Covert spy Michael Westen has found himself in forced seclusion in Miami--and a little paranoid. Watched by the FBI, cut off from intelligence contacts, and with his assets frozen, Weston is on ice with a warning: stay there or get "disappeared." Driven to find out who burned him and why, he's biding his time helping people with nowhere else to turn. People like socialite Cricket O'Connor whose own husband has vanished, along with her fortune...
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August 04, 2008
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Excerpt from Burn Notice by Tod Goldberg
When you're a spy, certain things come easy. You never have to pay your parking tickets. The IRS leaves you pretty much alone provided you don't try to deduct TEC-9s from your 1040EZ. It's okay if you have sex with someone you don't actually like. In fact it's often encouraged, and if on the off chance you fall in love with the wrong person and have to kill them, or they try to kill you, your boss rarely asks for you to fill out a purchase order for a body bag or extra bullets.
But not even being a spy gets you out of having lunch with your mother.
It was a Tuesday, and because she lied and told me I was taking her to the orthopedist, I was sitting poolside at the Hotel Oro having lunch with my mother, Madeline. The Hotel Oro is one of those hotels on South Beach that no one actually stays at, but everyone seems to visit. It has an Olympic-sized infinity pool, which seems odd when you consider the ocean is only five yards away, but then the ocean doesn't have full bar service and cocktail girls dressed in gold bikinis serving you finger foods. At night, DJs spin Eurotrash for Paris Hilton and the entire hotel throbs onto the street, like it's an actual living creature that feeds on celebrities. My mother kept lifting her sunglasses up to stare at the people being seated at the tables around us.
"You expecting someone?" I asked.
"Fiona said she might join us," my mother said. Fiona was my girlfriend for a while. Then she was not my girlfriend for a while. Then it was just confusing, and a little violent, in a good way, and now she's more like a business partner, but might be my girlfriend again sometime soon. It's complicated. "I don't like you calling her," I said.
"She told me the cutest thing yesterday," she said.
The problem with having your business partner being your former and maybe future girlfriend is that it's hard to make any essential mandates about behavior. You risk pissing off someone who may or may not call your mother either way. It's only slightly worse when the same person happens to be a former IRA gunrunner who still has something of an opaque moral center and who doesn't understand personal boundaries.
"Do tell," I said.
"Just girl stuff, Michael."
Girl stuff. Ten years of interrogating hostile enemy targets, you'd think I'd be able to break through that code, but give me twenty Enigma machines and fifty men sitting in a locked room at Quantico, and there'd be no way of figuring out what the hell girl stuff means.
I'd have been more upset with this whole line of conversation had I not been distracted, which is actually how I generally like to feel during conversations with my mother. That way I don't get too emotionally involved, or, in a pinch, can plead ignorance if important dates or activities are mentioned.
Across the pool, three white guys in Cuban shirts, tan chinos and ankle holsters were trying their best to look natural, which would have been easier if they weren't all wearing the same shirt, which is what happens when you try to look natural by letting some intern buy your resort wear. That they weren't trying to look natural while monitoring me was of some concern.
"We should do this more often, Michael," my mother said.
"What's this, exactly?"
"Family time. You know it wouldn't kill you to take me out to lunch every week. I read where the president calls his mother every day. She even vacations with him sometimes."
The three white guys in Cubans were a little on the chunky side and their skin was almost translucent, which meant they weren't normally field agents. Field agents tend to have a few fast twitch muscles and maybe a decent farmer's tan from sitting with their arms out car windows, waiting for something to happen, or snapping photos, or shooting at moving targets. Doughy is no way to go through life. Everything works less effectively when you've got plaque in your arteries, but doughy also says: Happy. Content. Secure.
Miami-Dad's finest: The Strategic Investigations Bureau.
SIB agents are paper hounds and numbers guys. Loophole chasers. Get them outside and maybe they know how to handle a gun, but you take them out of their comfort zone, you put a knife to their throat or you show them a little of their own blood, and they turn into hand puppets.
"That's great," I said. "Next time I see the president, I'll let him know you're free."
"I'm serious, Michael," she said. "Since you've been back, you haven't taken me to a single movie. Would it kill you take me to see a movie?"
It might. But at the moment, I was more concerned by the SIB agents. If they were anchoring the back door, that meant someone was in the front and that there was probably a gun or two aimed in this direction from one of the adjoining buildings. Most likely, the ATF was near, too.
"Ma," I said, "how did you hear about this place?"
"Fiona said we should meet here."
"This morning. Why, Michael?"
"Did you call her?"