I had to admit, Jimmy did seem to at least have really, really, really thought out his theory. He ranted about it for another fifteen minutes before changing gears and leading us through his plan to actually do something about it.
“The way I see it, which is the correct way, we’ll need a minimum five-pronged plan. And this time, I really need you to follow the prongs. ‘Follow the prongs, or else you’re stupid and wrong.’ Got that, JB? That should help you remember. We don’t want a repeat performance of the last time we were there.”
I grit my teeth and took a moment before speaking. I knew this would happen once we started listening to him. When he’s in charge he gets to be a bit…much. I decided the best thing to do was to try to take him down a peg or two, call him out on stuff. I challenged him to list the five prongs right then and there, I was pretty sure that he didn’t have them ready to go. I was wrong.
“Prong one: disguises and aliases. Prong two: supplies and surprise. Prong three: infiltration and sabotage. Prong four: rescue Velcro, and Nancy too if she is an unwilling test subject. Prong five: escape and go to the press to bust the mutant story wide open.”
“Okay, well you named the prongs but - ,” I started to press for details, sure that he wasn’t ready to execute the prongs, he’d probably just been thinking about them. Once again I was wrong.
“Behold!” Jimmy shouted as he flung the double doors to his closet wide open. “Prong one, disguises and aliases.” He spread his arms like a game show host, showing me and Lizzy what we had won. Crammed into each and every inch of his closet, were labeled containers and boxes and bags of every size.
He directed us to the left-hand side of the closet, pulling out a blue draw-string bag labeled Masks. Next he dug out a rumpled manilla envelope tied with string to a hat box, both of which were unlabeled.
Jimmy first stuck his hand into the blue bag, rummaging for just a moment before pulling out a green and yellow Rey Mysterio mask. He smiled and handed it to Lizzy. Before she could react, he also tossed her an oversized black hoodie that had two arrows on it, one pointing up to her face, and one pointing down to something called ‘the legend’. Jimmy nodded his head and made a small grunt of approval. “Perfect,” he said.
“Ummmmm,” was all that Lizzy could utter for a moment. Finally she was able to finish her question, “how is this perfect?”
Jimmy smirked and cracked his fingers, rolling his head from side to side before beginning his explanation. I could tell that this night was going to be unbearable.
“The lucha mask implies that you’re Mexican, and the hoodie implies that you’re a man. A blessed one; like me, might I add.” Jimmy paused for a reaction, but we both refused to acknowledge what he said. “I’m talking about my rod, you guys. But anyways,” he continued, “you’re obviously neither one of those. Therefore, it’s the perfect disguise. The classic Double Blind Disguise maneuver.”
Lizzy seemed a bit unsure, but she ended up shrugging and saying thank you, and admitting that it did actually make sense. Next up: my turn.
I held my hands out, ready to receive my disguise. Hopefully it was a cool luchadore mask too, like Tsuki’s or El Generico’s. Instead, Jimmy removed a small something from the envelope, took a permanent marker and wrote on it, then plopped it quietly in my hand. It was a name tag, one that read, “Hi! My name is BJ” Jimmy looked at me expectantly.
“Well?” he asked. I kept looking from the name tag to him, waiting for it to make sense. Waiting for an explanation that wasn’t stupid. “Well what?” I snapped back at him. “What is this?”
Jimmy shook his head and clucked his tongue. “JB, JB, JB, it’s like you don’t even read my newsletter at all.”
The newsletter he was referring to was a mass email he sends out once a week from a Juno account, detailing the newest innovations in crime technology and how he would personally be able to counter any of them. After the issue titled BOB: Backflipping Over Bullets, I just started redirecting it to the spam folder.
“Think about it. Your name is JB. This name tag says BJ.”
I waited. No further explanation. “And?” I huffed out.
“So it’s your name backwards,” he said slowly, like he was talking to a child. “It’s the oldest trick in the book, a true classic. See, they know that your name isn’t BJ, because you wouldn’t be stupid enough to wear a name tag to a break-in with your name on it. They then also assume, wrongly, that you wouldn’t be dumb enough to just put your real name on there backwards either. Therefore, they completely discount that your name could be either BJ or JB. And now, if they start looking for us, the only thing they’ll know without a doubt, is that the person they’re looking for isn’t named JB. It’s the ol’ Reverse Psychology Name Tag Switch-A-Roo.” He paused, waiting for my response. “You’re welcome,” he added snootily. “You’re pretty much one hundred percent covered now.”
I had no idea where to begin, I had about three hundred problems with the disguise right off the bat. I decided to start with the most obvious one and go from there. “So they won’t know my name, but what if they see my face, Jimmy? What then? I need a disguise. A real one.”
Jimmy shook his head sadly. “JB, for real, I don’t think you ever listen to me. I literally said this a minute ago. Prong one is disguises and aliases. That’s your alias.” He handed me the hat box. “That’s your disguise,” he said.
The hat box, unfortunately, didn’t actually contain a hat. No mask, no hat. What I had was a knotted-up, dirty blonde wig. I looked up at Jimmy, trying silently to convey just how unhappy I was. I didn’t want to verbalize some of the things I was thinking.
“That’s just in case someone chases us. Not only will it look cool flowing in the wind, but nobody is going to want to grab you. Best case, they’ll think you’re a girl because of the wig and your big butt, so they won’t put their hands on you. Worst case, they see right through your well thought-out disguise, but then they still won’t grab you.”
I waited for him to explain, but again he paused, baiting me. Making me ask him to explain his nonsense like the answers were obvious. I really, really hated when he did that. “And they wouldn’t grab me, why?” I asked him. Jimmy shrugged, then asked me, “Would you want to grab some weird kid who was wearing a wig and a name tag that said BJ on it?”
I closed my eyes for a second, doing my karate breathing exercises to stay calm. I couldn’t stand some of the crazy things he said. And even more so, I couldn’t stand it when they made made a sort of sick but perfect sense.
“Look Jimmy, I appreciate the thought you put into this, but I’d really prefer a mask. Can’t I just have another one from that bag?”
“Nope, sorry. There’s only one more in there and it’s part of my disguise.”
“Why do you have a bag labeled ‘Masks’ if you only have two of them?”
“Two is plural, JB. Otherwise I would have labeled it Mask.”
I let it go, realizing how many prongs we were still going to have to get through. “And what’s your disguise then?” I asked him. Jimmy got a real excited smile on his face. “It's the only thing these criminal thugs fear,” he said.
He reached into the bag and pulled out a large hat that had a connected white beard and plastic eyebrows. Big red, white and blue stripes circled the hat and a starry banner covered the brim. “USA1 is on the case. And these colors don’t run, pal!”
Jimmy put the hat and mask on and started doing judo chops and spinning kicks. Then he pulled out a padded muscle shirt from an old Red Power Ranger costume from a few Halloweens ago and put it on. “Satisfied?”
I wasn’t. I was annoyed that he got muscles and I got a wig and an inappropriate name. I sighed and cast my eyes over the other containers in his closet. I found what I was looking for and pointed. “What about the box labeled Masks 2.0?” I asked him. “Can’t I just have one from in there?”
Jimmy snorted and shook his head. “Of course not, don’t be stupid JB. There are no masks in there, that’s a misdirect.”
I didn’t believe him so I reached out and dug the box out. I opened it and saw that it was indeed empty. “Told you,” he said in a know-it-all voice. “Mask also means ‘to conceal something’. Check the bottom.” I did as he asked, finding a false bottom in the box, which hid a disheveled stack of yellow legal paper. I leafed through them briefly, seeing that they were all diagrams of secret plans and fighting maneuvers he was compiling into a book he called Optimus Crime: How to become an unstoppable robot for justice!
“So how many of these things aren’t labeled right?" I asked him. He told me that everything was labeled right and I just didn’t know the system. “Whatever,” was all I could say to that. I was ready to fight about the next step. “So what’s prong two? What kind of supplies are we getting?”
Jimmy ran around like Bugs Bunny playing baseball, zipping and darting all over the closet and also under his bed, compiling a decent-sized stack of stuff for us. Everything that he pulled out came with notes and instructions. Included within these instructions were a series of applicable one-liners. For instance, the tripwire came with a note that read “Have a nice trip” and “what’s wrong? You look strung out.” As I read the note on a box labeled Angriest and/or Horniest Bees, “this is what happens when you mis-bee-hive”, I hoped that this was another misdirect. I wasn’t willing to open the box to find out, however.
By the time the assembled supply stack was about up to my waist, I told Jimmy that I thought we had enough stuff and that I was ready for prong three. He surveyed the pile, stroked his chin, then nodded his head in agreement.
“Prong three is where it gets really good, you’ll see. I have a feeling this will be our smoothest rescue operation yet.” I didn’t choose to point out that the only other one that I could recall was when we snuck into Jimmy’s neighbors house to save a tiger they kept locked up in the basement. It turned out to be a rug, but I suppose we did get it out of there.
“I hope so. My dad is going to be super mad if we get brought home by the police, the neighbors are real nosey.”
“Don’t worry about it, JB. I got every possibility covered in the five prongs. If anything super out of the ordinary happens, we can always implement prong six and - ”
“No,” I interrupted him immediately. “No prong six.”
“I didn’t even tell you what it was,” he started to protest, but I cut him off again, this time with a gesture. “No,” I stated again. “No prong six. Prong six is the same one every time. And again, like every other time, I’m saying no. We don’t need prong six.”
“I hope to god we don’t,” Jimmy said. “Then again, it’s always better to be prepared then to - ”
“I know, JB, I’m just saying that, if a situation were to arise that - ”
“NO. No prong six.”
“Fine,” he said and frowned. “I mean, we always needed a third person to fully pull it off, and now we have one, but - ”
I set out to interrupt again, but this time Lizzy beat me to it. “What’s prong six?,” she asked. My heart sank as Jimmy’s face became deadly serious. He looked around, as if checking to see if anyone else was listening. As if he didn’t already have thirty or so ridiculous countermeasures in place for that. “Prong six,” he said quietly, practically whispering his words, “is The Finisher. It’s a certified and guaranteed winning move but, if you miss, the consequences could be dire.” He paused. “Dire!” Jimmy shouted the last word again, with more emphasis, making sure the room knew his warning was legit.
Before Lizzy could ask for more details, I firmly reiterated once more that we weren’t doing The Finisher, and that was that. Jimmy reluctantly agreed but definitely grumbled some stuff under his breath afterwards.
It took a whole lot of doing, but eventually we had the pile of supplies down to the necessities and Jimmy brought out a giant rolled up piece of paper that was as tall as an architects’ blueprints. He didn’t open it, however.
“Time is of the essence,” he told us, “and I don’t want to shilly-shally about the details. Just know that I have it all worked out and I’ll explain things as they become necessary. Let’s grab our bags and go.”
Although a deep part of my brain was telling me to disagree, to stop, to turn this thing around before we headed out, I didn’t protest. Maybe he didn’t have the rest of the plan together and he was going to wing it. Maybe he did have it all meticulously planned out and he simply didn’t want my input. Maybe a lot of things. One way or the other, I made up my mind that tonight the case ended. Tonight it would all shake out how it would. Then tomorrow, finally, would be the real start to my summer.