The Speaker, née Raymond Cosfort Wendt.

I get it. You come to the big city riding a wave of popular support. You're grassroots. You have big hopes, big dreams, you want to help. You're the maverick, the upstart, you've got a mind to stir things up. And then it's patiently explained to you that there's a way things work, and one hand washes the other, and it's not your time yet, and you'll go far if you remember who your friends are in this town. And then it's explained to you somewhat less patiently. And by the time you realize that the only way to get enough power to fight the inherent corruption is to corrupt yourself, you're exhausted and bitter and angry and out of options.

I've read the Project Dreamland file. He's one of the ones we know everything about. We still can't catch him; he's wicked smart, and slippery. We're pretty sure he killed the old Mayor, and two Councilmen, and a Deputy Chief of Police. None of whom were choirboys, believe me. I just would have liked to see them in jail rather than smeared all over the sidewalk outside the Exchange or tied to the bottom of the Uptown Ferry or burned to a crisp hanging from the Old Post Office. There's a right way to do it and a wrong way.

Of course, to him, that makes me sound just as bad as them. Like I said: I get it.

I asked him, once. We were staring at each other across the rooftop of one of the big banks downtown. The whole place was rigged with explosives; he had the detonator in his hand. I yelled, "Where does it stop? Jaywalking? Rudeness on the subway?"

"I'm not a monster, Fleet!" He was offended by the question. He took two steps closer, thumb clearly on the dead-man switch of the detonator. "You should be helping me!"

"I'm not judge, jury, and executioner. I don't want that kind of power."

"That's cowardice. Moral cowardice. You let evil happen so you don't have to take responsibility."

"You threw a car at me. With people in it. Remember that? Isn't that evil?"

"I knew you'd catch it. You knew you'd catch it. They were safer flying through the air in that car than they'd ever been in their lives." He laughed. "It's a dance."

"The music's going to stop someday. You know it is, Raymond."

The Speaker just smiled. I could hear the helicopter coming closer. I knew he wouldn't set off the bomb unless I made a move. Now that I was here, now that the cops were here, the good cops, the clean cops, he'd slip away having made his point. The D.A. would investigate the bank, and of course they'd find something.

I watched the helicopter go, the Speaker standing on one of the skids.

I want to catch him, try him, put him in jail. Maybe only to prove to him that it works.


  1. One of my fave stories of yours so far..."It's a dance"--brilliant.