Friday, June 4, 2010

AGENT ORANGE (flash fiction)

By 1967, I was buried deep in the bowels of the Bureau at Quantico -- with shitty clearance to boot.

I was a clerk in the Records Management Division. Oh sure, I was an agent for what it was worth. Basically, it came in handy at bars. Every chick within a 10 mile radius wanted to fuck a bonafide FBI agent and I helped them with that.

I started when I was discharged from Korea. A guy in my unit had an uncle who's friend was a G-man. I figured that I had enough Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity to serve my country overseas so why not stateside. After training, it was no time before the conformity of the day turned me into a working schnook and I found myself working as a glorified librarian.

You see, when Special Agents - the real guys - need information for their field agents, I get a either a wire or a phone call. I would pull thousands of case files -- everything from the militant "New Left" to homegrown Communists to the KKK. We feds were on it all.

But there was this one file called "Agent: Orange" that kept creeping across my desk. As conduits of information that often dealt with national security, we were forbidden to open them. And closed circuit cameras made sure we kept our peepers front and center. The rumor I kept hearing, though, was that The Pentagon was developing a new herbicidal warfare program just in case that conflict in Vietnam got any worse. "Agent: Orange" ... they said this was its name.
The file kept getting thicker and I thought nothing more of it.

* * *
A year or two went by and truthfully, I was starting to get bored with the day-to-day doldrums of the job. I wasn't a young agent anymore and any chance I had at a normal life with a family was quickly evaporating. In fact, the sacred information that I doled out on a daily basis was all I had. The files were my kids and I would watch them grow and mature.

I loved them.

* * *
And then it happened. A horrific nor'easter wiped out one of the national grids and I was alone in the records room. Until power was restored, there was no chance of getting in or out since the door was on a magnetic timer. Moreover, the cameras were out. This was my chance. I would finally get to meet one of my babies.

Out came the flashlight and the first child that I saw was that infamous "Agent: Orange" file. Imagine the shock when I found out that the folder was not named for a classified weapons initiative but a person.

Out came my baloney sandwich, I combed through every line on every page and soaked up every photo.

The file centered on a particular FBI Agent - deep undercover - who, among many things, persuaded mob insider Joseph Valachi to spill the beans about the structure of La Cosa Nostra -- the American "mafia."

The dateline of the case report hit me like a ton of bricks.

09 MARCH 1967

Fuck me.

The more I thought about it and almost choking on baloney, it made perfect sense. It was a genius cover. What better way to infiltrate the mafia than by grooming a young Italian singer into an international icon who would eventually travel in their circles and become one of their most trusted friends?
Oh sure, Hoover like to play up the fact that he was a gangster, but that was part of the cover. The Bureau even went so far as giving him a fake tough guy background by arresting him back when he was first recruited. All these years later, little do his fans know that there was a reason why he got away with everything.

But I couldn't figure out why they called him "Agent: Orange."
About two hours later, the power came back on. It was the only file I got through. And boy, the stuff I learned...

* * *
By the mid-seventies, I was retiring along with several other agents and an elite dinner was planned at the posh St. Regis Hotel in Washington, D.C. Along with President Gerald Ford, the event boasted a who's who that included Alexander Haig, Donald Rumsfeld, Nelson Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger.

Dreading the farewell speeches that were to come, I almost left but then I saw him at the bar and oddly, he was alone -- at least for the moment. I decided to make my move and as he drank his Jack on the rocks, I introduced myself and informed him that I worked in the Bureau's Records Management Division.

I winked. He stared.

I winked once more and Lord only knows where I got the courage to say, "I love your work... Agent Orange."

I winked. Again.

He'd clearly had it by this point and before he walked away,
leaned in and said, "What'sa matter, pal. You never saw a super spy before?"

As he sauntered towards the power brokers, it hit me. I knew why he was Agent Orange. It was his pocket square. I should've known that orange was his favorite color. Some agent I am...

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  1. Not only is this another great story told in a pitch perfect voice, but you also use my favorite picture of ole blue eyes ... the young mug shot. Talk about sex appeal!

    Thanks for sharing! ~Olivia

  2. Thank you for this little piece of pulp noir. This was a great read. Chandler would be proud.

  3. I love fiction that ties in with historic figures. Top notch, Anthony.

  4. You did it my way... great stuff, Ant! Sinatra's always intrigued me, and I love this bit of fictionalizing you've wrought here. Peace...

  5. Love the voice in this one ant, nailed it.

  6. I'm seconding Olivia on the young mug shot - hoo boy!

    This was great fun. Excellent voice for the narrator and brilliant tying in of reality and fiction

  7. "Out came my baloney sandwich..." :) - great detail.
    Just when we think we're cool, our fly is undone!
    Great flash, Anthony.

  8. Smashing fiction here. You serve a mean one Ant. ;)

  9. anthony...these keep getting better and better.

  10. This is my favorite so far. Just wonderful. And so plausible.

  11. They say every conspiracy theory has, at its heart, a kernal of truth. What you have created here is a perfect blend of what-if and fact.
    A terrific read, told in your own unique style. Brilliantly done, Ant!

  12. Once again a nice blend of the historical and the fictional with a powerful and believable voice.

    Great story.

  13. Really great story. You just never hear the word schnook enough these days. :)

    Your voice is excellent as always. Loved it.

  14. As usual, Anthony, you paint us a perfect picture with your quality flash fiction. Top work, mate.

  15. Loved the whole tale but Sinatra's comment at the end nailed it for me. Terrific.

  16. BEWITCHED, BOTHERED AND BEGUILED at your inimitable stylin' Ant. DAMN ... you had me at the pic - you've been this designer's illustrative hero for years. From the pic - I had the pluck: "Every chick within a 10 mile radius wanted to fuck a bonafide FBI agent and I helped them with that." Plucked that grand line out (so damn many of yours are) and smile-smirked that the G-man sure knew the G-spot. Sure 'nuff, you nailed that term a next line or two.

    Then I read the way you prolly wanta know a real engaged reader reads - I READ RAPT, BABY. Era, lingo, realities, reasonings, feel - oh the *feel*, Ant.

    Francis Albert hit me like I was flying to the moon and playin' among the stars. DAMN! You aced the full deck that I never saw bein' pulled out of your sleeves' typing fingers. Rat-a-tat-tat - OF COURSE a cool character of yours is drinkin' Jack on the rocks -- and you were smokin'!

    Orange hanky indeed.

    Absolutely*Kate's comments were formulated in full complicity of Sam Giancana at the Troubador. She was drinkin' J&B, neat.

  17. What is with all of the Agent Oranges lately? It's the killer gas in The Host, the greedy alien in Green Lantern, and now Frank Sinatra. I feel like I'm missing some important cultural touchstone.

  18. (( If you touch that touchstone John, be sure to wash your hands. ))

  19. @John ... Nuthin' like a herbicidal weapon of war to brighten up our pop culture ;)

    Thanks everyone for checking it out...

  20. Awesomeness from Anthony. Did I expect anything less??? I agree with absolutely everything Mizz Absolutely Kate had to say.
    And where on earth do you get these photos anyway? You must have a magic search engine.. or access to FBI files or something....
    I was wishing you had of read this one.

  21. I love stories like this - a little bit of truth, a little bit of fiction! Very good stuff here - loved the voice, the pacing. Very nice!

  22. Ant, you've done it again. Fantastic piece of fiction, great voice and line of tension in that records room.

    Confession time - this was my favourite line: Every chick within a 10 mile radius wanted to fuck a bonafide FBI agent and I helped them with that.


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