Friday, December 10, 2010

A Little Christmas Interlude

I've been busy all week doing research and having meetings to prepare for my new assignment, so I don't have much to tell you. Instead, I thought I'd share something that sent me into convulsions of laughter when I saw it a couple years ago. First, a little background:

During my college years, I always looked forward to coming home for Christmas. Even though the family homestead was only a short drive away, I lived in a dorm, mainly because I was an independent sort and wanted to be on my own as soon as possible. All the same, the holidays were one time of the year when I wanted to be close to my family, so after the semester was over, I moved back into my old room for a couple of weeks.

My mom loves Christmas music, so during the time leading up to Christmas, she would keep the radio tuned to a station that played Christmas music 24/7 between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Unfortunately, the station used some sort of music service which provided only a handful of songs that cycled over and over again, many of which weren't very good. So while I was yearning to hear about a White Christmas or that Santa Claus is Coming to Town, I was instead tortured with the insipid tale of Christmas Shoes. This manipulative, moronic song with all the quasi-rock ballad bells and whistles that only a Christian rock band can shamelessly muster haunted those Christmases like the specter of chainsaw-wielding fruitcakes. Here's the video, if you can stand it:

Horrible, right? I had already forced this Christmas nightmare from my brain when I came across this video on YouTube. It features one of my favorite comedians, Patton Oswalt, giving his take on this holiday song accompanied by some really funny animation. Be warned, this is probably not office appropriate, but it is truly hilarious!

Only 14 more shopping days 'til Christmas!

Friday, December 3, 2010

November is Finally Over!

Sorry I've been mostly absent from the Twitterverse this week. I spent most of the weekend and almost all of Monday and Tuesday writing like a crazy person, trying to meet the all important goal of 50,000 words in order to win NaNoWriMo. Sometime around 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening, I passed that number of words and finished the chapter I was working on with a couple hundred words to spare. As quickly as I could, I hopped onto the NaNoWriMo Web site and uploaded my manuscript so their automated word counter could officially count the length of my novel thus far. How thrilled I was to be bumped to a new page which said, "Congratulations!" It was such a rush to feel that sense of accomplishment. I have never written a story of this length in my life, and it still isn't finished.

Of course, the fear is that I won't finish it. I've dropped projects before, but this one feels really important to me. Not only do I want the sense of accomplishment which will no doubt come from completing a novel, I want this story to be told. I may catch hell from my superiors, but I do hope to have it published some day.

Outside of the novel writing, I took some time out on Saturday to do a little fence mending with my mother's boyfriend's daughter. I was concerned that I may have misjudged Roxanne, or at least judged her too harshly, when she was at our house for Thanksgiving. Perhaps the tornado of emotions I was feeling that day clouded my faculties and my impression of her as a shallow, spoiled bitch was not altogether fair. I was feeling a bit guilty about how things had gone, so I called her on Friday to make a date for lunch and some shopping before she went back to college. To my surprise, she had not picked up on any hostility from me on Thursday and accepted my offer cheerfully, as if we had gotten along just fine the day before.

Anyway, I picked her up at Mr. Huggins house and we went to Lebanese Taverna. After having eaten Thanksgiving dinner two days in a row (thanks to an overabundance of leftovers), I wanted a meal distinctly different from the All-American Feast. Roxanne was not so enthusiastic. While I ordered an array of appetizers from meat pies to lamb tartare to calamari, Roxanne ordered a fairly ordinary house salad and a yogurt dip. This I could have lived with - it's not my place to just people's eating habits after all - if she hadn't been so ridiculously rude to the very polite waiter.

Not only was she abrupt and dismissive, she noticed on the menu that, instead of hummus, they used the variation spelling of hommos. This led to some loud cackling and embarrassing jokes like, "Look, they have a trio of hommos (pronouncing it ho-mos). Maybe they can come over to my house and organize my closet!"  

Being rude to wait staff is a huge pet peeve of mine. Since you have to interact with the waiter or waitress frequently during the course of the meal, I almost view them as another dining guest. As such, I want to be  warm and welcoming to them, just as I expect them to be warm and welcoming toward me. If one is barking orders at the waiter like he is a common slave, the waiter is obviously not going to feel at ease, nor is anyone else sitting at the table. Therefore, the service will likely suffer and the whole experience is uncomfortable. Needless to say, Roxanne made me uncomfortable and I felt sorry for the soft spoken and clearly injured waiter who had to endure her needlessly rude antics. Besides, he was about her age and very cute. She could've gotten a date out of it if she had played her cards right.

But, alas, I guess she feels she is above such people. God knows why she would think that. She's still in college; she hasn't done anything with her life yet. Moreover, she's the daughter of a high school principal! Get off your high horse, Missy!

After lunch, I wanted to leave Roxanne at the curb, but I soldiered on with our shopping. She generally bitched and griped the whole time about the crowds (it was Black Friday Plus 1, after all), the poor selection of merchandise, and my apparently questionable level of taste when it came to clothes. Granted, I've never been much into fashion, but her snobby attitude wore on my last raw nerve. By the end of the day, I swore never to speak to this woman ever again, which will be quite tricky with the holidays only weeks away.

With a new assignment looming, I'm actually praying that I will have to go undercover and disappear before Christmas. As much as I will miss my mom, I just can't deal with this new family she has surrounded herself with. Moving on feels like the better option right now.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving - The Aftermath

I'm still nursing a hangover as I write this, so bear with me. The tension of spending Thanksgiving with people who are essentially strangers got the best of me, I guess, and I drank more than I should have. Now I'm left feeling like there's cotton in my head and a hole in my heart.

Thanksgiving morning started out like most others I spent at home. I put the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on the tube and watched the festivities while Mom and I got the bird in the oven and prepped the other dishes. I was beginning to get that warm and fuzzy feeling I used to have about the holidays when I was a kid. Then Mr. Huggins and his daughter came over.

I've gotten used to Mr. Huggins at this point. He's not such a bad guy. Not someone I would willingly go out to have a drink with, but decent enough in small doses. Since my mom has become quite serious about him, I've learned to accept him. His daughter Roxanne, whom I just met yesterday, is a different matter altogether. Even though she's only eight years younger than I, it felt like we were light years apart. She came all decked out in some trashy looking mini-dress and too much jewelry. In fact, it was too much everything: too much makeup, too much attitude, and too much chatter. Talkative people are not a problem if they have interesting things to say, but more often than not, the people who dominate conversations have the most banal things to talk about, and they go on about them in excruciating detail.

Roxanne should have her own reality TV show, because she is as shallow and insipid as any Kardashian girl and embodies everything that is wrong with our country, in my humble opinion. The Irish government is on the brink of economic collapse, but the U.S. news can't be bothered to cover that because they have to tell us that Jessica Simpson is engaged or Lindsey Lohan is in rehab again. Roxanne filled us in on all the gossip, along with what's in fashion this season and numerous other details I couldn't care less about. And she did it in that exasperating girly dialect where every sentence sounds like a question: "So I went to Sephora the other day? To see if they had the new fragrance by Jennifer Lopez?" I feel like I'm being quizzed on my telepathic ability. After 20 minutes of that crap, I made a tall shaker full of cranberry martinis and polished it off myself.

The meal itself turned out pretty well. Mom's had years of practice and I'm a capable sous chef, but of course we had to forgo Mom's legendary stuffing because Mr. Huggins wanted to bring his own. Okay, I suppose, but there was some strange sweet bit in there, like raisins or something. Not the same. After dessert, I excused myself and retreated to my room. I used my novel writing as an excuse, but I really wanted to escape.

It's obvious to me that the life I knew before the Navy is gone. I took for granted that everything at home would stay the same and that I could retreat to it whenever I was finished with my wanderlust. Now I know that that's not the case. Dad has moved on to the Great Beyond and Mom has moved on with another family. A family I do not want to be a part of. I have to move out of this house and get back to forging my own life, but I don't want to apartment shop just yet. Not with the potential for a new undercover assignment looming in the very near future. Our man Geoffrey has struck up a friendship with our target, and it looks like it's just about time for Geoffrey to find a girlfriend.

But that will have to wait. I have four more days to finish 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo and I'm a little over 40,000 right now. This weekend will be nothing but writing, writing, writing. Wish me luck.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Preparing for Thanksgiving

My novel has been the main priority this week, as I felt like I was falling behind with my word count. I spent most of the weekend holed up in my bedroom pounding away on my laptop. Then I wrote as much as I could at work and during the evenings this week. I'm now at over 30,000 words, but I'm still not sure if I can make it to 50K by the end of November.

Meanwhile, there's still no word about when or if I will be joining agent Geoffrey on his current assignment. He's currently based in Chestertown on Maryland's Eastern Shore, trying to work his way into the good graces of our target. I'm hoping he will choose to bring me in for back-up. It's no secret to anyone who's read this blog that I feel like I'm in office purgatory right now and want desperately to get back in the field. Of course, it would help if I didn't get called in to action until after November, so I can finish this NaNoWriMo activity.

And then there's Thanksgiving coming up. All my enthusiasm for the season is slowing waning as our first Thanksgiving dinner without my father approaches. Last year was the first time in many years that I was able to be with my family on Thanksgiving. During my five years in the Navy, I was always deployed somewhere else during the holidays, but I got used to that. It wasn't until we were all together again that I realized how much I missed being with my family and going through all the usual rituals. It gave me a sense of continuity with my past and was sort of comforting to know that, no matter how much my life had changed in other ways, family and tradition would always be there. Then Dad passed away and that sense of security went with  it.

I was hoping Mom and I could still continue those traditions, like eating toast and tea while watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Then there was all the cooking details: peeling potatoes, cleaning the string beans, and checking on the turkey in the oven. Mom would use the gizzards and other internal bits of the bird to make the most fantastic stuffing. Dad usually handled the turkey carving duties, but I figured I could do that this year. I'm pretty good with a knife.

I even thought we might try to lure some of our relatives from out of state, like Aunt Trudy and cousin Bill and his wife, to come to our home since it would just be Mom and I, but that went out the window when Mom declared that Mr. Huggins would be coming to dinner. It was probably inevitable, given how close my mother had become to my one-time high school principal, but somehow it felt like an invasion. The matter took a turn for the worst when Mom told me Mr. Huggins' daughter Roxanne was coming home from college to be with us. Now, instead of a cozy family gathering, it's going to be an awkward dinner party with me scrambling to conjure up lies about my occupation and Mom telling embarrassing stories about my childhood.

Just to add the final insult, Mom tells me yesterday that Mr. Huggins wants to make his own special stuffing. Apparently, this was his big contribution to their Thanksgiving feast every year, and he wants to hang onto this connection from the past. I guess they didn't realize that my eating Mom's fantastic stuffing was my connection with the past. Oh well, I survived Iraq, I can survive this. He just better not put raisins or something weird in there.

I'll let you know how everything went next week. In the meantime, have a terrific Turkey Day and while you're counting your blessings on Thanksgiving, don't forget the blessing of freedom.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Restless No More!

What a difference a few days makes! Last Sunday, I was flying high from watching the Baltimore Ravens beat the Miami Dolphins at M&T Bank Stadium. This morning, I'm bemoaning the last minute loss by the Ravens to the Atlanta Falcons. Football season is not for the faint of heart.

Actually, I'm enjoying this fall more than I have in previous years. My summer in Las Vegas was something like a fever dream, and I can see now that being pulled out of there was probably the best thing that could have happened to me. My mission in Vermont was an incredible, mind-bending experience which I am now chronicling in the novel I am writing (20K words so far), and living back home with Mom is giving me a chance to appreciate the way my life was before joining the Navy. After taking a good long gander at those greener grasses, it's easier for me to realize how nice my life was growing up, and it makes me wonder what I was fighting against as a teen.

Who am I kidding? I know exactly what I was fighting: my own eternal sense of restlessness. I get bored easily, and a life of routine quickly wears on my nerves. I got so bored last week that, before going to the Ravens game, I dyed purple highlights in my hair. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but as I was leaving the stadium, I realized my boss The Colonel would not approve.

Sitting in my cubicle on Monday, I waited for The Colonel to stroll by and catch a glimpse of me. As I expected, he gave me a long, judgmental stare, but did not say a word. My stomach sank. I was expecting to see a memo circulate regarding proper office attire and grooming. It never came though, and he made no further mention of it.

Later in the week, I discovered why. The Colonel called me into a meeting yesterday. The regular support staff were on holiday for Veterans Day, so the building was eerily quiet and most of the overhead lights were turned off to save on electricity. When I reached The Colonel's office, I was shocked to see him wearing a polo shirt and khaki slacks rather than his usual gray suit (is it the same suit or multiple, identical suits?). Butterflies were already in my stomach because one of the attendees listed on the appointment e-mail was Geoffrey, the handsome operative I'd seen walking in and out of the boss's office for the past couple weeks.

When he arrived, I was slightly disappointed to see that his hair had grown out to an unruly length. What little curl his hair had was pulled down by the weight of his locks and it looked slightly dirty. Even worse was the cheesy, Burt Reynolds mustache he was cultivating. Despite all that, his penetrating eyes and easy smile were still plainly evident and my heart tapped my stomach for an instant. I know it all sounds like silly, schoolgirl stuff, but trust me, he's that hot!

Anyway, the reason we were in this meeting, along with a couple of intelligence analysts, was to discuss a new operation we were laying out to get inside a homegrown terrorist cell on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. I can't reveal any details right now, but it involves some Caucasian, working-class people with extreme hatred for the U.S. government. Geoffrey was already making moves to get in with the group, hence his new, shabby appearance. I was being briefed because The Colonel believed that he may need a second undercover operative in place to support Geoffrey. Apparently, when he saw my purple-streaked hair, he thought I had just the right look for the part. Strange how these things work out.

I'm being held in reserve for the time being until Geoffrey can get a better lay of the land and a bigger sting operation can be worked out, but it looks like I'll soon be working closely with Geoffrey on a top priority assignment! With this news and the impending holidays, I'm really happy for the first time in quite a long while. The restlessness can be put in closet again.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Halloween Freak Out and a New Agent in Town

It turns out my little blog and twitter account have been nominated for Mobbie awards in the Baltimore Sun (yaah me!). If you like this blog and/or my tweets, please go to the following links and cast your vote:


Codename: Carla:

I'd really appreciate the support! You can vote everyday until the deadline on November 12 at 5 p.m.

Sadly, I haven't been tweeting very much lately because I've been focused on writing my novel for the NaNoWriMo event. Between writing during slow moments at work and staying up late in front of my laptop, I've managed to write a little over 10,000 words. I think that's a pretty good run for just four days, but I have to keep up the pace. I know the Thanksgiving holiday and the beginning of Christmas shopping will become a distraction down the home stretch. I feel a little guilty actually because I'm simply relating the incidents which occurred in Vermont last month. Technically not a novel, but written in a novel style, like what Truman Capote did for the Clutter family murders in the book In Cold Blood. I've altered a few things as well to make it flow more like a suspense thriller. Creative license is what writers call it. I call it smoothing out the rough edges.

The writing has actually helped me focus since I was beginning to feel like I was losing my mind from office work. It came to a head Halloween night. I had volunteered to hand out candy to the trick or treaters since my mother was going out with her boyfriend for dinner. Sitting on the front porch with a giant bowl of candy on my lap wasn't my idea of a great time, but I had nothing else to do. My legs were going numb from the brisk fall air and my mind started to drift from the monotony of children in costumes parading across the porch, droning out the phrase "Trick or Treat" as if they were just as bored with the routine as I was.

Then, hidden between a row of Iron Men and Shreks and Neytiris was this older kid in a completely unique costume. I say older because he stood just under 5 feet tall, and he wore a rather generic blue jumpsuit featuring insignia I was not familiar with. But it was the mask that turned my blood cold. It was made of lumpy orange latex and painted with  large brown spots. Shiny black plastic eyes the size of tennis balls were affixed to the mask by what I could only assume were some sort of spinning discs, causing them to move in random directions. The nose and mouth were also lumpy and grotesque like someone experiencing an allergic bee sting reaction. The costume looked exactly like the strange creatures I encountered in Las Vegas last August!

When the kid approached me, he raspily mumbled the requisite line through the latex. Before I dropped the Snickers bar into his pumpkin-shaped bucket, I said, "Nice costume. Where did you get it?"

He merely shrugged and extended his bucket closer.

"No really, I'd like to get one just like it. Where did your Mommy buy it for you?"

The kid didn't move. The longer I looked into that deformed face, the more intensely I felt the horror of that night in the desert heat. I started to quiver inside. I barked, "C'mon, I want to know where you got the mask? Who sent you here?"

The kid stepped back a few inches, but he still kept his bucket in front of me. I was no longer seeing a child. He appeared to me to be a true alien creature. Instinctively, I lunged for him, but his youthful reflexes were slightly quicker than mine, and he bolted down the porch steps. With children screaming and fleeing the scene, I was fixated on chasing down the bizarre figure. After a couple of blocks, I finally tackled him and spun his face around to meet mine.

"Who are you?" I yelled at him. "Who sent you here?"

He reached up and pulled off the mask. The ginger boy was beet red in the face and crying from fear. Suddenly, I regained some measure of sanity again. I released the boy, who scurried into the darkness. In the pale light of the street lamps, I could see children staring and a few adults approaching me with looks of anger and concern. Completely humiliated, I ran back to the house and locked myself in. Fortunately, no one followed or called the police. I'd still like to know where that child got that costume. Or perhaps it was all in my imagination and the costume was actually a fireman or a cowboy. I can't accept that idea because then I really would be going insane.

Work offered an unlikely sanctuary after that night. I've just kept my head low and attended to my business. Except a couple of times I looked up to notice a new field operative, codename Geoffrey. He's about six feet tall with a swarthy complexion and longish black hair. He's well muscled but not overly developed, and he has one of those compact little tushies that you just want to reach out and squeeze. I'm not sure what he's doing at the moment, but he seems to be meeting with The Colonel quite a bit. And the last time he dropped by the office, I believe I detected the beginnings of a mustache. Must be grooming himself for an undercover assignment. I'll have to find some way to introduce myself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Calm Before the Ghosts and Goblins and Writer's Block

Not a long post for this week, mainly because things have been slow at work. I've been gathering notes and preparing myself as much as possible for NaNoWriMo, which will begin on November 1st. As I mentioned in last week's post, I'm participating in National Novel Writing Month, which encourages people to write at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. I've never tackled any kind of writing project of such length, so I'm looking forward to the challenge. Given how slow things are at work, I'm sure I can slip in some writing while the supervisors aren't looking. Their authority over me is mostly ceremonial anyway. When not in the field, operatives must adhere to the hierarchy of the office and are treated, more or less, like office drones. But only The Colonel has the power to fire us, since we are his private arsenal, in a sense.

I'm looking forward to having some other distraction. To break up the monotony of office work, I've found myself reading books on my Kindle for PC software. Since it's on my PC, the supervisors think I'm reading reports. This is probably not how Amazon wants to advertise its product, but it works. I've also been downloading free reading material from the Project Gutenberg Web site. I'm reverting back to my pre-teen, bookish self lately. Okay for the moment, but I'm itching to get back into the field.

The weather in Maryland this weekend should be picture perfect. Sunny skies and crisp, fall air with temperatures in the upper 50s and low 60s. Not really sure what I'm going to do with myself, although I did volunteer to hand out candy to the little rug rats while my mother and her boyfriend go out to dinner Halloween night. Not really all that thrilled with Halloween anymore. Turning your fears into harmless fun is almost cathartic for children, but continuing with Halloween antics into adulthood seems a little desperate and sad to me. Of course, I get enough opportunities to role play in my job, and some of the things I've dealt with since I started here make Halloween look like the Apple Blossom Festival, so I guess I'm not in a position to judge.

My mom dug out this old photo my dad took of me one Halloween. I look pretty excited about trick or treating. The anticipation of going out on Halloween night was akin to waiting for the ice cream truck to roll up the street. Amazing what food coloring and high fructose corn syrup can do to a child.

Happy Halloween everyone!

Friday, October 22, 2010

New Cover - Writer!

I'm mostly healed from my adventure in Vermont, so the old restlessness is beginning to set in again. Initially upon my return, I tried to set aside the more disturbing and mind-bending aspects of my last assignment by throwing myself into busy work at the office. I suppose "throwing myself" is a tired cliché, but I don't know how else to describe it. I memorized all the new people of interest on our Intranet site. I scoured through the recent reports for any details which may need further investigation. In short, I've been trying to make myself useful so The Colonel might give me a new assignment.

To my chagrin, this was not the best week to get The Colonel's attention. He seemed hopelessly preoccupied and down-right surly toward me. I tried to pull some insight out of his secretary during lunch one day, but she was her usual cagey self. "None of your business" was stamped on her forehead. Worn out from the effort, I've spent the last couple of day surfing the net on tax-payer dollars.

Speaking of which, I was on a stream-of-consciousness stroll through the web regarding creative writing when I came across this web site. National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is designed to stimulate writers and would-be writers to get on with the exercise of creating a new novel. Every year, people sign up and commit to writing at least 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. There's no real prize, but you have the satisfaction of getting a good running start on a novel which could one day be published. I have so many crazy thoughts rolling around my head after the Vermont assignment, I think I might have a go at putting the whole experience down on paper (or pixels, as the case may be). This could be a great form of encouragement and keep my mind off the banality of my current work state.

I've always had some interest in writing thanks to my Aunt Trudy. When I was a little girl, my dad's sister Gertrude was one of those free spirits who traveled around the world writing for various magazines as a freelance journalist. Whenever she found time to visit, Aunt Trudy would sweep in like a whirling dervish full of stories about the Congo and the Middle East and China.With her wiry salt-and-pepper hair, crazy mix of clothes from all over the globe, and deliberate lack of make-up, she seemed so exotic compared to my boring, suburban life. Certainly the polar opposite of my straight-laced father. When she would hug me, a slightly sickening cloud of patchouli engulfed me. The scent still makes me feel sad, although I don't know why.

Anyway, Aunt Trudy's stories inspired me to write just like her, so I would go to my room and scribble down fanciful adventures in my notebook about meeting the King of Japan and helping him fight dragons or some such nonsense. When I would present her with these crazy tales, she would react to the story as if I had really experienced it. "Oh, you are such a brave young lady to fight dragons! I hear the King has a birthmark on his neck shaped just like the island of Hokkaido! Is that true?" I felt a little guilty lying to my Aunt. What a silly kid I was!

I continued writing stories and keeping a journal right into high school. Then I got into gymnastics and working on my body (mainly to impress boys). By college, I had a steady boyfriend and other interests. Only recently, with all the strange experiences of this job and unanswered questions in my life, have I gravitated back to writing. I'm hoping this NaNoWriMo will help me purge some of the brain clutter I've accumulated over the last few months. Wish me luck! Writing begins on November 1, 2010, after the stroke of midnight.

Not much else to report this week, except that I believe I finally figured out why The Colonel was so preoccupied this week. Yesterday, we were told that my old contact in Las Vegas, code name Stephen, was killed in a car accident. Based on The Colonel's serene disposition after the news was reported, I can only presume that his demise was desired and, probably, cogitated. My accusations that Stephen was likely a double agent always seemed to fall on deaf ears, but now I see that this was not true. Rather, I'm realizing that The Colonel, and in fact this whole nameless agency, works in mysterious ways.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Vermont Vacation

Last time I posted, I was sitting in my room in Vermont about to begin my new assignment. Now I'm back in my cubicle in DC taking a break from mind-numbing case studies. In between...well, all I can say is, it was quite a ride. I'm still sorting through all the details of the case and the potential ramifications. It's like some impenetrable foreign film that you keep thinking about days after you've seen it. The more you ponder it, the more complexities reveal themselves.

My report to The Colonel presented the facts of the case, but I left out some details, not to be secretive, but because I simply cannot explain them in any rational manner. It's quite clear to me now that there is far more to this universe than any of us can ever hope to grasp. I'm toying with the idea of putting down my experiences in a book. My Aunt Trudy, who is a writer, once told me that, if I had thoughts or feelings that kept me up at night, it helps to write them down and, through the process of writing, you can make sense of them. That advice seems most appropriate right now.

It will have to wait though. I'm nursing some cuts and bruises I sustained from the events in Vermont, along with a minor concussion which is causing occasional headaches. It's either the concussion or sinus headaches caused by the change of weather. At any rate, I'm better off than Lucky, who ended up in the hospital after attempting to save my innkeeper from a nasty attack. Maybe I should back up.

On my third day in Vermont, Lucky arrived out of the blue at the Bed & Breakfast where I was staying. Apparently, after he had not heard from me for several days, he decided to take my Tercel and drive across country to find me. I had let slip that I was originally from Bethesda, MD and that my mother's name was Helen, so he tracked her down. By this time, I was in Vermont, but good ol' Mom thought it was okay to tell him where I was. The poor guy showed up and started hounding me right as the case was getting hairy. It turns out he actually was a help, but he paid dearly for putting himself in harm's way. I feel guilty about that. At least, he doesn't ever want to see me again, which is what I wanted. I just didn't want it to be this way.

So the case is resolved, more or less, and I'm back to desk work. This time I think it could be for awhile, not because I'm in the doghouse, but because the agency doesn't like to send agents into the field too soon after a "traumatic assignment." That's how they phrase it anyway. I don't feel traumatized, but I am emotionally spent. I'm looking forward to having a regular schedule, watching football on Sunday, and catching a movie or two. Maybe now I can truly appreciate being home for awhile. Key words there are "for awhile."

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week of Transition

I'm writing this on my laptop in my cozy little room at a bed and breakfast in Bennington, Vermont. During the course of only a week and a half, I have gone from posing as Carla Fontaine, Internet porn vixen of Las Vegas, to plain old Angela Bayard, chastened office drone in Washington, DC, to Carla Franklin, mousy Manhattan office drone on vacation in scenic Vermont. I never thought I would be put back in the field so soon, but I'm eager to prove my worth after that botched assignment in Vegas.

My brief stint on desk duty shook me to the core. The past year was a whirlwind of training and exciting assignments both here and abroad. The work was shaping up to be just as exciting as I had hoped, but then came the mess in Vegas and I was stuck doing busy work in a gray cubicle. I realized that, if you are not a field agent in this organization, a career here would be just like any other government office job: dull and repetitive and safe. I'm not cut out for that, so I have to do everything in my power to stay in The Colonel's good graces and remain a field operative.

My period in purgatory wasn't all horrible though. I did get to reconnect with my mother, whom I haven't been able to spend much time with since my father died. When she started dating my old high school principal, Mr. Huggins, while I was in Vegas, I was angry and hurt and a little weirded out. I felt like she was betraying my dad or something. Not to mention the fact that I was forced to think of my mother as a sexual being for the first time in my life. It was all too much to handle while living thousands of miles away.

Now that I'm home, I recognize that she was working through her stages of grief completely on her own. I had work and travel to distract me. She had to live in the same house we all shared for so many years, left with all the memories and no inkling of a future. Finding Mr. Huggins was like having extra chapters added to her book of life. It doesn't just end abruptly with no finale. Her story goes on. I understand that now.

We all went out to dinner together last Saturday at McCormick & Schmick's. Strange how someone can seem like a completely different person when you meet them socially. As a teenager, Mr. Huggins was all grim and humorless, relentlessly on patrol for vandals and pot smokers and hall loiterers. He really had no personality, so far as I could tell, as if he were stored in one of the gym lockers during the night and trotted out the next day to continue his reign of terror. Last Saturday, sitting next to my mom, joking about his life and career, he became human in my eyes. Like my mom, he had adored his spouse and was devastated by her passing. Still is, I imagine. He seems happy with Mom though. And as he approaches retirement, he can joke freely about putting "the fear of God" in us kids so he could maintain just enough calm that we might learn something. Turns out, he's even ex-Navy like me, although he served peace time during the late 70s. I was so glad we had that dinner together.

Then, just when I was beginning to feel re-energized, The Colonel smiled upon me and handed me this new assignment. Not the most high profile job: playing bodyguard to a civilian professor working undercover for the FBI. I'm supposed to stage a fake romance with him so I can stay close in case he gets in danger. From porn star to ingenue. Can't say The Colonel isn't a bit sexist, but at least I'm in the field again.

Have to wrap this up so I can get downstairs and eat breakfast. The cooking aromas have been wafting up to my room all morning, and I'm dying to see what Edgar, the innkeeper, has whipped up. He's a bit of an odd duck, but friendly and eager to please. Frankly, I think he has a bit of a crush on me. Anyway, it's breakfast and then off to meet my contact. How thrilling it is to be back in the game!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What Happens in Vegas...

Sometimes events can turn so quickly your mind doesn't have time to catch up. That's the way I'm feeling right now. The past five days have been a blur, taking me from the heights of anticipation to the depths of disappointment. I guess the only way to sort through it is to start at the beginning.

Last Saturday was the night of the big operation. Stephen and I had been working out our scenario for almost two weeks. I was even simulating my moves by running around casinos to test my speed. Finally, it was the night of the 25th, and I was to meet the online customer known as Hommecornee and his boss, a major arms dealer who will remain nameless. Basically, the plan was for me to show up at the client's suite as sexy call girl Carla Fontaine. I was a little worried that the suite was in the same hotel where Lucky worked, but the chances of him spotting me in such an enormous place were slim.

I met Hommecornee and another hanger-on at the suite where I was told to see the arms dealer in his bedroom. Once I was in the room alone with the client, I was to administer a drug to him which would simulate a heart attack. I was to pretend to have called 911 and two men whom Stephen had hired to pose as paramedics were to arrive and carry the arms dealer away, supposedly to a hospital but actually to a safe house where he could be interrogated. I was to slip away when the paramedics arrived.

All of this had to be precisely timed because the drug we were using could kill our target if he was not given another drug to counteract the effects within 20 minutes. That's why we had to hire outside help with medical experience. Unfortunately, our freelancers never arrived. I panicked and took off before Hommecornee and his buddy could discover that their boss was dead. I was racing to get out of the hotel when I spotted the men  pursuing me in the casino. As if things couldn't be worse, I also spotted Lucky having a drink with another woman in the lounge. I was angry and hurt, but I had to focus on getting out of there alive. Then Lucky saw me and came over to explain himself, giving my pursuers time to move in. Only through some quick maneuvering (and the help of some bouncers at the hotel) did I manage to escape, losing both Lucky and the bad guys in the process.

By the time I made it back to Lucky's trailer in Henderson, I knew the operation was a shambles. I dutifully reported everything to The Colonel. He was clearly peeved, but gave me no reprimand. Instead, he ordered me back to Washington immediately. I packed my bags and took a cab to McCarran Airport, leaving Lucky, my little Tercel, and Carla Fontaine behind. By Sunday afternoon, I was back on the East Coast calling my mom for a ride home from the airport. Essentially homeless, I also had to ask if I could move back into my old room.

Saturday night, I was playing a call girl. Monday morning, I was playing civil servant and reporting to the office in my little gray suit. I had a meeting with The Colonel that morning. It didn't go well. Although he didn't place the blame for the operation's failure directly on me, his eyes and body language made me feel as if I was just some inexperienced screw-up. Inexperienced maybe, but I did my part perfectly. Something went wrong on Stephen's end, and I wasn't sure why he wasn't in that room with me getting the third degree. I can't help but think that Stephen is working for someone else.

Anyway, that's not my call. I have to trust that The Colonel will sort this all out. For me, I'm stuck on indefinite desk duty until The Colonel finishes his investigation. Sitting in a cubicle updating files and monitoring field reports is not exactly my natural state. One of the reasons I joined the Navy after college was to avoid the office trap and have some adventure. Then I came to this agency and had some interesting experiences, but the Vegas assignment was my first long-term undercover job. Despite the creepiness of the cover, I enjoyed the freedom of working on my own, away from The Colonel's steely glare. I need to get in the field again, but after last Saturday, I don't know what will become of me.

As it stands, I'm putting in my eight-hour days and coming home to my old bedroom. My mom goes out to dinner every night with Mr. Huggins while I sit alone watching cooking shows and wondering when she'll be home. It's like we've reversed roles since I last lived here. In less than one week, I'm a different person.

I suppose I could pretend the old me never existed except for the texts and voice mails I keep getting from Lucky. There's no way I can talk to him, although a part of me feels like he deserves some sort of explanation. Of course, it would just be another made up story since he can't know the truth. I lied to him; he lied to me. It was all a big pretend game. Best to just put it in the past. As the commercial says, What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Carla Fontaine is buried in Las Vegas.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Stephen, Rex, Lucky, and Faith

Stephen, my agency contact in Vegas, broke into Lucky's trailer in the wee hours of Sunday morning and tried to abduct me. The situation was completely bizarre.  I was sound asleep after a fairly long evening on the web cam. I knew Lucky would be out until sunrise with his friends from the show, so I was luxuriating in the prospect of a long, uninterrupted slumber.

Around four in the morning, I hear some creaking in the floor. Not the long, irritated groans of old floorboards like in my mom's house, but the short pops and squeaks made by whatever the floors are made of in the trailer. Anyway, I've heard Lucky come home enough times to know someone was lurking nearby. My body tingled from the adrenalin coursing through my veins. I was wide awake and fully prepared to act. My first assumption was that some meth fiend from the trailer park was poking around for cash or something to steal. I slid my hand into the partially opened drawer of my bedside table and wrapped my fingers around the Smith & Wesson inside. Just the sight of a pistol is usually enough to scare off a stoner.

I had just pulled the weapon under my pillow when I sensed the intruder enter my room. He took a few steps, and then paused for what seemed like hours but was surely only a few seconds. Before I could rise and surprise him, he surprised me by pouncing on the bed. I recognized his moves to overpower me since it was the same technique taught to all the newbies at the agency's training facility. It didn't take me long to slip out of his grasp and smack him upside the head with my pistol. Stephen was a pile on the floor when I turned on the light.

He told me this was just his way of ensuring that I was still in condition for the operation we are planning to take place on the 25th. "Had to make sure you hadn't gotten lazy after all these weeks of soft living," he told me. None of it rang true. He seemed genuinely shocked that I had overtaken him and his explanation seemed forced. I'm still not sure whether this guy is working for someone else or if he's just plain off his rocker. Whatever the case, he doesn't inspire much confidence in me regarding our upcoming sting.

Speaking of which, Stephen told me later in the week that he had settled on the scenario he felt would work best. Unfortunately, it involves recruiting some outside help. Our agency is built around utilizing civilians from various fields to supplement our meager manpower resources, but given the lack of lead time, we will need to find new people who have not been vetted by the agency. This is causing even more dread on my part. I want to call the whole thing off and handle it myself, but The Colonel is backing Stephen, so I have to go along. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, I've been continuing my cover routine with other men besides Mr. Hommecornee. Not the most fun occupation when you're on your period (I won't even go into the sleight-of-hand required during this time of the month). My one highlight of the week was catching the Ravens-Jets game on Monday Night Football. I was getting so sick of all the hype surrounding Rex Ryan and his Jets this summer and how the national media totally bought into it. It's as if the NFL and the sports journalists want to orchestrate their own storylines  like it's WWE wrestling. They have a handful of favorite teams and the rest are just supposed to stand around and get pounded by them like the witless henchmen on bad cop shows. Blustering Rex and pretty boy Sanchez were supposed to stomp all over the always hated Ravens, but the Ravens outplayed them the entire time. I was so thrilled, I almost spilled my diet root beer on my laptop!

Otherwise, I've been in a perpetual state of ennui (I haven't pulled that word out in awhile). My mom's been telling me how wonderful it's been spending time with Mr. Huggins (am I supposed to call him Brad now?). Then she asks about how Lucky and I are doing, and I dismissively say it's all good, but it isn't. The initial novelty of dating a performer in Vegas has worn off, and I'm beginning to wonder if I'm just staying with him for the free rent.

The other day, I was clearing out some of the songs that had piled up on my iTunes over the years and I wasn't listening to anymore. I came across Faith Hill's Breathe and I felt a stab in my gut. Memories of my senior year in high school flooded back, when I was reading too many romance novels and full of yearning for some passionate relationship. I know it sounds completely corny, but the feelings were nevertheless very real to a naive kid. Back then, I never had a boyfriend and only dated boys who were convenient; i.e., nonthreatening and possible gay. At night, I would lay in bed with Faith Hill's lyrics floating through my head, imagining that sense of reclining next to a man and feeling so completely comfortable and secure, totally enraptured by the moment of simply being together. I couldn't wait to find that man and have that feeling. My body fairly ached for that sensation.

In college, I had a steady boyfriend, and there were some passing flings during my time in the Navy. Now I have Lucky. Two nights ago, I laid next to him after a fairly perfunctory love making session and listened to him breathe, just like Faith Hill sang about. Only thing was, I felt nothing. He was a man laying next to me performing a necessary action for the perpetuation of his existence. Nothing more. I couldn't help but wonder, would I ever feel what Faith Hill felt?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Long Weekend and Longer Week

Labor Day weekend was pretty quiet. I didn't hear from Mr. Hommecornee at all, which gave me a much needed rest from my alternate life. Lucky was tied up with extra performances, so I was left alone most of the time.

On Saturday, I decided to just drive around for awhile, roaming up and down the strip and letting my mind wander. I drove south past the legendary Las Vegas sign and spotted the South Point Hotel. There was a great deal of commotion going on there in preparation for the Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon. Hate to say it, but I  didn't even know Jerry Lewis was still alive. I only have vague memories of the telethon from when I was a kid and the cable channels were more limited than they are today. There was this man with greasy hair in a tuxedo alternately acting like an ass and then yelling at the audience because they weren't sending him enough money. That's about all I could remember.

Since I felt some new, direct connection to it being in Vegas and all, I decided to catch a few minutes of telethon. It's kinda sad. Jerry was old and wheezing and befuddled and, despite promises of great entertainment, I didn't recognize any of the performers on the show. I sorta recall there being people like Mr. T on when I was little, but there were just lame comedians and lounge singers now. It all seemed so pathetic, I felt like I had to donate. They had a thing where I could text them and they were charge $10 on my phone bill, so I did that.

The rest of the time, I thought I'd get some use out of my new Word program and do some writing on my laptop. It felt good to unload some of the haunting memories from my encounter with my crazy old neighbor at my apartment building. Everything had been a blur for several weeks despite my efforts to sort through it all, but only now have I been able to put things into any kind of perspective. Funny what you can dredge up from your memory when you give it a good spanking. Some of the things the old lady said that night make me wonder if she was somehow connected with the white van that was hanging around the trailer park. There's a bigger picture here I'm only now starting to piece together.

So the weekend came and went. Mom called me on Tuesday to talk about her weekend with Mr. Huggins. After his anxiety attack, he decided to open up more to Mom about his feelings for his dead wife and his trepidations about dating again. She said he started crying in her arms and couldn't get a hold of himself for at least an hour. I can't picture gruff Mr. Huggins crying like a baby. Not the same high school principal who would threaten Eddie Tunsten with lame expressions like, "Make my day, Tunsten!" or "Do you smell what I'm cookin'?"

Just for laughs, Mom e-mailed me this photo of Mr. Huggins from my high school yearbook:

She says he's heavier now and the graying at the temples has spread to his whole head. God, I wish I could be back home to witness all this. I feel so detached from my life here. This isn't really life, but some play of which I am a mere player, to swipe ol' Bill Shakespeare. Speaking of playing, Mr. Hommecornee contacted me Wednesday night and wanted to arrange a more intimate conversation via Skype. I was worried about "breaking the third wall" as it were, but I needed to do whatever it took to get face-time with him and/or his boss. As is usually the case, my image of him in my head did not match his actual appearance. He was quite large, like a body builder, and rather stern looking. The conversation was all business, and by that I mean of a non-sexual nature. He just wanted to firm up plans for me to meet with his boss at their suite. Operating on his turf was not ideal for me, but Hommecornee was insistent, "for security reasons" he claimed.  I agreed.

My next step was to formulate a plan by which I could apprehend his boss, the arms dealer, as surreptitiously as I could. Unfortunately, this is not a strong point for me, so I contacted The Colonel. He told me to make contact with Stephen again. After the last debacle, I didn't want to go there, but The Colonel made it an order. Obviously, he doesn't trust me to pull off such an operation alone. For me, Stephen's the untrustworthy one.

Anyway, we met yesterday for lunch at a noisy buffet to discuss a possible sting operation. I have to give Stephen credit, he's an imaginative guy. He rattled off at least a half dozen possible scenarios we could play. Frankly, I think the guy would make a better screenwriter than a federal agent. Stephen told me he would investigate the feasibility of each plan and get back to me with what he thought was the best way to go.

So here I sit, waiting in limbo until the plan can be implemented. The waiting is the hardest part - damn, now I'm swiping Tom Petty!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sushi, Sentimentality, and Saturday Morning Cartoons

Out here in the desert, there doesn't seem to be the same sense of seasonal change like I was used to back east. September had a completely different feel to it than August. Even if the temperatures was still above 80, there was a certain smell in the air, a feel to the atmosphere. Summer was over, even if the calendar told you otherwise. Time to go back to school, shake off the frivolities of the past three months, and harden yourself for the winter that would inevitably come.

Here in Vegas, it just feels the same. The air is the same. My life is the same. I yearn for change.

Something is definitely up with Lucky because he's been acting fairly contrite without any prompting from me. On Tuesday, he promised to take me anywhere I wanted to eat for dinner. Just to torture him, I said we should go to Sushi Roku in Caesar's Palace. Oh, how I wanted to see him struggle with raw tuna and seaweed salad. Of course, he wimped out and got the grilled filet mignon. I still enjoyed myself, though. It's the first time in awhile that we've actually acted like a real couple.

This isn't Lucky's fault entirely. Trying to seduce strange men on my computer has me split emotionally. I know, it's just a cover, blah, blah, blah...not really helping me, sorry to say. My client, Hommecornee, has become quite fond of me even though he's scouting women for his boss, a major arms dealer. They are supposed to be in Vegas the weekend of the 25th, and he wants me to visit them. This could finally be the big fish that could get me out of here. I want this job over with so much, but I don't know where that leaves Lucky and me. Just like Denise Richards's colon, it's complicated (yes, I'm a Joel McHale fan).

Speaking of complicated, my mom called the other day and told me that she had spent the night in the emergency room with Mr. Huggins. At first they thought he was having a heart attack, but it turned out to be just an anxiety attack. This is when Mom ventured into the TMI zone. Contrary to my suspicion, she and Mr. Huggins hadn't yet slept together, but they had decided to cross that bridge Tuesday night. Apparently, Mr. Huggins had not been with a woman since his wife died and, before they got very far, nervousness got the best of him. Having to listen to all this from thousands of miles away was really too much. I can't wrap my mind around the idea of my mother being with anyone but my father, and I never wanted to think about my mom and dad in any context remotely related to sex. As my mom soldiered through the conversation with an attitude like, "we're all adults now," I just wanted to crawl back into my childhood when everything made sense.

I guess that's why I found the following YouTube clip so funny. Remember those Saturday morning preview specials they would show on the Friday night before the new kid shows premiered? The new Saturday morning season usually started right after the first week of school, and these preview shows on Friday night were a happy glimpse of the weekend ahead. This one starred Larry and Balki from Perfect Strangers, whom I thought were hilarious back then. Now, not so much. Anyway, the clip brought back memories of struggling through the first days of second grade and looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons as a reward for my hard work. That September smell was in the air, and I was filled with that sense of exciting possibilities a new school year would bring.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Forget it Angie, it's Las Vegas!

Some weeks you just want to see end and this is one of them. I was hoping that last weekend would be a quiet one as well as a productive one. The white van had disappeared for a couple of days after I seemed to have scared its occupants off. I was becoming paranoid about it, thinking I might be under surveillance by the LVPD for my online sex site. Since my undercover assignment is extremely top secret for political reasons, no one in law enforcement is supposed to know what I'm up to. After I seemed to have scared the van off, I figured it might be something less threatening like burglars casing residences, although why they would want to rob Lucky's double-wide is beyond me. Anyway, the van was gone and I got back to focusing on my job.

I had been juggling several clients when I was informed by Washington that one of them, whose online name was Hommecornee, turned out to be a close associate of an arms dealer we've been targeting. Their intelligence indicated that Mr. Hommecornee scouts prostitutes for this arms dealer in places where he will soon be visiting. He was chatting me up lately and I was trying my best to lure him in. I knew Saturday night would be a critical encounter and I wanted to be on my A game. Then I looked out the window and saw the white van lurking in the shadows.

For the sake of the job, I temporarily blocked it out of my mind. The session with Mr. Hommecornee went well. He expressed interest in meeting me when he is in Vegas next month. Booo-yaaa! After signing off with him, I was ecstatic. I wanted to jump about the bedroom, but my excitement was tempered by the fact that that annoying van was still outside. So as not to scare them off a second time, I went through my normal routines as if I were going to bed. I turned the light on in the bathroom while I brushed my teeth, then turned it off again. I slipped on a black unitard in front of the window shade to give the appearance that I was putting on night clothes, then climbed into bed and turned out the light.

After a few minutes, I slid from the bed and headed for the hall, making sure to take my automatic from the dresser drawer. Crawling over to the window on the opposite side of the trailer, I slid out the window as stealthily as I could manage and worked my way toward a clump of bushes near the van. It was the same basic approach I had used a couple days earlier, but I was counting on the darkness to better hide my presence. It seemed to work because the van stayed put. Not wishing to blow my chance, I held my position for almost an hour, observing and looking for an opportunity. One finally came when the side door slid open and a hulking man lumbered out.

A scant fog of amber light emanating from the vehicle dimly revealed some of his features. From my vantage point, his face was oddly smooth and shiny, like a waxwork figure. He paced back and forth in an awkward gait, as if he had learned to walk only that morning. Given his less-than-prime condition and casual demeanor, I decided this was my opportunity to move in. Circling around the side of the van opposite the open door, I crouched down and practically tip-toed around the front. When I heard the man move near me, I leaped up and pinned him against the passenger side door by grabbing his neck. It felt more sinewy than any neck I had ever felt before, and his shiny face was thanks to a George W. Bush Halloween mask. With the man pinned firmly against the van, I leveled my Smith & Wesson at the door opening and peered in.

"Evening boys," I crowed, but was stood stuck dumb by what I saw inside.

Two other men, for lack of a better term, were hunched over consoles as if they were operating surveillance equipment. The whole scene would have appeared like something you would typically see in a cop show, except the men had lumpy orange heads covered in brown spots the size of my fist. Saucer-sized onyx eyes swiveled in multiple directions, and their noses and mouths looked like little more than lumps of clay stuck carelessly to their faces. They sat on what appeared to be mounds of glistening flesh and the "console" was similarly organic in construction. Slimy horns and protuberances glowed and wiggled on the console, and the men touched and turned them as if responding to their signals. The two men showed no emotion that I could discern, sitting motionless. In my stupefaction, I had momentarily relaxed my grip on the third man's neck. He reached around my waist and tossed me to the ground like a rag doll. By the time I had scrambled to my feet, the third man was in the van and the vehicle rolled out of the trailer park in a flurry of gravel.

It took me two days to report to The Colonel. I had encountered some odd things in my time on the job, but this made me question my faculties. Had I actually fallen asleep and merely dreamed it? The dust on the back of my unitard proved that I had definitely gone outside, but was I sleepwalking? No, I'm sure it had happened. When I finally spoke to my boss, he was surprisingly calm. He casually informed me that, if the van appears again, I was not to engage in any way. Basically, I was supposed to ignore it. Terrific.

The rest of the week has been dreary. My mom talks about Mr. Huggins with a lilt in her voice that I've heard before from girlfriends. She's really smitten and I suspect they have slept together. Although I want my mom to be happy, I'm really disturbed by the images rolling through my head. I fight them as much as I fight the lingering memories of the freaks in the van.

And Lucky is wearing on my nerves. The other day, he left a bottle of cologne perched precariously on a shelf in the linen closet. After taking a shower, I reached in to pull out a towel and knocked it on the floor. I had to do quite the dance in my bare feet to get out of the bathroom, not only to avoid cutting myself but to keep from tracking cologne through the trailer. It's smells passable on him, but poured on the floor in one big dose, it's really overwhelming. To make matters worse, I found a sparkling gold bra in the laundry. Lucky claims it must've gotten mixed in with his clothes when he got dressed at the theatre, but I can't help but wonder what might go on here when I leave for the gym. Why the hell am I living with this guy anyway?

Friday, August 20, 2010

Hell With Rhinestones

The weather report says it's supposed to get up to 107 degrees today, and I think tomorrow it'll be 152 or something. It's just plain freakin' hot here. I mean, Maryland is hot in the summer, but we seldom reach these kinds of temperatures. Sure, back home it's akin to a swamp and Vegas is a dry heat, but hot is hot! You can sort of tolerate it while you're outside, but as soon as you go inside and hit air conditioning, your pores open up like floodgates and you are drenched. Not only that, it takes forever before the sweating stops, leaving you spent and miserable.

Therefore, I've been staying mostly cooped up in Lucky's trailer, which is to say I'm mostly alone. He's hardly ever around since he's at work or out with the cast all night and sleeps most of the day. In the beginning, we would spend his days off going to the movies or wandering around the casinos, but now he seems to find excuses to go elsewhere. It's like we jumped from the early stages of dating right into old couplehood without the nice courtship part in between. Once in awhile, he practically attacks me with a burst of sexual passion, but it feels like he's working off some nervous energy rather than wanting to be truly intimate. I've never actually lived with a man before, so this is all new territory for me.

So I spend most of my day noodling around on the computer and diddling myself in front of the computer for much of the night. I'm way past feeling any embarrassment or humiliation about this whole undercover gig. I just go through the motions like a well-rehearsed play, except that it's largely ad-libbed based on audience suggestions. Detachment is my coping mechanism. I refuse to be upset with these creepy men ogling me from hundreds of miles away. I refuse to get frustrated over Lucky's lack of attention. I refuse to worry about my mother dating a new man. What does any of it matter? It's just one long roasting in the Vegas oven.

Except that it does matter. Everything matters and the only way I can be effective at my job and at life is if I'm totally alert and focused. Sometimes I yearn to be back in the Navy defusing bombs. Back then I always had to be on top of my game or people would die, including me. It wasn't a death wish that drove me. I don't know that I even thought about dying back then, at least not in a real tangible sense. It was all about the adrenalin. I fed on it. I craved it like some people crave chocolate. It's what I lived for and what made me love life all the more. There was nothing better than being in the moment and figuring out the workings of an IED (improvised explosive device to you civilians). Nothing better except for the exhilaration I felt when I knew the bomb was defused and I would live another day. That was when life was worth living.

I thought this job would provide me with a similar focus, but it's so much more ambiguous. The objectives are less clear cut, the plan of attack is less concrete, and the measurement of success less certain. All of this adds up to a very unhappy Angie, and my malaise could get me in trouble. Just the other day, I noticed a white panel van parked outside the trailer. It was idling away with a distinctive sound that reminded me of an old cop show from the 70s (wacka-cha, wacka-cha, wacka-cha). There were no markings on the van and I didn't see anyone getting in or out of it. Still, I just assumed the van belonged to some contractors doing work in the trailer park.

The next day, I heard that distinctive idling sound. I looked out the window and saw the van parked outside again. Oh well, the contractors were back, I thought, even though no one was around. It wasn't until the third day when the van reappeared that I started getting nervous. Could they be conducting surveillance? The LVPD was purposely not informed of my presence in Vegas, and I'm not entirely sure of the legalities regarding an online porn site. Maybe the cops are investigating me. Or perhaps Lucky is the target? He never lets me know what he's up to. Maybe he has some friends with broken noses who would like to speak with him?

Finally, I got off my lazy, self-pitying ass and went to investigate. I slipped out a window of the trailer on the side opposite to where the van was parked. To avoid detection, I took a circuitous route behind other trailers and the dumpsters until I managed to get behind a hedge just a few feet away. I don't know what I did wrong, but they must've spotted me because they took off abruptly and haven't been back since. I cursed myself for being sloppy.

If that little incident wasn't enough to wake me up, I was informed yesterday by The Colonel that one of the men who has been frequenting my site works for a major arms dealer we've been targeting. We think this lackey may be scoping out prostitutes for the arms dealer in advance of his arrival in Vegas. I have to stay totally focused. I can't let this one slip through my fingers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Raven, a High School Principal, and an Elvis Impersonator Walk into a Trailer

I managed to get all my stuff into Lucky's double wide last weekend, and I've been conducting my little business out of his spare bedroom. It's an awkward arrangement, particularly since I'm now juggling several "clients" through my Web site. Lucky typically leaves for the theatre in the late afternoon, right around the time when my east coast clients start hitting the Internet. These interactions can go on into the wee hours of the morning, but Lucky tends to hang out with people from the show after the last performance, so he usually rolls in when the sun is coming up. By that time, I'm already in bed. This is throwing my sleep pattern all out of whack since I tend to be an early riser. I'm beginning to feel like a cat, catching short naps throughout the day and night, but never really sleeping a full 8 hours.

My lack of sleep isn't the only thing that's contributing to my foggy perception of the world. I feel as though I'm becoming Carla Fontaine for 12 hours and then reverting to little ol' Angie for 12 hours. The sensation is especially disconcerting when it comes to my love life. The other day, after spending hours online conducting long distance sex with a group of anonymous strangers, Lucky came home from work and became amorous. Instinctively, I found myself going into seductress mode like I had been playing all night. We were well into our love making before I realized I was playing a role and not actually focusing on the moment. Lucky seemed to enjoy it just fine, which left me even more confused. As attentive as he is to me in other ways, he tends to become a bit selfish in the bed room. I hadn't noticed that the first time we slept together because, well frankly, I was too inebriated to remember anything much. Now that we've had sex while I've been sober, his lack of skill is more apparent. Just an observation, but it seems like the more blessed a man is in the genital department, the less he thinks he needs to do to please a woman.

Anyway, my life feels like it's settling into a dysfunctional routine. Except for the other night when Lucky came home early and I was still involved in a session with one of my clients. I had to feign internet troubles to end the session quickly and straighten everything up. Lucky still walked in on me while I was dressed in a leather bikini. I couldn't very well pass it off as normal sleeping attire, so I had to think fast. Fortunately, since I already told him that I sell lingerie and other sexy items online, I just explained that I was taking some modeling shots for the Web site. The lovable dope bought it. This is really nuts.

My mom calls me almost every day. She is apparently having regular dates with my old high school principal, Brad Huggins. I don't know what bothers me more: the fact that Mom is dating so soon after Dad's death or that she taking up with my old principal. Actually, I have to realize that it's been almost a year since my father passed away, and my mom is completely on her own back in Maryland. Also, if I kind of stand back and look at Mr. Huggins objectively, he's not such a bad looking guy. I just can't shake the image of him marching around the corridors of my old high school like a martinet, checking the lavatories for wayward smokers.

It's been rather quiet lately. In between clients, I even got to catch some of the Ravens/Panthers preseason game on ESPN last night. Of course, the Ravens won. I think they could go all the way this year. I'm sure my father is looking down on me disapprovingly. Growing up in Bethesda, he was a lifelong Redskins fan while I paid no attention to football at all. Then, during my freshman year of college, I dated a guy from Baltimore who was a Ravens fan. That just happened to be the year they went to the Super Bowl, and I've been a fan ever since.

So that's this week, but I get a feeling in my bones that something's about to break loose. It always does in my life. I guess I have to enjoy the calm while I can.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Carla Fontaine's Second Act

F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote "In life, there is no second act," but since my life as Carla Fontaine is largely a fantasy, I think I should have as many acts as I wish. This past weekend, I spent most of my time regrouping to launch my second act. I realized that I was approaching this assignment in a half-hearted way, primarily because I was repulsed by the character I have been asked to play. There was no serious commitment on my part. I was going through the motions, hoping that we might ensnare one of these characters that The Colonel is looking for and he'll call me home. After the fiasco of last week, it's obvious that this is not going to be that easy and I may be in this role for the long haul.

To that end, I've placed more focus on improving my "web presence" by researching better makeup techniques and wardrobe choices. After spending five years in the Navy, I had gotten used to wearing a minimal amount of makeup and dressing rather conservatively. When I started doing the web cam stuff, I tarted myself up the way I imagined a porn star would look and, similarly, bought some cheesy lingerie which I hastily grabbed off the racks without much consideration. This time out, I consulted some people and looked at some actual "high end" pornography to see how the pros do it. I'm going for a look somewhere between slutty and sophisticated. Hopefully, the new look and a serious commitment to my performance might improve my chances of nabbing the right targets. I also need to plan the scenarios better so these guys won't get suspicious or slip away.

Anyhow, that's ongoing. Also ongoing is Lucky's charming but slightly annoying courtship routine. I figured I'd  put him to the test by taking me to an upscale fine dining establishment. There were so many to choose from in Vegas, but I decided on Mesa Grill because I've been watching Bobby Flay on the Food Network since I was a teenager. He sort of came across as a bit of a jerk to me, but I was curious about all his sauces and those "big, bold flavors" that he's going on about all the time. I have to say, the experience was really wonderful and I have a new found respect for the guy. I had the "hacked" chicken with the five spiced mole and Lucky ate the coffee rubbed filet mignon. Both dishes were terrific, but I was actually coveting Lucky's steak. I'll have to see if I can recreate that coffee rub sometime.

Not only was the food great, but the servers were friendly and attentive as well. That's almost as important to me as the food. After a few glasses of wine, Lucky seemed less grating as well. I know I must sound completely bi-polar about this guy, but I truly am on the fence about whether I really like him or not. After this romantic dinner, he takes me back to his trailer to watch Elvis in Charro!. He thought it would fit in with the Southwest theme of our dinner. It's sort of sweet, but kind of strange too. There's so much artifice to him, I want to knock on his forehead and shout, "Hello, is the real Lucky - or whatever your real name is - actually in there?" Maybe even he doesn't really know.

Of course, the big event of the week came on Wednesday night. It's way too complicated to go into here, so I think I'll save that for one of my short stories. The day was going along routinely: I had a conference call with some people in DC, ran over to the gym for a 2-hour workout, and then stopped by a 7-11 on the way home for a candy bar (I know, but my sugar was low). On the way to my car, I found my neighbor's dog poking around by the dumpsters. After a bit of a struggle, I rounded the critter up and took him back to his owner's apartment. Things got pretty weird after that and I can't help but suspect that The Colonel put me in that apartment underneath that crazy old lady on purpose. He has a funny way of putting me in places where strange things happen.

The upshot of it was that her apartment caught fire and spread across most of her floor. My apartment was downstairs, so it was not too badly damaged, but because I was at the scene, the landlord blamed me and kicked me out.

By yesterday afternoon, my belongings were packed into my tiny Tercel and I was essentially homeless. Feeling at loose ends, I called Lucky to grumble and he offered to take me in. Naturally, I was hesitant, but I really didn't want to have to look for a new place. So here I am, typing this blog post in the spare bedroom of Lucky's double wide. Now I just have to figure out how I can conduct my web cam work without him finding out about it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Starting Over Personally and Professionally

Just when I thought I was getting the hang of this gig, it all went to hell in a matter of hours. I was doubtful that this cover would work in the beginning. Then I thought perhaps my boss was right and that this would be a foolproof plan. Now I'm having my doubts again. Maybe not so much about the operation itself, but about my ability to fulfill my role. My only choice is to regroup and figure out a way to make this work.

The week started out interesting enough. I decided to meet with Lucky again if only to let him know that our one night of drunken abandon was just that and we could never be a real couple. We met up in the wee hours of Sunday morning after he had finished his final show and we headed to an all-night diner. I had my speech planned and everything, but somehow, I never got that far. Despite his bizarre need to mimic The King's mannerisms and speech pattern, he's not entirely in character all the time. As we ate, we talked about all the usual silly stuff people talk about on a first date. Being around the same age, we laughed about the TV shows we watched as kids and the toys we had and all those pop culture touchstones that bond everyone from a certain generation and defines them, if only in a superficial way. By the time we ordered dessert, I realized how much I missed having a real friend to talk to.

Nevertheless, I was firm that, if we were going to have any further contact, we needed to go slowly. To my surprise, Lucky was just as eager to take the same approach. He seemed perfectly willing to start over as if that strange night had never occurred. We parted before sunrise with only a chaste kiss to end the date. I agreed to see him a few days later for a matinee movie- Despicable Me if you must know. I guess it was okay. I'm not much for computer animation. Growing up with movies like The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast, this artificial, rubbery looking stuff leaves me cold. Lucky seemed to enjoy it.

My noisy neighbor and her barking dog must be away for the time being. Amazing how eerie silence can be when you become used to certain noises. I'm not complaining, though. I've been able to catch up on my sleep. Sleep is my escape from the job. I've been doing unspeakable things to myself in front of a web cam for the last couple weeks in the name of entertaining some pervert on my agency's wanted list. I've had to engage in ridiculous seduction chat as well, trying to lure him into a meeting. As it turned out, he told me he was coming to Vegas. We were supposed to meet up this past Wednesday. Perhaps I should have handled this on my own, but I wanted to do this correctly, so I made contact with Stephen again to work out a scenario where we could nab this guy. We set up a hotel room where I would meet the target and Stephen would burst in as an angry husband. Distraction in place, we would overtake the guy and spirit him away without anyone noticing. The plot sounded good. It wasn't.

I'm not sure what exactly went wrong, but the guy must've spotted Stephen lurking around or something, because the target bolted. Stephen and I searched the surrounding area but, after hours of chasing shadows, we came up with nothing. My call to The Colonel was quite tense. I was dying inside, but he told me that the operation would continue. There were more fish in the sea. Part of me was hoping he would call this whole thing off. I could live with the failure. I wasn't so sure I could continue living as Carla Fontaine.

At least that's how I was feeling for a day or so. I've recommitted myself to making this work. This mistake was a dress rehearsal. Now I'm over the nerves and I can truly become this character. I have to improve the look, the moves, the seductive banter. Carla Fontaine will be irresistible. No more thinking about the cases I want to do. This is what my country needs me to do, and I will succeed.

Hang on, another text from Lucky. He's sweet but annoying sometimes. I have to punish him by making him take me to one of the really expensive restaurants in town.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Another Birthday and Work Starts for Real

Last Saturday was my birthday. It was the first time I spent my birthday in a place where I had no friends or family around to celebrate with. Okay, I know that's supposed to be part of the job and I shouldn't be such a whiner about it, but it did get me down a little bit. After moping most of the day, I finally decided to put on my best dress and hit the town. I mean, I had all of Las Vegas outside and I was sitting in my dinky apartment watching Food Network.

My first stop was the Bellagio where I had a few cocktails at Caramel, but it felt too trendy for my simple tastes. Without much food in my stomach, the booze hit me pretty fast and I found myself enraptured by the Chihuly glass sculptures on the ceiling of the Bellagio's lobby. I sort of remember spinning around and staring at the art, fascinated by the changing imagery as the light hit the glass from different angles. Who knows how long this went on, but when I noticed some security guards studying me suspiciously, I walked out to the valets to pick up my car.

Can't really remember much more about the night. I hopped from one place to another. Yes, I was probably too drunk to be driving and I regret that. I wasn't really thinking too clearly. There was some dive way off the strip where a fuzzy image of Elvis sat next to me and talked about how pretty I was. Maybe it was the margarita goggles, but he was rather attractive also. This was not the fat, jumpsuit Elvis, but a young, dashing  Elvis in a sharkskin suit and string bean tie. Next thing I knew, I was waking up in a strange bed alone and there was hair grease on the pillow next to me. Yes, I went to bed with Elvis, or at least a reasonable facsimile thereof.

The guy calls himself Lucky Jackson. That's not his real name, but a name he adopted from Elvis's character in Viva Las Vegas. He performs as Elvis in one of those 50s review shows on the strip, but he seems to be embodied with the spirit of Elvis 24/7. Needless to say, Sunday morning was a bit surreal. I just wanted to bolt, but I had no idea where I was. Lucky was a gentleman though, and he offered to take me to breakfast. It turns out he lives in a trailer in Henderson, and we ended up at a diner called Mustang Sally's located in a Ford dealership. Pretty awkward meal with him telling me all about his performing career and me making up some b.s. about having worked as an accountant but I had just moved to Vegas to start a new business. I was going to use my code name Carla, but he already knew my real name was Angela. Shit, I have to avoid drinking while undercover!

After our civil breakfast, I was really hoping I would never see Lucky again. Unfortunately, he was so sweet and polite that I felt compelled to give him my phone number. He's been texting me ever since. I can't bring myself to respond.

Monday, I got word that the agency I work for would no longer pay for my rental car and I had to find some permanent wheels. Their allowance for purchasing said wheels was a joke, so I had to find a used car in good shape. I settled on a silver 1998 Toyota Tercel, which was in fantastic condition considering its age. I guess they don't get the corrosive snow and road salt out here like we have back east. I took a picture of it:

I'm pretty happy with it, although it does have a few rattles like most used cars. Probably get rid of it once this job is over anyway.

Speaking of which, we hooked a fish on our line. A suspicious character who we've had our eye on for some time. The tech boys directed him to my site and we started chatting back and forth. Then there was the web cam stuff. I have to say, I was more upset by the experience than I thought I would be. Not that I'm a prude, but I was never all that demonstrative sexually. The whole seduction routine was never something I was comfortable with. Maybe if I had studied acting somewhere along the way, I would know how to disassociate my true self from the character I'm playing. Something must be going right because our target keeps coming back, and each session becomes a little easier.

I've been sleeping better, having learned to tune out my cranky old hag of a neighbor and all the noise at night. Her dog was in the hallway the other day before the crazy woman came out and dragged him back into her apartment. Cute little terrier mix. I feel sorry for him.

My general malaise must be working against me, because Lucky's messages became less annoying as the week went on. Yesterday he left a voice mail where he sang the chorus from Lady Gaga's Paparazzi in that Elvis voice of his. You know, "I'm your biggest fan, I'll follow you until you love me." Crazy goof. I guess I at least owe him a date where I can tell him this can never happen. I guess...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Lost in Las Vegas

Another week in Las Vegas and I'm beginning to feel like a toy boat adrift at sea. After my agency contact, Stephen, gave me a quick orientation on my new assignment and spent a few days giving me a tour of the city, he disappeared. Not literally, but he felt that it would be best for my cover if I no longer made contact with him.

I'm cultivating my new personna, known as Carla Fontaine, but things are moving slowly. A couple of Web designers back in DC are putting together a bogus porn site for me using some sexy shots I took last week. Although I'm not altogether thrilled with exploiting my body this way, I have to admit, the shots turned out far better than I expected. Maybe too good for a girl who's supposed to be running a webcam porn scheme from her apartment. I guess we'll see.

I don't understand all the technical aspects of it, but apparently our tech guys have hacked into the computers of certain targets of interest and are monitoring their "adult entertainment" preferences. Once my site is ready, they will somehow piggyback on a site that the target frequents and redirect him to my site. My job is to be entertaining enough in the virtual world to lure him to Vegas for some actual intimacy. That's when we take him in. God, I hate the idea of having to perform on a webcam for some slobbering oaf, but at least I won't have to see him while I'm doing it.

I had to buy a new laptop and a webcam for this job. Not knowing very much about computers, I had a long talk with one of the sales people at the nearest electronics megastore. He talked me into buying an ASUS, which I had never heard of before. He told me ASUS makes the hardware components for several other computer companies and only recently started making their own. It's not very pretty (sort of dark brown shiny plastic thing), but it seems to work okay for my needs. At least I could fritter away some time loading new software on it and configuring it the way I want it. Killing time has become a full-time job for me lately. I almost feel like I'm collecting a paycheck under false pretenses.

Last weekend, I thought I'd check out some of the big hotels on the strip. Went to the Venetian and Paris since they seemed pretty gimmicky. It was kind of like the way Europe would've been rendered in one of those old movie musicals with Gene Kelly or that old guy who looked like a grasshopper. There's something depressing about the phoniness of it. I guess it's for people who want to see Europe but are afraid of Europeans. I visited Epcot when I was doing my EOD training for the Navy down in Florida and got the same sort of vibe. I haven't done a huge amount of traveling, and much of that was work related, but when I can I like to immerse myself in the culture rather than try to tailor it to my American tastes.

Speaking of tastes, I found a place here that serves terrific Thai food. It's called Lotus of Siam, and they have a wonderful lunch buffet. The only drawback was I had to sit next to some pretentious idiot talking loudly on his cellphone the whole time. Then he asked the waitress for chopsticks even though Thai people do not use them. Goof!

So those are the highlights for this week. Oh, there is the neighbor upstairs who's been keeping me awake at night with all kinds of banging and rumbling noises, not to mention the dog barking and growling. It's a cute little terrier mix, but boy can it make noise. I wonder what the hell they're up to at night. And my mom keeps calling way too early because she doesn't understand the time different between east and west. She needs help sorting out my Dad's estate and, since she thinks I work for an investment firm, she wants my advice. If she only knew....

Friday, July 9, 2010

Starting a New Life

This is probably a stupid thing to do, but I decided to start a blog because I feel like I'm at loose ends and need to unload to whoever's out there. For the first time since I started working for this secret federal agency with no name, I'm stuck on long-term undercover duty with no specific strategy or end game. Over the last year or so, my previous cases involved rather narrow operations with a clear protocol and short-term results. I guess the boss, whom we all refer to as The Colonel, feels that I'm finally ready to take on a serious deep cover job. While I appreciate his confidence, I'm not so sure how crazy I am for this particular assignment.

Shortly after returning from my vacation in England, The Colonel informed me that I was moving to Las Vegas to pose as some online hooker to lure nasty terrorists who happen to frequent Vegas for some illicit thrills. He was not terribly specific about how the operation would work (probably out of some embarrassment since he is a fairly formal gentleman), so I was simply shipped off after the July 4th weekend where I was supposed to meet my contact. His code name is Stephen - his real name is not important.

I arrived at McCarran airport to the clang and jingle of slot machines in the terminal. After picking up my rental car, I drove to the Luxor where I had booked a room for one night. Having never been to Vegas before, I wanted to have one night at one of those flashy hotels. The place was just noisy and stank of cigarette smoke. After a couple drinks and several hours on the slot machines, I wasn't feeling the excitement, so I went to bed.

I met up with Stephen the next day and he filled me in on my new life. I was to become Carla Fontaine, an online sex kitten who runs her sleazy Web site out of a one-bedroom apartment in North Las Vegas. Not a bad place, actually. Clean and neatly decorated with DIY furniture from one of those Scandavanian warehouse stores. After having a day to get my bearings, I was sent to a photo shoot to take some semi-nude shots for the Web site being developed by the boys in DC. I'm not a prude, but this sort of exhibitionism is not really my thing. I spent five years trying to earn respect in the Navy as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician and in this new job as a competent field agent. Now I'm being used as a sex object. After the shoot, I hit the liquor store and spent the evening in my tiny place having a rare (but perfectly justifiable in my mind) pity party.

My royal hangover was kicked off bright and early the next morning when my mom called at 5:30 a.m. She still can't get used to the time difference between Maryland and Nevada. I think she's lost a step or two since Dad died. I've told her I'm setting up a branch office for this non-existent investment firm I'm supposed to work for. The worst part of this job is the lying, especially to my family, but it can't be helped. I'm beginning to see myself as multiple people existing at once.

Anyway, yesterday I roamed around Las Vegas some more to get acquainted. It's boiling hot here, but I think it's just as bad back home right now. And I thought I was used to crazy traffic coming from DC, but this is a new kind of crazy. By evening, I was feeling fairly miserable when a curious courier arrived at my door with a package. I was suspicious, but it turned out to be my Smith & Wesson Model 3913LS "Lady Smith" 9 mm. It's nice to have a least one old friend nearby.