by Stephen Lomer
The car, a black SUV as it turned out, emerged from little more than a walking path nestled among the trees, then crested the hill, coming to rest with its front tires sitting on the stream’s highest bank, a spot that would not see water until the spring runoff. A woman stepped out from the driver’s side, slammed the door shut, and looked around. He could tell immediately by the way she was dressed who she was, and he had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. But as he was quite sure he wasn’t interested, he turned his attention back to his fishing as she approached.
She stood there for a minute or so, arms folded, watching him, but neither of them said a word. At last, her voice carried clearly in the near silence as she called to him.
“Are you Richard Shonnary?” It was less a question and more of a statement of skepticism, as though she could not believe that he was who she thought he was.
He looked over his shoulder at her. “I prefer Dick.”
“Some guys do,” she said, without missing a beat. “That doesn’t matter to me.”
“Good one.” He grunted. “Never heard that before.”
He cast his line back out and reeled in a bit, hoping the conversation was done, but knowing it was likely far from over.
“You’re not an easy man to find,” she said after a time.
“That’s by design,” Dick replied. “I prefer the solitude.”
“Doesn’t it get lonely up here, all by yourself?”
He looked back at her. She had plopped herself down on the bank and was sitting cross-legged, absently playing with some pebbles scattered on the silt. Her bright red hair, pulled back into a tight ponytail, had turned to flame in the sun.
“See now, I thought that uniform meant that you were with Typo Squad,” Dick said. “I didn’t realize you were a therapist.”
The woman smiled. “I am with Typo Squad.”
“Well, good for you,” Dick said. “Now if you don’t mind?”
“Don’t you want to know who I am? Why I’m here?” she asked.
“No, and no,” Dick answered.
They lapsed back into silence. Dick could feel the young woman staring at him, waiting. The minutes ticked by, and still she said nothing. On the opposite bank, a fawn poked her head out from the tree line and cautiously dipped her head down for a drink.
“Oh, all right then,” Dick said at last. “Make your pitch and get outta here.”
“My name’s Thea,” she said brightly. “Thea Saurus.”
Dick said nothing.
“And a pleasure to meet you too,” she said. “Anyway, I’m here to bring you back.”
Dick looked over at her. “Bring me back? Back where?”
“To Typo Squad.”
Joining forces with Her Majesty’s Royal Typo Brigade, Typo Squad takes up residence in Buckingham Palace to try and draw out this dangerous madman.
With the lives of the royal family in their hands, will Typo Squad be up to the challenge of finding and capturing the Wordmonger? Or will history repeat itself?
Half an hour later, the announcement for their flight came over the
loudspeaker and Dick and Ewan headed for their gate. Dick let Ewan go down
the Jetway first, and when they boarded, watched the delightful confusion on
Ewan’s face as he realized where their seats were.
“My goodness,” said Ewan, turning to Dick. “First class?”
“Last year Commander Peck told me I’d have whatever resources I needed
at my disposal,” said Dick, grinning. “It’s a long flight. I felt I needed this.
Since you’re with me, you get it too.”
They stowed their carry-ons and settled into their luxurious seats. Dick
looked over at Ewan and nodded at the empty seat between them.
“We’re in luck,” he said, a look of contentment on his face. “There’s no one
in the middle.”
“There was no one in the middle,” said Big, suddenly appearing and easing
his bulk into the center seat. “Oooh, that’s soft.”
Dick was thunderstruck. “What the hell are you doing here?”
“Oh, you didn’t think I was gonna let you two have this adventure on your
own, did you?” Big smiled. “Dick. I thought you knew me better than that.”
Dick tried to process what was happening.
“But how did you get a ticket?” he pressed.
“Oh, well,” Big said, “I bumped into Commander Peck at the gym.”
“You were at the gym?” Ewan asked.
“Oh, we’re gonna start right away, are we? All right then, you’re so old—”
“Big,” Dick cut across him. “Finish your story.”
Big pointed at Ewan. “Put a pin in that conversation, Methuselah; we’re not
done,” he said, and then turned back to Dick. “So I bumped into Peck at the
gym and I told him that since you guys were gonna be away, it would be the
perfect opportunity for him and me to spend some quality time together.
Wasn’t even half an hour later that I had a ticket in my hand.”
Dick laughed out loud, and even Ewan chuckled softly.
“Fine,” Dick said. “Just don’t start an international incident.”
“Me?” Big said with false innocence. “I am a model of decorum. I will hold
myself to the highest standards during our British expedition.”
Dick nodded. “Good.”
At that moment, a flight attendant passed by.
“Pardon me, miss?” Big said, raising a beckoning hand.
“Yes sir?” the woman asked brightly.
“Just curious,” Big said. “Is first class pants-optional?”
Dick saw Big looking around and spotting a small coffee shop nearby.
“C’mon, kid,” he said to Hissie, and they both rose. “I’ll teach you how
to get free food by pretending there’s a bug in it.”
They marched off, and with a long inhale, Dick powered up his phone.
At Buckingham Palace, where his people and the brigade members had
stayed, they weren’t allowed to have their phones. After several weeks of
being out of contact, there were more messages and emails than he’d been
able to brace himself for. The time had come for him to sort through them
The emails were, for the most part, day-to-day drudgery, and already out
of date and irrelevant. He selected a wide swath of them and deleted them in
one shot, leaving a manageable number.
He switched to messages. Some were from colleagues wishing him and
the rest of the team good luck, or people just saying hello, but the majority
were from Thea.
There was a picture of her with Autumn and Anna, all three toasting with
wine glasses at Dick’s mountain cabin. There were snaps of her acting like
she was kissing the phone’s camera. And there were a few that Dick would
have to remember to delete at some point, but only made him miss her more
in that moment.
The last photo was a selfie of Thea standing in front of the magnificent
Church of the Pronunciation in downtown Las Palabras. This was
captioned, “No pressure, but this would be a lovely venue for a special
occasion! As you can see, subtlety is my strong suit!”
Dick laughed out loud. He had missed Thea more than he’d ever
dreamed he would, and had actually been entertaining the notion of asking
her to be part of a special occasion. The idea frightened and thrilled him in
Just as he was calculating what time it was in Las Palabras, and whether
or not he’d be waking her from a sound sleep, his phone rang and the image
of his girlfriend with a great big smile and a silly, exaggerated wink filled the
screen under the name THEA SAURUS. Dick smiled.
He pressed the answer icon and raised the phone to his face. “Hey, you. I
was just about to call.”
“Shame, shame, shame, Dick,” came the silky voice of Anton Nym. “You
should know better than to leave your toys lying around when you’re not
playing with them.”