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Rocco Enters the Picture
Rocco Williamson was a “fixer,” a doer of dirty deeds, but unlike the fellow in that old AC/DC song, such deeds did not come dirt cheap. A connoisseur of fine wines, a patron of Italian opera as performed by top talent in Italy, and a collector of ancient manuscripts, Rocco was, by turns, a hit man, an extortionist, a blackmailer, and anything else that might fit into that general category of coercive persuasion.
Rocco looked like the hobbyist part of his life, and not like the professional part of his life a suave collector of the finer things. His name seemed to clash with all of that because Rocco sounded like he could have been named Bruiser or Bane, but it all made sense when you found out “Rocco” was just a nickname he had picked up in college. His given name was Rochester.
Rocco was slight, and dressed like he wanted to be almost dapper. He was meticulous about his appearance, but made sure that he didn’t come across as compulsively fastidious. If a hair was out of place, it was out of place deliberately—and he made sure that one was usually out of place. He had decided years before that he would display the kind of impeccable taste that would tell all observers that he could have been perfectly impeccable if he had wanted to.
But what all of this meant was that his sources of income were not nearly as refined as his expenditures. He was responsible for a good third of the actual Clinton suicides. The number of the actual Clinton suicides was much lower than various conspiracy buffs would have it, but still, a lot higher than it ought to have been—higher than what is generally accepted.
More to our purposes, Brock Tilton had Rocco on retainer.
From all such facts, stated this baldly, it might be easy to assume that he had had something to do with the attempted hit on Dr. Helen Greene. But this would be a false assumption. Had this been a true assumption, then Helen would have been a lot deader than she actually was.
When Steven Lee first realized that he had sent an entire batch of incriminating emails to Helen Greene, of all people, and his software confirmed that she had opened and read it, and that she had lied about it to him, he knew instantly what had to be done. He knew about the existence of the darker side of his political world, and he also knew some people who were tangentially involved in it. He didn’t know a lot, but he did know the name of one person, a friend from law school, one Hugh Hasani, that he thought he could call. That friend had been turned down for a position at the UN, which is hard to accomplish, and in his bitterness he had become increasingly radical and impatient, a combination which came close to creating a perpetual motion machine of emotions. This Hugh was now the chief spokesman for a radical organization called Earth Fight.
Various writers and pundits on the right liked to call the Earth Fight contingent an eco-terror group, but the people within the group liked to describe themselves as simple believers in direct action. Defense of Mother Earth was actually self-defense, and they didn’t care who knew it. Outside of the occasional Unabomber cabin, it would be hard to find people more committed to the purity of violence in pursuit of their goals than Earth Fight.
Their problem was that their expertise was limited to breaking shop windows in upscale urban shopping districts, setting cars on fire, and attacking VFW rallies, and then only when a lot of other people were doing the same thing. Even then they made sure that the veterans they attacked were from the Korean conflict and earlier.
They were more radical than antifa, but their commitment to radicalism had not yet translated into any kind of dogged commitment to excellence. That kind of thing seemed to them to smell suspiciously like work, and also to reflect a bourgeois mindset that they were trying to shake loose of, as it reminded them of their fathers, all of whom had been high functionaries and wheels in their local chambers of commerce. But their problem was that no matter how many Pottery Barn windows they smashed, their fathers were still important figures in their respective chambers of commerce. The thing seemed insoluble.
Their dedication to their cause meant that they were in principle ready to kill and maim for it, but their relativism as regards their work ethic meant that they were not really any good at killing and maiming. And it was, alas, this group that Steven Lee had (indirectly) dispatched to take care of his Helen Greene problem.
He had done this because Hugh had occasionally dropped some dark hints here and there about “what’s really going down.” And so when Steven outlined his problem, that problem being a colleague who had betrayed the cause, his friend had eagerly seized the opportunity. “Eve of destruction, baby,” had been his one cryptic editorial comment. A much needed gift had been deposited in the account of Earth Fight, and Hugh told him to consider it done.
So Hugh was the one who had given the call to action to Maurice and Leon. He, like they, talked a serious game, for the future of the planet was at stake, and he, like they, was more or less a lummox, an oaf, and a simpleton. He thought that there wasn’t a single problem on earth that wasn’t directly related to the fact that mankind was pumping massive amounts of CO2 into the air. In his world, temperatures had nothing to do with the fact that there was this huge globe of burning gas in the sky.
But now Hugh was the one who had to place a call to Steven Lee in order to inform him that Maurice was in the hospital, and under arrest, and that Leon was back at his mother’s apartment, somewhat dispirited and in need of encouragement.
This threw Steven Lee into a high panic mode. He was normally a fairly steady scoundrel, not given to any emotional trapeze acts, but this thing was completely different. He knew that his life and career would be absolutely done if those emails even thought about coming out. He had it on good information he was going to be nominated for the Nobel this year, and a documentary telling the story of his life—Lonely Hero—was already in production for Netflix. He was all set to become a household name, and did not want to become a household name in any way other than the pathway-of-honors way.
But even his new found adrenaline levels were not bringing him any new information. He didn’t know anybody he could call besides Hugh. Fortunately for Steven, Hugh’s contacts were a little bit broader, and he had mentioned Rocco’s name to Steven at the very end of Steven’s most distressing phone call.
Steven called the number right away, introduced himself, and waded in from the shallow end. He started by saying that he was an old acquaintance of Hugh Hasani, and had contracted with him to take care of a little business . . .
Rocco interrupted him. “So that’s why that Maurice clown is in the hospital! Up and coming climate scientist disappears into the morning mist mysteriously, and one of Hugh’s Neanderthals is found bleeding on her carpet! I thank you heartily for the missing piece. I have been puzzling over it all morning.”
Steven breathed a sigh of relief. He didn’t want to play any games anyhow.
“What is, um, your fee structure?” He said. “I know that this botch means that I am not in a strong negotiating position.”
“No, no, you are not,” Rocco said, and named his fee. “But in addition to that fee, I also demand a free hand. I never leave any loose ends lying around.”
“What do you mean?” Steven asked.
“I mean Maurice, and Leon, and maybe Hugh.”
Steven felt he could hear the cry of pain from his checking account, but had gotten up that morning early and read through the whole chain of emails again, just to make sure. “Yes,” he said. “Just do what you need to, and it is good to work with a professional.”