For All Nails #81E: Mistaken Identity
by Johnny Pez
- Bogotá, Kingdom of New Granada
- 15 June 1974
Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore stood alone in a starlit ornamental garden on the grounds of the Royal (formerly the Presidential) Palace, a flute glass of champagne in one hand, a plate holding half a dozen canapes in the other. Some time during the last hour, spent listening to multilingual banalities and avoiding New Granada's new monarch, the festivities inside had crossed the line from amusing to annoying, and she had conducted a strategic withdrawal. Her nominal date for the evening had finally become alarmed at her ambiguously worded advances, and was off somewhere trying to seduce one of the waiters. Captain Gilmore was starting to regret accepting His Grace's invitation to Ferdie's coronation, and was now wishing she was back at the Space Agency compound in the Georgia Peninsula.
Topiary had never been one of her enthusiasms, but there was little else to draw her attention at the moment, so she was moving slowly through the fragrant garden, finding flaws in the work of the Palace's gardening staff. An image came to her mind of a flight of Dragons dive-bombing the Royal Palace with incendiaries, and the ornamental garden going up in flames. Now that was an amusing thought. She could just see Ferdie standing stubbornly atop the Palace, using a bullhorn to explain to the airmobile pilots that their attack was contrary to the Rules of War, and calling upon them to cease and desist.
Gilmore was rounding a forsythia bush that had been shaped to resemble a rhinoceros, when she nearly ran into a woman who was standing beside it. The Captain was opening her mouth to deliver a cutting remark when she noticed two things. First, the woman was holding a hand-rolled marihuana cigarillo, and second, the woman was her one-time friend from the Air Force Academy. So what she actually ended up saying was, "Alex! What are you doing here?"
The woman didn't react the way Alexandra Stapleton would have, though. Instead of trying to hide the cigarillo from Gilmore and unleashing a torrent of profanity, she simply raised one eyebrow and said in an exquisite English accent, "I beg your pardon?"
That was when Gilmore realized her mistake. The woman was a dead ringer for Alex Stapleton (apart from her hair, which was much longer than the severe Manitoban ever wore it), but she was not Alex Stapleton. "I'm, I'm sorry," Gilmore stammered, "I thought you were someone else." Gilmore decided then and there that she hated the woman in front of her more than she hated anyone else in the whole world. Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore never apologized, and never ever stammered, and this hideous English b-tch had just made her do both.
Well, the best defense was a good offense. "By any chance," Gilmore continued with a faint sneer in her voice, "do you have any . . . family . . . in Fort Benton, Manitoba?" Of course, the suggestion that one had family (or whatever passed for family) in Manitoba was insulting to anyone other than an actual Manitoban, implying as it did the presence of utopians and/or sexual deviants among one's relations.
Instead of being offended, though, the English doxy simply laughed and said, "Perhaps. My uncles have sired so many bastards in so many places it's difficult to keep track. But please, I'm interested to hear more about this Alex person you've mistaken me for. Does she also fly round the world in a little tin cup?"
Gilmore began mentally cursing. The b-tch had recognized her! Worse and worse! But Captain the Honorable Evangeline Adrienne Gilmore wasn't about to lose a battle of wits to some tarted-up English dope fiend. Still with the sneer in her voice, she answered, "Her mother was an adulteress and her father was a murderer. Perhaps you are related."
The tramp didn't bat an eye, d-mn her! Pausing to take a pull on her yanqui weed, she said, "Sweety, I've more adulterers and murderers in my family than the Borgias and the Ottomans put together. We are the darkest, most tainted royal house in Europe. Your friend Alex doesn't hold a candle to us!" FN1
Then Gilmore finally realized that she had been trading poisoned barbs with Princess Sophia of Great Britain. Hell's apes! Time for another strategic withdrawal. Offering the whey-faced princess an insultingly elaborate curtsy, Gilmore said, "I'll be certain to let her know the next time I see her, Your Highness. I'm sure she'll be pleased to learn that Fort Benton has so much in common with London." Still hunched obsequiously over, Gilmore backed around behind the mutilated shrubbery before straightening and stalking away.
The windows of the Palace blazed with light, and dance music was coming from the ballroom. Perhaps little Ferdie was still around. Gilmore found herself looking forward to meeting him again. She was suddenly in the mood to torment and humiliate a member of royalty, and Ferdie would be a perfect choice.
(Forward to FAN #81F: A Honey Trap?)
(Return to For All Nails.)