UNCOMMON DENOMINATOR A Salutary tale by Jack Mienhoff
I arrived early, two hours to be exact, taking time to scout out the neighborhood before settling in at a corner pub not fifty feet from the pickup spot. The bartender brought me a drink and I took a seat with a good view of the street corner. I checked my watch, four-twenty-eight. Grace’s words, ‘show no fear’ haunted me. For once could I have bitten off more than I could chew? Being in this business I was accustomed to taking risks, I figured I was battle hardened…..yet. I was about to step outside for a smoke when a black limo pulled up to the curb. I checked my watch, looking around the bar I couldn’t help but notice each and every man there nervously check his own. Were we all here for the same thing? And what? They take the time to pick us up separately. What was that about? Did they interrogate us? Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bookish looking man check his watch again before heading to the door. If InWard Bound was his destination, he was in trouble, I could smell the fear from across the room. The limo door swung open, he glanced back once, I saw the pleading helpless look in his eyes. He got in.
I stepped out the door and lit up. From down the block I see a tall muscular construction worker carrying a lunch bucket. As he approaches I notice an unlit cigarette hanging from his lips. He looks so familiar I’m tempted to say something.
“You have a light Buddy?” He asked. I strike my Zippo.
Beyond the flicker of flame Grace flashed an extraordinary smile. “You like my disguise?” She asked.
I stood in spellbound amazement.
“I didn’t stick around the other morning,” Grace said and took a long pull off her cigarette, “I always look like hell when I first get up.” From the hard hat to the work boots, if it hadn’t been for that smile, she would have had me fooled.
“So in the morning I just jotted down a quick note, put the business card in your pocket and left.” Grace looked surreptitiously right then left. “It wasn’t until I got home I remembered the interrogation.” Grace giggled, “I guess the hangover ……” She rolled her eyes, “way too much to drink.”
“So they do interrogate us, I figured as much.” I said.
Grace reached out to shake my hand, in her palm was a slip of paper. “I wrote down all I could think of, I don’t know Robert Douglas the third that well, but both his father and grandfather were my lovers. I have the family history, names, dates, all you should need. Memorize it darling, then destroy it.”
“Thanks.” I said. Grace gave me a clap on the back and started off down the street. I watched her, the rhythmic swaying of her hips, work boots and all I couldn’t help but think, she is one gorgeous lady.
I studied the information Grace had given me like a fifth grader for a spelling bee. With the elite clientele, and the secrecy surrounding their identity…..Show no fear, they can smell it. The words haunted me. What did it mean? And what happens if they can? I watched and for the eighth time the limo came and went. Again I checked my watch. I look around the dwindling crowd, two more then the next limo should be for me. From my observations, many nearly skip out to be picked up, yet some were quite the opposite, like the first one, they were filled with fear and apprehension. A quick study of them, I didn’t see any distinguishable physical characteristic they shared as a group, some were tall, short, over weight, slim..except for their eyes! They all had an intensity, a burning desire when gazed upon. There was something in those eyes, a hunger, a craving. No, those eyes belonged to the leaders of industry, of people and nations that was certain.
As the next one passed to leave I tried to emulate ‘the look’, which brought a smile to his face. I hoped the smile wasn’t pity, pity knowing I was a fake. Twenty minutes passed and the last man checked his watch before getting up. This was my final opportunity to practice ‘the look’ before my limo would arrive. As he passed my table I held him with such an intense stare I saw him shiver in recognition. Perfect I thought.
I stood before the open door, bending low I peered into the limo’s darkness. A musky odor wafted out smelling like a lusty combination of leather and scrotum. On the seat facing me sat a powerfully built man. Indian Chief I presumed, he was bare chested, naked except for a flap of buckskin over his privates and a magnificent feathered bonnet. His fierce war paint appeared meticulously applied, his lips were dyed a dark red, the shading around his eyes a rainbow of greens and yellows. He fixed me with ‘the look’ and I extended my hand to shake.
“Never speak to or touch Fang.” I looked to the voice beside me.
He too was naked, except for a minuscule loincloth and decorative headband.“I was just introducing myself.” I said and handed him my business card.
“My name is Seth.” He said and embraced me fully. I think he saw the shock on my face because he explained.
“You will learn to abandon your notions of what it is to be a man. Real men aren’t afraid to embrace.” He said. With this he leaned over kissing me first on one cheek then the other. I nodded then froze him with ‘the look’. Seth smiled knowingly, opened an alligator bag and solemnly handed me a loincloth. “Put this on; cast off the chains of convention and set yourself freeee!” For all intent and purpose it was a thong, non the less I complied and with a few minor adjustments was comfortable.
I aced the interrogation, even getting the name of Wheatheredpoon’s first pets name correct; all of this done under the watchful eyes of Fang.
Seth asked, “You do understand the need for secrecy?”
I said I did, and thankfully I answered with just enough uncertainty to illicit commentary.
“Without exception the CEO of every Fortune 500 corporation has been through InWard Bound. Most every president of these United States and every congressional leader has completed the rigors of our training. Our rituals and ceremonies are timeless, perfected and enhanced with modern technology, yet adhering to the three hundred year traditions of our forefathers. I must warn you they are not without danger. We do have a medical team on staff, but we have had fatalities.”
I swallowed hard trying to quell my mounting fear. “I accept the dangers and welcome the challenge.” I said. Seth glanced at Fang before flashing me a toothy smile.
“Good, most excellent!” He said. “Next there is the sacred vow of secrecy.”
I nodded my head, crossed my legs and the fingers on one hand.
Seth gave me ‘the look’ long and hard before he spoke. “Do you Robert Douglas Weatheredpoon the third vow not to divulge the sacred rituals of which you are about to partake, not to anyone, not ever, not even your best friend?” I nodded. “No matter what, not ever, ever, ever? Even under torture?
Crossing my fingers tightly I said, “I promise.”
“On your mothers grave, cross your heart and hope to die?”
“I do.” I said. With that Fang leaned in kissing me full on the mouth. I was shocked to say the least when Seth leaned in and did the same. It was a little unsettling until Seth explained it was all part of the vow. Sealed with a kiss he said then finished it off with a pinky shake.
to be continued…