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Double Agents

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In a conference room of the Tiki-Tiki Lounge, in Walla Walla, Washington, Desmond Tutu and Boutros-Boutros Ghali met secretly to discuss the release of Sirhan Sirhan from Sing-Sing prison.

Agents Smith and Jones sat in the dining room, maintaining surveillance.

Jones studied the menu. "What are you having, Smitty?"

"Steak tartar. You?"

"Mahi-mahi."

When the waiter arrived, Jones asked, "How do you cook your pawpaws?"

"Fried in mango oil, sir."

Mango-fried pawpaws reminded Jones of Africa -- of choo-choo trains, black nationalists, and wounded lions twitching in the bush.

He smiled. "I'll have the mahi-mahi and pawpaws."

"Steak tartar for me," Smith said, "with extra cous-cous."

When the waiter left, the agents casually surveyed the opulent dining room. The men agreed that the elegant Tiki-Tiki Lounge made Las Vegas' Circus-Circus look like the local Yum-Yum Donuts.

Smith noticed a woman enter the foyer. "Don't look now," he whispered, "but DeeDee just walked in." Agent Jones nervously popped a Sen-Sen in his mouth. A large woman dressed in a floral muu-muu waved cheerfully and proceeded to cross the room.

DeeDee Shamsky was a CIA legend, a second-generation agent whose parents were killed in the line of duty. In Kenya, an enraged Mau-Mau had speared her mama, Mimi, with a tse-tse fly; and in the jungles of Pago Pago, a dum-dum shell to the back of the head had sent her papa, Pepe, to the promised land.

The Pago Pago operation had been a terrible boo-boo. What was envisioned as a smooth insertion--in-out, bang-bang--had turned into a debacle. Although DeeDee's daddy was buddy-buddy with the Director, his early misgivings had been pooh-poohed. And when the ca-ca hit the fan, and a formal inquiry was ordered, no one was surprised that the findings were kept hush-hush.

DeeDee joined them. "Kissy-kissy," she said, sitting down. During college DeeDee had moonlighted as a ballerina and professional cheerleader. Casually glancing at her bodice, the men couldn't help but notice that she still had a nice set of chi-chi's. They pictured her wearing a tutu and waving a pom-pom, and it was good.

"What's new, DeeDee?" Smith asked.

"Same ol', same ol,'" she said.

It was common knowledge at Langley that Jones and DeeDee had once been gaga over each other. That was three years ago. While the affair had ended badly, Smith sensed that there was still a spark. And when he caught them making goo-goo eyes, he discreetly excused himself.

"We heard you were sick, DeeDee," Jones said, finally.

"Beriberi," she acknowledged.

"A serious case?"

"A real lulu," she said.

"How are you feeling now?"

She coughed demurely. "So-so."

The break-up with DeeDee had nearly destroyed Jones. Only his work and an anthology of knock-knock jokes had kept him from slipping into la-la land.

"I missed your dancing, DeeDee," he said, touching her hand. "The cha-cha."

"You mean the can-can," she said, gently correcting him.

Agent Smith returned to the table, looking troubled.

"What's the matter, Smitty?" Jones immediately asked.

"There's a Muslim cleric on the sidewalk," Smith answered. "A goody-goody type, playing with a yo-yo."

Jones smelled fresh M&Ms on his partner's breath. "Are you teasing us?"

Smith winked, and then confessed. "I had you going there, didn't I?"

Jones and DeeDee smiled. Their comrade's unorthodox humor had evoked memories of Afghanistan, of the Kabul Improv and Shecky al-Sharif.

"You're still coo-coo," DeeDee said, recalling the agent's uncanny imitation of Ling-Ling, the giant panda.

From outside they heard the putt-putt sounds of rush hour traffic. A dog barked in the distance. "Arf, arf," it exclaimed, its signature pitch identifying it as a chow-chow.

The city noise reminded the agents of happier times -- of tropical drinks at a table for three, watching Zsa Zsa Gabor and KiKi Dee singing "Louie, Louie," the night they opened for Duran Duran and the Go-Go's, at the Boom-Boom Room of the Bora Bora Hilton. It was good.

David Macaray, a Los Angeles playwright and author ("It's Never Been Easy: Essays on Modern Labor"), was a former union rep. He can be reached at dmacaray@earthlink.net