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Chapter XIV

Frankie held up a folder of Melvin Lain and tried to believe in him. 

Melvin was a new identity, not too storied, consisting of a folder only a few documents thick. There were suggestions on make-up and accent, sketches of personal past, and vast areas left to the ingenuity of the agent. Virgin territory.

Well, Frankie thought to himself, Melvin is supposed to be wealthy so let’s go about making him look the part. He put a few tailored suits together on the bed and mixed around bow ties, cummerbunds, and cufflinks until he had something that looked so bland and dismal it had to have cost a million bucks. He’d be made the instant he put on anything that didn’t belong on him; Melvin was nouveau riche, a Detroit technocrat with ambitions of joining the jet set. He wasn’t going to “get it” yet.

He made sure the suit almost fit him but the glasses he chose were unfashionably thick and didn’t match the shape of his face. He exfoliated his hands and applied liberal amounts of moisturizer. In the mirror, he put his face through a series of exercises designed to stretch and flex muscles. From there he began to test expressions, seeing which ones gave the desired impression of a man driven by inexhaustible ambition, untempered by tact. Finally clad in a stiff suit, with hair pressed into a nearly immovable crest of pomade, mouth clenched in an affable sneer, he felt ready to engage the town.

There were places in Waco that belied his initial impression of a cultural Sahara. Agent Shield had certainly helped, passing along a few notes, a few words that when appropriately uttered rendered doors open and tables available. He had a few hours to gain access to the Thulewaite ranch, so finesse and subtlety weren’t in the cards.

What he did have was a lead on a scion of an oil family slumming it in East Waco. The tip suggested this young steer might have an invite from good ‘ole Gunther. Two-eyes had a few ideas on where to go from there.

They met at the Red Ox Tail, a small dimly lit bar behind a used car lot on the north side of Waco. There was a long mirror behind the bar that doubled the size of the establishment and gave his target something to stare at besides his gin and tonic. Frankie bought the first round of drinks, smiled at his jokes, and then suggested, when prompted, that he did know of a few young ladies available for a good time. He bided his time, waiting until the man following him into the parking lot. Frankie went to his rented brown Buick, far outside the reach of the bar’s lights, and opened the passenger door. The scion fumbled with the door handle. In that moment Frankie felt a weird surge of pity for the man. All he wanted was love and companionship, his mind was too twisted to gain it in any socially appropriate way. All Frankie needed to complete a mission -- even one he barely believed in -- were a few moments of honest-to-God human frailty.

The agent wrenched the door back open and raised the sap he’d hidden in his sleeve. The body was heavy, but he was already in the sedan. A quick scan proved he hadn’t been observed; he transferred the socialite to the back of the car and drove to the hotel.

When the socialite finally came to, he was bound with duct tape to a chair, plastic sheets spread around him. Frankie stepped into his view, brandishing a hammer. The man began blubbering, offering him money, saying he would never breathe a word of this to anyone. If Frankie asked him what the password was to his Swiss bank account, he’d offer it up gladly. But it didn’t work like that.

He would need a few whacks before Frankie believed him.


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When the light came back on, the room was empty save for a corpse and two baffled agents of Section Starfire, the premier Anarchist Spy Agency employed by the United States government.

Two trained pairs of eyes quickly scanned the room and found it devoid of anything worth mentioning besides an old battle-scarred table along one wall and a book shelf against the other and, of course, the body of the man Spaceman had just shot. For his part, Marcus Delacroix, Agent Shield, stood across the room from him, blinking in the sudden light, unable to focus. On the table by his right hand was a squat metal object about the same color and shape as a wheel of cheddar cheese. Instantly recognizing this object, Spaceman allowed himself a rare moment of panic.

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Chapter XLVIII

Spaceman found it very easy to leave the station. His coterie of friends kept growing with each attempt at intervention until a kind of critical mass arrived. Whether or not he was a prisoner, or a Section Starfire agent, or a notorious addict became immaterial. Spaceman lead, and those looking to follow did so.

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