Wednesday, December 15, 2004


Water, Wick Warns

Wick the Boot doesn't wear boots. It's a funny thing: he doesn't touch the ground. Hasn't in years. It's a kind of little superstition with him. If he touches the ground, he dies. Not really. He knows it isn't true, like the little boy who knows that stepping on a crack won't break his mother's back, but avoids stepping on cracks anyway. It's a kind of just-for-good-measure measure.

He doesn't touch clean floors either. Any flat earth-like surface. He is a creature of the air. He flies wherever he goes, except across the room: then he's carried by Chechen slaves. They airlift him to the toilet, hold up his feet while he shits and doesn't stink. Here in his Moscow lair, Wick the Boot aka Wikvaya Boutte aka Widad Boutros aka Viktor Bout (the name on his passport) can relax as the god W, whose shit doesn't stink.

It's no coincidence that his cover identity in the earth-bound world is air charter service owner. Even on earth he is above the earth. He runs a network of cargo planes flying sensitive goods around the globe. Weapons and drugs, mostly. Drugs to get you high, weapons to blow you sky high. It pleases him to airlift flying machines into a country at war, spy planes, helicopter gunships. But he has also flown flowers and exotic fish.

These days, in Iraq, it's water. Bottled water. The American troops drink a lot of water, and won't touch the local stuff, which is brown and full of parasites. They were bringing the water in on trucks, at first, but the insurgents took so many trucks out with IEDs--improvised explosive devices, which Wick has not yet found a way to supply--that they took to the air, hired him. He's made millions off the Americans, millions more, of course, off the Iraqi insurgents, and off the Taliban before them, but it's not about the money, for him. It's the flying. He doesn't do it himself, of course. But he loves the mental image of his sixty planes in the air, circumnavigating the globe.

A slave brings one of his generals in, Vitya. Viktor Lebedev, whose last name means "swan." All his generals have v or w first names and flight-related surnames. Not that swans ever fly--a black mark against Vitya right there. Wick's had his eye on him for months, now, waiting for him to fuck up.

"We got problems, W," Vitya says.

"I pay you to handle problems," Wick says.

"And I handle this one," Vitya says. "But I want to tell you."

"Tell," Wick says.

"Bill Kaul got loose from Americans," Vitya says.

"Is impossible," Wick says. "He is jpeg. Digital image does not escape containment facility."

"Ambassador says he emails himself out of there," Vitya says. "As attachment."

"Emails himself where?" Wick says.

"We think here," Vitya says.

"Here?" Wick says, sitting up in bed. He points to his lap. "Here?"

"Not here here," Vitya says. "To dream of Doug Robinson. Ambassador fears creation of new Mullah Billdoug."

"Is impossible," Wick says. "Doug Robinson locked in dream-proof cell. No dream can get out, no jpeg can get in." He eyes Vitya suspiciously. "You checked cell, yes?"

"Absolutely, W," Vitya says. "Doug Robinson sleeps and dreams. But no dream leakage through seal. Sensors would have picked up."

"And contents of dream?"


"Whales?" Wick says. "Fish whales?"

"Mammals," Vitya says.

"I kill you," Wick says.

"Sorry, W," Vitya says.

"No Bill Kaul in dreams?"

"No whiff of Bill Kaul in dreams," Vitya says.

Then he knows. He knows how it went down. Computer hackers. Someone has been feeding his system disinformation, to lull him into a false sense of security. There is no whale! What there is is a new Mullah Billdoug, or possibly Dougbill, which, as his mother told him back when he was but a godling, is twice as dangerous.

He gropes under his pillow for his gun, pulls it out and shoots Vitya. The gun doesn't fire. He pulls the trigger again: click.

"Why this gun doesn't fire?" he says impatiently.

Vitya reaches a trembling hand over, undoes the safety. "May I ask why you kill me?" he says shakily.

"Because you fuck up, you swan!" Wick yells, and blows Vitya's brains out. "Slaves!"

The slaves come running.

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