David and Andrew sat on the mauve carpet on either side of the old reel-to-reel player. Both men averaged five feet eleven inches in height and both were dressed in identical black Calvin Klein suits. If not for Andrew’s brown hair contrasting David’s blond, the two men could have been mistaken for brothers any day. Andrew continued to stare down at the device while David had become distracted by the floral pattern on the ugly wallpaper.
“I don’t understand it,” David began, “We’ve been doing this long enough to deserve a nice hotel room for a change.”
“Focus!” Andrew responded, “There are more important things to ponder.”
“Just press the button, already,” David urged.
Andrew, his knees now folded up against his chest, continued to stare at the device, “Why a reel-to-reel player?”
“Yes, seriously!” answered Andrew, “It just doesn’t make sense.”
David pulled his attention away from the wallpaper long enough to roll his eyes at the other man.
“It’s always been a reel-to-reel player. Maybe they just like tradition?”
“It’s just not practical,” started Andrew, “They should have changed over to cassette tapes back in the nineties.”
“Isn’t that half the fun though?” asked David, “lugging these things around?”
“You know, it just seems excessive.”
David smiled, “Sure, but we get the fun message, then the puff of smoke, and life goes on.”
“I’m just saying,” interjected Andrew, climbing to his feet, “Compact Discs have to be more cost-effective.”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Andrew.”
“When’s the last time you saw a CD blow up?”
Andrew sighed. “They could give us iPods instead. An iPod could definitely blow up.”
David climbed to his feet with a grunt to face Andrew. “And that’s cost effective how?”
“Maybe cost has nothing to do with it,” started Andrew, “they’ve been blowing up reel-to-reel tapes for as long as we can remember.
“You know,” continued Andrew, “maybe it’s someone’s job to manufacture these tiny bombs.”
“You might be onto something there, and here you are, wanting to change formats. You’d be putting a man out of a job.”
“I didn’t mean—“ Andrew began.
“All because you’re tired of lugging this tape player around everywhere we go,” David interrupted.
“Well now that you’ve guilt tripped me, I suppose it’s not all that bad.”
David had gone back to tracing one of the flowers on the wallpaper with his fingertip.
“You weren’t listening?” questioned Andrew.
“Sorry, the wallpaper was a tad more interesting than what you were saying.”
“Fine, David. Forget it,” said Andrew, crossing his arms.
“So we can get on with it?”
“Yes, fine, let’s get on with it,” whined Andrew, “Forbid we spruce up the monotony here and there… forbid we talk about anything real!”
David squatted down on his haunches in front of the reel-to-reel player. He looked up at Andrew as he spoke. “Are you done?”
“Yeah. Whatever. Play the tape.”
David pressed the plastic Play button and returned to the standing position. The aged reel-to-reel player suddenly came to life. The motorized wheels began to spin and the room filled with a soft hiss as the magnetic tape slid across the playback head. The two men stood in contemplative positions and after several seconds a man’s recorded voice broke the silence.
“Good evening, Agent Coates and Agent Layman. Welcome to France.”
The men shifted their weight ever so slightly as the recording continued on.
“Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to attend the re-opening of the United States embassy. There you will meet the French High Constable who will be on hand to ensure that the opening goes uninterrupted. During the festivities you will obtain his security keycard for duplication and future investigation of Government files.”
“Ooh!” David started, “this could be a good one.”
Andrew put a finger to his mouth, shushing his excitable partner. The audio continued.
“As always, should you or any of your team be caught or killed, the Secretary will disavow any knowledge of your actions.”
“Ready for this?” David smiled, “Your favorite part, Andrew!”
The recorded voice droned on.
“This tape will self-destruct in five seconds. Good luck, Gentlemen.”
Before their eyes, the tape on the reel-to-reel began to smoke and quickly turned to ash.
“Get your gun,” started Andrew, “let’s get going.”
On their way out of the hotel room, David smiled at Andrew, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb.
“Let’s see a Compact Disc do that!”