Thursday, July 9, 2009

Books: My life in a spy novel...

I buy a reasonable number of used books. Mostly from Half-Price Books, but I also hit a few other stores around town. Right now I'm reading some "Da Vinci Code" like stuff by other authors. You know the kind: thriller/mysteries based on ancient secrets and stuff like that.

Right now I'm reading my second novel by author Steve Berry. The first book I read was The Alexandria Link and it deals with the hunt for the Library of Alexandria. Now, in this thriller, the library was spirited away by members of a secret society and hid it somewhere in the Middle East. The Library holds secrets that, in the right hands, could destabilize current world politics. Not great fiction, but it was certainly good enough for me to pick up another one of his novels: The Amber Room.

The Amber Room is about people hunting for the eponymous chamber that had once existed in Catherine's Palace in Tsarist Russia. It's an entertaining novel, but a bit slow in places. I definitely preferred The Alexandria Link. Still, I suspect I'll read another one after this. They're pretty good.

But back to what I found in the book.

You see, over the years I've found the odd scrap of paper inside a used book before: Business cards, receipts, a movie ticket once (though I can't recall the movie right now -- I think it was a chick flick). This time, however, I actually found something VERY odd. This time I found a taxidermy receipt.

This is a small printed receipt of the type that you would get from a shop. It's obviously a standard receipt: it's got spaces on it for names, phone numbers, drop off date, pick-up date, and so on. In the upper right corner it's been numbered by a machine (0085, in this case).

It's from a taxidermy shop in Ingram, Texas. It's dated two years ago, and it's go instructions to "Mount for -----" (I'll redact their names). And a bunch of phone numbers.

Even though it doesn't say what kind of animal they're talking about, I'm going to guess it's deer, since it's dated in November (that would whitetail season around these parts). And I can easily imagine some guy packing a paperback to take along with him to his deer lease to kill some time out there, taking it easy with a six-pack (or maybe something stronger). It sounds like a nice, peaceful getaway. Definitely nothing to really catch my attention.

Except one thing: The receipt has a note to package and send the meat to someone in Iraq.

Again, I can easily imagine someone sending some nice deer sausage to a buddy or son stationed in Iraq. But there's just something odd about it. Maybe I've been reading too many thrillers, but this sounds like a weird coded message that you'd find in a novel like I'm currently reading. I can see it now...

[Cue wavy lines and weird music as we slip into a fantasy sequence]

The agent has collected the information, but his enemies are closing in. He's got to ditch the clues, so he grabs a taxidermy receipt and puts it into the paperback he was reading. The names are really code words, the phone numbers are hidden clues. The only word he can't risk being misunderstood is "Iraq." He enters Half-Price Books and slips it onto the shelf, then gets word to a fellow agent where he's hidden it.

But it's too late. They find him and, refusing to compromise his mission, he fights to the death. He dies thinking that the information is in good hands. Hundreds of lives will be saved...

Then I walk into a book store, buy a used paperback, and leave with the only copy of the clue. I don't even find it for a week until I get to the middle of my book. I look at the weird paper, note the word Iraq, and make up some back story in my head about a bored hunter reading a paperback and shipping some deer sausage to his son serving in Iraq. I continue to use the slip as a bookmark because it's convenient.

Meanwhile, the other agent arrived, bought every copy of Steve Berry's "The Amber Room" and couldn't find the coded message she was expecting. She is stalled and the bad guys get away with whatever evil thing they were planning.

Thus ends the worst spy movie ever.

Oh well, at least I'm enjoying my used paperback. I've got about 90 pages to go and, if I continue reading at a leisurely pace at night before I go to sleep, I'll probably finish it this weekend. I'll start the next one sometime next week. Who knows? Maybe this next book has a receipt to that will help thwart some Bongolesian gun runners!

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