The James Lacond Duncan and I came to know was a large toad of a man who walked hunched over from a bad back. For a fat man, he moved with surprising grace. He had squinty little eyes behind thick glasses, a wide, thick mouth, a potato of a nose. He usually wore short boots with his pants tucked into them. The man liked plain shirts, over which would hang colorful striped suspenders. Most often, I saw him bent over his type, arranging letters and words with his thick hands. Many times he would be muttering to himself, something about the price of ink or the vagaries of typefaces.
Lacond was a man of many vices. He smoked cigars at a ridiculous rate. He drank, often while on the job. He frequented prostitutes. He sometimes participated in the dangerous trade in fungal drugs. Such drugs were not illegal, but the various private police forces would sometimes crack down on their distribution, for fear of gray cap intervention. He also liked to use profanity. Once, F&L tried to shut him down with threats and his reaction was, "Those fucking cunts at F&L think they can shut me down sending some motherfucking delivery boy around to spit in my fucking face? It'll never happen."
It certainly made staff meetings at the Broadsheet spicier.
He had founded the Ambergris for the Original Inhabitants Society decades before we ever met him. By sheer force of will, Lacond had managed to make that organization viable; it boasted some two thousand members now. No one could say that the Society had become accepted in Ambergris, but it had become a kind of self-sustaining cottage industry. Duncan had been a member for years, but had never attended a meeting before the war. He liked receiving the newsletter, but wasn't much for groups.
"Meeting Lacond for the first time," he once told me, "was like meeting a derelict when you were expecting royalty."
It's true Lacond's theories beat out Duncan's for sheer audacity, but he phrased them so poetically that Duncan had difficulty reconciling the gentle historian with the foul-mouthed, degenerate man who ordered us out into the street as if we were delivery boys for a sandwich shop.
We soon got used to it, though. We had to. We had no choice. This was now our career.