For All Nails #66B: Diplomacy
by Johnny Pez
Ciudad Tómas Jefferson, Boricua
6 April 1973
The German consulate in Ciudad Tómas Jefferson was a fairly small building, as might be expected in a tropical island that was no more than a backwater remnant of the former Spanish colonial empire. That made it far too small to comfortably hold Exterior Minister Joshua Merkel and his official entourage, so Merkel had booked himself and his staff a set of rooms in the Ambassador Hotel, which was the setting for the current negotiations between Germany, North America, Mexico and Boricua.
The day's frustrating round of negotiations had ended, and evening was drawing on. Merkel was relaxing out on the balcony, puffing away on a Cuban cigar and enjoying the sight of the crescent moon shining across the sea, when his aide Johann Gerstenzang joined him.
"Excuse the interruption, Herr Minister, but there is a gentleman here who wishes to speak with you."
Merkel was annoyed, but he suppressed the feeling. Johann had been working for him long enough to know when he should and should not interrupt him. Merkel turned away from the moon and asked, "Who is it, Johann?"
"President Moctezuma, sir."
Merkel blinked. "Moctezuma's here?"
"Yes, sir." Merkel envied Johann his equanimity. Of course, why shouldn't the aide be calm? Moctezuma wasn't here to see him. Setting down his cigar with a sigh of regret, Merkel followed Johann out to the suite's common room where there were two men waiting for him. He had no trouble recognizing Moctezuma, but was brought short by the realization that he did not recognize the other man, which was very odd, since it ought to have been Moctezuma's Secretary of State, Benedict Denison. That, combined with the fact that Moctezuma had appeared in Boricua without advance notice, let Merkel know that there was something unusual going on.
Merkel was aware that Moctezuma spoke English and Spanish, but no German. Merkel himself spoke both Mexican languages, and he knew from reports out of the German embassy in Mexico City that Moctezuma's English was more comprehensible than his Spanish. So he greeted the Mexican president in that language while shaking his hand. "President Moctezuma, this is an unexpected pleasure."
"Pleased to meet you, Mr. Merkel," said Moctezuma, as his huge hand enveloped Merkel's. "This is my assistant, Guillermo Enciso."
Merkel greeted Enciso, then said, "I wasn't aware that you were coming to Boricua, Mr. President."
"It's a surprise," said Moctezuma with a chuckle.
His mind whirling, Merkel said, "Would I be correct in assuming that Secretary Denison is not in on the surprise?"
Moctezuma gave Merkel a sly smile. "A clever guess, Mr. Merkel. I want to conduct a little high diplomacy, y I'm afraid a diplomat would only get in the way."
"Please, have a seat, Mr. President," said Merkel, "and tell me what sort of diplomacy you had in mind."
"Please, Mr. Merkel, call me Popo," said Moctezuma as he settled his considerable bulk in one of the suite's sofas. "As for the diplomacy, I want to see if you and I can resolve the question of these North American soldiers that the Boricuans are holding prisoner."
"I'm afraid the local revolutionaries intend to derive the maximum advantage possible from the prisoners," Merkel explained. "The position of my own government is that the prisoners ought to be returned and relations between the CNA and Boricua should be placed on a stable footing as soon as possible. Unfortunately, your Mr. Denison has resisted my efforts to bring about such a settlement."
"He's not my Mr. Denison," Moctezuma muttered.
"Ah," said Merkel. This explained much. And if Merkel remembered his Mexican history correctly, the Secretary of State was next in line for the Presidency. At least one of Moctezuma's predecessors had been a Secretary of State who succeeded an assassinated President. "Perhaps," Merkel finally said, "something can be arranged. Johann, could you put a call through to the Boricuan Foreign Commission? I'd like to speak with Commissioner Mola. And please put it on the speakerphone."
It took some time for Gerstenzang to locate Commissioner Mola, but at last the Boricuan official was on the phone, and the conversation resumed in Spanish.
"What is it you wish, Señor Merkel?" Even over the speakerphone, Merkel could recognize Mola's colorless voice.
"I have a visitor here who wishes to speak with you, Commissioner Mola," Merkel answered with a certain amount of relish. "His name is Immanuel Moctezuma."
"Hello, Señor Mola," said Moctezuma in his unmistakable basso profundo voice. "I hear you've been dragging your feet about these North American prisoners." Now that he heard Moctezuma's Spanish, Merkel understood the reports from the Mexico City embassy. It took a distinct effort to understand the man's thick rural accent.
"Ah, yes, ah, ah, I mean, yes, El Señor Presidente," said Mola, sounding flustered and unsure of himself for the first time Merkel could recall. He didn't even object to the way Moctezuma called him "señor", a title which had fallen out of favor in Boricua after the revolution. The Commissioner continued, "I understood from Secretary Denison that, er, that the bandits, er, prisoners were to remain in Boricua and perhaps be placed on trial."
"We've changed our minds," said Moctezuma. "We want you to let them all go."
Merkel's only regret was that he couldn't see Mola's face. "What? Impossible!"
"Did I just hear you say the word 'impossible' to the President of the United fucking States of Mexico?" Moctezuma's voice was rising in volume.
"But, but, but, I can't let them all go! I'd be dragged off by the Liberty Guards before nightfall!" Mola's formerly expressionless voice was now broadcasting panic.
"If I might offer a suggestion," said Merkel. "Perhaps President Moctezuma would be willing to accept the release of some of the prisoners. Half of them, say?"
"That would still be too many," Mola insisted. "Maybe I could manage to have five hundred released."
"A thousand," Moctezuma declared. "No less."
"A thousand seems like a reasonable number to me," Merkel interjected.
There was a long pause before Mola finally said in a quiet voice, "All right, we'll let a thousand go."
"Good," pronounced Moctezuma. "And just to make sure you don't get any funny ideas, we're all going to make a joint statement to the press in one hour. You, me, Señor Merkel, Señor Bakersfield," and now Moctezuma grinned like a lunatic, "and Secretary Denison."
(Forward to FAN #67: Even Paranoids Have Enemies.)
(Forward to 16 April 1973: Victoria's Secret (Part 7).)
(Return to For All Nails.)