Undercover Life

a-maskAt the last minute, I decided to attend the Sisters in Crime* meeting, and as soon as I arrived I grew testy. Not only did I have to cram into a table with eight other people, but I kept knocking elbows with the woman next to me, who whiffed an awful lot like she’d been drinking white wine for hours already.

I was just crabby is all. I didn’t mean to be. Really, I didn’t. Yet, I couldn’t help feeling gypped because the restaurant only served enough potstickers for one each, and then disgruntled because the garlic eggplant had been cooked to the consistency of worms.

I’m glad to say that all was not lost. I perked up as soon as the undercover cops began their talk. I’d never thought about undercover cops as role players–the ultimate role players. These guys have gotta know their stuff. They study everything about, say, the drug biz. If a cop plays the role of a drug buyer, he knows the four kinds of cocaine, and that the brownish-looking powder was processed with diesel rather than ether, making it the lowest grade cocaine and only worthy of freebasing. They have to assume benign, trustworthy, and honest businessmen facades when meeting up with drug suppliers. These guys know how to don their masks.

Besides knowing the drug business, the best undercovers are quick-witted and have the gift of the gab. Talk about the world’s worst career for me. At the first sign of the unexpected, my tongue would stick to the roof of my mouth. I’d start stuttering, and my darned Irish skin would turn red and blotchy.

Yet, it occurred to me while I was driving home that I do pretty well as an undercover Lisa. For example, no one at the meeting knew I was testy. I gabbed with the wine drinker and smiled every time she touched my arm or thigh with over-familiar bonhomie. I introduced myself to the writers on my other side and answered their questions about what I write. When I fell silent (as I often did), I maintained a benignly pleasant expression.

I’m telling you, if I were the undercover cop and my table mates the drug suppliers, they’d have been vying to sell me their crappy cocaine. I swear. That’s how good I was.

*P.S. For those who don’t know, Sisters in Crime is an association of female crime writers. The monthly meetings feature cool speakers.

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