For All Nails #74: Conspiracy Theory
By Johnny Pez
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 the 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."
(Proceed to A Helping Hand.)
(Proceed to The World Joan Made.)
(Return to For All Nails.)