Rexford raced along the sidewalk in a panic. As he turned a corner, he leaned to the inside like a speed skater and was able to maintain his stride without losing any speed. He needed to reach the 2:15 bus going out to Millertown. It was 2:13, and he was still two blocks away. He cursed to himself silently, because speaking out loud would be a waste of breath. He was going to have to do something drastic, and it would probably get him in trouble with the management. But most things did, so Rexford wasn’t really worried about it.
He kept running, and managed to jump onto a passing Macrohard truck. The driver started shouting at him, and Rexford flashed his badge and shouted back, “Take me to the West End, please! This is official O.S.S. business!”
The driver surprised Rexford by actually going west. Rexford’s whole plan had been based on the assumption that the angry driver would go east. Rexford cursed again. Why do people always listen to shouting men with badges? He checked his watch. It was 2:16. The bus would be long gone by now. He would have to find a way to make it back to Millertown Elementary by 4 o’clock. I’ll need a car, he decided. Then he hopped off the truck and proceeded to the nearest building. The Macrohard truck driver, muttering to himself about ungrateful government slobs, drove around the corner. Inside the building, the foyer was deserted. It was a very nice foyer, as foyers went. The desk was shiny, there were plenty of sofas around the place, and none of the plants were dead. A large and impressively ornamented set of stairs lay to the left of the desk.
“Just my luck,” Rexford muttered. “I probably picked the one building in Chicago that doesn’t have any people in it.” He climbed the stairs, and started to investigate the second floor. A sign on one of the suites said CHICAGO BOOK CLUB, meets Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 2:00 p.m. Just my luck, Rexford thought, it’s Friday at 2:20. He took out his badge again, and entered the suite. A group of people were sitting around a table. “Ladies and Gentlemen, don’t be alarmed. I’m from the O.S.S. I need to commandeer one of your vehicles for a mission of international, nay intergalactic importance.”
A short, red-haired woman in a blue business suit addressed him. “Hello, Mr. Tugwell. We’ve been expecting you.” The door closed with a snap. Rexford turned to see a couple of guys who didn’t look like they belonged in a book club standing behind him. “You probably don’t know me, but I am Mary Cliffe. And you have been a thorn in my side for almost four years now.”
Rexford was very confused. When had Mary Cliffe, the CEO of Macrohard, the world’s largest company, joined the Chicago Book Club. When he was confused, Rexford liked to straighten out, one at a time. He started with the strange book club. “What kind of book club is this?”
“I do not believe you understand, Mr. Tugwell,” Ms. Cliffe replied. “This is the Chicago Book Club.” Then Rexford realized what was happening. Quite unknowingly, he had stumbled onto the widely rumored and highly secret organization of the biggest of the corporate big cheeses. He had been attempting to find them, unsuccessfully, for several years as one of his ongoing O.S.S. projects. The Book Club must have known he would be running late to the bus. That’s why they had made sure a convenient Macrohard truck was riding by at exactly that time, with specific instructions to do whatever the nice government man said. They must have known that Rexford would have stopped off at exactly that building, and be completely taken in by the innocent looking Chicago Book Club sign. This knowledge wasn’t exactly helpful in his situation, though.
“Ms. Cliffe, I’m sure we can work out some sort of deal. I’m not actually working right now. As such, I’m not officially in danger, and therefore not receiving danger pay. We could meet here again on Monday, when I’ll be officially in danger,” Rexford said. As he said it, he tried the door. It was locked, on the inside. What kind of people make a door that locks on the inside, he wondered.
“If you’re not receiving extra pay, Mr. Tugwell, then it would actually save money to kill you now, for the government anyway,” replied one of the corporate heads. They moved on Rexford, clearly confident that with their advantages of surprise and numbers they would be able to deal with him relatively easily. But in a flash, Rexford had pulled his towel out from under his jacket and had disarmed two of the thugs. Now, he thought, this should be the window near the electrical line extending across the buildings.
“Ms. Cliffe, I wish you and your associates a nice afternoon,” he said jauntily. “I have to go see a man about a dog.” Rexford had always wanted to say that in actual conversation, and he took that as the silver lining of this whole affair. Then he promptly jumped for the window feet first, so as not to cut himself on the broken glass. He landed on the precariously narrow ledge he had noticed when he entered the building, and jumped for the electrical line. Using his towel, Rexford then slid across the street and burst through the window of a grey, inconspicuous building.
Some sort of family gathering was happening in the room Rexford found himself in. Figuring that the third time was the charm, he pulled his O.S.S. badge again. “Excuse me, ladies and gentlemen, but I need one of your cars. It is a matter of international, nay, intergalactic importance. If I do not commandeer one of your cars, none of you can guess at the scope of the consequences,” he said in the confident tone of voice used by persons with badges.
A man, presumably a father or an uncle, replied, “You come crashing through our window, spout some crackpot story about the government, and you expect us to give you our cars? Who do you think you are?”
“Sir, I promise you that you will be reimbursed for the window and your car will be returned. I would tell you more, but I simply don’t have the time. I may be late enough as it is.” The man was about to decline again, but suddenly a burst of gunfire came through the window. Everyone panicked, trying to get away from the window, people were screaming, the man recieved a pie in the face, and in the confusion Rexford managed to grab a pair of car keys from the apartment’s kitchen counter. He ran away shouting, “I’ll pay for that, too!”
As he rode the elevator down to the parking lot, Rexford contemplated the keys. They were made by Ford, which meant that unless it was a Mustang, it wouldn’t go especially fast. But at least he would have a car, and anything over highway speeds would probably get him to the school on time. The doors opened and he walked out into the parking lot, hitting the unlock button on the keys in order to find the car. It was a Ford Fiesta. Rexford cursed his bad luck, because the Fiesta looked like something some cautious old granny would drive. It would have to do, he decided, the Book Club was probably in the building by now. He climbed in and hit the ignition just as the first of the thugs came down the stairs.
Reversing quickly out of the parking space, Rexford realized that he would not have time to put the car in drive. Instead, he kept reversing around the parking lot, away from the thugs. Fortunately, the body and windows of the car seemed to be completely bulletproof. He turned the final corner out the lot and shot up into the street. The air he attained off the ramp of the parking lot allowed him to jump the cars in his way, and while midair, Rexford switched gears. He sped off in the direction of Millertown, confident that any pursuers would get thrown off by the wicked Chicago Traffic he bypassed by using the sidewalks and convienient buildings. Here the Fiesta also proved to be capable, smashing through glass and plaster with ease. Rexford managed to make it to the highway, where he floored the accelerator
But it was to no avail. There they were, two corvettes and a Veyron. Despite the twists and turns, the Book Club had managed to track him down. Now, on the open highway, the Veyron was using its 1000 horsepower to gain on him. Rexford looked ahead, and there were another two cars approaching from the opposite direction. There was no choice, he would have to skip the lake. Luckily for him, it was at its narrowest point here, only about 150 wide, but it stretched for miles paralleling the highway. If he could make it across the lake, then his pursuers would be unable to follow him, and once he got to Millertown, they would no longer be able to cover up any attempt at murder. So Rexford kept his foot on the accelerator and gunned for the lake. As he went over the lake, the spinning wheels acted like skipping stones, propelling him across the water at 130 miles per hour. He landed hard on the other side, but the Fiesta hung on and Rexford was able to drive away safely.
About twenty minutes later, he pulled into the parking lot at Millertown Elementary, a good twenty minutes before the show was slated to start. He walked triumphantly into the actors’ staging area, looking for his wife and son. They were on the west side of the room, next to the water fountain. As he wished his son luck, Rexford reflected on the events of the past day, and he said to his wife, “Dear, I might have to stay late for work the next couple of days.”