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For All Nails #111a: The Osterman Weekday

Cuauhtitlán, México Central, USM
14 August 1974

 The phone beeped.

 Joseph Osterman had been a happy man, but by the time he woke up he
couldn't remember why. He looked over at the clock. The ugly
white-and-black digits read eight-four-two. Too late for him to really
 be angry at the man on the other end of the line.

 "Qué demonios, puto?" Apparently he wasn't awake enough to follow
through on that last thought.

 "Joe? This is Bob Contreras."

 Suddenly, Joe was awake. "Bob Contreras? Bob? Que pasa, porque me
llamas ahorita?" He shuffled into a sitting position, which woke up
his wife.

 "Hhuh, Joe? Who is it?" she mumbled. Neither of them were early
risers, especially not in August, when the kids weren't in school.

 "Nobody, querida. Go back to sleep. " Putting his hand over the
mouthpiece, he whispered into the phone. "Bob Contreras! Tell me
you're _not_ in Mexico."

 "Worried about me or your jefe, Joe?" Bob sounded neither amused nor
angry, which wasn't like Bob at all.

 "Mi jefe, of course. He pays me." Joe paused for a second. "Oye, Bob,
gimme a minute to change phones."

 "Fine. Hurry. It's important, Joe."

 Joe nodded, although there was no way Bob could know that. "I
figured. That's why I gotta change phones." He punched the hold button
on the set---when you had Joe's job, you soon learned the advantage of
installing more than one phone line in your house. [1] He kissed his
sleeping wife on the cheek and padded downstairs, butt-naked. No
matter. Frank had gone off to the Navy, Jenny was
 certainly at her summer job already, and little Joe wouldn't be awake
for another three hours. He went downstairs, settled his lanky frame
on the couch, and picked up the receiver on the endtable. "Bob?"

 "Estoy."

 Joe's mouth twitched. "What's this about? You shouldn't be calling me
at home."

 "Normally I wouldn't, but I trust this line more than the one at your
office. Oye, I want you to meet someone. Hoy."

 Joe blinked. "What are you talking about?"

 "I need you to meet someone."

 "_You_ need _me_ to meet someone? I don't owe you any favors, Joe,
not after that s--t you pulled with the whole Ek thing. You know how
much goddamned damage control I had to do after that?"

 "Joe, I had to leave the _country_ for that. Burnt ships." Bob didn't
sound irritated. He sounded calm. That was when Joe started to worry.

 "Okay. What is it?"

 "I can't tell you over the phone. I know that sounds strange. Look,
I've heard some things here that are downright frightening, terrifying
even. Meet this person. Please." Bob's tone was dead, almost a
 monotone---this was serious.

 Joe sighed. "Where?"

 "There's a bar in Terminal B at Andrew Jackson Field. Can you be
there at noon?"

 Joe blinked. "Noon? Today?"

 "Joe. Please. Go and see."

 Joe sighed. "Why me?"

 There was a brief exhalation on the other end of the line. "You're
close to the President, but not too close. Oye, Joe, I _can't_ say any
more over the phone. Just go to the airpark. You'll understand then."

 "This has to do with the President?" asked Osterman.

 "Yeah."

 "Alright, then. I'll go." He wanted to ask Bob more, but couldn't. He
wasn't sure he wanted to know. But they had been friends once. More
importantly, Bob said this involved the President, and it was
Osterman's job to protect the President's back. If that meant getting
himself over to the airpark, it meant getting himself over to the
airpark. "Who am I meeting?"

 "Her name is Bianca Hammer. She'll recognize you. Thanks." The line
went dead. Joe sighed again, and got off the couch with the grunt.
Noon, eh? Enough time for a shower, then. Leave around eleven,
shouldn't be much traffic then. Scratching his chest, he went
upstairs, idly wondering what could have _Bob Contreras_ acting so
strangely.

----------------------------
Texcoco, México Central, USM
14 August 1974

 Few people are happy in an airpark bar. If they're travelling, then
either they want to get to their destination, in which case they're
anxious about catching their airmobile, or they don't want to go, in
which case they're usually getting as drunk as possible in a terribly
mechanical way. If they're waiting for someone, the same conditions
apply. The only really happy people in an airpark bar are either on
their way out or too drunk to care.

 Joan Kahn was waiting for someone. She was waiting at one of those
annoyingly small and annoyingly high tables that dot bars the world
over. Why are the tables like that?, she wondered. The chairs are so
high that you get shorter when you hop off. Impossible to keep your
dignity. I guess they keep short men from pestering you, she thought.
In Mexico, that often came in handy.

 She fingered her beer mug, and stared at the folder sitting at the
table. Innocuous documents individually, all of them, even the status
report in a sense, but they added up to a revolution. Which is why she
was in Mexico City.

 A tall man with a badly trimmed scalplock walked in, his limbs
looking faintly uncoordinated. It was almost noon, but it seemed like
he had just woken up, shadow covering most of his head and face, deep
bags under his brown eyes. And he was wearing denim pants and a
T-shirt reading "United States Marine Corps" on it. Joan smiled.
Sights like that reminded her she was in a foreign country, something
easy to forget at an airpark.

 He looked around the bar, a slightly confused expression on his face.
Joan wagged a finger at him, a vague cross between a wave and a
salute. The tall man nodded, and sauntered over.

 "Bianca Hammer?" he asked. She was proud of the name. It was so
ridiculous no one would think it was fake, and it was as different as
you could get to "Martha Stewart".

 "Joe Osterman," she replied. It wasn't a question. "Sit." Osterman
was so tall he probably would get shorter even on these ludicrous
perches. No defense there, but he didn't seem like the type to throw
the wave at women in airpark bars. Not wearing what he was wearing,
not even in Mexico.  [3]

 Osterman warily got into one of the chairs. He really did resemble a
bird. "Yeah." He stuck out his hand. "I'd say it was nice to meet you,
but the technical term for that would be a lie." They shook.

 Joan nodded. "I honestly can't say the same. I am glad you decided to
meet me, Mr. Osterman."

 "Loquesea. Who are you?" He looked interested almost despite himself.

 "Bianca Hammer, Mr. Osterman. Here." She pushed the envelop over
towards him. Well, she didn't push it exactly--the table was so small
that pushing it would have just shoved into onto the floor. She more
like wiggled it in his direction.

 "Que'sesto?" he asked. Joan barely understood Osterman's mumbled
California Spanish, but the meaning was clear. [2]

 "Take them home, Mr. Osterman." She checked her watch. "Read them
over. Then send them to anyone you'd like." Osterman moved to open the
folder. Joan put her hand on it. "No. Wait till I'm gone.  Right now,
I'm going to kiss you, and then I'm going to board an airmobile."

 "What? Are you nuts?" He pulled back. "Is this some sort of joke?"

 She put her hand on his. "It's no joke, Mr. Osterman. When you read
what's in that folder, and I strongly suggest that you don't open it
until you get to your office, you'll understand what all the
cloak-and-dagger stuff is about. Now kiss me, so that if anyone
followed us they'll think it was just an affair."

 "F--k no. Tell Bob …"

 She leaned in and kissed him. He jumped back. The tall chair
clattered to the floor. "What the f--k!"

 Joan stood, uh, down off her chair. "Dammit, I knew you'd go back to
her!" she yelled.

 Osterman repeated himself. "What the f--k!"

 The other patrons in the bar were looking at them. One big
Mexicano-looking fellow in a plaid shirt came over. He was wearing an
Army-surplus battle cap. "Is this chavo bothering you?" he asked Joan.

 "No, no, it's my fault," she said. I should have been an actress, she
thought. "I'm sorry." Osterman was already on his way out of the bar,
looking back at her like she might explode at any moment, leaving
blood and gore all over the bar. But that was okay. If anyone was
watching they'd think Osterman was here to visit his mistress. If they
weren't, no harm done. The important thing was that he was leaving
with the folder tucked under his arm.

 Notes:

 [1] Mexican Telephone and Telegraph is a national monopoly, but
provides excellent (if expensive) service. You can get as many lines
as you want installed within days, as long as you're willing to pay
for it.

[3]  "Throw the wave at" means "hit on" in Mexican English.  Joan
spent a good deal of time in Mexico, and often uses Mexican
expressions.  A North American would be befuddled by the term.
 
 [2] A FANTL Californian accent in English would sound vaguely Chicano
to an OTL American, with a faint tendency to twang. Probably the best
analogy would be a cross between East Los Angeles and New South Wales,
if you can imagine such a thing. FANTL Californian accents in Spanish
sound somewhat annoyingly nasal, with a strong tendency to elid the
Spanish "e" sound (especially at the end of a word) into a Spanish
"i." Vowel clusters are mushed into sloppy-sounding dipthongs. It
really isn't like any OTL nation's accent in Spanish, although it is
similar to the way some second-generation Mexican-Americans in the
Southwestern U.S. speak. Other Spanish-speaking countries _hate_ the
accent with a passion, or at least claim to.