Jeez, could 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.

Strawnzoors in ze naht

Eshanshen glonzez

Strawnzoors in ze naht.

Whot 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.

Sparks chugged 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.

Merci, 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.

“Wait,” Marie said before he could close the case. “You better take this, too.” She handed him a SIG Sauer P226 pistol.

“Whoa, Marie, 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 the airport.”

“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 Emile Didot.”

“The nihilist?”

“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 here?”


“That mime. How long?”

“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…”

“Shit!” Marie 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!”

Sparks killed 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.

“Hey!” Sparks 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!

Sparks reached 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 seconds.

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 psychosis.

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.

Sparks pulled 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?

“Bravo, nicely 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 by…the KGB!

“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.”

“Wait! You’re 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.”

“Move!” Dragovich said raising his gun toward Sparks’ head, advancing forward.

Sparks started 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.

“Just wondering 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…”

Dragovich suddenly 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 my cover?”

# # #

In the Nick of Mime by Lee Hammerschmidt
originally published in the Fall 2011 print edition



Lee Hammerschmidt is a Graphic Designer, Writer, Songwriter, Troubadour who lives on the fringe of Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Gumshoe Review, 10Flash, Page Forty-Seven, Short-Story.Me, Untied Shoelaces of the Mind, several Chicken Soup For the Soul titles, and more. Check out his hit parade on YouTube!

For more of Lee's work,
visit his Big Pulp author page


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Interrogate My Heart Instead

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