Excerpted from an upcoming eBook series about the life and perilous adventures of Fusio Taganinni, the godfather of 1980s American action television.
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The difference between good binoculars and bad binoculars wasn’t what it used to be. Even optics had fallen under the domain of cheap but good. Fusio Taganinni wanted to hate his cheap binoculars, but the lenses could reveal a blackened pore at a thousand yards and besides, these binoculars were custom.
But even if the binoculars had been nothing more than two toilet-paper tubes glued together, Fusio could have identified JJ Watkins by the man’s diamond-studded watch, which flashed beams of sunlight as if it were some kind of laser weapon.
Fusio used to tease JJ about that watch, saying it could be used in triplicate as a timepiece, a long-distance semaphore, and a wrist-mounted dinner plate. He’d even written the watch into one of the first episodes of Shine Runners, where the blonde Lukas brother used it to ground a snooping ATF helicopter. Of course that was back when speaking to JJ didn’t require elaborate schemes, binoculars, and astroturf jumpsuits. Back, that is, when they were best friends — before he ever had to consider how close he’d need to get for an accurate shot to the neck.
Through the overlapping double circles of his binocular vision, Fusio followed as the big wrist-clock and the man attached to it bounced across the green in a golf cart dolled up to resemble a Rolls Royce. When JJ and and his two bodyguards turned their attention to the eleventh hole, Fusio toggled a switch glued to the side of his binoculars and the electrically-driven creeper underneath him began rolling across the grass, making him look, were there any keen-eyed observers, like a green flounder drifting along the bottom of a well-groomed sea.
Placing the controls on the binoculars was, to Fusio’s mind, a stroke of genius, allowing him to keep his eyes on the target even as the creeper moved him across the golf course with a soft electrical whisper. Fusio though it sounded just like that stealth hovercraft the crew of Skycoyote battled in the second to last episode.
But he didn’t like to think about Skycoyote.
Instead he concentrated on JJ Watkins and his two bodyguards. The creeper had rolled him down behind a knoll and he could just make out JJ’s white cowboy hat and the bald head of one bodyguard, the big one. The other one was little. Not just in comparison to his gigantic counterpart, but little even compared to normal people. A midget, perhaps. Fusio didn’t worry about the midget. As soon as he crested the hill, he’d have a clear bead on all of them.
He checked the little green LED and confirmed that the binocular gun was armed. Four shots was all he had. He toggled the creeper and started up the slope, taking a moment to glance at the tree to his left. Not a leaf rustled. No wind. Good for his shot, but bad for cooling. Astroturf jumpsuits didn’t breathe like he thought they would, and the silk liner didn’t help. Rivulets of sweat rolled down his legs. He’d be able to take the ridiculous thing off soon enough.
He got the big bodyguard in his crosshairs. It’d be a clean shot right into the man’s fatty neck. Just a little bit closer. Just a… What the?
The creeper had stopped moving. The wheels spun, the electric whisper whispered, but it was stuck. There wasn’t enough traction to creep up the hill.
“Bastardo,” he said, almost too loud.
He toggled the creeper into reverse, and backed down the hill. Then, toggling full speed, Fusio made a run at it. The creeper bounced as it raced up the hill, it’s motors a little louder but still undetectable to all but Fusio. But right near the top, the creeper slowed, then stopped altogether, its small wheels spinning in the wet grass. Fusio backed up and made another run at it, this time approaching the slope at an angle. Again, the little creeper failed to reach the top.
“Bastardo!” Fusio swore again, this time too loudly.
“What was that?” one of the bodyguards said as he turned toward Fusio’s position.
Fusio had to make his move.
So he did.
Fusio leapt up from the creeper as if he’d been stung, and ran straight at the two bodyguards racing down the hill toward him. As he closed the gap, Fusio kept the binocular gun raised to his eyes. It was only accurate to twenty feet. And it could only be aimed through its twin lenses. It had only four shots.
Appreciate the scene for a moment. Savor it. Fusio Taganinni, a sixty-year-old man dressed from head to toe in a silk-lined suit made from astroturf. His face and hands have been painted green. He’s running like a madman up a hill toward two oddly-sized and hairless bodyguards (hairless in full, one of JJ’s many quirks). He’s running at speed with a pair of binoculars raised to his face. This is incredibly difficult to do. So difficult, in fact, that Fusio designed the electrical creeper specifically so he wouldn’t have to.
But now he does.
Those two bodyguards loom in the lenses, one like a charging mountain range, the other more like a hill or a butte. The view is so close that Fusio can choose which neck pore to aim at.
And he does.
The darts flew from the binocular gun with a recoil that surprised, and injured Fusio. But each found its particular pore, sticking solidly and delivering its payload of tranquilizer. And in spite of the burning pain he felt around his eye sockets, Fusio kept the binocular gun raised, and his feet running, until he got the world-renowned country and western star JJ Watkins in his sights.
Another dart flew.
Another dart found its neck pore.
And when Fusio finally lowered his binocular gun, he had three incapacitated targets, and one dart to spare. That, he thought, is how they do it in the Comando Alpine.
If it had ended there, Fusio’s plan would have been a success. But one of those cascading calamities ensued. As stated, the third dart hit its target, sinking into the flesh of JJ’s neck as he attempted to flee in his golf cart. This is where Fusio thought his self-congratulatory thoughts, reminiscing in the flash of a second on his days as an Italian military designer with the Comando Alpine. But the tranquilizer dose must have been just right, because as soon as JJ’s hand swatted at the dart embedded in his kneck, he passed out. With his foot on the accelerator. Fusio watched, horrified, as the faux Rolls accelerated across the green, it’s driver leaning dangerously askew.
Wasting no more time on nostalgic ruminations, Fusio ran after the runaway cart. But even with his long strides, the cart outpaced him three to one. After a short sprint, he stopped, and resigned himself to mere observation as the cart sped down the hill and then back up the other side. Fusio turned away in disgust. He walked back to the two bodyguards and pulled the darts from their necks. No need to leave evidence lying around.
If he’d been watching JJ’s unmanned escape, however, he would have seen that the golf cart began to slow as it reached the top of the hill, and that right before it went over the ridge, it turned to the left. In fact, the cart did a one-eighty, and rolled back down the hill.
Just as Fusio stood up, pocketing the blood-tipped darts, the golf cart rolled past and came to a stop not three feet from him, it’s incapacitated driver leaning out the side at a jaunty forty-five degree angle.
“I’ll be damned,” Fusio said. Little did he know.
He slid JJ’s limp body into the passenger seat and began wrestling the big bodyguard into the backseat. Another pod of golfers, if that’s what you call them, was moving up fast on the eleventh hole and he didn’t need them finding the drooling oaf and calling the cops. He grunted, pushed, pulled, and levered, eventually getting the doughy body into the rear seat and propped up into a respectable-looking position. That done, he tossed the midget bodyguard into the other side of the backseat and set the creeper across their laps. Fusio preferred his escapes clean.
He took one last look through the binoculars, scanning for unwanted observers. When the course looked clear, he threw the binoculars on top of the creeper and drove off toward the west end where he’d cut a hole in the fence, right in the path of the setting sun. He’d just driven through the hole and started up the ramp into a strategically-placed moving van, when his plan finally unraveled.
If it had been one of Fusio’s television shows, it would have looked like this: The camera tracks an in-focus Fusio as he drives to the getaway van. He’s staring at the camera head-on, and he’s got what could be described as a self-satisfied grin on his green-painted face. In the passenger seat next to him, JJ has begun to snore. The depth-of-field is shallow. Everything behind Fusio is out of focus and we see the two bodyguards in the back seat as blurry lumps. But then, one of the lumps stirs. Slowly the focus shifts, Fusio, still grinning as he steers the cart up the ramp, becomes blurred. The bodyguard on the left, now in tack-sharp focus, blinks a few times before realizing where he is. He looks several times between JJ and his diminutive counterpart. And then he sees the binocular gun. Now there are two self-satisfied grins in the golf cart. As the cart bounces along, he raises the binoculars, and fires that one last dart into the back of Fusio’s neck. The focus pulls back to Fusio, but before clarity can reach him, the scene fades to black.