III. Amateur Spy, Professional Jerk
Philly traffic isn’t as bad as New York traffic, but that’s no consolation when you’re stuck on a bridge due to the brutal one-two punch of road work and a six-car pile up caused by some idiot who couldn’t put their phone down. The cacophony of honking horns, screaming drivers, and sirens had most of the motorists in a full-fledged rage. Not the Ruiner, at the moment he was enjoying being a spy so much that nothing short of a phone call from work could blow his mood.
The bridge was situated near a sewage processing plant and the air always smelled like shit. Even with the windows rolled up. The putrid stench was no match for Harris’ enthusiasm but didn’t it seem to be improving the overall mood of the other stalled commuters. Eventually, after nearly an hour of limping along, traffic returned to its normal pace.
Harris wondered if he should call his “handler” back at the hotel and let him know about the traffic delay. He also just realized that he forgot to get a code name. This almost upset him until he realized that forgetting to get a code name was exactly something that an amateur spy would do.
Harris was somewhat familiar with Philadelphia, he knew how to find the cheesesteak spots and could navigate Center City fairly well without a map but there were more than a few missing sections in his mental image of the area.
The address he was looking for was in the Northeast section of the city. It was a shady hotel on Roosevelt Boulevard which rented rooms by the hour, making it a popular rendezvous spot for both politicians and prostitutes. It wasn’t exactly a four-star establishment, the beds had no sheets; guests were expected to provide their own.
Harris was currently driving around a section of South Philly looking for an address that was about an hour to the north. After twenty minutes or so of navigating the endless sea of one-way streets and 3 point intersections, he pulled over to consult the GPS app on his phone. He made several jokes to himself about men and asking for directions while thinking he’d rather be lost then unable to parallel park.
The GPS finished computing and interfacing with satellites and informed Harris that he was nowhere near his destination. As a matter of fact, it turned out he was pretty far off the mark, but he was consoled by the fact that it didn’t matter too much because there isn’t a good way to drive to anywhere in Philadelphia.
While he was studying the map, trying to find the best way to 95, a young man in a bathrobe carrying a samurai sword passed by on the sidewalk.
“I’d like a sword of my own,” he thought, “It’d make me look more intimidating, like that kid. Bet no one mistakes him for someone who needs a 45-minute speech about how to deliver a bag of stolen diamonds to a shady hotel room.”
He briefly considered asking him where he could get a cool sword too but changed his mind when someone approached the urban swordsman and asked for an autograph.
It took awhile but Harris eventually found the on-ramp to 95 and headed North. As he drove skyscrapers faded into factories. Million dollar condos were replaced with dilapidated row homes. After a bit, the bad neighborhoods turned back into middle-class acceptable neighborhoods. The acceptable neighborhoods turned back into scary ones as the GPS informed him that his destination was point three miles ahead, on his right.
Forty minutes later Harris found a parking spot located only six blocks away. He counted this as a lucky break. There were some spots closer, one right in front of the joint even, but they were metered spots and he wasn’t about to pay for parking on this one.
He found his way to the proper hotel room and paused before knocking on the door to smooth his t-shirt and fix his hair. He wasn’t going to get to James Bond level smooth, and he knew it, but that didn’t mean he had to do this looking like Columbo either.
He knocked on the door and was admitted by a silent South American man who looked to be around his mid-thirties. Three more similar looking men sat at a table playing cards. There was a bottle of brown booze and three .40 pistols on the table.
The man who opened the door pointed a forth .40 caliber pistol at him while the men playing cards ignored everything that wasn’t them.
“You are not Rodger LaMinga,” he said, on the verge of being nervous.
Harris was silent.
“Who are you?” He said, shaking the gun in Harris’ face to remind him who was in charge.
“The guy with the diamonds. Rodger ElBingo…”
“LaMinga,” insisted the gunman.
“Right, whatever. Look, I have your diamonds. Here’s what happened. My bag got switched at the airport, someone killed Rodger, and now I’m here with your stuff, see?” He held the diamonds out for the man to take.
“I was assured there would be no trouble. I just want to drop these off and forget about this. I have kids, and maybe a wife- it’s been a while since I was home.”
The men at the table put their cards down and turned their attention to what was going on in the room. Harris could hear them pick their guns up and feel them being pointed at him.
“Who are you?” The gunman said again, this time with a hint of anger mixed with confusion in his voice.
Harris answered by grabbing the gun from the man and falling to the floor in a blur.
Three pistols went off, two bullets entered the former gunman’s chest. One hit the ceiling.
Harris rolled towards the table, grabbing and shattering the ankle of the man closest him. He fell to the ground and Harris collapsed his windpipe with the side of his hand.
One of the two remaining men made the sign of the cross, the other trained his gun on Harris, who was in the process of standing up at the moment. As he stood, he pushed up on his assailant’s arm, pointing his gun at the ceiling and cleaving his temple with his free hand.
The man who was blessing himself had finished and aimed his gun at Harris, shaking like a drunk on the wagon. Harris slapped the gun out of his hand like it was a bug on his thigh and inserted his index finger into the back of the last man’s head. He stopped shaking and breathing and being alive.
Harris let go of the body and it fell to the floor. He wiped his finger off on the bare mattress.
“Another reason to get a sword,” he thought while trying his best to clean his finger.
It was a minute or so before he gave up and used the bathroom sink to finish cleaning himself. When he was done, he sat at the card table and called his handler.
“Hey..uh it’s me, ummm…” he said.
“How did it go? Easy PZ? Huh? I told you.”
“Everyone was kinda dead when I got here. I don’t know…kinda weird….sorta freaking out…I’m gonna call the cops…”
“No, no, no, that will only lead to trouble. I’ll meet you there. Do nothing until I arrive.”
The line went dead. Harris gathered up the cards and began to deal a game of solitaire while he waited.
He expected his handler to take at least as long as he did to find the hotel, but he arrived much faster. Harris opened the door, barely remembering to look afraid.
His handler entered and surveyed the scene. He turned to face Harris with a sour look like he was about to deliver bad news.
“This is not good,” the handler said.
“It’s not?” Harris replied.
“How could this be good?”
“This is my first mission, how am I supposed to know?”
The handler shook his head and looked sad. He pulled a gun from the inside of his jacket and pointed it at Harris.
Harris forgot to look afraid. He forgot he was an armature spy. He remembered he was an assassin and pulled the gun out of his handler’s hands.
“I’ve had enough of those pointed at me today,” he said.
His former handler was more than a little surprised at how swiftly he was disarmed. He was even more surprised to find himself in a headlock. He wasn’t surprised to find it was becoming more and more difficult for him to breathe though. That’s kind of par for the course when it comes to being choked. His world faded to blackness.
“I hate when they faint too fast,” Harris said to himself while he put the man on the bed and sat back down at the table.
He considered his options. He could wait and hope his handler was more reasonable when he regained consciousness, he could kill him and leave, or he could just leave. Philadelphia was his favorite place to smell sandwiches, but he’d be willing to settle for the scent Jersey Shore pizza if it meant this mess was over.
Before he could make his mind up his former handler came to. Harris offered him a glass of water and gave him a few minutes to get it together.
“Who are you?” His former handler asked.
“You’re not allowed to know that and you’re not in a position to ask questions,” he replied.
The former handler nodded in agreement.
“If you don’t want to end up like everyone else in this room, I suggest you start explaining yourself.”
The man nodded again and started to talk, “As I said, I’m an agent for the Spanish Government. Rodger Laminga was to deliver the diamonds to these men.”
“You’re not allowed to know that,” the former handler replied.
Harris touched the man on the knee. Not violently, just purposefully.
The man began to howl and whimper in pain. Harris let him squirm and whine for three entire minutes before tugging on his right earlobe and squeezing his pinkie.
The pain stopped, but the former handler hadn’t noticed yet. When he did notice, he looked at Harris with a newfound understanding.
“Because they were members of a cartel we were trying to infiltrate. The diamonds were a good faith offer. I was hoping to gain an in by offering to pay for my order upfront.”
The man sighed. “These men know of me. I had to arrange for someone else to do the drop-off. Rodger was a janitor in our office building. He was single, no real education or family- not someone that would be missed. We framed him for something and offered him the chance to help us out in order to make it go away.”
“Were you going to kill him either way?”
Harris nodded. The man started to say something but Harris put his finger to his lips and shook his head. Harris stood and walked over to the card table, bending down to pick up a pistol.
He shot his former handler twice in the chest before dropping the gun back onto the floor and leaving the hotel.
The Next Day
Harris sat in front of a plate of food he wasn’t allowed to eat. He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. The smell of forbidden sustance filled his being. His face looked peaceful and serene. It was as if he was unaware of all the weird stares and looks the other patrons were giving him. He was fully aware of them, but it was as if he wasn’t. He was on vacation.
“Way better than a switch-a-roo,” he thought but almost said out loud while savoring the aromas of the olfactory feast in front of him.
When he had his fill of smelling, he left his food on the table and exited the restaurant. He walked around the city for a while passing out diamonds to the homeless.