Previous, Next, Numerical Index, Chronological Index.
For All Nails, pt. 151:  January Chill

2 January 1975
Mexico City, C.D.

Gerhard Eichel was not a happy man.  He had known El Popo for three
years, and he had lived in Mexico for over a decade before that.  He
understood Mexican nationalism and he understood El Popo.  He knew, in
his bones, that El Popo would not be able to accept what Eichel's
superiors demanded from him, no matter how nicely it was sugar coated.
 His only hope was that the President, and the men and women around
him, would give him something, some compromise, that his superiors in
Berlin would accept.

Unfortunately, given the political uncertainty back home, Eichel
didn't know what his superiors would or would not accept these days. 
He was a deaf dumb and blind kid trying to play a mean pinball.

"The President will see you now," said the slim woman by the door. 
Ambassador Eichel nodded.  A Marine guard opened the door, and the
Ambassador of the German Empire to the United States of Mexico entered
the presidential office.  The first thing he noticed was that the
fireplace was lit, a rarity, and probably as a courtesy to him.  Not
that it mattered --- Eichel was prepared, having made sure to wear a
heavy wool suit.

El Popo was seated behind his desk.  Flanking him on his left was
Guillermo Enciso, the Chief of Staff.  As always, Eichel thought that
Enciso looked like a teenage boy playing at politics.  The new goatee
didn't help, in Eichel's opinion.  It made him seem like he was trying
to look older.   The Secretary of State, Maria del Rey, stood on the
other side of the desk.  Their presence was no surprise.

The surprise came in the two men seated on one of the three couches in
front of the President's desk.  One was a large goateed white man
puffing on a large puro.  (By God, Mexicans smoked anything anywhere!)
 The other was slimmer, more Mexicano-looking (to Eichel, at least,
who had been in Mexico long enough to know that here the man he was
looking at would be considered white), and dressed in an elegant light
brown business suit.  The ambassador recognized him to be the
Attorney-General, Arthur Luria.

"Come in, Mr. Ambassador," said the President, rising from his seat
and moving around to shake his hand.  "Chewy and Maria you know.  This
man here is Arthur Luria, my Attorney-General, y this fella," he said,
pointing at the mystery man with the cigar, "is Hugo Bisteni, the head
of the federal Constabulary."

The head of the Constabulary?  Unorthodox.  But unorthodoxy gave
Eichel hope.

"Please, sit down," said the President, indicating one of the
unoccupied couches.  Enciso and Del Rey shook the Ambassador's hand
and took seats on the other.  The President himself lowered his
not-inconsiderable bulk onto a flimsy chair in front of his desk.

The Ambassador remained standing.  "Before we begin, sir," he said, "I
have an official message from my government that I would like to
read."

El Popo and his cabinet had been expecting something like that for
days now.  "Go ahead," he said.

The Ambassador took a sheet of yellowish paper from his briefcase. 
"His Imperial Majesty's Government," began the Ambassador, "views with
alarm recent developments in Eastern Asia and Central America, with
specific reference to the detonation of an explosive device of
hitherto unknown power on the island of Bali and the claimed
responsibility for that device of Colonel Vincent Mercator, a citizen
of the United States of Mexico.

"His Imperial Majesty's Government accordingly calls upon the
President and Government of the United States of Mexico, by 9 January
1975, to:

"(a) Deliver public and sincere assurance that the events in the
island of Bali were no responsibility of the United States of Mexico.

"(b) Take immediate and decisive action to locate the person of
Colonel Vincent Mercator and arrest him, pending the framing of
capital charges against him by such Court as may be appointed by
Powers declaring an interest in the matter.

"(c) Cooperate fully with the investigative arms of the Governments of
Powers declaring an interest in this matter, such cooperation to
include the granting of access to such investigative agenices as may
be designated by Powers declaring an interest to any installation in
the continental or offshore territory forming part of or administered
by the United States of Mexico, such installations specifically
including military and Federal reservations.

"Should the United States of Mexico fail fully to comply with any of
the conditions above, His Imperial Majesty's Government will reserve
the right to consult with other Powers declaring an interest in the
matter in order to establish the precise measures to be taken to
coerce the Government of the United States of Mexico into compliance,
such measures to be undefined and unlimited in scope."

The President of United States blinked several times.  "Sounds like an
ultimatum, Gerhard."

"Actually, it is technically a demarche, Mr. President," said the
Ambassador.

"'Powers taking an interest'?" asked the Secretary of State.

"His Imperial Majesty's Government has been in contact with the
governments of the Kingdom of Scandinavia, the United Kingdom, the
Kingdom of Australia, and the Republic of Taiwan, in addition to our
partners in the Zollverein, Madame Secretary," replied the Ambassador.

"Hella list of partners, there," said the President.  This was clearly
Big Casino stuff.  Not that they hadn't known that already.  _Lennart
Skinner would have something pithy to say about that group_ thought
the President.

"The world is worried," replied the Ambassador.

"Well, so are we," said the President.  Then, incongruously, he
chuckled.  [1]

Secretary of State Del Rey continued.  "I want your government to
know, Mr. Ambassador, that the United States of Mexico are as
horrified by recent events as anyone, and that we will stop at nothing
to bring Mercator to justice."

An unnamed aide offered Eichel a cup of hot Chiapan coffee.  Eichel
gladly accepted.  "Thank you, Madame Secretary.  Your assurances are
most welcome by His Imperial Majesty's Government.  Any information
about Mercator's whereabouts would be most helpful."

Bisteni looked like he was about to speak, but said nothing.  This was
the President's show, and it was the President who responded.  "We
don't have Mercator, Mr. Ambassador.  I know that your people back
home don't believe that, but it should be pretty obvious that if we
did have him we'd be happily and publicly putting him on trial."

Eichel nodded.  "I know that, Mr. President, but 'my people,' as you
put it, need more assurances."

The President nodded back.  "I understand that, Mr. Ambassador.  You
realize that I can't agree to turn over a Mexican citizen to some sort
of international tribunal for trial, but I feel confident that should
we find him you won't mind us trying him ourselves."

The Ambassador nodded.  No, _he_ wouldn't mind, and he was sure that
every diplomatic and intelligence service would be telling their
governments that the Mexicans could be trusted to try Mercator.  What
he didn't know was who would be in Berlin when and if the Mexicans
caught the renegade Colonel.

Taking the Ambassador's nod for assent, El Popo continued.  "Mr.
Luria's department is charged with investigating Mercator's
disappearance, y we are, por supuesto, prepared to accept any help in
locating him from the people of the German Empire."

Eichel glanced at Del Rey.  "Yes, of course, Mr. President.  The, ah,
people of the German Empire stand ready to help our long-standing ally
in any way possible."  It wasn't quite the standard formulation, but
Eichel had to admit that "people of the German Empire" had a certain
ring to it.

Maria del Rey, smoothing her skirt over her crossed legs, politely
interjected.  "We know that the German Empire possesses a highly
skilled police service, and should you wish to lend us the aid of any
investigators, we would be happy to take them onto the team."

Luria added, "That's right, Mr. Ambassador.  We've got teams of
investigators working round the clock on this case, and any help would
be welcome."  Eichel was quite relieved by the offer.  It had Maria
del Rey's fingerprints all over it.  He didn't know how she had
convinced the President to allow German law-enforcement agents to
participate in the Mexican investigation, but she had.  Sadly, it was
not enough.  Berlin had been quite explicit.  More than mere
"participation" would be required.

"What do you know so far?" asked the Ambassador.

"Well," replied Luria, "We're almost positive that the ex-Secretary is
in either New Granada or Rio Negro."  As he talked, he opened the
briefcase by his feet, and pulled out a large file.  "The evidence
that he was in New Granada before the Christmas Bomb is overwhelming. 
It's all here in this file.  Since then, our evidence is weaker, but
we're still almost positive.    We've got intercepted transmissions
>from FANG units alluding to his presence in-country.  We've also got
reports from Jeffersonista guerrillas who have spotted heavily armed
mystery convoys near the Rio Negro border.  We're sure that he hasn't
gotten out by land or by air:  we've got the Guatemalan border sealed
up tight, and every landing in Mexico or our Caribbean allies from New
Granada has been carefully scrutinized by federal agents.  My federal
agents, Mr. Secretary, not the War Department's."  Eichel saw Bisteni
raise an eyebrow at the "my."

Luria handed the file to Eichel.  Eichel nodded.  "This is very
helpful.  Thank you.  And accepting our offer of law enforcement aid,"
an offer that had not yet been made, but hopefully soon would be,
"will go a long way towards allaying suspiscions of Mexican
culpability in last week's atrocity."  He paused.  This would be hard
part.  "The Governments of Powers declaring an interest in this matter
look forward to sending their own investigatory teams to work with
Mexico in tracking down the scope of Mercator's illegal programs."

"Aaaaahhhhhhhhhh nah," said the President.

"'Scuse me?" said the mystery man, through a haze of humo de puro.

"I understand," said Maria del Rey.  She was talking to the President,
not the Ambassador.

"Mr. Ambassador," said the President, "No disrespect intended, but
foreign teams will not be allowed inside Mexican military
installations."

Eichel sighed.  "I'm afraid that His Imperial Majesty's Government's
instructions regarding that are very clear.  They want to participate,
_actively_ participate, in any investigation."

"Jaaaaaaah mah."  Del Rey had warned the President that this was
coming, but he still had to gather himself.  "That won't be possible,
Mr. Ambassador.  We can't let foreigners traipse around our military
installations --- especially since they are now _our_ military
installations again."

"I understand, Mr. President. His Imperial Majesty's Government, along
with the governments of other interested powers," the President raised
his eyebrows at this surprise list of Mexico's ostensible enemies,
"are, however, willing to publicly absolve Mexico of all complicity in
Mercator's crime should our investigatory teams receive access to your
military facilities."

The President shook his head.  "No."

Eichel nodded.  "The public relations consequences of a refusal could
be quite serious, Mr. President."
 
Maria del Rey spoke up, "I understand that your government is seeking
Mercator's whereabouts, or help in locating him, and not access to
sensitive military information?"

"That would be correct, ma'am," replied Eichel.  

"That doesn't require opened ended access to our military facilities,
does it, Mr. Ambassador?" asked Del Rey.

"I don't believe so, no," answered Eichel.  

"So why are you asking me for it?" interjected the President.

"Sir, your former Secretary of War exploded a new and
unprecedently-powerful atomic device in neutral territory and killed
tens of thousands of people.  Your government developed this bomb. 
You may have more bombs.  You may have more bombs already planted
inside other nations.   I know that you aren't complicit in this, but
my government needs to know what Mercator has planned.  We are, after
all, your allies.  If you are suspect, then we are suspect.  That is
why we have been talking to other European and Asian powers."

"Say-tay-say," said Enciso, speaking up for the first time.  [2]

The President nodded.  "God damn Mercator," he muttered.  "Alright. 
Bisteni?  Talk to the man."

The man with the cigar took it from his mouth and stubbed it out on an
ashtray next to the couch, sending up a puff of smoke.  "Mr.
Ambassador?  I've got Constabulary agents going over Coyoacán with a
fine-tooth comb.  We've got every regular AUSM or NUSM officer who
ever set foot in the place --- and that's tens of thousands of people
--- under investigation.  We've got men going over every goddamned
filing cabinet in that place.  We're going down the ducts, into the
basements, over the grass.  Every freaking investigator I've got,
practically, is on that case."

Luria added, "You can verify that, Mr. Ambassador."  

"It's a great time to be a cigarro smuggler," mumbled Enciso.  The
President snorted.

"You see, Mr. Ambassador," said the President, "We've got Justice
Department people blanketing the War Department's headquarters."

"And," smoothly added Del Rey, "Our offer to accept help from _German_
civilian law enforcement agents in conducting our investigation still
stands."

"You won't have total access to every document we find," added
Bisteni.  "National security y all that crap.  But your guys will be
working with me.  Personally."

Luria nodded.  "You'll have the Justice Department's full
co-operation."

Enciso leaned forward.  "_You_ means _Germany_, not
all-interested-powers."  That was understood already, but the Chief of
Staff still had some things to learn about international diplomacy.

Eichel understood that this was as much as the Mexicans were prepared
to offer.  He had no idea whether it would be enough for Berlin. 
Therefore, he decided to lay his cards on the table.  "I honestly
don't know if this will be enough for my bosses, Mr. President, Madame
Secretary.  We are in uncharted territory.  I can tell you that if it
is not enough Mexico will become an international pariah.  I have been
explicitly authorized to warn you that you face economic sanctions if
our concerns are not satisfied."

The President snorted.  "I don't respond to threats."

Enciso added, "We aren't Scandinavia, Mr. Ambassador.  You'd be
shooting yourself in the head by boycotting us."

"I know that," replied Eichel.  "That is why I am not sure that
sanctions are, uh, the only possible response if our concerns are not
met."

The President grunted.  It sounded dismissive.

Eichel continued.  "On the other hand, if His Imperial Majesty's
Government's concerns are met, then Mexico will, of course, be
considered an 'interested power' should the investigation lead
elsewhere."  Eichel didn't know if El Popo would immediately
understand the meaning of that sentence, but the Ambassador was quite
sure that María del Rey did.

_Stand aloof, and we attack New Granada without you.  Give us what we
want, and you can run that show._

The Secretary of State took up the ball.  "You'll have access to the
results of our investigation, and your civilians can work with us at
the highest level.  That should be enough to alleviate your concerns
and demonstrate our good faith."

"I hope so, Madame Secretary."  

"I do too," said the President, standing.  The meeting was over. 
Eichel stood himself and shook the President's hand.  He had gotten
more than he had expected to --- now all he could hope for is that it
satisfied his superiors back home.  Eichel left the room.

Moctezuma's personal secretary walked in, and after hearing the door
shut, she spoke. "Lennart Skinner and Carter Monaghan are on the
hotline, Mr. President."  [3]  Chewy Enciso's eyes opened wide, but
Maria del Rey inwardly smirked, knowing that if she and El Popo were
teaming up for this problem, even the Vandalia/Georgia border could be
bridged.


[1]  We are the world.  We are the children of Jackson and Cuauhtémoc.
 We are the ones ... etcetera.

[2]  "Cubres Tu Culo."

[3] See footnote #7 in Sobel, p. 127 for motivation behind the
Hotline.