Monica had left me and the Adam’s suite like a thief in the night as Friday morning broke big in wispy yellows and the blues and the rising sun broiled my ankles and tickled my toes. I’d opened my mouth to call her back but stopped myself in my tracks. She wasn’t mine and she didn’t belong to herself, so her hustle was increasing likely to benefit my expanding portfolio of enemies, whether that was her intention or not.
I assumed she left with the Kunts on Marine One, the white-topped bottle green Presidential Sikorsky UH-60 chopper, because at exactly 8:21 AM I was swept by its shadow and buffeted through the open window by the beat and the wind of its blades.
When I ventured to the shore of the shimmering Atlantic Ocean a few minutes later to lap Key Largo’s 100-foot-long beach club pool, the chatter was that the Kunts had left for the White House separately — Monica and Nadiya in one car and Kunt and Cohn in the other — under-cover of a tweetstorm:
So, while Kunt flew off the chain to bask in the glory of his seduction of Xi, his successful sponsorship of Gorsuch and his futile pounding of Shayrat Air Base, I trifled away a couple of hours laying in the sun, a few happy yellow umbrellas away from Joy who was giving a master class on sultry, undressed in a black Drama Queen one piece swimsuit and a nasty ‘scogiste la perra equivocada, ‘ snarl which accompanied me from Key Largo to the K-bird, and might have accompanied me all the way home if I wasn’t so wrapped up in Monica.
She was calling from Hamburg, Germany, where Kunt was to meet Vladimir for the first time as President at the Messe Convention Center on the sidelines of the G20 Summit at 16:00 CET, which was 10:00 here in the Bronx.
The plan was to improve my leverage in the settlement negotiations with Kunt, which had gone nowhere since I turned down the $25,000,000 and Key Largo forever (and to grab Monica Pulitzer worthy scoop) by taping the conversation between the two world leaders, on a hunch we’d learn something about the hold Vlad had on Kunt.
From the bells, bells, bells, bells…bells, bells, bells. From the jingling and the tinkling of the bells… Edgar Allan Poe had written in May 1848 a few blocks east of me,[iii] where, 169 years later, 8 AM church bells were ringing now accompanied by the staccato clatter of a #1 train rolling south to Manhattan — burrowing through a dense warm wet fog that covered everything in its path with a heavy dew, with the insistence of a nagging thought, reminding me that showtime was only two hours away.I pulled my gaze from my grimy window on Broadway which was streaked by dew falling down to earth, to my desk and the stale $25,000,000 check lying impotently on it.It had outlived its welcome.So, frustrated by the 3-months I’d spent treading water waiting for the phone to ring, I ripped it up and let the pieces flutter down to the waste-basket like helicopter seeds falling from silver maples and chain-smoked the morning away in a state of phony-war with the bastard that had conspicuously failed to lay a glove on Kunt
I’d worked the edges of Stormy’s case and even caught a break on June 16, 2017, when Kunt’s personal financial disclosure form was certified, listing debts to Cohn, which begged, borrowed and sold the larger question — who had funded the payoff? But Stormy hadn’t yet plucked up the courage to break the confidentiality agreement she’d signed with Cohn’s special purpose hush-money vehicle, Essential Consultants L.L.C., and had “gone cabaret” on a press-the-flesh strip club tour.
I’d filed petitions in Bronx Family Court seeking orders of filiations against both Kunt and his old man. The idea being, to force them to either take a paternity test or acknowledge paternity prior to the test. The case against Kunt was bouncing around the lower courts, but experts opined that it was unlikely to settle there and that the Supreme Court would eventually decide if my matter could proceed against a sitting President. The case against Joseph Kunt (deceased) was more speculative as it was reliant on him having left some DNA around after his departure to hell, and nothing had turned up yet.
Meanwhile Kunt’s ego and paranoia had begun to fuse and his descent through madness to badness was accelerating:
He fired James Comey as FBI Director, claiming he was acting on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General, Rod Rosenstein, and then later God, only for both excuses to be proven to be false.
He received Saudi Arabia’s highest civilian honor, the Collar of Abdulaziz Al Saud, from Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, King of Saudi Arabia, Prime Minister of Saudi Arabia, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques (who is a God) in exchange for rubber stamping the sale of $350B of lethal weapons and to thank him for looking the other way while the Royal Saudi Land Forces used them to massacre the Yemeni people.
Having heard the word of God, he committed to moving the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and became the first sitting U.S. President and became the first sitting (or is that lounging) U.S. President to visit the Western Wall as he dreamed grandiose dreams of building his own wall to keep the “animals” on the Mexican side of our southern border.
My blast into the recent past was interrupted by the office phone, which rarely rand. And as Monica only ever called the burner — I ignored it.
But, whoever it was rang again, and again, and again and eventually their persistence paid off and I grabbed it.Cohn was at the other end of the line.
He was apparently “troubled” though he sounded high.
He told me to check my in-box for an email with the subject-line ‘Stallion’ and then ring him back. I had the impression he’d just checked his and that he found some shit in it.
I said I would do exactly that but prevaricated — wading through emails loaded with bills to pay, thrills to pay for and special offers fit for kings until I tripped over ‘Stallion’ and its treasure trove of a half-a-dozen filthy, grainy GIFts. ‘
The first was a black and white snap taken from a camera above the bed of the Adam’s Suite. It showed Monica astride a chubby kind of fellow, shiny with sweat, stroking her sex against his lips as she rolled her nipples like a joint. She looked happy and he looked happy, which is how we looked when the picture was taken.
I winced at the screen, and my reflection winced back. Then the magic went away. A cum shot can do that.
The second snap was taken by the Beach Club Pool. In it Monica (naked) straddled Nadiya (naked) in a beach chair, kissing by the light of the silver moon.
She looked happy and she looked happy, which is how I’m guessing they had been when the picture was taken.
The third, fourth, fifth and sixth snaps were variations on the two themes. The accompanying note quoted Nahum 1:2: The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps wrath for his enemies.
My first reaction was to draw the blinds as if that would keep our secrets safe, then I staggered across the room like a punch-drunk pug, and down the corridor, to a half-bathroom I shared with a suicidal life insurance broker and an accountant who worked when he was sober, who I hadn’t seen for months.
I splashed some water on my face. It was cold and rusty and blown colder by a shrill draught. I shut my eyes to avoid reflecting on my many mistakes in the vanity’s brown-speckled mirror. But darkness has its own demons, the worst of which is clarity — I’d committed myself to a battle that was being waged on the other side by proxy’s.
The quote from Nahum 1:2 was, like the voodoo doll, intended to lead back to Shango and the Beasts for God, and the distraction of a jealous lover story that I wasn’t buying because it was being sold so hard.
I opened my blood-shot eyes and scoured my face for strength, fortitude, integrity, character and other big sounding words that I wasn’t living up to. And then I made my poor reflection go away by punching out the mirror, which shattered and fell to the ground like sleet.
I licked the blood off my knuckles as I traipsed back to the office, where the phone was ringing.
I grabbed it before the rings compounded.
It was Joy, over a snigger that promised to run forever. “I’ve got Michael Cohn on the line. Pero primero queria disculparme contigo. I underestimated you. Realmente eres muy diferente de todos los demas hijos de puta con los que me he metido. Yeah, you really put your shit out there.’”
And then she laughed out very loud and then that died away replaced by the sounds of a mobile phone on the move — the chatter of an off-mic conversation, the white-noise made by the hydraulic shocks of a leaning bus, the sound of a breeze whistling into the mic, and then Cohn.
“Do you always fuck your cases?”
“I strive to fuck them before they fuck with me. What’s your MO?”
“You’re a dumb ass Degas; you stir shit up without thinking what you’re gonna do with the droppings, when they start to stink.”
“So, you called to tell me I’m an idiot, well I beat you to it, and I’ve been pummeling myself all morning.”
The Fixer chuckled again, but this time there was a chill to it: “There is no trap as deadly as the snare you set yourself, because nobody knows your weaknesses as well as you do.” He said it like he was trying to explain something immense about himself, to himself, me, and the rest of the world. “The photographs are a reminder that some power is absolute. And that you are trespassing in our garden and trampling on our prize-winning fucking flowers. Hopefully you see that they rebalance things!”
“Is that the long-winded way of explaining that you got me by the short and curlies.”
He chuckled, but there was no joy in it, just life; over-cooked and refried: “Cash the check Degas, it’s our last and best offer.”
I was just about to tell him that I’d ripped the check up, and ask if he could send me a wire instead, when he rang off and left me listening to the sound of Joy filing her nails and the breeze.
Contrary to popular opinion there’s a lot of fresh air in the big city, a lot of fresh hot air, even if it’s coming from the damn AC.
After a couple of minutes, I slammed the hand-set back in its cradle, chose ‘Buscando América’ from the stack of LP’s lying next to the ancient music center Mami left me and dropped the needle down on the scroll heavily. ‘Decisiones,’ a mid-tempo merengue, paced by brash vibráfono, wild bongós, tumbadoras, a growled seditious verse and sardonic dog-eat-dog chorus crackled on.
‘Decisiones cada día, alguien pierde, alguien gana. ¡Ave María! Decisiones, todo cuesta. Salgan y haqen sus apuestas. Ciudadanía!’
I walked back to my picture window reflecting on all the stellar decisions I’d made recently, and how neatly one mistake leads to another when you’re in the zone and rocked my head from side to side to beat out despair and clear space for Rubéns Blades’ change-the-world salsa.
It’s hard for cynics to have heroes, because the first rule of heroes is they disappoint. But when Rubén replaced the brass section with synthesizer and vapid narcissism with tough poetry he did for salsa what Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye did for rhythm and blues; brought it kicking and screaming out of the ghetto into the world, he came very close.
An obese gray cloud with puffed edges started to piss on Van Courtland Park and its parade of morning joggers. Soon the handball courts glistened, and the grass looked lickable. I followed the path of an obese jogger as he cantered from this morning’s glories, as fast as his trotters would carry him. He cheered me up like Oliver Hardy, Fatty Arbuckle, John Candy, and Jason Alexander cheer me up — no way am I as ludicrous as that. That spectacularly dismal thought was exactly what I needed to stoke my depression, so I indulged it until my head hurt from all that extra weight.
Legend has it that depression’s a monarch that rules our state of mind absolutely. That legend is wrong. Depression’s a social democrat, willing to share power with other moods, so long as it ultimately gets its way. Right then, it was blasting holes in my self-confidence and a man without confidence isn’t a man at all — he’s a crab crawling on the ocean floor eating shit while wishing for something sweeter. The irony is that on the day a crab dies his flesh tastes delicious. Chalk another one up to the miracle of sub-human existence — his labor paid off, for someone else.
I turned my back to the window, stared at the dazzling white walls, TRAPPED, marveled at how overcast my head was, and how much better it would feel to beat the back of it against them.
I did that until exactly 10 AM when the burner rang, vibrating in the desk as if it were stoned.