Freedom Café, Jakarta.
Even amongst the diverse clientele of the Freedom Café my contact is easy to find – being three feet shorter than the rest of the inhabitants points him out. He’s sat drinking coffee, and it’s hard not to notice the dull metallic glint of a gun poking out from under his green cap on the desk. Even if he demands I not use his name, everyone else in the café is aware of who he is, and what he’s capable of.
Do I regret any of it? Fuck no, I’d do it all again. You got to understand we practically ruled the world back then, unlimited budgets, freedom to do whatever we needed to get the job done, no questions asked. Hell, I even pulled off a few jobs with the Big S himself before he went public, blew the whole operation and turned us all in. I was his engineer-in-chief, cooking up crazy gadgets for him – you think a Slinky’s just a toy? You’ve never used one to garrotte a man in cold blood have you? Toys were just a side line, a few more bucks on the side to see you through the year – not that we needed more money. But it was all about the money.
You should have seen him in his prime, I’ve never seen anyone as cold blooded as him. If he entered the room there were only two possible outcomes, either something was going under the tree or somebody was about to get fucked up. Course a couple of the latter cases ended up with us putting things under trees for a long time if you get my meaning? It was great, but he started to change, didn’t enjoy his work anymore. And then he goes public, blows it all open, tells everyone what’s going on and they shut us all down.
Course, I never really got why he did that – we were sitting at the top of the tree and he gets an attack of conscience? No, he’s playing a long scam, he doesn’t do anything unless he’s got a plan for how it all pans out down the road, he sidle his way back in and it will be like nothing changed and maybe I can get out of this shithole.
He takes another sip of his coffee, looks around before leaning in closer to the tape recorder.
I mean, it was it going so well till Nixon went and screwed it up. I’m all for a man keeping his own secrets, but why did he have to put his tapes with ours, what the hell did he need to keep secret that was worth blowing everything we were up to up as well? That’s why we had to lean on him and get him to quit, media smokescreen about hotel break-ins, it’s all bullshit! Truth is – and I was there – we made sure he stepped down, we got the tapes and threatened him with impeachment so he’d shut up. Added benefit being that every one of them bastards afterwards knew where the line was.
Problem for me was Big S, he never forgot the reason he was doing it, and I knew we wouldn’t be able to stop him. So when he went public we had no choice but to try and wipe him out, all went wrong of course and that’s why I ended up here. Only one thing I regret, I never meant to get her involved and I’m sorry that’s she’s gone and that’s why I’m never further than three feet from this.
He pulls his cap off the table, revealing the handgun that had been poorly hidden beneath it. He looks around again before covering it again with the cap.
Shit, I’ll sleep a hell of a lot better when I know he’s no longer around.
Alcatraz, San Francisco Bay.
Alcatraz has been closed to the public for the last five years since the arrival of its most famous inhabitant. At the height of The Company as it became known, The Tooth Fairy was responsible for the manufacture and distribution of half the world’s Fairy Dust. Her cell is barren, security concerns mean that it’s difficult to get permission to even take a tape recorder into the facility, but she’s willing to talk.
Baby, what you’ve got to understand is that everyone knew what I was doing, but as long as the money kept rolling in everyone turned a blind eye. Fairy Dust addicts paid for half the contras in South America and Africa alone, and that was just the stuff they knew about! Baby, there was so much money rolling in that we had to invent Vegas just to make it look legitimate – and I got to play the star of the show, five nights a week, what more could I want! And there I was, everything I could ever want, money, houses and men, I forget how many men came begging to my door to be seen with me, and I turned nearly half of them away.
I never got him though even though he had a sweet spot for me, he stayed faithful to his wife to the very end – the man was practically a monk! And the more I failed to get him, the more I started hitting my own product thinking I wasn’t good enough. And that’s when I got sloppy, made mistakes – shipments got caught at the wrong airport and somebody had to take the blame and it was me. I was offered immunity if I told everyone what I knew, I always suspect Big S was behind that, keeping an eye on me. He got me a really nice deal considering, a step down from the lime light, but I was still on the stage.
One of the guards enters and places a bowl of sugar in the corner, The Tooth Fairy eyes it nervously – it’s the first time that I’ve seen the tell-tale fairy dust twitch of addicts of old for nearly a decade.
Problem was that even after the company was gone it was all I knew, and the dust had gotten hold of me. The money I’d squirrelled away wouldn’t last forever and I had a lifestyle to maintain, off Broadway will get you the reviews but it won’t get you the fame. So I opened up a few of the older facilities, re-established a few of my old contacts and started the operation up again. Big S never forgave me for that, said I’d squandered my chance to get clean and had to do time. I’m not complaining though, he paid for all of this himself out of his own pocket, got me off the dust, although I still have to take a hit of sugar some days to take the edge off things. And I understand why, even if I wish she was in here with me, I could use the company.
She looks over at the faded poster on the wall of Tinkerbell, a solitary tear rolling down her face.
I sometimes wonder if he ever found her?
SVR Offices, Moscow.
The office is luxurious in comparison to the surroundings, although the piles of paper indicate it is distinctly a one reindeer operation and nowhere near as dominant an organisation as its predecessor. He looks older that he does on that photo, and the grey at his temples has spread across most of his back. The ferocity of his convictions remains.
Rudolph the Red they used to call me, I became their key operative in dealing with the unions and the communist threat. Everyone called it a Cold War, but for Blitzen and me it was permanently thawed. He had the more high profile position, “Herr Blitzen defends the wall!”, that’s what the papers used to print, whilst I quietly broke up the enemy at our gates on home turf and only ever got a side line at best.
He picks up a faded manila envelope, opens it to show a photo of himself speaking to (redacted at request of lawyer).
They say that by the time I’d finished stitching him up he was buried in a football field somewhere in Detroit. Never did find the body. Half of these envelopes relate to me, or at least have my hoof prints on them at some stage, nobody knew their operations better at the time, nobody was better able to infiltrate them or get a man on the inside. All my best work was prior to 1963, but I can’t talk about that anymore as part of the agreement.
He returns to the grand chair behind the desk, before offering me coffee. It’s the first time that I notice that his accent has changed since I last interviewed him, Moscow vowels have crept in and the Alaskan burr has lost its prominence.
I cannot deny a man his principles, and Big S knew that things couldn’t keep up like that, he knew that we weren’t fighting for a way of life any more, just to make more money. I’d come to the same conclusion years before, that’s when the Red moniker arrived, and when the palace started to crumble I got out. Of course, I only had one place were someone with my skills could go. Some called me a traitor, I prefer the term idealist. He got it of course, when we came across each over in some Lapland hell-hole bar a decade later neither of us could deny the other their principles, that they wouldn’t have acted the same. That’s why he’s the only one of us that still manages to sleep you know? Clear conscience.
I could do wonders with that.
The doors to his office opens, I sense it’s my time to leave.
The Strip, Las Vegas.
The slots never close in Vegas, and the money keeps flowing in. Following the dissolution of The Company, Vegas remained the one part that was never disbanded, instead it became a huge theme park financing the numerous projects needed to recover from the dissolution – and the aftermath. The guide here is Jack O’Lantern, reminding me that this used to be a year round operation.
We still get the occasional old timer come in to look at the place. Some get misty eyed at the door and can’t make it past the red carpet, others think they still run the place and we have to remind them that things have changed. The monies clean these days, every cent of it, and I’m here to make sure it stays that way. You know we were the one department not to have anyone indicted in the whole affair? Everyone used to say we were monsters but we were the only ones keeping things clean! That’s why you can see so many of us still around like Ol’ Frankie over there, because we stayed clean.
He gestures at a huge slab of a man, seemingly held together with rope. A friendly smile beams back through the cigar smoke.
Ol’ Frankie runs the security around here. Sure he looks fierce, but he’s got a heart of gold. And no matter how bad things get he always keeps his calm, no one gets hurt like they used to.
Like I said, the monies all clean, the house doesn’t win – nearly all the money we take gets funded into schemes dealing with the fallout from the collapse. All those areas out in the desert that need cleaning up (It is rumoured that the company had extensive research & development facilities in the Nevada desert), we’re financing that. And ten percent of everything goes into funding the holidays, keeping them running smoothly now that they’ve all been franchised.
We walk past another bank of slot machines to a restaurant, the view out is over the hotel pool where numerous children play.
They forgot that it was all about them, they became so interested in defending freedom that they forgot what it really meant. That’s why I’ve got a lot of time for what he did, blowing the whole operation open like that and cleaning things up. He says that he wanted a simpler life, that he was fed up of the cloak and dagger, but the last I heard he was running a private detective agency in California, but if that’s what makes him happy.
His view glances over the pool, a young girl screams as her brother splashes water over her.
If that’s what makes him happy…
Pomoda Café, Seacliffe State Beach, Santa Cruz.
He sits looking out at the ocean, a cup of coffee and a pack of smokes near his right hand. He’s trimmer than I remember from when I last saw him, and the beard is shorter, less primal. The eyes still twinkle with an old fashioned magic. There’s a weird aura of invincibility to him, as if he’s totally in charge of his world and surroundings. I begin the interview by asking if he ever regrets going public?
He sips the last of his coffee, pockets the packet of smokes, puts a ten on the table and leaves. The world seems a little duller with him gone.
Augustus Moses is a journalist and author of the book “Raiding the Dream Factory; How One Fat Man Brought Down an Empire”. Since its publication thirty years ago he has continued to lecture on the fallout created by the Holiday Time Scandal. He lives with his wife and two children in England, where he continues to receive numerous, anonymous death threats each year.