Her husband, William, got up from behind the desk and walked to the thermostat. “It’s set to 63. I’ll turn it up a bit.” The Ambassador touched the screen and set the new temperature to 72 as Larry Ballencek walked in the office. “That should do it,” Harman said.
“We’ve been having trouble with temperature settings in your office for a while.” Ballencek said. “We installed a new thermostat a few months ago and it’s not working right.”
“Why don’t you install a new one?” Jennifer asked the Chief of Staff and Security Officer.
“Not in the budget.” He said. “And I…” Ballencek lowered his voice hoping not to be heard, “I broke the old one while installing this one.”
Harman did hear the admission. “Awesome. Well, nothing to be done about it now. And I need to get up to speed on this island nation.”
Jennifer walked toward the door, “I’m going to find a warm spot in this embassy, make some coffee, and leave you to your work.”
“Thanks, sweetheart.” Harman said as she exited the room.
“I brought you some briefing papers.” Ballencek handed Harman a dog-eared manila folder.
Harman was anxious to find out more about Oslea, since his orientation prior to arriving as Ambassador was rather quick and somewhat sparse. He opened the folder and found about a dozen yellowed typewritten pages. He looked up at Ballencek. “This is it?”
“Yes, sir. It hasn’t been updated in a while. Not a lot changes around here.”
The Ambassador displayed one of the pages to his Chief of Staff. There was a large coffee stain in the upper right. “2003?”
Ballencek accepted the offered page and looked over it. “Yes, sir. But it does look like I need to change something here.” He pulled a pen from his pocket as he walked over to the desk. Ballencek scratched out a line on the paper and made a correction. “Here you go.” He handed it back to Harman.
“U.S. Ambassador: William R. Harman.” He couldn’t read the name Ballencek scratched out.
Harman placed the paper back in the folder and put it on the desk next to the computer. “I think our first order of business, Lt. Ballencek, is to update and computerize the file. Where is Denise, my Administrative Assistant?”
“She isn’t here today, sir.” Ballencek said. “Her days off are Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.”
“She only works two days a week?”
“Yes, sir. And off on holidays, too, of course.”
Harman rolled his eyes. “Of course.”
The intercom on the desk buzzed. Harman pushed the button to activate the speaker. “This is Ambassador Harman.”
“Bill…” Jennifer’s voice rose from the intercom. “I’m in the kitchen and there’s someone knocking on the backdoor.” She didn’t sound as if she were pleased to meet someone.
“We’ll be right there!” He said as he rushed out the office door. Ballencek pulled the pistol from the shoulder holster. He had not yet decided to switch from a shoulder holster to a hip holster.
The dash to the kitchen took only a few seconds. The pair found Jennifer next to the entrance peeking inside toward the back door. Harman and Ballencek craned their necks to look inside. A tall male was silhouetted in the frosted glass. “I didn’t think we were having guests this morning, Bill.”
“Not at all today.” He said. I’m suppose to present my credentials to the Prime Minister tomorrow.”
Ballencek crouched and entered the room with the gun at the ready in front of him. He snuck behind the kitchen island and poked his head above the counter. He crouched again and slid along the side of the island. The corner of the island was about six feet from the back door. The person on the other side knocked on the glass.
The Security Chief moved quickly through the open space and leaned his back against the door. He reached to grab the doorknob. He winced when the person behind the door rapped on the window again. Ballencek threw the door open, whipped around, stood up, and pointed the gun in one fluid motion.
“Put that thing down, Larry,” said the man at the door.
“Oh!” Ballencek holstered the gun and put his right hand out. “Hiya, Mayor!”
The man identified as the Mayor removed the bowler from his head and shook Ballencek’s hand. “Hello, old friend. It’s really good to see you once again.” He leaned in to whisper into the Security Chief’s ear. “Are they here yet?”
“Yes!” Ballencek answered. Yes, they are.” He turned to the hall door. Harman’s head was angled in from one side the door frame, Jennifer’s on the other side. “You can come on in.” He motioned to the Ballenceks. The Mayor also took this as an invitation to come in to the room.
The Ambassador and his wife cautiously entered the kitchen. The man stepped further into the room and reached out his hand. “Guillermo Jackson. Mayor of Dennado, The Shining Capital City of Oslea.”
Harman shook Jackson’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Mayor Jackson. I’m Ambassador Harman and this is Jennifer, my wife.”
“Very good. Very good.” Jackson took Harman’s hand in both of his and shook it vigorously. “I’ve read much about you, Ambassador Harman. Your paper A Universally-Composable, Indifferentiable Oblivious Macroeconomic Transfer Protocol is sure to be a seminal work in the field.”
“Thank you.” Harman said.
“And the lovely Mrs. Harman.” Jackson shook her hand with only one of his. “My wife will be happy to meet you. I’m sure the two of you have much to discuss.”
Jennifer was a little wary but polite. “It will be an honor to meet her, Mr. Jackson.”
"She’s looking for parts for the linear accelerator she’s building in our backyard, otherwise she’d be right here right now.” He explained.
“I see,” Jennifer said skeptically.
Jackson turned back to Ballencek, “But I have another little trouble you can help with again.”
“I’ll talk to the guys about it.” Ballencek said.
“Very good, very good,” the Mayor said with relief. “I gotta go to this town that’s right for me. Will I see you at the Prime Minister’s office tomorrow Mr. Ambassador?”
Harman was puzzled “If you are there when I present my credentials, I guess I will.”
“Excellent.” Jackson concluded. He formed a circle with his forefinger and thumb and saluted them. “Be seeing you.” He left through the back door and closed it behind him.
Ballencek walked toward the door to the hallway. “Excuse me, I need to make a few phone calls to help with Mayor Jackson’s problems.”
“Is there anything I can do as Ambassador to help?” Harman leaned against the kitchen island.
Ballencek shook his head. “This pops up occasionally. Bernicia can be such a nuisance sometimes.”
“Bernicia?” Jennifer asked.
“She’s a spy.” Ballencek said matter-of-factly.
Harman pressed for more information. “Who does she spy for?”
Ballencek shrugged his shoulders. “We aren’t sure. Me and the guys have been trying to figure it out for quite a while.”
“Ok,” Harman continued. “Which guys?”
“The other spies.” He said. “We get together once a week to play canasta.”