PREVIOUSLY ON POP CULTURE MYSTERIES
AND NOW THE POP CULTURE MYSTERIES CONTINUE…
“Certainly, Sir Rupert.”
Lord Blackburn, barely distracted by my exit, continued to bore my wife with his chest puffery.
“Now my dear, have you ever wrestled a boa constrictor?”
“God,” I thought to myself. “I hope he’s still talking about the jungle.”
As my old friend and I made a swift exit, I was bumped into by Signora Bellavenuti, who was just returning from the bar where one of Count Rickard’s numerous servants had just poured her a robust red wine.
It was now all over the left breast side of my white tux.
“Merda!” the Signora shouted. “Scusi! Oh, Signor Hatcher, mea culpa.”
She brushed her red nailed hands over my chest, trying to remove the stain, but it just made it worse.
It’d been the fanciest set of threads I’d ever treated myself to, but Ma Hatcher raised a deferential gentleman.
“Think nothing of it, Signora.”
Not one for personal space, Bellavenuti opened up my jacket, took one peak at the label, and emitted a disgusted, “Ugh!”
“I have done you a favor! This is so last year!”
Rupert and I excused ourselves and headed down a hallway.
“I believe this is the third time I’ve saved your life, Hatcher,” Rupert said.
“What?” I asked. “Bellavenuti’s a clutz but I don’t think she was trying to kill me.”
“Not her, you daft blighter. Lord Blackburn. Had he chewed your ear off any longer you’d of blown your bloody brains out.”
Rupert pushed a door open and led me into one of Rickard’s many bathrooms. It was the most spacious crapper I’d ever seen. A man could really stretch out whilst doing his business in there.
“Has he really explored Africa?” I asked.
“That lecherous liar hasn’t even explored Liverpool,” Rupert answered. “He just wears that foolish safari costume so he can pretend to be interesting.”
Rupert locked the door.
“Rupert,” I said. “I’m flattered but I don’t swing that way.”
“This is not the time for jokes, Hatcher. Are you aware that MI6 has issued a standing order that you’re to be arrested as soon as you step off American soil?”
“Uh…no. Would have been nice if someone had warned me about that. Too bad I don’t have an old war buddy who’s a high ranking member of the British government.”
Rupert put a hand on my shoulder and made the face that people usually reserve when they’re about to deliver bad news.
“Hatcher, I’m afraid that MI6 has issued a standing order that you’re to be arrested as soon as you step off American soil.”
“Damn it,” I said. “And I just spent the whole night making a spectacle of myself at the poker table. What do I do now?”
I removed my jacket and ran the faucet. I sprinkled some water on the stain and rubbed away with my hand.
“I don’t know,” Rupert said. “Legally, I should arrest you myself right now.”
“You can try.”
“I did a spot of boxing myself, Jersey Jabber.”
“I don’t follow Queensbury rules, limey.”
“Be reasonable, man.” Rupert said. “You must tell me where the phage is God knows what you’ve done with it.”
I rubbed harder and harder. The stain. Not Rupert. Just making sure you 3.5 readers understand that, since this scene took place with two men in a bathroom after all.
“You doubt my integrity?”
“I doubt your country’s. Any country’s when it comes to this. If some big shot finds out you know, they’ll torture you until you talk.”
The Brit closed the toilet lid and took a seat.
“At least tell me it’s safe then.”
“The case AND the key?” Rupert asked.
“Both of them,” I replied.
“Surely you’ve had the good sense to store them far apart from one another?”
I stopped scrubbing and turned to face Rupert.
“You think I’m that stupid?”
Rupert shot back a “you don’t want me to answer that” look.
I poured some more water on the stain and gave it my all. Rupert, consummate neat freak that he was, got up, grabbed my jacket and a towel off the rack, and took the entire cleaning operation over.
“Oh, sod off! You’re just making it bigger! Give it to me!”
Again. The stain. Clarity is everything here, 3.5
It dawned on me that all that washing could be destroying my check, but then I breathed a sigh of relief when I remembered Bellavenuti had bumped into the side without the pocket where I kept my prescription for moolah.
“You should destroy it.”
“You know who will destroy me as soon as I do.”
Gently, the Brit dabbed away at the mess with the towel, carefully lifting up a bit more red with each motion.
“This is bigger than you, you twat. It’s bigger than all of us.”
My impromptu helper grabbed a second towel off the rack, dried the water up, and handed the jacket back. There was still a slight trace, but I had to hand it to Rupert.
“You’ll make someone a fine wife one day, RR,” I said as I put my evening wear back on.
“Shut up,” Rupert said. “Is this some kind of game to you?”
“Because it’s the fate of the world to me.”
“And for me.”
A lock of black hair had fallen down over Rupert’s forehead. He pushed it up.
“Any other man I’d have in cuffs beating the snot out of him right now.”
My pal stared at his face in the mirror for awhile, waiting as if the reflection was going to advise him what to do.
“Cut your holiday short and head home on the first flight you can board tomorrow.”
“Yes. Tomorrow morning, I’ll feed them a tip you were spotted in the casino of the Hotel Rondileau and were overheard telling various barflies that you had immediate plans to jet set off to Istanbul. Our men monitoring the area won’t bother to keep an eye on the airport as they’ll believe you’re already gone.”
“You could get in a lot of trouble.”
“Especially since we’ve been hanging out at the same dinner party all evening.”
“I never saw you, Hatcher,” Rupert said. “And if anyone ever says otherwise, I was too blind, stinking drunk to recognize anyone tonight.”
“But you’re sober.”
“And it’s time to change that immediately.”
We left the bathroom and walked back to the sitting room.
“Congratulations on the election, by the way,” I said.
“Worst decision I ever made. Never get into politics Hatcher.”
“It makes me yearn for the war, back when at least it was easy to spot the enemy.”
“You’re a good man, Double-R. England’s lucky to have you.”
“Yes, now go sit somewhere far away from me, will you, Yankee imbecile I’ve never met before?”
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