The Crying Machine by Greg Chivers

The Crying Machine by Greg Chivers

Author:Greg Chivers [Greg Chivers]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Published: 2019-02-13T16:00:00+00:00



A man with a donkey’s head roams the stage. The spotlight picks out bare patches in the grey fur of the headpiece. The actor totters on his feet as if unbalanced by the weight of the thing; he is supposed to be under the dizzying influence of a magical spell. The character rejoices in the name ‘Bottom’, apparently.

‘Why are we here, Sybil?’

She shifts uncomfortably in the darkness. Her presence at the back of the box keeps her out of view of anyone outside while permitting me to work discreetly. Events are moving quickly, and I cannot afford to waste two hours purely for the sake of making an appearance.

‘You wanted to be seen to engage with European culture, sir, something to avoid being typecast as the xenophobe candidate, you said.’

‘Yes, yes, but what is the point of this performance? What pleasure is any sane human supposed to derive from watching this?’

‘It is a comedy, sir, written by a playwright widely acknowledged to be the greatest of all time.’

‘I know who Shakespeare is, thank you, my dear. I just struggle to see any merit in this. None of it makes sense. It certainly isn’t funny. Wasn’t there anything else we could do?’

‘This was the only window in your diary for a month. Also you’ve got a cultural delegation from Timbuktu coming, and you wanted something to talk about with them “just in case they start banging on about art”. I could have booked us into an evening of slam poetry at the Gala?’

‘Ugh. All right, you’ve made your point. Let’s make the best of it. Give us some privacy.’

‘Of course.’

The sound of fairies singing fades to nothing as she deploys the cancellation field to grant us privacy. Anyone looking from outside will see only the blackness of an empty opera box, a common enough sight. My appearance at the event will have been marked by anyone who cares enough to notice, and most eyes should be on the stage. Freed of the constraints of being observed, Sybil produces a data slate from beneath her seat. The light from discarded messages illuminates her face in a flickering patchwork as she sifts through work put on hold while we imbibe our dose of culture.

‘What news on Amos?’

She listens without raising her head. ‘He’s up to something, but I haven’t been able to get specifics.’ Her finger settles on the slate. ‘He’s being super careful, and his counter-surveillance is good. Bugs are being swept as fast as we put them down.’

‘What about our people in the justice department? They must hear something of what’s going on; that’s what we pay them for.’

‘Glassberg never lets anyone get close. We infiltrated a PA into his office, but he doesn’t even talk to her. Our assets risk compromising themselves if they try anything overt.’

‘I think they’ll find it’s riskier taking my money and not delivering the goods. Never mind. Give me what we have.’

Her hand comes away from the data slate, and she looks up to face me.


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