Lovely Time of Year

Eyes narrowing suddenly, a slight, anonymous-looking middle-aged man with a dark complexion removed a barely-smoked cigarette butt of finest gold-banded Turkish from his mouth, and flicked it to the gutter. The symphonic, mathematical din of morning rush hour filled him from head to foot, and his scruffy pinstripe suit jacket vibrated in the smokey bustle of another Chicago Monday.

A singed-looking form in a ratty dufflecoat, seen intermittently on a crosswalk through the flash of cars and buses, had attracted Molina's interest. He squinted with increased concentration, waiting for the figure to reappear on the other side of the street.

Milo Pavlov seemed to be trying to blend in as much as possible, without actually skulking so guiltily that one of Chicago's finest ran him in on suspicion of, oh, everything. Chicago bulls had gotten pretty damn full of themselves under Mayor Richard Daley. Especially after they'd rioted at the Democratic Convention in '68.

Molina knew all about skulking. Long practice. He was also a practiced hand at reading the atmospheric tea leaves and coming up trumps, something his new clients had understood and valued in ways that the world's intelligence services never had. Molina liked these new guys' agenda. It was something he could truly buy into. They'd been persuasive, yes, but their methods were far more interesting and congenial than those of the KGB, the CIA, or for that matter, Ed Sullivan.

Ed had been a total hardass. Worse than the CIA.

And frankly, the CIA had become plain boring, long before Molina had done his runner after putting paid to McCarthy. That was all years ago, now, and in the time since they proved to be complete fuckups at tracking him. He'd popped up on purpose a few times to keep them thinking they still had his trail, but they'd really sucked at staying on him.

It had been child's play to lead them on a merry chase, turn and give them a couple of "nyah, nyah's" and a figurative finger -- then drop from sight again, leaving them all stirred up and bumbling into each other. It had been only briefly amusing, early on, and hadn't improved over the years. He'd felt like a small boy throwing rocks at a red ants' witless nest.

Since the last of the in-it-up-to-their-rank-armpits Rosenberg prosecution crew had met their various sticky ends, he'd also felt a little directionless and empty.

He'd needed something real to keep him amused and engaged. He'd been quite piqued by the leadup to last night's events. Hadn't felt quite that intrigued in maybe a decade or more. And the way that lab building on the Chicago U. campus had kind of turned transparent and glowed, while he watched from a nearby parking lot, had confirmed to him that this was big shit. Huge shit.

Finally! This was it: infinite stakes, aces high, and from what he could discern so far, an entire fucking deckful of jokers. Molina, always a cheerful sort when shit of any magnitude was splattering messily toward the fan, was radiant this morning.

He stared harder for a moment, pointing a bit like a gun dog, caught sight of the dufflecoat's tail slipping around the corner of a building. A discarded paper bag eddied in the gassy wake of a passing Yellow Cab, three swallows looped up the face of the building, toward clouds swirling at the tops of intersecting glass and steel canyons. A little butterfly-puff of dust eddied on the pavement in front of him.

Molina took all of this in, sniffed the changing wind, considered a moment, and with the air of someone who'd arrived at the sum of a trivial calculation, smiled abstactedly. The quirk at the corners of his mouth was almost imperceptible.

Okay, a bus to Mexico, then... lovely time of year for a vacation...