(You can read part 5 here)
Dedicated to Ms Pat G.
My good friend William “Chief” Carson used to have a saying: “Shit man, when it rains, it pours,” meaning more or less that it will get worse before it will get better. Rest in peace, Chief!
This morning I found myself in a cafe in Atlanta, Georgia sitting at the counter per my instructions the previous evening. I continually glanced at my watch, and then at the wall clock in nervous repetition for fear of missing a time zone change.
Looking at my street map I noticed everything was peach this, peach that, peach tree… everything was just—peachy! It was a peach of a city. Could the mayor of this city be… impeached? My mind wandered…
Now a man sat right next to me on a stool and slapped a People Magazine down in front of him. This was awkward; he didn’t leave the mandatory heterosexual empty seat between us. “Coffee please!” he ordered.
It was actually slightly early for my scheduled contact and I contemplated moving. I sipped my coffee and continued my clock watching. The way-too-close-to-me man thumbed through his magazine and slurped his coffee loudly, such that he drew stares. And since he drew stares, I drew stares. I wanted to holler out: “WE’RE NOT TOGETHER; I’M NOT WITH HIM; HE’S JUST SITTING WAY TO CLOSE TO ME!”
Finally, the clock was in my meeting window.
“Do you ever read People magazine?” the cozy man suddenly asked me as he laid three dollars on the counter and stood up.
“From time to time, yes,” I responded.
“Well, there’s a good article on page 31,” he said as he slid the People over into my personal space. With that, he was out the door and hoofing down the sidewalk. I opened to the table of contents to see what was on page 31. ‘Alice Kramden’s Body Found on the Moon by Apollo Astronauts’.
“Why… that’s preposterous!” I hissed as I paged over to 31. There a separate sheet of white paper had been taped to the page, a page with more instructions. I tore out the page and pocketed it until I could find the solitude of a throne to sit on and study the instructions, at which point I had the convenience of flushing them down the, er… throne.
This time I had instructions for the entire day, rather than just to the next contact site. I could see that I had plenty of time to get to the nearby corner of Peach Blvd and Peach Ave. I executed a leisure stroll. On short and final I already recognized one of the senior Unit brothers sitting there on a sidewalk bench.
“Ol’ Jed’s a millionaire! I blurted gleefully. The senior brother was not amused.
“I didn’t say anything to you yet,” he pouted.
“Jesus, what a wet blanket this goober is,” I thought as I sat on the bench and waited for him to play the game.
Finally, “What’s the first thing you know?” he begrudgingly challenged.
“Siiiiggghhhh… ol’ Jed’s a millionaire?”
With that, he handed me a 12-oz can of Coca-Cola.
“Go across the street to the library entrance and try to sell that coke to 20 people for five dollars.”
“And this proves what the hell?” I asked myself as I jay-crossed the street. At the entrance, I thought that I honestly couldn’t embarrass myself 20 times in a row with this annoying antic. I looked across the way at brother, and concluded that he couldn’t hear me, so as the next twenty people went in or exited the library I held out the can of coke and:
“I found this can of coke just sitting here, and wonder if it’s not yours.”
Each time people shook their heads. And oh yeah, that jackass had been counting, because after the twentieth head shake he came across to belittle me:
“You’re not much of a salesman…”
“Yeah well, sales is not my forte; marketing is where my heart is.”
“We’re done here; you’re free to go,” old brother told me and I was gone.
I found myself being picked up by yet another car. “Oh goody,” I pondered, “I hope we’re going to the marina!” No such luck. I sat in the passenger’s seat as we drove around just long enough for me to have no idea where the hell I was.
As we stopped at a particular street corner the driver handed me a length of metal pipe:
“Get out and breach that window,” he pointed. I left the car and walked over to the building. I turned to the driver and gestured toward the window to confirm it was the correct window to smash. He nodded his head.
BASH!!! CRASH!!! SMASH!!! I tore into the window, raking the glass cleanly from the sill as I had been taught in manual breacher training. I turned to my getaway car… and it was gone. There I stood, pipe in hand, people all around stopped dead in their tracks, looking at me like I had a penis growing out of my forehead. I bolted off at a dead sprint–like a rat!
Still clutching the pipe, I vowed to clock anyone who dared touch me. What a setup that had been, and how on Earth could I allow myself to be caught cold like that?? Never again I vowed. After having made at least a half-dozen direction changes, I slowed to a walk and ditched my pipe in a random pile of garbage.
My next contact was another car pick up. Oh, how I wished I still had that pipe. The driver was also a senior brother I recalled from the Unit. He handed me a cryptographic device and told me I needed to encrypt a message to send to the base station back home.
Oh heck, I hadn’t messed with one of these devices since I was in training, I anguished. It was an analog device with a keypad. You typed in your message, then held it up against a phone transmitter, and it sent a string of high-pitch tones to the device receiving on the other end of the phone call.
I toiled with the device, typing in each sentence from the paper message the driver had given me.
“I did it!!” I rejoiced. “Ahem, all finished with the task.” I reiterated
We pulled into a mall parking lot.
“You see there in the corner just to the left of the Starbucks… there is a payphone there on the wall. You can use that phone to send the message.”
I stepped out of the car and toward the payphone. Sitting outside of the cafe in the open air patio were a couple of gentlemen in business suits sipping java and reading papers.
“Hello, Base Station? This is geo; I have a message to send via KYK-4187.”
“Stand by one, geo… ok ready to copy; send it.”
And the device hummed its high-pitched squeal until the message was complete.
“Solid copy, geo”
I turned about to find the two suits from the patio standing in my personal space, hands on hips. And, oh guess what by the way, my getaway car was gone again. Ain’t that a peach?
“What would you say, Sir, if I told you that you look mighty suspicious to us there with your secret code instrument.”
“I’d say you’ve got a pretty damn good point there, Sir.” I returned.
“We need you to come down to the station with us; we have some questions we would like to ask you.”
Well, I just hated the dog shit out of that movie-like preparatory statement, and I looked around for Christopher Walken so I could ask him for a Chesterfield cigarette. Remember your training geo, go not quietly into that still night.
“I don’t think so,” I defied with folded tough-guy arms. “Let’s see some ID.”
Two badges came out and both of them said FBI. My next act was to slam myself against the nearest wall, handcuff myself, and then lead myself to the suits’ car. We passed a mother walking with her young five-year-oldish son, who stared at me with persistence.
“ROOOOAAAAARRRR!!!” I leaned my head toward him and growled loudly. Mom snatched him up in her arms and moved quickly to our flank. The suits slammed me into the back seat. As we drove off, the suit in the passenger seat turned and quizzed:
“Why did you feel the need to do that??”
“Feel the need to do what?”
“The need to yell at that kid like that.”
“Hell, I don’t know… it just seemed to fit into the scenario. Is that what I’m under arrest for, for yelling at the kid? Just what am I under arrest for anyway?
“We’ll get to that,” and we drove on.
The compulsion to sing ‘Ninety-Nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall’ washed over me like a warm bath and was almost unbearable, but I held fast the line. The snotty agent in the passenger’s seat twisted about to give me disapproving glares. The line creaked and groaned… yet hold it I did. I’m a line holding sort of fellow, of that I fancy myself.
By God and honor,
Image courtesy of the DoD