by R.A. Allen

Fellman: …Picking up where we left off before lunch: page thirty-one, section four, paragraph one, concerns Wildcatter, one of your operatives. Are you with me, Auberghast?

[Papers rustling]

Auberghast: Yes, sir.

Fellman: It seems that Wildcatter became “involved” with another local woman, and that this woman—like the two before her—”died” under suspicious circumstances.

Auberghast: The report actually says that we lost contact with her.

Fellman: I can read between the lines.

Auberghast [Laughing]: Just leaving you room for plausible deniability, sir.

Fellman: See here, Auberghast, that term has been passé in this department since the Bush era. Do not use it in my presence, or even in this building.

Auberghast: Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.

Fellman: So what is the situation as it stands? Were children produced as a result of the liaison between Wildcatter and this … woman?

Auberghast: The woman had one child already, though too old to have been fathered by Wildcatter. We don’t know what happened to it. Wildcatter was vague about this point during his debriefing.

Fellman: Pity about the child….

Auberghast: Yes….

Fellman: Does Wildcatter seem disgruntled? Unstable?

Auberghast: Disgruntled? Perhaps. Unstable? No, he is a thoroughgoing professional.

Fellman: You understand we cannot have an unstable operative loose in that region, especially given the sensitive nature of Wildcatter’s presence there. Grief, feigned or otherwise, will pass. A measure of despondency, feigned or otherwise, will go its way. Instability, however, forces our hand.

Auberghast: My office does not believe that Wildcatter is unstable. But, then again, we don’t have access to very many behavioral psychologists in those parts.

Fellman: Is Wildcatter a suspect in the woman’s death, or the child’s, for that matter?

Auberghast: The local authorities have made no inquiries. I don’t think they’ve actually established a link between Wildcatter and the woman, yet.

Fellman: What about your office? What do you think, personally?

Auberghast: Hard to say….

Fellman: Hmm…. [Pen tapping desktop]

Fellman: Wildcatter is a valuable resource, practically irreplaceable. We need to keep him happy, or at least content. Given what we—you—know about his needs, what can be done?

Auberghast: A new woman?

Fellman: We must not allow him access—as much as it is within our power to do so—to yet another local. Given the volatility of the region, a suspicion of wrongdoing could trigger an embarrassment; kindle an insurrection, even.

Auberghast: How about sending him one straight from here, sir? Maybe from the trainee pool? Wildcatter likes the exotic package, starvelings with dark features and big eyes. Surely, in a melting pot like ours a similar one might be found. Perhaps we have one that is not necessarily on a fast track to promotion. Expendable, I guess is what you’d say.

Fellman: [Pen tapping desktop] Simple enough.

[End of transcript]