Dateline Rome: November 5th, 10:00

The plane lands at the airport in Rome around 10 AM and the thin man, feeling semi-human after running a Lysol scented wash towel over his face, deplanes and cleares immigration with the passport from Alejandro. Alejandro does good work, he thinks, not for the first time.

As he departs security, he scans for his name among the line of folks holding placards upon departure. “Jack Bishop,” “thin man,” or any other suitable appellation would have sufficed, but the thin man sees none of these. When he has navigated the whole line, however, he sees a man who appears to be in his early sixties standing with an alert posture at the end of the queue. He stands about 5’10 and has salt and pepper hair cropped close. Ex-military or something, thinks the thin man. The man holds no sign, but nods meaningfully at the thin man. This is the guy.

“Jack Bishop?” the man inquires.

“Yeah, but most people call me thin man.”

“Mitchell Grey,” says the man. “We have a car waiting for you. Right this way.”

The thin man and Mitchell Grey exit the terminal into a parking lot where a dark grey Mercedes is waiting. The thin man slides into the back, where the requisite bottle of water and box of mints await. The driver, who looks to be in his early fifties, and wears a crisp white shirt under his blazer, asks if his new passenger wants any particular kind of music.

“Do you have any Red Krayola,” asks the thin man.

“Best I can do is Pere Ubu,” the driver replies.

“Fair enough.”

Mitchell Grey and the thin man relax for a moment as they cruise through the streets to “Non-Alignment Pact.” Then Grey turns to the thin man.

“Do you know what you are doing here?”

“No idea. Alejandro just told me to come over.”

“OK. Company X has a little problem we need to handle.”

“What kind of problem?”

“A certain senior vice-president has been messing around with a woman who, we have reason to believe, is employed by a competitor, the Pelican Corp. He has, to put it plainly, fallen into a honey trap.”

“I see. Corporate espionage.”

“Indeed. Alejandro said you are a bit of an expert.”

“I just got lucky once.”

“Well, let’s see if you can’t get lucky again. We need to find out what the woman knows and neutralize her position. Then we’ll let the vice-president know his time at the top is done and he needs to skip town.”

“Alejandro said Company X is respectable. I didn’t know we’d have to neutralize anyone.”

“There are various ways to neutralize someone, most of them non-lethal. And Company X is respectable. You and me are just in the respectability management business.”

“I guess we are,” said the thin man. “What’s our first move?”

“There’s a jazz trio playing tonight at a little club downtown. The woman in question will be there with the vice-president. You will ingratiate yourself with her while I have a little warm-up chat with the VP. She is called Maya, and likes intrigue. So intrigue her.”

“I see. Have you done this kind of thing before?”

“I’ve done a lot of things,” said Mitchell Grey. This, muses the thin man, was undoubtedly true.

The driver pulled up to the Westin Excelsior and Grey and the thin man get out.

“Your room is on the 6th floor,” says Grey. The show starts at 19:30, but doors open at 6 for drinks. We’ll get there early to get the lay of the land. See you in the lobby at 17:15.”

Jesus thinks the thin man. Another brutal turnaround, same as it ever was. But he doesn’t let it show.

“17:15, sure thing. What should I wear?”

“Whatever makes you comfortable at a nightclub. And thin man, bring your best smile.”

“Copy,” says the thin man. This all sounds like work, but he allows himself to experience a slight twinge of anticipation for the evening. Honey pots, Maya the goddess of illusion, powerful men behaving badly, a little jazz—it might be fun. He’d try and bring his A-game this time.

to be continued…

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