Secret Mission

The lights were finally out, and the moon had gone behind a cloud. Finnegan knew what he had to do. Pulling his ridiculous green hat more tightly over his red curls, he tiptoed up to the silently swaying dog door.

Nothing seemed to move but the wind. He checked the surveillance unit on his wrist, just in case. All clear. Swallowing nervously at the thought of who the flap was built for, he pushed through it and into the sleeping house.

The plastic barely shushed, but it was a shout to his keenly-tuned ears. A clock’s second hand banged around the face. Whooshing hurricane gales sprouted from a metal floor vent near his entry. And, above it all, he could hear the annoying clink, clink of the useless brass buckles atop his manmade-materials shoes.

Fortunately, he hadn’t far to go. In the glaring light of streetlamps barely shining through the windows, he could see his goal. From here, in shadows, it had the very appearance of a hangman’s noose. Leave it to man’s imagination to force his children to construct such a thing, Finnegan mused. But he was a professional; a child’s invention couldn’t scare him.

Carefully, he drew close to the table upon which the trap rested. Equally carefully, he withdrew a jar from inside his scratchy felt overcoat. The silly coat was cut in the ugliest style, barely covered his midsection, and hardly had space for the job’s necessary pockets.

Mostly by feel, he removed the jar’s lid. Bending, he applied its contents to his right foot’s sole. He repeated the process with the left foot, though he made certain to place his feet apart from each other once they touched the ground. It wouldn’t do to have the painted prints right together, after all.

Finnegan straightened. He replaced the lid, then returned the container to its pocket. Pulling within for a bit o’ magic, he took off -straight up the table leg. Once at the top, he slowed to a light jog. Each bouncing step drew the trap nearer, more menacing.

It wouldn’t have killed them to line the thing with glow sticks, he thought, pausing. These sorts of setups always had gold coin lures or other sparkly objects, but never something illuminating them.

A small yarn ladder hung haphazardly from the side. It looked to be held on with transparent tape; hardly up to building code. In fact, the entire contraption had to be supported by a child’s faith alone. Given its instability, Finnegan decided to make a quick run for the sake of prints, but return and use his equipment for the rest of the job.

Again, he ran vertically -up the yarn and the side of the tube. It was a pit trap design, with the added element of a coin hanging from an extended fishing-pole toilet paper roll. He wasn’t sure why its designer had attached the pole to the side of the pit, but was fairly certain that inexperience had something to do with it.

Once at the shaky zenith, he chanced to flash his finger-torch inside the pit. Sure enough, a myriad of stick-on jewels, plastic coins, and one or two dirty pennies could be seen. He swiftly removed his shoes to his left hand, and ran back down in striped green stockings.

Finnegan paused to wipe the remaining green paint from the shoe soles against the cardboard sides of the trap. He bent and re-shod his feet. Then, he raised both hands over his head and focused on the memory of fake treasure. He lifted it all in his mind, and saw it rise from the trap’s hole in real life.

A few years ago, he remembered, they’d been told it was regulation to actually enter the pits to retrieve the children’s lures. A few months of glue-covered or pin-stabbed employees changed the policy quickly. Finnegan felt fortunate that the worst he’d suffered was falling ill from child-infected loose change.

He drew his hands toward his body now. The “treasure” followed the gesture. In this fashion, he soon had it all before him on the table. Drawing a gadget from the other felt pocket of the ugly overcoat, he pointed it at the pile and pushed a button. ZapThe useless junk disintegrated.

Turning a dial atop the same gadget, he pointed it above the hole from which the junk had been extracted. He pushed the button again. A man’s handful of chocolate coins fell out of the air and into the pit. Finnegan smiled; he’d always been a good aim.

Pocketing his tool, he turned and ran back across the tabletop. He skipped down the table leg. As he sprinted to the dog door, he heard a dreadful noise above the cacophony of night sounds: the click, click, click of canine toenails on kitchen tile.

Fortunately, no animal had ever caught Finnegan O’Boyle. He wasn’t about to change his untarnished record tonight. Night and grass and blessed shadows were already enveloping his retreating form when the dog’s curious nose was just poking through the swinging flap.

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