Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mission Report

Hate doing this kind of thing on Sundays, but it is what it is. Check my watch: 4:50 P.M.. Library closes at five, same time as the appointment I have cross-town. Simple job: make the drop, infiltrate the complex, find the package, get to the church on time. No time to lose.

Get out of the car, wishing I had cool shades to whip off dramatically. Do a fast swagger across the parking lot,  paperback in hand. Whip past the book drop, and in it goes, clang-clang. Objective one complete.

Without breaking stride, I head to the door. Security guard in a suit tries to stop me. I bluff past him quickly, the old "I belong here and I'm in a hurry" routine.

"We're closing in ten minu..."

"I don't need that long."

No need to check the catalog, I know exactly where I'm headed. Right at the circ. desk, up the stairs, down the hall to the Young Adult room. I stand out here, being way too big, but no big deal. Just act like I belong here.

At the stacks, I hit problem #1: the book's not where it should be. I curse under my breath. This wasn't unexpected: the author's name is common, and the library doesn't bother shelving series together. I scan the shelves book by book, wasting valuable time. It's not here. Damn! All this way for nothing. I'm about to give up when I realize: this is the end of the row. I wheel around, eyes scanning the stacks behind me. No company, but there on the shelf is objective two. Double-checking for possible interference, I pocket it.

I slip out of the stacks, unnoticed. Head back the way I came. But I make a classic amateur mistake: let my guard down. I spot something out of the corner of my eye a second before it grabs me by my attention, wanting to know where I think I'm going. I size him up quick: Short, but stocky and serious. Built like steel. (Probably because he is steel, or at least very shiny aluminum.) The usual array of books laid out on his midsection... classic New Books Cart. Hanging off his left side I notice an unidentified tome: Black with a red wolf silhouette on the spine. We've just had a complication.

I go for it before him. Getting more than he bargained for, he struggles to hold onto it. Taking care of the trump card is always priority one. Is this what I think it is? Check cover, cover quotes, looks pretty legit. quick scan of a random page. No doubt, this guy's part of The Pack. I wrest it away from him. Once I've got the red wolf book, Mr. Cart has no skills. I match a flurry of titles and spine with practiced disdain, and within he's against the wall, unmoving. For the second time, I wish I could punctuate the moment with some cool shades. Then I remember I'm not Jason Bourne, and the fast-tempo fight music is only playing in my head. I'm a guy who just picked a book off the new books cart. Squaring my shoulders, I pull that same saunter back to the door.

Girl at the check-out station gives me no trouble. I pass the same security drone on the way out, target and bonus in hand, and toss off my one-liner:

"Told you."

Despite my confidence, time is running short. I don't bother checking my watch, I know I'm running short. I start the car and gun it through the parking lot at a safe and respectable pace, then make a not-really-hard right turn with no squealing wheels onto the road. I pass a major intersection, tearing through a green light as cars swirl around me. At a corner, I take another soft right, screaming down the cross-street at a full five miles per hour. Noone follows. Going to stealth mode, I swing into the parking lot, nestle the car lightly between two others.

Miracle of miracles, I'm on time. Good thing too. Mr. Big doesn't like to be kept waiting. I stroll nonchalantly into the building, take up my seat in the pew just as 5:00 mass starts. I smile, light an imaginary cigarette, and toss off a random one-liner.

"Always on time, baby."

With the right attitude, ordinary life is an adventure.

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