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.