THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #27
WARNING: NEIL TYPOS AHEAD...
You think I’m crazy, right? By now you know my decision-making skills (starting with my ill-fated choice of buying a motorcycle) leave more than a bit to be desired. But that’s a conversation for another day.
Let’s get back to the knock on the door and the sweet voice on the other side.
Mr. DEA Agent, calm as can be, saunters to the door. All the while the gunfire keeps going. And going.
I’m still hunkered down. I’m crazy not stupid.
Mr. DEA opens the door. There stands a dude dressed on in black. Even his face is painted like he just jumped out of an old Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. He’s leaning against the door jam picking at his teeth.
“So, you want me fluff pillow?” the man says in a high-pitched voice.
“Took you long enough,” Mr. DEA says.
“We didn’t plan on your biker buddies being here. You know I don’t like complicated. I like vanilla, easy peasy out and cheesy.” The man cranes his neck around Mr. DEA. “And who’s that guy?”
Mr. DEA lies. “Another inside guy. I’d tell you who he is but then I’d have to—“
The man in black holds up a hand to stop the line. “Okay, okay. I get it. You do super duper top secret squirrel stuff now. But you can’t tell me you don’t miss the shoot em up bang bang.”
“I think I miss the facepaint more than the bang bang getting shot at.” Then he leaned in closed and whispered to his buddy. They look over at me twice.
The guy in black disappears just as I realize the shooting has stopped. Mr. DEA walks over to me and I rise to standing, careful not to wobble.
He puts his hands on his hips and says, “Now, what are we going to do about you?”
All I wanted to do was go home.
When I have time I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
Here’s to crazy!
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #26
WARNING: NEIL WRITING = TYPOS
I think in my last entry I made it seem like I was shivering in a corner, trying not to pee in my pants. Let me clarify: I’ve been through worse before. Much worse. If you’ve know me for any length of time you know.
What I was trying to say when the pen got away from me was that I had no idea what was going to happen next. If I’ve learned anything from Cal and the gang it’s to continue the reevaluation process. The battlefield is always changing.
Well, the battlefield was moving our way. Gunshot getting closer. Barking orders. And all the while Mr. Agent just sat there looking very happy with himself.
“Don’t you think you should get down. You know, maybe take cover?”
The guy ignored me. He even started whistling. What the hell, right?
Fine. Let him get shot to hell. I had things to do, people to see, places to travel. A life to live.
Footsteps pounded up the stairs now. Closer. Closer.
I grabbed the only thing I could find: a bronzed statue of Napoleon. The pathetic weapon was the side of my hand. Better than nothing. I’d take someone down with me.
Clutching the wily former leader of France in my hands, I listened as the footsteps stopped outside the door. Whispering. What were they saying?
I looked over at Mr. Agent. Still grinning. Still whistling. I wish he would just tell me, dammit!
Then, as I braced for impact, or maybe a grenade tossed in for good measure, the strangest thing happened. Someone knocked on the door. Not a pounding knock like the cops like to do. No, it was a polite knock. And then, in a sweet voice that was obvious raised a few octaves too high, a voice said, “Housekeeping. You want me fluff pillow?”
Gotta run. Bad guys doing bad things in bad places. I’ll let you know the rest in my next entry. Thanks for your patience, Dear Diary. You’re a model of manners.
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #25
WARNING: TYPOS AHEAAD....
“What the hell was that?” I hissed to Mr. Agent.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Don’t worry about?!” I hissed, incredulous.
The sound of suppressed weapons fire made it to the second story.
“Stay here,” Big Burley said to one of his men, the skinniest of the bunch. I noted the fear in Big Burley’s voice. That should’ve made me happy. Only it didn’t. Who was the third party crashing the party?
“Almost there,” Mr. Agent said.
“You gettin’ the money?” skinny leave behind asked, though his eyes were staring out the window warily. He was careful to maintain cover to one side.
“Yep. Your money is almost…on…it’s way.” Mr. Agent pressed one more but with conductor’s flourish. “Done.”
Just then, Big Burley burst into the room. “Come on, Harold. We’re gettin’ the hell outta here.”
“But—“ I tried to say.
“Ain’t not buts, Mr. Wizard,” Big Burley said. “We didn’t sign up for a firefight with the Feds, or the mob, or whoever the hell that is out there!” He turned grabbed Harold by the vest. “Come on!”
They were gone and I was still crouched in one corner.
My antagonist/protector was gone. Now what???
Let’s see what my memory brings next time,
Cowering For Cover Neil
FROM C. G. COOPER:
Now it’s your turn.
You tell me what happens next. If I like your idea best I’ve write it into the story. Submit your idea in the form here: [https://forms.gle/YqKurNKZqpeexnLZA]
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #24
WARNING: NEIL'S INTO COMPUTERS AND TYPOS...
“There,” the agent said with a little flourish. He pointed to the screen, and like moths to a flame, the bikers leaned in.
“Ten million dollars?” Big Burley said.
“Ten million?” another chimed in with something akin to a hoot.
“I’ll give you a cut if you help me get rid of the trash.”
Big Burley looked away from the screen. “The trash?” I’m not kidding when when I say like that the guy looked like he’d become a toddler again.
The agent pointed to the window. “The guys in the van?”
“Oh right.” Big Burley straightened up and gave a little cough to clear his throat. “But no cut.”
“No cut. We get all of it.”
Mr. DEA shook his head slowly. “Look, I know you’ve got all the power right now, but if I give you that money, it’s… well, I’m screwed.”
“You should’ve thought about that before dealing with trash. And you lied to us. You said the money was gone a couple minutes ago. And now this?!” the pointed a meaty finger at the screen. “I’d say ten mill pays for your lie.”
Mr. DEA didn’t look so DEA now.
“Fine. But it’s not like I can go to an ATM and pull out some cash.”
“I don’t care,” Big Burley said, poking Mr. DEA in the chest. “You’ve got five minutes. And don’t try any funny business.”
“I’m no comedian,” said Mr. DEA. I would’ve liked him if I wasn’t in such deep crap.
Big Burley and one of his companions stayed while the others filed downstairs.
Mr. DEA had only clicked a couple of buttons when a loud BOOM sounded from outside and the bikers went to the window. Mr. DEA kept clicking away, but looked my way and threw me a wink.
Your soon-to-be hermit,
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #23
WARNING: TYPOS AHEAD...
“I won’t ask again,” Big Burly said, clamping a hand around my neck, squeezing just enough that I rose onto my tiptoes.
“I’ve got the money,” my new “friend” said. All eyes went to the Russian-turned-DEA Agent.
“Where is it?”
“Upstairs.” He said it with perfect conviction. So much so that I believed him. Maybe it was the hand that suddenly released that helped nudge me into belief.
The DEA agent held up his bound hands. “I need them to get the money.”
“How much?” Big Burley asked, not moving an inch.
“Fifty grand in a safe. The rest, well, it may take —“
“You’re out of time, smart guy!”
“Right. You’re right, of course. It’ll take five minutes to put in the request. Maybe ten for the request to be confirmed and authenticated. The money’s in the Caymans.”
“Let’s go,” Big Burley said, grabbing my upper arm and dragging me towards the stairs. He did not untie the agent’s hands. “Go,” he barked.
The agent led the way, up the stairs, down a short hall and into a room with a single dainty desk that could’ve been on the set of _Bridgerton_.
“Wait,” Big Burley said, stepping into the room before our guide. He pulled me along as he searched thee near-empty closet and pulled out the single drawer of the desk which held no more than a yellow-lined legal pad and a pencil. “You’re playing games with—“
“If you’ll let me show you,” the agent said, stepping around the larger man. He went to the desk and did the most peculiar thing. He reach behind the back right corner, and must have pressed something, because something clicked and the top of the ancient wood rose half an inch.
The agent pulled the hidden compartment open slowly, probably for Big Burley’s benefit. He’d uncovered a hidden screen that was now booting up and in a second asked for a passcode.
“May I?” the agent asked.
He had Big Burley’s attention now. With a nod of his sweating head the agent went to work, and all I could think about was whether it was yet another bluff, and if it was, what the hell was I going to do next?
Back with more soon,
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #22
WARNING: NEIL'S GOT THE FEELS FOR TYPOS...
A DEA agent. The Russian who I’d spend all that time tracking, the one right under our noses in beautiful, sweet, serene Charlottesville, was actually a DEA agent?
“I don’t believe you,” I said.
“You don’t have to believe me,” the possible-ex-Russian criminal said. I don’t know if it was my head, the stress, my paranoia or reality, but I could’ve sworn the guy was looking and sounding more and more red-blooded American as the seconds ticked by. “How mobile are you?” he asked, surprising me from my thoughts.
He pointed at my leg. “Unless I’m mistaken, you have a prosthetic. You don’t limp. You don’t seem to be in pain.”
I’d done A LOT of rehab to make my gait as normal as possible. Sometimes I still tripped, usually because I forgot to pick my fake foot up enough.
“I’m perfectly mobile.” My answer came out sounding like the cousin of a petulant child. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound defensive, it’s just that—“
“You’ve worked hard to rehab, to make it look like you’ve got still got two working legs.”
“Right.” There was some ruckus outside and we went quiet to listen but I couldn’t make out what was happening.
“You think they’ll kill ‘em?” my new companion asked. It didn’t sound like that concerned him much.
“Probably not. They’re thugs, not murderers.”
“That’s good. Dead Russians makes my reports harder to write.”
What a ridiculous situation, I thought. Time to reel it back in.
“Quick, you have to tell me where the money is. I have certain assets at my disposal that can—“
“There’s no money,” the agent said like he’d just told me we were out of jam.
“No money?! That’s impossible. I saw it.”
“You saw what we wanted the world to see. There’s no money.”
As if on cue, the entire motorcycle club marched back into the house.
“Your time is up,” Big Boy #1 said. “Where’s the money?”
Crap. Crap. Crap.
Neil, the big dumb idiot
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #21
WARNING: NEIL'S MIDDLE NAME IS TYPO
They seemed to have come to a consensus and were soon marching back to stand in front of me. One of them gave the Russian a kick in the leg, just for good measure.
I felt like telling them that only one of my legs was whole, but decided against it. Pity’s not my thing.
“Here’s what we’re going to do,” said Big Boy #1. “You’re going to tell us what information we need, and then WE are going to beat it out of the guys in the van.”
Crap. More violence. I’d really hoped to do this without, but as they say about plans…
“Okay,” I said, thinking while I rattled off the information I would need. I honestly believed that there wasn’t a chance in hell that they could get it. Probably some high level gangster account held that info, but it was worth a try.
At least that made the bikers happy. They put on fresh grim faces and made for the door. Then Big Boy #1 turned to me. “Keep an eye on him,” he said to me, pointing at the Russian.
“Sure. I’ll take good care of him.”
Big Boy #1 laughed and that and then there we were, the pathetic schemer (me) and the pathetic target.
“Who are you?” the Russian asked.
I didn’t know what to tell him. Hell, I didn’t have to tell him anything. But I was nervous and sometimes when I’m nervous and don’t have a computer to tap on I need to talk.
“My name’s Neil.”
“My name is—“
“I know who you are.”
Instead of nodding, the Russian stared at me. Long and hard. Until finally, his eyes lit up.
“You brought them here.”
“I didn’t mean to.”
“But you did,” he said.
What was I going to do, lie?
“You’re a criminal,” I said instead. “I figured I’d use you to get them off my back.”
Now he nodded, like he was working it all out in his head. I tried to remember the guy’s full dossier, but whether it was the nerves or a momentary disconnection in my brain, no details came.
“Okay,” he said. “You think I’m a criminal.”
“That’s what I said.”
“That’s good. That’s very good.” And then something very strange happened. The next time he spoke, any shred of an accent disappeared. “You look like someone I can trust, Neil, mostly because we’re in the crosshairs together. So tell me, did you know that I’m an undercover DEA agent?”
I did not. I did not at all.
Crap. Now what to do?
More soon, Diary,
Neil “stunned silent” Patel
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #20
WARNING: NEIL ONCE DATED A GIRL NAMED TYPO...
I held up my hands. “Okay. I see where this is going,” I said, grasping for some way to appease the rising tide of you know what heading in my direction.
Big Boy #1 walks up to me and bumps me with his gut. “I think you planned this.”
“Of course I planned this—“ then I understood where his mind was chugging. “Wait, no, I didn’t plan THIS. I planned us getting here, remember? I planned us taking care of this guy.” I pointed at the Russian who looked even more pathetic than I felt. Seriously, what I wouldn’t paid to have Top come and push Big Boy #1’s gut off of me.
“If you’re so smart, maybe YOU’ve got the crypto,” Big Boy #1 says.
“Yeah. He’s got it,” Middle Sized Guys chimes in.
Their solidarity was charming but did little to bolster my confidence.
I had options. Of course I had options! That’s what the guys are always saying, that options are limitless, that it just take a minute to sort them out in your head. Only I didn’t have a minute. At least it didn’t feel that way now that the rest of them were bumping up against me.
Pay them off? I could. I had plenty of money. But that didn’t seem like the right answer.
Dig into the Russian’s assertion that he was at a zero balance? Sure, that could work. Again, I didn’t feel like they’d give me that time.
So I rested on the only option that seemed viable at the time.
“How about the guys we tied up outside?” I asked. “Maybe we should see what THEY did with the money.”
Luckily, and to my great relief, they chewed on that, taking their conversation to the other side of the room as the Russian and I exchanged our own glances.
Damn. Why did I ever have to buy a motorcycle?
Be back with more soon,
Neil “cornered like a rat” Patel
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #19
WARNING: NEIL IS INTO TYPOS...
Our merry gang of bikers charged, immediately getting the attention of the four guys dragging the Russians.
If it hadn’t been so serious, I might’ve laughed. They actually roared as they charged. Then, the slug out began.
Fists smashed, boots stomped and men bellowed in rage and pain. I really expected the four visitors to pull guns at some point, but they didn’t, and got properly throttled because of it.
Soon all four were moaning on the ground and being hogtied with an assortment of laces, leather cut from chaps and a rope someone had stashed in a pocket.
“There. That wasn’t so bad,” the biggest biker said. Then he looked over at the Russian who was quivering next to a rose bush. “You. You’re the one we came for.” He walked over and hoisted the scrawny man to his feet.
“You can have anything you want,” the Russian said, his native accent nearly imperceptible.
“Put those four in the van,” the big man said and immediately the others went to their task.
“Hey, there’s guns in here!” the first to open a van’s door said. That answered that question.
I walked over and looked inside. Three handguns, a stack of shotguns and a couple rifles. A decent arsenal.
“And there’s a bunch of dough in this one!” someone else called out from the other van.
Guns and money. Who were these guys? More Russians?
“Let’s get inside,” I suggested.
While the guests and the vans were being taken care of, some ten of us went inside, the homeowner leading.
The inside was mostly tasteful. A tad too much gold and shiny for me, but not awful.
“I can pay you, for saving me,” the Russian was saying.
“Oh you’ll pay us,” big man said, one hand still on his prize. “We want all the crypto you’ve got. Now.”
The Russian’s face scrunched in confusion.
“Crypto, as in cryptocurrency?”
“Do you call it something else, you filthy Roosky?”
“What? No. It’s just that, well, I recently liquidated my entire portfolio. I paid off, well, I thought I paid off those men out there.” He pointed to the vans outside.
That’s when the inevitable happened. All eyes turned on me. Crap.
More soon, Dear Diary,
THE SECRET JOURNAL OF NEIL PATEL #18
WARNING: NEIL 🤓 TYPOS
It’s an understatement to say that I riled up a bunch of bikers. I’m pretty sure some of them were slathering at the mouth as we drove off in search of the target.
Of course, I knew where we were going, but I made a real show of it. Why? Because I was trying to come up with a plan!
It took a little over an hour of meandering before I put up my hand and motioned for the bikers to pull off on the side of the road.
“Did you find him?” big and burly asked, again, his mouth watering.
I tapped on my phone like I was really interested. To be honest, I was just trying to keep my hands from shaking.
There were so many what ifs. What if we were caught? What if there was a shoot up? What if Cal found out?
Mr. Beer Belly Over His Toes answered the question for me.
“Let’s go,” he said, not unkindly, just ready.
“Okay,” I said, trying to sound sure of myself. “It’s just around the corner. Three minutes tops.”
I had a plan of sorts. Stash the bikes a couple blocks away and then head in on foot. Luckily, the house sat on the back of ten acres. No neighbors. Fingers crossed the target wasn’t armed. Everything I knew about him said he preferred solitude to weapons.
As with any half-baked plan, ours went to crap almost immediately.
First, the spot I’d picked to stash the bikes was perfect for concealment but the treeline I’d planned on using as a route in was dense and full of vegetation that snagged on every piece of clothing we had.
Second, these bikers weren’t meant to be on foot. Sure there were a couple outliers, but the rest were huffing before we got halfway there.
Third, and probably most dispiriting, was the fact that when we finally got to within striking distance of the modest home, there were two black vans sitting in the driveway.
“What do we do now?” one of my companions asked.
“Go in, what else, stupid?” another answered.
“Ask the geek squad. What do you think?”
By geek squad they meant me, of course.
I didn’t get a chance to offer my honest take, that maybe they should try later, when four men came out of the house dragging a fifth man by the heels.
Not usually my problem except that the guy getting dragged was our target, and the bikers didn’t like that one bit.
So, much to my chagrin, they did what any red-blooded American might do with the smell of money in their noses: they charged.
I’ll let you in on the next part soon,