The Park Central Affair
The next morning, a bleary-eyed Max and a droopy 99 sat in down in the coffee shop. Max ordered a coffee to slurp on while 99 selected a cheese Danish from the pastry tray. After spending the night listening to Jose’s jack-hammer-like snoring, neither of the Smarts felt like speaking.
99 began to munch on her cheese Danish and stare blankly out the window. She watched several passers by –an old man wearing a bowler, a woman dragging a whimpering boy behind her, and a middle aged man wearing a Kaos insignia pin on his coat. 99 looked down at the table only to immediately turn back to the window and blink. She then tapped Max on the arm and nodded towards the window.
“Mogler!” breathed Max, his eyes widening.
“He’s leaving, Max!” said 99, excitedly.
Max folded up the newspaper he had been looking at and smirked. “Well, I guess we know what that means.”
Seconds later, Max and 99 were standing in the hall just out sided of Mogler’s room and were busy knocking on the side of 13’s vending machine. After a moment, a muffled voice instructed them to insert a quarter into the change slot. Max groaned about not having a quarter, but 99 managed to produce one from somewhere in the depths of her purse. The top of the vending machine then slid open and 13 peered out at Max and 99.
“Thanks, 99!” smiled 13. “Now I can buy a Yoo-hoo!”
“13,” frowned Max, “this isn’t time for idle chit-chat. Mogler just left and we want to see what’s in that nest of his.”
“Well, now’s your best chance,” said 13, handing Max a passkey that had been pilfered from the front desk. “You only have 20 minutes before the cleaning man gets here, so don’t go kicking your feet up on the coffee table.”
Max nodded, took 99 by the hand, and walked over to the door. He slowly and smoothly unlocked the door. They then sauntered into the room as 99 gently closed the door behind them. Max then turned to warn 99 about the importance of being quiet when he walked directly into the suitcase stand and crashed to the floor. After Max rebounded from his trip, the two began to hastily search the penthouse. Unfortunately, after nearly 15 minutes of rooting and rummaging, they found a whole lot of nothing.
“99,” said Max, sitting on top of Mogler’s unmade bed, “all we found was a whole lot of nothing.”
“Max, there has to be something here!” insisted 99. “Mogler’s piece is the missing link!”
“Really?” breathed Max, his dark eyes growing saucer-like. “I didn’t know it was that important!”
99 shot her husband a funny look. She decided that it would be more cost-effective if she just ignored his last confusion-laced comment. She looked at her watch and noticed that they had less than five minutes to vacate the premises before the cleaning man arrived.
“I guess we should leave, Max. In a few minutes the cleaning man will be here,” sighed 99. She didn’t want to admit it to Max, but the fact was that this mission was a bomb. They had, plain and simple, failed.
“Okay, 99,” nodded Max. “Since we screwed this up, the Chief won’t want to talk to us for a few days, so why don’t we go to Radio City Music Hall?”
“Oh, Max!!!” cried 99.
“Awe, come on, 99! No one’s perfect –even I make a mistake every now and then. Look on the bright side, 99,” he said, reaching down and pulling a blunt metal object from under the mattress and handing it to 99, “when the cleaning man comes, he’ll get rid of that odd-ball car part so that Mogler won’t have a lumpy bed to sleep on.”
“Max!” cried 99, looking down at the hunk of misshapen metal, “This is the final piece to the laser!”
“The missing link?” asked Max, doubtfully. “I thought it was a deformed Monkey Wrench.”
It was then that they heard muffled voices in the hall. The scratching of a key in the keyhole sent a shiver down 99’s spine. They had to find a way out –and the only way out appeared to be through the window.
“Max, we’ve got to leave!” hissed 99, jumping up. “Can we get out the window?”
“Yeah, it’s safe enough.” nodded Max, slipping the laser part into 99’s purse and marching over to the window.
They both pushed open the window only to be slapped in the face by a cutting blast of cold air. Ignoring the apparent wind-chill and remembering their mortality, the two crawled out onto the ledge. Just as they had slid away from the window, the door from the inside of the room creaked open and then slammed shut. Max breathed a sigh of relief at having successfully extracting himself and 99 from a potential problem. He then looked down at the pavement and the scurrying people below him and felt his stomach drop 30 feet.
“Max,” said 99, interrupting his anxiety, “I thought you said this was safe!”
“Well Jose said it was safe –he rescued a cat out here once,” said Max, trying not to look down.
“How would he like to come out and rescue us?” asked 99.
“In the long run, he wouldn’t go for it because Phillips would probably fire him,” explained Max as they both began to slither along the wall.
In the process of their oh-so-careful slithering, they came across several windows only to find all of them locked. They then inched forward until they came to a fire escape. Breathing a sigh of relief, Max and 99 stumbled onto the fire escape and made their way down the steps. After they had nervously stumbled down a flight of stairs, Max stopped to peer into a partly ajar window.
“Max!” hissed 99. “Don’t go peeking into someone else’s room!”
“But, 99,” protested Max, “whoever has that room has the exact same luggage as we do! They even have the same lingerie that you have!”
99 looked into the room and noticed that the lingerie in question was now spread all over the bed –along with Max’s teddy bear and the contents of her train case. She crouched down by the window and pulled her crimson pistol from her purse. The idea of opening the window and sneaking in crossed her mind when she saw Mr. Phillips emerge from the bathroom and walk into the bedroom.
“Gosh, 99,” breathed Max, “Phillips sure does have some strange habits.”
99 scowled. “It would be nice if he had his habits in his own room. Max, why is he going through our things?”
“I don’t know, 99,” shrugged Max, watching Phillips pick up 99’s hairbrush. “Do you think he suspects something?”
99 rolled her eyes just as a series of gunshots filled the air only to be followed by the wail of a siren. 99 gasped as Max shook his head in disdain. Phillips, it seemed, had discovered 99’s V05-Bullet Brush and shot the smoke detector in the process. Almost instantly windows creaked open, panes of glass were shattered, and bodies poured out onto the fire escapes.
“Oh Max!” wailed 99.
“Come on, 99,” muttered Max as several people pushed past them. “We can get back in through our neighbor’s room.”
They then crawled back onto the ledge and slithered to the next window. 99, rather nimbly, hopped through the open window while Max tumbled in after her. Max picked himself up off of the floor and followed 99 to the door. 99 started to open the door, but Max stopped her. 99 tried to protest his chivalry, but Max put a finger to her lips and turned the knob.
“99,” smiled Max, opening the door, “the gentleman gets the door for the lady!”
As Max opened the door, a stream of white foam shot into the room. Much of it landed on 99 while the rest splattered across the walls, the floor, and the light fixtures. 99 screamed while Max poked his head out into the hall. He discovered that standing in the hallway was Jose, who seemed to be wrestling with a fire extinguisher.
“Sorry about that, 99,” apologized Max as he snatched the fire extinguisher from Jose and pushed the handle down to turn it off. “Jose, what are you doing with a fire extinguisher?”
“I was just following the instructions incase I needed to use it –but I think it fired backwards,” he explained, handing Max the pin that belonged in the handle.
“You mean it backfired,” said 99, wiping a streak of foam from her face.
“Exactly! It fired backwards!” nodded Jose. “Byron, why are you in this room? This is Mr. Blume’s room!”
“We got lost when we were coming back from the fire drill,” explained Max.
99 wiped away another glob of foam from her forehead and looked out into the hallway. Phillips was now sneaking out of their room. Max moved to go after him, but 99 pulled him back. Unnecessary attention was the last thing they needed and Max chasing the manager through the hotel would do little for their image.
“We’re going to lunch in a little bit, Jose,” smiled 99. “Why don’t you meet us there?”
“99,” said Max, “it’s only 10:30!”
“It will be 12:30 by the time I’m done getting ready for lunch,” replied 99 in a sour voice as she walked over to their room.
Max shrugged at Jose and followed 99 into the suite. Much to their surprise, the mess that Phillips had made was gone. Instead, everything was just as they had left it –with the exception of Max’s teddy bear, which was lying on the floor.
“I wonder what Phillips was looking for,” pondered Max, putting the teddy bear on the bed.
“I’m sure we’ll find out,” sighed 99 as she moved into the bathroom.
Max sunk down onto the bed and then took off his shoe. He then popped off the bottom panel and began to dial the rotary dial that was embedded in the sole of the shoe. After about five rings he heard the line on the other end click and the familiar grumble of the Chief echoed through his ears.
“Chief,” said Max, “I think 99 and I have this case wrapped up! We’ve found the missing laser piece and we can be back in Washington in—“
“No, Max,” moaned the Chief.
“No, Max?” repeated Max in disbelief.
“There are complications to this assignment,” explained the Chief. “We believe that the rest of the laser is being hid somewhere in the hotel. Since Kaos still has access to the other parts, they could easily have their engineers build a replacement for the part you confiscated. You need to find the rest of that laser, 86. Any ideas where it could be? If we know ahead, I could send in a few back-up agents.”
“Really? Phelps, Steed, and Kuryakin?”
“No, Larabee and Kitty Karvelas.”
“Chief, that’s not a few –that’s a couple.”
“Okay, I have a wild hunch on this one, but I think the rest of the laser may be in my friend Jose’s room,” said Max.
“The laser is in your friend Jose’s room?” repeated the Chief. “86, what kind of people do you associate with?”
“No, Chief, you see, 99, 13, and I suspect that the cleaning man is really Mogler’s contact. You see, the cleaning man shares a room with Jose who happens to be a bellhop here –only he’s a little odd.”
“No!” cried Max. “The janitor! He does a cruddy job of cleaning and he won’t let Jose into the room at night.”
“Max,” sighed the Chief, “how would a careless work ethic like you just described have anything to do with this man being in Kaos?”
“Awe, gee, Chief… I think—“
“Smart,” interrupted the Chief, “I want you to keep your mind open in this –the Kaos contact could be anybody for all we know!”
“Anybody sure doesn’t help me narrow things down, Chief,” moaned Max.
“That’s why you should keep in mind that the two Kaos agents could find you and try and kill you!”
“I’ll remember that, Chief,” nodded Max as he hung up the phone.
“Jimenez!” boomed Phillips, marching into the coffee shop and glancing around the room. He discovered that his beleaguered employee was seated at the other end of the room and was too preoccupied with a game of solitaire to hear his name being called.
“Jimenez,” barked Phillips again, “there is a rule about playing games of chance in the dining facilities!”
“Yeah, but this game doesn’t have a chance,” pouted Jose, looking down at the hopeless line of reds and blacks.
“Jose,” began Phillips, setting down across from the bellhop, “I need to have a word with you. I don’t want this to come as a shock, but Glick is a fraud.”
Jose raised an eyebrow in doubt. “Does Mrs. Glick know about this?”
“Mrs. Glick!” cried Phillips. “There is no Mrs. Glick! She’s—“
“Bite your tongue!” retorted Jose. “I don’t believe that Byron would—“
“Jose,” sighed Phillips, “Byron isn’t even Byron –he’s a liar!”
“I’ve known Byron for a long time and I refuse to believe that,” sniffed Jose as he reshuffled his deck.
Phillips then pulled two ID cards from his inside pocket and set them down in front of Jose. “Perhaps these might make a difference in your reasoning.”
Jose blinked down at the ID cards. They claimed, much to his surprise, that the Glicks were the Smarts and, on top of that, they were spies working for Control. Jose pushed the cards away and then turned to stare at the wall on the opposite side of the room. He glanced back at the two pictures that were staring up at him and shook his head in disbelief. It was all he could do, for the moment, to not believe what he saw.
COPYRIGHT ©1999-2018 BY AMANDA HAVERSTICK.
Are the Smarts' covers really blown this time? Will Max get the laser back from Mogler? Will Mr. Hugginstuff survive the mission? Find out in Part Four!
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