An Actor’s Life for Me
Flash Fiction Story of NCIS Special Agent John Rathbone
My name is John Rathbone, great grandson of Phillip St. John Basil Rathbone, the actor, known for playing debonair villains or characters with dubious morals. I never met him, but my father says I resembled his grandfather. As a direct descendent of the great Basil Rathbone, I longed to be on stage. It was in my blood. I had joined the drama club as a student and loved the excitement and glamor of being on stage. Accolades after my performances always gave me a thrill, but my parents discouraged me from acting as a career.
The most famous of the characters my namesake played was Sherlock Holmes. The Sherlock Holmes movies of the 30’s and 40’s, starring my idol, inspired me to become an NCIS Special Agent. I believed I had similar powers of deductive reasoning.
I had a lucrative career for forty years, protecting American citizens from the evils around the world. My last assignment was in Manhattan. Another agent, Phil, and I served as 24/7 security advisors and bodyguards for one of the Saudi princes, Walid, a short young man with green eyes behind sunglasses. He always wore a baseball cap over his dark curls and dressed in jeans, a pressed white shirt and casual walking shoes.
Our job was to guard him against political and social embarrassment and keep him safe, the latter task being more problematic as we had intelligence of a possible assassination. Our profilers had given us a full description of the potential terrorist known as Ali; 5 foot 9 inches, 170 pounds, swarthy complexion with short, slicked-back brown hair, close-cropped beard and preferred tapered shirts and loose-fitting trousers.
We stayed at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in midtown Manhattan and dining at the best restaurants in town. The prince’s room was between those of the agents. My shift began at 8 AM and ended twelve hours later. I spent most of my day on campus shadowing Walid.
Phil and I met every night at dinner and every morning for breakfast at 9 o’clock during our shift transition to share information regarding the prince.
“That kid is driving me nuts,” I said to Phil one night, plunking two Alka-Seltzer tablets into a glass of water. The stress of the job gave me constant heartburn. “I swear he knows everyone on campus. And when he flashes those pearly whites, he’s a chick magnet. Every girl on campus swarms over him.”
“You think you have problems?” Phil said, laughing at me. “My instructions from Walid’s father include vetting young women to ‘spend time’ with the prince. The kid says he prefers to find his own nighttime companions. Due to the sensitivity of this information, there is no official record of it. If something happens, I’m in big trouble.”
One morning, several months into the assignment, I woke up early, around 6 AM, and, craving a coffee and bagel, took a stroll to the nearby corner store. As I walked out of my room,
I noticed a young man who could have fit Ali’s profile getting onto the elevator. I knocked on Walid’s door.
“Are you okay?” I asked, my hands shaking.
The door opened, a sleepy Walid nodded and shut the door in my face.
I rushed downstairs, but the man left the hotel, and I could not find him when I reached the street.
At breakfast with Phil, I said, “I believe I saw a man that fit Ali’s description.”
“Don’t worry,” he said, smearing butter on his toast. “I noticed him, too, a week ago and called headquarters. They said he’s a guest in a room across the hall from us. Don’t forget that during Walid’s stay at the hotel, NCIS performs background checks on anyone who reserved a room.”
Satisfied with this answer, I thought nothing of it until another early morning craving brought me from my room. I heard a loud ruckus coming from Walid’s room and two men yelling at each other.
“Walid!” I shouted, banging on the door after my card key to his room failed to open the door. “Phil. Are you in there?”
Curious guests peered from their doors.
“Everything is fine. Please, no pictures,” I begged people using their cameras to capture the activity.
The noise from the room stopped. Hotel security arrived and opened the door, exposing Walid in a compromising embrace with the man I had seen in the elevator.
I was not in a “need to know” position on Walid’s sexual preference. Phil had tried to warn me off and, since I wasn’t on duty then, should not have interfered. After I botched this assignment, NCIS forced me to retired against my willafter botching this assignment..
My pride suffered the humiliation, and I found myself in a deep depression, desperate for something to do with my life. I gazed out my window and spotted the solution to my problem. Not just a solution, but the answer to one of my greatest passions.
On the second floor of the building across the street from my new apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, I noticed that a group of actors held off-off Broadway plays. My spirits lifted after the community of artists welcomed me after I gave them a sample of my skills.
My parents made the trip to New York to see me starring in The Hound of the Baskervilles. The rave review by Ben Brantley of the New York Times the morning after the play opened.
… I felt as if I were watching Basil Rathbone in one of my favorite movies, Hound of the Baskervilles. Mr. John Rathbone, the former NCIS agent, does his namesake welll. Mr. Basil Rathbone would be proud of his descendant. Mr. Rathbone’s performance at the small playhouse in Hell’s Kitchen will pack it in while he is part of the company.
Months later, I lifted a glass to my great grandfather while reading the I stood in flyer announcing the opening of my starring role in my original play, The Prince at the Ritz. It’s the actor’s life for me.