L.B.: Suspicious phone call

L.B.: Suspicious phone call September 30, 2005

Left Behind, pp. 156-159

Dirk Gently Burton, you will recall, was Buck Williams' college roommate and is now his off-the-record source about the machinations of a powerful conspiracy of behind-the-scenes financiers.

Burton's fringe theory has two parts. First, he believes that international bankers seem to be concerned about discussions to unify the global economy with a single currency — so concerned that they've actually sought to influence those discussions. The second part is even more controversial. Burton believes that powerful businessmen may be using their wealth and power in an attempt to sway political leaders.

As crazy as all that sounds, Buck's journalistic instincts tell him that Dirk may be on to something. Buck worriedly tries to call his friend, but Dirk's boss at the London Exchange answers the phone instead. The conversation that follows reads like something out of "Get Smart" (RIP, Agent 86) or "Our Man Flint":

"You must tell me precisely who you are and your specific relationship to Mr. Burton before I am allowed to inform you as to his disposition," Nigel Leonard said. "I am also constrained to inform you that this conversation shall be taped, beginning immediately."

"I'm sorry?"

"I'm taping our conversation, sir. If that is a problem for you, you may disconnect."

"I don't follow."

"What's to follow? You understand what a tape is, do you?"

"Of course, and I'm turning mine on now as well, if you don't mind."

"Well, I do mind, Mr. Williams. Why on earth would you be taping?"

"Why would you?"

This paranoid parody continues for two more pages with the manifestly twitchy Nigel increasingly sounding like a bad American actor faking a British accent. Eventually we learn that Dirk has turned up dead, an apparent apparent suicide (that is, it's apparent that it was intended to appear as a suicide).

Buck smells a story. Suspecting that his friend has met with foul play, he books the next plane to London to investigate.

The broad outlines are familiar here. This is standard stuff in political and espionage thrillers. Yet it's a bit strange that Buck should suddenly drop everything and switch genres like this. Less than 48 hours have passed since billions of people disappeared and hundreds of thousands more were killed, and Buck is personally in charge of investigating that story. Yet here Buck decides to step out of the disaster narrative and into a hackneyed spy story. Buck reassures his boss that he will "be back in time for all these summits" — referring to the various Jewish conferences that have already supplanted the disappearances as Buck's main focus.

Here, then, are the stories our intrepid reporter is following, listed according to his sense of priority:

1. Suspicious suicide of Princeton roommate
2. Meeting of Jewish nationalists
3. Meeting of Orthodox Jews
4. Parliament of World Religions conference
5. Global cataclysm, mass disappearances, the end of the world.

I have to say, too, that I'm a bit disappointed with the conspirators in our shadow-government cabal. Under different circumstances, there'd be nothing wrong with the old "make it look like a suicide" ploy. It's a time-honored strategy for getting rid of an annoying Man Who Knows Too Much. But why stick with such a chestnut when the events of the past two days have presented so many other opportunities for getting rid of a body? They want Dirk Burton to disappear, so why not take advantage of the disappearances?

All they'd need to do is shoot/stab/strangle/bludgeon him. They shouldn't worry what the body looks like because if they do this right, no one will be looking for the body. After disposing of the late Dirk Burton, arrange some of his clothes neatly draped in his favorite chair. Toss in, maybe, a half-finished glass of scotch or a still-smoldering pipe in the ashtray. The details don't have to be exact, just enough to lump him in with the larger, global mystery and ensure that no one regards his absence as a smaller mystery deserving separate consideration. If that seems too bloodless, the piles of wreckage along every highway and railway would seem to offer additional opportunities for capable thugs trying to get rid of a body.

But no, instead they stick to the pre-cataclysm plan and fake a suicide, thus raising the suspicions of the GIRAT. Too bad for them. If Dirk had seemed to be a part of the mass disappearances, then Buck Williams would have ignored his fate just as he is ignoring the mysterious fate of those many other billions. After all, there are Jews in New York and it's his job to figure out what they're up to.


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