Richard Pierce

Poetry, Politics

Day 253

the golden thread

history is not written by the vanquished
nor the suppressed nor the poor

a web woven around a single thread
of passing time measured obscurely

when did we become so tired a people
to submit ourselves to privilege

the victors and their successors
are taught to appear trustworthy

as they rob the nation of its wealth and rights

obscure traditions anoint accidents of birth
baptised into houses that are never cold

events swirl around the single unmoving
constancy wearing an undeserved crown

jewels made from blood and dynasties
built on mutilated flesh and bones

the golden thread that will not be touched
that will not share its precious lustre

to fund hospitals nor schools nor justice
nor peace nor equality nor a universal wage

the thread so many adore is nothing but fool’s gold



‘I did some digging,’ Bill says. ‘Cassie asked me to. It turns out that when Truman had the White House rebuilt and lived at Blair House across the road, he had a connecting tunnel built between the two that no-one seems to know about.’

‘But isn’t Pennsylvania Avenue round the White House cut off and secure?’ Aggie says.

‘Well, yes,’ Bill says. ‘But that whole block with Blair House on it has got houses join ing each other all the way, and one of them is a doughnut shop. And there’s a way in through there.’

‘Why would people not know about it?’

Bill shrugs. ‘History hides things. People lose interest. The focal point is always the White House, nothing else.’

‘Although Blair House is used by the government still for visitors,’ Marion says. ‘So it’s not like it’s totally unguarded.’

‘But no-one’s there right now, because the President is focused on domestic agendas and on the Ukraine war,’ Bill says. ‘So all the staff aren’t there right now either, because they only stay there when there’s a guest.’

‘So we buy ourselves some doughnuts and find our way into the house and into the tunnel,’ Aggie says.

‘Well, you do,’ Marion says. ‘We can’t risk being caught down there. Too much at stake.’

Aggie shrugs. ‘Figures. Plausible deniability and all that.’

‘Exactly,’ Marion says, her mouth a straight line. ‘When we invited you over here how were we meant to know that a respected lecturer on women’s culture was actually a Russian spy.’

Aggie laughs loudly. ‘That’s a funny one.’ She puts her glass down. ‘I’d better not have any more to drink then.’

‘One more thing,’ Bill says, and rummages in the inside pocket of his jacket. ‘Cassie sent this.’ He hands her a lanyard with barcode on it. ‘She said this will open all the doors in the White House.’

‘If she had this, why didn’t she use it herself?’ Aggie says with the uncomfortable feeling that she might be walking into a trap. ‘Let me guess – plausible deniability.’

‘I don’t think it’s that,’ Marion says. ‘She may have, erm, close connections to just about every head of state in the world, but she’s not privy to all their secrets.’

‘So what do I do when I get in there?’ Aggie says.

‘Cass thinks those experiments are still going on, and that the evidence is buried somewhere in the basement of the White House,’ Marion says. ‘And that it’s Valentine now who’s making sure the experiments keep going on. She said he’d already devised control devices based on some of the things that had come out of the early experiments, and that he was trying to work on controlling people with tiny devices that would escape any detection at all. To build an army of clones who would do exactly as he wanted.’

‘Yes, I’ve met some of those with the bigger devices,’ Aggie says. ‘Nasty.’ And she sees an image of Lily on the table in Robert’s house, and hopes she’s safe in Norwich. ‘Hang on,’ she says. ‘I need to do something.’ She gets out the phone Cassie had given her with everything else, finds the right number, types in Are you ok?, presses Send, and keeps the phone in her hand. ‘And what will you do while I’m down there?’

‘Pretend to go to bed,’ Bill says. ‘Turn all the lights out, and wait.’

‘And how long do I have?’

‘As long as you need,’ Marion says. ‘But if you’re not back by this time tomorrow, we’ll know something’s gone wrong. And that the people Valentine still has in the White House have got to you as well.’

‘And if I am back?’

‘You share the info with us, give your lecture, and fly home again,’ Marion says with a forced smile. ‘I told you it would be easy.’


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