The Special Agent

The shrug of his shoulders, the pursed lips, and raised eyebrows as he lights his cigarette speak for Thomas Grady like an expletive.

He slouches in his desk chair, reaching into his back pocket to remove his wallet, easing the effort by rolling onto his right side. With a flip of his wrist, the wallet skids across the desk. It flops open against a pile of unfiled reports, displaying the gold shield marked Special Agent.

Settling back in his chair, Tommy draws on his cigarette, then snatches it between practiced fingers from his lips. His eyes close for a moment, as he sighs the smoke into the stale air above his desk.

“What a bunch of boobs. Bee-oh-oh-ooobs.” He shakes his head and laughs a dry, sardonic cackle. “In all my twenty-three years as a cop, I never seen anything like these guys.”

The cigarette in his right hand streaks the air, trailing smoke like a skywriter in a broad, inclusive arc.

“You know the ship we seized for smuggling — the Gloria Celeste? Well, I just paid a little visit to her down at the Boston Fuel Pier, where those mindless wondahs from Customs are supposed to be guarding the evidence. I walked right up the gangway and boarded the ship. Nobody in sight. Nobody challenged me. Nothin’.”

His hand cleaves the air with a definitive slash. The ash falls in a trajectory from his cigarette to the carpet, tumbling as it disintegrates into fine flakes.

“So, I walked around, checking things out, and you wouldn’t believe what I found. I looked down into the main hold through the cargo hatch, which was open. Guess what I see. You won’t believe this.”

His listener shrugs.

“Tiny marijuana plants.” Tommy peeks through a crevice between his thumb and forefinger. “Coming up through the cracks in the deck planking — about ankle high.” He throws back his head, laughing in a loud staccato. “Perfect little plants. You couldn’t grow them any better in a greenhouse.” He cackles again, plucking a shred of tobacco from his tongue.”That ship is supposed to be United States property now. But it’s a ganja farm. Bee-autiful. What a bunch of boobs. And they call themselves federal agents.”

Rising from his chair with a groan, he shuffles the stack of phone messages on his desk, and stuffs them into the corner of the desk blotter.

“Now that’s irony, ain’t it? Yeah, I know irony when I see it. I went to college too, ya know. Right about the time you were learning how to write your last name.”

He glances over his shoulder, placing the cigarette between his lips, where it bobbles as he talks. A wadded paper missile grazes the top of his head, and he ducks, cackling again.

“Nice shot, college boy.”

The smoke swirls around his head as he saunters over to the door. His corduroy sports jacket hangs on a hook behind the door. He retrieves a crumpled soft-pack of Salems from the inside pocket, and shakes one loose. He lights the cigarette on the butt of the last one, then returns to his desk and snuffs out the butt in the ashtray. His finger probes the pack.

“I’d quit this habit, but then I’d have to call myself a quittah, and that would never do.” Picking up the ashtray from his desk, he transfers it with the pack of cigarettes to the shared computer desk, two strides across the cramped office.

“Gotta type a report to the U.S. Attorney about his new marijuana farm. He might be able to use the plants as additional evidence. Not to mention that it’ll embarrass the hell out of Customs. Oh, well. All in a day’s work.”

He sidles up to the computer desk and pulls out the chair.

“This thing workin’?” He drops into the chair and grunts a puff of smoke. From the breast pocket of his shirt, he produces a pair of reading glasses, placing them low on the bridge of his nose. Peering over the glasses, he laughs and shrugs his shoulders.

“Doctah’s ordahs.”

Tommy turns to his work, tapping the keyboard before him with all the zeal of a concert pianist playing a favorite sonata.

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