Procrastination Man is prepared for any eventuality as he opens the flat door to the mystery caller. Well almost any, he muses. A guy dressed as a moose and carrying a chainsaw would not be on the list of ‘things I’m prepared for’.
The man he finds standing in front of him is thankfully neither dressed as a moose nor wielding any tree-felling equipment. He does hold a white plastic bag that emits a rather pleasing aroma.
‘Harry Ha’ says the man, a smartly dressed chap of possibly British-Chinese origin. ‘Pleased to meet you. I thought you might fancy a bite to eat’.
PM’s finely-honed instinct for danger suggests no immediate threat from this stranger bearing edible gifts. He lowers the bread knife and opens the door wide, kicking aside a pair of trainers and several empty pizza boxes.
‘Come in, sorry about the mess, give me a second…’
‘I wasn’t sure so I brought a selection of meat and vegetarian options’ says his visitor, proffering the plastic carrier bag. ‘Personally I prefer French cuisine, but hopefully this will be okay.’
‘How thoughtful, grab a chair and maybe you can explain the real reason for your visit. I suspect food delivery is not your full-time occupation.’
Having deposited the bag of invitingly warm and pungent Chinese food on the hastily-cleared kitchen table, PM frantically tries to find some clean plates and cutlery amid the potential bio-hazards and total chaos of his kitchenette. He regretted not having done the washing up, or indeed any of the dozen or so items on his To Do list that day.
‘There are paper plates and plastic cutlery in the bag’ Harry offers, helpfully.
‘It’s almost like you’ve been here before’ says PM, grinning. ‘Beer?’ he offers, before realising the fridge is empty of any such refreshments. Damn! Meant to get some earlier.
‘No, thanks, I’m good’
Thankfully the wind direction had changed and the pong from the sewage treatment works had abated slightly as they sat down to eat.
‘So, what brings you to my ‘Fortress of Ineptitude’ Mr Ha? Could it possibly have something to do with that mysterious fortune cookie note I found at Alanis Brandt’s apartment and some shady North Korean shenanigans?’
‘Very good Procrastination Man’ says Harry, handing PM a carton of chow mein. ‘Oh and please call me Harry. Did you speak with our contact at the Black Crow public house?’
A lightbulb goes on in PM’s head as he remembers the fortune cookie message – A wise crow always drinks facing the east. The pub opposite the Taste of the East Chinese takeaway! – of course, what an idiot. PM blushes slightly at his own incompetence. ‘Er, no, I’m afraid I didn’t Harry’, says PM looking slightly sheepish.
‘Never mind, I told my boss to stop pissing about with silly clues and just bloody call or text. He reads too many Sherlock Holmes mysteries if you ask me. Anyway I have to warn you Procrastination Man…’
‘Er, call me Peter’ interrupts PM, ‘Peter Pike. Pete is fine too’.
‘Okay, thanks Peter, that does make it slightly less awkward.’
Our hero thinks back to the very first day of his brief crime-fighting career. The day that Proactive Man became Procrastination Man thanks to some wag on the local paper. The cheeky bastard, just because I’d shown up a bit late after that massive bank heist. Unfortunately Procrastination Man seemed to have rather more traction in the public’s imagination than Proactive Man, so he’d been stuck with it ever since. He had to admit Proactive Man was a pretty awful name anyway and at least he didn’t have to change the logo on his costume.
‘It’s like this Peter, the North Korean secret service seem to have taken a disturbing interest in professor Brandt’s research into the potential for weaponised gluten. We believe they’ve abducted him and his granddaughter and are trying to smuggle them out of the country as we speak.’
Taking a bite of a rather greasy spring roll, PM dabs his mouth with a paper napkin and takes a swig from a can of very flat cola. ‘I suspected as much, but what about you Harry, what’s your role in all this?’
‘I’m with FECT, a brand new counter-terrorist unit based in Brighton. We monitor potential threats from the far east and coordinate with other agencies to share intel and protect vital assets.’
‘Brighton, nice’ says PM, ‘Lovely antique shops and tea-rooms. But where do I fit in exactly? Why on Earth did Alanis Brandt contact me?’
‘Okay Peter, what I’m going to tell you now is highly classified…’
There is a sudden sharp crack of glass and Harry Ha is thrown violently backwards off his chair.
‘Holy shit! Harry! What the fuck!’ PM sees the hole in the window, his visitor groaning on the floor and the blood on his shirt. He wonders whether he remembered to restock his first aid kit after the unfortunate incident at last week’s origami class. Probably not.
‘Get down you idiot’ Harry gasps, and as PM hits the sticky vinyl floor of his cramped kitchenette, several more loud cracks and thuds send glass and debris flying.
Jesus Christ! thinks PM as high velocity bullets whistle through the air, this is like a bloody Rambo movie. Heart pounding, he crawls over to his injured guest.
‘How bad are you hurt Harry?’
‘They hit my arm, I’ll live I think, but we’ve got to get some backup here pronto.’ As Harry calls his HQ, PM tries to find one tea towel clean enough to use as a bandage.
Damn, should have done my laundry yesterday. Sods law, just when you need one that doesn’t look like it was used to clean the fat fryers in a chip shop, you come under fire from a secret North Korean hit-squad. Bloody typical.
As a light drizzle begins to fall from the muted grey October sky, a white delivery van pulls onto the motorway heading west, carrying two drugged occupants – professor Elvis Brandt and his granddaughter Alanis. They are blissfully unaware of the dramatic events unfolding in a grubby flat in the London suburbs, or the awful voyage that awaits them.
By a strange coincidence, Alanis is dreaming about a chainsaw-juggling moose appearing on the X-Factor. The audience are mesmerised but ultimately it loses in the final to a tap-dancing walrus troupe from Arbroath.
The van passes a sign, Southampton 3 Miles. Soon the pair will be hidden away in a specially modified shipping container, bound for East Asia. And, due a set of bizarre and very unlikely circumstances, Peter Pike – Procrastination Man is the only one who can save them and avert disaster.
At his now bullet-riddled flat, Peter is having a panic attack.
‘Peter! Calm down, breathe deeply, you can do this.’ Harry Ha’s words are soothing and measured, an oasis of stillness amid the chaos.
He places a gun in Peter’s hand. ‘My arm is fucked, I can’t use this. Do you have any weapons training Pete?’
Peter looks at the alien object, feels the weight and coldness of the metal. It all seems like a bad dream. ‘I did win that big stuffed panda over there at the funfair three years ago. It was only a pellet rifle though.’
Harry looks at the rather sad toy panda. Seeing Peter’s terrified expression and shaking hands, he wonders if the panda might be more help.
‘Listen to me, pull it together, you can do this. Trust me. Just breathe.’
There is a sudden ping! from the kitchen and a panicky Peter spins round and puts three holes in the microwave oven. The door falls off.
‘Shit, sorry, that was my Tesco lasagne, I forgot it was still in there.’
There is a sound of footsteps on the stairs.
‘Well you took out the microwave sure enough’, Harry says, ‘Just wait, take aim and don’t shoot until I say. Okay?’
Peter looks into Harry’s calm but deadly serious face. ‘Yeah’ he says trying to stop his voice from cracking. He takes a deep breath, then exhales slowly. ‘Okay, I’m ready.’
Lying amid the detritus and debris of his flat, scared out of his wits, Peter Pike wonders if he’s really cut out for the life of a crime-fighting superhero. Maybe I should have listened to my Dad and gone into accountancy, he thinks. Too bloody late now..
There are voices and suddenly the door swings open.
Copyright Jason Lennick 2015 All rights reserved.