Follow the Tunisian Parakeet

16 Jan

by Hashiell Dammett 

 

In 1539, the Knights Templar of Tunisia paid tribute to Charles VI of Portugal by sending him a Copper Parakeet encrusted from beak to claw with the rarest of jewels; but pirates seized the galley carrying this priceless token, and the fate of the Tunisian Parakeet has remained a mystery to this day.

OK, Spade. You know what to do now. It’s all up to you. Mrs. Wonderly claimed not to know Mr. Cairo, but you know better, don’t you? Hurry before it’s too late.

You take all your men, go around the cliff to see Maria. She’ll give you a bag. (DON’T OPEN THE BAG, SPADE!) Carry it as if you couldn’t care less, but don’t let it out of your sight. Maria will give you the sign when it’s time to rendezvous with Count Umlauf atop the cliff face. It’s a narrow passage–one man a time, and slowly!

When Count Umlauf allows you to light his cigarette, make sure he sees you with the bag. Don’t dally there; you needn’t give Umlauf more than this. He should head to the old church when he knows you and the bag are secure. When you see the Count go inside the old church, tell one of your men to give Maria the green-light signal. Then, leave two men atop the cliff as a scout and a decoy. Take the rest of the men and proceed to Café Carismo’s, where a man in an off-yellow pantsuit will hand you a key in exchange for the bag you got from Maria.

Take the key, swallow it. Then have dinner with your men on the back patio. Some of the men will want to dance to the salsa playing downstairs, and that’s OK; just remember to warn them about the beggars in the kitchen. About an hour or so after you’ve digested the key, you’ll feel the need to go. When you do, take the back stairs down the employees’ hallway to the men’s john. You’ll see it on the left near the portrait of Emperor Hirohito.

Once you’ve excreted the key, you’ll notice that your body fluids have engaged a biochemical reaction on the key’s surface. Keep watching the key!! And don’t make any noise!! They’ll be looking for you by now.

When you see the three-digit code appear on the key, wipe off the key, pocket the key and return to your table nonchalantly. FOR GOD’S SAKE, MAN, WHATEVER YOU DO, REMEMBER THE THREE-DIGIT CODE!!  Even I don’t know what it is.

Now. By now your men will be wondering what the hell’s going on. Tell them the invasion is off, and that Plan DV 1 is now in effect. They’ll begin smelling the odor on your person because of the key and become suspicious, but this is all right. Your men were expendable, remember? Tell them to take Arturo and proceed across the harbor to the warehouse near the docks. I know, I know that you trained them all, Spade. I know you became like family. But we had a job to do, remember? Snap out of it, man. Just know that they died believing in the cause.

When you see the three-masted schooner set off a flare at the deep quays of the harbor, you’ll know that they’re all dead. Only after that will it be safe to use the code. By the time you pull up to Sardi’s, Samantha should be waiting for you. You remember her, don’t you? Settle, settle down, boy. You’re a married man now. Those days are gone. We were lions, weren’t we? Funny the CIA never knew, but they’re idiots anyway, aren’t they?

This is no time for sentimentality, Spade. You know what’s at stake by now. Samantha will take you up to the bar, and that’s where you’ll find Angela and the Chinese twins. God, I hate dealing with those fools, but this was the ONLY way. Believe me. You’ll have to small-talk and schmooze for half the goddamn night, but keep your cool. When the night’s winding down and the twins have gone back to the casino as they always do, that will be the golden moment, Spade old bean, old horse pill.

Angela will ask you if you remember Morocco. You may or may not remember, but just play along. God, Morocco. Remember Panzi and Vic and that weird sidewalk artist or whatever she was? You were a wild man, Spade. I didn’t know you could do that with your genitals. Christ, man. Ah, hell, all water under the bridge, right? Anyway, when Angela mentions Morocco, this will be your cue to give her the three-digit code.

Just remember, Spade, she’s vulnerable. I don’t think you really loved her then, but, God, Angie thinks the world of you, so if you’re gonna be a player with her, then for God’s sake, be sweet. Anyway, when you give her the code, she’ll tell you what night Mr. Cairo plays poker. That’s when we will find the Tunisian Parakeet. Keep your wits about you, Spade. That, and your .44, are all you have now. I would say good luck and Godspeed, but I know you don’t believe in that stuff.

Go on. Get outta here. If everything hasn’t gone completely to hell, we should see each other again in Caracas, come spring. You do need a shave. Keep your powder dry, old friend.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

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2 Responses to “Follow the Tunisian Parakeet”

  1. bestbathroombooks January 16, 2012 at 11:58 pm #

    I had a hard time excreting the key….

    • Mr. Cairo March 1, 2012 at 8:41 am #

      We all did. But ya gotta do what ya gotta do… do…

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