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For All Nails #74: Conspiracy Theory

Brooklyn City, New York, Northern Confederation, CNA
26 January 1973

Joan Kahn was deep within the frame of mind she usually entered when writing.
Her brain juggled facts, figures and ideas while her fingers flew over the
dactylograph.

"Now at last we see the hand of the Tories exposed before the sight of the
world!  The liberty-loving people of Boricua--"

The sound of her apartment's door buzzer brought her back up to her normal
non-writing state of consciousness.  She responded by hurling a series of
vile oaths at her unknown interruptor.  Picking her way through the mass of
books, magazines, newspaper clippings, nearly-empty food containers, and
other sundry odds and ends that filled every horizontal surface in the
apartment, Kahn flung open the door and snarled, "What the hell do _you_
want?"

"I want to marry you," said the man standing in the doorway.

"Very funny, Steve," Kahn said as she stood aside.

Steven Taylor, whose Justice Press had published Kahn's first two books and
was set to publish a third, entered the apartment.  As he always did when he
entered, he said, "You should get a maid.  You can certainly afford one."

As she always did, Kahn answered, "I know exactly where every item in this
apartment is, and I want to keep it that way."  Closing her door, she added,
"Did you just come to propose to me, or there another reason you're here?"

"Well, there is another reason," Taylor admitted as he perched gingerly on
the arm of a sofa overflowing with decades-old Mexican newsmagazines, "but I
notice you didn't give me an answer."

"About marrying you?"  Kahn cocked an eyebrow.  "Tell you what.  You go talk
to Rabbi Klein about converting, and then we'll see about marriage.  Ask him
to tell you about the bris while you're at it."

"I'll do that," Taylor said.  "Anyway, the /other/ reason I'm here is to talk
to you about the book tour for _The Kronmiller Conspiracy_."

"Again with the book tour?  Level with me, Steve.  Just how many extra books
do you expect to sell by having me go shmooze with every talking head between
here and East Bumfuck, Manitoba?"

"Truthfully?  At least twenty thousand," Taylor insisted.  "You're our big
star, Joan.  Your books sell ten times as many copies as anybody else we
publish.  You put Justice Press on the map with your Hermión book."

Shaking her head, Kahn said, "Don't remind me."  The last thing Kahn had
expected when she published _The Unknown History of the Hermión
Assassination_ was that the thing would wind up on the New York Herald
bestseller list.  She was supposed to be uncovering a deeply-buried
conspiracy at the heart of the CNA's government.  She had expected to be
fending off assassination attempts by CBI agents, not appearing on nationally
vitavised chat shows.  To her dismay, her follow-up book on the Kinkaid
assassination had done even better.  Some members of the radical wing of the
PJP were accusing /her/ of being an undercover CBI agent, aiming to discredit
historical revisionism, though thank goodness Vernor Dean had publicly stood
by her.  He was worth ten of that horrible yenta Miriam Levine.

"How about this?" she said to Taylor.  "Suppose we test your theory by having
me /not/ go on a book tour this time?  If sales go down, you'll have proved
your point, and I won't raise any more objections."

"It's certainly a bold method of conducting market research," Taylor
answered, "but I think I'll take a pass on it."

"Steve," she implored, "the thing is, I don't have /time/ for a book tour.
I've just started work on another project, and I need to fly out to New
Granada to conduct research."

"What new project?  And why New Granada?"

"Come on, Steve, isn't it obvious?  Who do you think is behind the fall of
the Hermións?"

It took a moment for Taylor to get the drift of her thoughts.  "You think
/Monaghan/ is backing Colonel Elbittar?"

"Steve, this has got Liddy's fingerprints all over it!  It's all part of his
campaign to destabilize the Mexican sphere of influence.  First New Granada,
and now Boricua!  If I can find evidence that Liddy is behind the New
Granadan gualpistas, it could cost Monaghan the election."

"Joan, in the first place, the elections are less than three weeks away, and
in the second place, if Monaghan loses then Governor Skinner will become the
Governor-General, and he makes Liddy look like Dick Mason."  Seeing the look
in Kahn's eyes, Taylor changed his tone.  "Look, if Liddy /is/ behind the
gualpistas, the evidence will still be there a month from now.  And just to
show you that I know how important this is to you, I'll arrange for the book
tour to swing through New Granada.  That way, you can collect evidence for
your next book, and I can collect more sales for this one.  What do you say?"

Kahn brooded over the offer for several moments before she finally said, "Oh,
all right.  But we have to spend at least a week in New Granada, and I want
at least three days to myself to investigate the coup."

Taylor winced but said, "It's a deal.  As soon as I've finalised the
itinerary I'll stop by and go over it with you."

"Good," Kahn stated.  "Now kindly get the hell out of here.  I've got a lot
of work to do before sunset."

"That's my girl," Taylor smiled as he made his way back to the door.  "And as
soon as I find out what a bris is, I'm going to start shopping for an
engagement ring."