The investigators

Special Agent Mortimer Friendly of the FBI had just finished a cold dinner of tuna fish out of the can, withered salad left over from yesterday, and a roll, also from yesterday, a meal that was made somewhat palatable by a cold beer. His wife had gone with the kids for a three-day stay with her sister in the country. He slouched on the couch with a sigh and was about to click the remote when the doorbell rang.

“Holy mackerel,” he mumbled as he rose and headed toward the door, “who the hell can that be?”

He opened the door to find two middle-aged women, one Black and one white, standing there, smiling. Jehovah’s Witnesses, he thought.

“Are you Mortimer Friendly?” asked the white woman.

“Yes, I am,” he said.

The Black woman continued. “We’d like to ask you a few questions, if you don’t mind. We’re from the local branch of Peace at No Cost. And we understand that you have been assigned to investigate us, person-by-person. Is that so?” The two women were still smiling.

Mort Friendly stood there for a moment, unable to comprehend what was going on.

“Excuse me?” he asked, stalling to gather his thoughts.

“We heard that a member of our community — namely you — has been knocking on the doors of some of our members with a colleague of yours,” said the white woman, “inquiring as to our background, ostensibly as part of an investigation relating to an impending visit by the president to our peaceful community. Are we correct?”

“Well,” said Friendly, clearing his throat, “I ... wait a minute, how did you find me?”

The two women looked at each other with expressions of pride.

“Mr. Friendly,” the white woman responded, “your organization is not the only one that can do a little digging. We’ve known your identity for some time and, to tell you the truth, we’ve kept our eyes open.” The women both chuckled. Friendly’s face reddened.

“I’ve got nothing to say to you two busybodies,” he said. “Now get out of here and leave me alone!”

The Black woman, with a look of surprise, turned to her companion. “Why that’s just what Mrs. Eldridge said she told him and his colleague, word for word.” They both chuckled again. “What a coincidence.”

The white woman touched Friendly’s arm. “There, there,” she said, “no need to get so upset.” She reached into her bag and pulled out a packet of literature. “We just wanted to save you the trouble of those bothersome visits by giving you this information about our organization. We wouldn’t want any of our members to get the notion that those visits are nothing more than intimidation by the FBI. So please read all about us,” she said as she put the literature into his hand. “And, if you like, we’ll be more than happy to come back and answer any questions you might have about us — not personally, you understand, but as an organization dedicated to achieving peace and well-being for everyone on this wonderful planet of ours.”

The Black woman asked, “Would you like us to come back, tomorrow, say?”

“No, dammit!”

“Well, Mr. Friendly,” she said, “we do apologize for this interruption of your dinner or whatever it was you were doing. Now please go back inside and have a nice relaxed evening. Bye bye.”

The two women, still smiling, flapped their hands in a goodbye sign, turned and walked away. Mort Friendly slammed the door and stormed back to the couch, throwing the packet of literature into a waste basket. He had already read it all in preparation for his visits.

“Damn women,” he mumbled as though talking to them, “you can’t intimidate me.”

His eyes widened. “You can’t...” Then he remembered. “That’s what that Mrs. Eldridge said to me as she slammed the door in my face.”

Needless to say, the rest of Mortimer Friendly’s evening was far from relaxed.



Seymour Joseph is an activist in Brooklyn, N.Y. He can be reached at pww@pww.org.