Mark Terry

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Random Bit

August 24, 2010
Because I was drawing a blank, here's a little bit of writing from a book that may or may not be out this year on the Kindle titled HOT MONEY. Enjoy.

I have a staff of one. His name is Brad Ballenger and he goes, unfortunately, by BB. BB has a mind like a Cray supercomputer, is totally un-intimidated by me and is, by his own definition, gayer than springtime.

BB was tall and thin—he prefers the word “willowy”—with neatly coiffed dark hair and impeccable taste in clothing. I don’t think it was a gay thing. I think it was a BB thing. Today he was wearing a gray three-piece suit, blue silk shirt and Hermes tie. He was at his desk in the outer office. I said, “New tie?”

He draped it over his outstretched hand. “You like?”

It was powder blue with little spouting whales printed on it. “I do. I must pay you very well,” I said. “You get the signed contract from McGarrity?”

“Signed and the deposit made into your account.”

“That’s a damned good thing. Lock the outer door and come into the office with me. I need a witness.”

“That doesn’t sound so good.”

“It’s been an interesting morning.”

* * *

My office had a spectacular view of the Potomac and a decent view of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. I could also catch a glimpse of the Saudi Embassy if I was so inclined. I really preferred the Potomac. A handful of boats were buzzing south, white on blue. I wished I was on one of them at the moment.

I had a large desk that I didn’t often use. There was a collection of caramel-colored leather furniture—a sofa and two chairs--and mission-style end tables and a glass coffee table, with three matching lamps whose shades were stained glass.

Dropping my laptop on the desk, I gently set the briefcase down on the glass end table. I called Tony at the car company and we talked for a minute about how insane the city was becoming, when carjackers would hit you in broad daylight only a couple blocks from the White House. He told me he was calling the cops and reporting it for insurance purposes and they might contact me for corroboration. I told him no problem, let him yammer, then hung up.

BB drifted in. “What’s up, boss?”

“Bring the camera, please.”

When he got back, I gestured toward the briefcase. BB peered through the camera and said, “Let me adjust the lights. I’ve got some glare here. What’s in it?”

“Three guesses and the first two don’t count.”

Fussing with the blinds, BB said, “Jimmy Hoffa’s remains.”

“One down.”

“The Vice President’s soul.”

“He doesn’t have one. Two down.” I opened the attaché case.

“Money, money, money. That would’ve been my next guess.”

“Start taking pictures.”

* * *

It was mathematical and precise. One hundred packets of one hundred dollar bills, all face up, Benjamin Franklin right there giving me that little smirk of his. Each packet contained one hundred bills.

Do the math. A nice round number. One million dollars. Cold hard cash. Hot money.

BB said, “Where we headin’? Rio? I vote for Nice.”

I stared at the bottom of the attaché and said, “Huh.”

I unscrewed one of the lampshades and brought the lamp over so it directly illuminated the briefcase. Something seemed a little odd.

Patting down the interior of the briefcase, I felt something that didn’t seem quite right. Crossing over to the bathroom, I retrieved my pedicure kit. In addition to an Emory board, fingernail and toenail clippers, it had a pair of tweezers. I used the tweezers to pull a small, black metal disk off the base of the briefcase.

I looked at BB and shook my head, finger to my lips.

Probing further, I found another one. It looked different. I was pretty sure why.

I thought for a moment, then took both disks into the bathroom, placed them on the edge of the sink and turned on the water. I left, closing the door after me.

BB shot me a puzzled look. In my formative years I had worked for the Central Intelligence Agency, spending a couple years attempting to overthrow foreign governments that the Agency felt needing overthrowing. We were, I can say with some modestly, wildly fucking successful.

The problem was that the outcomes were not always what we hoped for in the long run. Shitty governments are often replaced by even shittier governments, often run by significantly more violent and ruthless dictators. But hey, it was a living.

Anyway, I recognized a bug when I saw one. And I was fairly suspicious that the second disk was some sort of GPS locator. That would explain why two guys in black leather jackets driving a white Ford Taurus had been so quick to try and steal the money back.

“Call McGarrity and tell him I want the names and resumés of all of his staff. And I mean all of his staff. And tell him to have his office swept for bugs. The electronic kind.”

BB glanced toward the bathroom. “And what are you going to do?”

“Talk to a friend over at Meade.”

Fort Meade, Maryland, home of the National Security Agency.


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