the tenor of san como

carl woodsbury was a level three agent and had been undercover on the covert op "speakerbox" as sly whistler, international motivational speaker. his mission was to get close to julia thurmond of the international speakers union. this was carl’s fifth mission with the agency and the years of anonymity were wearing him thin. “this was the life you wanted carl” he kept telling himself, “the life of an international spy.” carl’s one true gift was the ability to completely submerge himself into his cover story. unfortunately, he found it wasn’t so easy to come back out. in panama, he had been a tenor named ernesto valancia in a choir at the holy father of our lord church in the small province of san como. he had fallen in love with a spanish tap dancer named roselita. roselita’s father was holding documents that were going to bring down the ukranian government and expose the united state’s financial relationship to the chechen’s black market chia pet scandal. he left without ever saying goodbye, but not without the documents. he left in the middle of the night to guam to pose as a nail technician with the bogus group “manicurists without borders.” he set up a nail salon in the trendy tamuning district and had given thousands of manicures to the homeless. everyone knew the ambassador to guam was a kgb double agent who happened to have a nervous tendency to bite his nails. it was only a matter of time before he came into the shop, he never tasted the arsenic on the clear coat enamel. carl was on an island hopper to malaysia before the ambassador’s body hit the ground at his luxurious hilltop villa. he had all but forgotten what it was like to have a normal life, or even to be known by his real name. carl smiled as he thought of roselita and her annoying habit of popping her toes while they drove around the island in his convertible. langely was ending "speakerbox" and wanted carl back at hq for debriefing. But in his mind, carl was long gone. to make things worse, carl hadn’t checked in with langley at the designated rendezvous point. carl had dropped off the radar six months ago in toledo after a seminar at a textile convention. he had covered his tracks the best he could but it was only a matter of time before the agency sent out a recovery team. “i hope to hell you know what you’re doing carl” he told himself. but he didn’t, or maybe he didn’t want to know the truth. “gin and tonic please” carl said as he sat down at the bar in the posh marriott vip lounge in west palm beach. “this ones on the house sir” the bartender responded with an ear to ear smile. “and to what do i owe this pleasure sir?” carl said accepting the drink. “its an honor to meet you mr. whistler, i attended one of your seminars in reno and it really changed my life!” the man said beaming with excitement. “i’ve just purchased my first home with no money down and diverted the closing costs to the lender, and tomorrow i’m closing on my second property using the buy down equity principle you taught me!” carl smiled as he took a long slow drink of the cold gin and tonic. “i’m sorry sir, you must have me confused with someone else.” carl took out a twenty and laid it on the bar. "and by the way..." he said picking up his one way ticket to san como, "the name is ernesto."

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