Sunday, 8 April 2018

The wrong

You may have heard of tales concerning gentleman spies; of the subtle nuances and carefully manufactured bluffs and double bluffs; and the thrilling stories of spycraft. This is not one of those stories…
..and didn’t Boris Pachinko know it. He’d been in the spy trade for far too long, which was why he was eager to defect. Understandably, the British had no reason to trust him, and he had to prove his worth to them. First he had to prove that he was worth the outlay in money and man hours in facilitating his defection so he had to provide information that proved to be valuable and useful.
Despite having no other redeeming qualities the one thing that Pachinko did possess was a near photographic memory, which he had put to good use over the years; yet there were two words that would certainly send shockwaves across the length and breadth of his soon to be adopted country and almost certainly secure his defection status.
Pachinko spent a long time thinking out the details of this information drop and, as it was almost certain that he was being scrutinised, so he arranged to do everything in plain sight. No one would ever suspect such a move and this could so easily have worked because it was, in fact, genius. But he was old and tired and prone to making lots of mistakes because he was actually extremely stupid. So when his handler sat down opposite him, and Pachinko wrote his two words on a scrap of what, he thought was, rice paper he wasn’t paying attention at all. Nor was his handler, who was trying his best to maintain an air of nonchalance and indifference which wasn’t that difficult when talking to Pachinko over any length of time.
Had they been paying attention then they would have certainly noticed 1) Pachinko writing on the napkin instead of the badly place rice paper and 2) Pachinko folding up the rice paper before handing it surreptitiously to the handler, leaving the two words untouched on the napkin on the table. Both men then had a very petty disagreement, almost coming to blows with each other, before parting –each going in their different directions and in many ways a perfect exercise in spy-craft except for the two code words on that damn napkin.
Less than five minutes later, being a busy lunchtime in a popular eatery, the table was occupied; this time by the most unassuming and rakish gentle-man. Surprisingly his name was Roger when in reality it should have been something like Walter, Clark or Lesley. For most of Roger Grants life he had been overlooked; a meek, mild and bespectabled Kentish kind of man. Every step was measured, every move thoughtful; he looked at home in his charity shop hand-me-down suit and suffered a lot from allergies, dust and hay-fever; not to mention terminal shyness.
Drinking from a latte he started contemplating the world around him before the latest sneezing fit shook him. Luckily there were a couple of stray napkins on the table which he blew his nose on and the secret that Pachinko would so soon lose his life over was all but obliterated by the mucosal onslaught.
Drinking his latte sparingly Grant seemed unaware that he was now being scrutinized by two men in well-fitting suits, both wearing sunglasses thereby looking hopelessly out of place in such an establishment. MacDonalds was many things but classy was not one of them. However Roger hadn’t seen either of them and when he had disposed of his cup and tucked the napkins in his pocket he headed towards the door where he was quickly flanked by the two suited men.
“You will come with us.” Said one.
“I hardly think so.” Roger protested weakly, but their grip was too strong.
“I have a gun pointed directly at your heart.” Said the other, “At this range you will die instantly if you try to resist.” Roger possessed enough intelligence to know that this was no bluff for he felt the barrel press against his rib.
There was a car waiting at the roadside, a black Nissan Micra, weather worn and tired but serviceable enough for the drive. Grant was quickly bustled into the car and blindfolded.
“I haven’t the slightest notion what is going on here but you are making the gravest of mistakes if you don’t release me.” He protested again but was ignored.
It took less than twenty minutes to reach their destination, and when the blindfold was finally taken off Roger found himself standing in a dingy room, with a window overlooking a forlorn field. The room was empty except for a threadbare sofa, a stained and bloodied mattress and a chair. There were five men in the room; the two who accosted him and two other henchmen suitably attired who eyed him as if he were already dead and dealt with. The last man was an enigma: immaculately attired in a suit that fitted him too well; this was a man who was accustomed to the finer things in life. Consequently he looked ill at ease in such a place, and stood rooted to the spot, as if he was afraid that if he touched anything he would become contaminated. He looked at Roger with disgust and disdain.
“Would you believe this used to be a house of ill repute?” He spoke quietly, his voice silken and well bred; slightly effeminate but deadly nonetheless.
“I don’t know who you are or why I’ve been brought here, but if you don’t release me you’ll be very sorry.” Roger snapped impotently. The other man simply sighed and replied patiently.
“Histrionics? Really? You should know better than that, Mr Chaplin. We know who you are; you may as well save yourself any further embarrassment; not to mention pain. Tell us what we need to know and it will all be over quickly.”
“I don’t know what you’re on about!”
“Oh really…. Come, come, Mr Chaplin.”
“Who did you say? Mr Chaplin? Well, that clinches it… My name is Roger Grant. You’ve got the wrong man, old boy.”
“Old boy? At least credit me with a modicum of intelligence, Mr Chaplin. I did, after all, see through your elaborately planned ruse.” If he saw something flicker in Grant’s eyes it was never mentioned. In some ways it was exactly what he was looking for, but the context behind the flicker couldn’t have been further than his truth. “We witnessed that Pachinko oaf make the pass to your man Smythe, and –admittedly- we fell for that sleight of hand but you just weren’t quick enough to escape with the napkin, were you, Mr Chaplin?”
“Napkin? What napkin?”
“The one in your pocket; you may as well tell us what we need to know – you won’t be leaving us in any event.”
“The napkin? My dear Sir, I blew my nose on it!”
“Please hand it to one of my associates.”
“But… I blew my nose on it… this is crazy!” Yet he handed it over to the advancing associate and the associate examined the soiled napkin and shook his head twice.
“Water soluble ink… very clever, Mr Chaplin; but you have left us with no other recourse. You will tell us what was on the napkin and you will tell us now.”
Grant took a couple of steps back until he was against the far wall, and held his hands up in disbelief.
“Please… I don’t know what’s going on but I give you one last chance. Let me walk away from this now… Please.”
“That’s more like it; but I’m afraid it’s far too late. Since we can no longer get any information from the napkin we will have to take it direct from you, painfully.”
Motioning to the four henchmen, Grant watched as they advanced towards him and suddenly appeared to crumple forward as if shot. The first two henchmen tried to stop him from falling.
Suddenly Grant launched himself at them, knocking them both flying with two perfectly landed punches. So unexpected was this that he had successfully snapped the neck of the third man and drawn his pistol before the fourth had even registered anything untoward had happened. By then it was all over; four shots all in rapid succession, all kill shots and barely a minute had elapsed.
Now all that remained was the boss, the main man; still glued to the spot, his face now drained of arrogance and colour.
“But I don’t understand…” he stammered. “There was nothing in our dossier to suggest that you were combat trained, certainly nothing like this..”
“Ah, but then I’m not Mr Chaplin, as I tried repeatedly to tell you, Old Man.” He said, and stepped closer and closer, like a tiger closing in on its prey.
“But why? What?”
“You and your pathetic spy games have wrecked the best cover I’ve ever had. It’s taken me years… YEARS! to create the world of Roger Grant; mild mannered geek that he was. Certainly the last person in the world one would expect to be a trained assassin…. But I suppose it was bound to happen eventually.”
“What are you going to do with me? We can cut a deal, surely!”
“Well… I don’t think so. I gave you every opportunity to extricate yourself and since my cover is effectively blown I’m going to enjoy myself and leave you as a warning to others that might seek to double cross me. I’m satisfied that not only are we completely alone –as I hear no other signs of life in this sad little place- but I also know we’re miles from anyone, so I can afford to indulge myself and work out a little of the frustrations I’m going to face in setting up a new identity. Luckily we have all night but, unfortunately for you, it’s going to be a long and painful one, old man.”

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