Prompt – What do you love most about your current project?
I have four WIPs languishing. Five if you count a collab stuck off in the Twilight Zone.
I nearly finished the latest, The Great Kerrigan Bank Robbery (or maybe just Kerrigan). It is a romantic thriller in the vein of North by Northwest if Elmore Leonard and Tarrantino got involved. Male protagonist has a hard time trusting the female protagonist. However, Covid sent them off into the weeds and it lost its sense of humor. It also has WAY too many characters. All of that is fixable.
What I love least is that it’s first-person. But a recovered sense of humor will ease that.
What do I love about any or all of them? The characters and what they get up to, and that I get to tag along. From musicians to feminists, a pair of rich, gay fairy godmothers, swamp rats and lawyers, dodgy pilots and conspirators, drug runners, an all-female heavy metal shred band full of classically trained cellists, murderous bikers, a Valley Girl ballerina, a potty mouth 12-year-old and an Irish Wolfhound and a studio pool of extras – what’s not to like?
My new mantra, though, is finish, buff, and get them out of the hard drive. At least four of them. The collab may rot in good-idea-gone-missing hell forever.
Here – Kerrigan 1
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 dusty 2×12 plank stairs. He beamed a thousand-watt smile in my direction. “You don’t 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 Company’s Reading People 101 refresher, Tave.”
“Ease up on a brother, Comparo. That was what, 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 in deep south nowhere Texas.
“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. From here it looks like you got yourself a private pontoon plane you use for overpriced fishing trips to nowhere and off the radar asset movement. You have a King Air at your disposal that belongs to some Indian tribe and you fly the oily’s private MD80 all over the damn planet.”
“I’m along for the ride. Those flight plans are all filed under a valid license.”
“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 far gone and fucked up he can’t piss on his own shoes when he’s standin’ 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 forward 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 as a civilian 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 motherfuckers’ 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, 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 that thought zone I pulled a small Cuban cigar from a box on the table.
“Want one? Cuban, gluten free.”
“No contraband 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. 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 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. The same envelope I’d handed over to a spit-shined young Marine a year ago after verifying the contents were all me. I opened it, pulled out a stack of folded FAA paperwork. My licenses, everything. I was legitimate 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 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 prototype 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 of convenience 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 brother, 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 will agree to do it. Whatever the hell it is. 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.
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, bro. The Cartel would have killed him if you hadn’t. They make a spectator sport out of killing 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, losin’ it and cappin’ him.”
“Big favor. Yo Lupe, when I finish screwin’ your girlfriend I’m gonna kill you.”
“It didn’t go down that way.”
“Close enough for guilt to come knockin’. 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. “As of now you’re running a legitimate business, 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.
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