West by East

by Conor Powers-Smith

“It's called HTTLPR,” said Smith. His dossier said he was sixty-seven, but Parker, still in the bloom of his mid-thirties, had to work to match the brisk pace set by the older man who led him down the sterile, gleaming corridor. “Some of the techs call it 'hit til par.'”

“This is a gene for golf?” asked Parker.

Smith laughed. “Hardly. Although, who can say? It's all connected. Golf's a man's game. One man against another, against the world. Like boxing. Like life. You a golfer?”

“Soccer.” Parker was suddenly wistful for the pitch, the comforting anonymity of midfield, the collective identity of the team.

Smith grunted dismissively, not for the first time in their brief acquaintance. He'd made no secret of his disdain for congressional oversight, thrust upon him by an Administration he referred to as “pathologically transparent,” and personified by this nosy Intelligence Committee staffer who'd just admitted, on top of everything, to playing soccer. The fact that said Administration was only responding to the public's ever-increasing clamor for openness, and that said staffer was just doing his job, did nothing to lessen his pique. He was old school through and through, right down to his name: what better appellation than Smith for the CIA's Assistant Deputy Director of Special Solutions, a post so secret Parker hadn't even known it existed until this meeting appeared on his agenda? Smith himself, on the other hand, was a man with a reputation.

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