"The Inflatable Puppet" by D Scottish Lord, September 2012
Disclaimer: All characters presented here are product of fiction. Any resemblances to real characters are of a pure coincidence. No intention was made to insult anyone for any reason.
AN: This story is an act of fiction. No one should attempt to act in the same manner as described.
Summary: On Saturday 18th August there was a march and rally to commemorate the anniversary of the Llanelli rail strike of 1911. The strike was memorable both for the slaughter of two workers by the British army, and for the heroic and steadfast spirit of resistance which animated the strikers and their many supporters.
The Inflatable Puppet
Patting his dog and enjoying a wonderful weather in the park, Jack Straw suddenly noticed Gareth Pierce and grinned, placing a hand over his eyes to shade from the sun.
"Wow! Isn't that my old friend Gareth?"
Gareth stopped and tried to recollect his thoughts, smiling politely at the seated man as if trying to remember who he was.
"My God! Jack? Jack Straw?" They shook hands and Jack stood up. Gareth hugged him. "My God!" He withdrew trying to see Jack better. "You seem to get younger every time I see you old chap!"
Jack laughed and offered Gareth to sit beside him. He accepted and continued to examine Jack as if he was some celebrity or similar.
"It's been what? A year at least?"
"You mean … since we've seen each other by accident?"
"Yes. That's right."
"I'd reckon at least two."
Gareth whizzed through his teeth and stared at some puppies playing joyfully around another bench.
"So …", Gareth tapped Jack on his back and leaned back, smiling at him, "… how are the things going then?"
"I'm busy as usual …" He rasped into a chuckle, measuring Gareth.
"Still pestering immigrants and 'unusuals', eh?"
Jack made couple of affirmative nods, then stared in front.
"What's the matter then? They're not paying you as they used to?" Gareth laughed, noticing two bobbies walking on the street.
"Oh, no. Quite contrary in fact. These past years it's been busier than ever."
"The Olympics then?" Jack made a slow nod first, then offered couple of more, smiling in a forgetful way. Gareth exhaled and listened to the birds singing. Sky was blue and without any clouds. Then he noticed that Jack's prolonged patting and caressing of his dog could mean only one thing - worry.
"Yes?" He smiled back in a diplomatic way, letting his dog go around, still leashed.
"There's something troubling you, isn't it?"
Jack grinned and looked at the pavement underneath.
"Well … to be honest, yes." He checked on Gareth and then leaned back slowly as if expecting some needles to pierce his back.
"You can tell me. As an old buddy … I'll even keep my mouth shut! Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!" He laughed and Jack followed with a reserved one.
"Do you remember the case of Jean Charles de Mendez?"
"One that's been slugged by accident in the Tube?"
Jack's opened mouth did not try to hide his surprise and stun. He finally closed his mouth and looked towards some bushes where a young couple was trying to hide, turning around in their desperate attempts to do something illegal.
"Yes. THAT one."
"It's been a while, I'd say …"
They listened to some bagpipes music coming from the corner. Gareth did not push the matters further and Jack grinned, relaxing a bit.
"Since ancient times there have been elite groups of unaccountable killers." He looked at Gareth as if expecting a question and then continued. "Around 500 BC, Darius the Great created his 10,000 'Immortals', to enforce his commands and cement his rule."
"Oh, yes. The famous 'Immortals'."
"By 336 BC …", Jack continued, pulling his dog away from another dog encounter, barking from both sides indicating a possible animosity, "... Alexander the Great had his 'Companions' also as bodyguards and enforcers." Tattooed teenagers with their dangerous dog gave him the stare. He immediately looked sideways. "From the 12th Century in Japan, Samurai Warriors answerable only to a Daimyo, a feudal baron, under the Hojo, Ashikaga and Tokugawan Shogunates had the right to execute any peasant who offended them in any way." He smiled at Gareth. "Samurai not being stripped of their rights until 1871 when the feudal system was abolished."
Gareth also noticed that the teenagers had tattoos even on their necks.
"That guy …"
"Yes." He giggled and then stared at an elderly lady that wrestled with some invisible flies. "Was he … French? 'Jean' … sounds French to me?"
"No." Jack watched to see whether Gareth was playing some joke with him but apparently Gareth's face was still placid and unemotional. "He was Brazilian."
Gareth noticed migratory birds flying above them. A high altitude jet streamer left a trail behind.
"Brazil is slightly smaller than the continental United States. It is Latin America's largest country and the world's fifth-largest. It covers more than 40% of South America, bordering every country on the continent except Chile and Ecuador." Jack smiled at Gareth who was listening to him carefully. "Capital is Brasilia, and it has 26 states. Brazil is about 75% Roman Catholic."
They listened to Big Ben announcing six o'clock in the afternoon.
Suddenly Jack placed a hand on his thigh and turned half-way towards Gareth. Gareth lifted an eyebrow, not expecting this semi-official posture.
"Did you know that on December the 6th, 2004, the Commission granted precautionary measures in favor of the members of the indigenous peoples of Ingaricó, Macuxi, Wapichana, Patamona, and Taurepang in Raposa Serra do Sol, state of Roraima."
"That's right. At that time …", he pulled his dog away as he started towards the squirrel, "… available information indicated that the lives, personal safety, and territorial occupation of the members of these indigenous peoples were in imminent danger because of the process of delimiting lands, which had been pending since 1977. It was alleged that, on November the 23rd, 2004, an armed group attacked the indigenous communities with chainsaws, tractors, and fire, resulting in one death, one missing person, and the destruction of 34 homes, one school, and the local health clinic."
Gareth smiled, nodding couple of times.
"Now … by 'Commission' you mean …?"
"Oh …", Jack leaned back again, shrugging with his shoulders, trying to relieve some pain, "… my apologies." He smiled quickly at Gareth, noticing he had thatched shirt on himself. "It is the Inter-American Comission on Human Rights."
"Hm. Never heard of them before."
"No wonder. It's probably not your area of interest." They laughed a bit, Jack exhaling slowly.
"But … you go on. I am intrigued slightly."
"The IACHR is a principal and autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, or 'OAS' whose mission is to promote and protect human rights in the American hemisphere."
"Supposedly, right? …" Gareth was testing his friend to see if he was telling him something important or not.
They watched three Jews walk proud with their heads up, sunshine reflecting from their glasses.
"It is composed of seven independent members who serve in a personal capacity." Gareth noticed that Jack's facial muscles his some yet undetected twinge. "Created by the OAS in 1959, the Commission has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. Together with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights …", some boys were riding their bicycles, pigeons flying away, "… they … ah …" Jack suddenly felt sullen and weak and Gareth tapped him on his shoulder.
"Go on please …"
"Thanks." He cleared his throat and then continued, feeling sore in the buttocks. "Installed in 1979, the Commission is one of the institutions within the inter-American system for the protection of human rights."
Some thin and tall student tried to light a cigarette but was almost immediately approached by the Security and advised in the contrary.
"Well? I am still waiting …" Gareth chuckled and shoved Jack in a friendly way. But Jack still remained a bit stiff.
"The first founder of a settlement in the Falklands was Louis Antoine Bougainville who on 31st of January of 1764 arrived at the Islands, which he named the 'Iles Malouines' and in March built Port Saint-Louis and on …", he pulled his dog away as two squirrels dared to approach him, "… and on the 5th of April 1764 took formal possession of the Islands in the name of France's King Louis XV."
"Wow! So good to have a knowledgeable friend." He noticed two men in business suits taking a seat at the nearby bench. He waited but Jack did not offer any other clue. "And? … What's that got to do with the accidental shooting?"
"Have you heard of the 'Global Tenderers' perhaps?"
"No …", Gareth went slowly, noticing a barge on the Thames. I don't think so.
"It has one of the largest database of international and national tenders."
"Ah. Let me guess … it includes the Falklands?"
Jack grinned widely, his eyes glistening for a moment.
"I knew it!" Gareth was obviously pleased with his undiscovered talent.
"Among other global tender notices, international bids and other financial instruments, there were some request for proposals that associated Brazil with the Falklands."
"Hm." Gareth grinned, rubbing his chin.
"A total of 255 British servicemen and about 650 Argentines died after the UK sent a task force following the Argentine invasion on April the 2nd of 1982."
"Now … if you don't mind me asking … who pin-pointed this fact to you?"
Jack grinned and shook his head slightly, wondering how frank should he be with Gareth.
"Ha! I could bet my toes in it!" Jack was a bit startled and his dog barked, wondering what was happening. Gareth laughed and then patted Jack on his shoulder, obviously delighted about something. "Go on … I am now ALL ears!" He laughed again and swayed on his seat. Jack chuckled, measuring him if he was a circus clown or similar.
"On June the 8th of that same year …"
"Meaning just two months later …"
"Yes. JUST two months later of that dreadful year … in Brazil a Vasp 747 crashed in the northeastern city of Fortaleza, killing 137 people." He narrowed his eyes, sunshine making long shadows out of the surrounding trees.
Gareth looked at some female Arabic students dressed in their traditional 'hijabs'.
"All right. That was more than twenty years ago I believe?" Gareth turned sideways now, acting a bit silly. "Now … how about something 'fresh' … more … how should I put it … more 'contemporary', if you know what I mean?"
"Oh, sure." Jack laughed and offered that they continue walking. Gareth did not mind and they avoided some roller skaters who missed them closely. Gareth yelled after them but they ignored him. A white car stopped in the middle of the street and Jack felt some pain on his left shoulder.
"Are you all right?" Gareth looked in the direction where Gareth was watching but saw nothing unusual. After some honking the white car continued.
"Oh yes. It's … just comes and goes, that's all. "He offered some feeble smile as a shadow of a worry swung across his face.
After a while they reached an opening where a man with an English bowler hat, dressed accordingly, managed to attract plenty of tourists around him that regarded him as a local wonder.
"Well then …" Gareth glanced at Jack's dog and then at him. "Don't you have some insights … I mean …", double Decker passed by with some kids yelling from the upper deck, "… 'fresh'?"
"All right, all right …", Jack rasped into a laughter. He looked around as if checking on possible eavesdropping and then inhaled as if about to blow some hot air into the balloon.
"On the 12th of February 2005. in northern Brazil …", he waited for some couple to pass by, "… Dorothy Stang … age 73, an American nun …, was shot to death."
Gareth raised his eyebrows and realized they definitely needed some more private area.
"Let's go to the pub, shall we?"
Jack stood still as if frozen and finally managed a smile.
After they were drinking beer while Jack's dog was waiting all tied up like a horse outside, Jack, although still edgy because of his dog outside, continued.
"She had spent decades fighting efforts by loggers and large landowners to expropriate lands and clear large areas of the Amazon rainforest."
"Who?" For a moment Gareth seemed detached and then he recollected fast. "Ah! The nun, right?" Jack nodded gravely, waiting for the waitress to pass them by.
"In 2006 Amair Fejoli da Curraro, aged 38 pleaded guilty and said he offered money to two gunmen to shoot nun, at the behest of ranchers Vitalmiro Maura and Reginaldo Galvano. In 2008 a jury voted 5-2 to acquit Vitalmiro Maura, one of two ranchers who allegedly ordered the killing Stang." Jack almost emptied his pint and Gareth grinned. "The acquittal was overturned on a technicality in April, 2009. Maura and Galvano were convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 30 years in prison."
Gareth whistled softly. Some burly man that was watching soccer on TV turned around and gave him an annoying look. Gareth ignored him, sipping his stale beer.
"On February the 17th of the same year …"
"And that would be 2005, right?" Jack emptied his beer and nodded.
"Yes. In Brazil …", he ordered another pint, "… president Da Silva signed decrees creating 2 new Amazon environmental protection areas in a region of Para state coveted by soy farmers and ranchers less than …", someone called 'Jack' and Jack turned around carefully, realizing it was another guy with the same name, "… a week after an American nun was gunned down trying to protect the jungle from deforestation."
New pint arrived at an astonishing rate and Jack offered a wide grin at the waitress. Encouraged, he continued.
"On March the 31st of now deadly 2005, in the very same country of origin of the deceased …", he looked around him, feeling eyes on his back, "… in Brazil …", he turned some more, Gareth giggling in secret, "… a massacre in Nova Iguacu, outside of Rio, left 29 people dead." He gulped some more beer, wondering how was his dog doing. "The next day state officials said they might have been carried out by police incensed by investigations of brutality and corruption by 'bad' cops."
"Oh, yeah." Jack wiped his mouth with a table cloth since there were no paper napkins. "In 2006 a court convicted Carlos Jorge Caravaggio, age 32 a state police officer, of taking part in the Baixada massacre. In 2009 ex-officer Julio Cesar de Pulla was sentenced to 480 years in prison and …", Jack laughed silently as Gareth gaped in a mocking awe, "… and ex-officer Marcos Sequeira Costa to 543 years for homicide and belonging to a criminal organization."
"Sweet Mary and Jesus!" Gareth made a cross across his chest and Jack nodded, grinning.
"The length of the sentences was largely symbolic because under Brazilian law no one can serve more than 30 years in prison."
They listened to some more music and watched some drunken foreign students trying to sing local folk songs.
"Now … about that innocent victim …"
Suddenly Jack leaned forwards as if offering some confidential information. Gareth was taken and did not even blink.
"Actually … recent rumors have that the investigation collected his Glock pistol, two magazines containing 17 rounds each and specialist 124-grain ammunition, said to be the most suitable for immediate incapacitation."
"No way! …" Gareth was still in shock, letting alcohol place in him in a lulling mood.
"Oh, yes." Jack leaned back, his eyes shining. "The very same De Mendez that was killed on 22nd of July 2005 in a tube carriage by officers hunting for would-be suicide bombers who had attacked London's transport network the previous day."
Gareth furrowed his eyebrows in a delicate way, noticing that his companion was already tipsy a bit.
Jack leaned forward again and it was obvious that he was already under the gas.
"Mendez who was 27 years old at the time was mistaken for failed suicide bomber Hussain Osmani, who had attempted to bomb London on the 21st of July 2005, just a fortnight after terrorist attacks in the capital had killed 52 people and injured 750 others." He nodded significantly and then leaned back again.
Gareth realized it would be inhuman to push him further since he was already collaborating with him way too much. He winked at Jack and emptied his glass, admiring the stained glass at the windows.
Outside was already dark, neon lights illuminating the surrounding area.
As Jack was letting his dog drink water from a local public tap. he continued in the same manner, still groggy from the beer.
"On February the 18th of 2006 …"
"Yes." Jack staggered and Gareth offered him some help but he shook him off, almost indignantly. "A coalition of American churches sharply denounced the US-led war in Iraq, accusing Washington of 'raining down terror' and apologizing to other nations for 'the violence, degradation and poverty our nation has sown'." He paused, as if letting Gareth chew on the topic. "Christian leaders explored the question …", a noisy car full of drunken sailors passed them by, "… Should churches use their investment portfolios to protest Israeli policies toward Palestinians?"
Gareth measured Jack all over wondering whether he knew what he was talking about.
"I heard there was a financial settlement as well?"
"Over the death of the unlucky Jean?"
"That's right." Jack's lip curled into an involuntary sneer as he scratched his chin. "The sum of money involved in the settlement is believed to be just above £100,000. In addition …", he pulled his dog away from some stray cat, "… the family's substantial legal costs will be paid."
As they were closing towards the underground train station, Gareth tilted himself back on his heels, grinning.
"My dear friend … I still have a feeling you are hiding some very, very fresh information from me."
Jack sneered at his mocking Indian accent and then closed on him, his breath reeking on alcohol.
"On August the 29th of 2012 …", he paused, letting some gentlemen in mantels pass by, "… Four certified charts of the Falklands/Malvinas Islands dating back to the XVIII century and belonging to …", he had a feeling someone was watching him, "… to the Pedro de Angelis collection of Brasilia's National Library …", Gareth moved tem aside, "… were given by the Brazilian Foreign ministry to the Argentine delegation currently holding a bilateral meeting in the country's capital."
"Really?" Gareth felt like lighting his pipe, but decided not to. Some hooker checked them out.
"Yes. It was an act of love and solidarity with strong historic, symbolic and political value …" Jack made a face and pursed his lips, indicating some special connotations underlying the act.
Gareth took a deep breath as he listened to the train leaving the station underneath.
"How about some names though? I am still not convinced 100% in your story? …"
Jack pulled on the leash and shook his head.
"All right. I know I shouldn't … but … have it all, what the hell." He felt a chill and looked around. Apart from some young folks and elderly people, everything seemed pretty much usual.
"Attorney on the side of the deceased?" Jack made a grave nod, His eyes narrowing again. There was some yelling and shouting from the rented apartment in the neighborhood.
"Michael Mansfield was called to the Bar in 1967, and established Tooks Chambers in 1984, achieving the esteemed Queen's Counsel title in 1989."
Jack tipped his non-existent hat and was about to descend when Gareth grabbed him by the arm and stared at him with an almost pleading look.
"And … the key to the whole 'conspiracy'?"
Jack grinned as Gareth's grip softened and then stared at him directly into the eyes. A torn poster depicting the Royal Wedding was flashed by the passing car.
"The Irish ambassador to Israel, Brifman O'Reilly."
Gareth was now gaping with his mouth open wide, his head tilted slightly backwards as Jack descended downstairs turning only once more to see that frozen, almost ashen pale face of his friend as others tried to avoid him going in and out of the underground area.