It was still December, but Reggie had a bug up his ass about the high school reunion in June. He didn’t seem the type to me, to organise something so mundane. But he was on the line, breathing heavily, while I examined an ancient list of guests to our long ago graduation party. How the list came into my possession remains a mystery.
“You there, Reuben?” said Reggie. The line was bad.
“Yeah, yeah,” I said. “Just hang on.”
“I’d like to get this done today.”
“Well you’ll have to bear with me, Reggie. This isn’t digital, and it’s a very long list. It’s not even alphabetical, and it’s written in yellow felt pen from the 90s that’s hard to see on white paper and smells like bananas.”
“It’s important, man.”
“Hang on…” I said, coming to the end of the list for the third time. “Okay, that’s it. No Nipsey on the list.”
“He’s gotta be there, man,” Reggie said.
“But he’s not.”
“Look again,” he said.
“No way, Reggie.”
“C’mon. It’s right there in front of you, on your desk. This could be a national security issue. I’m trying to keep the NSA off your door step.”
“Really?” I said.
“It’s a class reunion, Reggie. You’re organising a crummy class reunion. How can that be a national security issue?”
“It wasn’t at first,” he said. “Now it is.”
“Alright,” I said. “I’ll scan it into my computer. Then I’ll email you the file.”
“Don’t scan it, for Christ sake. If it goes digital, we’ll lose control of it. If you email it, it’ll end up parked on every cloud server from here to New Delhi.”
“Then I’ll send it ground mail.”
“They’ll snag it somewhere along the line.”
“Then what?” I said. “And why are you so paranoid? If the spooks want this so bad, if they’re willing to go to such lengths to get it, then I don’t want it in my house. And maybe I don’t want to be talking about it on the telephone, either.”
“Don’t worry about this telephone call,” Reggie said. “I’ve arranged for it to be scrambled at both ends.”
“White label STU-VI voice encryption device,” Reggie said. “I bought it at the Espionage Barn. The one on the highway, just outside of Mississauga.”
“Espionage Barn? You’re starting to scare me, Reggie. I thought you were a journalist, not a spy.”
“Think about it, man,” Reggie said. “I can get killed for being either one, nowadays. Why shouldn’t I expand my horizons?”
“Yeah?” I said. “Well I just design progress bars and little arrow wheels that go round and round in infinite circles for software companies. I don’t want your world coming into my living room.”
“Okay, okay,” said Reggie. “I guess it doesn’t matter that much, anyway. Finding Nipsey this way, I mean. I’d just hoped that that old list might have some traceable info, like an old phone number.”
“Well, it’s a real shame Nipsey can’t come. Look, why can’t you just look in the phone book?”
“It’s alright,” Reggie said. “In fact, let’s forget about it. In the end, he just turned out to be a special ops clown, anyway. We’ll party without him.”
“Yeah,” said Reggie. “He was recruited by the Canadian Army back in 2005.”
“But isn’t it a little hard, on your part in that case, to call him a clown, if he made that kind of sacrifice for his country.”
“No no,” Reggie said. “You don’t get it. He was an actual special ops clown. He joined the Canadian Special Operations Regiment Evil Clown Unit, and was deployed in Afghanistan in operation Look Under Your Bed. It was just a small part of a bigger alternative front-line combat experiment called Cultural Torpedo. They used the scariest elements of western culture to freak out the Taliban fighters – zombies, Catholic nuns, that sort of thing.”
“And evil clowns,” I said. “How come you know all of this, but you still can’t find him in the phone book? This is all a little hard to believe.”
“An evil Special Operations clown only gets found if he wants to, I guess.”
“Are you on medication, Reggie?”
“Hell no!” he said, a little too loudly. “And it’s all true, man. His character was Tipsy Nipsey. He walked around the battlefield half-cut, in costume and full make-up, with a bottle of cheap fortified wine in his hand, showing his fangs and puking on insurgents. That was his gimmick. His weapon of choice was a Benelli M4 Super 90 combat shotgun.”
“An evil clown with a shotgun…”
“There was about thirty of them in the unit,” Reggie said. “One day it’ll all come out, baby. I learned about it by mistake when I was investigating the shady goings-on at the Kandahar Tim Horton’s, for the Globe and Mail.”
“You’re killing me, here.”
“Oh yeah, man,” Reggie said. “Turns out Nipsey’s cover, when he wasn’t on a mission, was manager of the only place in Afghanistan you could get a double-double. When he was working in the store, he had a hairnet, latex gloves, false name badge, the works. Great disguise.”
“This is disturbing, Reggie.”
“Yeah?” said Reggie. “Well you should have been on the other side. You gotta understand, the Taliban recruited fighters from all of the Islamic countries. Some were pretty savvy citizens of the world. But mostly, they were just a bunch of bumpkins with AK-47s. And there may be no God but Allah, baby, but you should see a bunch of Taliban farm boys shit their drawers when thirty evil clowns jump out from behind a rock and attack, fully armed, most of them cannibals, degenerate drunks, tax evaders and sexual predators, with the really creepy make-up and the Spandex costumes.”
“Spandex?” I said.
“Oh yeah,” Reggie said. “Beer bellies, genital warts, skinny legs and Spandex. Whoa! I’m breaking out in a sweat just talking about it.”
“A couple of ‘em, maybe. Sure, why the hell not? It all depends on how you define the word.”
“You know, Reggie,” I said. “Maybe you’re not the guy to organise a high school reunion.”
“I don’t get it.”
“What about Isabelle Waslington?” I said. “Why don’t you hand the torch to her? She was a good little organiser, back when I knew her.”
“Sorry to break your heart,” Reggie said. “But she’s a Stasi agent.”
“What? The Stasi doesn’t even exist any more.”
“Ha!” he said. “That’s what you think.”
“Okay, what about Elmo Spitz? He organised the high school seniors’ Summer Dance. The theme was Rumba to the Toppa, remember?”
“He’s a Fundamentalist Christian Survivalist,” said Reggie. “Wanted by the FBI. Connections to the Area 51 Truth Through Sublimation Guerilla Movement.”
“Impossible,” I said. “He’s a female impersonator with seven cats, and an indoor herb garden. He does needlepoint. He belongs to Greenpeace, for the love of Pete.”
“Good cover, huh?”
“I can’t believe this, Reggie. I went to high school with these people.” Line two on my telephone started to blink and buzz. “Look, there’s someone on the other line. I really have to go.”
“You gotta listen to me,” Reggie said. “Nipsey’s out there. And he’s one dangerous S.O.B. He’s been a full-on psychopath since the UC Berkeley intensive medical crack cocaine trials, and the CIA neo-MK-ULTRA experiments. Now he’s part of a secret domestic evil clown death squad, sponsored by Canada, the US and Venezuela. They’re targeting environmentalists and Keanu Reeves. I just hope he doesn’t show up at your door. And just so you know, the high school reunion’s just my cover, man. I’m doing pure investigative journalism, here. I swear, I’m gonna blow the top off the evil clown story. If you hang up on me now, I can’t help you.”
“I have to go, Reggie,” I said. “I’m sure that if Tipsy Nipsey’s loose out there, the NSA or the RCMP or the FBI will catch up with him, and get him the help he needs. By the way, I know you say it’s just a cover, but send me an invitation if you pull off this high school reunion thing. And maybe you should visit your doctor, just to touch base, you know?”
“Don’t do it,” said Reggie. “Don’t hang up.”
I hung up, and punched line two. Things were starting to stack up. I had email to catch up on, and deadlines to panic over. My day was turning out to be grimmer than I’d hoped.
“Hello?” I said.
“That you, Droolin’ Reuben?”
“Yeah, Nipsey. It’s me.”
“Reggie’s been callin’ round,” Tipsy Nipsey said.
“I know. I just got off the phone with him.”
“He’s gonna be a problem if we want to ice Keanu.”
“We’ll see,” I said. “We’ll know more in the fullness of time.”
“Maybe,” Nipsey said. “But I say we wack Reggie hard, before he goes leaking something to AP.”
“Let’s wait and see.”
“We still on for the David Suzuki job, tonight?” Nipsey said, mercifully changing the subject.
“Yup, the Spandex is in the dryer.”
“How are the genital warts?” he asked.
“I got ointment.”
Banner photograph: By Joe Haupt from USA [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons