(You can read part 9 here)
(Dedicated to Sofrep family brother: WayTooMuchGear [WTMG])
The next two days went well enough well, boring actually. I had little to no money and had resigned to wandering the streets to avoid an inevitable seizure by the scoundrels who sent me here. ‘Play the game’ was the mantra that ricocheted inside my head; ‘always play the game; if not, the game will play you.’
That was an interesting phrase, one that urges you to take and keep control of a situation. It is pithy enough, but it doesn’t explain how you are supposed to achieve anything. I guess you will recognize it when you see it and take action. It sounds cool though, especially when you find yourself in situations with nothing clever left to say. But then we do what we have to do, and that’s what makes us who we are… right?
It puts me in mind of a day of dirt bike riding in the pine forests surrounding our compound back at Bragg. Most of us were novice riders, or at least of the beginner sort. Several of us had dumped our bikes on a particularly hairy turn in the pine woods. We lay in momentary peace in a tangle of men, machine, and slowly seeping hydrocarbon.
We basked horizontally in the reverie of not being up vertically on hateful metal monsters leaning low, revving, and trying to stay on the thin dirt trail. I had at one time been gifted a wrist injury while engaged in such riding, one that I did not recover from for nearly a year. “If you’re not getting the $hit kicked out of you, you’re not trying” one of the better riders explained.
Speaking of the better riders… it was Mark “Cuz” C. Who revved up to our pig pile and came to a halt with his four-cycle purring. We each looked up at him longingly, waiting for his aphoristic prose of wisdom that would guide us through our next hairy hairpin turns:
“Ride the bike; don’t let the bike ride you.”
And he buzzed off rooster-tailing us a dusty pine-dirt shower.
“Thanks a lot; thanks a whooole phuqin’ lot, Cuz” someone grumbled as we went vertical again, patting ourselves down for injuries and trying to make sure we had all our own bike parts. With a few spirited kicks, we had roaring engines once more and cannon-balled our way down the thin brown line, to once again create our pig pile of metallurgy and flesh.
And so it went.
I sat in a cafe sipping absolutely nothing. Though I was long on a coffee jones, I was short on Deutsch Marks, and the stingy German waiter wanted me to pay for my water. Who the hell even does that?
(In German) “And then what can I get for the gentleman?”
“The gentleman would like some water, mein Herr.”
“Very well Sir, what kind of water would you like?”
“I think I’ll try a glass of your free water today, Mein Herr.”
He was not amused and he heel-spun off, but he sure was stingy.
I sat, sucking on my tongue, pretending I only had a few minutes to sit there before I had to rocket off to a disgustingly important engagement…
And then it happened.
A man in a Dick Tracy trench coat and hat, sunglasses and Oxfords happened by and very intentionally tossed a wadded up paper bag on my table and scurried off… like a rat. Judas Priest… did they really hire that guy? Did anybody ever hire that guy other than a security firm in Gotham City?
“You forgot to pop your coat collar, Dick! Now I can recognize the back of your neck!” …ok, I didn’t actually holler that but totally wanted to, right??
Well, perhaps here was my disgustingly important engagement? I quick-timed out of there for fear of the Polizei grabbing me and: “Halo, was ist das dann?” And it would turn out to be in the bag some forbidden Captain Crunch Decoder ring setup, and I’d shortly find myself naked and upside-down in a vat of iced urine.
We would have none of that.
I slipped into a public stall WC and opened the sack. There were some meeting instructions at last. There was to be a meet nearby in less than one by-God hour!
“I’m not sucking my tongue anymore,” I thought as I torn the instruction sheet into mouth-manageable strips and stuffed one into my pie hole like they do in the movies… Mission Impossible? Hell, I had lost my mind. Re-calibrating my lubber line’ I dropped the page into the swirling whirlpool of the John…er, the Johann rather, and tossed the crumpled sack into the Müll.
I returned smugly to the same cafe armed with the intent to buy myself a coffee and perhaps even a pastry to celebrate. I intentionally picked the same section of seating and snapped my fingers loudly for the water-hog waiter. (In German):
“The W]wasser still is NOT frei!” the waiter reminded.
“Then I’ll have a cup of your best Java, and one of the house’s finest pastries, Geeves, and be quick about it!” I sneered. Ah, it was good to be king again, if only just for 45 minutes and in Germany.
I licked my fingers and smacked my lips loudly like the American swine that I was, as I made my way to the Wine Stube where the encounter was supposed to occur. On the porch there, was a man standing with his hands behind his back, and an assortment of pens and pencils in this shirt pocket. Those were the near recognition signals per my crumpled sack.
“What’s the first thing you know?” came the challenge from the man with the bulging shirt pocket.
“Ooooool’ Jed’s a millionaire!” I replied with a wink and a point to him like ‘he was the man.’
“Come on in George…,” the man gestured “…there there are some people here waiting to buy you lunch.”
Still the king, then!
I sat with familiar faces of senior-ranking men from the Unit. I picked at most of my lunch, as the house’s finest pastry lay in my stomach like the gut bomb that it was. They ordered a glass of beer for the table. I declined because, well because I just wasn’t daft enough to go there.
After lunch, they drove me away to a location where they said they had some ‘tasks’ they wanted me to perform. That never sounded good to me sitting in a car full of hard pipe-hitting SoB’s, having no idea where I was being taken.
At a particular intersection traffic stop there was some construction going on. The street was dug up considerably and there were men welding metal tubes and other conduits. I looked at the men in the car with me and thought: ‘Pipe-hitters’ then turned my gaze to the welders and thought: ‘Pipe-fitters’ and it made me grin.
We arrived at a residential house and entered. I was shown a bedroom with a single bed, a nightstand, a small desk, and a chair. There were no lamps, but there was a wind up folding clock sitting on the nightstand ticking its mechanical ass off.
“This is the room where you will stay for the night. You are not to leave this room other than to use the bathroom that is for your use only, to the right and immediately next to your room.” I was told to surrender all my possessions and remove my shoes and socks.
“Damnit,” I thought, “They are are going to take my shoes after all.” I sulked. My shoes were searched and put aside on the floor. My travel pack was emptied of all contents and most of my things were taken. I was searched thoroughly as if a POW. Well, at this point I rather was. My socks and underclothes were searched and returned. All that I had were the clothes on my back.
“He’s got a compass, he’s got a compass, there, right there!!” shrieked a particularly nasty cadre member as she pointed at the band of my G-Shock watch so close that her finger almost touched it. She wanted to make sure everyone saw my tiny worthless compass.
It was about the size of an aspirin tablet and I had glued it to my watch band. I thought it looked cool there although it didn’t even point to the north. It did, however, point to ugly and right now it was pointed at HER!
She grabbed a pair of scissors and me by the wrist. “My God,” I thought, “she’s going to cut my hand off!” She began to pick and pry at the tiny dome-shaped bobble with fervor.
“For Christ’s sake, chief,” boomed the HMFIC*, and the ice pick murdering bitch backed off. I glared at her with purpose; she made cat eyes and hissed at me. I would be sure and get her at recess.
“We’ll brief you momentarily on what you are to do,” and the boss and bitch left me alone momentarily. I stood in my home away from home and looked, just looked: my shoes lay at my feet. My watch was still around my wrist. I had a bed, a desk, a chair, a nightstand with a clock on it ticking away, but nothing ticked louder than my head at that moment. All my possessions were gone, sure… but my shoes were at my feet!
By God and with honor,
*HMFIC: Head Mother Fucker In Charge; a term used affectionately for a boss
All images courtesy of Wikipedia