Zero Hour: Nine – CandyGram For Mongo

Troubleshooter
Zero Hour
by Andrea Speed

Nine – CandyGram For Mongo

The weakest link in the entire plan was in fact the most important player. Wasn’t that always the way?After Anton – still nervous, but professional all the way – left, she called Jody’s place to check up on her and make sure she remembered what she was supposed to do. Jody was hung over and grumpy as hell, and not all that sure about what happened last night and what this was all about. She kept calling her a “cop”, and after the third time, Z stopped correcting her. So what if she thought they were cops? As long as she did her job, who cared?

131.jpgIt was all set up for tonight. Jody would meet with her number one fan, and set up a meeting between her and her “manager”. Although they would observe from a distance, it would be out of their hands until the actual meet, meaning they had nothing to do until tonight.

Since it appeared that Romano was still sleeping, she went out and hit a couple of shops in downtown Toronto, including some of the “punk” shops that were actually sadly commercial, the slightly homogenized version of outsider culture, steam cleaned and made more acceptable for the masses. She bought a few items and brought them back to the hotel, as she decided to change her image for tonight.

For instance, you could get “punky” hair coloring in any drugstore now, temporary rinses that gave you streaks of blue or green or red for a couple of days. Little kids sometimes wore them, telling you how mainstream they were. She added ichor green streaks to her hair, but since she was too lazy to actually streak it, they were actually just clumps and patches, which she thought was fine. She also found a clip on eyebrow ring (the height of faux bohemian), and a stick on glittery “stud” that would make it look like you had a nose ring from a distance. She also bought a pair of cheap black plastic sunglasses with a small spray of rhinestones in the corners, although it was still tasteful enough that Elton John wouldn’t wear them. Yep, she’d look like a right prat, which was what she was going for. To cement the look, she slapped a temporary butterfly tattoo just beneath the hollow of her collarbone, visible through the scoop neck of her “People – It’s What’s For Dinner” t-shirt, and added a little black lipstick.

Surprisingly, Shan came to her room before they were to head out, and he did a slight double take. “And what are you supposed to be tonight?”

“An aged, desperate skank who doesn’t realize she’s about three years out of date on the party scene. How do I look?”

He considered that a moment, grimacing as if in physical pain. He really wanted to laugh, but clearly felt he shouldn’t, for fear of a major beating. “Dated, and slightly scary.”

“Beauty. Let’s go.” She grabbed the ragged denim jacket she bought at a thrift shop, and a small bag with the strange logo “Home of the tailless monkey” on it, and they headed out.

Since they had time, they stopped for dinner at a casual café, a place for the locals as opposed to the tourists. It had faux formica tables and a counter where you could sit on uncomfortable stools and shoot the shit, and a permanent miasma of overcooked meat and scalded coffee.

As if to prove he wasn‘t just a tourist, Shan ordered a big helping of poutine, a Canadian “delicacy” of gravy and cheese curds poured over French fries. It looked even more disgusting than it smelled – it had a vague resemblance to vomit on fries – and before she could ask if he was going to eat that, he dug into the big steaming bowl with gusto.

He looked up and must have seen the look on her face, because he shoved the bowl towards her. “Want a bite?”

“God no. Why are you even eating that?”

“It’s good! My roommate in college was from Ontario, and he used to make his own version of poutine from time to time, and it stunk up the dorm, but it was pretty good. This is even better.”

She shook her head and slumped against the battered red vinyl bench seat. “I’ll just take your word on it.”

He washed down a mouthful of fries with a swig from his pop, then said, “Every country has something kinda weird as a national dish. You Aussies got that vegemite stuff, right?”

She scowled at him. “Have you ever had vegemite?”

“No.”

“It’s disgusting. I’d rather eat shoe polish.”

He chewed a cheese curd thoughtfully, and it squeaked it a bit, like it was made of rubber. (Possible.) “Well, to each his own, I guess.” He paused, as if aware what a stupid thing that was to say, and pointed his gravy dripping fork at her bag. “Why you carryin’ that? I thought you usually didn’t carry a purse.”

“I don’t. But it’s carrying the camera, and a little something for Mongo.”

“Huh?”

“We need to take the floater out before I start snappin’ pictures. I can compensate for everyone else, but the floater could catch me. So he needs to be gone while all of this is happening.”

He looked suspicious, brows creasing as he took a furtive look around, as if making sure no one else was listening. “Won’t they notice he’s gone?”

“Not until they leave. He’s a floater – the nature of his job is to be inconspicuous.”

Shan shoved his poutine aside, so he could lean a bit over the table without getting his elbow in the gravy. “So what’re you … this isn’t somethin’ permanent, is it?”

Should she be offended by that? She wasn’t completely sure, so she just let it go. “No. That would alert them. He’s just gonna go to sleep and never remember what happened. They’ll probably accuse him of drinking on the job and sack him, but that’s good for him.”

“How is that good for him?”

“Better sacked than dead.”

He sat back, with a knowing nod. “Okay, I can see that.” But after a few seconds, he started to look a little pissed off. “You’re gonna do all of this yourself, I bet.”

She shrugged, wondering why she ordered a grilled cheese sandwich. Yes, it looked better than the poutine, but floor sweepings would look better than that. “It’ll be tricky to balance it all, but probably. Why?”

“Why? Because here I am, I can help, and I’m doing squat. It’s ‘cause you’re afraid I’m gonna spaz out like I did at the store, right?”

“Now, come on Shan. Don’t make this a thing.”

“It is a thing. What am I doing tonight except sitting in a rental car so we can make a quick getaway? I can’t even drive the fucking thing. I might as well be a garden gnome propped up in the passenger seat.”

This was a moment she knew she could very well regret, one that could screw the pooch on the entire operation, but it also felt like something she really needed to do, if only for Shan’s peace of mind and ego. Should she risk an international incident just to make him feel useful?

Oh hell, why not? Countries and leaders had done similar things for much worse reasons. “If I give you specific directions, do you think you can take out Mongo?”

He held up his hands in mock surrender. “Sure can, boss. I can take orders. I’ve been in several relationships.”

Well, that would have to be good enough. At least she had been on assignments with worse agents.

****

The bouncer at Spank was different than the one on the door last night, so they weren’t recognized when they went in. They were late, Romano and his boys were already parked in their front table, and Worden was nowhere in sight. A shame.

They sat at the end of the bar, nursing overpriced sodas, until Jody came out. She was already stoned – she stumbled on her walk out to the frightening strains of Ratt (these people had no conscience at all) – but she did remember what she was supposed to do. She started playing to Romano, crawling on her hands and knees towards him, throwing a spangled nipple pasty at him. He looked like he was about to explode with delight.

They got out of there, and went to meet Blunt at that target area.

There was something unsettling when an actor said he had his own beard, and was clean shaven. But he was good to his word, he was wearing a close cropped beard that didn’t even look fake close up, and he was chewing Altoids like candy to cover up any potential smell from the adhesive he used to stick it on his face. He also wore khakis and a neat, button down white Arrow shirt, with Italian loafers and a long brown leather car coat. He looked just like the type of pimp who thought of himself as a “legitimate businessman”, when in fact he was just your standard issue scumbag. He also looked like a man who didn’t want to get racially profiled by police or airport security, one who didn’t want to get considered a “terrorist” on sight.

They met in a city park, and sat on a bench, watching male prostitutes ply their trade, and teens who didn’t know where else to go drink booze and smoke various substances away from the prying eyes of parents. Someone tried to sell them pot once, and two hookers offered them blow jobs and three ways, which seemed to prove they were no good at math. Blunt actually got nervous, as this place had a “bad rep”, and she almost laughed. She was well armed, and Shan could rough up guys twice his weight; the only one who would actually be in any danger would be Blunt if he got in their way.

Finally her cell phone rang, and she confirmed it was Jody calling before handing Blunt the phone. He stuck to his script guidelines and played it hesitantly, finally telling her to meet him with her new “friend” at a bar downtown in twenty minutes.

He gave her back her phone with a slightly sickly smile. “So how did I sound?”

“Grade A delivery,” she assured him. “You’re too good for us.”

He smiled, accepting the ego stroking like most actors did, with an avariciousness that verged on obscene.

She faked a phone call to some guy named Chuck (she never actually hit the “send” button on the phone), and as far as Blunt knew, the bar was in on the gag, and one of the service staff was actually a plant.

Poor guy. She almost felt bad for him. It was just so easy to bullshit people sometimes it was frightening.

****

The bar that Z chose for this was called Mulligan’s, which sounded like an old fashioned place, but it was actually a trendy brew pub that went to seed at some point. With her haphazard trash punk look, she actually fit in nicely, and hardly anyone gave her a second glance as they took a back booth in the only actual shadow available. Unlike most dive bars, this one was well lit to the point of distraction; they shady corner was really only dark due to the fact that the neon Molson sign above them was broken.

They told Anton to wait at the bar, ignoring them like everyone else, and he was doing just that – they even went in separately, with him and Z in first, and Anton coming in a couple of minutes later. Shan wanted a beer, but didn’t dare have one right now, not with Z watching, and besides, he’d promised her he wasn’t going to fuck up the taking of Mongo. He had to prove to her he was still useful … if he indeed was. He wasn’t actually sure he was anymore. He was starting to think he should find out if Doctor Kervorkian made house calls in Canada.

He was nervous, he could actually feel something like butterflies fluttering in his stomach, and he had no idea why. Maybe it was because he was actually going to have attack someone, which didn’t set well with him. Defending himself he could see, protecting someone else, but just because he’s inconvenient? It felt a bit creepy.

That’s where he envied Z. She was positively Vulcan, her eyes always sharp and emotionless, making a thousand calculations a second. If she ever had a doubt or a worry, he could never see it; unexpected or negative developments didn’t seem to surprise her or make her panic, in fact it seemed to make her just that much more intense and focused. It was like she viewed life as a big battle, and she intended to win every single goddamn engagement. She probably was doing it too. While he admired that about her, that was also the same thing that scared the shit out of him sometimes. She probably would have been a great hockey coach. He was just glad she was a friend, because he’d never want her as an enemy.

They hadn’t been waiting long before Mongo came in, scouting the bar before taking out his cell phone and giving the others the high sign. The Wolf (why didn’t he get a cool nickname like that? Was there a place where you could apply to get one?) and his two other bodyguards came in, with Jody stumbling in with them. She had exchanged her see through panties and spangled pasties for a short red dress that clung to her every curve and stopped mid-way between her knee and thigh, revealing slender legs with the occasional scab and bruise on them. The fabric was tight and thin enough that it was easy to see she wasn’t wearing a bra at all.

Anton got up and greeted her, and while clearly intoxicated, she still pretended she knew him. As instructed, he guided them towards a front table that was extremely well lit, and they all sat down and ordered some drinks. With everyone seated and everything looking fine and dandy, Mongo cut for the men’s room.

“You’re on,” Z whispered, pulling the camera out of her bag. She’d already given him what he needed for Mongo.

This assignment felt like the equivalent of a mercy fuck, but since he’d asked for it, he knew he had no one but himself to blame. He nodded, ignoring the nervous burn in his stomach, and went to the men’s room.

It was a place of white tile and blue geometric patterns, well lit but not so bright as to irritate the drunks. He was hoping that Mongo wasn’t taking a crap, and thank god he wasn’t – he was at the urinal taking a piss, which was ideal for his purposes.

He went up to the urinal next to him, and after a friendly but noncommittal nod, the kind you gave a guy at a urinal if you ever bothered to acknowledge him at all, he unzipped his fly as Mongo diverted his attention back to pissing. Mongo was a thick guy, wide across the shoulders and back, with a stumpy weightlifter’s neck on which a head as hairless and slightly wrinkled as an ugli fruit balanced somewhat uncomfortably. He wasn’t slender, but he wasn’t really fat either; he had a paunch, but it was that hard fat, the kind that some big guys acquired when they spent their time beating the shit out of guys in alleys as opposed to getting their muscles by working out in gyms. Shan figured he might be able to take him, but it would be a hell of a long and trying fight. He waited until Mongo finished up – it seemed like the polite thing to do – and was shaking off the drops before he considered his next move.

Z had set it up for him. She had told him what to do to the letter, even if something went wrong, but it just seemed so … cold. But she could be at times – what the hell was he thinking?! She was colder than cold; she almost had no temperature at all. So that’s what he had to do – be like Z.

So he was like Z.

He grabbed the back of Mongo’s head and slammed him forehead first into the wall above the urinal, hard enough for it to make a dull thud. The big guy reeled back, and Shan turned into him, ramming his knee into his solar plexus. For good measure he gave him a backwards shove, sending him falling back into an open stall, where he fortuitously sat down hard on the toilet. “I’m really sorry about this,” he admitted, as he pulled the needle out of his pocket. He’d tested it out in the bar, to make sure there was no air bubbles in it.

He knew veins and arteries, how and where to stick needles, thanks to his endless months in the hospital, where sometimes all he had to do was watch the nurses insert i.v.’s and stick him for various reasons.

Mongo was recovering, so Shan quickly grabbed his head, exposed his neck, and jammed the needle in, depressing the plunger. He couldn’t remember if the drug in the needle was GHB or rohypnol or some kind of equivalent, but it would put him out, and better yet, make him forget what the hell happened to him.

He recovered enough to slap the needle out of his hand, and tried to stand up, but he’d injected the drug into a main artery for maximum effect. “Fuck,” he said, trying to stand up and failing. “Wha’ the fuck – “

“Just keep in mind you’re stopping an international incident – or causing one. I’m really not too sure which.” He shrugged as Mongo slumped back on the toilet, eyes unfocusing as the drugs really kicked in.

Shan closed the stall door, in case someone came into the men’s room, and locked it, just in case. He then found Mongo’s wallet, and took the cash and a credit card, like Z told him: “Make it look like a robbery.” He only had forty seven bucks in cash, which he still felt bad pocketing, and he took his Visa and his cell phone (both of which were getting dumped in the first public trash can he found). His name was Jorge Pinero, it seemed. He preferred Mongo – it was more colorful.

He retrieved the needle from the floor, and then, to make it look slightly less suspicious from beneath the stall door, he yanked Mongo’s pants all the way down. The guys’ dick was hanging out – and it wasn’t really impressive – but there was no way in hell he was tucking it back in for him. “Sorry, but you’re gonna have to live with the indignity,” he told him, as drool started to drip from the corner of his mouth. Maybe Z had lied to him; maybe the needle was full of thorazine.

Now it was time for his own indignity. He slid under the gap to the neighboring stall and got out that way, as he couldn’t figure out how he was supposed to get out and lock the stall door behind him.

Well, he did it. If only he could stop his seizures so easily.

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