When a retiree suspects his neighbor is involved in a gunrunning racket, he sets out to obtain evidence to bust up the operation.
An NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge entry.
Prompts: Spy/an arsenal/a string trimmer
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My mission is simple, if I choose to accept. Get undeniable proof that my neighbor is hoarding guns and ammunition in his backyard shed and selling them on the black market. The only problem is I’ve been retired for thirty years and gathering evidence might be difficult. My knees barely handle tottering down the garden path and don’t even get me started on my walking stick. But I wasn’t a quitter in my day and I won’t quit now. My new neighbor is involved in a gunrunning racket and I’m determined to shut him down.
I know a cover when I see one. My neighbor pinned a sign to his front gate claiming he’s a motorcycle mechanic. Open all hours, it says. He can’t fool me. Who gets their bike serviced at eleven o’clock at night? Assembling guns, more like it. His clients are a dead giveaway. Leather-clad bikers sporting skull and cross-bone emblems. In and out from dusk to dawn. No one ever comes during the day. Rarely see my neighbor, too. If I do, he’s on his phone, talking so fast it’s gibberish to my ears. I wave like a flag flapping in a howling wind but he ignores me. Probably tells his contacts not to worry about the senile coot who lives next door. That makes me snort tea out my nostrils. He has no idea who he lives next to.
Makes it hard to get proof, though, not being able to sneak over at night. My only chance is to clear a path through the asparagus fern in the corner of the vegetable patch and peek through the shed’s back window. Haven’t used my garden tools in years, but I find an old string trimmer that might do the job. It’s hard wielding the trimmer without the support of my cane, but the result is better than I expected. I cut that fern at ground level; couldn’t lift the trimmer head any higher. Not a stalk remains. Now to peek over the fence and take some shots with my trusty happy-snap camera.
Haven’t used my camera in years, either. The last photo I took was of my beloved Patsy, God bless her patient soul. Remembering how to use the zoom is a problem for a fella with an addled memory, but the shed backs onto my fence so looking through the window is easy. Can’t see much through my glasses. Can’t see much past the cobwebs, either. Something looks like a disassembled bike but it’s parked next to a pile of long boxes the right size for a rifle, and many smaller boxes the right size for ammunition. I aim the camera, take some shots. They’re blurry, but editing should fix that. Now to call the agency and send this evidence through.
Doc answers the phone. He was assigned to me the day I retired. Top bloke. Has an office inside a medical clinic. Great cover. At my age, I can visit anytime, no questions asked. I tell him what I saw and promise to bring in the photos, but maybe he should send out a team ASAP because my shopping nurse only comes on a Tuesday. He nods through the phone and instructs me to take the red pills after dinner.
No way. Those pills muddle my memory. Procedure, I know, in case my cover is blown and I’m forced to divulge details about previous covert operations. It’s never come to that but you can’t be too careful in my line of work. Still, I want a clear head when my neighbor gets busted. So I ditch the pills, and peer out the kitchen window, and wait.
Something’s wrong. Three days go past and the only people roaring into the neighbor’s property are the bikers, always at night, as regular as my bowel movements. Looks like we have a snitch. Never did trust Doc. But if he’s a turn-coat, this calls for drastic action.
I phone a friend.
Denny Walker, ex-CIA. He’s holed up in a nursing home, his choice, incognito, you get it. But he has contacts. So I call him. Tell him what’s going on next door. Denny will come through. He’s never let me down, yet.
Denny failed. Had a bad turn, the nursing staff said. Damn these crooks are good. Can’t trust anyone now, not if they got to Denny. Looks like it’s up to me.
I have a plan. It’s so simple, I don’t know why I didn’t think of it first. I take my string trimmer down to the back fence and toss it behind the neighbor’s shed. Then I call the local police. Tell them my neighbor stole it and has it stashed in his shed. One patrol car turns up. Two rookie constables question me, then hop over the fence and search the shed.
I got to hand it to those boys. They shoot out of the shed like cats out of a cannon, guns drawn, hollering into their radios for backup. What followed brought nostalgic tears of joy to my eyes; I’m so glad I didn’t take those damned red pills. A helicopter dropped in a SWAT team. The neighbor got dragged away in handcuffs. The shed got wrapped in that yellow crime scene tape, and box after box of rifles and handguns and ammunition, some assembled, some in parts, were carted into an FBI weapons disposal truck that trundled down the driveway. Seen nothing like it, not since I retired, anyway. And had a front-row seat right here on my porch.
Yeah, my eyesight might be fading and my knees wobble more than I’d like, but I still got it. Spies like me, we never retire. But I’d better ask one of the boys in blue to fetch my trimmer. It’s still behind the fence and dang if I can reach it.
‘Spies Like Me’ is my first round entry in the 2021 NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge and placed 5th in my group.