The following post is a submission from our July 2013 monthly writing prompt, “I’m not trying to be difficult, but this is unacceptable.” To read the next part of this story, check back next Thursday. Read Parts 1-16 here.
“I’m not trying to be difficult, but this is unacceptable,” I said, struggling to keep the sarcasm out of my voice. Luckily I was blindfolded, so my captors couldn’t see the vicious, almost involuntary eye rolling going on.
“No, really guys, just, just so unsatisfactory.”
I was in position to carry out my part of Operation Lost Bet. More specifically, I was tied to a chair deep in the heart of The Warren, the not-so-secret lair of international espionage agency TUSK. If hearts are something you keep just below the surface, with a clear view of major exits. And international espionage is something you do with big stupid masks that have face-horns.
My interrogator was blabbing on and on about something. Probably more of his irritating questions. Every now and then he poured a bucket of lukewarm water over my head. I wondered if either of the agents guarding the door knew how waterboarding worked. It wasn’t this. I felt vicariously embarrassed for the man questioning me. Did he know he had it wrong? Was he stupid, or just uneducated? Was he trying to save face? Did he know that wasn’t working either?
It reminded me of walking to lunch with Vanessa last week. We were halfway to Sandwich Village when a tan SUV pulled up next to us.
“Hey! Hey buddy! Hey! Buddy, hey! Can I ask you a question?” the driver said to us. Well, probably to me. I look like someone you could ask for directions. And Vanessa looks like a lot of things, but not someone you call “buddy.”
“Sure thing,” I said. “Shoot.” Maybe not the best choice of words in our line of work, but what was really going to happen?
“Hey, do you, uh, do you want an LED projector?” he said.
I looked at Vanessa. She was grinning. She loves a good con. I winked at her on the side they couldn’t see. “No, not really,” I said to the driver. Might as well make him work for it. Besides, my living room doesn’t really have the dimensions for a proper throw.
“Oh, okay, but you’ve got to really, really want it in order to get one!” called the driver. His buddies laughed. One of us clearly didn’t understand the other.
“Have a good one, chief.” I shrugged at Vanessa. We started walking towards delicious sandwich specials.
The driver started laughing hysterically. “So you can’t have it! You don’t get anything!” They drove off.
“—the hell?” I said. “What was the angle on that? Makes me feel old to see kids running around with no idea what they’re doing, can’t even take a little pride in their petty larceny.“
“What do you mean old?” said Vanessa. “He was older than either of us. I bet they all were.”
“They weren’t old,” I said. “Just, y’know, obese. Terrible shape. Probably all hopped up on goofballs.”
“Now you sound old,” said Vanessa. “Not as old as those jackals though. I bet you.” She was already pulling their plates on her phone. “Heh. ‘Goofballs.’ No way you were just hassled by tubby speed freaks.”
“If you’re wrong, you’re buying me the Sandwich de Villa,” I said.
“And when I’m right?” asked Vanessa.
There was a shout from a guard in the hall and the sound of a key in the flimsy lock to the “interrogation” room. A leather-gloved hand pulled down my blindfold. A tall man in grey pulled back the hand. Dr. Valrus.
The inquisitor was yammering a mile a minute about how I must have been hardened to withstand waterboarding. He suspected I had a chip that prevented me from feeling it. I wish. I hate waterboarding. Everyone does. It’s awful. I probably would have told him something. Nothing useful of course. Maybe I’d tell him about the guys in the SUV. Maybe they know each other.
“Look what you’ve done in here,” Dr. Valrus said to his torture-ignorant employee. “Water everywhere, on these nice wood floors. Go, get a mop.” The TUSK scurried from the room. Dr. Valrus turned to me. “Always nice to see you, agent.” He walked behind me and looked out the window.
I got to my feet. I couldn’t manage to stand up straight, since I was still nominally tied to the chair, but it was fairly easy to get up and walk right out the door the inquisitor had left open. I followed his wet footprints down the hall. The ropes slid up over the back of the chair as I walked, and I left it in the hall.
“Loving spoonful!” bellowed Dr. Valrus. “After that one!”
I rounded a corner and saw my questioner in the maintenance closet. He saw me coming and grabbed the mop out of the wringer bucket and took a swing at me like it was a halberd. Or maybe a pike. Or maybe a halibut. The mop end of it bounced off the transom as ineffectually as everything else I’d seen this goon do today. He staggered backward into the closet, then put the mop head lower so it would clear the door and got ready to charge. I closed the door and kept moving down the hall.
I didn’t run into a lot of TUSKs in the halls. Not sure why. I’ve never known them to be understaffed. When I found Dr. Valrus’s office, I barricaded myself in, just in case. If the grandfather clock behind his desk was right, I had only about ten minutes before Vanessa would be leading an extraction team into The Warren to pull me out of here.
I sat down at the computer. Dr. Valrus was still logged in. No password necessary. I was relieved that I wouldn’t have to waste valuable minutes breaking in until I noticed the system time. Then I noticed how the grandfather clock behind me was neither ticking nor tocking. I was going to have plenty of time to dig through the TUSK mainframe; apparently I’d only been captive for about an hour, and Vanessa wasn’t going to be here for another nine.
Read Part 18 here.
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