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For All Nails #104b: Martha Stewart Living

Ciudad Camacho, Kingdom of New Granada
12 July 1974

Joan Kahn found herself wishing that her publisher had not been so
persuasive.  Spending the summer months in the tropical lowlands of New
Granada was the next best thing to spending them in a stewpot.

Most of Ciudad Camacho's riverfront was the shabby collection of docks,
warehouses, bars and brothels that any large seaport sported.  However, back
in the 1960s when the FANG Corps of Engineers built the Hermión Bridge [1]
across the Orinoco to carry the Hermión Locopista System [1] to eastern
Venezuela Province, they had set aside a strip of riverfront to serve as a
municipal park.  Under the Hermións the park had become a local byword for a
crime-infested deathtrap.  Since El Día de la Patría, though, the new regime
had made a point of replacing all the burnt-out streetlights and sending in
regular police patrols, and now Orinoco (formerly Hermión) Park was as safe
as any other part of the city, and safer than most.

By day, the Orinoco looked like the Amazon's younger brother: not quite as
big, but just as muddy.  In the fragrant night, though, lit by the city and
with the Charles I [2] Memorial Bridge arching overhead, the river resembled
a smooth sheet of black glass.

Kahn was contemplating it from a concrete embankment, while Larry Gordon
stood beside her and held forth on the wonders of the Orinocan ecosystem.  He
was just describing how the capybara, a rodent of unusual size, had been
declared kosher (or whatever the word was) by the local church hierarchy, and
how they were eaten on "meatless" Fridays along with fish.

"They eat /rats/?" Kahn exclaimed.

"Well, rodents at any rate," said Larry.  He grinned at her.  "They taste
just like chicken.  If you'd like, Martha, we can stop in at this restaurant
I know and order some."

Martha Stewart, the Mexican tourist Kahn was pretending to be, wouldn't be
worried about eating something traife.  On the other hand, Martha would be
just as reluctant as Kahn to eat an oversized rat, no matter what the
Catholic Church said.  "No me gusta, thank you very much," she responded.
Anyway, she wasn't here to talk about the local cuisine.

"Can you really get guns from the local FANG base?" she asked.

"Why so interested about the base?" Larry asked, still grinning.  "I mean,
here we are, all alone in this romantic locale, and you want to talk about an
army base?  I must be losing my touch."

Oh, brother.  Well, two could play at that game.  "You were probably just
making that up about getting guns here," Martha/Joan sniffed.  "In fact, you
were probably just making up that whole story about being a gun-runner.
You're probably just some accounting clerk.  Some /married/ accounting
clerk!"  She spun away from him and resolutely fixed her attention on the
span of the bridge.

He chuckled again.  "Who am I to disagree?"

And there it was again, stronger than ever, a feeling that there was
something /wrong/ with Larry Gordon.  It was something about that phrase,
something that she had heard before.  The very same voice, saying the very
same words, and even with the very same chuckle.  Where had she heard it
before?

Then it came to her.  The vitavision.  She had been watching the vitavised
Grand Council hearings on the CBI two years before, and the CBI's director
had been testifying before the Councilmen.  Councilman Tryon had accused the
director point-blank of infiltrating CBI agents into the Peace and Justice
Party.  The man had just chucked and said, "Who am I to disagree?"

Kahn turned to face him.  His head was shaved Mexican-fashion, and he sported
an earring and a goatee, and there was a scar on his left cheek, but there
was absolutely no mistaking his identity.

"Timothy Liddy!" she spat.  Turning again, she began to walk away.

Notes:

[1] Recently renamed.

[2] Charles I of New Granada, that is.  He was Charles V of Spain until his
arrest and execution by Neiderhofferian revolutionaries in 1881.