it get any more annoying?
The street musician
was bad enough, playing heavily accented Frank Sinatra covers
in front of the crowded sidewalk café at the entrance of
Sparks’ hotel on the Rue de Rivoli where Sparks was nursing
his second beer.
in ze naht
in ze naht.
woor ze szhanze
But then who should
show up trying to hog the spotlight (and the tips, such as
they were)? A flippin’ MIME, who, in full face paint and
mime regalia, was performing his “act” of aping and mimicking
helpless passersby as they walked past the cafe.
his beer in self-defense and signaled the passing waiter
for a refill. Cripes, she better show pretty soon, Sparks
thought. I sure as hell can’t take much more of this.
His anxiety was
suddenly eased as both the waiter and a rail thin brunette
arrived at his table simultaneously. The waiter placed Sparks’ beer
and a glass of vin ordinaire on the table as the
brunette pulled up a chair next to Sparks.
Henri,” she said, slipping the waiter a wad of bills. Henri
nodded, giving Sparks the stink-eye as he left the table.
“Well, Marie,” Sparks
said. “Glad you could join me. I was getting pretty tired
of the ‘Not-Ready-For-Mime-Time-Player’ here. Not to mention François
Sinatra, Jr. over there. Jesus, what is he butchering
now? Is that Summer Wind or I’ve Got you Under
My Skin? I swear they’re all staring to sound the same…”
“Cork it, Sparks,” Marie
said. “We’ve got problems.”
She reached down
into her messenger bag, pulled out a sealed binder and handed
it to Sparks.
“Quick, get that
into your case and lock it. Now!”
Never one to argue
with a beautiful woman, Sparks complied quickly, pulling
his Halliburton briefcase from under the table. He dialed
the combination, popped it open and put in the binder.
said before he could close the case. “You better take this,
too.” She handed him a SIG Sauer P226 pistol.
hold on a sec,” Sparks said. “I’m just a Diplomatic Courier.
Whatever sensitive documents you alphabet agency folks want
me to haul is fine. That’s my job description. But I’m not
authorized to, nor do I care to, pack heat. I’m not a spook.”
“Well, I’m changing
your job description as of now. You have immunity and protection
under international law, and everything in that case is off
limits to legitimate governments and their agencies. And
once we get you to de Gaulle and on your flight back to DC
everything should be cool. But first you’ve got to get to
“No sweat, I’ve
got plenty of time. My flight doesn’t leave till ten tonight.
Hey, we could have dinner before I…”
“Sparks! No! Listen,” an
exasperated Marie said. “We’re not dealing with a routine
pickup anymore. Seconds after he handed that binder off to
me, Savier was grabbed and tossed into the back of a car.
Two big slabs of beef started chasing me. I led them around
the city for a while until I was pretty sure I lost them.
That’s why I’m late.”
“Wait a minute,” a
baffled Sparks said. “Savier was abducted, and you were followed?
What the hell am I transporting anyway?”
“Need to know,
Sparks. You’re just the courier. Whatever’s in that case
is no business of yours.”
“There is if there’s
a frickin’ handgun involved!”
Marie took a sip
of her wine and nodded. “Okay,” she said. “We just turned
“Right, but not
just any nihilist. Time Magazine’s ‘Nihilist of
the Year’ for 1986. He’s the main player behind all the riots,
demonstrations and department store bombings that have been
going on around here for the past year.”
Sparks blew out
a soft whistle. “Wow. So how’d you pull that off?”
“He wants to retire.
Because of this magazine bullshit, he’s a damned celebrity
now. He’s digging the high life and doesn’t want to give
it up. So, in exchange for immunity and a few million bucks
to allow him to lead the lifestyle he’s grown accustomed
to, he coughed up a dossier on all his operatives in Europe.
Including his successor, Petro Dragovich.”
“The former Number
Six man in the KGB?”
“One and the same,” Marie
said. She took another drink of wine. “And he’s a ruthless
bastard. He’ll do anything to keep his network from being
identified. He’s also got his sights on the Nihilist award
for ‘87. That’s why you’ve got to get to the embassy, pronto.
That binder needs to get to Lang…Oh crap! How long has he been
“That mime. How
“Well, too long,
if you ask me…”
“Okay, okay,” Sparks
said. Cripes everybody in this town was so uptight. “He showed
up about five minutes before you did. Seems like five hours,
though. Hey, don’t tell me that’s…”
snapped. “Okay, quick grab your case and get up to your room.
I’ll try to lead him away. I’ll send someone to pick you
up as soon as I can. Whatever you do, don’t let that mime
in! Now go!”
his beer, grabbed his case and headed towards his hotel lobby.
He glanced over his shoulder to see Marie moving down the
street, the Mime starting to follow. He bolted up the stairs
to his second floor room, let himself in and locked the door
behind himself. He turned around to see the Mime coming in
through his unlocked balcony door.
yelped. “How the hell did you get in here?”
The Mime silently
went into a pantomimed climbing routine. Talk about staying
in character. Sparks calmly unlocked his briefcase and pulled
out Marie’s pistol.
“Well, you can
just climb back out, Marcel,” Sparks said. “Go on, scram.”
The Mime went
into some frantic gestures, trying to convey some kind of
message, which was lost on Sparks, never having been a big
fan of the genre.
“Look, Pal,” Sparks
said. “I’m not going to tell you again…”
The hand routine
was enough to distract Sparks. The Mime quickly wind-milled
a right-legged crescent kick at Sparks’ wrist, sending the
gun flying across the room. He followed with a left-footed
half-moon kick to the back of Sparks’ right knee, toppling
him like a Doug Fir. He sprung onto Sparks, slipping his
right arm under his chin and into his windpipe, enwrapping
him in a sleeper hold.
Having had some
basic Tae Kwon Do classes, Sparks knew what was in store.
The Mime would squeeze off his air supply until he passed
out. Then who knows what he would do to him. Dump him in
the Seine. Transport him to some gulag. Or worse, torture
him to madness with his routine!
up onto the coffee table next to them. He grabbed the half-empty
bottle of last night’s wine and cracked it into the side
of the Mime’s noggin. The Mime’s grasp loosened, but not
completely. Sparks hit him again but with less force. He
was losing it, weak from decreasing oxygen. He’d be out in
Sparks made one
final attempt. He reached back on the table and grabbed the
corkscrew. With his remaining strength, he plunged it into
the Mime’s thigh. The Mime immediately released his hold
and rolled over, trying to unscrew the corkscrew with one
hand while making crying mime-gestures with his other, but
never making a peep.
Man, that is some
serious dedication to your craft, Sparks thought. Or a severe
But now the Mime
was distracted. Sparks snapped a kick of his own up under
the Mime’s chin. Teeth clattered, and the Mime collapsed
on the floor, unconscious.
himself to his feet, gasping for breath. Shit that was close.
Time to get out of Dodge. He turned around looking for his
briefcase, only to face the new uninvited guest in his room.
Doesn’t anybody knock anymore?
done,” the Street Musician said. In all the excitement, Sparks
hadn’t noticed that the awful caterwauling had stopped. “Marie
said if you didn’t shoot him, I was going to have to take
him out, but you handled yourself nicely.”
“So, you’re the
one that she sent to get me out of here?” Sparks said.
“Ha-ha,” the Musician
chuckled. “Well, I am, but not in the manner you were expecting.”
The Musician raised
a Russian SP3 pistol, a silent assassination gun favored
“You are going
on a trip,” the Musician said. “But I’m afraid it’s not the
destination you had in mind. More of a spiritual journey.”
him! You’re Panko Darkowitz. The KGB nihil…”
“That’s Dragovich!” the
Musician snapped. “Petro Dragovich! And if you were going
to be around for much longer, you would NEVER forget my name
again. I’m going to be the most famous nihilist ever!”
“Well you sure
aren’t gonna be famous for your singing,” Sparks said. “So,
it seems Marie’s a double agent. But, who’s the Mime?”
“That’s the amusing
part,” Dragovich chuckled. “He was the operative sent to
get you out of here. And you’ve incapacitated him. Now, move
back into the bathroom.”
“Well, I’d hardly
call a sink and a bidet a bathroom.”
said raising his gun toward Sparks’ head, advancing forward.
slowly backing up, looking for a last gasp opening for a
crescent kick or leg sweep as Dragovich moved towards him.
When Sparks was in the bathroom’s doorway, Dragovich aimed
the gun at his Sparks’ crotch.
“So, you have
a problem with my singing?” Dragovich asked.
if you take requests.”
“But of course.”
“Go play in Amsterdam.”
“Well, Mr. Critic,” Dragovich
snarled. “Just for that comment, the first two are going
to be very painful…”
froze, as if he had suffered a massive stroke. He tried to
speak but nothing but a gargling hiss came from his mouth.
He stood motionless for a four-count, then toppled face first
into the floor, his head inches from Sparks’ feet. A corkscrew
stuck out of his neck just below the base of the skull, ala
Trotsky. How apropos. Sparks looked up to see the Mime standing
on shaky getaway sticks.
“Well,” the Mime
gasped. “I guess that ends his engagement in this town. No
encore for him. Time to bring the curtain dow…”
“Oh, now you can
talk!” Sparks said. “Why didn’t you say something when you
first came in?”
“What, and blow