Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Allen Bramhall

Blatant editorial intrusion.

The following is a portion of a novel that your esteemed editor wrote. It is full of snide rebuke, has no plot, and the characters (to be imagined as looking like J Crew models) aren't especially likeable. Since all this was the author's intent, we shall call the wsork experimental

* * * * *

The Mother of All Battles 

- 1 --

Alas, poor Gessa. Something terribly unattractive gripped her, perhaps ennui, if not weariness, boredom, tedium, languour, listlessness, lassitude, apathy, or maybe even—oh my God!—indifference. She sat alone at a café table, and it was so weird. Usually, Gessa exudes the essence of sunniness like all people who do likewise; today a grey cloud seemingly covered the sun, or something almost as harsh as that. Gessa could only gaze at the vibrant people ambling happily along the sidewalk, elegant shopping bags from the finest shops completing the subtle colour motifs of their terrific outfits. Oh, how she wished for a return of her normal inner drive. Somehow, she knew the world was out of kilter, had absolutely slipped a widget—one of the really important ones—yet she knew not how. She felt powerless to do anything but sit in her despondent gloom, sadly out of sync, though looking fabulous.

The weather was beautiful, no problem there. The sun dazzled as only a perfectly wonderful flaming ball of radioactive gas and what not could. The few clouds shone boldly white and interesting like the beguiling foam atop a delicious cappuccino. Just the day for enjoying an exquisitely luscious, fresh-squeezed blend of orange, grapefruit, tangerine and mango juices (topped by a succulent strawberry) such as Gessa had ordered, and savouring every word of the style section in whatever great newspaper happens to be at hand.

The beverage Gessa sipped was a drink of juice but by no means a juice drink. As we all know, and in fact take pride in knowing, a juice drink is a beverage consisting of, oh, ten percent real juice; the other ninety percent is just drink. What Fuad served was one hundred percent not ersatz, and that, QED, means it was terrif. Being served by Fuad, the utterly adorable, dark-eyed waiter with the dreamy ponytail, made the juice experience that much more special.

Gessa loved receiving steaming cups of precisely bitter espresso, beautifully befoamed cappuccinos or out-of-this-world fruit drinks from this superiour waiter. Not only could Fuad accurately remember one's order, including really complex ones, he was just amazingly sensitive, even though he obviously had all the right male chromosomes in place. Gessa had been so pleased when he had introduced himself, gallantry personified, that first visit to his wondrous coffee salon. He was just so, like, oh my God!

This day, Fuad noticed that Gessa floundered in heinous doldrums—even her, oh my God, her hair looked glum—and tried to free her from them. Sadly, not even his flashing smile restored her equilibrium. Gessa was in a bad way, hitting the southbound spiral in a major downer. Yes, she was in Gloom Town.

The cool, refreshing beverage, Fuad's canny suggestion, proved an inspired, almost sinful, delight to drink, but it too failed to relieve Gessa's distress. Something was WRONG somewhere, she just knew it. She leaned back in her chair, the wide brim of her straw sun hat protecting her fine complexion from the impertinent ravages of the summer sun, and watched the passing parade.

Suddenly, a charming salutation lifted her from her dull reverie like only the best salutations can do.
"Gessa, darling! We just knew we'd find you here."

It was Lance, smiling that fabulous smile of his. With him were Chaz, Sergei, Kimba, Bethany and Gunnar. They all smiled those fabulous smiles of theirs, in greeting.

"You were looking for me?" asked Gessa, brightening hopefully. Maybe this was what she needed.
"We definitely were," said Kimba truthfully. The fantastic Kimba did not want her friend to understand anything but the truth. That's because she considered the truth excellent.

"That's right," said Gunnar, as only he can say "That's right." He added with sudden seriousness, "We need you, Gessa."

"So what's up, guys?" gasped Gessa. "I mean, tell me, you just have to." Her electrifying zeal made her even more wonderful, difficult as that is to imagine.

"Surf's up," Sergei answered simply. A lot was implied by those deft words; Sergei was always so good at implying things. Gunnar almost amplified Sergei's statement by saying "That's right," but instead he nodded.

"There's a situation, isn't there?" pressed Gessa. Excitement began to thrill within her. "I sensed something brewing."

“Probably the coffee,” said Lance, flashing his ready wit.

"Nothing new, if you know what I mean," replied Chaz, after the gales of laughter at Lance’s incredible riposte had died down. Chaz significantly touched the side of his handsome nose, which was located between two of the bluest eyes in captivity. Gessa grimly guessed what Chaz meant. She had recently participated in a task force that faced a mighty ticklish predicament. It definitely required all available resources to handle. Without doubt, the problem had resurfaced. That was not good news at all. In fact, as news goes, it was downright bad.

"We must head to headquarters pronto," said Bethany, throwing in a Spanish word, as she occasionally does, to give savour to her conversation. Even though Bethany was as beautiful as ever—especially her currently predominantly red hair—and her fashion sense showed no diminishment from its normal perfection, her intonation suggested a world of bleak possibilities, bummer of bummers.

"We barely have time to order coffee," noted Kimba, scanning the timeless beauty of her resplendent Rolex so that she could have a rough idea what time it currently was. It was later than she thought.
"What kind of juice is that?" probed Gunnar suddenly, eying the sumptuous liquid refreshment sitting rather wistfully before Gessa. "It looks so yum."

"Try some." Gessa generously pushed the glass towards that gleaming hunk of handsomeness. Gunnar couldn't wait to discover just how mouth-wateringly wonderful the drink would prove. If it was as delicious as it looked, he would order one too, he would just have to.

"Wow, what a drink!" Gunnar felt forced to exclaim after the merest sip. He was known to exclaim only when circumstances truly deserved an exclamation, so everyone knew he was duly impressed. It was some delectable drink.

"I'll attract the waitress," said Chaz, his resonant voice inflecting in a mysterious way, "because we've really got to get a move on." Chaz never failed to attract the fair sex: that chin, those dimples, and the clutches of gorgeously long lashes attending each eye naturally drew women to him like magnets to a refrigerator, or iron filings to magnets, or even flies to shit. Women wanted to know what inner tragedies lay behind those dark eyes and great smile.

"Not waitress but waiter, Chaz," said Gessa, smiling a smile of much greater wattage than she could've managed a few minutes earlier. "Fuad's working today."

"Oh," Chaz said sinkingly. He had hoped that Fuad's fetching sister Fatima was on duty. Apparently she wasn't.

Gessa flicked her lovely hand to catch Fuad's attention. His consummate ability as a waitperson showed in the alacrity of his response. For sure, he was happy to take their orders, since he could tell that Gessa's mood had improved markedly. She had basically bloomed like some prize-winning rose that had received a hearty dose of well-composted cow manure. It was as if she'd been given a new purpose in life or something super great like that.

In no time, the entire gang had refreshing libations to drink and contemplate. No one attempted to tell Gessa the current situation since there was as yet little to go on. Things could well change at the drop of a hat. Besides, everyone felt it was best to wait till they all got safely to the security of Headquarters. Procedure indicated that this was the proper route to take.

-- 2 --

Soon enough, once they had consumed their respective delightful libations—and Sergei, typically lavish, paid the bill—they were gathered nearby in Armando's office at HQ. Armando, known by all as the Chief, looked great, better than usual. The grey streaks at his temples were like symphonic gestures of grace. Nonetheless, he showed signs of almost being nearly close to overwhelmed by stress.

"Glad the team could locate you, Gessa," said the Chief by way of greeting. The situation was tense, elsewise he'd've commented on Gessa's terrific tan.

"Tell me what's up, Armando," demanded Gessa. She spoke forcefully but remained attractive, even with her lower lip jutting like that. "It's serious, isn't it?"

"It's serious, all right," confirmed Michela, second in command. She wore an oatmeal-coloured fine wale corduroy jumper with a white tee underneath and looked cool and comfortable, as always. Being cool and comfortable bears great weight when you face the sort of responsibilities that confront Michela daily.

"That's why I've assembled the strike force that you see here gathered," said the Chief in that great official tone he adopts when the situation demands something like that.

Gessa, who in her excitement had not scanned the room, did so now. Aside from the five with whom she arrived, there were the twins Kiki and Susu, Chance, Grif, Kimiko, Brent, Sven, Liam, Chandra, Brianna, and, back together again, that inseparable duo of Rick and Mei-Mei. Quite a collection of operatives. Greetings were performed with warmth and respect.

"Gee, it's great to see all you guys," gushed Gessa. "Too bad we meet under such circumstances as we seem to be under right now."

"It really is," said Kimba. Her beguiling yet enigmatic perfume somehow added emphasis to her words, possibly so did (in subtle ways) her always excellent underwear.

"Yeah," said Sven. He bowed his head and contemplated the upcoming action, psychic pain contorting his still immensely handsome face. As he knew, participating in such grim operations as the one that seemed in the offing meant a toll must be paid.

After greetings, heartfelt to beat the band, everyone proceeded to grill each other about how things were going and comment upon recent fashion epiphanies and that sort of thing. Sven roused from his gloom, tho still keenly feeling—oh wow!—the burden of the current dilemma.

"I see we've got our work cut out for ourselves," stated Gessa without a suspicion of using uncertain terms. She honestly couldn't remember having seen so many top operatives gathered together for one mission. It's certainly possible such a task force had been assembled at one time, but Gessa couldn't think when. Gessa could be a totally happy airhead when times were light and easy and made for FUN but not when consequence hung in the air like those things that hang in the air like consequence.
"We really have," Chance realized, adjusting his ascot. He hoped he had it in him to deal with what lay ahead. This case would definitely be a tester, but that would not mean he'd let his ascot remain askew.

"This will be no picnic," the Chief asserted, as if that were not patently evident.

"That's good, I forgot to bring the picnic basket," Lance put forth. Once again, Lance had come up with an incredible witticism to alleviate tension. Everyone laughed riotously although a portent of the coming difficulties remained stubbornly present, like the smell of something none too attractive.
"Exactly who are we up against, Chief?" asked Kimba, ever able to hit the right tone of inquiry. She figured this information would be highly useful in ascertaining how to proceed.

"Is it the same ones we faced the last time?" Lance wondered. That was one tough case. The operatives who were in on that one carried the scars to prove it.

"I'm not anxious to meet that bunch again," Rick popped in, but then he switched the brim of his trademark baseball cap round to the back, which was his action-mode, so everyone understood that Rick was ready. As if anyone questioned that.

What made that previous skirmish the roughest anyone had encountered was that it was so befogged in mystery. You just never knew where you stood. It had definitely been no much-needed vacation to St. Moritz or Nice, that's for sure.

"Was it..." began Susu, but words failed her. Still, that mole above her lip—which she should just about register because it was so her, not to mention so Kiki—looked terrif, a fabulous accent.
"We had that info, didn't we, Michela?" the Chief snapped like someone who'd forgotten in the stress of things to apply cologne, not that the Chief had forgotten anything so basic to his lifestyle.
"Yes, we finally found that piece of data, Chief," answered Michela, brushing a lock of hair from her face, which is such an attractive gesture when done properly and by the right people. "I put it on your desk."

"Ah, my desk." Armando gazed at this legendary item of oak furniture as if it held some incredible truth. "Well, we haven't time to rummage through this mess. I don't suppose you read that document, did you, Mick?"

"Sorry, Chief, it was marked Top Top Secret. You can't get more secret than that."

"It's the apex of secretiveness, then. So that totally means you can't look at it?" The Chief sensibly desired to know the answer to this question so he'd have a better read on how things stood.
"Not under most circumstances," responded Michela with an air of mystery. Michela had a dark secret about her, as everyone knew. People particularly remarked on her enigmatic expressions, and her hosiery.

"It would've been nice to know what that document said," sighed the Chief. He almost glared at his beautiful desk. It wasn't his desk's fault that it was messy. Manifestly, the anxiety of the current situation was having its effect.

"Forget it, Chief," Bethany stated. "It matters not un poco who we face."

"Bethany's right," said Grif, whose chin was like some fantastic force of nature such as Old Faithful, Mount Vesuvius, or the Roman Coliseum.

"No use spilling more fresh milk," the Chief uttered. Nonetheless, his eyes betrayed an inner turmoil.
"Even though many of us couldn't, for various completely legitimate reasons, be in on that last action," Grif went on, "there's no way any of us would back down, no matter who, or what, we face." Grif's words literally rang in the air exactly in the way such words tend to ring.

"I have no doubts about that," murmured the Chief. Displaying resilience, he regained the composure that he had briefly lost. Rarely does he lose his poise but he was stressed to the max.
"Just give us the skinny," prompted Lance, with business-like aplomb. "It sounds like we haven't the luxury of wasting time."

"That's for sure," agreed Michela, who in her privileged situation had seen lots of those sensitive documents that drive the various courses of action that need to be driven. Some would describe Michela as Armando's right hand man but since she's a woman and a lefty, it's basically a piss-poor designation.

Before the Chief could speak, the phone on his desk rang, making the very air crackle with its imperative need to be attended to, just like important customers at fine emporiums everywhere. Fortunately, the phone sat atop the mess so the Chief easily grabbed the handset. He spoke right into the mouthpiece thing, a pro's pro when it comes to this sort of thing.

"Hello," said he. A serious look crossed his face, indicating that someone of major importance was on the other end of the line. Either that or some really terrific little restaurant has gone belly up again, to close its estimable doors forever until new investors could be found and reeled in. Armando gestured to excuse himself then turned away, speaking quietly. The sense of grim tension was almost, but not quite, palpable. It was about as close to being palpable as it could get without actually becoming palpable.

"I wish we could get things going," Chaz whispered to Gessa. He obviously suffered the waiting. Chaz never perspires but you could almost imagine that he was close to nearly doing so, which would prove a terrible injustice for his grey silk Armani. Gessa put her hand reassuringly on his knee. Her hands weren't all sweaty or anything so this gesture didn't muck up his pants.

Finally, Armando rang off his call. He thoughtfully studied the handset in his hand, probably appreciating its fine old world craftsmanship, then tossed it back amidst the detritus on his desk.
"If you were thinking this was the big one," he said gravely, "that proves it."

"Who was it, Armando?" quizzed Michela, assessing rightly that she asked on a need-to-know basis.
"It was that guy, really important. You know who I mean."

"The president?" prodded Chandra, sitting up straight and uncrossing those lengthy, lovely legs of hers. The president was widely known to be pretty important.

"No, the person right below him. What is he called? He's not the Under President, I'm sure of that."
"The Secretary of Something?" mused Bethany. She knew there were a lot of consequential people called secretaries of one thing or another.

"No, it's like he's almost the president, but not quite."

"Wow, yes," said Gessa, "I've heard of that. The deputy president?"

"That doesn't sound right," Michela remarked. She was pretty good with this sort of thing; she took the demands of her job seriously.

"It's not the Lieutenant President, is it?" asked Sergei. He felt it was possible that such an office existed. If it didn't, it ought to: it sounded neat.

"That rings no bell, either," Armando felt compelled to respond, much as he would've liked Sergei's suggestion to ring a bell. "But I guess it's neither here nor there. The point is, someone of utmost importance wants us to know that the action we are entering must assume the highest priority."
"Gosh," said Lance, simply unable to express himself more articulately. No prob, tho: good looking people don't need to be articulate.

"Coming from such a vaunted personage, that's really something," noted Sven. "I mean, as a situation, this one's really up there." He sure had things pegged.

Everyone looked at each other, which normally is a pleasure since they're all so good-looking. This time, however, everyone could discern that the tension in their midst had, if anything, become even closer to palpable.

"So what's our game plan?" queried Kiki finally. Her sister Susu sat forward intently, so that she too could learn the answer to this consequential question.

"We're going to split up into teams," responded Armando authoritatively. Not for nothing did they call him Chief.

"I like the sound of this already," approved Grif, rubbing the rough stubble on his chin. He could see advantages in spreading out their forces, ease of movement being foremost.

"Your initial orders are enclosed in the packets that Michela is handing out now."

"Looks like a really well-done packet," Rick reflected. He was a photographer and so had that special eye. Mei-Mei, also a possessor of a great eye, concurred.

"I guess we're pulling out all the stops," she remarked. She'd obviously hit the nail squarely on the head, exactly as that nail was meant to be hit.

"We have no choice," was Michela's simple retort. She continued handing out the packets as a pall of silence fell on the retinue.

"Thank you for the packet, Michela," Gessa murmured, when the pall of silence had wound down. Though anxious to get a look at her upcoming duties, she was not about to throw politeness to the wind. The syntax of our girl's style profile simply forbids that.

"I hope we have the necessary firepower," muttered Michela. Much as she hated even to think the thought, she had her doubts.

"No problemo," said Bethany gaily. Speaking Spanish was pas de problème for the likes of Bethany. Everyone could tell she wasn't as confident as those bold Spanish words sounded, however.

Gessa discovered that she, Lance, Grif, Brianna, Chandra and Brent would constitute one team. She recognized the Chief's canny sense of group dynamism at work: it was a good group.
"Chief, do you expect us to combine forces any time soon?" quizzed Chandra, trying to get a bead on expectations.

"It's hard to say." Armando's expression said more than his words could. Chandra nodded. The collar of her elegant beige silk blouse fluttered sympathetically. She gave the thumbs up to Brent, who looked like he needed encouragement. His brown cashmere sweater-vest looked almost morose, and his paisley bow tie drooped.

"Says here that we can expect further communications later," said Bethany. She'd quickly read the instructions and understood just about every word. It had occurred to her that further communications later may just be the key to this whole enterprise.

"That's right," said Armando, unwilling at this juncture to elucidate.

"We'll be ready for whatever happens," remarked Liam. His jute-coloured nubby piqué crew neck seemed to offer much-needed assurances of its own.

"Chief," put in Michela, in that efficient way she's so famous for, "we should synchronize our Rolexes."

"Good thinking, Michela," replied the Chief, impressed once again by the steady head his youthful and beautiful second-in-command possessed.

Everyone proceeded to make sure their respective Rolexes read the same time, or thereabouts. That way, if a fellow operative mentions the time, you'd know with complete confidence that your Rolex said the same thing. Kimba especially enjoyed this second opportunity to scan the timeless elegance of her timepiece, it was such a magnificently beautiful one.

"Well," Liam sighed, still mulling the complexities of the current situation, as well as his Rolex.
"I guess that's all," said the Chief, consulting some notes salvaged from the mess on his magnificent blonde oak desk. "Good luck."

"Good luck," Michela repeated efficiently. It was a message that could not and probably would not be stated too often.

The gang understood that there was nothing further to be gained by this meeting so without further ado—aside from a round of nourishing cups of cappuccino made as only the Chief thinks he knows how—everyone went off as their directives indicated. Each operative silently hoped that they would all meet later, under better circumstances, like the opening of a great new restaurant or art gallery or whatever.

-- 3 --

Outside, Gessa and her comrades discussed their course of action. It made sense to do this because of reasons that are all too obvious. If they aren't, there's nothing that can be said.

"We have to get ourselves to the Burlington Mall faster than fast," said our girl, explicitly reiterating those instructions that she and the rest of her team had received.

"If that's what we have to do, that's what we have to do," noted Brent philosophically. He may be young in years, but he had done a lot of living. So had his loafers with the truly fantastic tassels that no one could resist envying.

"What say we go in my car?" offered Grif. "It's of foreign make." Everyone knew what that meant.
"Can I drive?" Chandra asked. She felt that driving Grif's car, especially since it was of foreign make, might help her get her thoughts straight. Besides, she'd never driven before so this would be a terrific opportunity to learn.

"You bet, Chandra." Grif swung his unbelievable grey linen jacket over his shoulder. He adored carrying his jackets in his trademark way, like a toreador straight out of some excellent book by Hemingway or Faulkner or whichever of those guys.

"Grif, you're so generous," marveled Gessa, genuinely impressed by his unselfish nature, as well as that windblown hairstyle that's just so incredible.

"Let's get going," said Lance anxiously. He rubbed his chin, hoping the stubble there wasn't too short. Because of the stressful times of late, he inadvertently shaved yesterday.

"Great," said Brianna, who felt that her so saying put the right emphasis on the whole situation. Brent nodded, still in the throes of the philosophical mood that made his dreamy dark eyes resemble dark coals of philosophy, as if someone had burnt a book by Kierkegaard or maybe Hegel.

At the parking garage, the gang easily located Grif's terrific foreign-made vehicle because Grif had this rare, electronic kind of device that caused his car to signal where it was. This helpfully cut their search time quite a bit. Everyone knew that time was sadly at a minimum.

Soon, they were making their way to the Burlington Mall. This mall, easily the greatest, most excellent one in all of Burlington, was a veritable Cheops or the like dedicated to the pleasures of consumerism. Many other people, a huge proportion of the ever so peripatetic native population, also visited the Burlington Mall, never suspecting the huge predicament that threatened to ruin the equanimity of one and all in a most unpleasant fashion.

"Looks like I'll be able to park this heap pretty close to the entrance," Chandra remarked. She had managed the drive without hitting anything significant. It pleased her that something so wonderful could happen at such a tense time for everyone.

"We must head straight for those lock up things," said Grif, reminding everyone as best he could of their directives. "Does anyone know where those things are?"

"I do," answered Lance, overflowing with suaveness. His Suavity Quotient was simply off the charts, as always.

"Do you really, Lance?" gushed Gessa, never missing a chance to enthuse about one thing or another. "I sort of think I know where they are but I'm just not really really sure."

"Oh, I know this place like the back of my closet," Lance reported, continuing to brim with suavity. He was lucky enough to have a huge closet, and famous for knowing where every stitch of his wardrobe, at least the currently fashionable stuff, was stowed. Just his shoe tree would dazzle you.
"Sounds like you should lead the way," observed Brent, thinking how having a keen pathfinder helps efficiency immeasurably. Efficiency, he knew, was all-important.

"Follow me," said Lance coolly. In less strained circumstances, Lance might well have said something marvelously funny but he judged that now was no time for levity.

Like a breeze of fresh fashion sense, they hustled into the shining constellation of stores that was the Burlington Mall. Under Lance's expert guidance they found those banks of locker things into which you can stash your expensive purchases so that you can go collect more stuff. Without question, this was a situation he'd been in before.

"Who has the key?" Lance asked.

"I do," said Gessa, who certainly had lost none of her pizzazz on the journey to Burlington Mall. During the drive, she'd managed to make a slim, elegant braid on one side of her head, and it looked smashing, upticking her beauty to unheard of levels, even for her. The little things make all the difference, and so do the big things.

"So open the locker, girl," urged Brianna, caught by the pressing nature of things.
"I will, just as soon as I get the key out."

"You didn't put the key in your totebag, did you, love?" gasped Grif. "We really need it vitement." The squalour of Gessa's totebag was nearly as famous as that of Armando's desk, although that's not the reason Grif used a French adverb.

"No, I didn't, you beast," retorted Gessa. "I attached it to my necklace." She slipped the necklace from inside her sleeveless green satin blouse. The faces of her compatriots showed relief. It would be simply dismal if this of all operations should fail because of a messy totebag. No one should have to face that kind of irony.

"Excellent," said Grif, and he wasn't kidding. Nobody with dimples like Grif sports could possibly kid about something so consequential, although he might risk a jape in less serious matters.

"What a darling necklace!" exclaimed Chandra. She could never contain her delight in seeing wonderful necklaces. Gessa's necklace was not just a fantastic accessory, it was exquisite in its own right. Gessa did not utilize necklaces as mere accessories; that was not Gessa's genre at all. She was simply too down-to-earth to let her style sense flip flop like a fish out of, or a mouse in, water.
"Thank you, Chandra. It's one of my favourites."

"One of my favourites, too," said Lance appreciatively. He always enjoyed seeing what sort of incredible necklace might be adorning Gessa's matchless, swan-like neck.

"Here, let me get that for you," said Grif, proving that not just Lance owned a monopoly on suaveness. He carefully detached the key from Gessa's necklace without catching a single strand of her lustrous, scented mop of hair in the necklace's intricate design.

"Wow, Grif, you smell great."

"Really, Gessa?" Grif always tried to smell good but, you know, in the flush of activity, sometimes unwanted aromas will occur. They must then be brutally beaten back so as not to destroy one's all-important poise, the linchpin of a successful and enjoyable lifestyle.

"Oh yes, you smell terrif. Way better than usual." Gessa smiled mischievously and everyone just laughed and laughed at the great wit once again revealed by their darling friend.

"Thanks for nothing, babe," replied the victim of that astonishing witticism.

"Oh Grif, you know I'm kidding," returned Gessa, pushing him playfully. "You always get the best colognes."

"What about me?" asked Lance.

"You stink," snickered Gessa, to yet another gale of appreciative hilarity.

"But we're used to the smell," added Brianna with that smile of hers. Lance shrugged that patented shrug of his. Everyone was doing their best to lighten the gloom, see, of their travail.

"I better use this key toute de suite," said Grif, remembering, even in the midst of all the frivolity, still more of the French he learned in school, as well as the mission that lay before them. The others gathered around, intent on getting all the particulars. They wanted the skinny and they wanted it bad.
Without further ado, Grif put key to lock. Opening that locker thing, he discovered a packet. It seemed to glow with importance, it really did.

"Must be more info," Brent asserted with his usual confidence. Would that this info could solve the puzzle.

"Wow," said Grif, quickly scanning the document within that packet, "it looks like we go to the movies."

"A movie, eh?" said Brent, pondering the possibilities. "We'll meet a contact there, do you suppose, or might we be asked to deconstruct images of modern society as offered by Hollywood? I read a book about that sort of thing and feel I could offer some useful insights."

"It doesn't say," Grif informed him, having gleaned this information with a quick study of the document. It was almost tragic that they just didn't have much to go on.

"That's probably for security reasons or that sort of thing," Chandra decided.

"This is definitely no time to be lax about security," Brianna pointed out.

"Sure isn't, Brie," Chandra heartily agreed. "What movie will we see?"

"We're to find out at the cinema here," Grif revealed.

"It'd sure be nice if we got to see a great movie but even if it's the worst dreck Hollywood ever turned out, we are duty-bound to see it," said Brent bravely. No one could naysay those words.
"Security sure is tight," commented Gessa. "Really, it really is."

"Our foe could be anywhere," said Brianna chillingly. "I mean, it's totally possible."

"It would explain the cloak of security this operation has worn from the start," reasoned Chandra.
"Let us get us hence," said Lance, talking funny because it seemed the right approach given the current situation.

Forthwith the team sought the cinema. At the box office, a mystery woman of rare cheekbones, perky breasts, yummy bracelets, and obvious efficiency told them sotto voce the time of the movie they must see, though not which one. Brent was absolutely impressed by this mysterious woman's efficiency, cheekbones, breasts, and bracelets. Her white beret, black veil, wondrous lashes, and smoky voice sure engrossed him, too. He wanted to indulge his interest in this fascinating creature but, suddenly, she was nowhere to be seen. It was as if she were swallowed up by a veritable cloud of mystery, a cipher to ponder.

"Beautiful, wasn't she, Brent," remarked Gessa, noticing signs that the handsome guy had been smitten. Gessa lacked nothing in the beauty department so she wasn't jealous in the least.
"And I know it's no use asking about her," he sighed. There was true yearning in his eyes, the kind that artist types make great poems and searing hour-long tv dramas out of. Maybe, if Brent has the time—someday, when all this business is over—he'll write a poem about his feelings and send it to The New Yorker for them to use as column filler.

"Unfortunately," declared Grif, "for security and other reasons, certain operatives must keep the lowest of profiles."

"She had a great profile." Brent sighed, almost inconsolable, but luckily, he was made of sterner stuff, a pro all the way.

"We have other things to consider now," Chandra reminded one and all. "Somehow, we must keep busy, and useful, until the next showing."

"I guess we could just wander around here," said Brianna. "Maybe something will turn up." Suddenly, she was drawn, as if hypnotized, to a nearby shop window displaying some utterly wonderful leather goods. Gessa and Chandra were likewise compelled.

"Is that the most beautiful belt on earth or what?" asked Gessa, eying a gem amidst the exquisite array.

"Why did you have to see it, Gessa?" asked Brianna.

"You mean..."

"It was practically calling out to me."

"Oh, you can get it, Brie. I want you to." Brianna's nickname was Brie because that's one of her most favourite cheeses of all time.

"Thanks, Gessa. I'll let you borrow it sometime."

"Would you truly? That's so unselfish."

"Hey, can I borrow it sometime too, Brianna?" asked Chandra. It was a great belt, you can understand why there'd be such enthusiasm about it.

"Oh sure, but you guys have got to let me wear it sometimes."

"I guess we could once in a while," said Gessa, yet again displaying the mischief she's so renowned for, if in fact that was mischief she displayed, a question for the ages.

"Let's go get it," stated Brianna with fortitude. Her beautiful chin was set with determination as of a topflight runway model saying NO! to a fashion designer's ridiculous ideas of fashion show theatre.
"We just might find other things of interest," surmised Chandra.

"You girls do your thing," said Brent, the boys having moseyed over to see what splendours attracted the attention of their tempting teammates. "We'll scope out other places."

"Let's say we meet at the cinema five minutes before the hour," proposed Chandra.

"Right," affirmed Grif, coolly swinging his coat from his right shoulder to his left. Everyone checked their perfectly synchronized Rolexes and felt, despite the incredible odds they faced, that things were working out pretty good. But would these upbeat times last?

* * * * *

Allen Bramhall writes things like this. He also writes poetry. Visit or buy his Days Poem from Meritage Press

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