Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Stepped out to grab a bite of supper this evening and when I got back there was a note from Greyghost on my desk:

Costume drop. Ladies' room, top floor, northwest corner Thornwylde Place. Between 9:20 and 9:50 p.m. tonight. - G

Why. Why does he do these things. Thornwylde Place is a huge mall with a gym in it with lockers and any number of other perfectly good places to hide a briefcase with a cape and mask inside. But oh no. He's got to send Dennis into the freaking ladies' room, where god knows what humiliations await.

I don't want to sound like some cheese-eating junior high student who sees the women's john as some kind of taboo burial ground, full of unholy fascination. Nothing like that. But I've been working here for a while now and every so often I get this sixth sense about when an errand is going to blow up in my face. Well, my spider-sense was tingling tonight.

It was no special trick getting to the mall on time. Also, it was pretty easy getting in. They don't have full security on at this time of night because there are always people at the theater or the gym or whatever other miscellaneous thing they're up to.

Greyghost's reasoning had been simple to follow. For some sinister purpose of his own, he wanted to check out something in this mall at some point during the night. So he needed his superhero outfit, but his busy schedule didn't allow him to carry his own around. So I had to leave it there for him. Presumably, security would start to be a problem for me at around ten, but the cleaning crew wouldn't be finished in there until maybe nine, nine-fifteen. Simple.

Not so fast.

I could tell I was in trouble as I approached the northwest corner of the top floor. I had been expecting the place to be deserted, but it wasn't. The office right around the corner from the restrooms was all lit up, with the doors open, people coming and going, and a sign outside advertising some damn seminars or other. Well, hell. Time: 9:40.

There were two ways I could do this:

1. Find a nearby place to lurk. Wait in my lurkery until I was sure the women's room was empty and nobody was around, make a mad dash in, lock the costume kit to something handy and inobtrusive, and dash back out hoping the coast was still clear. Pros: if it worked, nobody would suspect a thing. Cons: extremely unlikely to work.

2. Paying no attention to who might be around, walk in like everything was normal, lock the case to something handy and inobtrusive, and walk back out, whistling a jaunty air. Pros: quick and easy to do. Unlikely to completely fail. Cons: almost no possibility of getting away unseen.

What the flip. I picked door number two.

I knocked on the door, called, "Excuse me," and walked in. A woman was standing at the sinks glaring at me suspiciously and I could see another pair of feet in one of the stalls. (Two things: first, why are women's rooms always nicer than men's rooms? And second, a public restroom looks odd without urinals.)

"What do you want?" she said.

Do not engage. I smiled vaguely and looked around for somewhere to put the case. The pipes under the sinks weren't secure enough, but there weren't a lot of other options. Oh well; when you can't do anything else you can always lock it around a toilet. I started toward the stall farthest away from the occupied one.

"You can't just walk in here," the woman continued, harshly. "What are you doing with that case?"

I pushed the stall door open, but only moved it a couple of inches before something started pushing it closed again. Was someone in here? I had checked for feet underneath.

"Don't ignore me! You're not supposed to be in here!"

"What's going on out there?" called the woman in the stall at the end.

I pushed harder on the door, and it crashed open, knocking a guy off the toilet, where he had been perched. His digital camera clattered to the floor beside him. "Holy crap," I said.

The woman at the sinks screamed and the guy tried to make a break for it. I flung myself at him, cramming both of us back into the stall. "What's going on?!" shouted the woman in the far stall.

The two of us wrestled around, him trying to get away and me trying to keep him there. My job was far easier, and I was able to lock the case around the toilet while sitting on his head. I heard some commotion from outside the stall and concluded that reinforcements had arrived from the seminar rooms.

We got hauled out into the corridor, everyone yelling. Once I could get a word in edgewise, I said, "I saw this guy come in here and I wanted to catch him before he could do anything." I turned to the woman who had been yelling at me. "Sorry I didn't say anything; I didn't want to tip him off."

The guy with the camera wasn't saying anything. There probably wasn't much he could say. Everybody was looking at me kind of skeptically, but there was nobody to deny anything I had said.

Until numbnuts with the camera shouted, "Then what was that case you locked around the crapper?" And everybody had to put their two cents in.

"It's a drug deal! He's a mule!"

"No, it's a bomb! Everybody out!"

"A bomb!"

"It's not a freaking bomb," I said. They ignored me.

Eventually security showed up and we had to go over the whole story again. I felt like such a jerk. They had to let me go, though, because--wouldn't you know it?--when they went to investigate, it turned out there was no briefcase locked around any of the toilets in there. And nobody had seen anyone go in or out, so therefore there must never have been one.

I'd be more grateful to Greyghost for getting rid of the incriminating evidence if it hadn't been him who got me into this in the first place.
More Dennis-from-Room-28, please.
'Anonymous', huh? It's possible I know who this is.

I haven't forgotten about Dennis-in-room-28.
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