Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flash Fiction Friday, Week 5: Secret Agent Man

The prompt this week was a take on Se7en’s what’s in the ‘box’ scene. F3’s was what’s in the ‘bag’—a gym bag actually, and involved a train ride and bringing home the wrong bag. The intro could be excluded from the 1,500 count, but I managed to bring this in under the max. I hope you enjoy

Secret Agent Man

My nightmare began this evening. It’s Friday after yet another horrific week. My sales calls were a disaster with me stumbling over my words, and the clients looking at me as if they were wondering how I had escaped from the freak show at the local circus. I don’t function well under duress, and was looking forward to my workout at the gym before heading to catch my train. My ride home was the only time I was able to find a semblance of peace.

I could barely keep my eyes open even though the car was crowded and noisy. The gentle rocking back and forth knocked me out. Thank goodness I awoke a couple of minutes before my stop. I grabbed my gym bag, pulled the stop cord, and pushed my way to the door through all the people standing in the aisle. Why don’t they add cars at rush hour so I can be comfortable? I pay a lot for my monthly ticket. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

I walked the two blocks to my flat. I usually fall asleep watching the news, so I grabbed my bag to get my sweaty workout clothes out and into the hamper. But, something was wrong. This wasn’t my bag. Mine was blue and had side pockets. This one was brown and had no pockets. Damn. I grabbed somebody else’s bag. Too bad for whoever got mine though because all I had in there were faded shorts, a torn shirt and worn out tennis shoes. I decided I would turn this one in to the station’s Lost and Found Monday morning.

Then, something occurred to me. What if there was perishable stuff in there, like someone’s leftover lunch?  Did I really want something like that here all weekend, spoiling and inviting every insect in town?  Hell no. I decided to open it and look inside. I unzipped it slowly since it was also possible something had spilled in there. That would figure. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

I couldn’t believe what was in there. There were new shorts, a t-shirt, tennis shoes, all with the price tags still on them, and an envelope with my name on it. Who in the world would pull a prank on me? All who know me are aware I have no sense of humor. I opened the envelope and took out the note. It began ‘Dear Secret Agent Man’.

I thought I had seen Jerome skulking around my train car, but now I knew for sure. He must have crept up on me and switched bags when I nodded off. That bum. Ever since he was hired to replace my partner Karl, who ran off last summer with a bimbo he met in a bar, Jerome has been a thorn in my side. My firm assigns two salesmen to each territory and the pairs share an office. Karl and I had worked together 11 years and did well; that is, until he experienced his mid-life crisis. He was 52 at the time, a year older than I, and had let a gold-digging teeny bopper convince him to quit his job, empty his bank accounts, and run off to Aruba to live on the beach. Even though I knew in my gut he would end up as shark bait in a week or so, I wished him well and looked forward to breaking in a new partner. Jerome started a couple of weeks later, and that’s when my life became a living Hell.

It was against policy for me to see Jerome’s application, but Angela in HR fancies me so she handed me his file. Judging by school graduation dates, he was mid-30s, and his employment history was sketchy at best. I wondered who’s nephew he was since my firm only hired individuals with exemplary records. Angela told me Jerome wasn’t related to anybody, but he was a smooth talker and Bob Davis, our Director, decided to give him a chance. Jerome was a mope, with a beer gut the size of New Mexico and the personality of a toad. However, my boss saw potential and felt matching him up with someone as experienced as I would benefit him greatly. If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.

Jerome began my torment on his second day. He downloaded the song Secret Agent Man onto his phone, and played it every time I walked into our office. When I asked him about it, he said I reminded him of a spy with my dark suits and edgy manner. I told him thanks, but since I was not a spy, and was only edgy because of him, would he please stop. No, he said. Once he fixated on a person’s features, he always found a song that fit them like a glove, and Secret Agent Man was mine. I’d get used to it, he said. Years from now, it would bring a smile to my lips, he said. I went home that day, got down on my knees, and prayed he’d get run over by a bus.

Getting back to the note, it read as follows: ‘If you want to see your bag and clothes again, drive to the gas station at 11th and 45th and fill up for the long drive ahead. Inside the phone booth at the north end of the lot, taped behind the phone, are further instructions. Your bag, clothes and a big surprise await. Bring this bag with you to trade.’ It was signed ‘J’.

I was beyond pissed. It wasn’t only this lame attempt at a joke at my expense, but I despised having to use my car. I only keep it for emergencies and use the train to get around since parking spaces anywhere in this city are obscenely expensive. I decided to play along though, and make sure that at the end of my ‘mission’, I had a big surprise for Jerome too. I got to the gas station in about half an hour and while my tank was filling, I checked the phone booth and found the note. It read: ‘Take I-485 to Exit 107 and turn right. All night diner two miles down. Behind paper towel holder in the Men’s are your final instructions’, and again, signed ‘J’. Bastard. How cloak and dagger. Don’t worry, you worm, I’m on my way.

The diner was a dump, but I ordered a java to go, went into the john and found the note. This time I was directed to get back on I-485 and go to Exit 7. Go left for 15 miles and watch for the entrance to Lake Dover Cabins. Stay to the right, and follow the road around the lake to Number 19. Knock three times, pause, and knock twice more. I’ve heard about that place. All the cabins have a private dock, and sit on very large lots. The ads guarantee complete privacy. Perfect.

It was close to midnight when I found Number 19. I took my surprise out of the bag, held it by my side, and knocked three times. I counted to ten, and delivered my last two knocks. I took a deep breath and stepped back. The door opened, and there was Jerome, smiling big. He was wearing jogging pants and a sweatshirt. What a laugh. With that gut of his, obviously the only jogging he’d ever done was to the refrigerator for a snack. When he started to say something, I raised the carving knife I had brought and stuck it in his belly all the way to the handle. The look on his face was priceless. I wished I had brought my camera. I pulled the knife out and he staggered back into the cabin.

“Surprise, Jerome,” I said. “I’m done with you, your songs and this stupid game.”

I drew the knife slowly across his throat and he dropped like a stone. That was when the lights came on in the cabin and I saw Bob Davis, Angela, three sales secretaries, and four of my fellow salesmen. They got as far as ‘congratu…’ and froze. I looked up and saw the banners. One had on it ‘Well Done, Secret Agent Man’ and the other had ‘Congratulations On Your Promotion to Regional Sales Manager’.

I looked down at Jerome, who had stopped gurgling and now lay still, eyes open and vacant. I finally get the recognition I’ve earned, and for what? Jerome ruined my life with this stunt. Like I’ve already told you, if it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have any at all. Everything bad always happens to me.


  1. Great ending. Jerome played one prank too many!

    1. Some people can't stand being pranked, and when they ask you to stop, it's usually a good idea to move on and prank someone else. Obviously, pulling pranks can end up being hazardous to your health!

  2. Too bad for Jerome but he does sound very annoying. But at least he worked hard at it, and designed a good puzzle.

    1. Apparently, Jerome believed if you're going to do something, give it all you've got; although, pulling pranks is probably not a practice you should give 200% to. He did craft an epic one however. Too bad, it was his last!