and she was finally about to be rid of it. She giggled. My, she thought to herself, smiling, she was getting philosophical, sentimental, even. It must be this in between state of mind that travel and transit always created. And in a few hours jetlag would intensify this even more.

Dubai

She had walked nearly a mile in a world of fake palm trees with golden fronds, red carpeting, chrome and glass through a long cavernous glass terminal making her way amidst masses of other passengers in transit many wearing the indistinguishable uniform provided by the Gaps, Zaras and Banana Republics of the world. Others still clung to the familiar skin of abayas, hijabs, saris, shalwar kameez, kimonos, dishadashas, tight leather jeans, fish net stockings—and like herself they were all paying attention to the incessant announcements for flights and gates in Arabic and English. She was surrounded by waves of people: harassed nannies from Sri Lanka, fatigued construction workers from Punjab, Mindanao, N.W.F.P—exhausted menial job workers from Bangladesh and Sudan, and sun baked, furiously reddened or tanned tourists off of beaches in the Maldives and UAE on their way back to Australia, Russia and Germany —South Asian bankers from London and New York with their lawyers in tow and toddlers and grandmothers from everywhere. They all went by in a rush or trudged alongside –everywhere people sat slumped on plastic seats while many lay on the carpeted floor asleep —others sat in groups—gambling—Filipino men—Yemeni men—trying to increase their total take going home. Women who seemed to be from Russia and Ukraine stumbled along in impossibly high heeled shoes and tight leather pants while others shuffled hurriedly in burqas and abayas and were covered from head to toe. All of them regardless seemed to be clinging to the arms of men who wore excessive gold chains around their beefy necks or were pushing prams and clutching the hands of children.

Eileen sighed with the sense of good health and independence. She was glad to have left Pakistan. This had been her last trip there. And it had been a huge success. She was done. She was going home as the reliable dependable no nonsense tough decision maker. This could only mean good things.

Privilege

The chosen.

Power.

The good times.

God’s grace.

These words, these phrases came to her mind as Eileen arrived at the door of the Business Lounge and took in the sight before her. She flashed her boarding card and gained entrance, sighing with relief as she gazed at the sumptuous buffets of breakfasts and lunches laid out throughout the gigantic lounge—bustling with passengers. Fusion food aromas should have filled the air of cuisines from Thai to Indian to American and Italian. But didn't. The clatter of china and silverware amidst the charm of white linen and napkins created the ambience of opulence — hot-house orchids and lilies and roses in oversized arrangements and the chink of fine goblets—all provided the air of well being. Hybrid fruits decorated tables. Waiters and waitresses tall and beautiful, Somali, Filipina and Moldovan moved about the lounge serving orange juice, champagne, or mimosas to guests seated comfortably in deep leather armchairs. Japanese water fountains and perfect Feng Shui created the right spiritually healing environment for jet lagged travelers—complemented by the sound of softly piped in New Age music in the background. There were signs to guide passesngers to spaces to sleep—to a spa, to showers and Swedish and Thai massages. And television screens everywhere. Here was a possibility of how a few could live in an exclusive world. It was a beautiful fantasy within grasp of those on this journey. Someday it could be a reality and permanent for everyone with a passport and a password.

Kiss-lips

She checked her watch she had three hours to kill before her connection to Washington DC. Enough time to have a meal—maybe get a massage, take a leisurely shower and then sit in front of the TV and check her emails. She looked at her watch she had exactly two hours before she would take her place in front of one of the screens to watch the news. She found herself a comfortable seat near the window—She set her carry-on luggage next to it and then made her way to the buffet.

She thought back to the night before she had left. Stanley had been such a fool, a dangerous old fool. He had decided to be on the wrong side of history. They had fought at the hotel. She remembered the conversation vividly:

He had asked: The last gasp?

She had laughed and said: Of course! It is a last gasp ridiculous attention—any attention.

That hadn’t gone down well with Stanley. In hindsight she could have played it better. She had riled him. He had shouted at her: Are you listening to me, at all Eileen? In fact he had steadily gotten out of control.

She had sighed and replied in a steady low tone to try to calm him down. No Stanley the question is: whether you are listening to me.

You haven’t said much Eileen—except hem and ha!—All you’ve done so far is to play me with a dead bat. He had been defensive. Of course he had been defensive Eileen thought.

She had continued to keep her voice in check and had been as cool as could be: So you noticed huh? Have you forgotten the soft side of interrogation Stanley? She had asked him. You used to be an expert at it at one time—with all your sympathetic smiles and your, YesI see what you mean tactics—You were the master of egging on and extracting a volley of confessions without a single threat of a cigarette burn or punch. Charming them into doing themselves harm—“The Stanley smiles offensive”.

Stanley had guffawed: Are you making me confess Eileen?

No Stanley—you’re busy throwing it all up yourself. Look! I realize the dilemma!

What dilemma Eileen? He had asked her, as if he didn’t know. But now she congratulated herself thinking back to the conversation, she had really played it well. She had said:

It’s a moral hazard a job hazard in our profession this final betrayal. This grasping for the other to the point of, becoming the other. Falling in love with it!

She thought back to how Stanley had been so furious with her. He had grit his teeth and asked her: It? He had repeated, shouting at her. It? Stop referring to a beating heart—pumping clean healthy blood as “it” Eileen! But what would you know anything about being human Eileen!

She had sucked in breath. He had been so angry by this time.

She hadn’t been able to keep her cool for long either after that: Ahhhhh! Well, well, well! Stanley! No FBI, no cartel, no ghosts of generals sunning themselves on Miami beaches—no imminent civil war, no new World order under the muscular heavy booted foot of private security firms—just a desire to stick it to us……So who’s the girl? The beating heart?

The girl? Even then he had played it innocent.

She had retrieved her patient tone: There is a girl.

A girl?

There’s always a girl, isn’t there?

Is there? I thought you were my girl.

Now come on Stanley—that’s getting old….

What are you talking about? She remembered how confused he seemed.

Stanley—do you think after you pulled your three day disappearing act on us that we wouldn’t have figured out what you were up to? Do you really think that? Huh? Are you going to pretend to be that naïve? Or that drunk?

And he had been sarcastic too: I don’t know Eileen, you decide, what I am going to be?

Eileen had replied: You and your many, many stories have indicated to me that I can’t really trust what you say, but I can trust my instincts that you are in fact losing it! I had the lovely woman at the café checked out—in fact—we decided to tail her for a few days. We found out that she was in your presence quite often. Then you decided to disappear. Naturally we made the connection and it turned out to be a positive ID. Your girl went missing and you went out in search of her. Remember you called me and asked me that night if I could hear the thunder? Well there wasn’t any thunder in Islamabad that night—in fact, there wasn’t any thunder anywhere in the country except in Quetta. What were you doing in Quetta that night Stanley? Hmmm?

You tell me Eileen? He had said, I thought you said I went in search of a girl.

Yes I will tell you! Turns out that your little girlfriend, is a member of the Baluchistan Liberation Movement.

Stanley laughed.

Laugh all you want Stan. But I can tell you the Pakistanis aren’t laughing. Our allies here won’t be very pleased to know that you are participating in those activities will they? We’re not too thrilled ourselves.

I was there to get her to come back to Islamabad, I was trying to convince her, persuade her to not get involved in things over her head.

She sensed that Stanley had fumbled: Really Stanley?

Yes, really Eileen!

Now Stanley you aren’t going to give me that line about how you have realized that she is your country. It would be tedious.

No, Eileen. I’m not.

Then what?

Where is she Eileen? She’s disappeared.

She hasn’t disappeared.

Is she in our custody?

Ours? Well—I guess old habits die hard. Yes Stanley she is with us. In our care. She has ideas that let’s say we are alarmed by.

Eileen thought about how Zarmeenay had spit in her face when Eileen had gone in for a chat. Eileen had moved in close to persuade the girl to behave to threaten her in a matter of fact sing song voice that quietly laid out the consequences of not cooperating and Zarmeenay had spit in her face. Eileen had flinched of course. A glint had flashed in her eyes. No one had ever dared to do that before. Eileen had stood up and nodded and someone had prepared to show Zarmeenay who was boss.

Eileen had said to Stanley: Rather God-less our pretty young thang. She doesn’t really refer to god or plea for his mercy does she? Or tell us that we are being watched by God that his wrath will be upon us. Most do that.

Oh God Eileen! You’re making me sick! What are you doing to her that she would have to say that!

Nothing Stan—I just told you. Usually that’s what they say right out of the gate—cursing us—telling us that God is watching. She doesn’t do that. That’s all. I mean I’m just saying. I find that fascinating in a country like this? She becomes a person of interest to us just for that. Don’t you think?

In a country like what? Like the one we’ve invented in our minds?

Eileen remembered how agitated he had been. He had steadily become more and more belligerent.

She had tried to keep her voice calm, No Stanley like this one—where it’s all God all the time.

What about us?

Us?

Back home—aren’t we about all God all the time?

Now there you go again Stanley making these weird and absurd connections……

To love God is easy, Eileen. To love humans is hard. Those who love God can kill easily. Those who love human beings cannot kill. I learnt late in life Eileen to love a person and not God.

How sweet Stan. Is that what human rights lawyers think too? Do they hate God as well?

I don’t know Eileen! Your thoughts of hate and God are not my concern. Just let her go!

We will eventually.

You want to know who she is Eileen? She can’t tell you that. I can! Ask me who is she. She’s my daughter. Zarrmeenay is my daughter.

Eileen remembered how shocked she had been by this revelation. She had not expected anything like this.

She’s my daughter.

She’s not your daughter Stanley. She never said that.

She wouldn’t.

She’s not your daughter Stanley! She’s the daughter of General___

No, she’s mine. A brief fling with his wife—

You want me to believe that you screwed a Baluchi woman someone from a powerful tribal family like that one? A Baluchi woman?

Call it what you want! Call her what you want!

You expect me to believe this? I lived here too you know! I was married here!

Kid’s mine.

Oh I see!—A 24 year old daughter!—Stanley—well that’s an angle we didn’t consider—

Jealous Eileen? Are you jealous that I have a kid to show for the long engagement?

She had been insulted: That’s a low blow Stan! But not a bad deal! She tried to be flippant: So is this child support then?

No, Eileen it isn’t. As it turns out Zarmeenay is an artist—a poet and a human rights lawyer—

Clichéd! Please Stanley….But yes you are right. She’s a lousy poet. But, I agree, she’s a pain in the ass lawyer.

Eileen had impatiently reached for Stanley’s laptop—she had quickly clicked a site and tapped in a password. A video had appeared. It was of Zarmeenay—slender–reed like—her hair flowing down to her waist—squinting against the stage lights, standing behind a mike. The camera panned the surroundings and the crowd. It was a college setting—an auditorium—whistles and claps of a raucous an enthusiastic student audience. After the hoots and whistles and claps had stopped Zarmeenay cleared her throat and began: This one is called I’m Losing My Tongue. It goes something like this:

Um— Ree—-ka

Am— Reek–ah

Am!.

Um!

Arm

Ah!

Me.

Amr—Amir!

Reek!

Ah!

Um—reek-ah.

Umr

Amr

Amir

Am reek aaaaah

Amr

Eek

Aaah.

This one is called When Kite Runners tell You to Go Fly a Kite:

When your Kite Runners

Tell you to Go flight a Kite

You call them cracked

You call them quacks

Af-PaK-Af Pak.

Quack-Quack

Redraw our maps.

Every single Bomb

Blast

Your Drone Attack.

Your terrorist tact.

General get off

Your Trip

You Can’t bomb Us

Into a Gaza Strip!

Eileen had shut the laptop. There!

Stanley's had turned bright red in the face. Eileen thought she finally had him. And naturally he had protested. For God’s sake Eileen—you can’t hold her—You can’t disappear her– for bad poetry!

Granted I can’t understand some of the language but I get the hate part! She hates us—she incites hate! Stanley—she’s filled with hate!

When did that become a crime?

She incites hate in an already very volatile situation. I mean the hotbed of it all huh? The university campus out there? Please! We have a mandate to protect ourselves and

preempt threats. You know that! What’s her connection to you other then sperm?

Her mother sent her to me with a few cases—she’s looking into the missing persons cases.

Why you?

She thought I would have influence with us.

I see. So she knows about your work And you told her….

I told her nothing and no she doesn’t know anything about my work.. And she doesn’t know that she shares my DNA.

She seems to share your new point of view on us.

Let her go!

No. We figure she is the reason you’ve decided to leave us—and that’s just dangerous. You may have compromised us, Stanley. We can’t be sure. We won’t get the truth out of you. You know us too well. With her we’ll get to the truth faster.

There’s no truth to get to Eileen! She’s my daughter! She thinks I can help her locate missing people through my good connections with the likes of us.

And what role does she play in your ideas? Is she part of your network of truth finders?

She has nothing to do with any of this Eileen. She’s my daughter. Where is she?

Right here Stanley—. A room across the corridor on the floor above us.

Oh my god!

Now calm down Stanley!

Please don’t do this Eileen, please. I’m begging you now Eileen. Please let her go!

Eileen had tried to calm him down. Sit down! She’s just fine! Promise! Surely you know Stanley—you can trust me on this. And you know that this is nothing new—we’ve been operating out of here way before you decided to leave us. You probably thought that we would have stopped all that. Of course we haven’t! But we are thinking of relocating. The only thing is that this is so convenient. Given the question of space—appropriate useable space—this hotel is the only place at the moment that replicates the environment in which we are used to functioning—central air—you know–the amenities—the gym-the pool—the green spaces—room service—the security. It has so much to offer us: The privacy, the anonymity, the convenience. I mean, don’t get me wrong Stanley, we’re not getting lazy or fat— we are working on it—we’re finding a permanent solution—we’re building our own larger space—on our own territory—the Embassy—but technically well constitutionally—our constitution of course— These are activities that simply have to be carried out on foreign land. Technicalities. You understand Stanley. So you see your daughter is staying in the style she is accustomed to. In fact, tell you what—we’re planning to purchase a whole hotel for these people to be able to be our guests, shall we say, and answer all our questions while living in the style that they are accustomed to.

Let her go! Don’t hurt her! Please!

We will Stan! Of course we’re going to let her go! But my word Stan! She hates us Stanley! She calls us liars!

Hating us isn’t a crime. Is it? Calling us liars— is that a crime? Do we ever lie? Huh, Eileen?

Well…Stanley—if you ask me and you did than I think patriotism, is about my country do or die—

You mean in all cases believe the lie. Defend it?

Am I wrong?

Yes! And I don’t care Eileen—about your definition of patriotism. Abducting her—Hurting her are crimes Eileen. Those are crimes. If you’ve hurt her—I swear I’ll…

You swear what? What will you do Stanley? Hmmm? Huh? Call the FBI?

Stanley sobbed—I swear if anything happens to her—I’ll kill you Eileen. I’ll kill you with my own bare hands. I want to see her—please let me see her!

She had been mean then. Eileen regretted that moment. But nothing she could do about it now. She had tormented him: I’m disappointed Stanley—all this time I thought you had suddenly seen the light. Some truth—for doing the right thing! I really thought you were going for some greater sacrifice and for a greater good. Disappointing Stanley. Tsk!, Tsk!—it’s always less sublime than that isn’t it? More petty, more personal and selfish than the hand on heart saluting the flag, isn’t it?

Please Eileen! He had actually been crying by then.

She couldn’t stand to see Stanley weeping. It just wasn’t her image of him. She had suppressed her revulsion and said kindly in a reassuring voice: Stan! Nothing will happen to her. She’s totally fine. We’re just asking her a few questions. She’s totally safe.

Please Eileen! He had continued to plead piteously. She’s everything to me! She’s my reason to live!

Stan! Hey Stan. It’s me. Remember? Everything is going to be okay. Okay? Go home Stan. She’ll be home soon. Trust me.

Things hadn’t gone well. But things like this happened. The girl wasn’t strong enough to handle the questioning. Her heart, had failed. Her heart had failed. Eileen had panicked. Stanley. What did he know about what a reason to live was all about? But he had said that. And this was valuable. Eileen had left Islamabad late in the night, that night—that unearthly hour for international flights. But there was no choice. Stanley would go crazy. She knew that. And he had threatened her. This was a setback.

It was more than obvious that he would become beyond their control and therefore dangerous. And he had threatened her. There was that.

She had discussed the situation with headquarters. She had been given the clearance to go ahead and do as she thought necessary. She had made the calls and meticulously, methodically laid the plan. It would be important that several objectives were served by the solution she would set in motion. She was known for her effectiveness—the multiple benefits and outcomes from all the actions she had ever taken were evident. It would be no different this time. There would be a surge of benefits. As she had boarded the flight to Dubai she had pressed the send button on her hand held and sent out one final email and locked in her commands. Staff at her level had such access. The job description demanded it. It had been a hard won honor, this. The gains would be many more, for her and for the country of course—a solid case for the overall strategy—she had provided it. At the very least a promotion was guaranteed. The country was safer because she was vigilante, awake. She was counting on Stanley to come through for her. He always had. She had owed her entire career to him and this time too, it would be all because of him. They could have dumped Zarmeenay’s body anywhere in Islamabad. She had them place it at the front door to Stanley’s little café.

Now refreshed, Eileen sat comfortably deep in the sofa in front of the large TV screen A mocha latte served to her sat next to the glass of Australian chardonnay. She had managed to relax enough to exchange a few words with a fellow passenger who had just gotten up to leave the lounge and had until her flight announcement been completely engrossed in tapping the keyboard at a brisk pace and staring at her own laptop screen. Eileen wished her a safe flight and good luck with her work. The woman, perhaps Chinese, had laughed and said it never ended the gathering of information and reports, she was working on gathering social indicators maternal and child mortality rates, access to primary schools, rural roads, water and clinics in villages. She was looking forward to getting home to Toronto.

Ah! said Eileen, I know what you mean! We are in similar lines of work it seems, this work life style is so stressful.

Yes! Agreed the woman, Murderous! And waved goodbye. Eileen checked her watch— if all went well then just about now…And there it was, CNN in front of her—and Fox News over the bar were interrupting their programming for breaking news. An attack, on an American, in Islamabad. Pakistan the most dangerous place on earth. The owner of the café, a yet unidentified American had been brutally killed along with several staff members by a murderous barbaric mob. The word had spread around the city that the body of a young woman had been found outside the café owned by an American. Instantly the story grew that the girl was from one of the villages razed to the ground to make way for the farm house where the American lived—The mob had been told that the girl had gone missing for days and that she had been kidnapped be the American. And that of course he had raped her. But there was no way to tell who the girl was. No way to determine the identity of the young woman her body had been burned in the fire along with that of the American. There was no way to identify either of their bodies at this point. Eye witnesses had said that both bodies had been thrown in the burning building. The US embassy was finding out about the facts but in the immediate aftermath it was calling this a hate crime and reluctantly giving a nod to it being referred to as a terror attack. Yes, more news now from the embassy spokesman, the American citizen was Stanley McMullen, a former US embassy employee. Well there you have it folks. That’s just the reality isn’t it? The sad awful truth. Why on earth asked the newscaster would a retired American have chosen to live in Islamabad, Pakistan which was the most dangerous place on earth? Now this man who had loved this country, which was the wildest most dangerous, volatile place on earth, had paid a terrible price for his misplaced love. For his innocence and naiveté. When would Americans learn? I say we bomb the place into a parking lot!

I mean, said the newscaster, here’s this guy—after a full career, honorable guy, who gives his life to this place and this is what they do to him? It was so sad. Another innocent American murdered at the hands of monsters. Savages! Monsters! Here was a guy who was just trying to sell coffee—I mean coffee, for Christssake! Just trying to bring a little civilized cheer some sense of a neighborhood hangout, you know what I mean, and a sense of well being to a godforsaken place. And this is what he got?

It was so horrifying and unimaginable for any sane civilized person to fathom. It was unimaginable for the newscaster and his guest who tried nevertheless to understand the minds of monsters and struggled on behalf of their audiences to make sense of it, to make their views come to terms with the social backgrounds of these creatures. Images of toothless, yelling, bearded and enraged men filled the screen—The video clip of the burning café—the police and ambulances surrounding the area showed over and over again. The commentators and analysts agreed that there was such an obvious need for more security to protect Americans abroad—Americans were in harm’s way.

What was clear was the police force in the country was underfunded and needed beefing up. Obviously the army couldn’t handle this internal violence the army was completely stretched in fighting the Taliban. So this would be an area for the US advisors to consider. How could we train and expand the police force? Who could we bring in to turn it into a professional security force? Difficult place, difficult questions. Stay tuned while we bring you more Breaking news.

Her flight announced, she gulped down the last drops of her wine and latte and stood up. Eileen slightly whoozy from the wine, collected her belongings—her purse—her carry-on. She suddenly remembered with a modicum of regret that in all the excitement, she had forgotten to go shopping at the Duty Free. Oh well, she consoled herself, though it was less convenient and more expensive, she would just have to buy her cosmetics at the Pentagon Mall next weekend.

She followed the signs to her gate along the carpeted pathway under the fake palm trees, and walked towards her gate in Terminal one—passed the perfume shops and the BMWs on display; passed the advertisement for A-One Ltd-Housing Developments; passed the TV screens showing images of heads of states at press conferences–explosions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Islamabad, passed the thousands upon thousands of migrant workers, passed the groups of crew cut American soldiers in uniforms heading home on furloughs or for R&R. She paused to watch a screen showing the top US General in Afghanistan being interviewed which was interrupted by a commercial break for advertisements for Viagra. She walked on—A pain was beginning in her chest, she ignored it and focused on the announcement for flights and gates: now leaving for Johannesburg at Gate 44; now boarding for Sao Paulo at gate 121; now boarding for Vienna; London; Manila, Doha, Tbilisi, Tehran, Tirana, Beijing, Lahore, Karachi, Zagreb, Kabul, Paris, Tokyo, Oslo, New York. She kept walking avoiding the oncoming rush of passengers from all over the world hurrying to make their connections. Her gaze fell upon a door with signs on it painted in white of a crescent, a cross and a star. She stopped and went towards it. Stepping in she found herself in a small room, bare and empty—a carpet and nothing else. Passengers she supposed were to make of it what they willed. She said a quick prayer. Then pulling her roller carry on, she walked on towards her gate. Her breathing was constricted—the terminal was far. She wiped a small tear and shook her head—Stanley sure did know how to spin it! Civil war in the US! —A take-over by the cartel— and by private security firms!—All that was missing was some sort of an assassination and a coup! It was really sad, the complete unwillingness to face the plain reality and the obvious threat. It was insanity.

Two weeks later in Washington DC, it was another glorious, clear, crisp October day. Sun drenched. The memorial had been simple. The 24 hours news cycle had long swept away the events of the weeks before. A political scandal—-a politician’s affair with his photographer, consumed the national airwaves and appetites.

But the folks in the office hadn’t forgotten. There were conversations during carpools to and from Langley during traffic jams on route 66 and once there behind closed office doors; and in the cafeteria and of course around the proverbial water cooler about what this meant for their own lives. There was just too much stress at the job. Everyone was over worked and underpaid. The hours were ridiculous. The work life balance was out of wack. There was talk of a task force or a working group which would be assigned to address this. Employees would be allowed a chance to voice their concerns. A task code and a budget would be created a report would be written to get to the heart of it. Such was the gravity of the matter. Tragic, how Eileen had died of a massive stroke at the Dubai airport while rushing to make her flight. Given the circumstances it was understandable. Eileen had been so dedicated and then everyone knew how she had always held a candle for Stanley McMullen. She must have been devastated. A memo had been sent out to staff about how stress and too much travel could exact a toll, and extolled staff to keep their annual physicals updated— after all as the slogan said: Your health is in your hands.

Chapter One: The Little Coffee Shop:

https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2009/06/losing-the-plot.html#more

Chapter Two: The Hotel:

https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2009/07/losing-the-plot-the-hotel.html#more

Chapter Three: Dreaming Dulles:

https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2009/08/losing-the-plot-dreaming-dulles.html#more

Chapter Four: Sovereign Debt or Civil War:

https://www.3quarksdaily.com/3quarksdaily/2009/09/losing-the-plot-sovereign-debt.html#more

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