For All Nails #90: The Wrath of Kahn
By Johnny Pez
Joan Kahn was in a state of despair, and had been for over three months. She was sitting at her writing desk, staring hopelessly at the blank sheet of paper lodged within her dactylograph. When her flat's buzzer sounded, she barely noticed. It wasn't until the alarm sounded a second time that she mustered enough energy to get up and shuffle over to the door. Leaving the chain on, she opened it a crack. It was Steven Taylor.
"Oh. Hello," she said.
When nothing more happened after a few seconds, Taylor said, "Joan, could you please let me in?"
Kahn turned the request over in her sluggish mind for a while, then closed the door, unchained it, and opened it again. She turned and shuffled back to her writing desk. The presence of her friend and publisher led her to consider the state of her flat with a critical eye.
At the best of times, her flat could most charitably be described as cluttered. For the last three months, she had neglected even the minimal housekeeping she was accustomed to performing. Now, it looked very much like one of those photos taken of London after the last German invasion attempt was driven off.
She turned to look at Taylor, and his reaction was every bit as appalled as she had expected. He stood a few steps from the door, looking around at the mess. His mouth opened, then closed again. Clearly, words had failed him. He finally looked at her, and pleaded silently for an explanation.
"You don't want to know," she mumbled.
That seemed to unblock his vocal cords. "Like hell I don't," he insisted. "Joan, what's going on?"
Sitting back down at her desk, Joan sighed. "I found out about the wrong conspiracy."
"And what's that supposed to mean?"
"So you talked me into paying your way there when you should have been out trying to sell your last book," said Taylor. "Yes, I remember. I also remember that you didn't find anything."
"The Mexicans?" Taylor seemed dumbfounded, which was reasonable enough. Everyone knew how much President Moctezuma and Colonel Elbittar hated each other. "La Puta" was one of Elbittar's more polite nicknames for the President of Mexico, and the government press organs in the USM had rung all sorts of uncomplimentary and borderline obscene changes on the Colonel's official title of Temporary Maximum Leader.
"It's all been a put-up job," Kahn continued, "a fraud to disguise the fact that the Mexicans are transferring their atomic bomb project to New Granada. Now we know why Moctezuma was so eager to let in those inspection teams from the CNA. He knew they wouldn't find any atom bombs, because all of his atom bombs are in New Granada."
Taylor's eyes were blinking much more frequently than they normally did, which usually only happened when he was having relationship problems with his boyfriend. Kahn knew exactly how he felt, because she had felt the same way for the last three months. "Are you sure?" Taylor finally managed.
Now the anger that had been buried beneath the depression all this time finally pushed its way to the surface of her mind. "Of course I'm not fucking sure, you twit! Do you think I could go up to El Popo and ask him if he's really building a secret bomb factory in Ciudad Camacho? All I've got to go on is a sheet of carbon paper that I burned in my hotel room in San Cristóbal! Moctezuma is pulling the biggest, most dangerous put-up job in history, and I'm the only one who knows it, and I haven't got a single fucking piece of evidence!"
There was a long, long silence after that, while Kahn sat with her fists clenched and Taylor stood motionless, his blank face framed by the red and black Thomas Jefferson poster on the wall behind him.
At last, Taylor spoke quietly. "So what are you going to do about it?"
Kahn's fists unclenched, and she sagged down into her chair. "What can I do?"
Taylor's face finally moved: his eyebrows drew together, and his lips thinned. He began to stalk towards Kahn, shoving aside a stack of newspapers that stood in his way. "I'll tell you what you're going to do," he growled. "You're going to stop acting like a little daddy's girl and start acting like the relentless fucking monster you are. You're going to go back down to New Granada, and you're going to keep digging until you've got enough evidence to prove to the whole world what's happening." He was standing over her, now. Kahn had never realized before just how tall he was. "And when you get back," he finished, "we're both going to make a fucking ton of money shouting the news from the rooftops. That's what you're going to do."
For the first time, Kahn found herself wishing that her publisher was interested in women. She wanted to grab him and give him the hottest kiss he'd ever gotten in his life. Instead, she said, "You call the airpark. I'll go pack. Book me on the next flight to Bogotá."
In her bedroom, throwing clothing into a suitcase, it felt as though her recent depression was nothing more than a distant, fading dream. Her old, familiar rage at all the hidden injustice in the world was back, and burning hotter than ever.
Before she was done with them, those bastards in Bogotá and Mexico City were going to wish they'd never heard of Joan Kahn.
(Proceed to FAN #91A: The Reproaches.)
(Proceed to May 1974: For All Time (Part 1).)
(Proceed to Joan Kahn: Martha Stewart Living.)
(Return to For All Nails.)