It was 4:15 in the morning of Friday, December 22, 2017 — almost six months since my office was sacked and the Treason-tape stolen — when the alarm rang the first time. I reached for the S7, squinted at it until the screen came into focus, swiped the alarm away, but it kept coming as it was programmed to do.
I gave up the fight I did not have the will to win fifteen minutes and three snoozes later, kissed the crack of Joy’s ass, which had sperm crusted over it and smelled like the enriched earth around a dozen roses, rolled out of bed and carried that scent to shower.
I rushed the shower and I rushed my shave by shaving in the shower.
Pores wide open from the hot water, I changed into my lucky Ralph Lauren Chalkstripe Flannel Double-Breasted Suit, dumped the red Hermes Maillons Libres square 45, Joy had given me for my fifty-first birthday eleven days before into the jacket’s chest pocket, and loosely knotted the matching Hemes H Attack tie around my neck.
I was ready for my date with former F.B.I director Robert S. Mueller who, on Wednesday, May 17, 2017, had been appointed by the Justice Department as Special Counsel to oversee an investigation into the ties between the Kunt campaign and Vlad’s mob, and who had recently asked that I stop by his D.C. office for a fireside ‘chat.’ SHIT, THIS DAPPER BASTARD WAS READY FOR ANYTHING!
I left Joy sleeping on her side peacefully. Her knees drawn to her breasts and her arms wrapped around her knees. Whatever she was dreaming about made her smile. So, I crept out of my sty like a thief in the night and left her to dream some more.
On Grand Concourse, a malnourished moon was getting down low behind long wispy white clouds that were moving so fast they seemed to leave a trail in a sky that was not quite as dark as it had been only moments before.
Yes, the night was getting tired, but it still had the strength to zap me with a cold wind, which froze the thin veneer of perspiration I’d been carrying since my shower onto my face. And it had the graciousness to provide me with chilled fresh air that I gulped down greedily.
Jay-B was waiting for me at the intersection of 166th Street and Grand Concourse, his Range Rover pointing due east, listening to Ozuna x Romeo Santos’ moody bachata-laced Latin-Trap novella, “El Farsante,” sporting a IT’S MULLERTIME logoed retro-baseball cap and a stoner perma-grin so wide you couldn’t get around it, fidgeting with a sweet, flowery, smelling Leira Cannagar Korona pre-rolled cannabis cigar, sealed with purple wax to evoke elegance, power and wealth and justify its $420 price-tag.
“Esa que fumas es una mierda cara, Jay-B — That’s some very fucking expensive, bourgeois, lux- shit” I teased.
He just smiled and shrugged his shoulders: “Sí, pero es un vuelo de cinco horas de duración. That’s five fucking hours of bliss!” And then he giggled, “Yeah, while you’re drowning in the damn swamp, Degas. I’ll be chillaxing in heaven.”
“Or banging ‘hoes’ and ‘chapiadora’s’ in hell with Ozuna and Romeo here in the Bronx?” I kidded, as the bridge led inextricably to a chorus where the two young ‘Fakers’ profess undying love to the countless women they have wronged — seeking absolution without actually apologizing for anything at all.
“Qué piensas, realmente?” Jay-B sulked as if stung by an errant truth. And then he turned up the volume on ‘El Farsante’ and threw husky #metoo chorus at the windshield as if he were the bad boys prey: “Si todavía me amas como antes, Ya nada me parece interesante, Yo sé que en el amor soy un farsante, Yo sin ti no vuelvo an enamorarme bebé.”
What I really thought was that Jay-B’s ‘El Farsante’ was as desperately personal and as vague as confession. So, I tried my hand at mercy: “Morning washes away night three hundred and sixty-five times a year,” I said looking over his shoulder at the first minutes of a murky daybreak as dull as night, “and we get the chance to do better again and again and again.”
“Sometimes —” he replied choosing his words like ripe avocados as we pulled away, making a sharp right onto Grand Concourse. “I just don’t know what it is to be a man, which risks to accept? Which to avoid? Which foot to put down first?” He asked rhetorically, pressing his right foot down on the accelerator harder: “Cuál es el maldito primes paso a dar Primer.”
We sped south down Grand Concourse, turned right onto 138th Street, where a 2010, BMW 760Li battle cruiser, wearing matte pearl white paint up to its resprayed kidney grill, sporting a hulking 6.0-liter twin-turbocharged V12 up front with power channeled to the rear wheels through an eight-speed automatic, sped past us slouched on 22″ Staggered Lexani Pegasus Chrome Rims and low profile tires, chased by a pair NYPD patrol cars, lights flashing sirens blazing.
The sidewalks were dark and empty, and the streets were dark quiet, but the murals dedicated to fallen heroes with gangster’s names like Chi-Chi, Scarface, Freddy Kruger, and Angel decorating neighborhood walls, told brightly colored tales of a time when Mott Haven was at the center of the crack universe and the mayhem capital of the world.
We merged onto the pock-marked black-top of the four-lane Madison Avenue swing bridge, which crosses the Harlem River to connect 138th Street with Madison Avenue and Manhattan to the Bronx and made a sharp left onto Fifth Avenue where dull thud of bass-drum escaping from a passing low-rider drowned out “Ahora Me Llama,” Karol-G’s stuttering, minimalist, love-gone-astray, Latin-Trap masterpiece. So, Jay-B made Karol louder and a few blacks later Bad Bunny’s syrupy vocal feature rocked me to sleep.
I woke outside Penn station, slapped goodbye with Jay-B and shuffled my way through a throng of commuter traffic to ride the 6 AM Acela Express to Union Station in DC.
The regular beat of the trains steel -wheels banging on the regular gaps between short-length rails were syncopated by slight variations in the fit of the rails which ratchetted the tone up and down, and changing tracks fired rimshots and sudden flourishes onto the hypnotic soundtrack that accompanied my ride to DC.And in my reflection in the dusty train window I reran the tumult of the past six months, which were all about Joy, who had moved in on a hotter than July Sunday in late September, about a month after she stopped working for Cohn.
The first consequence of Joy moving in was that my Ropa vieja became more tender, my Arroz con pollo became more savory, my Vaca Frita and Moros y Cristianos became more spicy because she added Salsa Picante to everything we did and that we did dessert: Cazuela de plátano, Pastelitos de Guayaba and Brazo de Gitano, meaning Gypsey’s arm, a mouth-watering rolled sponge cake with a guava jelly filling, because if she had to cook? It had to be desert. The second consequence was that I finally found the time to wake and smell the roses, because suddenly there were flowers in abundance, and there was no need to chase my own or anyone else’s tail.
This particular flower bloomed quickly.Wearing a wire for Comey was the start of it. She’d, ‘ — taped Cohn and Kunt talking to Roger Stone and Julian Assange about a WikiLeaks drop of DNC emails — made copies of the checks Kunt wrote from his personal bank account (after he became President) to reimburse Cohn for the payments we made to cover up his affair with Stormy during the campaign — filmed Kunt asking Cohn if he could name a country run by a black person that wasn’t a ‘shithole,’ — recorded Kunt telling Cohn that he wasn’t going to release his tax returns because they might lead to an audit, and Cohn auctioning access to Kunt at the inauguration and to the pharmaceutical company Novartis and AT&T.’ Kunt took her the rest of the way himself, when:On August 15, 2017: during an event on infrastructure in the lobby of Kunt Tower, he argued that white nationalists who marched in Charlottesville, Va., AND MURDERED HEATHER HEYER included “some very fine people.” [iv]On September 22, 2017: while campaigning for Republican Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama, he attacked NFL players who protested during the national anthem, saying they should be fired and screaming ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field’ to an audience of his faithful, about no one player in particular, just the class.
But it was Kunt’s response to Hurricane Maria, which slammed into Puerto Rico, on September 20, 2017 leaving at least half of the island’s population without power for months and killing more than three thousand people, including Gloria Torres, Joy’s childhood best friend, that finally woke her militancy. She taped a tirade Kunt launched at Cohn, then Chief of Staff John Kelly, and then Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, that he ‘did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico,’ and ordered them to divert the island’s relief funds to the great Kunt-voting red-states of Texas and Florida (which, they could not do because congress had already appropriated the funds and they had to be used as intended).[vi] And she sent her tape to Monica, who used it as hook for ‘Racist Kunt,’ her story of Kunt’s obsessive screwing of Puerto Rico. The story, which included a document that Joy had snatched from Cohn showing that the Kunt administration had siphoned off $10 million of emergency funding that should have gone to Puerto Rico and redirected it to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), was published in the Post three days later.[vii] Joy walked out of Cohn’s office and his life that same day.
She arrived at my door rolling a pair of Away the Large Aluminum Edition suitcases, a toothbrush, and a you-ain’t-seen-nothing-yet thick lipped smile and left a few days later to travel across America by car, visiting places like Flint, Michigan and Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, and speaking to people affected by the Flint water crisis and Dakota Access Pipeline.When she came back we flew to Puerto Rico, together. And stayed with Gloria’s mami, Sonia, in a single bed, on the second floor of a sky-blue wooden shack that was originally built to house slaves, in La Perla, a drug and crime ravaged neighborhood of San Juan, Puerto Rico nestled along a narrow band of land between the walls of the Castillo San Cristóbal and the oceanGloria Torres had taught special-ed at Our Lady of Covadonga Primary School in La Perla, which had become an unlikely tourist destination with the success of the ‘Despacito’ music video, which was filmed there,La Perla had, for the most part, been reduced to rubble by Maria, though it had miraculously spared Sonia’s shack which was protected from its high winds by an overhanging rock. Gloria died trying to claw one of her young students out of that rubble, only to be decapitated by a swinging steel I-beam that had been incorrectly installed.Through Sonia’s proud eyes we saw La Perla rebuilding in spite of Kunt, and without significant help from the federal government, the island government, or San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, whose offices are in the Viejo San neighborhood next to La Perla and who became an international celebrity by criticizing Kunt’s calculated indifference to the storm’s human cost, but had been absent since, preferring to politick with Democratic Party leaders on the mainland than dirty her hands.And we witnessed Gloria’s colleagues; young teachers like her cousin Carlos Rodríguez, “putting their whole lives and everything that they had on the line for the protection of their people” by using the school (which had been scheduled to close by the Department of Education) as a soup-nappies care-center for the entire La Perla community,[viii] which inspired Joy to begin to work to improve our community!
So, by the time (on December 4) Kunt endorsed racist former State Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, a predator who hunted sex with girls as young as 14, in the Alabama special election to fill Attorney General, Jeff Sessions’ seat, and then (on December 6) recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and began the divisive process of moving the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv, Joy had progressed well beyond progressive to something more militant though as yet ill-defined that embraced the need to redistribute wealth and democratize opportunity. And she had decided to run-against 10-term democratic boss, congressman Joe Crowley, who had expected to run unopposed in the 2018 elections in New York § District 14, as he had at every congressional election since 2004.
The train chugged into Union Station nine minutes early at 8:52 AM but we didn’t get out of the train for another fifteen minutes because the power went out, the air got stale and then rancid from the smell of the toilets, and the doors wouldn’t open.
When they did, a heavenly shaft of light poked through the monumental, ornamental, Beaux-Arts shed’s ninety-six-foot-high, arched, sky-lit, roof and picked me out of the hyper-kinetic crowd of crisscrossing commenters like a follow-spot.
This was to be my day in the sun. Then the sun tucked behind a cloud and I wasn’t quite as sure anymore!
I took a cab to 950 Pennsylvania Avenue, and a selfie outside Department of Justice Special Counsel's Office like I was Jimmy fucking Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and I sent that to Joy. The big surprise was that Monica was outside wrapped up in Canada Goose and slipped into the picture.
She was there to let me know she was, and had been since the day I met her, working for the Feds. And that her cover was blown. Consequently, she was leaving the country.
She didn’t have time for a long goodbye, but she’d be in touch. She asked me for my burner and swapped it for another, dumping the old one in a bin.
And then she tossed me an ice cold “’N-Joy yourself,” which left a draft.
Mueller was a man a few words defined more by the silence between the words than the words themselves, made more powerful with every word he does not say.
“Thank you very much for your time Degas. Your testimony may be invaluable to our case. I am going to conduct the interview, which is being recorded and filmed, myself. I like to avoid the circus when I can. Is that ok?
Can I smoke,” I asked nodding to make clear it was a request and not a pre-condition.
“So long as they’re legal,” he joked, awkwardly, uncomfortably, like he was wearing an ill-fitting suit. And he pointed to the projector: “I try to stay away from digital presentations when I can Degas, because they’re one click away from the New York Times, CNN, the Washington Post — I’d like to show you a few slides to explain what we already know. And then ask you a few questions. Does that work for you?”
“Fire away,” I said taking a deep breath that might have gone deeper if it hadn’t ended in a hacking cough.
He started slowly, weighing the syllables carefully one at a time, gauging my reaction in the silences. So, I gave him nothing but smoke.
“Comey sent Agent Monica Rivera to you the day after Kunt’s election. We’d recruited her just after her father’s boat exploded a few hundred yards off the coast of Vieques. As you know Edwin’s trade was information, and in his files, we found the ‘Seguro’ file --- yours. The information in the file implied that a crime, perhaps many crimes, have been committed by Kunt against you and your family, and we want to understand how much you know and whether what you know could be helpful to our case?”