“Yeah, the first time I saw AGENT Monica Rivera, she was floating like a butterfly down the west side of Broadway, wrapped in something precious, lugging a saddle brown tote-bag, and protected by an attitude that devils like me care about. It took her a few minutes to flutter into my office and by that time I was in love, which I knew was a bad idea, because what floats like a butterfly stings like a bee, but I couldn’t help myself.  Look Mueller, it’s a long way from the Bronx to Pennsylvania Avenue, and your digs are disappointing.  But. I’m here now! So, let’s get done and dusted! Just don’t ask me anything too difficult, because my lawyer’s on vacation in Tampa this week.”

Mueller tapped his long grey hands on his kneecaps which flashed a $35 Casio watch with the face pressed against the inside of his left wrist, in the style of an infantryman trying to avoid giving away his position with a glint of sunshine off the glass.[i] And grimaced like I’d hurt his feelings or taken a sledgehammer to the decorum of his high office. And he replied quietly, certain of his ground: “You don’t eat before your troops eat, and you don’t ask your troops to do anything you wouldn’t do,too.[ii] And you certainly don’t ask questions that you wouldn’t answer yourself.”

So, I swung away, sounding a little sharper than intended: “Your rep is that you are so damn uptight that you won’t even wear blue shirts --- they all have to be white.  And legend has it that your people call you Bobby Three Sticks referring both to the Roman numerals at the end of your name and a three-finger Boy Scout salute, but nobody dares to call you that to your face?”

“Circumstances change — I once asked a Burmese man why Burmese women, after centuries of following their men around, now walk ahead. He answered that there were many unexploded land mines since the war.[iii]

“So, I can call you Three Sticks?”

“Well I’d prefer you start with Bobby, otherwise I might miss that you are referring to me” he said with a starched face perfected over many rounds of poker, “But, whatever you call me I’m almost certain that others will have called me worse.  To my many critics on the right, I’m an overzealous prosecutor punch-drunk on power and roaming way beyond my mandate in a bid to kick Kunt out of office. To liberals, I’m too cautious, too plodding, and worst of all, much too Republican to kick Kunt out of office.”[iv]

A phone rang on the wall a short stretch away from Mueller, who answered it, said ‘yes’ a few times, hung up and scribbled on a pad.  For a moment I could see my reflection in his eyes, So, I hid from it and looked around the small bare box of a room for a distraction as I lined up my next cigarette.

Mueller cleared his throat, and softly read from his pad: “So, after your short meeting at your office, you and Monica left for IHOP together?”

“Yes, and there was a matte black BMW X5 bulletproof SUV lurking outside headlights off, flashers on.  A sweet chariot weighed down low on its haunches by heavy metal and glass strong enough to stop bullets from an AK-47. I’m now guessing the X5’s belong to Vladimir along with Kunt.”

Right or wrong I couldn’t tell because Mueller was still playing poker and then he progressed the interview by clicking the projector’s remote, which moved the carousel a slide forward and the projected image to change.

“That a nice angle on us,” I said, smearing a smile over my grill: “She ordered the Silver Dollar Five off the Kids Menu. I let her know I was listening to her hard-knock-life story by ordering Edwin’s favorite — a Breakfast Sampler, with a side of white toast to mop up the grease the bangers and bacon left behind.”Mueller paused, as if deep in thought and asked dryly: “How do you like your eggs?”“In as many baskets as possible!”He smiled at that.  It wasn’t a big thing, just an acknowledgement that he’d heard the joke, and then he focused on the basket he knew: “What did she pour over her pancakes?”

“That she was a hack at the Post and that I was her story.  She set it up like this --- in Edwin’s things she’d found a BitAddress wallet with 2,331 Bitcoins stuffed in it worth over $17,000,000 and detailed records of his business with Narcos, dealers and cops.  She claims she doesn’t have the password to open the wallet, but I’d make her take a polygraph about that.  Then she showed me a few snaps of Kunt’s papi, Joseph, and waved his LAST WILL & TESTAMENT at me like it was important. She highlighted the Distributions paragraph with a yellow Sharpie, so I could follow on easily.  Her point was that I was Joseph’s bastard’s son and James Alexander Kunt’s half-brother. And that the old man’s assets were to be split six-ways. And that I’d been robbed of my share. Of course, it occurred to me she might be a Fed, but I didn’t sweat the small stuff, because she was too fucking fine.”

“And you bumped into Diaz goons on the way out?” Mueller asked, progressing his show with a click.

“Yeah Lady-Cop, Dowd and Man-Cop, Tyrell were leaning in wait against a tricked-out Ford Explorer Interceptor patrol car, hands on hips, sleeves pulled up over the elbows on a cold night, flashing Three Percenter ink on their forearms.  What was more disturbing was that Freddy Colón, was stretched out on the ground in the center of the car park, frothing at the mouth. His eyes were wide open and Novichok-5 nerve agent white — My thought was that Vladimir Putin was in the house!”

“So, you took Monica to see your mother, Beatriz, to confirm that you were a Kunt? “Mueller asked disapprovingly, as if we’d fucked on the first date.“Yeah, and Mami was there to greet us belting out ‘La Dicha Miá,’ dressed up like Celia Cruz, the Queen of Salsa.“And she confirmed Monica’s story?”“Monica waved Joe Kunt’s will at her and the truth leaked out —”“Which was?”

“On graduating high school in the early summer of 1968, Mami took a job at the Kunt Organization, where Joseph Patrick Kunt had built empire of more than 2,700 low-income apartments and row houses in Brooklyn and Queens. Her job was to prepare letters to late and delinquent tenants and schedule evictions --- to lick ‘em, stick ‘em and send them on their way!  Apparently, Joe’s son James Alexander joined the Kunt organization a few weeks after that. On October 11, 1969, old man Kunt’s birthday, he asked Mami if she would stay late to help him identify ‘all the niggers’ renting in Kunt Village, as he’d decided, ‘once and for always’ to clear them out.   As Mami had no way legal of identifying the race of the tenants, she went to Josephs office to ask for help, and found him with his pants rolled down his ankles, masturbating.  When she turned to leave, James Alexander blocked her way. He asked what she was going to give the old man for his birthday? What happened next is not important, except to note that I was born 9 months later.”

“And a few months later she met with Ray Cohn and traded her silence for $20,000 and a leap up the waiting list for a Co-op city apartment,” Mueller added, looking down at his notes.  And then he clicked through to the next slide.

“Where and when did you see Monica next?  Mueller asked bouncing his palms off his knees like you would the tight head of a drum.“On January 20, 2017; the day of Kunt’s inauguration, I went to Julio’s XLNT Cutz to get tidied up, which requires a wet shave as close as it gets. I remember that Obsesión was playing and then suddenly stopped as Julio pumped up the volume on CNN, which was broadcasting Kunt’s inaugural speech live from a stage in front of the United States Capitol Building in Washington, D.C.  Kunt was pointing to the heavens like a preacher calling on God or perhaps to suggest he was anointed by God, or even God, and then he pointed at us, looking the camera straight in the shutter in a way that took me back to the photograph Monica had shown me of our father who art in hell, Joseph Kunt, which took me back to IHOP with Monica, who was standing there in front of us, tucked just behind Kunt’s ex-model wife, Nadyia.  And for a minute I was lost. And then Kunt waved goodbye, and behind him Monica leaned over to Nadyia, brushed a few strands of loose hair and whispered a sweet something in her ear that made them both laugh out very loud, which distracted and annoyed Kunt as it deflected our attention.“What did you think?” — Mueller“El que anda con perro, a ladrar aprende,” which warns that ’those who sleep with dogs learn to bark.’

“That was the same day you met Monica’s husband Shangó! for the first time?”

“Yeah, it was a big day,” I snapped back. “It started badly with a beat-down administered by a forty-something middleweight from San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, who’d won a Golden Gloves in 1996 but lost his left-eye to a thumb-poke in the first minute of the first round of his first pro fight. It ended in a barrage of threats from Shangó and a couple of saber-toothed Russian mafia Vor’s, wearing one inked cross on their knuckles for each prison sentence served! “

“So, there were crosses scribbled everywhere?” Mueller understated quickly. I shrugged and spread my hands to show a clean set of fingers: “From knuckle to cuticle.”“What did you make of Shangó?” Mueller whispered like he hadn’t quite made up his mind.

“You could tell he was the prophet-for-hire type right away by the arrogance lurking behind his corrupt sneer. It expressed itself in the dramatic James Deanesque upward corpulent curl of the left side of his thin lips, exposing a neat set of over-bleached predatory teeth, and a relentless blue-eyed stare. His skin was a couple of shades paler, and his bleach-blond mane a few shades lighter, than his chestnut lashes suggest. His nursery-slope nose had been finely crafted, and his cheeks had been stretched tight under his chin, and then neatly tucked in. Apparently, he had a made-up face to go with his made-up name, because the sum of his parts did not add up to the ageless, raceless, but handsome whole, which got me thinking he might be on his second identity, which has got me thinking about witness protection and who he might have worked for and against the first time around? “

Mueller shrugged. If he knew he wasn’t telling: “Any idea?”“Anybody that will pay the freight. But given the X5, the Novichok-5 and the Vor’s I’m thinking Vladimir’s in the mix, and or Comey and the FBI.”“Perimeter defense may not matter if the enemy is inside the gates,”[v] Mueller speculated indifferently.  As if all will end up as it should no-matter the routing.

“That afternoon CNN broke Monica’s story that you were the son of rape and Joseph Kunt’s son?”“And it was also the same day that Abraham my ex-step-papi offered to repay me the hush-money he’d taken — $36,000 a year for 27 years and then $60,000 a year for 18 years at 4% interest made a for a big, three and a half million-dollar number.  I ripped the check up anyway, which is when he asked me to leave.”I paused for breath.  The office was very still and quiet except for the sound of the projector fan. So, I sat there and listened to it shuffling through my memories of the day.“And that was it?” Mueller asked, as if he knew it wasn’t.

“No, at the door he stopped me, and whispered urgently, as if he left something important unsaid --- THEY GOT ONE PART OF THE STORY WRONG! YOU ARE JAMES ALEXANDER’S AND NOT JOSEPH’S SON!”

Mueller nodded. He had known that that all along!And he still knew more than he was saying!

he next snap he had for me was the voodoo doll, which I took as a prompt.“That evening Jay-B arranged for me to meet Monica and Stormy at Mi Nido Taverna in Inwood, a Latino neighborhood at the northern tip of Manhattan. I’d represented the bar and its founder/owner/manager Johnny Caro, a white-haired, rotund, gentleman-hustler type, since 2013, volleying or settling the various charges that came our way — illegal gambling, selling alcohol to minors, and denying access to New York’s Finest during several large and brutal altercations. “ Mueller nodded. It seemed he knew either the bar or more likely this part of the story well.“It was quite a night, Jay-B got smacked by Diaz and his goons; Stormy waxed long and lyrical about her affair with Kunt.  And later, Jay-B came back from seeing Stormy to a cab waving that voodoo doll, which he’d found on the back-seat of his truck. The doll was made of black cotton, wore a Shangó colored red and white dress and a Celia Cruz inspired headscarf cut from Beatriz’s cloth. Its fat red lips were zippered tight. Long pins pierced its heart, mind and vagina.”“Who do you think placed the doll on the back seat of Jay-B’s truck?” Mueller asked as if he’d already picked a favorite.

“Monica grabbed the doll from Jay-B,” I la-de-da’d “And plucked the pins one by one as if that would reduce the threat level from red to orange to yellow. She was certain that whoever was responsible for the doll was pad with ‘Black Caviar.’ Her working theory was that by threatening Beatriz, Vladimir intended to scare us away.”

“Black Caviar?” Mueller repeated, excitedly at first, before catching himself in my grin and quickly calming down.“Black Caviar is Vladimir Putin’s filthy lucre and according to Monica the subject line of an email Paul John Manafort Jr.,  the chairman of Kunt’s 2016 Presidential campaign, received in July 2016 from an associate in Kiev, Ukraine, promising eternal fucking riches if Manafort could turn the Presidential election in Vladimir’s favor by getting Kunt elected.  To earn his Black Caviar, Manafort employed a team of 100, mostly Russian trolls, including crack teams of GRU sponsored Fancy Bear and Cozy Bear hackers to steer millions of voters Kunt’s way. They set up more than fifty thousand imposter Twitter accounts and their five hundred fake Facebook accounts pumped content that was shared more than three hundred and forty million times. By scaring people to their worst prejudices, peores prejuicios, with fake sites like Blacktivist, which posted graphic videos of police violence against African-Americans and got more hits than Black Lives Matter they won the first Cyberwar and pulled off the first digital coup d’état.”“So, you called Beatriz to find out if she was ok?

“Yes, but she didn’t pick up! So, I tried again. Same result. Third time was the charm, except that the Cabrón who picked up said something that sounded like po'shyol 'na which means fuck off in Russian and slammed down the phone.”

“So, you went to check on her — Beatriz, I mean,” Mueller asked softly, through billowing cigarette smoke.

“We were walking toward Jay-B’s Range Rover when it started to tremble and hum like giant sub-woofers before exploding like a supernova --- the loudness of the explosion shattered windows and triggered multiple alarms. Then, on our way to Co-op City to see Mami in a cab, Monica told me that the Gotham Post was getting ready to publish #putinspuppet, an article she had written after interviewing Christopher Steele, a former M.I.6 agent, who had given her 17 memos that exposed a series of corrupt deals between Kunt and Vlad. Steele’s dossier makes many allegations --- the craziest of which is that Vladimir’s hold over Kunt is the result of a surveillance tape recorded in the Presidential Suite of the Moscow Ritz Carlton Hotel in 2013, that shows a couple of puntas blowing Kunt and then pissing on him to disrespect the Obama’s who had slept in the same bed in 2009.”

“You have the tape?”

I drew on my cigarette and blew the smoke towards the ceiling: “We had the tape — it was pixelated and dark but Kunt’s quaff, mug, toadstool and the tits and ass of the two hookers pissing on him are unmistakable, as are his squeaky psychotic ‘Fuck Barack Obama’ cries.

“Yes, it’s quite a show,” Mueller said, letting me inside his info-trove for the first and last time.I felt surprised.I probably looked surprised.Nothing changed on Mueller’s face as he explained: “In investigations like this, where you have partial facts, analysts, agents are always trying to interpret what those facts mean and extrapolate what those facts mean, which might be a lot more or less than we think.

“Turning off the Cross Bronx at Exit 13, into Co-op City, one of Vladimir’s matte-black BMW’s X5 passed us speeding the other way. We didn’t need to get all the way up De Reimer Avenue to see that the front door to Mami’s casa was off its hinges and laying on the ground. The apartment itself was pretty much as her guests had left it, except for the shit on the walls. It had been smeared into the words ‘find faith’ with a 3-inch spatula, which was lying on the floor.  The shit smelled no better or worse than usual. It was where it was, not what it was that made it so disgusting. On the coffee-table was a makeshift shrine with headless statuette of Santa Bárbara, a bowl of blood, a cluster of red and white votive candles, and a sweat glazed pumpkin pie, on a white porcelain plate. Shredded bills, empty vials, and Mami, were scattered around the shrine. The left side of Mami’s skull blown the fuck away.”

“You have the tape?”

I drew on my cigarette and blew the smoke towards the ceiling: “We had the tape — it was pixelated and dark but Kunt’s quaff, mug, toadstool and the tits and ass of the two hookers pissing on him are unmistakable, as are his squeaky psychotic ‘Fuck Barack Obama’ cries.

“Do you know who was responsible?”“She left a suicide note — some crap about no longer being able to stand the shame she’d stood for more than 50 years”“You don’t believe that?”“No, I don’t,” I growled twisting the stub of my cigarette into the ash-try.“Why?”“Because Mami wasn’t the type to shit on her own doorstep, never mind the fucking walls.” I said, reliving that night in full color for the first time, “The spicy aroma of incense in the air was corrupted by the smell of death, shit and mendacity in equal measures.  And the howling wind outside was accented by the buzz of a blue-assed fly circling about her ear, occasionally landing to lay eggs. I could hear Monica’s short breaths above everything, and then she laughed recklessly, to stop herself from crying. I bent over Mami, peering through the charred, blackened entry wound to her skull. A thin trickle of blood ran from the corner of her soot-fringed mouth, down her cheek, to a puddle on the floor. There was no rigor mortis yet, but her eyes had begun to flatten from fluid loss.  Her wrist was warm but there was no pulse, so I guessed she’d been dead for less than 20 minutes. I pulled my arm up my sleeve and grabbed the gun with my cuff. Its barrel was caked with flesh and blood, and I could smell the powder on its grip. The killer’s idea was that whoever found the body should believe that Mami had put the barrel to her right cheek pointing up to her brain and pulled the trigger. Which I knew was not the case, as Mami did not own a gun and had never handled a gun and she loved her imperfect life too much to end it.”

Mueller shifted time and space by moving to the next slide and popped the question:“So, if not Shangó, then who?” Mueller asked

“The candles, the pie, the pot of blood, the torn bills and all the other Santeria shit point to Shangó as intended but I don’t see him as a door-step shitting kind of a prophet --- do you? Which, leaves us with fucking Kunt who leads us to Vladimir Putin who leads us back to fucking Kunt?  So, born of extreme violence. Robbed of my birthright. I am the bastard that was going to take the President down and save us from ourselves. “