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Riding Shotgun  
With Adventure  

by Ron Langston  

Ron Langston

Episode 96: On His Holiness' Secret Service

I was sitting in the Lap of Luxury, a strip joint in the French Quarter. Business was good by the looks of it. Rick behind the bar was my contact. He's the owner, part-time gumshoe and former CIA "fixer," or so he says. He was taking a break from the private dick racket after cracking a nationwide counterfeit handicapped license plate ring. He likes tending bar here during his time off, "to relax."

The Vatican had once again contracted my services, this time in search of a missing consignment of rosaries bound from New Orleans to Istanbul. They never made it, which had JP pretty hot under the miter. It was the third time this month, and things were going to get pretty messy Turkey-side if someone didn't put a stop to it fast. That someone would be me, the pope's undercover agent.

Word on the street had it the cargo was hijacked by a wayward priest somewhere south of Bossier City. They'd been fenced out of "Bauble Wrap," a chain of cheap jewelry outlets run by a cartel of religious cults and alternative-lifestyle communes. It was also a front for the biggest money-laundering operation since the NFL invented the Super Bowl commercial. "Your beads, they're worth something, n'est ce pas?" Rick fancied himself Cajun, but he could only keep up the patois for a minute or so before his Jersey roots came out, which always makes me laugh.

The Boss had OK'd an early release from Purgatory to anyone with vital information, as much as two millenia. Rick could be a tough negotiator when he smelled profit, but I had been instructed not to give in for the full amount unless it was absolutely necessary. If I let on that I practically had his get-out-of-hell-free card, I'd never get anything out of him, so I just let him do most of the talking.

"I know someone who can tell you all you want to know about the bead job, but it's gonna cost ya." I smiled, maybe a bit too eagerly. "How much?" "A favor. My best girl up there, see?" "The one with the huge..." "Yeah, that's her. Name's Mary. Goes by Sunshine on stage. A novice nun once, kicked the habit and wandered into my club about a year ago. She really brings in the crowds. Ninety percent of the jamokes in the joint will go to confession first thing tomorrow morning over her." "And the other 10?" "Baptists." "So what's the favor?" "She really wants to meet the Dell interns. I sort of told her I had an inside connection. You're my insider." "What about my beads?" "Sister Mary Sunshine has the line on your beads, but you gotta pony up the interns first. That's the deal." How Rick knew I once had an in with an intern is a mystery to me. But ever since the road trip ... Let's just say I'm not getting a Dell, not any more.

We were introduced after Sunshine's last dance of the night. "Great set," I amused myself with the double entendre. "Thanks, they're all natural," she beamed. Such innocence. "Rick here says you'd like to meet the Dell interns, is that right?" "Oh, yes, especially that dreamy one, Adam! You know them?" "You could say that." Did she say "dreamy"? "You do know they're only actors, right?" I hated to break it to her suddenly like that, but I had some bead bandits to bag. "What are you talking about?" she whimpered, but now was no time to get soft-hearted. "Surely you knew they're not really interns. It's obvious that the whole thing's a put-on. Look, Sister, nobody listens to their interns, not even Dell. Internships are a form of corporate community service. It keeps the interns off the streets between semesters." Rick gave me the evil eye. This wasn't going quite the way he had planned ...

Next week -- Episode 97: I'm Just Wild About Hari Krishna

(Transcribed by Charles Gulledge)

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