Kara and I finally drifted to sleep. She fell asleep in my arms, but I heard a buzzing sound. It was my cell phone. The phone was set to vibrate, and it was in my pants on the floor beside the bed. I slid out of bed without disturbing Kara. I dressed quickly and tip-toed outside to take the call.
“I hope this is important, Chuck. It’s in the morning,” I said.
“You were supposed to call me after you talked to Kara anyway. What happened? As a matter of fact, don’t answer that. I know what happened, you sex fiend. That’s not an issue….I know how you operate,” Charles said.
“Yeah,” I replied.
“You’re not gonna believe this shit,” Charles predicted.
“Where are you? I can barely hear you with all the commotion in the background.”
“I just left the bar not too long ago. Some locals invited me to some kind of underground cage fight.”
“I’ve seen cage fights before, Chuck.”
“No, that’s not it, Victor. The first two fights were actually kinda lame, but then the ladies came out to get it on. Guess who’s a fighting machine, and the reigning women’s champion three years running?”
“Leo’s mute daughter?”
“Yes! Yes! She’s ferocious. She uses some sort of modified caporerei fighting style. I’ve never seen anything like it. It appears she’s been trained in Mui Tae as well.”
“Are you fucking serious, Chuck?”
“I’m fucking serious, Vick. I took a few pictures with my phone. I’ll send them to you. She has a championship belt and everything. I’m sure she didn’t notice me in the crowd.”
“Holy shit, Chuck.”
“There’s more. When we were at the dinner table earlier, I got a good look at Linda’s face. I sensed a hint of familiarity about her, but I dismissed those thoughts. Now, I now where I remember her from.”
“Spit it out.”
“Linda entered the FBI training academy a few years back. She aced every aspect of the training, but the oral exam was her demise. They gave her a zero. I lobbied for an exemption, but you know how the Bureau can be.”
“It looks like we’ve found our first recruit.”
“Hell yeah. I’m on the way back to the mansion now. Is Linda there yet?”
“I don’t know, Chuck. I’ll check. Call me back in about fifteen minutes.”
“Okay, I’ll see you soon.”
I pressed the red button on my phone to end the call. I heard something near the stairs. I knew it had to be Linda. I got lost trying to find the staircase until I gained my bearings. I followed the loop-around spiral staircase that led me to the first floor. I took a brief moment to scroll through the pictures Charles sent to my phone. The images were absolutely astounding. The photos depicted Linda executing a wide variety of dazzling acrobatics, intricate grapple moves, bone crushing haymakers, and precise kick combinations. From the detailed snapshots, I could tell Linda won her bout handily and flawlessly.
A quick swooshing sound drew my attention. I probed the vast, dark halls of the mansion, bit I could not find Linda lurking in the shadows. Suddenly, a shadowy figure emerged from around a corner. It startled me.
“Geez, Chuck. You scared the piss out of me,” I said.
“I’m sorry. I just got back. Have you spoken with Linda yet?” Charles asked.
“I can’t find her.”
We heard a light switch click in the kitchen. That’s where Charles and I found Linda. We saw her perusing the contents of the large refrigerator. She spun around to face us when she heard our footsteps.
“Did we startle you?” Charles asked.
“Are you surprised to see us up this late?” I asked.
“Not really,” signed Linda. “I’m more surprised that you revealed my big secret.”
“Wait, how do you know that we now your secret?” Charles questioned.
“I overheard Victor’s conversation with you on the phone,” Linda told us. “I hid in the library when I heard Victor come out of Kara’s room. I was still wearing my fighting gear.”
Linda opened her robe. Underneath, she was wearing boxing trunks, a sports bra, and a lustrous gold championship belt around her waist. The light glimmered off the embedded rubies. Linda closed her robe.
“How did you get back so fast, another secret?” I asked. Linda nodded.
“So, your father doesn’t know you’re a championship cage fighter?” Charles inquired.
“He has no clue, but I guess he’ll find out soon enough when you tell him I’m your newest recruit. In fact, Papa should be up soon for his morning coffee.”
Almost on cue, Leo walked into the kitchen with a mug in his hand. There was a large, deluxe espresso machine in the corner. Leo used it to dispense a piping hot, and suicidal caffeinated brew into his mug. Charles and I fell silent. Neither of us knew if Leo would be violently offended by our proposition to turn his eldest and most beautiful daughter into an uberlethal secret agent. I nudged Charles with my elbow to insinuate that he should initiate the conversation with Leo. Charles retaliated with a sharp elbow of his own.
“There’s no need to be so tense, gentlemen,” Leo stated. “I think recruiting my Linda is a delightful idea.”
“How did you know?” I asked.
Leo chuckled and said, “I recently had intercoms installed. I saw it on the MTV Cribs.”
“That’s relief,” Charles sighed.
“As a businessman, I can respect your entrepreneurship,” Leo continued. “A heist-for-hire service seems like it should be a profitable venture. I remember when Arango Beans Company was in its infancy before major expansion. Times were difficult at first, but now ABC is a thriving empire. I would like to double your compensation if you can successfully capture and transport a giraffe for my wife. Do not think of it as a favor. Since Linda will be joining your coalition, think of it as a friends and family rate.”
I wanted to clarify the American custom of the friends and family discount, but instead I said, “That’s most agreeable. As a sign of gratitude, I’d like to evaluate and execute this operation as soon as possible. When can we examine the aircraft and transport cage?”
“We can leave this morrow after breakfast,” Leo answered. “I will tell Bernice that we are taking a tour of
“A tour sounds like a good idea, too. We need to scope out the zoo, stadium, and surrounding terrain,” Charles said.
Soon, a team of servants came in the kitchen to start preparing breakfast. We left to give them space to work. When we returned, the whole family was sitting around the large dining room table while the servants set out the last dishes. Bernice was still under the impression that Charles and I were soda executives from the
United States. Most of the small talk at breakfast consisted
of questions Bernice asked about our company, Daisy Cola. We kept the hoax going until we finished
breakfast. Then, Leo informed everyone
that he’d be taking Charles and me on a tour of Rio De Janeiro to check out some of Arango
Beans Company’s facilities.
A long and sleek, black stretch Scion limousine was outside waiting for us. The chauffer drove us to a large hangar south of the Arango estate. Much to my surprise, Linda and Kara were already at the hangar sitting on the hood of the solid silver Audi sedan. I wondered how they got there so fast since we left the mansion before them.
“What are you doing here,” I asked them.
“I spoke with Linda after breakfast, and I told her about the giraffe pheromones,” Kara explained. “She’s got an idea.”
“Go ahead and tell us your idea, Linda,” Charles said.
Linda showed us a magazine that had a man hang gliding over
on the cover. She used sign language to
respond, “What do you think?”
“Uh, it’s a little far fetched, but it can work if we had a sky sail big enough for a giraffe,” Charles said.
“No, no,” signed Linda. “I know how to hang glide. If you can get a giraffe beyond the gates of the zoo, I can fly by at a relatively low altitude with a canister of pheromones attached to the control bar. If I leave a trail of pheromones, the giraffe will gallop behind me following my flight path.”
“That will be an easy way to lure the beast from the zoo to the stadium,” Leo noted.
“I agree,” I said. “Let’s step inside the hangar and look at the chopper and cage, so we can review our method of trapping and transporting the beast by air.”
\ A large tandem-rotor CH-47D Chinook helicopter, capable of airlifting 35,000 pounds, sat in the middle of the hangar. Charles and I swiftly examined the aircraft’s twin 3,750 horse power engines and all the controls on the interior. Then, we moved on to the tall giraffe cage, a fairly simple reinforced steel enclosure with a swinging gate that locked in place. An extra-duty and durable chain hung down on the side from the top of the cage. We’d use that to hook it to the Chinook’s undercarriage. We rolled he helicopter and cage onto the runway to conduct a practice take-off and landing. I drove the silver Audi into the cage and secured it. Then, Charles confirmed the Chinook’s power and grace. He lifted the cage, with me and the Audi inside, off the ground and into the sky. I felt like I was on an elevator. The landing was precise and gentle. After the cage, the car, and I were safe on the ground, Charles landed the helicopter. We exchanged thumbs-up across the runway. This was going to be easier than I thought.
Our next stop was the Maracana Football Stadium. Arango Beans was one of the stadium’s top sponsors, so we did not have to pay admission for the friendly match between the Flamengo and Fluminese soccer clubs. A large billboard bearing the ABC logo towered over the tunnel at the north end of the stadium. We did not stay long, only long enough to confirm that the field was large enough to accommodate the bulk of the Chinook and giraffe cage.
Next, we took a trip to
Rio’s Jardim Zoological. The giraffe exhibit was our main focus. Isolating on of the animals to extract
without freeing all the giraffes would be tricky, but not impossible. The far end of the enclosure was lined by a
lightly wooded area with a small service road that ran through it. We decided that that would be our best
extraction point. Part of the gate that
lined the woods was rigged to swing open in order to grant access to animal
trainers and maintenance men. All we’d
need was a large basket of carrots attached to a twenty foot pole in order to
lure one giraffe out the gate. Getting
the giraffe to the service road would be vital.
Once the giraffe was in position, it would catch the scent of the misted
pheromones that Linda would spray as she glided by on her sky sail on her way
to the stadium.
Finally, we ventured further north to map out Linda’s flight plan after we rented a sky sail. The looming daylight was bright enough to help us estimate a prospective trajectory while allotting a margin of error due to wind gusts. We waited until night fall to make a practice run without the pheromones. Charles, Leo, Kara, and I waited near the stadium. We watched Linda elegantly soar towards us away from the horizon. After she flew over the zoo, she made her landing in a meadow south of the stadium. It was a successful trial run, and it gave us the confidence we needed to pull off this caper. All we needed was the giraffe pheromones, and thanks to overnight delivery, we would not have to wait long. Linda, Charles, and I checked into Cama e Café as our pre-mission lodging. Kara and Leo returned to the mansion. Kara promised to come back tomorrow afternoon with our canister of giraffe pheromones. We were poised and ready for our first mission.