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«Memorial Day» by Vince Flynn

Location :: www » en » blog » 2007 » porridge or terror?

Couldn't see her point

There are days when a light read is good. An American text would suffice; some meager 400 pages spread out over 94(!) chapters plus epilogue and prelude—plenty of short attention spans (and pretzel sticks. It is even possible to watch TV while reading the very light book «Memorial Day» by Vince Flynn). Here's an out-take:

The two entered the White House and were immediately offered a glass of champagne. Stealey took one, but Holmes declined. He'd already declared his intention to avoid the pond scum that they served at these types of things and stick to Belvedere vodka, which of course meant that he'd be tanked up by ten. To Holmes any bottle of wine, sparkling or otherwise, was to be avoided unless its price tag had at least three digits prior to the decimal. For an evening like this, four would have been preferred, but Holmes hadn't been consulted. If he had been, it probably would have meant he was expected to pay for it, or worse, provide a dozen cases from his private collection. That would never happen. The only sin worse than drinking a cheap bottle of wine was wasting a good one on people who couldn't appreciate it.
Holmes looked like a fullback blocking for a halfback as he pushed his way through the Cross Hall toward the East Room and the bar. Between them he and Peggy created quite the stir, half the men beseeching Holmes for a favor and the other half gawking at his date. Holmes refused every attempt to engage him in conversation.
“You know the rule,” he said at least three times. “Not until I have a drink in my hand.” As chairman of the DNC he was in control of the party's purse strings, and there was never enough money to go around.
When they finally reached the bar Holmes went around the side and waved the bartender over. Two rows of people were neatly cued up and patiently waiting their turn. Holmes didn't wait in lines, especially when he was thirsty. Several of the people muttered to each other over the break of decorum.
The bartender came over and Holmes slapped a folded hundred-dollar bill in the man's hand and whispered in his ear, “Belvedere on the rocks, double, and a tall Vodka tonic, double.”
The man glanced down at the crisp bill and said, “Sir, it's an open bar.”
“I know it is. That's your tip.”
“But I can't...”
“Yes, you can,” Holmes said impatiently. “Now hurry up. I'm thirsty.”
The bartender left to make the drinks.
Stealey turned her bare back to the people in line. “You're getting some awfully dirty looks, Mr. Chairman.”
Holmes glanced over her shoulder and plastered an ugly smile across his face. “They're not looking at me. They're all looking at you. They're thinking you're a movie star.”
Stealey smiled warmly. “What a nice compliment, Pat.”
“Yeah, either that or they think you're a high-priced call girl.”
The smile vanished and was replaced by with a scowl.
“You should be flattered. Have you ever seen how hot some of the call girls are in this town?” The scowl remained, so Holmes kept digging. “All I'm trying to say is that you are an extremely beautiful woman. You look fantastic tonight.”
Stealey sighed and shook her head. “Patrick, there are nicer ways to say that than comparing me to a prostitute.”
Thankfully the drinks arrived, because Holmes couldn't see her point. He didn't say prostitute, he said call girl, and in his mind, and in this town, there was a big difference.
He took the drinks from the bartender and told him he'd be back in about ten minutes to reload. He handed Stealey her drink and with a British accent said, “As I mentioned, you look raaavishing this evening.” He raised his glass in a toast. He looked handsome in his tux, and she looked stunning in her shimmering robin's-egg blue evening gown. If all went well he'd finally get her to bed tonight. They both took a drink and smiled at each other. He knew she knew, and she knew he knew and round and round they went.
Stealey set her champagne glass on the tray of the passing server and turned to take in the magnificence of the East Room. Weddings, wakes, and countless functions, some historical and some meaningless, had all been held in this, the grandest room of the People's House. The ambiance was intoxicating. This was power. This was the closest thing modern-day America had to a King's Court.
A senator, whose name Stealey couldn't recall, approached and extended his hand. Stealey returned the gesture and was surprised when the man took her hand in his and kissed it.
“Pat,” the senator said to Holmes, while keeping his eyes locked on Stealey's, “please introduce me to this lovely woman.”
“She's my fiancée, Harry, so take your mitts off her.” Holmes grabbed Stealey by the arm and led her away. “I'm not one to talk about morals, but the man is the scum of the earth.”
“Where are you taking me?“ Stealey asked, as she whisked across part of the dance floor and between several tables.
“I see our next vice president over here with his wife.”
Stealey went rigid, but it was too late. Stokes and his wife, the mouse, were both waving at them. Holmes took a big gulp of vodka and then held up his drink. A split second later they were standing right in front the attorney general and his wife, Stealey as stiff as a board and Holmes as gregarious as ever.
“Libby, so good to see you.” Holmes was well over a foot taller than the woman. He bent over and gave her a warm kiss on the cheek.
“Good to see you, Pat.” She rubbed his arm warmly. You look very handsome tonight, and...” She paused and turned her big brown eyes on Stealey.
Stealey stood there with her best fake smile plastered across her porcelain face. Here it comes, she thought. She's going to kill me with kindness like she always does.
“Look at this beautiful woman.” Elisabeth Stokes took a half a step back and looked Stealey over from head to toe. “Peggy, I swear you're the only woman I know who gets better looking each year.
“Elisabeth, you're too kind.” The women exchanged air kisses so as to not disturb their makeup.
“For the last time, Peggy, call me Libby.”
She nodded and kept the fake smile in place. It drove her nuts that here this woman was, close to fifty, and she still wanted to be called by her childhood nickname. “Libby,” she over annunciated the name like she was speaking to a child. “You look very nice also.”
“Nice,” growled Holmes. “You look gorgeous.”
“Why, thank you.” Libby did a miniature debutante twirl and batted her big brown eyes and lush eyelashes at Holmes.
That was her best weapon, Stealey knew. She'd seen her do it before. The big bedroom eyes and those naturally thick eyelashes drove the boys crazy. Stealey wanted to tell her in the worst way that she had slept with her husband and finally be done with the insincerity, but she knew deep down where that would lead. Libby was the mother hen and she would do anything to protect her nest. Martin was too gutless to stand up to her. There was no way he would leave and she knew she didn't really want him anymore anyway.
“So,” Holmes said in a much quiter voice. Everyone leaned in a few inches. “Has your husband told you the big news?”
Stokes looked almost instantly uncomfortable. “I think it's a bit premature, don't you?”
“Oh, I don't think so,” Holmes said with a big grin.
“What's the big news?” Mrs. Stokes asked excitedly.
Stokes took another sip and shook his head.
“Oh, come on,” Holmes chided him. “Won't you let me tell her?”
Stokes finally smiled. “All right, go ahead, but, honey, I want you to know the only reason I didn't tell you was that it's not a hundred percent yet.”
“It ain't over until the fat lady sings, of course. But then again you're here tonight and the vice president isn't.”
“What's going on?”
Stealey watched as Libby Stokes sidled up to her husband like a cat in heat.
“Please let me tell her?” asked Holmes.
Stokes nodded.
“Good.” Holmes offered his arm. “Would you like to accompany me to the bar, Libby? I need to freshen my drink and along the way I will share with you the good news.”
Libby shivered like an excited child and they were off. Stealey watched them with a mix of disgust and amusement. She hoped Holmes told her she looked as nice as a call girl. She felt her boss's breath on her bare neck and slowly turned. He had that look in his eye. The look that he only got when his wife was not around.
“You look fabulous,” he whispered, “and you smell great too.”
If they were alone Stealey would have considered another blow to his groin, but this was obviously not the place for her to fully express the hate side of their love-hate relationship.
“It's too bad you brought your wife tonight.”
Stokes stood there guardedly, knowing she was toying with him, but unable to help himself. “Why do you say that?”
Stealey leaned forward, her lips almost touching his ear. “Because I was going to bring you back to my place tonight and tie you up.” Then leaning away from him she nonchalantly said, “Oh look, there's Valerie. Well, maybe som other time.” And just like that she was gone, leaving her boss and former lover standing alone to sort out the mix of emotion and desire that was coursing through his brain and other parts.

Oh, that miserable and Unbearable Lightness of Being!

The theme of the fictious novel was—by the way—terrorism, counter intelligence and field operations. Gripping and well written in a modern cowboyish style. At the end the writer summed up:

... Rapp ended the call, his mind already a thousand miles away, coming up with a plan of attack. A mental list was forming of who and what to hit first. Soon the religious zealots would regroup and come at them again. The outcome of this war, Mitch knew, was far from certain. There was no walking away from this fight. No sidestepping it. There was only one way to wage it—head-on and with brutal and overwhelming force.

Yup, the American way, killing off anything that moves and/or threatens the American Way (of living, even though many a hostile situation is made by Americans themselves, and in places where no aggressor should set his foot). I couldn't feel less sorry for their misdemeanor...

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