by 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
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)