“Agent 727, come in, please. I know you can hear me damn it! Answer me!” I could hear her disgust again.
I gave the girl I was with a kiss as I rolled off. “Sorry love, duty calls.” I picked up the special pink Flamingo watch they gave me when I joined.
“I was on top of the interrogation of an important prisoner, now you let her get away. What is it, Ms. Halfdime?”
“Um hum. You haven’t had a case in over a month. Get dressed and get back here now. Chief and Agent 69 have an assignment for you,” she said. I wonder how she knew I was naked?
Soon I was at the top secret entrance to our HQ. The bathroom at the local Greyhound bus terminal. Well almost. This depot only had one unisex bathroom, and I had to wait. It was being used.
After stomping around for ten minutes, an old lady came out, and I went in. DAMN, she must have eaten a lot of bean Burritos for lunch. Yuck!
I sat on the stool and twisted the toilet-paper holder ninety degrees to the right while lifting up on the flush lever, and finally the dang thing moved. I slid back into the wall as the stool was replaced by a second one that moved into the old slot.
“Awww, damn. Couldn’t you have used some air freshener or something first?” Ms. Halfdime asked as she grabbed her nose. The stool stopped in front of her desk.
“Sorry, Chief must have cut the budget again. It was gone,” I told her as I stood. I flushed the toilet normally and it took off into a room behind the bathroom to wait for its next calling.
Ms. Halfdime was your typical run of the mill receptionist. She wore two 45cal ACP semi-autos slung low on her expansive hips. Her long gray hair almost matched her eyes and the stretched to the limit, one piece jumpsuit. I think she was still under the 500lb limit required to work for us. “Ms. Halfdime! Lovely to see you again. Damn, you lost more weight?”
She smiled. “You noticed? Almost two pounds.”
“Did you celebrate? That is quite a victory.”
“Well, yes. Went to a hamburger joint and had three triple burgers with all the fixings and fries and a Diet Coke of course.” She smiled.
“Oh of course, gotta watch the waistline.” I almost laughed. “Were is Chief?”
“In her office with Agent 69 and the possible client. I’ll buzz you in,” she said as I moved to the double wide doors then instinctively jumped back as I remembered they opened outward. Missed me by that much!
I marched down the long hallway and took the first left. Well, it is the only turn. I entered Chief’s office and nodded to 69; she nodded back. I nodded to Chief; she nodded back. I nodded to the skinny guy sitting on the couch. He didn’t nod back, just looked at me then Chief.
Chief did the intros. “Mr. Tuesday, meet Agent 727.”
I walked to his front as he stood, and I shook his hand, “Names Brentwater, William Brentwater at your service sir,” I told him. I found his hand was clammy. Then I realized it was covered in juices and mustard as I saw the empty hamburger wrapper.
As he sat down Chief moved behind her desk and agent 69 came over to stand beside me. We’d worked together before. Even played together some. She was pretty and smart.
“Okay, Ms. Halfdime informs me our other agent is busy on a case in Paterson, New Jersey so I’m stuck with you. Listen to Mr. Tuesday and see what you can do,” she said in her cold, heartless voice.
“I’m Gabby Tuesday, I own the TGIT Hamburgers chain. Heard of it?” He asked.
“No, but I eat hotdogs, so not surprising.” I could see the disgust on all their faces.
“Okay, it stands for Thank God It’s Tuesday. Tuesday, get it? Anyway, someone has demanded I pay them one million dollars or else.” I heard his squeaky voice, not totally sure what it said.
“Or else what?” I had to ask; it was clearly expected.
“We don’t know 727, that is your job. Find out the who, what, were, and why and get back to me. The payment date is next Tuesday at noon, so you have Friday, the weekend, and Monday to figure it out,” Chief said in her clearly dismissive tone.
I turned toward the door, and 69 followed me down the hallway, after we made the right turn she said, “Weird.”
“What is weird, the case?”
“No, he. He’s right handed but wears his watch on his right hand, as well. You slipping on me?” She stopped and stared into my eyes.
“No, you stopped me from slipping onto you, remember?”
“I found you with that hussy Clara. What was I supposed to do?”
“I told you, I was just interrogating her.”
“Ya, her lipstick all over your face showed she was resisting real hard too.” She said and hrumphed then turned and started walking.
“Aww come-on, not like we were engaged or anything.”
“True, but Chief told me what you did to agents 67 and 68.”
“What do you mean by what I did?
“You know exactly what I mean. You got them both pregnant and Chief was mad.”
“Ya, like they had nothing at all to do with it? And Chief is just jealous because when we got it on she was to old to get pregnant!” I probably shouldn’t have said that.
She stopped and turned and stared, then said, “You, you, you damn male! I swear if I didn’t love you I’d kill you and be done!”
Well that wasn’t what I expected to hear.
Finally, we entered the computer command center. It is where, in our work, the world revolved, and all things are there for the telling if you could find the right asking.
Selina, an aid to the Chief, and head of Intel gathering was hard at work at her computer desk as we entered. She saw us and said, “Bill, Marsha! I see she has you both working the Tuesday case. He’s an interesting guy.”
“As in reasons for someone to try and blackmail him?” I asked.
“Well, no, just a little unusual type interesting. How much you want to see?” She asked.
“Not over a couple hours. Got to get a handle on this as soon as possible,” I told her.
“Okay, sit back and relax. I’ll punch it up on the big screen.” She went to the master console and punched some buttons and a film started. “Hey, gonna make a Root beer float, you guys want one?”
“Sure,” Marsha said.
I told her, “Okay, but I always take mine stirred, not shaken you know.”
“You’re a bonified nut case you know that?” She said.
“Sure, why do you think all the girls fall for me? You know the song. Everybody loves a nut.”
“Leave it to me to set him off, sorry Marsha,” she said.
Marsha looked at me and laughed. “No problem, his ego can handle it.”
As we watched the presentation, I saw Tuesday as the epitome of the American dream. He came from the slums of New York and through hard work, a little entrepreneurial spirit, and luck he built a hamburger empire.
At first he called it Gabby’s Hamburger Joint. Then, as he started franchising more of them, he changed it to TGIT Hamburgers. It caught on, but it was the first one gave me a clue to the case.
I told 69. “You catch it?”
“The money lending and possible mob tie-in for a money laundering front you mean?” She asked.
“Well, that too I guess. No, the reference to the old cartoon. He started giving people credit to be paid in full on Tuesday.”
“Sure, they work for Wacke Eddie at the paper mill. He gives everyone off on Monday and Tuesday instead of the normal weekend. Say’s it makes more sense; all the stores are open.” She smiled with the ‘I know it all’ smile.
“Right. They get paid on Sunday; banks are closed. They deposit the checks on Monday, so the funds are usually available Tuesday morning. So obvious!.” I told her. “Should be easy to find now.” They both gave me a strange look.
“I don’t see anything obvious,” Selina said.
“Well, us agents are trained to think out of the box you know. Ask 69, she can explain it.”
Then 69 gave me the evil eye, and she had a fierce one too. She didn’t see the obvious either?
“Look, someone is blackmailing him and demands the money on Tuesday. Not because of his name, because that is what they are used too. We are looking for someone who use to work at the paper mill, but not anymore. They were used to charge their meals and to pay on Tuesday when they got paid. Don’t you see?” I stared them both down.
Finally, I saw 69’s eyes brighten a touch. Or maybe it was just the frown went away, and the eyebrows became pretty again. “So, we find someone who was fired or quit recently and we find our guy? You really think it is that easy?”
“Sure, or gal by the way. I bet they are now broke by Tuesday, have a large bill they can’t pay, and see blackmail as the viable option.”
“Bill, your nuts. Someone isn’t going to blackmail anyone over a hamburger bill.” she said, and Selina agreed.
I had her; I knew it. “Tell ya what. If I’m right, we spend the weekend skiing.”
“But you don’t know how to ski,” Marsha said with a slight questioning look.
“Exactly!” I grinned with my biggest smile. It finally dawned on her, and she hit me.
“And if I win?”
I had to think; it was pretty much a one-sided deal. “If you win I won’t interrogate Clara for a whole month.” I turned on my best smile. I knew she’d take it, she already said she loved me.
“Deal.” She held out her hand, and we shook on it.
“Selina, call us when you crunched all the data. Come Agent 69, I know a good Taco stand around the corner, I’m hungry.”
As we had a dozen or so tacos, she got personal. “Bill, please, a straight answer just once?”
“Humm, I don’t know if I can promise that. Not my style.” She knew I meant it.
“I can try.”
“Clara, what is she to you, really?” I saw; she really was jealous.
“Humm, honest answer?”
“Please, once, for me.”
“She visits me when I have a need is all,” I told her.
“Look, you want the whole truth, like we’re in court?” I asked her.
“Okay. Agent 67. Chief had her go undercover as a prostitute to bust the ring at the local college. Well, she got to like it. She was pulling down $3000 a week. Long story short, she goofed after the case was over, and a mark got her pregnant. She begged me to help, so I took the fall, well, the blame. Clara was one of the young ladies we busted, but had been good friends with 67. On a plea from 67, I helped get her off without charges. She, um, felt she owed me, so she gives me a special discount when she stops by. Happy?”
I really couldn’t tell what she was thinking. Clara really had become a friend who occasionally needed someone to talk to, someone that wasn’t involved in her business and that she trusted.
“And Agent 68?” Marsha asked finally.
“You met her once before she left. She got to where she hated the boyfriend she was living with. She just wanted to be done with him. Again, I took the blame for daddy, and the boyfriend split the scene pronto. She is married to a wonderful guy now you know.”
“I heard, and Chief?”
“She wanted a divorce from Jack. All he did was sit on his fat arse and watch TV while she worked her butt off to make this agency work. I was the reason for the divorce he finally filed for her infidelity.”
“So you never, I mean, none of them?” She asked.
“You wanted the truth. Now you know. Ya, with Clara I do. She gets paid for it like any working girl.”
Women and their expressions can not always be read, well, not with a high degree of accuracy anyway. Best I could come up with was thoughtful.
As we finished our meal and Cokes Selina called. I put it on the speaker. “Bill, Marsha, I have the info compiled. Bring me a dozen of those tacos will you? No time for lunch today. Hold the tomato’s.”
“Coke?” I asked her.
“Ya, diet. Gotta watch the figure. Husband says he doesn’t need any handles to hold.” She snickered.
After delivering her lunch Selina finally said, “As I eat this, here is all the data.” She handed Marsha two sheets of paper. The first was a list of x employees of the paper mill; the second was from the private books of Mr. Tuesday. They showed rather large infusions of, um, unexplained money. It also showed three people had left with large balances owed to his hamburger chain. Then you saw it glaring at you. One debt had continued to rise after the person no longer worked at the mill. It became a substantial sum until Mr. Tuesday finally cutoff the guys credit.
Early the next day we went back to Chief and laid it all out as we saw it. She called Mr. Tuesday, and a few hours later we were laying it all out again for him.
“I never thought a few hamburgers would cause someone to try blackmail,” he said.
“Well, I tried some, and they are wonderful. I can see where someone might get hooked on them,” Agent 69 said.
“Okay Chief,” Mr. Tuesday said. “I can handle it from here. I have a few friends can clear the matter up without a lot of fuss or bother.” With that, he handed her a fat check which made her so happy she almost smiled. “I have recommended your agency to all my friends. Discreet and expeditious, we like that!” He grinned a big grin and shook hands, then left.
“Good job you two. You get ten percent each of the extra, along with Selina of course.” Humm, 30%. It must have really been a hell of a tip.
“Guess the electric stays on another month or two, huh, Chief?” I smiled; she didn’t.
“Get out, both of you. I’ll call when I get a new case.”
As we walked down the hall, I asked, “Where to now?”
“Well, I owe you a skiing trip. Lets go to your place and explore all the slopes, shall we?” She has such an evil smile at times.
When we got to my place, Clara was still there. She hid out sometimes, when she didn’t feel like working. I properly introduced them, and Marsha told her that her services were no longer needed, but she was welcome to come by and chat anytime. I told her I had explained our relationship to Marsha. She smiled and gave us both a kiss on the way out.
I spent the next couple days negotiating some of the wonderfully dangerous ski slopes and valleys. Somewhere along the way I asked her to marry me. She agreed since she lost the bet anyway.
Well, three months have slipped by as my wife informed me her test was positive. I really was going to be a daddy. Clara and she are best friends now. Mr. Tuesday is in trouble by some people who work for real government and like to poke into people’s financial affairs. Our Agency business is really booming. Chief is in heaven, seems Mr. Tuesday’s boast was valid, he had a lot of friends that needed private assistance.
His blackmailer? The clipping read,
Mr. Theodore ‘Whimpy’ Blightfoot was killed this Tuesday morning, a product of a tragic accident involving a semi-truck that was unable to stop on the Interstate that Mr. Blightfoot illegally tried to run across. Two eye witnesses, Both on lunch-break at the local TGIT Hamburger shop, reported he was trying to catch the last hamburger on earth before it ascended to hamburger heaven. Sorry, I just report the news as written.
“Agent 727, come in please. AGENT 727 DAMN YOU!”