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Pie, Spy - Prologue
“PIE, SPY…” |
written by FrenchFeeder
“You like pies, don’t you ?”
“I thought you knew I like guys, Andy… or is your gaydar still blurry from last night at the Club ?”
“I said pies, Brad – pies. And if you are still blurry after last night at the Club, let me remind you that we were supposed to be there for work, that she was coming on to me, that nothing happened and that you swore we would never, ever, talk about it again. Now, back to work ?”
“Since when do pies mean work ?”
Sure enough, work had been slow for A. Bur-Comfy & B. Inge for the last six months… More like immobile, really : The sign on their door said “Private Investigators” but they were very little known in town, and completely anonymous outside. The first six months activity had been great, though. Brad would never have thought he’d become a Private Eye someday, but he had everything for it : From the day his parents had kicked him out of the house, when they found out their son was gay, he had lived on his own, worked in the streets a lot – his jobs going from newspaper boy to security guard… He had perfected that “street” look over the years : a tall blonde, but looking quite dark, strong and thick, Brad carried a firm 210lbs on his 6'2" frame, his large meaty shoulders always stretching his tight T-shirts, and his almost-abs belly nicely filling out the 32" waist on his jeans. He was definitely good-looking, he could look charming as much as intimidating, and he knew how to use itall. But Brad had a good heart, too. He was the kind of guy both men and women found appealing at first sight, and would be comfortable with in private. He could take them off-guard then, with a surprise question – or make them talk their minds before they even knew it. Brad had never actually used it except for dates. That’s how he had first met Andy, in the Club down 14th, where he used to hang out.
Andy was not to be missed anyway : He would have stood out in a Berlin Gay Pride as “the queer one”. Acting was his life, improvisation his motto – and his lifestyle just happy-go-lucky… His clothes were indescribable, and it was pointless to try and describe them – six months later, they would just be the “latest style”… People in general thought he was weird but harmless, loud but funny. Andy could sing for hours, perform, entertain and surprise any audience around him. His voice was still clear after so many drinks you would feel dizzy just from counting them. He was always there to warm up the dance floors – when Brad would never really leave the bar unless it was to go somewhere else more private… Andy had always lived under spotlights, Brad liked it better in the shadow. Even then, they had spotted each other after a while, noticing the contrast in their attitudes – not that they were attracted to each other, having such different tastes and all – but they were definitely interested…
They were so different – or complementary – that they became really close friends. They shared a lot, quietly talking after hours, when Brad was cleaning glasses and closing the Club. That was the downside of their night life : Nobody would ever know, but Andy was out of the acting job, and just as broke as Brad. He made his clothes himself, he was paid to entertain here and there – not that much, by the way – and his drinks weren’t even free. Just half off. Brad had been hired both for security and cleaning purposes. He couldn’t be a bartender, for some reason. As they were, Bard and Andy had made a deal, joined pay checks, found an apartment and become roommates.
Then one night, there was that homophobic aggression in the back street of the Club. Observant as they were, Brad and Andy had joined wits and strenghts in some sort of brain trust, then gone straight to the killer before the police had anything but a clue. That was their moment of glory, and they had immediately opened a new business in Investigation, aside from their jobs at the Club, with a secret hope to come clean and get away from it.
Nothing had really come of it for the next months, after only a few uninteresting cases. Just your average lost dogs, cheating husbands cases. Andy would talk to the clients, handle the finances and all. Brad wind fiund the dog in the dump, take pictures of the husband with his mistress in a cheap motel bedroom. And that was it. Until now. Now, Andy was holding a letter in his hand, that looked pretty official. It wasn’t bills, it wasn’t an eviction note – which they both feared… Would things get interesting again, as it once was ?
“OK, do you know… Fillmore Pies Inc. ?”
“Of course I do : they have their products all over the country. Maybe even around the world. I think they produce all kinds of pies : vegetarian, meat pies, desserts and all…”
“Really ? Well, you’re the one doing the grocery shopping…”
“Because if I gave you the money for it, grocery shopping would just be… shopping.”
“Oh wait, I think I remember their ad, about the easy-baked pies you know ? pies that only take five minutes in the microwave and you think they are just like grandma’s anyway ?”
“The “Easy as Pie” campaign ? Yeah, that’s them…”
“All right… Except my grandmother wasn’t so much into pies than Bourbon.”
“I had bought one once. It was really cheap.”
“And you know what, Brad ? It tasted just cheap…”
“I liked it myself. Besides, they have a range of quality products too – remember that apple cream pie for your nephew’s Third Birthday ? It was delicious.”
“I only remember the little nipper ate so much of it that he threw up on my favourite shirt.”
“That’s right, you hate those pies… Why are you even talking about them ?”
“Just received a letter from Mr. Fillmore Senior himself, the big man behind all the crust and stuffing. Apparently, he wants us on a case, and if this pays off as much as I think it will, I might even forget about the shirt… Except his Head Office is like on the other coast…”
“Wow ! He wants us that much ? What’s happened ?”
“Says here we’ll have to work undercover. The guy must have enemies : he needs Investigators that the local mob won’t know already – and they always know better than anyone. Sounds fair enough that he would call guys from another state. Wait, there’s a plane ticket for you, already ? Boy ! has he been stolen his next Top Secret recipe, or did someone eat his lunch ?…”
Brad felt like joking about such an odd case, too. Not that they had many occasions to have fun with their Investigations – having like… none of them right now.
“Unknown, you said ? See Andy, this is when our total lack of experience and recognition pays off…”
“Yes but it’s no reason to accept just “charity” from the guy : We are a very successful agency, working on many, I said many, cases just as interesting as this one. And it will cost him, big time ! He’s getting one of our Top employees. Which means salary, per diem, overtime, expenses and all – just like the others !”
“Which “others”, Andy ?… Come on : He’s hired us because we’re out of sight in the business.”
“SECRET business, Brad. Don’t you think that invisibility is like the best quality certificate ? Besides, the guy doesn’t have to know just how unknown we are. The Head Office and Factory are so far away we could be Russian expatriates, for all I know… Granted, I think we got hired just randomly. We’re lucky, but then I say we take advantage of that luck as much as we can. This may be our big breakout, Brad !”
“Okay,then what ?… You want me to play hard to get ?”
“Like you wouldn’t know how to pull it off… No, here’s the plan : you can take the number 3 suit, take your best looking shoes with it, best hair gel, best glasses, and you try to look just as good as the suit for this guy. Know what ? Go get your hair cut – oh, and a manicure.”
“He asked for an Investigator, Andy, not a hustler…”
“So ? Did I say something about make-up ?”
Andy helped Brad pack in a hurry. It was an early flight, and a long one too… Brad slept in the plane. He had a 19:00 appointment, at the Head Office. The cab driver looked twice at him when Brad paid : it was after hours, the building was almost empty, with very few offices left with their lights on… The security guard was a little surprised too, that Brad was awaited by Mr. Fillmore senior. One phone call and everything was cleared, though. Brad was a little nervous, meeting this “king of pies”, who was one of the largest fortunes around… But it was only a short, thin, quarter of a man who received him, behind his monumental desk.
“Come in. Good evening, Mr…”
“Inge. Brad Inge, sir.”
“Please… sit down. I’ve just talked with your boss on the phone. He’s been praising you, so far… Said you were the strong, silent type, just perfect for the job. He didn’t lie about you being strong, so I can also assume you will keep your mouth shut about what I’m going to tell you.”
“Sure thing, sir.”
“Your boss also assured me that you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty.”
“Yes. You see Andy, my… boss, is a lot more comfortable with words and the big picture. I’m more involved with action, and also weapons, if needed. I mean, someone has to do the actual working part of the job…”
“I think so, Mr. Inge.”
They were both judging each other in looks, as they were talking. Mr. Big Corporate looked like the classic movies’ godfather, in his Armani suit. A lot more Al Pacino than Marlon Brando, though – he had some sort of wheeze in his voice that made him speak like with an accent. He kept his voice low but he was just as commanding. Brad would have smiled at the cliché, under other circumstances. With his black thin tie, white shirt and slow, careful moves, Mr. Fillmore was your average old-school boss, on the whole. Brad, on the other hand, looked just like the ambitious, go-for-it yuppie, frozen in time since the Eighties… but you could tell there was more underneath. Brad didn’t quite fit in that Michael Douglas part, no matter how hard he tried. He didn’t even feel like trying, after all.
“I don’t think you will need that much weaponry, Mr. Inge. As long as you’re careful… This is more of a Search and Rescue mission. Here…”
Mr. Fillmore handed a picture to Brad. It was a picture of him and a young boy, in what looked like the garden of the family’s estates. The background was lush… Teen was good-looking, well-dressed, obviously related to Mr. Fillmore, brown hair, brown eyes, nice smile – average height, average build, average weight… Probably 5’10”, and a thin 140lbs…
“This picture is of my grandson, Leigh. He’s my only grandson, and will follow me at the reins of this company. He’s been kidnapped, Mr. Inge… I want you to find him.”
Brad just looked back at the picture, and the whole “average looking” items came back to him He let out a sigh : this wasn’t going to be easy…
“Tell me what happened…”
“It happened after Leigh’s 19th Birthday. I thought it was time he started to know how this company works. When he left school for his summer vacation, I had him working here in the factory as a trainee. I had introduced him to his new team two months before he was reported missing by his supervisor, then I’ve had no news from him from…” Mr. Fillmore looked in his agenda “oh, it’s been more than a month now.”
“A month or more ? Why did you wait so long to…”
“As you can imagine, I am a man of responsibilities – and wealth. Responsibilities at work take all my time, and I had only occasional meetings with him, recently.”
“How about his parents ? They didn’t…”
“You should know, Mr. Inge : Leigh has lost his parents when he was a child. With my last two sons working here to help me, I’m his only family. He used to live in an apartment down town. When his absence was confirmed there too, I got worried, but… you understand it wasn’t the first time he would have run away on a sudden. I thought…”
There was a short, uncomfortable silence. Brad was feeling a little annoyed at how mundane the case really was. He was also tired from his flight…
“What made you change your mind, then ?”
“I got this letter in the mail. Or rather… it was just on my desk, in the morning. Wealth also means a lot of enemies, Mr. Inge. Although I didn’t see this coming…”
“No stamp or anything ? OK, strong statement : they have a man inside.”
Brad read the letter : it was the classic of the classics – cut and pasted letters from papers and magazines – “They” had taken Fillmore’s grandson hostage, and they wanted no less than… (Brad almost choked, and had to read again) 10 million dollars ?
“10 million dollars ?! Are they out of their minds ?”
“On the contrary. They have made a very good estimation of my grandson’s… value, if you want. This is what convinced me that you will have to deal with professionals.”
“They don’t say anything about when and where you have to give them that money.”
“No. But I had someone on the phone that very same day. I bargained hard with them, and they have accorded me six months to get the ransom.”
“Six months ? Well, that’s…”
It sounded like a really long time for Brad. Since when were blackmailers and mob guys so patient ? Mr. Fillmore explained it a bit further to him.
“I would have to meet a few bankers, but in time that ransom should be ready.”
Brad was amazed. He wouldn’t have saved that much money if he had been given six lifetimes… This case was definitely the big breakout Andy was talking about ! As he was thinking some more about it, Brad realized it was another strong statement : Leigh would not be so easily found. They were so confident about that – it was definitely puzzling.
“If you’re ready to pay, sir… why did you call us ?”
“10 million dollars is a lot, Mr.Inge. Even for me. With such a hole in my finances, I would have to change the company’s strategic orientation or image for years. But what’s the most important to me right now is that everything regarding my grandson or the ransom must remain secret : the Police and the Press would take over this place like locusts ! My financial partners would get worried, not to mention the banks… You know that’s never good. In the end, I could face bankrupcy…”
“I’m ready to pay. I want to see my grandson back, but I also want to see him at the head of this company ! Now… A lot can happen in six months. And as you’ve observed it, they have people inside the factory, working for them… I want you to apply here for a job, and integrate their organisation.”
“Where was your grandson working, exactly ?”
“His training period included many changes of departments, so he would know the structure of the company. When he was reported missing, he was working at the end of the processing chain, with the head supervisor.”
Judging from those first pieces of information, Brad took a little tour in the factory, with Mr. Fillmore senior. It was so huge and impressive at night. Here, more than five thousand pies were produced each day. They provided schools, cafeterias, even the local prison… The head supervisor’s office was just a room, next to the garage where you had more than twenty delivery trucks. It said T. Fillmore on the door.
“The head supervisor is a relative of yours ?”
“Yes, Tony is my oldest son. He is very fond of his nephew, and was worried beyond himself when Leigh’s disappearance was reported to him. He’s been straight to me, and I’ve given him the same instructions as yours. But I know Tony : he couldn’t keep a secret if his life was hanging in the balance. So I didn’t tell him about the letter and the phone call. And neither will you.”
Brad examined the situation closely. Everything was so quiet and empty, it was chilling. Brad was feeling a bit dizzy, anyway. It was hard to imagine the noise and activity of the day, that would cover up for the whole scene. Things started to get into place in his mind, anyway : this was the perfect getaway, just where they were standing…
“How did it happen ? Was Leigh just absent the whole day, or…”
“No, he was there in the morning. I think it was only noticed at lunch.”
“You know this factory better than anyone. There’s nowhere you would get trapped, or locked in ?”
“Of course not.”
“Then, our best shot will be the delivery men. Their garage is so close, they could take him with them almost unseen from any other worker here… and then… well, your grandson could be anywhere !”
“You’re a clever boy, Mr. Inge. I had a hunch Leigh would have been captured by a delivery guy, or maybe a group of them… Then it’s settled. This is a key to your car, 314 on the parking lot. And this is for your apartment. It’s not far from here. You’ll see. I’ve paid the rent in your name. You will come back on Monday morning, then you will be introduced by Human Resources as a new driver in their team. Everything else, I leave it up to you…”
Brad came into his new apartment. It was more like a small house, in fact, in the quiet suburbs, with a small front lawn. The place looked quite comfortable for a single person. It was like heaven for Brad : everything was on ground floor – nice living room with a wide screen TV in front of a large, soft leather couch, a small kitchen with all the equipment and supplies you could need, one bedroom large enough to do his morning and evening exercises next to his king-sized bed, a bathroom with shower and a bathtub… What do you know ? Things weren’t so bad for Brad, after all. He had never enjoyed living in an apartment under the 10th floor, with no noisy tap-dancing neighbours upstairs or pot smockers downstairs. It was quiet – a little too quiet, maybe : Mr. Fillmore had thought of everything, but Brad was still feeling uneasy. The furniture was brand new, it looked like it had been bought the day before, by a couple who would be moving in here – Brad thought he wouldn’t be allowed to touch anything. Then he realised he could : the place was all his, just his – for the next six months. No rent, no phone bill, gas or electricity… To top it all, when he opened the fridge, it was already full – literally full : there was milk, butter, mayonnaise and sauce, bier, vodka, soda and coke in the door, and…
“Pies ? Well… figures.”
There were heaps of pies and cakes – and just the same in the refrigerator – and more pies with pancake mix on the shelves – there were pies everywhere. It was almost uncanny… Brad looked at one of them : it said “Tomato pie with onions & mozzarella” on the box. Hmm, sounded nice, and Brad was feeling hungry from his flight, the lag, the meeting and all… He put the pie in the oven, took a fresh beer, put his plate on the table… then he started laughing. So hard. He couldn’t help it.
“Fuck this ! I’m being such a good boy !”
He had started dressing up the table absent-mindedly, as he used to do at his parents’ house. It was so silly : he had never done it again, since he had been kicked out. And it was such a long time ago. Brad blamed the kitchen : everything was so white and tidy around him, he wasn’t feeling “home”… Then he had an idea.
“I may be staying here for six months… Let’s make this place mine at once !”
Brad went into his bedroom, took off all his clothes and threw them everywhere. It was already better. Then, still in “bad boy” mode, he laughed loud, ran into the living room, jumped and landed on the couch naked. Then…
The oven rang : his pie was ready. But Brad was not used to that sound. He got up immediately, like a child would do when his parents wake up in the middle of the night and punish him for something he had done. It was a reflex, but the mere thought pissed him off. He blushed, then realized it was just the right thing to do : do something about it. Make the ghosts and sad memories go away. He would get drunk tonight, if needed. Brad got back into the kitchen, put three more pies into the hot oven, and took a six-pack of beers.
“I can do whatever I please in here !”
He drank to that, then belched – loud, on purpose. Brad’s mouth was also getting wet from the scent of his pies. He was so hungry ! He couldn’t believe it. What time was it ? He didn’t really care, but his first pie was gone when the next three were hot and ready. Brad was sitting on the table and eating like a pig, totally enjoying himself – as if this was a good prank to play.
After his last beer and pie, he started feeling quite full – and comfortable. The kitchen around him was feeling more pleasant just now. If there was a ghost somewhere, he was pleased at Brad’s behaviour. “Good”, Brad thought. It was in fact a warm, friendly room – nurturing. Brad smiled, a bit tipsy. With so many pies and cakes and food, it was definitely nurturing… Brad was munching his way through a box of chocolate chips cookies when he finally looked at the time. It was still pretty early, so he called Andy on the phone.
“Hey, boss ! How are you doing, boss ?”
“Now Brad, give me a break, will you ? Did he buy it at least ?…”
“I don’t know, and I don’t care… He’s hired us, that’s all.”
“That’s already something. So, you’re on the case ?”
“Where are you calling me from ?”
“So you’re at your place ? Is it nice ? Did he give you the car, DVD player, food supply ?”
“Yeah, it’s all… great and all. Did you bargain for it ? Nicely done !”
“Told you. That was a hard sell.”
“Tell me ! What does it look like ?”
“OK, just to give you an idea, this place is better than the one we couldn’t apply for, if you remember… I have six months to find the boy, and I already know where to start ! Isn’t it cool ?”
“It sure is cool. Hope you put young Timmy out of the well soon enough, and you enjoy your stay there in the meantime. So… now, much more important question : Which Winchester brother would you bang first, Sam or Dean ?”
(to be continued...)
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