(Read part six here)
Dedicated to SOFREP family member Ms. Joni S
The drive to FBI headquarters was short enough, but me and handcuffs just don’t see eye to eye. It’s just something about my arms at that angle behind my back that’s totally disenchanting to my rotator cuffs. Yeah, you’re not likely to see me and handcuffs out catching a movie or palling around at a bar for a beer—hates me dem cuffs!
The suits brought me to a desk and sat me in a metal chair. They released the cuffs but kept my left handcuffed to the chair so I could sign papers with my right hand, which they stuffed with papers and a pen.
We all know what happens when we find that we suddenly can’t scratch our noses… they miraculously begin to itch madly. It’s a scientific fact as mysterious as a White Dwarf star or a Quasar. I recall vividly how my nose could endure weeks of itch-free quality of life, but as soon as I slap on the oxygen mask for a high-altitude parachute jump… it goes bat$hit crazy.
It’s like an alarm goes off in my amygdala: “ITCH INDICATORS REGISTER POSITIVE ACTIVITY IN THE NASAL REGION; ACTIVATE SCRATCH REFLEX IMMEDIATELY!”
Ah, but once under canopy and down low into the oxygen-rich atmosphere, I’m charged with anticipation of floating my mask to the side and enjoying the almost sexual experience of a good two thousand-foot nose scratch… but alas, once my nose hears the sound of the mask bayonet fitting unlatch, the scratch reflex invariably subsides. Robbery!
The FBI suit behind the desk alternately eyed me over the top of forms and shifted his glance back down to the forms. Over the top of forms, back down to forms; geo, forms, geo forms. The second banana sat in a side chair facing me and played the role of the good-looking dumb guy. My mind was buried deep into my ready kit bag searching for damning items. It found two: a photo log of the Atlanta National Guard compound and a locksmith tool kit. Dios mio, no bueno.
First down was an 8 x 10 color photo of me in a Geo Metro. Ah, I remember how crestfallen I had felt when I exited the subway, found my cached key and directions on how to find my transportation… and it was a puke-purple sub-caliber punk car. “Damnit… I won’t even look remotely like a bad dude in that thing!” My lamentations fell on any deaf ears that cared to listen, as this was truly a time to cast egos aside.
The photographer who busted that cap of me was a blon-bec; a greenhorn; still wet behind the beak; a wet green beak. He/she had done everything wrong. The photo was cropped and blurry, and he had caught me looking to clear my right flank, which meant that even the profile of my face was hyper-oblique.
“Who’s that?” I grinned
“You know damn well who that is, Mr. Hand,” challenged the suit.
“What, you seriously think that’s me?”
“You KNOW it’s you, Hand!” the suit snorted.
I grinned one last time and, shaking my head, said, “I’m afraid you’re mistaken; that ain’t me.”
The suit was visibly agitated and flicked the photo to the side, knowing full well that the photographer failed to capture an effective facial recognition photo of me. Then he pulled out my ‘Locksmith’ kit. “Well then…” I contemplated, “This may be an excellent time to wipe this smug grin off my big fat stupid face.”
The agent opened and dumped my picks, rakes, shims, and all onto his desk, sorting through the various implements. “I suppose you are going to tell me you are a locksmith.” He began. “Locksmithing kits without a license make these illegal burglary tools.”
“But I am a licensed locksmith, Sir; you can find my license behind the side flap of the case.”
The agent pulled out a lo-and-behold locksmith license with a color photo and thumbprint, laminated and all. I had made it at home using Adobe Photoshop. I even went to the Unit Pass and ID section, put on the shirt/coat/tie combo we kept in a locker there, and had a decent passport photo made.
I came up with a cheesy logo and some official-sounding lingo, then I colored my thumb solid with a black ink pen to press my print onto the back. A quick pass through the hot laminator and, presto, good enough for government work!
I imagined I saw an impressed glint in the man’s eye, but then the second banana picked up a coil of string and stretched it out. There on the working end of the string was a ring of porcelain from a car spark plug—oy weh!!
“Hello… what do we have here??” The raised brow agent glibly inquired. What is this improvised device used for? There was no tap dancing around it. It was used to break into cars. The molecular structure of the porcelain, upon contact with the side windows of a car, will shatter them even if lightly tossed onto them. I had the string so I could swing the porcelain ring, shatter the window, and still retain my ring.
“Ohhhhh…………….. that’s just a stupid toy I rigged for my cat. I dangle it in front of her, and she goes nuts; hours of fun….”
“I see, and you just figure that your locksmith kit is the best place to keep Whisker’s toy.”
“Yes, yes I do, Sir.”
Finally, the picnic was over. “Please explain this photo log of the National Guard Compound and the camera, geo.”
After a momentary pause: “I have nothing clever to say.”
Yes, it was over, and they had won. That song ‘What Kind of Fool am I’ popped into my head and refused me requiem. I was released from my metal bond to my chair. I rubbed my wrist as I accepted the inbound brow-beating from the lead agent to the effect: “Know this: we’re going to be keeping a close eye on you from here out. I don’t like what I’m seeing here; no, sir, not one little bit!
Christ, what did I do, wet the bed? Throttle back Dick Tracy; I’ll straighten up and fly right from here out, thought I.
The junior agent drove me a distance from the station and dropped me off just northwest of ‘I have no phuqing idea’ Atlanta. Aw, there now, geo… we know exactly where we are—we’re at the intersection of Phuqing Peach and Infernal Peach. I stood still on the sidewalk, held up my outstretched arms, and shouted: “NEEEEEEXT!!”
I had admittedly had it for one day. I contemplated unstitching the tongue of my shoe and going out for a real meal as a measure of rearm and refit effort. But ‘no,’ I thought. If I do that, then I am admitting to myself that I am at the bottom, and it is bound to get worse still, especially once overseas.
In retrospect, I would learn that I was absolutely right on this night and had made the right choice. I begrudgingly made my way to the detested subway stop and sat and waited for my train.
And then something happened.
Something that totally turned my mood around and knocked the sharp edge clean off my stoop of spirit:
From my trackside bench, I looked across the tracks to a figure sitting on the opposing bench reading a newspaper. He held the paper spread wide open and in front of his face. He had cut out the feature photo on the front page, and there, peering at me through the square hole in the page, was the face of my squadron brother, Paul, gawing at me with a $hit-eating grin.
With a grin and salute from me, Paul’s train glided between us.
“By God, I think I’ll skip the train and just walk back to my motel. I have to say it’s been a good day… didn’t even have to use my AK.”
By God and with honor,