On the whole, it had been an eventful evening. So many positively ludicrous occurrences... A family who couldn’t even figure out how to prepare dinner? A grown man who plays with a train set? A jolly gentleman with a xylophone fetish? However, the best - or worst, depending on your point of view - was yet to come.
As soon as the Russian started talking about wrestling, Anthony Kirby Sr. knew things were going to get interesting.
Boris Kolenkhov stood up from his chair and paced in front of the assembled party. “In wrestling,” the Russian lectured, “you must think quick with the mind and act quick with the body!”
In spite of himself, Anthony found himself curious to see where the Russian was going. He stood up from his chair and dusted himself off briefly. “I’m afraid most of us aren’t really built for wrestling, Mr. Kolenkhov,” he said, the faintest curl of a smile playing at the corner of his mouth. “I’d make no great showing as a wrestler myself.”
In an instant, Kolenkhov stood only a hair’s breadth away from him. Anthony shivered slightly at the closeness of the Russian, enamoured with the slightly musty scent of his breath. He found himself thinking about how nice it would be if the Russian would move closer, only to catch himself. What am I doing? he thought. I have a wife and a child! This is not my life .
“Nonsense!” Mr. Kolenkhov roared. “You are built for it! Look!” Then he began to move. Anthony briefly registered the Russian’s hand on his thigh, his cheek pressed against his hip - and the next thing he knew, he was on the floor, Kolenkhov on top of him.
Such proximity to another man should have disgusted Anthony, or at the very least made him uncomfortable, especially in such plain view of his wife. On the contrary, however, Anthony felt his breathing quicken and his heart hammer at his chest, his body responding to the physical contact despite the protests of his mind. Was he... enjoying it?
The room was in chaos. Mr. De Pinna huddled together with Paul, both of them shocked at Kolenkhov’s sudden outburst. Alice clung to Rheba like it might kill her to let go, poor girl. And Donald clutched his bag of groceries, whispering to it fervently, “Oh, no, I don’t like this. It breaks up my week.” The hubbub of conversation filled the room, Mrs. Kirby’s piercing scream reverberating through the room. Everyone was looking around, shouting, and generally causing quite a ruckus, so it was no surprise that nobody noticed Kolenkhov quickly brush Anthony’s lips with his own. The Russian flashed him a quick smile before he stood.
Did a man really just kiss me? Anthony thought. And did I really just enjoy it? Since when have I developed an attraction to flamboyant Russian men? Did he mean to do that or was it an accident? What would Miriam say?
Anthony probably could have laid there on the floor in shock and wonder for quite a while, had his train of thought not been quite thoroughly interrupted by a searing pain down below - namely the Russian’s boot resting firmly on his groin. He gave a shout of surprise and pain and curled up on the floor in agony. The room dissolved into even further chaos. Through the pain, Anthony had time for a single thought: Well, I guess I don’t need to worry about using birth control anymore.
Anthony barely registered the hands helping him to his feet amid the haze of pain. Tony appeared at his side. “Are you all right, Father?”
“My glasses...” Anthony slurred. Immediately, Alice scurried off to retrieve them.
“Here they are, Mr. Kirby,” she said as she returned. But when she looked closer, her face fell. “Oh, Mr. Kirby, they're broken...”
“I am so sorry! But when you wrestle again, you will of course not wear glasses.” There was the Russian again, uncomfortably close to Anthony. He felt himself overtaken with a wave of excitement - no, something stronger than excitement. Dare he call it lust?
Lust? Really, Anthony? he chastised himself. I've really lost my head, haven't I?
Anthony suddenly realized that the Russian was done talking. He put on his best angry face and did his best to look livid. “I do not intend to wrestle again, Mr. Kolenkhov!” he roared so loudly, Alice took a step backward in fright.
Oops. Maybe I overdid that one a little.
The evening proceeded largely without further incident, until Mrs. Sycamore suggested a game to play while the company waited for Donald to return with dinner. Anthony played his part of the game well, and even solicited a smattering of polite applause from the assembled crowd. He tried not to notice the Russian, clapping along out of the corner of his eye. Anthony didn't trust himself to control himself if he looked him directly in the eye.
Where on earth is this coming from? he thought. I have never felt this strongly about anyone before... even Miriam. For a moment, he almost succumbed to the temptation to commit to his feelings towards the Russian - but his own perception of societal expectation was not having it. No. I have a wife and child. My testimony before the Securities Commission would look like a cakewalk compared to the story a divorce, or God forbid, an affair, would make in the morning papers.
Anthony did his best to discount his feelings, and convince himself that he was not, in fact, attracted to the Russian. He wasn't really listening to Mrs. Sycamore reading out the responses of his wife. Instead, he spent the minutes locked in a mental battle with himself, and soon found himself almost begging for an opportunity to prove to the others as much as himself that he felt nothing towards Mr. Kolenkhov. So when Mrs. Sycamore brought up the topic of lust, he jumped on it, eager to prove his heterosexuality.
“Human?” he barked. “Really, Miriam?”
Mrs. Kirby squirmed in her seat. “Lust, after all, is a human emotion,” she said, her eyes refusing to meet his head-on.
Oh, look at her. At least Miriam is too caught up trying to salvage what is left of this game to notice my own struggle. Ha ha.
“I disagree, Miriam,” Anthony growled. “Lust is not a human emotion. It is depraved. ”
Depraved? Oh, now I've really overdone it.
While his wife struggled to maintain at least some semblance of dignity, Anthony thought about his marriage to Miriam. Yes, his marriage had gotten him a fair amount of publicity in the morning papers. Anthony and Miriam had seen their own net worths increase by about ninety-seven percent since the start of their marriage, and their union had proved quite profitable. And yes, for a time, he was happy. But his real happiness lasted about eight months, while the actual marriage, unfortunately, lasted twenty-three years. Increasingly Anthony found himself vexed by Miriam’s almost unnatural ability to pick out the slightest flaws in his character. Wall Street drove him insane, yes, but he found it much easier to deal with CEOs and venture capitalists than his own wife. After many a long, arduous day on Wall Street, Anthony constantly came home to nothing more than constant complaints. “Why do you take so long in the bathroom?” “You smell like sweat. Go take a shower.” “No, Anthony, I think missionary position is perfectly adequate for your admittedly limited abilities.” “You smell horrible. Put on some deodorant.” “Why do you have so much deodorant on?” “Can you shower less? I want to use the bathroom too!” “Oh God, not the hot springs!”
Now that he thought about it, Anthony realized that he wasn't happy with Miriam. No - he despised his marriage to Miriam. How nice would it be to have a young, spry new partner, willing to try other things than missionary?
Anthony would have liked to stay there and see if he could court the Russian. However, soon the Sycamores began to wear away at Anthony’s patience. He couldn't stand the so very naïve nature of the speech of Mrs. Sycamore - a grown woman! Essie did nothing other than giggle, dance badly, and prattle on endlessly about candy and garden shows, and too often Anthony found himself grinding his teeth while listening to her. Eventually, he put his foot down. He would find a way to contact the Russian later, without the Sycamores ruining everything like they so thoroughly accomplished tonight. After all, there couldn’t be too many entries under the name Boris Kolenkhov in the phone book.
He stood up to leave amid a hail of protests from Tony and Alice. Miriam stood and fell to his side. “Are you coming, Tony?” he asked.
“No, Father, I’m not.” Tony’s face was a mask of anguish, torn between his family and his lover.
Young love. It's been so long since I've experienced that. Or has it...?
Am I really thinking about young love? I’m not sure one could call it “young love” with me. Lord knows I’m no spring chicken.
It took longer than it should have for Anthony to realize that Tony had answered his previous question. Oops. I really must keep a handle on my thoughts. “Very well,” Anthony replied.
He had to leave soon, but he wasn’t about to leave without at least trying to advance his relationship with Mr. Kolenkhov. He tried to shoot a discreet wink to the Russian, but unfortunately, his lazy eye was acting up. To the assembled party, it looked as if he had just tried to seduce a terrarium full of snakes.
First, he thought, Did I really just wink at a cage of snakes? Next, I'd wink at Kolenkhov’s snake if I could see it. Then, Oh dear. My mind does appear to be quite addled by that blasted Russian. I must see a therapist when I return.
“Your mother and I will be waiting for you at home,” Anthony called as he led Miriam into the archway. “Good night.”
A disjointed score of “good night”s followed the Kirbys as they swept out of the room.
“Lovely day for cricket,” Mac remarked.
Jim turned her head slowly and stared Mac down, with the same stare that had once scared the President himself out of his socks. Her eyes bored into him with the intensity of a laser beam. Mac soon regretted having said anything, and found himself wishing he could melt into his shoes.
Manfred Mannheimer Manson stood before the big white house, flanked by his two partners. “They should have given us guns,” he muttered, his fingers twitching around the noticeably empty holster on his belt. “These are probable terrorists, and all they sent are three agents and one badge?”
“Come on, Man, you know how it is, what with the depression,” Mac remarked, “Funding is tight.”
Manfred turned around to face Mac. “I thought we've been over this already. Don't call me Man. It's Manfred. Or Manny. Not Man.”
Mac grinned. “Okay, Man.”
Manfred just sighed.
Mac turned to Jim, that same impish grin still plastered on his face as if surgically stitched on. “Six years we've been working together, Jim, and I still don't know your real name.”
Jim responded without even turning to look at him. “You know it's been eight years, Mac.”
Mac’s grin became even wider, if that was possible. “Well, I didn't count the first two, because I was learning to type.”
“Keep talking and I eviscerate you.”
“Nah, you can't. You need me to search the cellar.”
“That’s your only job. You don’t have to do anything else. I can still kill you. I'm quite capable of searching the cellar in your place.”
“But if you kill me, who will do the comic relief?”
“Will you two be quiet?” Manfred asked. “We’re on a mission here!”
Jim’s eyes flickered over to rest on the back of Manfred’s head. “I could kill you too.”
Manfred looked suitably unconcerned. “Kill me and you lose the intimidation factor. Neither of you are as loud as I am.”
Mac decided to join in. “With all due respect, sir, your conspicuous mouth - er, volume - might not be a good thing.”
Manfred sighed. “Can we proceed with the mission, please?” He was beginning to regret bringing both Mac and Jim on the same mission. He should have just brought one of them. Bringing them both was a recipe for disaster. Of course they were bound to argue. Whoever thought of putting the most serious woman in the world and the government equivalent of the class clown on the same team deserved a pay cut.
“I don’t know, Man,” Jim shrugged. “Maybe it would be better if somebody led this team who has a bigger brain than mouth.”
Manfred was done at this point. “Shut up!” he shouted. They shut up. “All right. Follow me.”
The three agents advanced on the house, flattening themselves against the wall so as to avoid detection. However, as they reached the front door, they began to hear faint voices from inside.
“Well, I don’t know, Anthony, it’s just that you’re always talking about Wall Street, even when we...”
Mac coughed. “Did that woman just say what I think she said?”
“Shut up!” Manfred snapped.
Manfred eased open the door and slipped inside, followed closely by Jim, and then by Mac, all of them keeping an ear open so they could continue to hear the voices. It sounded as if there were two parties present, and one of them was preparing to leave. Manfred knew he couldn’t let that happen. Who knew what might happen if one of these terrorists got loose?
Mac whispered in Manfred’s left ear. “I count five voices.”
“I count seven,” Jim replied, also whispering.
Manfred didn’t respond. He was physically incapable of talking quietly enough to whisper. His volume only went so low. At any rate, they had to act now. One of the parties appeared to be in the act of leaving.
Manfred turned the corner and immediately collided with a man. The woman at his shoulder gave a scream of terror. Briefly, Manfred looked him up and down.
Suspect report. White-skinned male, appears to be in his late fifties. Blond hair, wearing a pair of circular, broken glasses. Distinguished, obviously upper class. Doesn’t appear to be armed, but he could still be dangerous. I’m sure I’ve seen him somewhere before. Ah... he does appear to have a very attractive face. Oh dear. I really should secure him now. Where are my handcuffs? There are so many things I could do with him if I bound his hands...
Dammit, Manfred! Focus!
Manfred’s continued momentum shoved the man through the archway and into a room filled with people. Manfred was still trying to shake his newfound infatuation for the man, and it took him a minute to realize the rich man was shouting at him. He still felt like he should recognize the man, but he didn’t. He raised his voice and shouted above the chaos.
“Stay right where you are, everybody! Don’t move!”
“I demand an explanation!” That was the rich man, getting in Manfred’s face. Suddenly, Manfred remembered where he’d seen this man before. It was in the morning papers. He was talking to Mr. Anthony P. Kirby, Wall Street magnate.
It struck Manfred how close together their faces were. Manfred found himself wondering what would happen if he just kissed Kirby right then and there, but soon he brought himself back to the present.
“Keep your mouth shut, you!” he shouted, poking Kirby in the chest with his finger. He held the physical contact a little longer than was necessary, and he had to force himself to turn away and rip his gaze from his face. He walked further into the room, taking his time, scanning the frightened faces.
“Which one is it?” he barked.
Immediately, Jim sprang forward and grabbed one of them by the arm, a dapper-looking man in his thirties. “This is him!”
“Ed!” one of them cried.
An old man stepped out from the corner. “What’s the boy done, Officer?”
One of them, a young woman who appeared to be the only normal-looking one in the family, looked like she was supposed to say something but she didn’t.
“That door lead to the cellar?” Manfred shouted.
A scattered chorus of affirmatives rang out from around the room, affirming that yes, that door did indeed lead to the cellar.
“Mac!” he barked, gesturing at the cellar door. Mac peeled off from the group and slammed open the cellar door, disappearing into the gloom below.
Manfred turned around. “Jim!” he shouted.
Jim stepped forward and snapped to attention. “Yes sir!”
“Take a look upstairs, see what you find!” Jim nodded, turned on her heel, and disappeared up the stairs.
“I haven’t done anything,” protested Ed.
Manfred fastened his grip around Ed’s upper arm and dragged him further into the room. “Come here, you!”
They stopped just short of the fourth wall. Manfred pulled some slips of paper from his pocket. “You ever see these before?” he barked.
Ed stepped backward in fright. “Yes, they’re my circulars.”
“You print this stuff, huh?”
Manfred stepped forward. “And you put ‘em into boxes of candy to get ‘em into people’s homes?”
A voice rang out from behind Ed. “The Love Dreams!”
Love Dreams? The only dream of love I’m having is with me and Mr. Kirby.
Manfred. What are you doing? Focus on the mission!
Ed continued to protest. “But I didn’t mean anything when I -”
Manfred shouted over him (he was really good at being loud), shocking the room into silence. “You didn’t, huh?” He held the circulars up to the light and began to read.
“Dynamite the Capitol.”
The assembled party gave a start. Ed couldn’t have written that... could he?
“Dynamite the White House.”
Murmurs rippled around the room as people realized the implications of what Manny was saying.
“Dynamite... with Donald... in the bedroom?”
Manfred turned to Ed. “What does this mean?” he barked.
Ed, now looking more embarrassed than fearful, tried to conceal the blush creeping up in his cheeks. “Uh, it’s nothing, Officer,” he blustered. “Really, nothing.”
Manfred stepped closer. “Nothing, eh?” Ed continued to creep backwards under the G-Man’s piercing gaze. “This doesn’t look like nothing to me!” he shouted.
Donald stepped forward. “Now look here just a second!” he exclaimed. “What about me and Ed in the bedroom?”
Manfred turned to face him. “Shut up! Let me just get through this and then you can see about the dynamite in the bedroom.”
Did I really just say that? Jesus.
“Jim!” Manfred barked.
Ed’s eyes darted around the room. “Uhh, you already sent Jim upstairs.”
“Blast it!” exclaimed Manfred. “Ed, you will lead me to your room and I will search it.” He turned to the assembled group. “Nobody leaves this room!” he shouted. “Remember that I graduated top of my class in the Navy Seals, and I have been involved in numerous secret raids on Al-Qaeda, and I have over 300 confirmed kills. None of you are anything to me but new targets. If anybody leaves this room, I will track you down and I will wipe you the fuck out with precision that has never been seen before on this Earth, mark my fucking words. As we speak I am -”
It was at that point that Kirby decided to intervene. “Excuse me,” he began, stepping forward. “What the hell is Al-Qaeda?”
“It doesn’t matter,” barked Manfred. “Just nobody leave!”
And with that, he and Ed departed upstairs.
~~to be continued~~