“Our top informant just delivered intelligence that leads us to believe there is a plot, likely al Qa’ida-based, to assassinate the president before the new year,” the bureau chief said to Frank Braun, “so what I need to know, Frank, is whether your private dislike of the Obama administration might in any way handicap your new assignment: to track down and, where necessary, eliminate the terrorist operatives.”
Frank knew the last thing headquarters needed was an attempt on the president. Intelligence was desperate for some good publicity. Their reputation was on the line. The liberal media was again fussing over Gary Mckinnon’s hacks into the US military’s computer systems, using the extradition hearings as a smokescreen for editorials about the vulnerabilities of American security. Meanwhile, instead of locking McKinnon up for life, the Brits had made him into a national hero. Still sour about their lost empire, they found malicious comfort in the subversive acts and anti-American rantings of a conspiracist nutjob who claimed the U.S. was hiding UFO evidence and colluding with oil companies to suppress “free” energy. If Frank were in charge, they’d take out McKinnon and save themselves the extradition headaches. But instead “rule of law” was the administration’s refrain. The top dog was a socialist peacenik with a racial chip on his shoulder who, amidst a recession, was trying to force his Soviet Big Brother health care spending spree down the throats of the American people while posing as a Bud Light drinking good old boy. A shrewd Chicago player who won thanks to all the sexually repressed housewives and interracial porn watching college sluts who’d been handed a socially acceptable way of cheerleading for their ultimate black lover fantasy. But although Frank Braun would have liked to see the man now occupying the highest seat in the land sent back to Kenya, he was also a patriot who understood the words Country First. This was a time to set grievances aside, no matter how justifiable, and unite against Islamofascists, who in their infinite anger and impotent jealousy wanted to destroy the American way of life. So he swallowed his pride and assured the chief that he was the man for the job.
If the dead doberman Frank found a week later on his doorstep next to the Washington Times delivery was an attempt to scare him off the case, it backfired. Standing in his bathrobe, a mug of black coffee in hand, Frank scanned the empty street. A note was pinned to the hound’s flank. He bent down to read it:
The letters had been individually cut out and glued from a newspaper. By the font he could tell it was from the New York Times. Frank chortled. It didn’t go wasted on him that the would-be assassins were trying to scare Frank off by sending him kindergarten messages made out of the same liberal rag that had spent all of last year creaming itself over Obama as the next messiah and all of this year making up excuses for him.
Frank sipped his coffee and contemplated the note. Most death threats were like spam to him: everyday nuisances to be promptly chucked in the trash. But this one intrigued him. In part it was the early delivery. That the terrorists had already found him out meant they had breached intelligence security. But mostly it was the message: Love, Blackjack5555.
A lesser agent would have interpreted the signoff as a signature. But Frank Braun wasn’t top dog for nothing. “Jack” also meant ‘to hunt by jacklight.’ Sandwich that between “Black” and “5555” – or May 5, 1955, the day that West Germany became a sovereign state, in the same year that opened with the assassination of the president of Panama – and the reference became a veiled allusion to the coming assassination of America’s first negro president by violent non-state actors.
But the most devious part of the signoff was the word “Love.” It was a devil’s wink. Whoever composed this note knew full well Frank would decipher it. It wasn’t a death threat, after all. It was a declaration of war. Frank Braun was up against one twisted motherfucker.
He swallowed the last of his coffee then shoved the corpse with his foot off the porch. He’d dispose of it after breakfast. There was no point in calling in the CSI team. The results would just send them on a useless goose chase.
As he went back inside, he made a mental note that the grass needed mowing.
Frank looked out the window of his first class seat at the receding Washington monument. They usually flew him out on private jets but intelligence was tightening its belt unlike the administration.
“Sir, what can I get you to drink?” the stewardess asked Frank.
“Take a guess.”
“Martini. Shaken not stirred,” she said coyly.
“Stirred not shaken. Shaking bruises the gin. They don’t tell you that in the movies.”
As she served him the drink she leaned so low he could smell the Gucci Envy on her neck. Her body was crying out to become the latest notch on Frank Braun’s Mile High belt. But he wasn’t risking national security for some easy bathroom thrill. Ralph Fiennes could afford such shenanigans but not Frank Braun.
“Go on,” he said smacking her ass lightly with his copy of National Review. “Get out of here.”
He swirled the gin and contemplated the recent dog murders. First the Doberman on his doorstep. Then the Portuguese Water Dog, the same breed as the First Dog, drowned on a makeshift waterboard with “Eros” shaven across its hind. He slammed back half the martini in one swig. Both killings had clearly been orchestrated by the same mastermind but why the change of names? He knew the answer was in Cyprus.
When news broke about the cananacide in Limassol, Cyprus, Frank had headquarters book him on the next flight to Larnaca. The entire bureau was convinced the crime was unconnected. But they knew they’d be fools not to let Frank investigate his hunches. Second-rate spies just saw dots. He saw the lines that connected them.
Cyprian police were holding the killer and a Ukrainian hooker, probably that minute violating her every orifice under a purported body search. He’d witnessed it too often in third-world backwaters. Hopefully they hadn’t gang banged her, or at least would wait until he finished his interview.
From what he’d gathered from the semi-literate officer, the man hired the hooker for S&M. At one point she went to the balcony for more rope, where she saw the dead terrier hanging from the clothesline with the rest of the laundry. The neighbors heard the screaming and called the police. They found her sobbing on the street half-naked. He was facedown in the bathroom floor, tied-up and duct-taped, flopping like a fish on land. There were welts all over his back where she’d walked on him in her stilettos. Frank chuckled to imagine it.
He knocked back the martini and snapped his fingers in the air. As the hostess turned, he pointed at his upraised empty glass. She winked and bent for the gin. Maybe a trip to the bathroom was in order, after all.
Frank’s local contact drove him to Limassol Divisional Police Headquarters. It was mid-August and the desert heat was ball-dripping. No wonder the region was so barbaric and backwards. Frank wouldn’t want to be a productive member of society either if his gonads were swinging at his knees all summer. If he were a lesser man and had grown up in a climate like this he’d probably be strapping bombs to himself too.
As he expected, the police station was a shithole. He counted seven cockroaches. And that wasn’t counting the cops. He’d have the department FedEx them a gift pack of Raid and a police manual.
“Welcome, Mr. Frank,” the police commissioner said in nervous broken English. Like other Middle Easterners the Cyprian was short, dark, hairy, sweaty and reeked of cheap cologne and stale body odor.
“We’re honored to have a professional like you on our island,” he continued, extending a hairy hand and flashing yellow, stained teeth. The commissioner winced under Frank’s firm handshake. “Unfortunately there has been an accident…”
Frank didn’t flinch. When it came to third world police forces he always assumed a fuck-up.
“You see the—.”
“—man who hung the dog has killed himself,” Frank said, completing his sentence.
The commissioner stared at him with the awed stupefaction primitives have in the presence of individuals from more advanced societies. “But how could you have known about Stavros?” he stammered.
“I didn’t get my job by the luck of the die,” Frank replied. “Let’s not waste time. Show me his photo.”
The commissioner snapped his fingers at one of his lackeys, who lumbered over with a photograph.
“Take your time,” Frank said dryly, snatching the photo. “It’s not like the civilized world is at stake or anything.” A cross-eyed big-nosed Germanic-looking asshole stared out from the printout. “You call this a goddamn Cyprian?”
The police commissioner glanced down at the photo and then took it back, reddening. He began yelling in his guttural language at his subordinates, who began flipping moronically through the photo images.
“Forget it,” Frank said, with a dismissive wave. “Tell them to return to their coffee and backgammon. Take me to the hooker. If she’s still standing after your boys’ interview, that is.”
The commissioner began to snigger but stopped upon seeing Frank’s sober face. He cleared his throat. “Come with me, sir.”
The Ukrainian girl was sitting on the cell bed in her lingerie. A used condom was draped carelessly over the edge of the corner trashcan. The swine. They didn’t even know how to clean up after themselves.
She was a hot little slut. Hourglass figure, high cheekbones, shoulder-length, strawberry-blonde hair. A short-term investment with a big payoff.
“What’s your name?” he asked her.
“Sure it is. And my name’s Omar.” Frank turned to the commissioner. “What’s her name?”
Frank chortled. “Good name for a whore.” He motioned to the door. “You can go now. I’ll be questioning Coco in private.”
Within five minutes, Coco Chanel had gone down on her knees and was humming prayers in worship of Frank’s godhood. Finally he pushed her head away. “That’s enough,” he growled. “I didn’t fly into this Middle Eastern hellhole to catch anything I have to declare at customs.”
“Nyet please Mister Frank I not has reel man in to many years. Me too much horney. Me love you long time.”
Frank chuckled. Goddamn slatterns. Once you seen one you seen them all. Coco butted her forehead against his palm, whinnying like a horse for its sugar cube.
“I hate to do this, sugar,” Frank said, slapping her across the face with his free hand, “but it’s for your own good. I’m not here for funny business. Tell me what I need to know and I’ll give you what you need.”
“Marry me please you will?” she asked, rubbing her cheek.
Frank grabbed her chin and examined her up and down. “You’re a nice piece,” he said, stroking her chin, “and I like your lips. You deserve better than these Cyprusian mutts.” He pushed her away. “I’d consider it,” he said, heading for the door.
Coco clutched Frank’s shoulder. “What do you need to know?” she cried. “Tell me?”
Frank looked down at her hand on his shoulder. She jerked it away. “Do they serve White Russians at your whorehouse?” She nodded. “Good, then I’ll be having two when I come.” She laughed without understanding the joke.
That night as he propped his cocktail up on her lower back she understood. After he finished both of the White Russians (and tipped her with one of his own), he dragged her to the pimp and tossed him a banded stack of bills. “That should cover her for a few days,” Frank said gruffly. The pimp grunted something about seaweed in speechless amazement.
“This way,” he told Coco. She grabbed her purse and followed him out. “Take me to your apartment.”
“Again!” Coco cried with delight. “What man!”
“I do research, not pleasure,” Frank said. “You think I was enjoying myself in there? I was buying time to size up your pal Christoff.”
Coco dropped her purse in amazement. “How you know his name?”
“Shut up and take me to your apartment,” he said dryly. “Frank does what he does. No questions asked.”
Frank silently opened the apartment door. Inside were two more ringleaders: Jodina, the brothel overseer, and Danno, the scout. They had their backs to the door and were discussing a home video of one of the hookers getting rear-ended. A little star hung sensitively from the ceiling. “Who’s the broad in the movie?” Frank murmured.
“Trish. She specialize in the zhopa.”
Frank snorted. “Love these whorehouse pseudonyms… Let me guess, they’re watching to give her advice on her technique.”
“How you know?” Coco said in awe.
Frank sighed and shook his head. Then he pulled his pistol out and walked in. “Game over, kids,” he announced.
The terrorist ring that Frank busted led deeper than Blackjack5555. It led all the way to the narcissistic unrenowned writer Fourth Night who, in his bitterness about his failed online projects, turned his venomous self-hate upon the great American nation.
Frank intervened to make sure two of the conspirators got amnesty: the call girl Annabones and the peacenik Eros. The former was a zesty little number who stuck her tongue out at him when he walked by her in the station. He could tell she liked what she did and he didn’t want to deprive deserving men like Auggie and Tetra from enjoying her. As for Eros, he had just gotten mixed up with the wrong crowd. Plus, he figured it didn’t hurt to have some love around. Frank needed something to fight against.
Every newspaper and journalist worth his salt tried to find out how Frank had single handedly preempted such an insidiously complex international plot. Too bad for them. He never showed anyone how he rolled.
The president invited Frank to the so-called Whitehouse to thank him over a phony Bud Light and to present him with the Distinguished Intelligence Cross. Frank had his secretary, Coco, reply that he was busy. The grass wasn’t going to mow itself.