17 December 2006

In Which Sarge Traces the Bullet...


Again Estonia: the old sow of a country full of guns and the smell of its occupiers, from the Swedes and the Poles to the Nazis and the Soviets. I made it into Virtsu looking over my shoulder and I knew Tallinn was next. Tallinn of the dreams and the doubts, a fog in my imagination out of which I could conjure the wonders and the terrors of what I have known. It is in the oddest places that we stash our hopes and fears, and while there is little anymore of faith, what faith there is, why does it end up where it does?

From Virtsu, its corrupted shores slick with industrial ooze and the sky above coughing with smoke, I took an afternoon train to Tallinn so I could get in before the shadows I feared, before they might meld with the night. Cpl., I tell you now, I did not want to be there but we go where the trail is. And it is the only way, after all, nobody wants to be where we end up, but we want to be the ones who go there. Ranger himself ends up in the jungles of one continent and you and I in the sewers of another. This whole time though, I feel weighted down by the oppression of a conscience that doubts I can be the tool of a righteous cause. I long now for the relative stability of my life in Africa, where Nwargo was always sure to take measure of my moods and find ways of placating me. I am over the edge here and of course, SHE is here. Well, she had to be somewhere but I thought I would be safe in Riga. That somehow in this desperate scramble, the one place I wouldn't end up was that place I dream of when I don't dream of Africa. Fate mocks however, and I'm sure the sound most of us will hear at our deaths is a soft rustle of laughter: here I am, in Tallinn.

I avoided Tallinn, looked for anywhere else I could make my way to the truth, but that time is over. The old city, the dignified port with it's twisting and cobbled roads, the undercurrent everywhere of the idea that anything here could happen. All the nations come to Tallinn, though they would like to pretend they are of other, larger, more sophisticated locales - when the fights break out at the bars near the wharves the business of nations is settled there; Tallinn itself is concerned with larger matters, and right now there are a lot of guns in Tallinn. Where there are guns, there is money, and where there are both, there are the French Separatists.

This is where the deals go down, and where I thought I might be happy one day.

Those days are no more, but there it is. From Riga I knew it would be to Tallinn because everybody there wanted to pretend it wasn't so. The informants were saying the Black Sea and the agents who sell are still insisting on Moscow. Moscow? That haunt of overripe discos and the paunches of 30 year old billionaires retreating into the infantile antics of the supremely pampered with their private armies like so many Tybalts and not a Mercutio among them? I have nothing but disgust for anybody who could convince me there is anything of value for me there at all. In the back of their voices I found the whisperings of Tallinn that, in their chatter, they desperately tried to mask, but finally, one night, by a fountain in Riga I found the one person who told me that what I heard was not my own fears and hesitancies in those whispers, but the almost indistinguishable sound of truth. To hesitate any longer, the informant said, meant discovery of my actual identity with those who could bring death. I had trusted this particular informant for years though he had never given me much in the way of usable information. I cultivated the relationship out of respect and out of hope, and now there was the pay-off, he knew I had no friends now anywhere near: he was it. No place that was not out in the cold, and he knew too the Canadians and the French both, being himself a lonely Spaniard. He is a captain of a freightor that knows its way too well around places like Vladivostick, Murmansk and the Orkneys, and of course he, like me, knows the fever of Africa.

He told me Calrissian was being filled with doubts by some of the politicos at Ottawa, particularly one, meanwhile the French are angry I disrupted the pipelines they had established in Chad that stretched out through Sierra Leone, the Côte d'Ivoire and Liberia and are working hard to pay their respects. Now, was the time, he advised, to enter into the den of the lions. It was how I found myself on a train trying to pretend it was the most natural thing in the world to look for death, and also, that it was the most natural thing in the world for a Commando, battle-tested as I was, to be tracing my tears onto the begrimed windows of a slow-moving train.

With all this information of the Spanish captain's to digest, I thought instead of an afternoon not so long ago really, spent wandering the shores and then the forests just outside Tallinn with her. I fell into sentimental reveries of what might have been, these last few weeks on the edge of my thoughts like so many darker clouds that the fog of my reverie kept momentarily at bay. Perhaps I allowed myself, in that brief moment, to grieve for the self that was lost to this calling, to this training, and finally to my own weaknesses which drive me and push me more than they should.

I never got used to the plosive sounds of the Russian-made rails though, and along the way I was finally jarred from my wandering thoughts, and now I am here in Tallinn, already the whisperings I am hearing tell me this is where I needed to be all the time. Slowly I feel the confidence of the professional, doing what he must do, returning to me. It has been a busy evening.

Tell Calrissian this, though he won't believe you yet, there is a mole. Deep and trusted, a comfortable mole but one not complacent. Tell him I am in Asia if you can. I know it is risky to you, but we risk for each other my friend. And the favor I ask now might well save both of us.

If you don't hear from me in the next week, make sure what I have enclosed here makes it to Nwargo, who besides you, is my most trusted confidant. Tell also, to Ranger, that Mercerier has a weakness for rare editions of Molière and the French Symbolists, especially Verlaine.

Wasn't it Verlaine who wrote of the autumn song? It is winter now, and my heart must steel itself, for the buffeting of fate has begun, and though I progress well and have some optimism, I know too the furies are about: my own, and theirs. My misgivings keep me in a state of sleeplessness, and I fear what mistakes in judgment I have already made.

All about us the clocks are against us, but we have been in tighter spots, and if the time for zeroes is now, the game has been a good one, and I think more than fair to me.

Cpl., I remain

your most trusting servant,


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