Peter Simon: I got a call around seven-thirty in the morning. That is rather rude. It was the FBI. I guess they don’t give a damn about being rude.
“Ugh. Who are you? Who calls at this hour?”
“This is the F. B. I. ”
“This is the F. B. I.”
“What do you want me to do about it?”
“An agent will be by your house in fifteen minutes,” he said as the doorbell rang.
I got out of bed and made my way to the door. I generally sleep in pajamas but since Monique left I have stopped doing laundry on a regular basis. This means that my two pairs of pajamas were not clean and I slept in my underwear.
I wondered if it was Monique coming back to me. I started thinking of a series of harangues that I could level against her. Why did you leave so suddenly? Did you ever hear of leaving somebody a note? I mean really, I took care of you for almost three years while you explored you inner being. What am I? Just a sugar daddy who gives you a place to crash?
I was already waking up in anticipation of what I’d say to her.
Then I opened the door to a blonde uniformed woman with a huge gun at her side. Her hair was pulled up tight against her skull. She had perfect bone structure and pale white skin. When she saw me she didn’t alter one facial muscle. “Mr. Simon?”
“What?” I began, hastily trying to recoup. I do consider myself to be a rather enlightened man, but I did not fancy standing in my jockeys in front of a total stranger—especially a female stranger.
I tried to shut the door on her, but the strong arm of the law intervened and before I knew it, I was on the ground with the blonde on top of me. Under normal circumstances the prospect of being clad only in my underwear underneath a blonde woman all dressed up as a policewoman would be rather stimulating to me. But in this circumstance I didn’t think the situation would really lead to something that I would enjoy.
I was right. The amazon twisted me over and handcuffed me from behind before I knew it. Just like those calf-roping contests, she had me down and delivered in no more than twenty seconds.
“You’re going downtown, asshole,” she said.
“In that case can I put on some pants?”
This seemed to catch her by surprise. The fact that someone might actually dislike parading around all of Washington, DC in his jockey briefs never occurred to her.
After a very long interval (during which my face was pressed to the floor under the force of her steel grip), she said, “All right. I suppose that’s okay, but I’ll put on your pants, myself.” She barked out each word as if it came from a voice synthesizer machine.
This was a daydream gone totally wrong. Fräulein Gestapo was a sadist with a single purpose on her mind. I waited in dread at how she might execute her task.
She pushed me into various rooms before hitting on my bedroom. It never occurred to her to ask me first. Why miss all the fun? With each try there was a decided shove that generally meant I went to the floor.
Then I was yanked up from behind and we began again. When we finally reached the right room, she pulled some pants from my #1 pile. (In the interests of efficiency, I often put my clothes into three piles. #1 pile is “really not that dirty and can be worn again.” #2 pile is “a little iffy.” #3 pile is “definitely ready for the washer.”) She gathered up the legs so that I might step into each hole. Then she raised them briskly, stopping at the crotch. She placed her hand firmly upon the family jewels and finished the job: all up and zipped. The hand lingered a moment as she sneered at me.
What could I do? My hands were cuffed behind my back.
My power lady told me to slide into my slippers because she wasn’t about to tie my shoes. Pants and slippers on—check. Time for the ride downtown. I know it was summer. And summer in Washington, DC is rather hot to say the least. Still, I would have appreciated the opportunity to have had a shirt to wear, and perhaps a belt and socks. The whole thing seemed a bit much.
When I was properly seated in an interrogation room, the door was closed and I was alone. It was a rather ordinary room painted pea green with a brown linoleum floor. The walls were bare, save for a prominent mirror. Probably a two-way mirror for the peanut gallery. The ceiling had recessed florescent tube lighting that made everything seem a little too bright.
I waited an hour or more until Henry Hoover made his appearance. He was accompanied by Fräulein Gestapo, who had let down her hair in the interval. Fräulein carried a tape recorder and was the go-between entre the mirror et moi. Who was behind the mirror? A video tape recorder probably. I wasn’t important enough for an audience.
“Now, Mr. Simon,” began Hoover.
“Dr. Simon, if you please. I have a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Chicago which was, when I attended, one of the most prestigious places to study philosophy in the world.”
Henry laughed. “Okay, Dr. Simon.” It was all a joke to him.
“Don’t take it lightly, young man. I’m sure that you probably have a bachelor’s degree from some no-name state university.”
“I do not.”
“No degree, then, or at least one that you won’t own up to? You know, Plato said that evil springs from ignorance. You are a living testimonial to the truth of Plato—just like Fräulein Nazi there—who for the record, since I know you are recording all this behind the mirror, sexually harassed me in her arrest. I would like an opportunity to fill out a complaint form.”
Fräulein Nazi leaped from her chair across the table at me, but I slid back. “It’s all on film, Fräulein. The end of your career is being run before you. Go ahead and hurt me some more. That way I can have your job and Henry’s.”
This didn’t go over so good. Henry got up and waved his hands at the mirror as if to say, ‘stop the cameras.’ Then he turned and motioned to Fräulein Nazi. The two of them left the room.
I waited another hour before Henry returned alone.
“You caused quite a stir,” said the young agent, flexing his biceps.
“This is all totally illegal, you know,” I replied.
Hoover slammed his hands flat upon the table. He was livid. “Murder is also illegal, buster. Excuse me, Dr. Buster.” Hoover’s voice was as loud as he could make it. Instantly, he turned towards the mirror and then looked back to me. “Now we can do this the hard way or the easy way.”
“Are you charging me with a crime?” I replied.
“Please answer me. I am entitled to know whether I am being charged of a crime.”
Hoover started pacing. “What do you have to hide?”
“Am I being charged of a crime?” I asked.
“You know I can break every bone in your face?”
“I’m quite certain of that. But if you do, you will lose your job and face serious time in jail. Is that what you want?”
Hoover slammed the walls and left. Another hour or so passed by.
Finally, an older woman in a very expensive navy suit came in along with Henry Hoover. The woman must have been seventy if she was a day. She was about five-foot-two with petite delicate features. Her dark hair was streaked with gray and pulled back in a bun. Her skin was thin and tight about her small head. There was an aura of gravitas about her.
“I am from the legal department at the FBI. I will be present at this interrogation.”
She delivered her words as if she were the puthia at the Temple of Delphi. I nodded. “Then you are here to hear my complaints against the agency concerning brutality, sexual harassment, and habeas corpus infringement.”
This was not the way to start. The lady signaled Hoover to leave. In five minutes, I was given a limousine ride home.
Title: To The Promised Land
Author: Michael Boylan
Genre: Literary Fiction / Mystery
Every student leaving the protected grounds of school wonders: must I now throw away my ideals, or can they guide me through the rough-and-tumble city? The philosopher Socrates’s descent into the bloodsports of business and politics was called “ketabasis.” But for the old college friends Moses and Peter, it is betrayal and murder found in Michael Boylan’s fast-paced and gripping novel, To the Promised Land. Can their friendship, and their morals, survive in the Washington world of corporate crime, backstabbing bosses, floundering do-gooder groups, and a media ravenous for scandal? The old adage, “Do no harm,” is pulverized in Washington’s internecine power-struggles: for nearly every action brings an unexpected harm, and several enemies. Moses leaves the law, seeking atonement for shielding a company that poisoned a town; Peter leaves the small world of the campus, and takes up a controversial campaign to alter affirmative action, seemingly to bring about “the greater good.” Their threads of ethics must do battle against lawyers, private detectives, secretive lobbyists and, looming over all, the charge of first-degree murder. Boylan sets philosophical passions, and an engaged dialogue about forgiveness, inside a film-noir world, where affection, family loyalty, and trust come under threat. Propulsive and witty, To the Promised Land is smart about ideas, and smart about people negotiating justice and power in public life.
—David Gewanter. Professor of English, Georgetown University.
Michael Boylan’s thought-provoking novel, “To the Promised Land,” is a gem. Read it for its suspense-filled, fast-paced action, for the philosophic insights its characters raise as easily as they breathe, or for probing its main mysteries: why did Moses Levi disappear; why did he send his journal to his college roommate; and, more profoundly, how can one heal a guilty conscience or live without harming others?
—Virginia L. Warren, Professor of Philosophy, Chapman University
Michael Boylan is Professor and Chair of Philosophy at Marymount University. He is the author of 26 books and over 120 articles in Philosophy and Literature. Details can be found at michaelboylan.net.
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