TRUE, TRUE COLORS
“Just what color is this thing, anyway?” groused Alexander Scott.
“They’re supposed to be people-colored,” replied Kelly Robinson.
“Not for colored people,” grumbled Scotty.
Kelly paused with the generic Mammoth-Mart brand bandage dangling from his hand, and looked at the two others already covering cuts on his forearm. They were a bit pale against his tanned skin, but not terribly noticeable.
Scotty eyed him sourly, the beige-cream rectangles standing out on his forehead like glowing signposts.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to say ‘colored people’ anymore.”
“Well, if it’s good enough for the National Association For The Advancement Of, it’s good enough for me.”
Kelly looked back at the blood seeping from his forearm, and his own only-slightly pale oblongs, and wrinkled his brow in disgust. “Barbed wire, man. What’s the point of that? I ask you, who puts barbed wire around a secure, secret compound?”
“Pretty much everybody with a secure, secret compound. You going to put your flesh tone adhesive bandage on that, or aren’t you?”
“Man, it isn’t ‘Flesh Tone.’” Kelly eyed it dubiously. “It’s, like, I dunno, Bisque. It’s undercooked muffin tone.”
“As opposed to your blood, which is bright red, which, you see, isn’t that good a look on your brand new white jeans. How much do you pay for those, anyway?”
Kelly scoffed, “I’ll put ‘em on the expense report.”
“Well, sure you will,” said Scotty, skeptically, “because Shelly Clavell is always an easy touch for that sort of thing, right?”
Kelly looked again at his arm, again at Scotty’s face and his arms, and threw the pale, limp bandage to the floor. It flipped and wrapped around itself on the way down, like a minnow thrown from a bucket, and landed in a sticky ball, stuck to the side of the bedspread. “Hell with this, man,” he said, and stood up while Scotty’s eyes widened. “I’ll be right back.”
In the back of the Southwestern Bell repair truck, Russell Gabriel Conway shook his head slowly, taking in the naughty-little-boy grins of his two best agents.
“You understand, don’t you, that spies are supposed to be sort of, I dunno, unobtrusive? Nondescript, there’s another good word. That’s what spies are supposed to be, isn’t it?”
“Well, Gabe,” murmured Kelly, “there turn out to be some problems with that.”
“Go into any damn drug store! Go into any damn drug store!” He always promised himself he was going to keep his temper with these two, two men who had brought him success after success, two men he loved as much as the son who was currently attending West Point. Some promises were not meant to be kept. “Shelf after shelf of perfectly ordinary Band-Aids!”
“They’re the wrong color, Gabe.”
Kelly was the only one who called him ‘Gabe.’ But Russell Gabriel knew how the name ‘Russ’ hurt him, so he let that pass.
“They’re flesh-tone! It says it right on the box!”
Kelly looked steadily back at him. “Your flesh, maybe, Mr. Desk Man. Almost mine.” He paused. “Not his.”
Scotty just smiled mildly at him, enjoying Kelly too much to bring anything like reason to the conversation.
“For God’s sake...” Conway began, and then trailed off. With those pale-beige drug-store rectangles all over Alexander Scott’s face, he would have been every bit as spectacular as both men were now, and far less amusing. “Fine,” he finally said. “Fine. We’ll bring in another team for this part. Just... Just, go somewhere. Get the hell out of here.”
“Shall we, Hoby?” said Scotty, his smile widening.
“I think we shall, Fred C.” replied Kelly, and they stood, ducking the low roof of the phone-company truck.
Russ Conway looked back and forth from man to man, face to face, each criss-crossed with multicolored, goddamned-hippy-approved psychedelic, mock-tie-dyed plastic Band-Aids.
“And next time,” he bellowed after them as they ducked out the back doors, “stay away from the goddamned barbed wire!”