Thursday, September 11, 2014

First Shot (50)

Ex-Sen. Bartholomew Gladstone, aka Bart Bullshit, preferred to stand and pace as he expounded on the “matter of vital national importance”. After squeezing out of confinement with a scrape of expensive fabrics against the arms of the solid-wood chair that held him, he stood for a moment, hirsute hand on chin as if pondering critical implications, and rotated his cannonball head to assure himself of rapt attention first from his host, across from him, and then from Mary Lloyd at the adjacent desk where she sat still holding and occasionally sniffing the Cuban cigar he'd given her during the ceremony of introductions.
When he started speaking, Gladstone's voice was lower and slier than the barking bonhomie he'd affected earlier. And with the speaking came the stalking, the deliberate plodding back and forth across the small office. A caged, feral beast.

With no intention of being rude, Mr. Stone, I'll start right out and say I have no doubt that you, as the attorney for two of the principals in this case, know where the musket is--”
Excuse me, Bart,” Blow interrupted, “before you go any further. May I ask what case you are talking about?”
Gladstone halted in mid-stride and swung his thick torso around to face Blow. “Mr. Stone, I have no desire to spar with you, sir, mainly because you undoubtedly would win, being a highly regarded trial attorney and, although it grieves me to admit, younger and quicker than I...” Blow, fighting the start of a grin, caught Mary's eyeroll. “...and, of course, because time is of the essence to both of us...” He rotated his head. “...and to you, as well, Miss Mary.
Therefore I would beg of you, sir, to bear with me while I make my presentation so that we can all move forward with our business. For the record I will say that I was not accusing you of any misfeasance, nor did I render that musket statement as fact. It was a mere rhetorical flourish on my part, the sort of innocent speech excess of which I am notorious and which caused former President Ruth Rose—a most admirable woman and an exceptional president, I would add—to hang the unfortunately appropriate nickname on me which I will abstain from repeating at this moment out of utmost respect for the lady in our presence.” After a brief pause to breathe, Gladstone actually uttered the word harumph.
Anyway, where was I...” He seemed to study an invisible cue card in front of his face. “Ah, yes. The aforementioned musket, which could well have been used to murder Mr....Gunthrop? Was that his name? That reporter, by the way, the jackal who quoted me in that libelous hogwash this morning, made way too much of the Gunworth murder. Took words out of my mouth, put them in a jar and scattered them on his computer and made them say what he wanted them to say, not what I in fact had said. You wouldn't do that, would you, Miss Mary?” Huge grin. Mary winked at him.
At least he spelled my name right. Anyway, as you may know, Mr. Stone, I represent an organization known as Sons of Lexington--”
Blow interrupted. “Oh, you're taking Werner Horschlagen's place!”
The sound Blow imagined he heard next was identical to that of air escaping a punctured tire. In fact, there was no sound in the room. None at all. Visually he watched the assembled personae in Gladstone's smug, bloated face disaggregate in rapid succession until all that remained was a dark, pulsing crystal of menace. Gladstone fixed this lethal mien on Blow with such intensity it seemed the two of them were utterly alone, isolated in a locked, soundproof interrogation room. The effect, which caused Blow's intestines to constrict, lasted several heartbeats that felt like hours. In an instant, then, Gladstone's face brightened and assumed most of its former buoyancy, the exception being a jaundiced eye the big man kept focused on Blow henceforth.
Give your sister my best,” he said in a voice almost too soft to be heard, before he continued with his presentation.
This organization is composed of direct descendants of the men who stood in the path of British on their way to Concord on April 19, 1775. Depositions taken immediately after the battle of the militia members and witnesses established that it was a British officer who fired the first shot on the green at Lexington--”
The shot heard round the world!” Mary blurted as she began to perceive the implications of Gladstone's recitation.
Well, Miss Mary, actually not according to the man who wrote that famous line: By the rude bridge that arched the flood, their flag to April's breeze unfurled, here once the embattled farmers stood, and fired the shot heard round the world. Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that more than sixty years later for the dedication of Battle Monument at Concord. That battle was the same day, involving the same troops who had only hours earlier killed nine Americans at Lexington. But it was at Lexington that the first shot truly was fired that ignited the war that led to America's separation from the British Empire. And it was the fact that a British officer fired that shot that gave the moral impetus to our forefathers to gather an army that enabled them eventually to break the imperial shackles holding this country hostage to the regal whims of a king who had never set foot on our soil.
Now then, a malicious rumor has been circulating through this land since that glorious day in 1775 that it was not a British officer who fired that shot, that some drunk or disgruntled townsman had done it and provoked the British to fire back. You can imagine the blow to our national heritage and our pride as Americans...” Gladstone's jaundiced eye glared especially hard at Blow. “...were some opportunistic hoaxster to drag such a rumor slithering out of the ground in the form of an antique firearm and a handful of forged documents.
The Sons of Lexington cannot allow this to happen. They have charged me with locating these scandalous instruments and to expose them to the light of day as the fakes they surely are. And I would hope, sir...” The eye virtually sneered. “...that you would lend your good offices toward this end.”
With that, after a brief, less exuberant ceremony of departure, Bart Bullshit was gone.

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