Tinker Tailor Ourman Spy

My name is Ourman. James Ourman. I’m a secret agent for British Foreign Intelligence. I have a license to kill and I’ve personally stopped dozens of brutal dictatorships and anti-democratic movements around the world. But you mustn’t tell anyone. It must remain between you and I.

“Whatever you say, sir. Here’s your change. Next please. Welcome to Taco Hut. Will this be dine-in or carry-out?”

I ate my tacos with relish as they were out of hot sauce. After dabbing the napkin on my chin, I checked the stains for secret codes. Let’s see… Dry cleaning ready for pick-up… Call parents about Fluffy’s surgery… Russian counteragents infiltrating Foreign Intelligence… My god! What a disaster! That dry cleaning took two weeks. Why, I’m inclined to not even– GREAT CLOISTERING CARBUNCLES!

Russian counteragents? Infiltrating? Intelligence? Foreign? This is terrible. I’ll have to be much more cautious with how I handle information.

“That sounds like a good idea, sir. Here’s your dry cleaning.”

Ah, thank you. I must head for the secret location of the secret office in the back of the men’s corsetry shop at the corner of 12th and Avery so I can– Why are you all suddenly writing in little notepads? I guess this dry cleaner only takes checks. Ah well. Onward! To Secure Facility Echo Bravo 5!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I arrived at MI-OK-O-D-XS-Y-I-8-CVHA-IDK-I-L-B-6 and went straight to the chief, the man known only as R.

“Arrrrrgh!”

“Everything alright, chief?”

“Oh, it’s you. Just caught my hand in the drawer. Come in, Double-O H. Ooh!”

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, just banged my knee on the desk. Now, about these Russian counter-operatives. We don’t know who they are or how many have infiltrated MI-OK-O-D-XS–”

“That’s alright, chief, I did that on the way in.”

“Ah, excellent. Good man. Your mission, Double-O Negative, is to root out these moles and find out what they know, what they’ve told the Russian government, and who keeps using the men’s room stalls for tinkling rather than yucky doo-doos. We have plenty of urinals and I’m tired of sitting on a wet seat! My government-issued tuxedo pants can’t take the strain, I tell you!”

“Yessir. I’ll get started right away. You dirty traitor! Admit it, chief, you’re a mole! Confess!”

“Alright, I confess! Stop beating me with my office supplies! Good work, Double-O 43 Billion. Now go find the rest of us!”

“Yessir, chief.”

“Oh, and you’ll have a partner for this mission. I’d like you to meet Vladimir Ourman, agent Double-Nohl Shayst. Ourman, this is Ourman, James Ourman, agent Double-Oh Dear.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Vladimir. Say, chief, can I speak to you privately?”

“Yes, go ahead. He doesn’t know any English. Isn’t that right, Vlad?”

“Da, that is correct.”

“Excellent. Well, what I’m wondering is, can this man be trusted?”

“Of course he can. I trust him more than my own mother.”

“Didn’t your mother make you sleep on railroad tracks?”

“You see?”

“Alright, I’ll work with him. But I’m going to keep my eye on him.”

“Ew! Get your eye off me! Put it back in your socket! Disgusting.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We left R’s office and went down to see P for new gadgets.

“Ah, Double-O’Grady. Come right in. And I see you’ve brought our new recruit from Russia. Good, good. Now, what you see here looks like an ordinary briefcase. But for god’s sake, don’t open it! It’s filled with deadly snakes with enough venom to kill ten men. And in case the snakes aren’t deadly enough, there’s also a toxic gas that will kill whoever opens it.”

“Ingenious!”

“Thank you. Now for this watch. If you pull this lever, it emits a powerful laser out of the 12. And if you turn this knob, it fires a poisoned dart that will knock out your enemy. And if you turn the dial around like so, it activates the explosive inside, powerful enough to blow a 4-foot hole in a brick wall. And if you take it off, put it back on upside-down, and slap it eight times on the strap here, it summons an air squadron that will bomb the building you’re in.”

“That’s fantastic, P!”

“Thanks. I’ve been drinking more water to try and flush out my kidneys.”

“And the watch is much smaller than previous models.”

“Yes, we’ve got it down to 13 pounds. The rest is standard issue field gear. Pistol with a silencer, shoe with a dot matrix printer, and a car without a single trace of GPS or network software.”

“I don’t know how you do it, P. Now, about this silencer. Where do I screw it on?”

“Oh, it doesn’t attach. What you do is take the silencer, attach the rubber band here, and slingshot the bullet at the enemy silently. There have been budget cuts, I’m afraid.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
We started our investigation by talking to Special Agent Ima Surfacedweller. We went into the sub-basement and rang the bell on her desk. She emerged from a burrow in the ground, shook the dirt off her jacket, adjusted the glasses over her tiny eyes with her alarmingly large hands, and spoke.

“Ah, Agents Ourman and Ourman. To what do I owe the pleasure?”

“There’s a nasty wasty rumor going round that there’s a mole in the organization.”

She turned her head from side to side and seemed to get quite fidgety.

“A mole, you say? Surely not.” She wiped a hand across her mouth to remove what seemed to be earthworm crumbs.

“I’m af–”

“Yes?”

“No. I’m afr–”

“Yes?”

“No. I am afraid so. Saying ‘a mole’, I mean. This is of the utmost priority. We’ve got to figure out who the mole is.”

“Well, it certainly isn’t me,” Ima said through her elongated, snout-like mouth. “I’m no mole. I’m a surface dweller. It’s right there in the name!”

“Right, we understand that,” Vladimir chimed in after at least two minutes of being introduced and only two lines to show for it. “This is why we have come to you. We know we can trust an agent such as yourself, so we should like your help in identifying the mole which is definitely not you.”

“Well, since you put it that way, I might know of someone who could help you.”
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Ima told us where to find an informant that seemed to know all the ins and outs of the intelligence community. His name was Ronaldo McDonaldo, but he was better known as the Man with the Golden Pun. Vladimir and I parachuted into McDonaldo’s private island in the South Pacific. We would have parachuted onto the island, but our ripcords were defective.

After we climbed out of the us-shaped holes and dusted ourselves off, we set out to find the Man with the Golden Pun. We’d only taken one step when we heard a voice announce, “Stay right there. Of course, you can stay left there if you prefer, ha!”

It was terrifying. Never before had I heard such an awful excuse for humor.

“Why are you here? And say it fast!”

Vladimir started to speak, but I held up a hand and stopped him. I rolled my eyes, sighed, and replied, “It fast.”

“Ooooh! You know that one! No fair!”

A well-dressed, fussy man with a bushy orange mustache stepped out of the shadows and approached us.

“Alright, spoilsports, what do you want? I’m busy. I’ve got to roast Dane Cook tonight and I’ve got a lot of carrots to chop. Ha HAAA! Bang-o!”

“Please, no more jokes. We’re from MI-OK-O-D-XS-Y-I-8-C–”

“Yeah, yeah, I got it. Woof, that’s even too bad for me!”

“Anyway, we’ve recently learned that Russian moles have infiltrated British Intelligence. I have it on good authority that you would be able to give us some names.”

“You want names? Sure. You’re Frank and you’re Gil. Ha!”

“Ugh. Please, stop.” Vladimir was looking green.

“Gills are on fish. Fish are in water. Water you gonna do to the moles?”

Vladimir fell to his knees. “The jokes! They’re the worst I’ve ever heard!”

“Skip the gags, McDonaldo. Just tell us who the moles are.”

“A crappy AAA team out of Lexington! Ha!”

Vladimir’s eyes welled up. “Please, James. Make him stop!”

“But seriously, what do you want with a mole? They’re short, they’re ugly, and they get in a nasty fight with anything that comes near them. Oh wait! I’m thinking of my ex! HA!”

I choked down vomit. Vladimir fell unconscious. I had to do something or we could end up dead. I unlocked my briefcase and threw it at McDonaldo. It fell open next to him and one of the snakes fell out of the side of it and lay limp on the ground.

“What’s this?” McDonaldo asked. He lifted the lid and examined the contents inside. “Did you poison these snakes? They’re all dead.”

I slapped my forehead. “The gas wasn’t in a canister or anything? I’m gonna kill that idiot.”

“You poisoned eleven of the deadliest snakes in the southern hemisphere. Wow. Um. How about I write a list of names right now and you leave the island without hurting me? Deal?”

“Deal.” My voice cracked, but I think I played it off as a hiccup.

Vladimir and I took the list of names back to the chief. His name was on it and he confirmed again that he was a double agent. He also confirmed eighteen of the other names. I bought an old joke book at an antique store for 75 cents and we worked them over McDonaldo style. Mother-in-law jokes. Ethnic jokes. Lawyer jokes. Even knock-knock jokes. In one day our list grew from dozens of names to hundreds.

As our investigation continued, the hundreds of local moles became thousands of moles in the field. And then I made a stark realization. I immediately called an unprecedented all-hands meeting for the entire global intelligence community.

After everyone gathered in Wembley Stadium and enjoyed the Pride of the Intelligence Community Marching Band’s performance of this season’s show, “Born in the NSA”, Vladimir and I took the stage and announced that we knew who all the moles were. Immediately, everyone pulled out their guns and shot everyone else. Within seconds, the entire world was devoid of spies except Vladimir and I.

We were shocked, then depressed, then confused, then strangely joyous, then hungry, and finally back to shocked. All of our colleagues. Our friends. Our co-workers. Also our enemies. Our rivals. People who tried to kill us. All gone. No one else like us remained.

So we got married. It was the only reasonable solution to us being the last two people in the espionage industry with all of the psychological damage that comes with it. No one else would be able to deal with us. Two months later we become James Ourman-Ourman and Vladimir Ourman-Ourman. Neither of us wanted to take the other’s name, so we hyphenated.

That was 35 years ago, and what a ride it’s been. We traveled the world, built a beautiful life in the Andes, and started a foundation for international relations so that some day work like ours would no longer be necessary.

And then it happened. Vladimir admitted one night that he had been cheating on me with a startup spy agency. Some young, hot organization who reminded him of the thrills of his youth. He’d become another mole.

Imagine his surprise when he came in for his final interview and saw me as the recruiter. We were both moles! Oh, how we laughed and laughed. And then we shot, stabbed, and poisoned each other. Bleh! [thud]

The End!

The Genie

My name is Dr. Buckminster Ourman, Ph.D., MA, BFA, MS, JD, LLC, TP, WC, MGM, WTO, IDIOT, pronounced “Ourman”. I’m the Anders Flanders-Sanders Professor of Comparative Correlation at Flotsam University. I was relaxing one Sunday morning with my coffee and a copy of the Big City Tribune Gazette Times Post News Sun Journal. Having read the Violence, Corruption, and Sports sections, I moved on to the classified ads. Let’s see.

“For sale: Slightly used coffin in good condition. All stains and odor removed professionally. Glad Uncle Dave is well, but need to recoup costs of remodeling his home into a combination strip club, casino, and wing joint. Interested parties respond to this ad. Uninterested parties come to Terry’s and get saucy!” Hmm, every part of that sounds risky. What else?

“Missed connection. You: attractive woman, 30s, blond. Me: roguish man, hirsute, fun-loving. I saw you on the subway and tried to say hi. You had headphones in, so you must not have heard me. I waved, but your book was blocking your face. I tried signalling my intentions with crude hand gestures, but you happened to turn to face the window. I tried yelling what I’d like to do to you and thought I saw you react with a flinch, but you must have just had a chill because you made no response. Reply to What’s Personal Space? c/o this newspaper.” Gross. What’s this?

“For sale: Dirty old pair of men’s underwear. Could have been owned by famous celebrity or powerful business tycoon. Found in a puddle near the airport, so anything is possible. $1200 OBO.” Intriguing! I might come back to that one. Ah, this looks interesting.

“For sale: Various genuine cursed objects. Come on down to Honest Sal’s Emporium of Darkest Mystery. Palms read, fortunes foretold, animals disemboweled and guts used for augury.” Now this sounds like a good way to spend my Sunday!

I came on down to Honest Sal’s. I got out of the car, looked down, got back in the car, went home, and put on pants. I came back on down to Honest Sal’s and went inside, confident in my attire’s perfect attendance.

The shelves and cases were filled with spooky totems, cracked idols, and mysterious papers. I was looking over some maps of uncharted lands and books written in forgotten languages when Sal came out from the back room.

“Hello, my friend!” he said. “Interested in something dark and powerful, are we? Might I interest you in the favorite eyeball of Nostradamus? Or maybe the lost raiment of King Hadz-na-Kloom is more your style? Or — and I don’t offer this to just any customer, but you look like a serious fan of the occult — maybe the mystic toenail clippings of Aleister Crowley?”

“Oh, I dunno. I’m just browsing.”

“Tell me, what sort of item are you looking for? Something to increase your luck? Or maybe you’re looking for a way to have more vigor?”

“Really? No! No, no. I guess I was just hoping there’d be something here that would really make me question reality and everything I thought I knew. Do you have anything like that?”

“Ah. A connoisseur. Take a look over here.”

He led me to a back corner and moved a pile of boxes out of the way, revealing a door with several locks on it. He unlocked them one by one and mumbled something in a strange, guttural language unspoken by humans. Then, as he gripped the knob, said, “This is one of our best sellers.”

He opened the door and I found myself staring into a psychedelic wormhole in an otherwise black void. An eye opened in the middle of it and a booming voice asked, “Who dares disturb my slumber?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

Sal closed the door and locked it. “Well, it doesn’t look like it’s my day. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.”

I thanked him for his time and left the shop. I then went into the store next door, Spooks & Things. There, next to a basket of discounted monkey’s paws with only one or two wishes left, was a rusty old oil lamp with a sign that read, “Inside! Real Live Genie! Fool Your Friends!” I paid the clerk my fifteen cents and took the lamp home.

I rubbed my hands with excitement. Nothing happened. I read the instructions again and realized my problem. I rubbed the lamp with excitement and this time it began spewing mysterious smoke mysteriously! The smoke condensed into the form of a giant man in a turban. The genie!

“You’re a real genie! Wow!”

“Well, I should hope so,” he said. “Otherwise I’d be in trouble with the FTC for false advertising. What can I do for you, my master? You have three wishes.”

“I wish for infinite wishes!”

The genie paused and put a finger to his chin. “Hmm. You know, in my thousands of years in the Genie Corps, no one has ever thought of that. Consider it done. You now have infinite wishes.”

“Fantastic! Well, let’s get the big ones out of the way. I’d like a billion dollars, a fully furnished enormous mansion, and world peace.”

“Done, done, done. Come on, give me a challenge.”

“Wait. You didn’t grant them through some trickery, did you? You didn’t bring about hyperinflation and make a billion dollars the price of a loaf of bread or something or end war by killing everyone on Earth?”

“Nope, nothing like that. Your billion is worth just as much as it would have yesterday and no one died. The mansion isn’t on a sacred burial ground or haunted or anything like that. You’re all good.”

“Wonderful! I suppose I should think long and hard about how to use my other wishes. Mr. Genie — um, do you have a name?”

“Yes, Fred.”

“Okay. Fred, take a break. Relax. Help yourself to whatever you put in the kitchen.”

Weeks passed. I wished for an end to disease, no more poverty, and for all the answers regarding morality and religion to be known and available to everybody. The world was a utopia. No more suffering. No more quarrels over beliefs. Enough food and money for everybody to be comfortable. Everything seemed perfect.

One day, I felt so pleased with my world that I decided to leave the mansion and take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand.

“Oh, Fred!”

“Yes, master?”

“I’m going to take a stroll downtown to witness everybody’s non-stop joy firsthand. Do you want to come?”

“Oh, I don’t think that’s a good idea, master.”

“Why not? I think it will be delightful.”

“Oh, no. It’s such a bother. Wouldn’t you rather stay here and just watch videos of happy people on the news?”

“I’ve done enough of that. I want to experience the sights, the sounds, the smells of a happy populace! Be back later!”

I got into the car, but it wouldn’t start. I tried the other 38 cars, all three planes, and the jet pack, but none of them would work. I ran to the gate, but it wouldn’t open. I began to suspect something was amiss.

I climbed over the gate and headed downtown. When I found a busy neighborhood, the people didn’t look any different than before. I found someone waiting for a bus and asked, “Isn’t it nice to be free of poverty, war, and all those other problems?”

“I wouldn’t know, bub,” he said. “Everything’s pretty screwed up as far as I can tell.”

That didn’t sound right. I investigated further. I checked a newspaper. War, disease, theft, violence. Nothing was solved at all!

I returned to my mansion and demanded an explanation.

“Well, it’s like this, master,” Fred began. “Solving all those problems without it causing some unforeseen bigger problem is, like, really hard. But changing all the information in here to say it’s been fixed is really easy! You’re rich and happy, so mission accomplished.”

It made a lot of sense, aside from being completely wrong and bad.

“You foolish twerp of a genie! I demand that you grant my wishes as I ask them from now on! Now, what do I want for my next wish? Ah, I know! Seeing as ending violence and fighting is too much for you, I wish to be more powerful than any army.”

“Sure thing, bro.”

Fred snapped his fingers and I immediately felt…well, exactly the same, really. “Did you do the thing? Am I powerful?”

“Yeah, of course! I made you a writer!”

“What!?!? Do you not understand me? Maybe English is your second or third language.”

“It’s my eighteenth, but I understood perfectly. Haven’t you ever heard that the pen is mightier than the sword?”

I blinked a few times. “I guess so, but that’s just a saying. It’s not literally true.”

“Sure it is! Here, I’ll prove it.”

Fred snapped his fingers again and a fearsome knight stood before me. He raised his sword and cut me in half.

Fred looked up from the dictionary. “Ohhhhhh, that’s what ‘literally’ means. My bad.”

With me dead, Fred was masterless and free to do whatever he wanted. He used his powers to take over the world and reigned over centuries of peace and prosperity that formed the foundation of humanity’s expansion throughout the universe. It was the dawn of a truly utopian era with no end in sight. So he can do all that but doesn’t know what “literally” means and he can’t make me survive one fight. Some genie.