When Duty Calls
My heater was in pieces on the dining room table. I’d cleaned and oiled all its moving parts. I was lubricating myself with 14-year-old Oban single malt with just the suggestion of a drop of water in the Scotch glass. I was listening to Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and thinking about my sweet moll Ann Fatale. You could say I was busy.
I needed a break from doing something next to very little. I stepped outside onto the front porch to listen to the woodpeckers and watch the jays and chickadees compete for sunflower seeds at the birdfeeder. The sky was the same diffused blue as the shadows on the snow. I lit a cigarette. The smoke was almost invisible. I thought about the ghosts that haunt me.
The landline sounded in the kitchen. Cursing, I let myself back inside. Some ‘Microsoft’ con from India wanting me to turn on Ann’s computing device, I supposed. To my chagrin I was patched into a conference call with the Edmonton Police Service, the Mounties and the spooks in Ottawa. Because of my years with Joint Task Force 2, there’s a tacit agreement with certain authorities that my existence has been expunged from any and all records, a winking agreement that I’m no longer in the game. This contact breached protocol.
The name is Danger, Geoff Danger. My gratis advice to you is to live your life with as much honesty and dignity as you can muster. Worry about your mortgage and take advantage of the low rates, stay out of trouble; it’s best you don’t know that men like me exist. I can be your rusty knight errant or your worst nightmare.
Ann Fatale returned from her yoga class just as I hung up the phone. Her group had learned the lateral barking squirrel position; whatever that was. I knew her new knowledge would pay out to my benefit ‘round midnight. ‘Anything happen while I was gone, baby?’ she breathed huskily.
I came clean. ‘There’s a terrorist threat hovering over West Edmonton Mall, some third-rate little outfit that murders women and children broadcasting on that digital grid from some dirtbag African country. Who cares?’
‘Maybe that’s part of the problem,’ she sighed suggestively.
‘Nobody cares about those impoverished nations.’
‘They’re a lot like you – they get angry and they want to kick back.’
‘Hmm. Well, baby, I couldn’t face hanging around a glitzy shopping mall. The security itself is easy, nothing to sweat for a man like me. Let the uniforms do it.’
‘But, oh, Geoff, there’s a sale on. I need a new gown.’
‘One with a plunging neckline and slits up the thigh?’
‘Something like that.’
I grunted. ‘I told them I wouldn’t take the gig. Not for any price – WEM doesn’t have a good record store. But, for you, my darling, I’ll do it in exchange for your carte blanche in the shops.’
Ann Fatale looked happy. I like making Ann Fatale Happy. I like it when Ann Fatale is happy. ‘I’ll call the boys back,’ I muttered. ‘In the meantime, would you mind reassembling my gat? There’s a couple of clips of soft-nosed slugs in the buffet with the good silver.’ I picked up my glass of whisky and toasted my baby. ‘Here’s to you looking glamourous, kid. And here’s hoping I won’t have to squeeze that trigger.’