#Friday Reads: It Was only on Stun!
Chapter 3: What could go Wrong?
The uneventful plane ride three days later went amazingly smooth, and, for the first time in a while, neither Sean nor Inna was frisked in an attempt by airport security to be politically correct (As though I look like the IRA or Inna looks like Russian Mafiya).
Now that I think about it, I wonder if Mitch has any idea on how to get the usual toys through airport security. Probably through FedEx overnight again.
All Sean had to do was make a brief phone call the night before in order to get Mitchell Scholl giddy. “Great! Now I have an excuse to try out those damn costumes!” he had exclaimed before hanging up to get back to his work.
Sometimes Mitch reminded Sean of a writer he once protected; the author would constantly pause in mid-sentence then scribble in a notebook, not to move from the chair for hours at a time as he turned out pages of material.
Only Mitch’s materiel literally does more property damage…Though I heard Lenin’s writing career destroyed a few countries. “I wonder if there are any authors at this convention,” Sean murmured as the plane took off at nine in the morning.
Inna merely smiled. “Caitlin Brown and I will have of our writers to be there.”
Ryan laughed. “I wonder which one will try to kill me now—one of her clients or yours.”
Half of business class turned to look at him.
Inna, her eyes closed and her head back, said, “It was one of mine last time; it’s her turn now. She’s representing several of her old film mates on the set of G5; I only got Mira because Caitlin didn’t have the heart to let her go, so I made it look to Mira as though I ‘stole’ her from Caitlin.”
Sean thought for a moment. “I’m starting to wonder what it takes to be an agent; you’re a history and business person, your Ms. Brown was an actor—”
“All it officially takes is an office—even a home office—and a sign saying you’re an agent, that’s why we get such a bad rap: all of the crooks out there who disappear with clients’ money. Why do you think we have the AAR, and these other official associations?”
“Speaking of the Association of Author’s Representatives, could you tell me which of your people will be there? The writers, I mean, not the agents.”
Inna was silent for a moment, going through the roster of clients she kept in her head. He had constantly won money betting that her mental Rolodex could recall any phone number within a matter of seconds.
“David Peters, of course, as well as the other one you saw with him—”
Sean blinked. “You represent him? He’s done for Sci-Fi as the Boston Strangler did for door-to-door salesmen. People wish that he were science fiction. I once heard that he spend six hours just introducing himself.”
Inna sighed. “And Matthew Kovach had considered coming by, but he’s still up in the air.”
Sean blinked. “Who?”
Petraro’s eyes flew open and she started. “You don’t know Matthew Kovach?”
He shrugged. “I’ve vaguely heard about a novel character named Kovach.”
Inna hesitated a moment, hovering between giving him a complete answer and betraying a client’s trust. The indecision didn’t last long. She settled back into her semi-conscious state. “Sorry; I meant to say Declan Finn, author of the Kovach novels. They’re so much alike, they’re easy to confuse—you could say they’re almost the same person…you’ll like him, I promise, assuming he shows up. Now shhh, I’m trying to rest.”
Sean did as she asked, thinking about what would happen after landing. As a matter of habit, he reached into his left, inside jacket pocket to check on his collapsible baton. Now all I need to do is adapt it to carry for a Sci-Fi convention.
He sighed, slipped his heavily tinted sunglasses on, and thus became invisible, now that his only noticeable feature—his electric blue eyes—had been covered.
The taxi drove both him and Inna from the airport to Mitchell Scholl’s home. Sean didn’t own a car for several reasons, the first of which were the drivers on the road, who were certifiably crazier than he was; second of all, he was worried about speeding—years as a stunt driver made his foot rather heavy on the gas pedal; and finally, he had fears of reverting to his early days in driving school (his mother had had him take driving lessons as given by the defensive driving instructors at Quantico).
Inna leaned toward the passenger side. “I’ll meet you at Mira’s, okay?”
Sean nodded, kissed her quickly on the lips, and closed the door, letting the taxi driver speed away into the smog.
When New York air smells like fresh air, you’re in trouble, pal.
Ryan turned toward the sidewalk and stepped on the curb before he crossed the street to Scholl’s home. There were, as always, two men from the ATF parked across the street. One raised an insulated Starbucks coffee cup at him—Fidel Olmos, a fifty-year-old ATF officer who was born before his first name took on a more ominous overtone. His graying hair blended well with his dark olive skin, and his dark handlebar mustache looked as though it had sprouted the straight-stemmed pipe he’d been smoking since before Scholl had known him—for some odd reason, he refused to smoke cigars.
The man next to him was a well-tanned young man of well-known qualities—being annoying and in the right almost all the time—Philip Kenmore. Except for his tan, he would have qualified for the most average male award: brown hair, brown eyes, no beard, no distinguishing marks, and not even a facial blemish. He was annoyingly perfect and, to Sean’s eyes, frustratingly invisible in a crowd.
Or even alone in an all-white room, I bet. Although the same has been said of me with my sunglasses on.
“Morning, Sean,” Fidel greeted him. “Good trip?”
“How do you know?”
“Your New York girlfriend,” Kenmore piped up.
“Whatever. I guess Mitch is in?”
“Last time I checked. He hasn’t moved in days; we had to get our own coffee for the first time in months,” Olmos told him. “He’d better not be working on anything illegal that we find out about.”
“Mitch? Illegal? Seriously, officers!”
Mitchell Scholl had a very illustrious reputation, and a better-looking house, most of it just a very large “toys” storage facility for which the Mitch was (in)famous throughout Hollywood. There had been some suggestion he had once worked for the Israeli Jeptha—their equivalent of the army core of engineers, or the British Q-branch—and some he had been working in Hollywood since before Ray Harryhausen and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. All anyone could confirm about Scholl was he had worked in every special effects department in Hollywood, and he invented enough to afford a very nice home in Orange County.
I’ll stick to the apartment—unlike Mitch, I don’t have a government agency parked outside my residence.
Ryan braced himself and rang the doorbell. The battery of sound effects ripped through the house and scared anyone with sense. Sean wasn’t scared.
After a few minutes of fighting from Saving Private Ryan, the sounds of bombs and machinegun fire stopped and the door opened to reveal a short pudgy man with a yarmulke.
“Sean, my boy!” he said in that thick Brooklyn-German-Jewish accent called Yiddish. “How do you like wearing costumes?”
“You’re talking to the man who can do gymnastics in a Wookie suit. Why?”
“Have I got a deal for you!”
Sean smiled. “Mitch, some Californian Liberals at Berkeley might think such a statement is a bad anti-Semitic stereotype.”
“Bah! Whadda they know! They want real anti-Semitism, they should read the Bible, those damn Commies! Hell, they’d think God were Hitler by the time they were done with Exodus!”
Mitch also claimed to be an Orthodox Jew, but had somehow managed to be the most unorthodox person Sean ever knew—excluding himself.
“Come in, come in, let me show you what I’ve cooked up today. You’ll love it for your new gig.”
I’m almost afraid to ask. Ryan followed Scholl through an elaborate maze of equipment and film history that would catch a fortune on eBay from every film cult on the planet—and maybe a few religious cults as well.
“I’ve been waiting for you to be able to use some of these things in your death prevention service,” Mitch called from far ahead of him.
How does he make it through this junk so fast? Sean wondered. He was thinner and fitter than Mitch had been for decades, but the older man flowed through the towers of devices and inventions that Sean had to edge his way through sideway.
“It’s not strictly ‘death prevention’ this time, Mitch,” he called ahead. “This is just a matter of security for an entire convention, that’s all.”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, Sean. In any case, I’ve got a few things to help you blend in with the Martians.”
“You mean ‘Trekkies’ and ‘Fivers’?” Ryan had finally caught sight of Mitch again. The shorter special effects man stood in front of an old set of fake “android” armor, complete with helmet that had a red strip for a visor.
“The old ‘TechnoCop’ uniform?” Ryan asked. “This is it?”
“Only one, my friend, only one,” Mitch answered with a dramatic wave. “This, I tell you, comes complete with a network of steel beams inside the suit to absorb the pressure of anything you lift, and possibly hit.”
Sean shook his head firmly. “Excuse me?”
“Steel beams go up and down the suit, out into the arms, and give support to the limbs. Should you grab someone and haul them off the ground, for example, the weight of the person you’re lifting will be distributed throughout the network of metal. The visor I replaced with old IR goggles.”
“Infrared? You’re joking, right?”
Mitch turned. “I don’t joke, young man. I even have a holster in the leg, and it can hold an old Stechkin ASP with twenty shots and a fully automatic function! Or even a Beretta 951 with the thirty-shot clip!”
Sean merely nodded, not wanting to remind the older man that Ryan already knew every gun in Mitch’s arsenal, if only because Scholl had gone through the inventory with him every time Ryan came to visit.
Scholl’s eyes lit up. “Have I got a toy for you! Give me your baton.”
Ryan reached in and took out the weapon. Scholl grabbed it from his hand and tossed it aside, where it landed in a corner with spent shotgun shells. Mitch reached into his own pockets and pulled out two cylinders that looked like the one he had just tossed aside. With a flick of each wrist, both of them opened to ceramic batons just under four feet long. He turned them so the bottom of each handle faced the other, and he locked them both together, turning it into a seven-foot long staff.
“I took one look at the fighting pikes from G5 and wanted one,” Scholl explained. He pressed a button and both ends collapsed. “You can pretty much open it as a single piece if you flick your wrist the right way, or, you can hit this button.”
The staff opened without any movement on Mitch’s part. “I installed a CO2 cartridge for automatic release, should you not have the room to flick the wrist.”
Sean smiled. “I like it. Is the carbon dioxide cartridge also ceramic?”
“Of course. You don’t think I want you stopped at an airport metal detector, do you? I put plenty of time into this, I don’t want the airport security to look at it, take it apart, and give it to the FBI to make before I can sell it to them. They already have the patent on the hydra-shok hollow point bullets, I don’t want them to have one on this.”
“Ah.” That was another mystery in Hollywood: how many patents Mitch had—which was up there with other unanswerable questions: who was smarter, Dominicans or Jesuits? How much money did the Franciscans have? And how many orders of nuns were there? “I take it you have a Ranger costume from G5 as well?”
“What? You think I’d give you a weapon without matching uniform?” Scholl opened a closet and pulled out a hanger with the vaunted Ranger uniform. It had a deep brown robe that stopped just below the knees, making it easy to fight in without tripping over it. The shirt was a lighter brown, and underneath it was a black undershirt with matching trousers. On the left breast was a badge of an oval jade rimmed in gold.
“Nice. Does it come with an SHP?” Ryan joked, referring to the weapon of choice on the show, a Superheated Hydrogen Pistol.
Scholl reached behind his back and withdrew an SHP. “What else?” He beamed. “This is actually just a shell of a prop wrapped around a ten-shot Spanish .45-caliber Star Firestar, filled with hollowpoints so you don’t kill a civilian when it goes through a bad guy. Since the Rangers didn’t carry guns, I installed a holster at the small of the back so some fan doesn’t catch you in an inconsistency.”
Ryan blinked. “Okaaay. I’m surprised you didn’t try for Semmerling, or one of the smaller SIGs.”
“Given the people you’ll be dealing with, a .45 is what you need, and a five-shot Semmerling won’t be enough; frankly, if you have to stop to reload, you’re dead.”
“Mitch, you haven’t read a newspaper in years, what would you know about the Balkans?”
Scholl blinked. “A Nazi’s a Nazi, I don’t care what they rename the German-speaking lands.”
Inna would later tell him that the ethnic content of the Balkans had once been included within the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, which had a high German-speaking population, which was what Mitch was most likely referring to. “I think you’ve been down in this basement too long, my friend. Have you been watching the news anytime this last decade?”
“The news? What’s to know? Democrats claim Republicans are out to eradicate blacks and the poor, and Republicans go after Democrats for sex scandals and hypocrisy; the Middle East wants the second shoah and finish what the Nazis started. Did I miss something that I can’t see fictionalized into manageable portions in TV or movies?”
Sean paused for a moment. “I’ll have to ask Inna.”
Scholl lit up brighter than the morning sky. “Speaking of which, how’s she enjoying Sodom and Gomorrah?”
“Now that she’s back in Hell-A, I think she appreciates New York more.”
Mitch paused. “She’s back? And you didn’t bring her here to see me? How could you leave me with just you? With Inna, you’re at least tolerable.”
He laughed. “She’s busy preparing to introduce the target to me, lest she be scandalized when I drop by. Is there anything else that comes with the Ranger suit? The staff and the gun?”
Scholl smiled. “This I’m particularly proud of; it’s in plain sight.”
Sean glanced at the suit once more, particularly at the gold-rimmed badge. “Let me guess; the badge is a throwing knife, like those belt buckle knives?”
“Darn, you ruined the surprise. I have a gun in one of those old Trek laser-guns, and a tazer pistol in the newer version—you know, the one that looks like a Dust Buster—as well as one of them Borg-Warner suits.”
“They’re called the Borg and they are not a household appliance company from Chicago,” Sean replied.