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Monday, July 10, 2006

The Plot Thickens, As Does The Soup

The secret agents and I stagger out of the auditorium after a four hour ordeal and head towards the cafeteria of this abandoned Beijing school like zombies in search of brains. Years ago, when this was still a functioning school, there would have been a stampede of school kids rushing towards the very same building with the unbridled energy of the young searching for a sugar hit but we are tired, hungover, older men who just need to get away from being talked at, if only for a while.

My mind is brimming full of data: dates, times, places and code names, and I fear if anyone mentions another "valuable" fact my head will explode, taking anyone within a 3k radius with me. Unfortunately we have all also been given a large stack of papers that is held together by several industrial strength titanium staples, reminiscent of the kind surgeons use during bowel resections in colorectal surgery. The agents and I are supposed to commit these to memory and then destroy the manuscripts. It has also been advised that we scatter the ashes across the globe afterwards.

As I enter the cafeteria I see that some of the agents are already setting fire to their manuscripts. 'Aren't you guys getting ahead of yourselves?' I ask, 'We're only supposed to destroy our homework after we read it.'
'They'll go through the pertinent details right before the op anyway.' mutters Agent Fontina, rubbing sleep from his eyes, 'No one ever reads this shit. Man! What a weird dream. It was so vivid . There was this guy in it with a burned face and a dirty red and green sweater, a battered hat, and a glove with razor-sharp knives....'
'Hello chaps.' pipes a voice from behind.

It is a man wearing a Saville Row three piece, possibly a Gieves & Hawkes cut, who has uttered these words. He sips at a Belvedere martini and continues amiably. 'A smashing bit of briefing eh wot?'
'Yeah, a real roller coaster ride of emotions.' I reply.
'Well said. If it wasn't for the sarcasm-drenched tone.' he offers a manicured hand, 'Peregrine Maltravers of the Six.'
'The name's Heazlewood. Civilian. The imbecile next to me is Agent Oslo Fontina. CIA.'
' 'Sup?' says Fontina.
'Glad to make your acquaintance gentlemen,' purrs Maltravers, 'Any thoughts on the operation at hand?'
'I haven't really had a chance to go through the document properly,' I reply, 'but that Grimshawe seems to be like one hardcore mo-fo.'
'Indeed. It'll make for good bedtime reading at any rate. I mean- how does one catch the Alchemist? The man is an absolute legend. This is a man who has been garroting politicians with dental floss since most of us were still glints in the milkman's eyes.' Peregrine Maltravers says, voice suffused with awe.
'I hear he goes feral every once in a while,' adds Fontina, joining in on what was fast becoming a camp fire tale of the Espionage Boogeyman ,' It's true man. The Alchemist goes out and lives in the jungle and shit. Strangling cheetahs and eating monkey testicles.'

Lunch eventually gets served. The agents dig in after a brief food fight but I haven't got much of an appetite. Partly because of the notion that we have to take on this Alchemist guy who is, by all accounts, Death incarnate. And partly because of Fontina's remark about monkey testicles keeps bobbing to the surface every time I go to eat some soup. But there is the part of my brain, some part that resides somewhere between the sum knowledge I have about pirates and the part that contains accumulated Yiddish swear words, that is telling me that something is not quite right with this operation. Why have three different agencies on this thing?

'Mrrffrgghh?' he replies, mouth full of Fried Kwai Teow.
'Who's that guy over there. The one stuffling bread rolls into his jacket pocket when he thinks no one is looking.'
'That's some dude from Yawning Anus I think. Don't know much about them. Creepy fellas.'
'I've only heard bits and pieces about them as well. Some ex-Project MKULTRA guys joined them in the mid-70s and they spend time experimenting with brain-altering parasitic worms, drugging water supplies and using psychotronic broadcasts. It's all rumours so far but it's still unsettling. That makes four agencies so far. Four agencies trying to capture the Alchemist. Doesn't that seem weird to you?'
'Relax man,' says Agent Fontina, 'you think too much.'

C is for Conspiracy,


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love the story, especially the character's names: Peregrine, Grimshawe, etc.

But Heazlewood? Bit far-fetched, wot?
Even for you, Fatone.

7:22 pm  
Blogger Fatman said...

Heazlewood is definitely the weakest name of the lot. As for the rest of 'em:

Lemuel and Leopold Grimshawe are named after Tracy Grimshaw, an Australian journalist and tv presenter.

Peregrine Maltravers is obviously a James Bond-type figure. The name "Peregrine Maltravers" was given as an example by Ian Flemming as a name he wouldn't want a character to have (Flemming chose the name James Bond, after an ornithologist with an extremely dull name). Incidentally, Peregrine Maltravers is a spitting image of George Lazenby.

And all the CIA agents are named after types of cheese.

5:41 am  

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