Ronald Shepardson looked like a CIA agent in his conservative grey suit. This was altogether unfortunate, of course, because that was exactly what he was. For a while he stood under a tree, with a cigarette in one hand and a briefcase in the other. "Be calm," he muttered, glancing at his watch.
Just then, his contact arrived; a shaggy-haired man with a plump face, wearing a sexual joke T-shirt, bargain dark blue jeans and black nylon velcro-tightened sneakers. The man took a seat on the park bench and laid his arm along the back rest...just like the plan had said.
Ronald made his move. Sitting himself a comfortable distance from the man, he began the "password" section of the meeting. (It was necessary in these critical rendezvous to firmly establish that the contact was really a contact, and not an enemy agent. Although Hollywood would have you believe that the passwords followed a format like "My grandmother's chicken broke its wing and they replaced it with a hook" followed by the response "Thank goodness the chicken did not eat crayons", the true nature of the passwords was more unusual. [With lone characters in the park, "thank goodness the chicken did not eat crayons" was too popular a response to make it part of a top secret word exchange.] The password system Ronald used was E.I.W.C. or Extended Inane Weather Conversation.)
"Nice day," Ronald said, semi-questioningly.
"Yup," said the man who was not Ronald's contact, but a retired school bus driver named Davey Beebottom; who on this particular day was dressed exactly like Ronald's contact, Sergeant Duke Veteran.
Sergeant Duke Veteran was not going to show up because of the extraordinary events of his early morning. At eight a.m., while his phone rang, wife screamed, children cried, television roared, kettle whistled and dog barked, he made a great effort to ignore it all by consciously labelling the noise as external to his being. So powerful was his effort, that he accidentally launched himself immediately into the state Buddhist's call nirvana.
While Mr. Beebottom and Ronald talked, Sergeant Duke Veteran sat in the lotus position, miles away, smiling slightly.
"I think I heard something about rain tonight," Ronald said.
"Ah Christ, them cak-suckin' weather-men don't know what the hell they're talkin' about."
The CIA man gave a gentle laugh.
Davey Beebottom thought the CIA man's laugh was strange and decided that he must be a homosexual. (Remarkably, Ronald was a homosexual, something it took most people years to figure out. Davey, it seemed, belonged to that rare class of heterosexual men who could identify gay men better than gay men could.)
"I hope it doesn't rain before I get home. I forgot my umbrella," Ronald said, laughing again.
"I don't use an umbrella myself...nope. I'm always afraid it'll clamp down on my head like those flowers over at the Gruesome's house," Davey Beebottom said and spat.
Ronald figured his contact was embellishing the inane weather dialog to give emphasis to the fact that he was the contact. Ronald was not aware that Davey was casually alluding to "The Flintstones".
"Of course, the rain will be good for the flowers," Ronald said.
"Oh ya, yup...flowers like the rain, alright," Davey said.
"Give them some sun and they will like that too," Ronald added.
"Yup...sun or rain, it's all the same to a flower," Davey said.
"The sun sure is nice now," Ronald said.
"It sure is...that's for sure," Davey said.
Ronald Shepardson knew that this conversation would have to last another seven minutes to breech the "EIWC threshold" as the CIA psychologists called it. That is, the point beyond which an inane weather conversation breaks down between civilians. Only the men and women specially trained by the secret methods of the CIA could go beyond eight minutes.
"What do you suppose the temperature is?" Ronald asked.
"I don't fuckin' know," Davey Beebottom said, then immediately followed with, "seventy degrees?"
"That sounds about right," Ronald said.
"I'd like it a bit cooler, myself," Davey said.
"Really? I like it best when it is a bit warmer," Ronald said.
Davey gave Ronald a savage look. Where Mr. Beebottom came from, disagreeing was considered to be rude. This, of course, did not stop Davey from disagreeing with people.
Ronald thought Davey's annoyance came from his eagerness to get his hands on the briefcase, and for a moment considered handing it over to him. He decided not to, though, for procedure dictated that the password section be completed first.
Ronald reached back to brace himself for the next session of weather gab and envisioned how his movements might look to an onlooker...totally smooth, totally cool...the motion of a man in control. Unfortunately though, he had no control over the length of the bench and inadvertently put his hand beyond the bench's end. The result of this miscalculation saw him topple backward.
Davey was about to laugh, but before the CIA man hit the ground, he was somehow able to get his left hand on the bench to throw himself into a backward flip. while he turned in the air, his right hand dived into his coat for his gun, which, when his feet hit the ground, was pointed at Davey's head.
"Heh heh heh...Just kidding my friend," Ronald said, hoping his contact had not noticed his momentary loss of control.
Davey shifted uncomfortably, then realised the man was American. 'There's nothing to worry about,' he told himself, 'this is just the way Americans say hi.'
"You know, I do not think it will rain," Ronald said, returning to his seat.
"Bah! You never know. One minute you think it's gonna rain, the next minute the fuckin' sun's comin' out. It's probably not like that down in the States, is it?" Davey said.
"Look my friend, you do not know where I am form and I do not know where you are from. There may be more bugs in this park than you think; if you know what I mean," Ronald said, sweeping his gaze across the park suspiciously.
Davey tried to see what Ronald was focusing on and thought he made out an ant-hill amidst some shrubbery.
"I know exactly what you mean," Davey said, "I've had more bugs on my windshield than rain this week."
Ronald could not understand Davey's bizarre use of symbolism. His contact was obviously more advanced at symbolic conversation than he.
"The wind is coming in from the north east, wouldn't you agree?" Ronald said.
"Well I'd say that since things are blowing to the south west, that would be a pretty fuckin' good assumption."
Ronald could tell that Davey was itching to receive the briefcase, so, holding it by the sides, he placed it on the seat between them. The exchange would have to be casual, he knew.
Ronald looked at his watch, stood up, stretched, and reached his hand out toward his contact.
"Nice talking to you," he said, shaking Davey's hand.
Davey stood up.
"Yup. See ya later," he said with a smile.
The CIA man walked away. Although Davey did not know it, Ronald was going to return. The plan had said that in three minutes, Ronald would suddenly remember he had forgotten his briefcase and then come back for it.
Davey sat down and put his arm on the briefcase, caressing its pebbly plastic surface. Something did not seem right. He watched Ronald disappear over a hill and something did not seem right about that either.
A few moments passed as Davey tried to identify the discrepancy that had suddenly entered his life. As he thought, another discrepancy arrived and sat beside him. The new discrepancy was a Tolkein elf princess in human form, 'the mere sight of whom solicited images of majestic mountains, cold, clear running streams, mighty forests, a chorous of loving voices rapt in song, a beautiful all-encompassing light, and shit like that' Davey was later to write in his journal.
"What do you have in the box?" the elf woman said.
Davey was suddenly aware of the first discrepancy. He was about to admit that the briefcase was not his, and that he carried his stuff in a hen-feed sack, but it occured to him that the briefcase might turn the woman on.
"Where are you from?" the elf woman said before he could respond.
"The States," he said, pleased with his cleverness.
Davey tried to think of a city in the U.S. but he was not certain if he could.
"You wouldn't know the place," he said.
"I'm from the suburbs," Davey said, hoping he had picked a place in the United States."
"Hmmm...So what is in the case?" she said.
"In the case...well...um...It's for you," he decided.
There must be something nice inside, he figured, it was such a nice case.
"Really? You are giving me this case?" she said, astonished.
"Sure..it's...no good to me anymore," he said.
The elf woman's eyes smiled.
Davey smiled back. He hoped there were flowers and chocolates inside.
The elf woman undid a latch. She was proud to trust this odd looking fellow. Maybe she could even love him, she mused. She undid the other latch while Davey urged her on.
Expecting her to open the case, Davey was surprised to see her give the box a half turn, so that the hinge was on her side.
"Just making sure I got all the latches," she said, and slowly began lifting the cover back toward her.
Now, because of the way she was opening the briefcase, she would not be able to see inside until it was almost fully opened.
Davey did not see inside at first either. Instead, his attention was drawn to a sudden movement behind the bench. It was Ronald and he was running with lightning speed toward them.
The briefcase was almost fully opened as Ronald hurdled the bench and ripped it from their grasp. However, it was open long enough for the elf woman to get a glimpse of the rose on the far side of the case. She smiled and looked at the uncertain face of Davey.
"I'm sorry...Oh, I'm so sorry," Davey said as the CIA man sped off into the woods. (Davey, of course, had seen the other contents of the briefcase: some tropical lotions, lubricating oils and a ten inch rubber penis.)
"No, no, don't be sorry. It was sweet! I like that kind of thing," she said.
Davey's image of her was shattered. Just what kind of woman was he talking to anyway?! He stomped off.
Meanwhile, Ronald had secured a position amongst some rocks and had radioed for a helicopter. He opened the briefcase to see if all the test tubes were still there.
"Shit," he whispered. The briefcase that contained the virus was still in his hotel room. He had accidentally picked up his other briefcase. His contact was probably very upset. Sergeant Duke Veteran and the strangely beautiful Iraqi agent who was with him were probably aiming guns at him that moment.
Ronald dropped the briefcase and sprinted for the helicopter rendezvous site.
Somehow, no shots were fired.