For All Nails #111D: Kill All the Lawyers
by Noel Maurer
Vincent Mercator and Immanuel Moctezuma had not been alone in the same room since his nomination. Both had cocos and fake smiles. FN1 The resemblance ended there. Mercator was short, slim, and pale-skinned. He wore a razor-thin mustache across the bottom of his upper lip and a beige Army working uniform across the rest of his body. FN2 He was pushing 70, but looked younger, even if he didn't feel any younger. Moctezuma wore a rumpled brown suit, shirt open at the neck, and looked like nothing so much as a giant ham-hock: huge and muscled and fighting a continual battle of the bulge. Moctezuma's much-smashed nose smeared over his face, a sharp contrast to Mercator's aquiline nariz. El Popo was 58 years old. Like the Mapmaker, the President of the United States would have looked much younger than his real age were it not for an air of weariness about him.
The weariness was no deep psychological trait -- it was because President Moctezuma was lucky if he got four full hours of sleep nowadays.
Moctezuma didn't rise. "Come in, Colonel." The Secretary of War had never taken the opportunity to pump up his rank. He didn't need to. As head of the War Department, he came in second to only the President in the chain of command. And, of course, between 1954 and 1965 he had officially been President.
"Mr. President." Mercator smiled slightly. His eyes looked happy.
Moctezuma, on the other hand, was not a happy man. "You know what this is about." It wasn't a question.
"I think I might, Mr. President," said Mercator. It also wasn't a question.
"Ah-haaah." President Moctezuma wasn't sure how to proceed. "I want your resignation."
Mercator bowed his head. "I'm afraid that I can't give that to you, sir."
"Like hell you can't!" He slapped down a folder on the desk. "Look at this, Mercator! A secret fusion bomb project? Half the Caribbean fleet sitting idle in New Granadan ports? Billions of dólares of military equipment transferred to the FANG? I didn't approve this! Congress didn't approve this! I know you've got your fief over there in Coyoacan, but this crosses the line."
Mercator shrugged, ever so slightly. "I'm not sure I know what you're referring to, sir."
El Popo exploded. "You f--king said you did!"
The Colonel looked apologetic. "I said I might know why you had called me here, which is, if I am not mistaken, to ask me to resign from my appointment as Secretary of War."
"And this shit, Mercator," yelled Moctezuma, pointing at the folder on his desk, "is why!"
"I neither confirm nor deny, Mr. President."
Moctezuma leaned back. "Fine. You're still fired. You're lucky that I don't try you for treason."
Mercator smiled. "I don't think so, sir."
"You don't think so?"
Mercator shook his head. "No, sir, I don't think you can fire me."
Moctezuma fists clenched. "Gaaah-aaaaah. I'm the President. You're my Secretary."
"That is true, Mr. President, but you cannot fire me. Or," he shrugged, impishly, "at least that's what the lawyers tell me." He smiled, knowing that the President knew that he had once been a lawyer himself, in another life a long time ago.
Moctezuma was calm now. "I don't care about the f--king lawyers. You're still fired."
Mercator shrugged again, palms up. "You may not care about lawyers, sir, but the Congress of the United States of Mexico may. You see, if you look closely, it turns out that no President has actually fired any Cabinet level secretaries, although several have voluntarily resigned."
Moctezuma was not slow. He cut into what was clearly turning into an impromptu speech on constitutional law. "You're going to take this to Congress, then? Big risk, Mercator. The midterms are coming up, and my people have been getting ready for them. A constitutional crisis provoked by a self-appointed cabinet secretary will be just what we need to turn out our supporters." FN3
Mercator bowed. "That is true, Mr. President. An impeachment hearing, however, might lead to the revelation of some important information that you might wish to keep hidden."
"Nnnngah-ffaagh. You think you got something on me?"
Mercator smiled. "Of course not! I simply know something that you might wish to keep hidden."
Laying his hands on his desk, palms down, President Moctezuma asked through clenched teeth, "What?"
"I know who your father was." Mercator smiled a closed-mouth smile, an innocent expression on his face.
Moctezuma's face had been angry. Suddenly it went blank.
Mercator continued. "Your father, Alexander Hamilton Moctezuma, was in fact born just plain Alexander no-last-name, on the Tlalhualilo plantation on the border between Durango and Arizona, on May 31st, 1890. He escaped from Tlalhualilo on February 21st, 1907. Well, actually, we do not know if he escaped on that day, but that was when the plantation first registered his absence. Alexander Hamilton Moctezuma first made his appearance in Puerto Veracruz, Mexico Central, on March 3rd, 1907, where he worked on a construction site. Shall I go on?"
Moctezuma's face got even blanker, if that was possible. "No."
"I understand, and I do apologize, for whatever that's worth." The Colonel actually managed to look apologetic.
"Of course, sir." Mercator spun around on his heel, took two strides, halted, looked over his shoulder and asked, "Your father never told you, did he, Mr. President?"
"Get out." Mercator nodded, and moved to leave. "And one more thing. You're fired."
Mercator smiled, that relaxed closed-mouth smile, and left El Popo to ponder.
Forward to FAN #112: And I'll Cry If I Want To.
Forward to 18 September 1974: There She Is.
Forward to USM politics: Black September.
Return to For All Nails.