“Grandmother is impatient,” Ping Wing Tong said.
“You don’t know my grandmother,” Zvongtis sighed. The previous year she’d twisted his ear painfully as punishment when he’d forgotten, the shame of which he’d taken out on an escort girl in a Warsaw nightclub who subsequently required plastic surgery and a payoff.
The cat curled up on the sofa was recording and transmitting the whole conversation, though it didn’t make much sense and she was bothered by a hairball. Hak, Hak, she coughed suddenly.
“What’s wrong with the pussy?” asked Box suspiciously.
Hak, went the cat, and swallowed the microphone by mistake.
“Stations!” snapped a detective in a white van pan parked up the road, “We’ve lost contact.”
When Zvongtis and Box stomped out three minutes later they were bothered by a couple of flies. “Shoo!” exclaimed Zvongtis, who swatted at them but missed, which was fortunate because nano technology was expensive.
“Bzzz, bzzz bzzz. Bzzzzzz,” one of the flies reported in.
“What did he say?” asked Headquarters, turning to the surveillance tech guy.
“No idea. There seems to be a bug,” grimaced the hapless man, shrugging and taking off his headphones.
“Is it a bug, or a fly?” asked Headquarters. “What did I pay for?”
“Definitely a buzz,” offered someone else helpfully.
“Could be a bee,” said a third person.
The two criminals walked down the road past the white van and sat at a table outside a terrace café. They were joined by a swarthy Middle Eastern man, Abdul El Harabi, the businessman and arms dealer, and spoke in hushed tones. Box aimed a foot at the two pigeons who’d swooped down to pick at some discarded chips under a nearby table.
“They’re eating pastries and just ordered espressos and chocolate,” reported one of the detectives excitedly, looking through his binoculars.
“Fabulous,” remarked Headquarters. “What are they saying?”
“God damn it, you people are useless,” exclaimed Headquarters.
El Harabi was smiling broadly.
“How is your dear grandmother?” he asked kindly.
“I’ve just bought her a present,” said Zvongtis, “though the old crow probably won’t like it.”
A crow on a fence across the road said, “What?”
“Dear fellow,” commiserated El Harabi, “”I’ve taken the liberty of ordering you the cake. It’s wonderful. Sure to cheer you up.” He gestured toward the Maître d’.
“Cake, you say?” replied Zvongtis suspiciously.
“He’s ordering something!” reported the white van. “My God, there’s a menu!”
“The audacity!” gasped Headquarters.
When Zvongtis and El Harabi stood and shook hands twenty minutes later the Maître d’ approached them, smiling broadly.
“Compliments of the management,” he announced, handing over a cake box. “For such a valued patron and connoisseur of fine pastry…” He paused. “The Chef insisted.”
Zvongtis Dunt bowed slightly in acknowledgment. “Nice,” he said, and whistled contentedly as he and Box strolled away. They were followed surreptitiously by an agent from the van, and the van followed El Harabi, but it was the café’s French waiter who they failed to notice.
“Meeester Dunt ‘as just met El Harabi,” Jean-Plop Maude whispered to a rat in the kitchen.
The rat continued nibbling on a piece of cheese.
“I said, Meeest-”
“I heard you the first time,” said the rat. “What are you telling me for?” (…)
© andrew wheeler