Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Chapter 4: Man on a Mission

Chapters one through three of "Your Pal Al" have been  published here previously. I'd love to hear what you think. Please comment.

It is just before dawn and everyone is still asleep. A shadowy figure slips into the hallway and floats towards the heart of the house. It approaches the closed door at the end of the hall and waits. Until this moment, not a sound has been made, and then, ever so softly, a very small whisper can be heard. Albert can barely hear himself over the pounding of his heart. “Your mission, Jim, should you decide to accept it, is to make yourself breakfast, leave a note explaining where you will be, and sneak out of the house without being caught. Your objective, to obtain information about the Shadow. Make contact with Samson Browne. He is the double agent, but be careful. The evil Carlotta is ever present. As always, should you or any member of your I.M. Force be caught or killed, the secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions. This tape will self destruct in five seconds.”

He pauses and listens again. If anyone is awake, they will be in the kitchen. The door swings open slowly, just a crack at first, and then, just enough to allow Albert to slip into the kitchen.

The coast is clear. He crosses the kitchen, again using his quietest spy skills. He quickly cracks the code on the refrigerator. It is just one of his specialties. The safe is full but he does not get distracted. He sees the milk and grabs it. He takes his prize over to the kitchen table and pours himself a big glass. Next, he grabs the last package of Pop Tarts. He always knew about Colonel McGrath’s secret stash in the back of the pantry but the time was never right. This morning it is. Oh yes! Today was his most important mission for the Impossible Missions Force and he is going to be successful. He didn’t bother to heat them up. He didn’t want to get caught. He hastily scrawled a note to his commander, the leader of the IMF, telling her that he was already out to play and that he and Bruiser were going to be gone all day. He leaves it on the counter and opens the screen door. He made it. It took all of his espionage skills but he made it and the day was now his.

BAM! Unfortunately he forgot about the spring and the screen door slammed.

They were shooting at him. He couldn’t believe it. Not to worry. No one had ever successfully hit him. He was far too good. He runs to Bruiser’s pen and breaks him out. The two must now get out of the country before getting caught. He begins to explain the mission to Bruiser as they head for the old state road.

His mother had been in awake in her bedroom and quickly heads for the kitchen. But no one is there. Then she sees Albert and Bruiser heading down the dirt driveway. She finds the note that Albert left on the counter. She reads it quickly and smiles. When she looks up, Albert is talking to Bruiser but she can’t quite hear what he is saying. He is quite animated. She smiles again.

“Albert?” she called after him. This time a little louder. “Albert?” But he must have been out of earshot. That was OK. He was growing up fast. He was going to be fine.

She loves the fact that he seemed to be having a good time. She wasn’t sure how he would like staying with his grandparents. It was the biggest concern she had when she and Leland discussed his plans to be gone all summer. The photo shoot in New Guinea was an enormous break for him but he wouldn’t leave her and Albert alone in Jacksonville all summer. He would only take the assignment if she would take Albert up to her parents and spend the summer with them. It was a difficult choice but the assignment for National Geographic would make her husband a respectable photographer. No more weddings or portraits of whiney kids.

The job could also be an end to their financial concerns. They might even get to move to Washington D.C. Happy thoughts were running through her head when her mother made her presence known to her.

“Abilene. You musn’t allow your boy to behave so. He needs to show you a little more respect.” The words were cold and emotionless.

“He’s just a boy, Mama.”

Grandmother just stared at her. Abby knew that look. It was the one that she reserved for her when the response was not adequate.

By this time Albert and Bruiser had already turned the corner. The first leg of his assignment was complete. “So Bruiser, how do you think I can get Mr. Sam to tell me about the Shadow?”

Bruiser wasn’t much of a strategist. He was all muscle.

“Well, Miss Lottie is going to be the tough one. If I could only get her off the porch, even for a minute, I bet I could get Mr. Sam started. And then…” Albert snapped his fingers. Bruiser looked up. Albert wasn’t sure, but he thought his body guard was smiling.

“What do you suppose it is?” Bruiser just loped along. This time he didn’t even look up.

“So, I know I asked you this before but you had all night to think on it and I thought, maybe, just maybe, you figured it out.” Still no answer.

“Why do you suppose it’s so important? And why won’t Miss Lottie let him tell me about it?”

“I bet it has to do with the CIA or the FBI or something. And Miss Lottie just thinks I ain’t big enough for it to concern me. She doesn’t know that I’m a real secret agent myself and can handle it. And I’m strong. Mr. Sam said so himself.”

“Maybe it isn’t spy stuff at all. Maybe it’s like something like The Twilight Zone or Scooby Doo… something creepy like that.” Bruiser gave a snort. “Scooby isn’t real Bruiser. He’s just a dog on TV and he’s not even a real dog. He’s just a cartoon dog!” Albert walked on in silence for a few minutes thinking about what he just told his dog. And while he liked spy stuff well enough, the idea of something strange and scary led to so many more possibilities. “I bet Kolchak would know.”

 “So, tell me Bruiser, how can we get Mr. Sam to tell us? That Miss Lottie is a tough one. She doesn’t EVER leave Mr. Sam alone on that porch for more than a minute or two.” They continued on in this manner for quite some time and then Albert grew quiet. Somehow talking about the shadow made put him on edge.

It was near eight o’clock when Albert and Bruiser came up on the Browne place. Albert couldn’t wait and took off running! Bruiser let him go. He never did seem to want to head up to the porch. The old hickory was close enough for him.

“Good morning Burty!” Mr. Sam was beaming.

“Hi Mr. Sam! Good morning Miss Lottie.” He launched himself onto the porch and hurried to get settled in his usual spot at Mr. Sam’s feet.

“Sweet Baby Jesus! What ‘choo doing out here so early, Albert?”

“Well…” he had to think fast although the words were coming out real slow. “Today is cleaning day, Miss Lottie…” He rolled his eyes, cocked his head and rubbed his chin. “…and Grandmother likes an early start.” There. It wasn’t entirely a lie. Saturday was wash day and Grandmother did like an early start.

“So why ain’t choo at home helpin’ yo’ Granny?”

His mind was wandering again.

“Burty! Miss Lottie was asking you a question.” He was smiling like he almost always did when Albert came to visit. And Miss Lottie was shaking her head. That was also something that happened a lot.

“Child, one day, that brain o’ yours is gonna get you in trouble!” But she was smiling too.

End of Chapter