“Come With Me”

  • by Kent“Is this an ocean menagerie?”
  • something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to
  • shot him in the mouth
  • a converted fireman
  • young ladies usually are

Tune in next time part 140                             Click Here for Earlier Installments

“Come with me,” I said to Freya. She flung herself onto her ersatz Claus and shook her head, a perfect, petulant tantrum. It might have been adorable when she was two, and apparently the white-bearded man laying underneath her had much laxer standards.

I wrote her off. She knew she’d have mother to answer to later, and apparently she didn’t care. I had to move quickly, as the tattoo admonished. Quicken my steps, as mother had scolded.

The message inked on my chest was not meant to be taken literally. I knew, for example, that the glistening treetops it referred to were branching bioluminescent coral formations on view at the Contrarian National Aquarium. Handy that it was three blocks away.

Admission was free. I headed down three levels to the proper tank, and stood gazing at glowing, gently swaying fronds, like a deep-sea rave where someone subbed horse tranquilizer for ecstasy.

“Is this an ocean menagerie?” asked the red-haired lady beside me. It sure sounded like a coded phrase, but I had no countersign that went with it. She must be meeting up with a different operative. I nodded, because the correct answer to her question was, “Yes.” This exchange was something that, in hindsight, looks strikingly similar to acknowledgement of a coded signal. She set down her shopping bag beside my feet and wandered off.

Whoever was running their game, I would like to have shot him in the mouth with a squirt gun full of bleach. I stepped away from the bag so its intended recipient wouldn’t feel the need to do anything drastic when he showed up.

Half an hour later, I was still alone at the viewing window, with only the abandoned shopping bag for companionship. Maybe I misread the situation? Maybe the red-head was the headmistress? Worth a glance in the bag to figure it out, right?

The bag contained a jigsaw puzzle, or at least I hoped it was just one puzzle’s worth of pieces. Of course, the moment I picked it up was when more people entered the exhibit, so I couldn’t just leave it.

But something else distracted the arriving throng. I turned back to the glass and saw a diver in the dark water, using a converted fireman‘s breathing apparatus in place of real SCUBA gear. Apart from the breather, the diver wore only a bikini, and she wore it well. I noticed an odd pattern to the way she released her bubbles, but my view was quickly blocked by a few dozen high-school boys pressing their noses to the glass. When they swim in skimpy costumes, young ladies usually are an irresistible lure for teenage boys.

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