Short Story: “Loose Ends”

“Loose Ends”
by P. Orin Zack

“Like I explained in my anonymized email, I can’t let you find out who I am, and there will never be a way to corroborate what I’m about to say.”

Robert scowled at the digital puppet on his screen, an amalgam of Avatar-style facial mimicry and open-source voice processing that looked and sounded enough like Richard Nixon to be distracting. “And yet you expect me to believe you?”

Faux-Nixon nodded. “I like the irony.”

“Well, okay. I’ll hear you out, but only because the little you’ve alluded to is so damaging to so many people, not only in several world governments, but in a string of multinationals a mile long.”

“And if you believe me?”

Robert smiled uneasily. “Even if I believe you,” he said, “then there’s still nothing I can do about it. You say you can’t provide any documents to support your story, so there’d be nothing to release.”

“Our transcript, perhaps?”

“Laughably ineffective. They’ve so conditioned people to reject conspiracy theories that it can be framed as just another circus sideshow. You’ll have believers, of course, just like there have been people who have believed in dozens of unproven explanations in the past, but so what?”

The man wearing the face-camera visibly drooped. His faux-Nixon persona was still for a good half-minute before jerking back to life. “I’ll let you worry about that later. As I said, I was sworn to secrecy, and threatened with several kinds of retribution if I ever spoke about that meeting.”

“And yet,” Robert interrupted, “you’ve contacted our group and demanded to be heard. Why shouldn’t I think you’re about to plant a story for one of the clandestine intelligence agencies?”

The Nixon puppet smiled. “You should. At least then you’ll have included their actions in your understanding of what happens in the world. But enough of this… those agencies do monitor Internet traffic after all. Encrypted video chats only pique their interest.”

“Go ahead, then.”

“To begin with, the Obama administration inherited a problem. The advanced weapons test conducted in the fall of 2001, which was gussied-up as a false-flag attack, was a masterpiece of misdirection and a cornucopia for what Eisenhower wanted to call the military-industrial-congressional complex, none of which were privy to the whole truth. It was blamed on an organization ginned up by the intelligence community around a CIA asset who also happened to be a business associate of the former president’s family. With all other air traffic in the US grounded, Osama bin Laden’s extended family were escorted out of the country, and the man himself became an absentee specter to focus the wrath of the citizenry.”

“And the problem?” Robert prompted.

“The problem was that even though he died of renal failure in 2002, the intelligence apparatus continued to milk the fear they had sown by releasing fabricated videos from him, and kept the fiction of his existence alive until the former president left office.”

Robert held up a hand. “So those videos suspected of being fakes really were?”

Faux-Nixon sighed. “Of course they were. Wasn’t it obvious? And that was part of the problem. The charade couldn’t be kept up indefinitely.”

“All right. Just for the sake of argument, I’ll take that to be the case. But even so, why didn’t they just blow the cover off the charade right then and there? Why continue with the war on terror if the face of the enemy was as contrived as yours is now?”

“How the hell should I know? I wasn’t part of that. All I know is what happened at the meeting I attended. And by that time, they’d strung the sham along for a good year or so.”

“The meeting, then,” Robert said, his breath quickening.

“Yes. The meeting. In my work as a business strategy consultant, I help my clients to resolve problems that crop up with the narratives that they create in the course of promoting their products and services. Well, I was contacted by the representative of what I was told was a group of people both in and out of government who wanted help with an existing narrative. It’s not an unusual request. Often, as a result of acquisitions and takeovers, companies end up with narratives that don’t fit their image. At that point, they can either pursue a rebranding effort, or just drop it cold. But this was different. The brand was a person, and unlike McDonald’s, they couldn’t just hire a different actor to put behind the whiteface.”

“Wait a minute. Isn’t that exactly what they did, though? I mean the person in some of those alleged bin Laden videos wasn’t even a good match.”

“Not like Sir Paul McCartney was, no. So that left two choices. Either expose the farce, which would risk alienating not only the people but the business interests that were complicit in the crime and beneficiaries of its results, or… they could stage a conclusion to the narrative to cement the whole thing in the past.”

Robert rocked back in his chair, closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “Let me get this straight. You claim that you were brought in to help the government arrange an elaborate hoax to plaster over the fact that their cover story about bin Laden was wearing thin?”

“It was worse than wearing thin,” faux-Nixon said dismissively. “It had become a liability. By that time, the only acts he could reasonably be connected with were a few embassy bombings from back in the 90s. The intelligence teams were spending a lot of money keeping up the fiction that he was still directing terrorist activities in a way that didn’t raise eyebrows even among the people he was supposedly directing. That entire web of subterfuge had to be dismantled without exposing the truth. And the only way to carry that off was to stage a hit on a drugged patsy and dispose of the hard evidence in a way that could never be found.”

“Uh-huh. Hence the burial at sea.”

“That’s right. Everyone involved had to believe that they were doing their patriotic duty, that they were following legal orders, and that they were even honoring the memory of the missing man, or it would collapse of its own weight. If the closing narrative is to succeed, it will have to hold up under scrutiny of the people who were involved. They can each testify to the truth of the part they participated in, yet nobody can verify that it was really bin Laden that was executed and quickly disposed of.”

Robert crossed his arms and pursed his lips.

“Is something wrong?” faux-Nixon asked.

“I’m not sure. But if I’m going to suspect the motivation of the people you say called you in on this, I also have to suspect your own motivation for insisting on being heard out.”


“That’s right, your motivation. If you’re as good at this as you say you are, I can’t overlook the possibility that planting this story may play some part in your overall scheme.”

He shook his head. “I don’t believe this. I’m risking my neck to expose the biggest scandal in centuries, and you think it’s just a ploy? What could I possibly have to gain from that?”

“I haven’t quite figured that out yet, Steven, but I was pretty sure you’d try.”

“Steven…?” Faux-Nixon’s face froze momentarily in a deer-in-the-headlights expression. “But if you know my name, then you must be…”

“In the pay of your clients. Did you really think you were the only person they called in on this?  That door you hear opening is a black-ops team. You were the last loose end that had to be tied up. Enjoy your next few breaths. They’re all you’ll get.”


Copyright 2011 by P. Orin Zack


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s