The elevator doors slammed shut and the elevator began its descent to the meeting point seven miles below the Earth’s crust. The elevator was entirely voice activated. One agent suddenly came down with laryngitis and was trapped for five days and forced to drink his own urine (they forced him to drink his own urine as a punishment). Buck Justermanson wouldn’t be consuming his own bodily fluids that day; he was prepared. On his shoulder was a green parrot who could impersonate him exactly and also do a pretty good job forging his signature; in fact, the bird occupied his desk and passed for him for two weeks and, except for the droppings, it went off without a hitch.
“Who’s a pretty bird?”, Buck asked. The parrot remained silent. Buck had purchased a parrot specifically and painstakingly bred to not reply to rhetorical questions. Who will Oskar Moosehead send to talk to me? He considered. Maybe this was a trap. Maybe it wasn’t a trap but made to look like a trap for some reason. And, maybe not making it look like a trap would make an experienced operative like Buck expect a trap, so when there wasn’t a trap, he’d let his guard down long enough for someone to steal his parrot.
He’d successfully framed Ahem. After a full page ad in Variety yielded over a dozen look-alikes, Buck decided on an unsuccessful actor whose only paying role had been as Godzilla in an avant garde production of Rent. The play closed in a few days, just after someone explained to the producer what “avant garde” meant. The actor carried off the mint heist effortlessly. Then, he vanished. A loose end that would need to be tightened, firmed and toned, eventually. Buck had every unavailable agent looking for the actor. With Ahem out of the picture, Buck could seize control of the organization.
Except, Ahem was gone. Justermanson has assumed that, after thirty years out of the field, Ahem’s skills had grown rusty. But, like a fifty dollar bill at a strip club, Ahem had simply vanished. Buck had every available agent looking for him. One might’ve gotten close; but, was later found bound, gagged and stuffed with household sponges. He never got a look at his assailant nor did he ever stop being thirsty.
Two loose ends, Justermanson pondered, and Moosehead doesn’t like loose ends.
For a moment, Buck Justermanson considered Oskar Moosehead and his feelings towards loose ends. He could feel the elevator decelerate. “Release the Kraken”, the parrot said in Buck’s voice. The elevator replied, “I do not know how to RELEASE KRAKEN. Would you like a cold beverage?”
Because the parrot had been painstakingly bred to ignore drink offers, it said nothing.
The elevator came to a stop and the doors whooshed open. The cavity was a vast expanse that was expansive in its vastness. The natural cavern was the size of an aircraft hanger; but, because Moosehead preferred man-made over nature, he filled the entire cavity in with concrete than carved out a recess with a special machine that had been designed to milk goats.
The cavity was empty except for a bench at the other end. As Buck walked towards it, the parrot flew ahead. The bird had been painstakingly bred to fly directly to benches.
As he walked, footsteps echoing in the darkness, Justermanson considered the excuses he would use for the loose ends. The actor escaped, they would say; Buck would reply, Jokes on him… I never paid him. They would say, Ahem is still at large and could derail this entire operation; Buck’s reply would be Look! I’ve got a parrot. The most damning loose end was Mike Wistersheshenham and his successful efforts to be not killed. Buck had no answer to that outside of pointing out the parrot again. Resnick was the second best assassin in the world and he had failed to kill Wistersheshenham on two separate but equal occasions. If he failed once more, he’d be eligible for a free six inch sandwich.
Justermanson could make out the outline of his contact. Slumped forward with back towards him, the figure had neither size nor gender.