Steve unlocked the door to Room 428, and then just as quickly shut and locked it. Before he even began unpacking, he was reporting in to his handler back in Washington.
"Retriever to Dogpound. Retriever to Dogpound. Do you copy? Over."
"Dogpound to Retriever. Copy you, loud and clear. Over."
"Retriever to Dogpound. I'm in. Repeat; I am in! Though, I must confess, I would have preferred a poolside room at the local Knight's Inn. Over."
"Dogpound to Retriever. Negative. Repeat: negative! Your cover identity only comes with civil service salary. And that is not well-known for bringing home many 'Beggin' Strips,' if you catch my drift. Over!"
Steve laughed: "Roger that, Dogpound. As soon as I'm fully situated, I'll go visit the high school. Where is its Music Department? Over."
Dogpound gave him the directions. Adding, however, that the marching band was probably not indoors right at that moment.
"They'll most likely be outdoors, getting ready for the upcoming Canal Days festivities. Over."
"Acknowledged, Dogpound. This is Retriever. Over and out!"
As it happened, the band was preparing for more than just Canal Days (which annually commemorated the town's first years of prosperity courtesy of the Ohio and Erie Canal). They were in the parking lot, behind the high school, also getting ready for Twins Days--in Twinsburg, Ohio--and the Matsuricon anime convention in Columbus. The latter would see them debuting a dance called "Gundam Style" (a parody of "Gangnam Style" by Korean one-hit wonder, Psy). And, they wanted to get it as close to perfect as possible!
Right now, though, they were rehearsing their own version of "Tusk," which had first been made famous by the USC Marching Trojans and Fleetwood Mac. Steve, viewing this dress rehearsal through binoculars, could not help admiring the Silver Cyclones. Not only because of their choreography (which he could only describe as a brilliant cross between the precision high-kicks of the Radio City Rockettes and the Monkee Shuffle). But, also, because they looked just plain, smoking-hot gorgeous in their curvaceous, sleeveless, silver sequined leotards (with matching wrist bands and white pom-pom festooned boots)!
Then he shook his head.
"Mind on the job!" he muttered: "Mind on the job! You're old enough to be their...older brother."
He waited until the band leader had allowed everyone a ten-minute break, before getting out of his rental car (a Kia Soul), and walking over to the majorettes.
"Danielle C------?" he asked of the brunette with a dark-green head band: "I'm Steven Hughes; postal inspector. Dayton office."
She examined his carefully fabricated credentials as she toweled her neck with her right hand, before sipping from a bottle of spring water with her left.
"What can I do for you, Mr. Hughes?"
"I'm afraid there was a recent mix-up in the mail out of Dayton. And that you and your...teammates recently received a package that should have gone to Washington. I'm here to get it back."
"You mean that silly-looking paperweight?"
"Ah! Then, you did get it! Yes, that's exactly the one I mean."
"It's over in my VW mini-bus. Follow me!"
"Gladly," Steve replied (with a sly grin).
"By the way," she said (as she leaned her upper torso forward through the mini-bus' side door): "What about our stuff?"
"You mean, the fringed hoop batons? They're en route back here, even as we speak."
Even as he gave that well-rehearsed reply, Steve was busy ogling those great legs of hers. Which, quite naturally, distracted him from noticing the the other majorettes sneaking up behind him (with the mini-bus' foul weather tarpaulin) until it was too late.
It descended over him like a net! And, before he could start struggling to whip it off, all eight of the baton-twirling beauties had surrounded him. Causing his arms to be pinned to his side. And, thereby, preventing him from being able to hold his breath against the chloroform-soaked underside!
Within seconds, he was lying down on the floor of the mini-bus' rear compartment. With the Silver Cyclones immobilizing him with gray duct tape.