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A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Beer And Poker Night

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Okay, Maddie, it went down like this: there's this little Venezuelan grandmother who always works the cash register at the corner store which consistently has the cheapest beer and yogurt in the neighborhood. She seems like a nice enough lady, don't get me wrong, but she'll talk your ear off about anything and everything at the drop of a hat, whether or not you want to hear about her arthritis or her feud with her sister over who makes the best arepas or whatever her topic du jour might be. Usually it's just harmless chatter while she rings up your purchases, but this last time we were in there she was dead quiet right up until she recognized Mikey standing in line, at which point she lit up like someone had flipped a switch.

That right there should have been yet another clue to your son that he hasn't been keeping nearly as low a profile as he should have been, but that's a safety lecture for another day.

Anyway, she immediately started going on and on about how she thought her oldest grandson has gotten himself into some kind of terrible trouble and oh would we please, please help save him. Lucky for her and not so lucky for beer and poker night, Mikey was in another one of his 'help out the underdog pro bono' moods, probably looking to rebalance his karma after traumatizing all those school kids by punching me in the face in front of them while I was dressed up as Santa Claus.

Oh, he never told you about that one? Well, where did you think I got that black eye last month?


No, I don't want to go into that right now, 'cause if I do it'll take all night, and I'm sure we both have better things to do with our time. Actually, I'd rather not go into it ever, because it’s embarrassing for almost everyone involved, even if we did earn a lot of money and take down some bad guys in the process. Look, if you want to hear about that one so badly, you'll have to ask Fi sometime. She'll probably have more fun telling it anyway, since she was the only one who came out of it without having to sacrifice her dignity.

Back to the subject at hand though, Abuelita said that lately her grandson had been acting real secretive and she had overheard him talking about buyers and dealers. She didn't know exactly what he had gotten mixed up in, but with all those cartel beheadings that have been in the news lately, she was sure that it was only a matter of time until she found herself short one or more descendants. Mikey got some names and addresses from her, told her not to worry, and away we went. Didn't even have time to stop at the Redbox on the way out.

We called up Fi, said that beer and poker night had to be postponed, brought her up to speed, and got down to business. It didn't take more than a few hours of footwork and phone calls to track down a solid lead saying that the grandson, Jorge, was renting a small warehouse out on the edge of town. The next morning, Mikey dressed himself up in his best heavy hitter getup and went off to do some reconnaissance to find out what exactly Jorge had gotten involved in which had his grandmother so worried and maybe, should the opportunity arise, to drop a word in the boy's ear about getting out of said business so that Abuelita could stop her worrying. It was supposed to be all low key, low risk, so Fi and I stayed behind and held down the fort instead of going with him.

While we waited, Fi mixed up a fresh batch of C4, because if this did end up involving cartel goons then it would be better to have explosives and not need them than to need explosives and not have them, and while she did that, I did one of the many things which I do best. No, I don't mean that I was sitting around, drinking beer, and watching baseball! I was making use of my various contacts to get more intel on all the recent comings and goings in the vicinity of Jorge's warehouse so we could better judge just how big this problem of his might be.

Fine, apology accepted.

Anyway, we did everything that we could without Mikey's fresh input, and then there was nothing to do but wait. Okay, so at that point there may have been some beer and baseball, but only because we had already cleaned all our weapons, and assembled twice as many detonators as any sane demolitions expert could expect to need for the amount of C4 we had on hand to detonate, and painted Fi's toenails, and maybe painted my toenails too, but don't tell Mikey about that part. What can I say; Fi can be very persuasive when she gets bored.

By the way, you wouldn't happen to have any nail polish remover around here, would you? Right. Thanks, Maddie.

We waited, and we waited, and then we waited some more. After a few hours we started to suspect that something might be up. We hadn't set a specific meet up time, but we figured Mikey had been gone long enough that he would have gotten in touch with us by that point if everything had gone the way it was supposed to, and he wasn't answering his phone. He hadn't sent any distress signals either, so we didn't think the situation quite merited running in with guns blazing, at least not just yet, but it did warrant further investigation.

We decided to go with the old 'Mr. and Mrs. Chuck Finley, lost tourists with more money than sense' routine because we already had all the clothes we needed to pull it off lying around at Mickey's place. We loaded all our equipment into the car, drove out to the warehouse, splashed some scotch around for that authentic smell, and then waltzed right in the front door, asking if anyone could tell us how to get to the marina because we were late for a yacht party. As soon as we were inside, we realized we could have skipped wasting the booze, because it reeked in there, like' reptile house at the zoo' kind of a stink. We could have doused ourselves with the whole bottle of scotch and no one would have noticed over that smell.

We kept going, though, because we had already committed to the parts. Things got a little awkward when Fi made the last minute decision that she was going to play my daughter instead of my wife. I hate it when she does that. No, it's not the improvisation I have a problem with.

Stop laughing, Maddie. How would you like it if I went around telling everyone I was your son?

Yeah, exactly.

Anyway, like I was saying, things got a little awkward. Then things got a different sort of awkward when the lady working the front desk started trying to convince Fi that she should really consider buying an albino ball python before we left, because they were supposedly all the rage as fashion accessories these days and would look stunning with her little black dress. At first, I thought the lady was just BSing us to try to scare us out the door faster, but then she called Jorge up front, and he gave us a tour of the whole place, making his sales pitch the whole way through. Apparently, instead of buying and selling anything illegal like dear old Abuelita thought, Jorge had spent the past few years building up a very lucrative business of breeding and selling high-end fancy snakes, which he kept secret from his grandmother because she has severe herpetophobia and goes into panic attacks at the mere mention of anything reptilian.

None of this explained where Mikey had disappeared off to though, which Fi and I were in the process of taking turns trying to explain to Jorge when the ransom note arrived. Turns out there was a drug cartel involved. Or, rather, there was a wannabe cartel who wanted to be involved and had spent the past couple of months trying to convince Jorge that he should go into business with them so they could smuggle heroin into the country inside his snakes whenever he ordered any from South America. Jorge had, quite reasonably, pointed out that imported snakes spent too long in quarantine for the plan to be viable and that, even if they didn't, he only ever bought snakes from domestic suppliers because of how much it simplified the paperwork come tax time.

These guys wouldn't take no for an answer, though, and had finally decided to kidnap one of Jorge's friends in order to convince him that they meant business. The fact that they somehow mistook Mikey for being friends with Jorge when the two had never previously been in the same room together is just one of the many examples of how these particular wannabe cartel guys are morons. Don't bother giving Mikey a hard time about how he somehow managed to let himself get caught by these losers, because Fi and I have already taken care of that in spades.

Oh, wow. Look at the time. I need to get going soon, or I'm going to be late for my date. No, no, of course I'm not going to run off without telling you the rest.

Long story short, the not ready for primetime cartel didn't do a good enough job of covering their tracks, so Fi and I tracked them down in a few hours, stormed the squalid little duplex they were using for a hideout, and got your son back. They were such pushovers that we didn't even need to use any of Fi's C4. At least part of that was probably due to the fact that Mikey had already gotten loose and was kicking their asses on his way out while we were kicking their asses on the way in. The FBI got an anonymous tipoff telling them where they could find a bunch of tied up idiots to arrest. Jorge got the assurance that he could finally get back to selling snakes in peace. Jorge's grandmother got assurance that her grandson was not participating in anything illegal, though when she asked, we has to bend the truth and tell her that she shouldn't try to visit his place of business because he was building a taxidermy empire so the whole place was just plain grosser than a little old lady should have to deal with. At least we weren't lying about the smell.

Jorge was so happy with getting rid of the wannabe cartel guys that he wanted to reward us, but all his money was tied up in his business, so he gave us a bunch of merchandise instead. I had that reptile house stink all over me from spending too long in the warehouse, and I couldn't go back to my lady-friend's place smelling like that. Mikey said it would be okay if I stopped in here on my way and took a shower. I would have packed up all my stuff and been out of here ages ago, but it had been a really long day, and I thought you weren't going to be home until later tonight, so there wouldn't be any harm in lying down and closing my eyes for a few minutes.

And that's why you found me asleep on your couch with a giant Rubbermaid storage tub with five kilos of plastic explosives and six fancy snakes in it on the floor next to me.

Sorry, Maddie. I would promise that it won't happen again, but what with working with Mikey and all, you never know when you might need to break a promise like that. Now will you please stop looking at me like I'm insane?

The End