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The Royal Mailbag: Preseason Madness

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Venganza Bajo Cero premiere Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Previous Episodes:

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4

Episode 5

Episode 6

Episode 7

Episode 8

The terribly written saga continues:

Sacramento Kings Babysitting Services, my name is Greg. How may I direct your call?”

“Greg…Wissinger? My old friend?”

Greg’s face loses all hint of color as he nearly drops the phone and the baby that he’s holding. This can’t be real. He thinks to himself. “Liam? Could it really be you?”

“It’s me, Gregarooni. I’m sorry I disappeared for so long and you went to through so much because of my capture, but I’ve got good news, and I’ve got bad news. The good news is that I escaped my confinement and have been working to bring those criminals to justice. The bad news is that my super-secret agency has been compromised. There’s almost no one alive that I can trust. Except you.”

“I’m so relieved you’re okay, Liam. My heart was broken and has never healed for the months you’ve been gone, but I don’t understand. Why call me and blow your cover and reveal that you’re alive? I had moved on and mourned you, my friend.”

“I would’ve let you move on, but I need help, Greg. My last mission, code-named Operation George Karl, was a complete disaster. Multiple men under my command were either killed or captured, and I believe we were betrayed by a mole in our organization. I need someone reliable who can help me rescue our agents, and I trust you more than anyone else in the world.”

“Liam, I would love to help you, but I can’t just abandon my clients! I’m in the middle of running a babysitting business!” Greg cries in despair.

“A babysitting business? I thought you were a blog boy?”

An undertone of bitterness slips into Greg’s voice. “I was, but our best writer, the Zach Lowe of Sactown Royalty…”

“Oh, Tim Maxwell? I love that guy.” Liam interrupts.

“Yes, that guy was hired by ESPN to run their entire basketball operation, and he took all of the talent with him. It’s just Brad, Kevin, and I left. Once we lost the majority of our viewers, I launched a childcare service for Kings players as they go on the road. In fact, I’ve got Harry Giles’ son in my arms right now. I can’t just leave him. He’s a baby!”

“Don’t you have those sling baby carriers?” Liam asks.

“Well…I guess I could do that. Harry probably wouldn’t mind his newborn being hauled around on a dangerous mission that will probably end in our demise. How soon can you be here?”

“I’m parked outside.” Greg can hear the smirk in Liam’s voice as he ends the call.

As Neeson pulls away from the curb, he explains exactly how much trouble they’re getting into. “Two weeks ago, I was contacted by an informant that a weapons deal was going down in the U.K., and my kidnappers were the recipients of the illegal guns. I was assigned to the case with my typical partner, we go by the codenames of Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, and we met up with the snitch just before heading to the docks where the transaction was taking place.

“Do you think it was the spy who betrayed you?” Greg asks.

“I doubt it. Money is no motivation to this man. He’s the owner and CEO of Dove Soap, worth billions of dollars. From everything I’ve ever heard, he’s simply a patriot with some sordid connections with the underworld. Besides, he was wounded and kidnapped when things fell apart.” Liam replies. “When we arrived at the location with a small support group, we expected a few amateur smugglers that would be easy to take down. Instead, we found 40 heavily armed combatants, along with a tactical drone that nearly tore us apart. I watched multiple men shredded by gunfire and explosives. It was a disaster.”

“How did you manage to escape?”

“Well, bringing that drone was a mistake. Thankfully, I was able to leap atop the machine as it flew down to strafe us with machine gun fire. As it was flying away, I managed to tear open the control panel and rewire the machine to obey my commands and flew it to a nearby safe house. Just before I lost sight of the docks, I saw the informant, my partner, and a severely wounded ground operative named Joe being hauled into cars, still alive. To make it worse, that operative was carrying a list of several international agents’ names. If the enemy gets their hands on that data file, more of our men will die. In that moment, I swore I would do everything in my power to rescue those men and to secure that information.”

Greg reaches over and grips his friend’s shoulder. “We’re going to do whatever it takes, buddy. What’s the next step?”

“Through some non-agency contacts, I’ve determined that the agents are being held in an abandoned warehouse in Los Angeles. We’re going to drive there, bust the place open, and get them out, but first we have one thing to do.”

“Coffee?” Greg asks hopefully.

“Coffee.” Liam confirms.

A few minutes later, the two heroes pull off of the highway and into a Starbucks parking lot. “This’ll be the last time we stop for a while. Let’s get out and stretch our legs.” Liam says. They’re greeted by the world’s friendliest cashier as they enter. “Hi, my name’s Trev, and I’ll be taking care of you today. What can I get started?”

Before Greg can interject, Liam orders for them both: “Two venti pumpkin spiced lattes with extra pumpkin pumps, please”.

“Yes sir, that’ll be right up.” The barista replies.

Greg places the baby’s car seat carefully on the table as he and Liam find a few minutes of respite before a night of possible terror and bloodshed. Moments later, the same cashier walks over to deliver their drinks. He interrupts their relaxation. “I was headed to break and figured I could just walk your coffees over to you. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Before either man can respond, the front of the store shatters in a wave of glass, bullets whizzing through the establishment. Men armed with assault rifles storm their way through the door as the occupants panic and stampede out the same way.

“GET TO THE CAR! OUT THE BACK!” Liam screams above the din. His instincts taking over, Greg bolts from his chair, tripping over Trev in the process, and stumbles out the back exit and around the corner to their car. Liam pounds his way to the driver’s seat as the back windshield collapses in a spray of gunfire. Greg looks back at the chaos through, and his heart drops into his stomach. He left little Harry Junior behind. Tears roll down his face as he watches enemy combatants pick up the car seat and walk away. And they don’t stop there, for he sees Trevor being hauled away in handcuffs as well. Liam watches through the rearview mirror. “We’ll get ‘em back, Greg. Or we’ll die trying.”

Hours later, after switching highways, stopping at a mall, changing clothes and driving in such a way that they knew no one was tailing them, Liam and Greg arrive at their destination: a seedy building in the industrial heart of Los Angeles. They park the car a few hundred feet away and sneak to the front of the warehouse, using every available bit of cover on their way. Once they arrive at the front door, Liam produces a nifty lock-picking kit from his pocket and the door gives way in just seconds. They enter the enemy lair.

Greg shudders in horror as he glances about the sordid building. Every wall is adorned with the jersey of nearly every Lakers player ever employed by the team. Nickelback blares from surround speakers as televisions spaced every twenty feet display Kobe Bryant’s career highlights throughout the wide-open space. Multiple armed combatants, wearing Robert Horry apparel, patrol the room at the ready. Liam pulls Greg into an empty side room before they’re spotted.

“They’ll most likely keep the captured agents in the very back of the warehouse.” Liam advises. “We’re going to have to get past all of the guards without raising an alarm. If they suspect the building is compromised, they’ll execute the prisoners. Honestly, I’m not sure if it’s possible.”

“Leave that to me.” Greg replies in a tone more confident than his churning stomach feels. “I just need you to get me within earshot without being seen, and I can do the rest. Trust me.”

Liam raises an eyebrow to the boast, but doesn’t debate his old friend. “Let’s move.” He replies.

They slink from room to room, just avoiding the gaze of enemy guards before coming to their first challenge. A man stands in the doorway of the only way forward, facing the opposite direction, unmoving from his position. He’ll have to be silently incapacitated before the prisoners can be rescued.

Greg slithers toward the guard’s back, undetected. Like a Buddy Hield jump-shot, he rises ever so gently, positioning his tender lips just behind the ear of the enemy. He whispers Dwight Howard is back with the Lakers and will probably start at center.” The guard’s eyes open in a panic before he faints in confusion. Greg catches the body as he collapses, and he can’t help but glance back at Liam with a self-satisfied smirk.

“I think that just might work.” Liam says with a twinkle in his eye. “But let’s go bigger and louder. I’ll be right back.”

Moments later, every television in the building displays Bogdan Bogdanovic’s game winner over the Lakers, while every loud speaker roars with the sound of cowbells. Every guard in the building collapses in misery, leaving the building completely free. Liam reappears almost instantly. “We’ve gotta move fast. I already see some of them starting to wake up to switch to Clippers or Warriors fandom. MOVE!”

They race to the back of the warehouse where they find a row of cells. A nearby keypad releases the locks. The first man that stumbles out looks completely out of place in a dirty warehouse, with his Armani suit and Testoni dress shoes. Liam reaches out to shake his hand. “Mr. Dove, I’m so relieved you’re okay. I promise we’ll take better care of you from now on.“

Greg walks by the two men and peeks into the next cell. To his jubilation, Trev from Starbucks is alive and well, and he’s holding little Harry! “I won’t lose my babysitting license after all!” Greg shouts in relief.

A man dressed in filthy rags exits the third and final cage. An otherworldly scent follows him as he collapses in tears at the feet of Liam. “You came back for us! You really came back for us.” He cries.

“Greg, I would like you to meet my partner, codenamed Sherlock Holmes.”

Sherlock gestures toward the empty, stinking cell. “I’m sorry, Liam. Agent Joseph didn’t make it, but I was able to secure the data file before he passed away. They never saw the list.”

“We’ll sort that out later. I’m not leaving him behind.” Liam lofts the dead body over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry and leads the group out the back door of the warehouse. He pulls a burner phone out of his pocket and places a call to his agency. “This is operative Liam Neeson, identification number 95842, requesting immediate, heavily armed extraction for multiple individuals. I’m glad to report we’ve secured all sensitive information and freed agents: Holmes, Trevor the barista, Harry’s son, the Lye Don, Joe’s stuff, and a dead man.”

______________________________________________

Welcome back to the Royal Mailbag!

We’ve taken an extended break over the summer, but our goal is to publish a new mailbag every Monday morning and to have responses in by the end of the same week.

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