“Washington FBI, Special Agent Grier, may I help you?”
“Ah, yes, I apparently have the wrong number. I was trying to reach Special Agent Art Holcomb. I’m pretty sure he used to be at this number.”
“Agent Holcomb, yes. Uh, is it something I might be able to help you with instead?”
“No, no, I appreciate that, but Art’s the guy I need to talk to. We used to work together.”
“I see, well, I’m sorry to hear that. He’s in Baltimore these days. Try calling their main number. The receptionist should be able to put you in touch.”
Harrison knew that Holcomb could rub people the wrong way, but he was nevertheless disappointed with Agent Grier’s apparent disdain for him.
After a quick Internet search, Harrison found the Baltimore FBI’s main number. A few transferred calls later, someone finally connected him with the right number. Apparently, Holcomb occupied space at a little-known location away from the Baltimore FBI’s main office. In all the confusion, Harrison picked up that his former partner worked alone at the facility.
After several rings, a familiar loud and impatient voice answered Harrison’s call. “Holcomb, go.”
“The moon shines like a freshly unwrapped cheese ball at the holidays.”
“Mongolian women eat Chinese food after cleaning their husbands’ assault rifles,” Holcomb said, laughing. “About time you called me, Bill.”
“How’d you know it was me?”
“Duh. The only other person I know of, besides myself, who gets a kick out of using silly made-up code speak is that former special agent, now bum PI, Bill Harrison.”
“Yeah, well it’s good to talk to you too.”
“Thanks for keeping in touch.”
“Hell, I’ve tried a couple times lately and no one seemed to be able to put me in touch with you. I figured you were probably just blowing me off for one of your preoccupations. But then I remembered that you still had at least one hand typically available to dial the phone.”
“I guess you didn’t hear about the accident.”
“No, sorry, what happened?”
“Lost both hands and all my fingers in a terrible masturbation mishap. The intense frictional heat led to spontaneous combustion.”
“Wow, I thought that kind of thing only caused blindness.”
“I’m wearing glasses nowadays too. I should have stopped while I was ahead. Actually, I’ve been shuffled around from here and there over the last couple of years or so. I don’t think people like me very much. Right now, I’m working with Baltimore PD on gang and narcotics stuff.” The first hint of genuine strain entered Holcomb’s voice. “Nasty shit out there. I’m only a year shy of fifty, and then I will take my retirement and run for the hills. “
“I’m sure whatever assignment you have, you will carry it out in the utmost professional manner.”
“Oh yeah, you know me. I’m surprised the bureau hasn’t assigned my professional butt to Yemen or some other garden spot like it.”
“They like to keep their best and brightest in the capital area. You know, as an example of what others should strive for in that city.”
“We definitely have the best and brightest here in the greater DC area. They all work in that domed building or at some other Pennsylvania Avenue address.”
“I’m glad to hear you haven’t changed.”
“God knows I’ve tried, but the bureau wouldn’t approve my time off request for me to have that sex change operation in Sweden.”
“Maybe when you retire you can take care of that.”
Despite Holcomb’s irreverent attitude, Harrison knew he was one of the best agents at the bureau. Hearing his voice made Harrison realize, more than ever, how lucky he had been to work with him.
“What are you working on these days?” Holcomb said.
“Lately, insurance fraud and marital infidelity stuff. It pays the bills and keeps me busy.”
“I know, not as exciting as chasing down gangbangers, but it’s still a chance to beat the bad guys.”
“There’s the stalwart American hero I once knew. I think I’m going to be sick,” Holcomb said, chuckling.
“Actually, I think it’s the excessive amount of alcohol you drink that makes you feel sick.”
“Could be. In fact, I could use a hit about now. Oh, that’s right, my supervisor said I couldn’t drink on duty anymore. He actually removed my vodka stash and poured it in the toilet.”
“I’ll send you a fresh bottle in the mail right away. Think of it as an early Christmas gift.”
“Could you? That would be great. My gambling debt detracts from my discretionary income, so I haven’t been able to buy much booze lately. So, what other cases are you working on?”
Holcomb would want to know—and deserved to know—details about this unique case if he were to assist with it. Harrison cleared his throat, and then said, “It’s kind of difficult to accept if you don’t have an open mind?”
Here it goes.
“The case involves extraterrestrials and a government conspiracy to prevent knowledge of their existence from becoming public.”
Silence detonated in Harrison’s ears. The shockwaves razed his surroundings, sucked away the oxygen supply, and compressed his eardrums. He heard ringing too, a high-pitched whine that reverberated through his gray matter.
“I’m sorry, Bill, I thought you said something about aliens? Did you give up the menthols for marijuana? Or maybe they now have flavored joints as well?”
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