You Only Die Twice
The scenery was green, the air was nice, and the sun was shining. The temp was a nice 79 degrees, with the sky clear and full of fluffy white clouds. But at a building in this serene setting, things were gloom. The people inside were not as happy about the sun or the clouds. Things were not happy at this place.
This was a funeral.
Most people are leaving, but a few remained at the front of the pew, looking at a closed casket. Zachary Smart was one of these patrons, shifting nervously in his seat. If Zach had known later what he knew now, he might be able to share in the heartbreak with his family, but he couldn’t.
He knew the truth.
He knew why this was a closed casket and why the president had come over to personally give his “deepest sympathies”. Zach didn’t miss the look the commander in chief had given him, just like the look he had given him. The look that clearly said, “I know what you’re up to.”
Either way, Zach just couldn’t get in to feeling as bad as he should. He was there for his wife, his mother, and his sister. Of course he would be. He just hoped they would take his restless as part of his grief.
For the most part, the mourners made their apologies about Max to the family, then left, leaving said family sitting in the front, trying to collect themselves. Out of the corner of his eye, Zach noticed a last minute mourner, an elderly gentlemen who just stood facing the coffin.
Unfortunately, Zach wasn’t the only person to notice him.
“I wonder who that is,” Austin asked, nodding toward the gentlemen. “He’s been out of the way, but he’s been here the whole time.”
“Probably one of the mourners.” Tracie replied.
“Do you know him?” Austin asked, his question pointed at 99.
“Max had a lot of friends and was very well known,” the widow replied, teary. “Even Siegfried sent a bouquet of flowers in care of KAOS.”
“I’ll go and tell him we’re about to leave.” Zach said, standing.
“Zach,” 99 said, stopping her son. “Give him a few minutes.”
He was about to protest, but nodded and smiled. The rest of them began heading out for the burial service, Zach saying he’d meet them in a bit. Walking over to the man, he stood next to him. The two stood in silence. For a bit.
“What’re you doing here?”
“I’m sorry?” the man asked, in a heavy German accent.
Zach rolled his eyes. “Dad, I know it’s you, so again, what are you doing here?”
The man shook his head and asked, “Do you really think I’d miss my own funeral?” Again Zach rolled his eyes.
“At least this time I got a much better funeral.” Max continued. “Why, do you know the last time I died, I didn’t even get flowers?”
“Okay, so Siegfried sent flowers, but I mean really! The enemy has to send flowers!? What kind of organization am I working for?”
“Dad!” Zach exclaimed.
“Shh!” Max hushed. “No one’s supposed to know I’m here.”
“I’m aware of that.” the agent replied, sarcastically. “Now what are you doing here?”
“I told you, I wasn’t…”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Good funeral, bad funeral.” Zach said, waving his father to a stop. “Is that really the only reason?”
“No.” Max whispered. “I wanted to see your mother, see how she was doing, if she was all right.”
“I know, I know,” Max sighed. “You told me not to, but I couldn’t help it. I had to see her.”
“Dad, you’ve really put me in a bind here.” The agent insisted. “I mean, how exactly did you get out of the house? And more importantly, has anyone seen you?”
“First of all, no, no one saw me.” Max replied. “Secondly, I am Chief of Control, you know. I was top agent at Control before you, my boy, so I think I know a little something about slipping away in the dead of night, hitchhiking all the way, breaking in here, and sleeping on one of the pews.”
Zach just looked at him. “That’s crazy.” he said. “You could’ve called a cab and rented a room next door. That way you’d have a bed.”
Max just looked at him. “Well, a lot of good that does me now.”
“Look, Pop,” Zach replied, putting his arm around the man. “You’ve seen your funeral, you’ve seen Mom. All in all, you’ve had a productive day. Now, go away and be productive at your hideout.”
“Zachary, I need to know what’s going on.” Max said. “You said you’d help me on this. Now, have you found anything?”
The two stopped and Zach turned to face him. “All right, all right.” he relented. “I did find out that the President was right. KAOS did hire some new group called the Crazy 88’s. I haven’t figured out why yet, so I figure that’ll be your job.”
“I also found out…that the President is holding a ball shindig.” Zach concluded.
“I’ve known about that,” Max replied. “Your mother and I were going to go.” He was quiet before asking, “Is she still going?”
Zach shrugged. “I dunno.” he said. “But I doubt she will.” Max nodded and didn’t try and protest when Zach began pushing him out the back way. “Now that you’ve had your walk, you can go away.”
“Some son you are,” Max sputtered. “Won’t even let your own father see his own burial. I wouldn’t do that to you!”
“Goodbye, Mister…Mann. So sorry to see you go! Thanks for coming!” As Zach waved goodbye, Max gave him a look.
The scene was one of joyful noise. The warehouse hideout of the Crazy 88’s was hosting a party in celebration for the death of Maxwell Smart, as well as several other Control agents in the past couple days. And with the next announcement, the party would only get better. “Hey!” called a young man in black. He seemed to be the leader, when most people turned and the music went off. “Listen up! We got our new orders from the KAOS big boss. We’re invited to a little shindig at the White House.”
“You mean that presidential party being thrown?” asked one member. The leader smiled and nodded.
The room went up with excitement. “How did we get that?”
“We’re not officially invited,” the leader replied. “But when has that stopped us?” The group laughed. “Now pump up the volume! Let’s get this party started!”
A week passed faster than anyone realized. Or rather, it passed quickly for the other members of Control. For Zachary and Maxwell Smart, their week went by incredibly slow, with both men searching on their various cases. Zach had managed to tie the Crazy 88’s with KAOS, but had no leads after that.
Max for his part, began his nightly stakeout of the warehouse. He noticed the 88’s comings and goings in the warehouse and also managed to find out about the KAOS connection and that Thomas Hill was the one responsible for the purchase. But as to why he had hired the group, Max couldn’t get any closer without revealing that he wasn’t dead.
For Maxine and Tracie, the week had been spent trying to cheer up their mother. It seemed that no matter how many lunches they invited her to or how many times they wanted to play tennis, the former agent turned congress worker wasn’t in the mood for it.
And as for said congress worker, time that week had been spent mostly in her office. After that first night, Agent 99 realized the house held way too many memories of her and Max and their life together, so she had taken to working longer and staying in her office well after everyone had gone for the night.
But the week held some promise for these folks and that was the president’s ball. In the past several years, it was customary for the Commander in Chief to host a party in honor of the successful term win.
Senators, Congressmen and women, as well as their families are always invited. So the goal for these folks was to try and get past the overwhelming grief they had been experiencing. But how could they when a member of their team wouldn’t be able to share in the fun?
It was this very thought that kept 99 declining Zach’s invitation to go.
“Zachary, I just don’t feel like going to this thing.”
“But Mom,” Zach replied, finally getting the opportunity to see his mother this week. “I really think you need to get out of the house…er…the office. It’ll be fun.”
“Zach,” she said, taking a seat behind the desk. “I really don’t feel up to going this time. I might…I might take in a movie or something.”
Zach kneeled beside her. “Mom,” he whispered. “I know this whole…thing…has been rough, especially on you, but…I know Dad would…he’d want you…you know…live on…or something.”
“Just hear me out!” he insisted. “If you go to this thing, I bet you’ll feel better. I mean, you’ll…you know…be in a new environment and crap.”
“Don’t say crap.”
“Sorry.” He grinned at her. “C’mon. That lousy Doc Parker stole my date, so now I’m all alone, gonna get all dressed up, and no beautiful woman on my arm.”
99 caressed his cheek and smiled. “You always did have your father’s charm.” she replied. With a sigh, she said, “All right. I’ll go.”
The party was already in full swing by the time the Smarts and Austin walked in. Zach stood at the front, with 99 on his arm, while Austin escorted Maxine and Tracie. “See?” Zach said, as he and 99 walked into the room. “Isn’t it nice to get out and see how the other half lives?”
“Smashing, Zachary,” Austin replied, dryly. “Absolutely smashing.”
As Zach turned around to respond, a party goer caught his attention. And he wasn’t happy about who he saw. The man had a thin moustache and was dressed in a princely costume. Apparently he was unaware that the President had changed tonight’s masked/costume ball to a black tie affair, the man stood out slightly. But it wasn’t any of that which caught Zach’s attention.
It was the fact the man spilled his drink while checking the time.
“What the hell?” he muttered, his eyes suddenly glued to the man in princely dress.
Zach instantly turned at the question, which had been asked by his mother. “I said…what the hell are we doing?” he said, nervously. “Just standing here. When we should be…dancing and… things.” Chuckling, he continued with, “Hey, let’s get a table over there! Away from…here…and the door.”
“I see a table over there.” Maxine pointed a table near a back corner.
“Snag that!” Zach exclaimed. “Table, I mean. I’ll meet you over there. I just saw Gopher from the Love Boat. He’s a congress…guy, I’ll be right back.”
Zach quickly hurried toward the man, then roughly grabbed his arm. “What the hell are you doing here?” he whispered urgently.
“I beg your pardon.” the man said, in an English accent.
“You’re so testing me!”
“Please, sir,” the man whispered. “Lower your voice. People are getting suspicious.”
Zach dragged the man further away. “Are you trying to drive me mad?”
“I really think you’re going a little overboard…”
“A little overboard!?” Zach exclaimed, causing several patrons to look over.
Zach once again pulled the man away, this time near the entrance way. “What the hell are you doing here?” he asked again.
“Well dear boy,” the man replied. “I’m here to enjoy a party.”
“I could strangle you!”
“A bit early for violence, isn’t it?”
“Don’t ‘shh’ me!” the younger agent exclaimed. “What’re you doing here?”
“I wasn’t planning on coming here, I swear.” Max insisted, seeing the look on his son’s face. “I was watching the warehouse and the whole lot of them shipped out, so I followed them and guess where they went?”
“Here?” Max nodded. “You mean they’re here now?” Zach whispered.
“I don’t know.” Max said.
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
“I lost them.”
“I lost them.”
“Where, in the bushes!?” Zach cried. “How did you lose them?”
Max shrugged. “I don’t know!” he exclaimed. “One minute, I’m right behind them, then the next they’re gone. But I’m convinced they will be here. So I went to the house…”
“Whoa, whoa,” Zach interrupted. “You went to the house?”
“I had to get my costume.” Max defended. “It wasn’t until I arrived that I realized the costume and masked ball had been changed to black tie.”
“What were you doing at the house?”
“You weren’t listening?”
“Calm down, son,” Max replied. “You’re getting worked up.”
“You gotta get out of here.” Zach finally said.
“You gotta get outta here.” he repeated. “We gotta make sure you’re not seen by ANYONE! That includes KAOS, the President…and especially not…”
“Mom!” Zach exclaimed in surprise. “Did…did you…the…find..table?”
“Zach, are you all right?” 99 asked, concern sketched on her face.
“The lad’s okay,” Max replied, his English accent coming back in full force. “Just needs a bit of a drink.” Max grabbed a glass of champagne from a passing waiter and handed it to Zach. “Drink this.”
“I don’t wanna drink it!” Zach protested.
“Drink it.” Max warned. Zach lamely complied.
“I don’t believe we’ve met, mister…”
“Nobody!” Zach sputtered. “I mean…he was just…leaving, so…”
“Oh I could never leave without introducing myself to such a…statue of beauty.” Max replied, taking 99’s hand and kissing it. “The name’s Maxwell, my dear. Sir Stanley Maxwell. 45th Infantry, Manchester. And you, my dear?”
“Smart!” Zachary exclaimed. “Maxwell. Misses. Mother.”
“Zachary,” 99 replied, sternly. “Perhaps you’ve had enough champagne for tonight.” Turning to Mr. Maxwell, she said, “It’s a pleasure, Mr. Maxwell.” She stared for some time before asking, “Have we met?”
“Before tonight?” Max asked, his eyes glowing with hope.
“No.” Zach intruded. “You haven’t. Met, that is. Mother, I believe Maxine is trying to get your attention.”
99 gave one last look before excusing herself and heading back towards the table. Zach took the time to round on Max.
“What’re you doing?” he spat.
“What’re YOU doing?” Max countered.
“I’m trying to keep this whole thing from exploding and keeping you among the living before the President finds out you’re here and kills you!”
“Oh really?” Max asked, sarcastically. “You know, I was afraid something like this would happen. You’ve been waiting for this for quite some time, haven’t you?”
Zach gave him a look.
“Are you still on about that Oedipus thing?” he asked, incredulously. “Dad, for the last time, I’m not trying to steal Mom away. What I AM trying to do, is save you from a very bad time if you get caught.”
Max patted him on the shoulder. “Don’t worry,” he smirked. “I won’t get caught. As I’ve said before, Zachary, as a former agent of goodness and niceness, I think I can handle a little covert operation as to keep myself hidden from the President.”
As Max moved his arm and took a step back, he inadvertently backed into a waiter, whose try of drinks toppled and fell to the floor, with a huge crash that caused several party goers to look over in their direction.
“You’re gonna need a new plan.” Zach replied.