Silenced: Chapter 16: Doing Your Job
Paul continues his conversation with ChappellShow, who has himself had conversations with Magnor.
For the first time since he’d left the States, Paul was onto something.
Damn. Can you imagine how much Paul might be able to get done if he actually, yanno, did some work? Instead of wandering around and praying with underground believers and…wandering around…
Paul really has done nothing, hasn’t he? He really should have just stayed in Chicago, for all the good he has done both the NPO and the underground Christians.
We learn (unless we knew already, and I’ve forgotten and am too lazy to check) that ChappellShow’s wife and kids were killed by the “gendarmes.” Seems that ChappellShow initially liked Magnor’s vengeance-talk, but eventually accepted that “vengeance belongs to the Lord” (Exhibit A: dessicating L.A. and all the children there who totally deserved God’s wrath) and tried to cut off contact. But, like some weird terrorist stalker, Magnor still calls sometimes.
Paul recites part of Psalm 20 to ChappellShow, which I guess is kinda fitting and all (except for the part about burnt offerings), but really? Paul had to fly halfway around the world to do this?
Back in D.C., Ranold has brought Jae to NPO headquarters, where they meet up with Bia Balaam:
The rawboned Bia Balaam, whom Jae would have described as the woman with no lips…
Wow, Jae. Catty much?
…seemed overdressed for the occasion. This was a Saturday morning, off-work hours, and she was dressed in a copper lamé dress and heels, pushing her well over six feet tall, her silver hair up and festive.
I dunno, I kinda love that Bia is confident enough in herself to celebrate her unusual height. Also, catty much, Jae?
And those eyes. Jae decided that if she had eyes that matched her hair color as eerily as did Ms. Balaam’s, she certainly wouldn’t do a thing to try to enhance them.
CATTY MUCH, JAE???
If we were meant to see this as an insecure Jae being threatened by the sight of a woman as confident and comfortable with herself as Bia, this might work. But I have a sneaking suspicion that we’re supposed to agree with Jae that Bia is not only a horrible person, but doesn’t know how to dress herself properly and is also too tall and has gone gray OMG.
Ranold, because he is awesome, apologizes for taking up Bia’s time, when she could be spending it with her son, who is home visiting from college. Hmm, it’s almost as though several characters have previously-unknown-to-us sons in this book. Go figure.
Just the knowledge that Bia Balaam was a mother slightly softened Jae’s impression of her lack of humanity.
Yep, because if there’s one thing that makes a person undeniably human, it’s the ability to spawn. Such an unusual characteristic!
And especially strange in a book that tells us that certain people (Ranold) are bad parents and shows us that other people (Paul) are bad parents. I’m surprised that Jae, raised by (so we’re told) a bad father and ineffectual mother, would just accept that having a kid makes a person sufficiently human.
Anyway, Ranold begins a presentation on Paul’s overall shittiness, complete with slides!
First came shots of him as an almost gawky military man before they had even met. No body fat.
Huh. Maybe we have a small piece of the puzzle of why Paul is so obsessed with other mens’ BMIs. Sounds like somebody is missing his pre-fat days.
Fast-forward to Andy Pass’s funeral and Paul hitting on Angela.
Had Jae been so cold that day that Paul was on the prowl?
That is so sad. Sure, Jae’s a catty Mean Girl to Bia, but she’s still blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating. Jae, honey: Paul was never not on the prowl.
The awesome Ranold has been suspicious of Paul for so long that he even had pictures taken of Paul when he was chatting with Trina Thomas about his dad’s letter. Jae, never one to let another woman simply exist, decides that Trina “looked like a floozy.” I would love to read this as being Jae being threatened by the existence of a highly-educated woman in a position of great responsibility who by the way is in the same workplace as her ever-philandering husband, but I kinda think we’re meant to agree that Trina is a floozy.
On to their lunch, which we are told lasted three hours and involved a great deal of wine (mmmm, wine), and ended with a kiss (ewwwww).
Oh, but here’s the kicker: at Ranold’s behest, Trina was playing Paul the entire time. Happily married, she pretended to flirt with him and actually reported back to Ranold every single thing that Paul said.
Trina Thomas, you frakkin’ rock. Seriously, kissing Paul Stepola is officially Going Above and Beyond the Call of Duty.
Ranold, eminently fair to the end, reports that Paul actually did good work in San Francisco and
Texas Gulfland, which is really fair because mostly it was other people, specifically cutie Larry Coker and level-headed local chief Tick who did most the work.
Then we get to Straight, “a man we have yet to figure out” because it’s not time for the NPO to be on to Straight. That’s the only reason I can think of because seriously? Ranold was having Paul monitored in his own office, but didn’t notice that Paul took an unscheduled field trip to the very headquarters of the Heartland underground, one that lasted for hours?
Look, either Ranold is a top-notch operative leading a team of well-trained investigators, or he’s an idiot leading a team of Keystone Kops, but not both at the same time, surely?
Ranold has no suspicions about Paul’s operation in New York, which actually seems realistic to me: Paul made his first convert there, the head of the very organization Paul was investigating, and the one person with the money and power to cover up Paul’s subversion and his own.
Less believable is Ranold’s thought process about L.A.: his suspicions “crescendoed” there, but ultimately decided that Paul had “merely pretended to flip.” This despite the fact that Paul spent almost all his time in the company of underground Christians, and one of them is tortured into confessing…about Paul.
I have to wonder, yet again, how Paul kept his Christian Water-Midas Touch a secret from his family and co-workers after the dessication.
Ranold fast-forwards to the present, and notes that Paul “continues to make initial contacts with local authorities, make cursory investigations of the affected sites, and begin his own investigations independently.”
“Cursory” seems a very generous term for how much Paul has been working.
And I just find it hilarious that the NPO has been working so much harder than Paul all this time. Then again, Bia reveals their plan to start to “shadow him much more closely.” Damn, if only they had started sooner, they could have found the one-person-every-five-minutes Rome underground. But, again, it wasn’t time for the underground to be found yet.
Jae has been listening to all this, blaming herself for Paul’s serial cheating and feeling sympathy that the NPO has been monitoring him, just because they’re an international security organization that strongly suspects (correctly, lest we forget) that one of their own has gone over to the side of the enemy.
As Ivan pointed out, Stockholm Syndrome is a much better term to apply to Jae than to Paul, and thus it is no surprise when Jae responds to this whole presentation by saying:
“Let’s say I deal with the domestic issues. They’re my business anyway. Putting those aside, is there any scenario in which Paul might prove you have misjudged him?”
Oh, let me point something out here. We’ve been told that atheists are amoral jerks with no respect for marriage. This is a view that Jenkins himself holds. Yet, to a person, every atheist thinks that Paul is a total ass for cheating on Jae. They care about these “domestic issues.” Hell, they care a lot more than Christian Straight, who thinks Paul should treat Jae with respect so that Jae will reciprocate. Because marriage works best when the two parties keep a scorecard. Only way to be fair, really.
Bia answers Jae’s question: Paul can only clear his name if he “personally” beings down Styr Magnor.
OH WON’T THEY ALL BE SURPRISED WHEN PAUL MANAGES TO DO THIS, WHICH HE WILL BECAUSE MAGNOR IS NOT A REALLY REAL CHRISTIAN.
And I feel so bad for Ranold. He’s spent over a year putting this all together, and Jae is still defending her asshat, cheating, traitor husband. Because that’s what a good little woman does.