Whisky sat in the van halfway down the block and across the street from Channel 8 studios. He had followed Walter, undetected, into the large building and tracked his every step. He saw him being introduced to different figures within the network by Brian Smithwaite, he saw him enter the conference room and eventually saw him pushed onto the stage by a young stagehand. All the while he had kept out of sight, following the orders of Boss Citadel. Or so he thought.
“You don’t need to be here, Mr Whisker. And if you are going to tail someone, try be a little more subtle.” It was a mocking, sarcastic voice and it almost made Whisky jump. He turned and saw Brian Smithwaite with a slimy grin on his face.
“It’s Whisky, and Boss told me to trail the mark so that’s what I am doing.”
“Ooh, have a nickname now do you? But Whisker was so cute. Just like a fluffy little kitten.” He pinched Whisky’s cheek as he said it. Whisky didn’t flinch. “So they teach you how to be a robot at the academy but not how to track a mark without being sighted.” Whisky’s jaw tightened for a split second. Brian gave victorious smirk. “Listen, I run the show down here at Channel 8. This is my home court and I have everything quite under control. I don’t need some lumbering security guard raising any suspicions. What you can do is go back out and wait in the car with Mr Chips and call the Boss and tell him that Walter hasn’t signed the contract...yet.”
“That was your job,” Whisky replied matter-of-factly, “shouldn’t you make the call?”
“Do I look like I have time? I am running this operation here. Do you know how many strings I am pulling to keep this show going? And now you come in here playing spy and I am forced to untangle you before you ruin it all. Now follow your orders like you were trained to do and go back outside and call Boss and tell him the contract is yet to be signed.” The two men stared at each other a moment before Whisky turned and headed back to the side entrance he had found when he originally entered the building.
“What’s the situation?” Chips asked as Whisky hopped back in the van.
“Brian Smithwaite’s in there.” Chips’ jaw tightened. “Told me to contact Boss and report that no contract has been signed yet.” Whisky sat staring forward blankly. He knew he should complete his duty immediately but he felt a nagging sensation from the memory of what he just experienced. It was a strange and rare emotion, but he knew that he didn’t like or trust Brian Smithwaite. The feeling didn’t last much longer and he reached for his phone and called Boss.
“WHAT DO YOU MEAN ‘HE DIDN’T SIGN? WHO THE FUCK IS THIS GUY? FUCK.”
“Shall we continue to track the mark once he leaves Channel 8?”
“What? Where are you? And where the fuck is Smithwaite? Put him on.” Whisky explained the situation in brief. “Oh that slimy fuck! Gets you to call so he doesn’t have to take the wrath of fucking his up his only fucking job! FU-” Boss had apparently hung up the phone. Whisky paused and then called Mark Tanenworth.
“Oh geez, that’s a tough one, buddy. That Smithwaite...he’s a slimy piece of you know what. I thought for sure Smitty’d get that contract signed.” He groaned a little, “Geez I would hate to be the one to tell this news to Boss. OK you guys hang tight.”
Whisky knew Mark would only reach Boss’s dial tone as Boss was surely sending a hundred ineffective expletives at Brian Smithwaite. Mark would then think to try again 20 minutes later, invariably forget until much later and then hope that no one reprimanded him for his incompetence.
“So we are to wait for the mark to head home?” Chips asked with the familiar monotone.
“There were no direct orders but it appears so.” The two stared straight ahead, enough peripheral focussed on the entrance of the Channel 8 building. There was also a TV store adjacent to them which had Walter’s interview playing in the window. It would be unlikely that it would end any time soon. Normally he would sit untroubled in this fashion until the next point of duty arose; however, his mind seemed determined to drift back to the conversation with Brian Smithwaite. Was it the fact that he had been caught off guard in the midst of his job, or that the man had insulted him personally. It appeared as though it were the failure in his assignment but also the man by whom he had been captured. This emotion was new to Whisky. It made him restless and took his mind back to the academy.
Whisky had been 19 when he entered the armed forces. He couldn’t remember much before that and had never sought to. He rarely reminisced about the academy. It had been well over ten years since he had graduated and one of the key lessons was to forget the past. He couldn’t remember why. He couldn’t remember they had even taught him, only assuming it was the skills he now possessed. All he remembered were scattered emotions; frustration, embarrassment, pride and happiness – but they were memories as if read from a book. It was only recently with Brian Smithwaite and Walter Wallace that these emotions were becoming tangible. According to the academy if this happened then he was to contact the instructors immediately. He thought this would be unwise.
The short trip down memory lane faded from Whisky’s mind almost as quickly as it had entered. He and Chips both remained seated in the van, neither bored nor discomforted by the excessive heat. They waited patiently for the mark to reappear and deep down Whisky felt something reminiscent of excitement at the chance to meet with Walter Wallace again.
Notes To The Text