In this sixth interview we meet the third of Ace’s five associates. If you remember our original fictitious interviewer, Mr. Bigg Faquir, I’m afraid I have to share the news that he has pleaded ‘no contest’ to charges of graft and corruption and is being held in custody until his sentencing hearing. I’m sure he’d rather be here.
But since he isn’t, I’ll be asking Sam questions. Here he comes, now. He’s almost at eye level with the doorknob. His waistcoat has a chain for a pocket watch and its buttons contain a plump belly. Tailored slacks just touch the tops of shined shoes. His black mustache curls at the ends. I have the oddest feeling that his brown eyes are staring at my lips, as if he can lip-read.
GW: Greetings, Sam.
Sam: Greetings, sahib. I hope that you are well.
GW: I’m good, thanks. What is your full name, Sam?
Sam: Sam Raia Biming.
GW: That’s … Chinese? But you look like you’re from …
Sam: Sahib, you worry overmuch about offending me. My skin is indeed much darker than the average Chinese. I was born in Africa to an Egyptian mother, but my father is Chinese.
GW: Other than being a member of Ace’s associates, do you have a career?
Sam: I am humbled and honored to be an archaeologist attached to the British Museum.
GW: An archaeologist? But I had understood that Ace met her associates during the Great War.
Sam: Your understanding is not inaccurate, sahib. While my citizenship was sufficiently complicated to prevent me from being conscripted into the British military, I was nevertheless offered employment as a coder. As you might recall, Egypt suffered greatly under the marching feet of the Ottoman Empire. I was only too eager to assist.
GW: What’s a coder?
Sam: A cryptologist, sahib. A person who puts messages into code, breaks codes, reads coded messages, and invents new coding methods.
GW: That sounds like you were locked in a secret farmhouse as far away from the actual battle as possible.
Sam: This understanding, too, is not inaccurate, sahib. However, from time to time it was necessary to physically transport code books and other equipment to certain installations, especially radio transmitters. I was to visit an antenna in France, but my pilot’s course did not aim true. We ran out of fuel and when we came down, the inhabitants were distinctly hostile. We were captured.
GW: What is the goal of Ace Carroway and Associates? Tombstone was evasive on the topic.
Sam: He is American. Americans tell themselves fictions in order to avoid facing the truth.
GW: And? What is the goal of your little gang?
Sam: To help.
Sam: You see? It is not so mysterious. Tombstone simply did not wish to risk ridicule by confessing such a childish-seeming goal.
GW: And you would say that to help others is grown-up.
Sam: Yes, indeed, sahib. And fraught with peril and extremely complex to decode.
GW: Complex? I don’t follow.
Sam: No? The examples are many. Suppose a man is hungry. Does one give him a hunk of bread?
GW: Why do I feel like that’s a trick question?
Sam: It is not a trick question, it is a complicated question. To help that man, it might be good to give him a loaf of bread, but even better to give him twenty acres and a goat. Or, perhaps, it might be best to give him a library card.
GW: I’m starting to see the light.
Sam: Also, simply removing the struggle is often a bad way to help. I have heard that if you help a chick from its egg by breaking it open, the chick will not survive. The struggle is somehow necessary for its survival.
GW: We should check with Gooper about this, maybe.
Sam: Indeed so, sahib. Perhaps another analogy would help. It is only in exercising muscles that they get stronger. A lazy man only becomes weaker with time, but an active man becomes stronger and stronger with the continuous strain and struggle.
GW: Learning is a struggle.
Sam: Yes, sahib, but closing the school is not best for the student.
GW: Is your role in the group to say wise things like that?
Sam: No, sahib. My role is close combat.
Sam: Perhaps I have said too much. My mouth runs on, sometimes, like a river in a rainy spring.
GW: What sort of close combat?
Sam: Must I say? Very well. It is fisticuffs.
Sam: I tend to disagree, but we will have to accept our differences on the matter.
GW: Sam, thank you for speaking with us, today.
Sam: It is my great pleasure, sahib. May your path lie smooth before you.
Let us move on to some quotes from Sam, taken mostly from ACE CARROWAY AND THE GREAT WAR.
- Self-deprecation: “I saw no action, unlike the other brave and admirable members of this party.”
- Curiosity: “Who taught you about machines, Lady Ace?”
- Behind enemy lines: “We are so very, very visible, sahibs.”
- Polite assertion: “Please allow me the benefit of the doubt, sahib. This is Karst topography.”
- Life observation: “There are many that would rather die than march to orders issued from Istanbul.”
- A strategic threat: “Do not reply, Bert. I will slug you.”
- Some things are so good they bear repeating: “We have escaped the bullets, sahib,”
And a limerick!
An Egyptologist named Sam
Has travelled from Nome to Siam
His stature is short
But at last report
He can punch his way out of a jam
Contact me to sign up for an email newsletter with giveaways, sent twice a year.