There's a reason they call it Foggy Bottom, after all. It's muggy, hot, and rainy for part of the year, and then cold and nasty the rest, with the occasional tropical storm and nasty flood. And then Mother Nature, being the grand !@#$ goddess that she is, sees fit to throw a few spots of sunshine on either side to remind you of what you'd be getting if you lived someplace sensible. Like California.
Personally, I think it's the perfect weather for our nation's Capitol. If we were someplace sunny and temperate you'd be fooled into thinking that this was a nice town, full of happy, smiling people ready and waiting to serve you with decency, humility, and basic human kindness. A town full of smiley-faced public servants who never tire, never falter, and never frown.
But you only need to be splashed in the face by a puddle of yesterday's festering rain water by some evil, !@#$-eyed cab driver, on your way from one Congressional !@#$-reaming to another, to get the point that you are not in happyland.
Happyland is for the tourists, son. The shining, happy people who think the Capitol is a museum, the Smithsonian has no political agenda, and the Spy Museum is !@#$ real.
Not people like you and me.
What brings me down here to harsh reality, today? It ain't the Brickskeller, that's for !@#$ sure. I'm sure you'll be happy to know that they still haven't repaired the damage left over from when I discovered my favorite watering hole had turned into a hippie alien love bar. I'm sure you'll also be happy to know that the muppet-haired girl who gave me all the !@#$ is a mind-bombed wreck, standing outside the construction fence and wondering when she gets to go back to work.
Sometimes I feel guilty for snap decisions I make when I'm so !@#$ ticked off I could destroy random people with my eyes. Sometimes not so much. Either way, I walked by and gave her another taste of SPYGOD VISION, just for laughs, but she didn't even whimper this time.
(I hope that doesn't means I'm losing my touch)
But, no -- no heavy drinking this trip. No godlike bowl of Pho, either. No junkets, no kickbacks, no back alley black limo deals sealed with strange drug orgies at some Senator's deniable party pad. This is straight up spy business, today.
Someone's messed up, son. And someone's gonna die.
Who's today's winner of the 50 Caliber Retirement Plan? Well, there hangs a tale along with a body. Walk with me a bit, here. Let's take us a two-legged tour of the city that good forgot.
* * *
I'm sure you'll remember that I've had the COMPANY running like a split chicken with its head cut off, not really sure if we're going after HONEYCOMB or the Legion? Most folks think it's HONEYCOMB, but their bosses know different, or at least think they do. And, based on what's been going out over the super-sneaky backdoor communications channel in The Flier, which would be the one they think I don't know about, it's clear that the word's out: the Legion's going down.
Are they? Well, that's another story for another day.
But let's talk about some history, here. We're in the right town for it, after all. You can't get drunk and !@#$ in an alley without splashing your homemade lemonade close to something that some historian wrote a whole !@#$ book about, once.
You want to know about Legion? We have to talk about money. And if you want to talk about money, well, there's only one place to go in this town. Right around the corner, here... aha!
See this here? This is the Bureau of Printing and Engraving. You want to know where your money comes from, and then goes back to at the end of its strange, hand-to-hand existence? This is it. Free tours, historical exhibits, messed-up money, and the weird sense that the eye in the pyramid is watching your slack !@#$ covet it from across the room.
Amongst the exhibits are a selection of old bills. The sort that you look at and immediately wonder how hard it would be to smash the glass and take. We're talking bills worth $500, $1000, $5000, $10,000. Even a $100,000 bill with our old friend Woodrow "League of Impotent Nations" Wilson on it. How's that for temptation?
Now, consider this. Those bills were made in the late 1920's. You didn't see them out on the street, of course, because they were really for banks and the government to handle big-!@#$ transactions. But can you imagine what a $1000 dollar bill could have bought you in 1929?
And can you even think about how much a hundred grand would have been worth in 1929? About a million and a quarter dollars, according to some online fruit machine I consulted for the sake of exposition.
Now imagine a bag full of those !@#$, going from bank to bank. Imagine the common criminal, looking at those armored cars going back and forth and wondering how to get his !@#$ hands on all that !@#$ money. Is it any wonder so many people picked up tommyguns and said "!@#$ the law"?
And now that we're on that subject, let's look over at your uncommon criminals. The other side of the coin to the uncommon people that were around to stop them. Supervillains and Superheroes, back before we called them Science Terrorists and Strategic Talents.
There were a !@#$ lot of them back then, before The War. Scores of them. You needed a !@#$ phonebook to keep track of everyone. Bunches of crazy guys and gals in costumes with weird science gadgets out breaking the law or upholding it.
And you know, getting those suits and weird science gadgets took money, which you may remember wasn't really in big supply at the time. Funny that they issue a bunch of super-large bills just before the economy falls the !@#$ down and breaks its skull, isn't it? It's almost like they knew the party was about to end.
Who, me, spread rumors? Perish the thought.
But yeah, that's how it was. Before the Great War, the heroes and tended to be independently wealthy, square-jawed types with some neat gimmick or something they learned while in India, sometimes both, but always understated. And the villains were homely and mean fellows who fell in behind some caricature of a crime lord who might or might not have a secret or two, but was usually just some venal little !@#$ who wanted to own his own town.
Now, after the Great War, things changed. Everyone wanted to be flash and project some kind of power. Battle had taught the American male the value of scaring the living !@#$ out of someone before they could aim a gun in your direction, and having at least one or two tricks up your sleeve in case the fright didn't work. Villains all became misshaped freaks, overpowered lugs, or people who looked like they watched too many horror movies.
Especially "Phantom of the Opera." The original, son. Not that wussy piece of !@#$ stage show all the sensitive kids want to live out these days. That was the face that launched a thousand murky, backroom master villains with a solid sense of justification for their criminal acts.
And if you wanted to be running a criminal empire from the privacy of your secret lair, with more henchmen than you knew what to do with, you needed money. Lots of !@#$ money. Hence the rash of bank robberies and other high-finance shenanigans that my buddy John had so much fun dealing with, back then.
Now, you'd think between the normal mobsters knocking over some banks, and people like Firebug, Safecracker, and Bloody Mike knocking over others, The Bureau would be glad for the help when the heroes showed up?
You'd think so. But you'd be !@#$ wrong. Hoover !@#$ hated Superheroes. Always did, even after The War. As far as he was concerned, his Bureau were the real heroes, and anyone out there in a pair of long underwear trying to catch The Sneak at three in the !@#$ morning was just an amateur who was going to get himself or someone else killed.
Or, worse, in on the act and just there to distract the police. Which did happen a few times, I'm sorry to say. Things got pretty gray there, for a while, and Hoover, like most hard nosed cops, liked them black and white.
At least until The War made gray a lot more attractive to his boss, over at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Come to think of it, let's start walking over there, son. We could both use the exercise, and it'll make the next part of our story come alive.
(That and there's a dog stand on the way you just gotta try. Best in town. Trust me.)
(SPYGOD is listening to Faith (The Cure) and having some nasty, generic lemon-lime soda from said dog stand)