Several weeks ago I was approached by a woman that said her name was Helene. She also claimed to be a part of FBI counterintelligence. I thought this was suspicious, as she had a British accent, but she was also very beautiful, so I decided to let it go. I have a soft spot for the FBI; I always wanted to be a Special Agent, helping to recover famous paintings or something.
“This is your mission,” she said. “You need to take this briefcase and meet our contact exactly three days from now, at 3:45 p.m. sharp, directly outside the Delacorte Press Building across from the International Finance Centre.”
“How am I supposed to know who he is?”
“He will be disguised as a blind beggar,” she said.
“There are a lot of blind-beggar-types down there; you are going to have to be a little more specific,” I said.
“Well, he looks a bit like Bruce Springsteen,” she offered.
“Yeah, that’s not really helping,” I said. “Plus, what if I approach the wrong guy and get shanked for my loafers?” I asked (sensibly, I thought).
“No one is getting shanked, all right? Certainly not for those loafers,” she said, which I thought was uncalled for. It’s hard to afford dapper footwear on a candy man’s salary. “Besides, our people will be there,” she continued. “One will be very close by, disguised as a gardener. We also have a couple of car hops across the street.”
“But what about the bums?” I asked. “The real bums? Why can’t you do something about them?”
“Well, Mr. Two,” she said in apparent exasperation, “unless you can think of some way of eradicating poverty in the next 72 hours, you are just going to have to take your chances.”
“Fine,” I said, a little bit shakier and higher than I would have liked.
“Well, don’t cry about it, for heaven’s sake, Mr. Two.”
“Sorry,” I said. “Now what is it I’m supposed to do if and when I find this guy?” I asked. Super cool, trying to redeem myself.
“Well, you walk up to him and say, ‘Excuse me. I am looking for the Anglican Cathedral.'”
“Okay,” I said.
“And then he will say, ‘well, I obviously haven’t seen it.”
“Ha ha,” I said. “I get it.”
“Right. Then you will say, ‘well then, could you tell me what lovers do when they run out of daisy petals?'”
“Okay,” I said.
“Then he will say, ‘count sheep.'”
“Okay,” I said. “Got it.”
“Now here is the important part,” she said, lowering her voice to an almost whisper. “When he says ‘count sheep,’ you respond ‘rich man poor man beggar man thief.’ And then he will say ‘beggar man. Definitely, beggar man.’ When he says that, you put down the briefcase and walk away.”
“Okay, that’s fine,” I said. “But why does it have to be so complicated? With all those passwords? Why can’t I just say ‘the eagle flies south’ or something simple like that?”
“You watch too much American television,” she said. Again, weird.
“I don’t know,” I said. “Sounds a little bit dangerous. What if something goes wrong?”
“If anything looks suspicious, just say ‘fire burn’ out loud three times, like this: fire burn, fire burn, fire burn. Our people will hear it on your lapel mike, and we will have you out of there immediately.”
“Okay,” I said. “I guess I’ll do it.” I have always had difficulty saying no.
“Well good, Mr. Two,” she said. “You are doing your country proud.”
Then she handed me the briefcase (black, nice leather, with “GST” inscribed on it in elegant silver letters), and we went our separate ways.
That was a little over three weeks ago. I never made the drop. You see, I also sometimes have difficulty following through. That day, I just came home, put the briefcase under my bed, and it has been there ever since. Is that bad? I have spent the last few days thinking about what the worst thing that could come from my not showing up could possibly be. I wonder…