Since they had called the operation off earlier, James Ford brought Clementine home before Cassidy would arrive from work. So she was spared the task of continuing, or coming up with, another cover story for her mom.

“So, what are your plans this afternoon?” Ford asked her, “catching up on all your missed homework, I hope!”

“Yeah,” Clementine replied, “something like that!”

Clementine figured, after her dad had left, she’d use some of the money Bam had “dipped” from Darth and take a cab ride. She had something she needed to check up on.

“Well, I’ll see ya in the mornin’” Ford said, as he dropped her off.

“Bye,” Clementine replied, as she headed in.

Ford waved, then slowly pulled away. He didn’t know why but he still had, in the back of his mind, that lingering cause for concern regarding Clementine.

On the ride in, the next morning, Ford asked his daughter what excuse did she come up with for her mother that morning.

“Oh, I told her I was called back for the cheerleader tryouts!” Clementine replied, “so she expects me to be late tonight!”

‘Clever girl’ Ford thought. But once again, that nagging cause for concern was still there.

They soon arrived and headed right up to Suite 42. Pebbles and Bam were waiting.

“Our next gig,” Pebbles began, “will be at a convention a lot different from the comic book one yesterday! This will be a sort of New Age, Non-Profit, Tree Hugging, Save the Planet, kind of gathering. Lots of aging hippies, young philanthropists, alternative energy enthusiasts, and environmental gypsies. But in addition to their love of nature, they have a love of money, in which they should carry with them in large amounts!”

“Any costumes today?” Clementine asked.

Pebbles smiled, “Yes, but not like yesterday. I’ll take you in the next room and show you what we want you to wear. Meanwhile Bam, you and James can change in the next bedroom! Meet back here in eight minutes!”

In eight minutes, they were back.

Ford wore a tan turtleneck and suede dress coat, with patches on the elbows, along with khaki pants and hush puppies shoes. He looked like some kind of college professor, which was the image they were aiming for. Today, however, Ford felt like the geek!

Bam, again, wore his torn and faded jeans, but this time his t-shirt had a print of a humpback whale on front with the logo ‘Whales Never Hunted You!’ Over the t-shirt, he still wore his navy blue blazer.

Pebbles was wearing a professional dark pin striped woman’s pantsuit. Her hair was pulled back into a severe bun. She wore dark rimmed glasses, which gave her an intellectual business woman’s look.

Clementine was decked out in bell bottom jeans, sandals, a flowery blouse, and wore a peace symbol headband. She also had the two flowers from yesterday, still pinned behind her ears. She was the perfect pretty hippie.

“Again” Pebbles commented, “you all look great and you all know the routine. We’ll head over and check out the convention floor. Get started as fast as we can! I’m still a little spooked about seeing that vice cop yesterday, but we can’t let that distract us. We’ll keep an eye out. But the game plan is still the same! Okay? Any questions?”

Bam nodded no.

“Not a one!” Ford said.

“I’m cool!” Clementine replied.

So they headed out.

This convention was being held in another hotel just a couple of miles away from their own. A large sign greeted them, as they entered the hotel’s convention center. It read: EARTH EXPO: WELCOME ATTENDEES.

Clementine noticed everyone had their own kind of costume here too, except, she figured, they probably wore it all the time and not just at conventions. Everyone seemed to wear earth tone clothes and shoes. They all carried earth friendly, re-cycled carry bags, to hold all the brochures they collected from the various booths set up all around the center.

So Ford, Pebbles, Bam, and Clementine, moved on. Again, with Bam in front scoping out all the attendees. Looking for Mr. Mark! Pebbles and Ford kept back with Clementine halfway in the middle.

Clementine looked at all the various companies and groups that had booths set up along the way. None of the groups she had ever heard of before.

Mathematical Forecasting Iniative, Mental Health Appeal, Electro-Magnetic Research Institute, Institute for Genomic Advancement, Life Extension Project, and the Worldwide Wellness and Prevention Development Program, were just some of the organizations that Clementine noticed had booths set up to either recruit members, get donations, or both.

Suddenly, Bam spotted his first mark.

There was a well dressed man, standing in front of a booth, talking intently to a couple. Bam took out his handkerchief, wiped his eyes, then put it back inside his upper inside left coat pocket. Ford nodded. So they made their move.

Clementine approached first. She noticed a sign, featured predominately over the booth that this man was apparently affiliated with, that read: THE HANSO FOUNDATION.

As she approached, the man was saying goodbye to the couple he had been speaking with. “It was a pleasure to meet you both,” he said, “here’s my card, if I can ever help you. My name is Jacob Vanderfield. I’m one of the directors of the Hanso Foundation!” The couple took the card and left.

Just as Vanderfield turned, he ‘bumped’ right into Clementine, who was now standing right behind him, looking over a Hanso brochure.

“Oh, excuse me, miss,” Vanderfield said, “I didn’t see you standing there!”

Clementine smiled, then taking the brochure, she pointed to a word and asked, “What’s this word mean?”

Vanderfield looked at the brochure and, with a look of puzzlement, replied, “Genomic? Well, it means dealing with genetics!”

Clementine still looked confused.

“You know,” Vanderfield tried to explain to this pretty, yet seemingly clueless, hippie girl, “the essence of people. Like what they inherit from their parents!”

“You mean like in a will?” Clementine asked.

“Uh, no!” Vandefrield replied, realizing he didn’t have time to continue chatting with this apparent space case, “uh, if you’ll excuse me, miss, I have to leave for a meeting!”

“Okey-dokey!” Clementine replied, as she wandered away.

Ford had already brushed against Vanderfield, while he was being distracted looking at Clementine’s brochure, and had already dropped the wallet into Pebbles’s newspaper. Pebbles had already disposed of the wallet, minus the $500 it carried inside. Not bad for a few minutes work!

Next: Chap. 23 “Ain’t Funny at All”

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