The Least of My Problems

The lanky, cat like mid-thirties black guy, overdressed in a trendy, peg legged weird shade of blue straight-out-of-the-Sixties suit brushed his hands together like he’d somehow gotten dirty climbing the 2×12 plank stairs. He beamed a thousand-watt smile in my direction. “You look surprised to see me, Casper.”

“Security cam out front pops up on my phone.” I tapped the Otter Boxed device on the table in front of me. “This is my ‘go fuck yourself’ face.” I watched him process his good ol’ buddy-buddy fail, showed him some of my own dental work. “You should take the agency’s Reading People 101 refresher.”

“Hey, ease up. That was what, Amigo, a year ago? We’re good. Now.” He looked around at what amounted to my office. A dusty loft, no walls or rails, furnished with a long plywood and sawhorse map table, three folding chairs and a couple of used to be coffee creamer beige, now rusting around the edges 4 drawer filing cabinets. All overlooking the concrete floor of an abandoned galvanized small private plane hanger.

“You’re doing okay.” So far he was batting 100% meaningless in the convo department, something I remembered he was good at.

“I haven’t flown in a year, thanks to you people.”

“By ‘you people’ I hope you mean the agency. The world is rife with enough tensions. You and me?” He shrugged, hit the smile again. “We used to be good together. You got you a pontoon plane for fishing trips, moving tax evasion assets around for clients. You have a King Air at your disposal that belongs to some Indian tribe. You fly the oily’s private MD80 all over the place. Flight plans all filed under a valid license…” He cut the smile, stopped pacing. “A license that’s doing a quick run through a shredder when the FAA finds out it belongs to a man so fucked up he can’t piss on his own shoes when he’s standing up.”

“Show some respect, asshole, he’s a vet like you and me. Only Viet Nam.”

“A dirty war before our time. And not a vet so the VA would know. The oily’s paying his bills to keep the government, your government, away from you. Since we’re calling asshole, you do fly, asshole, you just have to be somebody else doin’ it.” He took a step closer, tilted his head in a big drama black dude quizzical gangsta look. “Why is that with the oily? Huh? You got something on him, some kinda kink or –”

“My first job, when I became civilian again after Allfuckedupistan, I pulled his daughter out of a sex with underage girls cult disguised as a religious militia.”

“Crazy perverts in the name of God. She want out, or was it daddy’s idea?”

“She was messed up. He wanted her back. I got her out. End of story.” Not. The girl came along, willingly. On the way out she’d grabbed the Browning 45 from my waistband and screamed variations of ‘Stupid horny motherfucker’ every time the pistol barked in the direction of one her ex-cult brothers. Too bad she wasn’t much of a shot, but the horny motherfuckers were far from courageous in the face of gunfire anywhere in their general direction, so she was more of a help than a hindrance in her own escape. Ten years later she looked up at the sky and laughed before she did a swan-dive off a rope bridge in Colorado. Her father was still grateful for what he called the ‘gift’ of those ten years. I wasn’t sure if his daughter would’ve called them that. To break the thought zone I pulled a small Cuban cigar from a box on the table. “Want one? Cuban, gluten free.”

“Not today. Company car.”

“Then I’ll spare you.” I tossed the cigar back. I needed a non gluten free Modelo dark to go with it anyway.

He started running his mouth, but I’d found the problem with his suit and wasn’t listening. It was the color of the damn thing. The Turquoise Blue that came in the big box of 64 crayons. One of the colors I could never find a use for. It wasn’t blue, or blue green or any kind of sky I’d ever seen blue and my mother had plenty of Navajo turquoise and it sure as hell wasn’t that color. That’s the problem with too many choices. The original box of 8 was all you really needed. Crayons and friends and shades of good and bad. Limit your choices, limit your exposure to useless. Like the guy in the suit in front of me.

“Are you keeping up, Paro?”

To be honest, I’d quit listening to him a year ago, could have walked around the desk and thrown him off the loft and been too busy trimming nose hair or tweezing belly button funk to go to his funeral. I couldn’t tell him that, CIA and all. The best I could do with crayons on my mind was “That fucked up suit of yours is the most useless color known to man.”

“Yeah? Well…” His sartorial rhetoric was part and parcel of who he was. He dug into his well of snappy comebacks. “Fuck you.” Like he meant it. But I could see he was wounded. Desk guys make lousy field guys, even if they went to West Point on a football scholarship. We eyed each other for about the length of a Clint Eastwood spaghetti western standoff. A little longer than required, almost enough to be comedic. I folded before I laughed and ruined it.

“What the fuck you want, Tavius?”

“You.” He flipped a 6×8 manila envelope on the table. I opened it. A stack of folded FAA paperwork making it legitimate for me to fly again. Anything that flew. My military experience, all my certifications, my whole packet. “I, we need you to fly again. Legally.”

“Last time I flew for you, when I didn’t know it was you I was flying for, I lost all this. And a recently overhauled Beech D18 I liked better than most people I know, including some family.”

“You were compensated.”

“I got fucked.”

“Yeah,” he yipped a tight chihuahua laugh, “and she’s coming back. In fact she’s no more than,” he checked some Dick Tracy electronics on his wrist, but it was an act. He was being fed through what looked a small piece of soda straw stuck to his ear. “Twenty-five minutes behind me. And closing. So…we need to hit it and get it.”

“Who is this ‘she’ behind you? I don’t like female clients. They –”

“End up dead? You liked the last one well enough.” He was enjoying himself. Too much. “Cavanaugh Moreno. Remember her? On her way. In a yellow Fiat convertible.”

“Cav’s dead. I saw –”

“You saw theater. She had a blood bag taped to her body armor.” He smiled at something, probably me thinking Cav was dead, face down, all that blood…I wanted to explode, maybe choke him till his head popped.

“You two weren’t supposed to get along,” he paused, his brain stuck somewhere, trying to tell a sanitized version of an unsanitary story. “Much less end up, ah, desnudos juntos in the Columbian jungle. Her boyfriend wasn’t supposed to catch you actually doing it and reload with live rounds, and you weren’t supposed to…” He put his hands down on my plywood, leaned in like the weasel in charge he wanted to be. “Regardless of your past chaos factor, Ms. Moreno is going to walk in here, and you, my friend, are going to be surprised and amazed and so happy to see her you might shit yourself. And after all the yadda-yadda has cleared and she’s convinced that you’re thinking with your dick again and you’ll agree to do whatever she asks you to do, you agree to do it. In your professional capacity as a shady will-fly-for-food or sex kind of guy.” He straightened, brushed the arms of that goofy suit like proximity had gotten him dirtier. “You killed her last boyfriend. She hasn’t found a replacement. You should be okay.”

I couldn’t talk. I tried. I did something with my hands, spread out about as wide as a basketball. They shook a little.

“Yo, Paro, chill. The Cartel would have killed him if you hadn’t. They kill people for fun. Make a spectator sport out of it with people who steal from them. There’s a guy down there, uses nothing but a pair of lineman’s pliers. Takes him a week to kill a man. You did Lupe a favor.”

“Right. Fucking his girlfriend and killing him.”

“I didn’t call it that way.”

“You didn’t have to. Cav. Is she –“

He held up his hand, started to say something but his ear must have beeped. “Gotta run.” He found the stairs in three long strides. I heard him take them down, two at a time. No mean feat without a handrail and in the shoes he was wearing. Halfway to the hanger door he turned, looked up. “You’re running a business here Paro. Get a handrail or I’m calling OSHA about those fuckin’ stairs.”

I flipped him off. The CIA, OSHA and no handrails were the least of my problems.

Anonymole has decided on a whiff of an idea from me that September is scene month. Not every day, but often, we should offer a short scene that stands alone and when you walk away you have a decent idea of what’s going on and might want to turn the page. “Hukt awn seens werks fur mee!”

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Phil Huston

https://philh52.wordpress.com/

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