I had the opportunity to sit down with Arthur David’s fictional secret agent, Blackmail, from his sci-fi spy thriller novel ‘Agents of the Third Party’. I learned some things about her agency, The Third Party, as well as her own motives to work for them.
BlackMail sat on a stone bench that was out on her estate. It was still a little crisp outside in New York at this time of year, but not so bad that she felt the need to be inside. Water babbled through a fountain behind her, the sound helping to calm her. Trees surrounded the yard, each flanked by heaters keeping the bats that live there warm throughout the year.
She tapped her foot impatiently as she waited for an interview to start that she shouldn’t be having. The Party didn’t look nicely on anyone that gives out information on them, but she was going to do it anyways.
“Ma’am, a car has arrived at the front gate.” Alfred’s voice seemed to come from nowhere, just as it always did. “The occupant claims to have an appointment with you, shall I allow her in?”
BlackMail toyed with the idea of having Alfred send her away, she really shouldn’t be doing this. She felt like she should have some record though. She had been witness to too many agents who had died, the world never knowing what they had done for good or bad. She wasn’t looking for fame, just for someone out there to know that there were things happening, there were people making the world better.
“Alfred, let her in. I’ve kept her out there for too long already, and we really don’t have the time to waste. And make sure Jade doesn’t come around or that Kelly is here, this meeting is private.”
“Yes Ma’am. I’m opening the gate for Ms. Kelly right away. How shall I keep Jade away?”
“I really don’t care Alfred, lock her in her room if you have to, just keep this private.”
“Right away Ma’am. Excelsior!”
BlackMail got up to her feet trying to hide the smile Alfred’s last exclamation brought. He always reminded her of her great-grandfather, and he had always made her smile. She composed herself as the car with Kelly silently drives up to her fountain, lights along the driveway directing the automated system to a spot to park at.
Once Kelly parked and climbed out of the car, she looked around, taking in the sight of the estate. Then she saw a woman a little ways off, so Kelly dug her hands into her coat pockets and headed her way. “I’m assuming you are the one they call BlackMail? Thank you for meeting with me. Quite a place you have here.” She glimpsed around before looking back at BlackMail. “Is this something from your family or does the Party just pay their top agents that well?” She smiled as she asked this.
BlackMail smiled back at Kelly and glanced around her estate. “A little bit of both. My family was already very well off before I joined The Party. The Party certainly does take care of its agents, and there have been a few missions that have been pretty lucrative to me personally.”
“I’m sure.” Kelly nodded as she continued to approach. “So, was your family in politics or so? Or just….wisely invested?” She then sat on the bench across from BlackMail and observed her.
“No, my families money…” BlackMail laughed as she thought on where they got started “My family came into money thanks to my great-grandfather. Not a politician, though he did have a run in with politics. Nothing overly bad, more of the knee jerk reactions politicians have to things they don’t understand. He was a very creative man, and he turned that into a fair amount of wealth. He wasn’t always the best at managing it though. However the rest of the family was able to take what he had given them and turned it into much more.” BlackMail gestured around at the garden around them, “They had no idea, my family, what I would end up doing, what that wealth would ultimately help finance.”
“Interesting.” Kelly leaned forward, clasping her hands together. “So do you help finance The Party? Or just your own missions and side projects?”
BlackMail laughed softly for a second. “Oh no, The Party is well financed without me. As I said earlier, they take care of us pretty well. It’s an organization of global reach, interests spread out all over the world in just about anything you can imagine. The Party likes to have its fingers in everything, from the mundane such as entertainment, companies that specialize in computer science and security, Travel, banks and everything in between. I know none of that sounds particularly threatening, but The Party is involved in defense contracts, weapons, and scientific research for curing disease, to the worst of new weaponry. My wealth, really is just for me.”
Kelly smiled as she nodded. “At least you have it and can do whatever you will with it.” With that, she sat back and considered BlackMail for a moment. “I was informed you joined The Party at age 18, so what was life like before you became an agent? Do you have any siblings to speak of? And what of your parents”
BlackMails eyes unfocused for a moment as she thought back to the days before The Party.” Life was normal, I guess. I’m not really even sure what that means anymore. I grew up with my older sister, and my mother and father. My parents weren’t much for flashing our wealth around. You wouldn’t know it from my home now, but we grew up in a 3 bedroom house, with Toyotas in the driveway. They wanted us to know how it was to live like everyone else. Sort of. I mean, we had the latest things, traveled around the world. But nothing outwardly screamed ‘Filthy Rich’.” BlackMail paused a moment to catch her breath and gather her thoughts before continuing. “They, they’re all gone now. I’m the last one in my family. I don’t really see that changing any time soon. Very few agents live to be old or to have families.” A grim smile flickered across her face replaced with a bit of sadness, “My family tree will probably end with me. Thats why, ” BlackMail nodded towards her estate, “I built all this, have all the things I do. There won’t be anyone for me to pass it on to. I might as well enjoy it.”
Kelly frowned when she heard that. “And you’re happy with that. Happy to work so hard all your life and do all the deeds that you must do only for your name to perish with you when you die, for your wealth to go to someone you don’t know, and for you to be forgotten in history? Is it worth it?”
“Am I happy with it? I don’t know that I’m happy with it, I’ve come to terms with it I think. I know that everything I’m doing is for the greater good of humanity, for the betterment of the world. My life, my happiness is a small price to pay for the good that will come from it all.” She sighed and took a deep breath. “I asked you here, because we, Party agents, have done so much, changed the world in ways no one knows. The Party prefers is that way, but I wanted someone to know we exist, that we were here and we changed the world. I can live with that, I can die with that. My old partner, Aurora, taught me that. She died for those ideals, its the least I can do.”
“I understand that, yet you are not Aurora. Do you held firm to those ideals?” Kelly raised her brows as she observed BlackMail. “And please, be honest with me…and with yourself. I just want the truth because this may be the only time you will be able to truly be honest.”
“Those ideals have been my entire life. Even as a child, my parents would take us traveling. I saw the world, the incredible natural beauty and wonder of humanities genius.” BlackMail turned away staring off into the distance at the New York skyline, “But they didn’t shield us from the harsh realities of the world. Poverty, hunger, sickness were everywhere we looked. These things should not exist, not when we can fix them, not when we have the ability to ease or erase that suffering. My work with The Party will help to end all of that.” She turned back to Kelly “It’s a small price to pay. My life, one that may not have appeared to be one of privilege, yet very much was. To dedicate the rest of it, however long or short it may be, to that. It’s something I think that would have made them all proud. It’s something thats made it all worth it.”
“But do you think it’s truly possible…to accomplish what The Party wants to accomplish?” Kelly leaned in. “Yes, while it is good not to want hunger or poverty or sickness, and it would be nice if those didn’t exist, there are other evils that exist within each one of us that…if we have the ideal, someone will become discontent, and it’s a very slippery slope from that to full out war especially if the wrong people have the power.”
“Oh, I understand the evils that exist in us very well. We aren’t a charity, Party agents aren’t running around feeding the hungry or taking care of the sick. Assassination, sabotage, blackmailing, those are the tools we tend to employ. I told you earlier that The Party has its fingers in many pies, that isn’t done for money. Entertainment allows us to shape the attitudes of the public. Computer software and security. You put our systems on your computers and phones, and give The Party access to everything about you.” BlackMail gestured out towards the NewYork skyline, now filled with green growing along the sides and tops of the skyscrapers. “None of what you see out there happened by chance. America’s politicians didn’t suddenly see the light for fighting climate change and pollution. Some very dirty information suddenly appeared and would have made its way to the media. Some of that was because they were genuinely dirty, some was manufactured by Party Agents. All true, but things that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We work hard to curb the evils and excesses of those in power, and we do not always do so nicely. When the wrong people have the power, we try to work with them, reign them in, put them on the right path. Sometimes that doesn’t happen and then new people get the power.”
Kelly nodded as she came to understand. It reminded her of another agency she’d heard of from a TV show but couldn’t recall the name right now, but it made sense to her now. “I understand better now.” She sat back on the bench. “So, I understand Aurora brought you into The Party, but how did you come to meet her?”
“She and I had been very close for as long as I can remember. Growing up she had just been there, an ever present part of my life. Until she wasn’t anymore. I can’t imagine what my life would have been like without her, or what I would have become. Actually it would likely have ended up very similar to this. The Party seeks out its agents, not the other way around. It’s hard to apply for an agency you don’t know exists. Usually once The Party decides it wants someone, they end up working for them one way or the other. They most likely don’t even realize it. All those pies The Party has its fingers in. So even without Aurora, I would probably have ended up here anyways. Though I don’t think I’d be quite the agent I am now without her.”
“Are you saying that that the Party wanted you, so they sent Aurora to be a part of your life and gradually inform you about the Party and at the right moment bring you into it? Or what exactly? I mean, was she always an agent the entire time you knew her?”
“No, we grew up together. Both kids. I’m not really sure how or when she became a part of The Party. I don’t know when The Party became interested in me, if it was as a child or even earlier due to my families wealth, or later on in high school when I excelled to the top of my class. It may have been some combination of everything. I’m not in recruiting, though apparently I am now a trainer and a mentor.”
“Ah, I see.” This made sense to her now. “And your mentor was someone named Muse? What can you tell me about Muse? What was it like training under Muse?” It was odd asking these questions for Kelly because oftentimes she was considered the Muse, but Kelly dismissed this and looked to BlackMail for answers.
“Harsh. My first ‘mission’ Muse sent me on sent me into a random rundown shack of a house in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly, someone there had managed to develop a cure for HIV. It looked more like a meth lab then a facility for curing disease. But in I went to find the secret formula. God, actually talking about it makes it sound like a bad movie plot.” BlackMail pulled back her sleeve to show off a scar along the underside of her left arm. “I got this in that shack, when Muse caused it to collapse on top of me. It was made of something that wouldn’t kill me when it fell on top of me, but it didn’t feel good either. When I managed to crawl out, she congratulated me on my death. That wasn’t the last time I ‘died’ under her tutelage. But it was designed to make me think and keep me cautious. To keep me from rushing in without thinking. It was necessary, it’s kept me alive. Earlier I told you most agents don’t live long enough to retire, Muse is one of the few who has.”
When Kelly heard this tale, she lifted her brows. “Well, she certainly sounds like a rough mentor. And you’ve said she’s survived long enough to retire? And the fact that you’ve survived longer than the average age of agents shows that Muse’s methods probably helped prolong your life. I’m assuming you’re teaching Jade similar things?”
“A friend, and fellow agent, Doomsday helped me set up her first mission. Sent her out onto a boat owned by a company with information on The Party. It was her job to find and destroy that information. She did fairly well, but ended up jumping out into the water in January, not a very good idea, and then I shot her.” BlackMail smiled at the reaction she received from that. “Not literally shot her, though Doomsday nearly did. Well not really though, he’s a marksman, he doesn’t miss. I made it very clear that she had died on her mission. She wasn’t happy with me. Doomsday wasn’t thrilled with my training exercise either, but he let me do what needed to be done.”
Kelly chuckled when she heard this, and she shook her head. “I’m guessing that, ‘you die on your first day of training’ isn’t on the contract you sign when you sign up.” She smiled although she suspected The Party didn’t have any actual contracts like that, but still, her point was made. “So what is like, being on THIS end of training?”
BlackMail made a sound of frustration. “Aggravating. Jade listens, thinks about what I tell her. She was pretty mad that first night I killed her. But she took it, learns, grows. But she’s still headstrong, questions me on everything, wants to know why we’re doing what we do. She can’t take an order and simply follow it. I’m very proud of her. She’s going to be a great agent someday.”
Kelly smiled at the obvious admiration BlackMail had for Jade. “But has she taught you anything in return? You know how students tend to accidentally teach their masters something while being taught.”
“She’s certainly given me a new appreciation for what Muse went through with me. And to never underestimate her. She’s surprised me more then once particularly during some of our sparring sessions,”
Kelly chuckled when she heard this. “Sounds like she’s going to be an incredible agent for sure.” Then Kelly paused, considering the course of their conversation, and then she smiled because she knew her next question. “So, tell me, why is Zenith so annoying?”
BlackMail rolled her eyes at the mention of Zenith’s name. “Aside from him constantly inviting me over or trying to sleep with me. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried the inducer yet. Well no, that would have repercussions he would not enjoy. Zenith hands me my assignments, checks on me, assigned Jade to me. It gives him an inflated sense of worth I think. Unfortunately I can’t get a new contact, and I can’t kill him, ago I’m stuck dealing with him. Fortunately he’s only annoying.”
Kelly chuckled. “Well, at least you can take you anger out when you have to kill an assignment or something.” She shrugged. “Now, our time is almost up, but I’ve been curious. ‘BlackMail’ is your codename, but what is your real name? Or does it have no meaning to you anymore?” She locked eyes with the agent.
BlackMail returned the stare with the muse, “It doesn’t matter anymore. BlackMail is who I am now. The person I was before is gone. Very little of who she was remains. I’ve embraced this life, it’s really all I have anymore and all I’ll ever be.”
Kelly nodded. She had expected that answer. “Well then, BlackMail, this conversation probably hasn’t gone the way you expected it to, but I do appreciate the opportunity to speak with you.” Kelly rose to her feet. “And thank you for answering my questions. You sound like you have had a very interesting life. Be careful out there. Survive long enough, maybe you’ll be able to retire.” She smiled at her.
BlackMail smiled back as reaches out to shake her hand. “Nothing ever goes the way I expect. We’ll see what the future holds for us all.”
Kelly nodded. “And so we shall. Take care of yourself.” With that and a final smile, Kelly headed for her car.
Arthur David’s book ‘Agents of the Third Party’ is available on Amazon. Don’t forget to follow him on Facebook and Twitter for more updates!