Ace of Snakes
NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge #1
A special agent enlists a comedienne to covertly deliver a flash drive to a group of Tibetan monks.
In the empty club, with its stage curtains drawn, and its smell of floor polish not yet trodden to oblivion by the footfalls of three hundred patrons, Victoria sat at one of the clean, white, linen-covered tables with her arms folded across her chest, perhaps to keep her heart from beating right out of her rib cage.
A man strode across the floor and sat opposite Victoria. He had an unkept beard, jeans with tears in the knees, and he wore a denim jacket over faded tee-shirt that said Party Time.
“Victoria Robin? I’m Special Agent Brian Dicus,” he said but did not extend his hand.
“Excellent,” Victoria said. Her voice shaking, she tried to crack a crooked smile.
“What?” Brian asked.
“You know, ‘Party time, excellent,” Victoria pointed to his shirt.
“I’m undercover,” he explained as he removed a pack of playing cards from his jacket pocket. He pulled out a card and slid it over the table with two fingers.
Victoria picked up the card and studied it. It looked like the ace of spades, but instead of a spade, there was a dark green cobra head at the center of the card.
“Ace of snakes,” Victoria said.
“It’s a flash drive packed with sensitive information,” he said.
Victoria held the card up to the light and saw the glint of the computer chips in the cobra’s two eyes.
“At tonight’s show there will be a contingent of three high ranking Tibetan officials,” Brian continued while Victoria inspected the flash drive, “you’ll easily recognize them because they are monks and will be dressed as such. It doesn’t matter which of the three you slip the card to, they will all be expecting it.”
“Once the drive is safely in the hands of the Tibetans, your assignment will be complete and all of the charges will not only be dropped, but erased from the records. As if it never happened.”
“Perfect. Anything else?” Victoria asked.
“Tell me a joke,” Brian demanded.
“I’m not that kind of comedian. I tell funny stories.”
“A funny story then,”
Victoria paused, pulled her fire red hair back from her copper colored, almond eyes and said, “A few weeks ago I went on a blind dinner date with this guy. When we got to dessert, he kept staring at my tits; so, finally I say ‘hey buddy my eyes are up here.’ It turns out he was staring at a huge glob of ice cream that I had slobbered all over my chest,” Victoria paused for effect “Well, at least my dessert got to third base,” she finished.
Brian was stone faced. Victoria snatched the card pack from the table and tucked the Ace of Snakes into it.
“There’s no accounting for taste,” she said.
The All Suits Comedy club usually tailored to diverse upper middle class customers and those aspiring to be upper middle class with an over-budget night out. The patrons were moderately well dressed, rowdy, and relaxed by the club’s expensive spirits and light fare. During Victoria’s set she noticed the Tibetan contingent tucked into a the back corner of the club, wearing orange and white robes, their heads shaved and their table bare, aside from a pitcher of water.
She rushed through her comedy routine, barely noticing when the audience laughed or when a punchline fell flat. The pack of cards sat heavily in the hind pocket of her jeans and more than once she reached back and absentmindedly touched it. When Victoria left the stage, Frank, a lanky fellow comedian, who wore his pet ball python around his neck like a slithery boa, stopped her in the wings and asked why she kept scratching her butt through her performance. He also had a message for her,
“Some scrub friend of yours grabbed me on my way into the club and told me to give this to you,” Frank pressed a crumpled note in Victoria’s hand and took a moment to pet Bertha before they walked on stage.
It read: Count the Monks
Victoria waded into the crowd and counted the monks as she navigated through the tables. There were four monks instead of the three that Brian had described. Hot blood pounded into Victoria’s head, blurring her vision and beating in her ears as she tried to puzzle through the conundrum.
One of them must be undercover and not a real monk, Victoria thought, and he can’t be trusted. Why else would Brian warn me?
Victoria pulled an extra chair over to the monks’ table, while, on stage, Frank told his opening joke, something about how his python is even bigger than Bertha.
“Hello gentlemen,” Victoria said and each of the monks nodded to her in turn.
“I love monks, you know,” Victoria said, “but they don’t love me. I sometimes bartend and I meet all types. Three monks once walked into my bar and ordered martinis. I said, ‘hey fellas, how’d you like your martinis served’ and one monk answered, ‘in silence.”
When she finished speaking, Victoria leaned in and closely studied the faces of the monks. Not finding what she was looking for, she leaned back and tried again,
“I’ve heard that monks are so spiritually in tune that they can go an incredibly long time without eating. One famous monk set out to learn how to fast for months at a time, but he died in the process. At his funeral, his master said it was such a shame that he died just when he had learned how to not eat.”
This time all of the monks laughed except the one on the far left. He remained stone faced. Victoria pulled the card deck from her pocket, removed the Ace of Snakes and handed it to one of the laughing monks. She narrowed her eyes at the last monk on the left and said,
“There’s no accounting for taste.”