Contemporary Fiction Suspense

The park was all but deserted. Why shouldn’t it have been? It was midday on a Friday. Everybody who could have potentially been there was at school or work. Besides, the weather was awful. It was hot and humid and the sky was grey, always threatening to open up in a deluge but never actually going through with it.

It was a smallish sort of park, divided into four grassy quadrants by a pair of brick walkways that intersected at the park’s middle, where a monument to some hero of some long-ago forgotten war stood, its copper body having long ago turned bright green from rust. The walkways themselves were lined with wooden benches, some significantly older and more rotten than others. Great big oak trees, each easily at least 30 feet tall, flanked the park’s perimeter. If there had been any sun today, they would have provided welcome shade for it. As it was, they were merely majestic apartments for squirrels and woodpeckers.

Suddenly, two men appeared, one at each of the park. They saw each other, then began walking towards each other. One of them was an older looking man with wispy blonde hair, slowly turning grey, wearing a nondescript black business suit, and carrying a briefcase. The other man was much younger, with a very athletic build, and wore jogging shorts and a sleeveless shirt.

This odd combination met in the middle of the park by the statue. They stood silently for quite a while, looking each other over carefully, as if to verify each other’s identity. They then both nodded at the same time, as if on cue, then took a seat on one of the less-decrepit benches.

The one in jogging clothes motioned to the one in the suit to hand over the briefcase he was carrying.

“Hold it Sparrow, just a minute.”, the man with the briefcase said in a low voice as he raised his hand in a ‘stop’ motion. “I think someone’s watching.”

“Ha-ha Dove, you’ve been undercover too long my friend!” Sparrow replied jovially as he slapped Dove’s back. “Don’t be so paranoid. The only person here is him,” Sparrow said as he pointed to a man sitting on another bench on the opposite side of the park, “and he definitely isn’t watching us!”

The man Sparrow was pointing at was a bald man, wearing a light blue T-shirt and a pair of faded blue jeans to match. He also wore thick, dark glasses and carried a small white cane. It was plain to any observer that he was very clearly a blind man, taking a quiet midday nap on the bench.

Except observations aren’t always right.

To begin with, the glasses were real, but not the type they appeared to be. The lenses were in fact cleverly disguised one-way mirrors. Their owner actually had 20/20 vision, and the glasses enabled him to see without his own eye movements being visible, as these were masked by the dark tint of the lenses. And the white cane? A parabolic microphone, connected by Bluetooth to a tiny earpiece in his right ear. Neither Sparrow nor Dove noticed the fact that the cane of the ostensibly dozing blind man was resting on the armrest of the bench, pointed directly at them. Finally, the false blind man’s right hand, seeming stuck idly into the pocket of his pants as he pretended to sleep, was in fact tapping out radio messages in Morse Code via a small transmitter device sewn into the inside of his jeans.

Cobra calling Central, Cobra calling Central. Have sighted Subjects A and B. Advise course of action. Over.

About half a minute later, the reply came back through the same device in Cobra’s jeans.

Cobra, this is Central. Continue to observe subjects and record conversation. Signal if location of Package is discussed. If Subjects A and B leave, advise us and and follow. Central Out.

“Sparrow, sometimes I feel like you’ve gotten cocky, gotten reckless.”, Dove responded to his colleague in a nervous tone. “Remember I’ve been in this business 20 years longer than you have. In my experience, if I get a feeling that I’m being watched, I usually am. Listening to those feelings is how I’m still alive.”

“Dove, who in the world would be watching us?”, Sparrow answered mockingly. “The squirrels? The birds? The statue? Face it my friend, this assignment has been tough on you and it’s started affecting your judgement.”

“All I’m saying, Sparrow, is that I don’t like the idea of doing this in public. Couldn’t we have just had this meeting in my office at…”

“Oh yes, of course, your office, how could I have forgotten? Let’s have a clandestine meeting in your office, that you share with another professor, on the third floor of a university building with students walking by all day. There’s no way anyone would suspect us there.”, Dove replied, his speech dripping with sarcasm and frustration.

Sparrow rolled his eyes, then slowly handed the briefcase over to Dove.

Cobra calling Central, Cobra calling Central. I think Subject A is handing over Package to Subject B. Will continue to observe. Out.

“Sparrow, is this it?”

“Yes Dove, yes it is. Almost a year of work impersonating a university physics lecturer, almost being caught several times in the process.”

Sparrow carefully took the briefcase in his hands, unlocked the latches at the top, and peered inside. The first thing he saw was a large yellow envelope with “Special Secret” stamped on it in large red letters.

“Seems authentic. Of course, the boys at headquarters will need to verify it first, but that goes without saying. I’m surprised that the plans for an anti-air laser system are so small.”

“Well Sparrow, this is just a prototype and some proof-of-concept math and sketches. When they actually build the real thing in a few years there will of course be many more files.”

“But the device is confirmed as theoretically workable?”

“Oh yes, very much so. I’ve actually made a few contributions to the design myself.”, Dove said, almost proudly.

Cobra calling Central, Cobra calling Central. Handover of Package is confirmed. Package contains unauthorized reproductions of Project Icarus plans as was initially suspected. Please advise. Over.

Cobra, this is Central. Continue to observe Subjects A and B. Central Out.

Sparrow snapped the case closed again.

“Well, my friend, you’ve served your country well. With any luck, we’ll be able to use these to build our own one of these things, or at least figure out how to defeat it by the time the real thing actually goes into service. Go back to your apartment and have yourself a nice stiff drink. If all goes to plan, your orders home should be coming over sometime next week.”

“Thank you, Sparrow. Could you possibly do a favor for me?”

“Anything my friend, anything!”

“When your flight gets home tomorrow morning, please call me wife and tell her that I’m alright, and that I should be home soon.”

“Of course, Dove! I know this assignment has been difficult for you, what with not really being able to communicate with your wife for almost a year now.”

“Yes, indeed Sparrow, it has been a challenging task.”, Dove sighed wearily. “Also, please don’t mention anything to her about that business with me and that female graduate student. It was just one time, and we were both very, very drunk, you understand.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t breathe a word. Come to think of it, your wife asked me not to say anything to you about her and the plumber either.”

“What?!”, Dove yelled as he sprang to his feet, nearly knocking the briefcase out of Sparrow’s hands.

“My friend, relax! I was only joking!”, Sparrow laughed.

Dove took a deep breath and sat back down again.

“Do you see my point now? You’re so tightly-wound from this assignment that you’ve started distrusting your own wife. Plus, you can’t tell when I’m joking anymore.”

“Ugh, I suppose you’re right Sparrow. Really, I do need a nice, long rest when I get home.” Dove held his head in his hands. The strain on him that Sparrow had noted was apparent.

“I’ll mention it to the Commander when I get back tomorrow. I’m sure he’ll be sympathetic to your situation.”

“Thank you, Sparrow.”

“Now Dove, I must go. My flight leaves at 6, and I still need to get this thing back to my hotel room, confirm with the Commander that I have it, then pack all of my things and get to the airport.”

‘Travel safely, my old friend.”, Dove replied.

The two men stood up and shook hands. Hugging would have been too conspicuous for two men who ostensibly didn’t really know each other. They then parted and began to walk out the same separate entrances to the park that they had walked in from a few minutes earlier.

Cobra calling Central, Cobra calling Central. Subject B has Package, repeat, Subject B has Package. Subject B is heading out south entrance of park towards Howe Street. Subject A is leaving from north entrance towards Washington Avenue. Please advise. Over.

Cobra, this is Central. Interceptor Team X will follow Subject B, Interceptor Team Y will follow Subject A. Do you have notes of conversation between Subject A and Subject B? Over.

Of course, Central. Over.

Excellent, Cobra. We’ll need that when these two clowns go to trial, ha-ha. Over.

Central, one more thing. During conversation, Subject A made reference to past intimate relationship with unidentified female graduate student. Possible additional course of inquiry? Over.

Sounds promising, Cobra. No one spills secrets like a jilted lover. Over.

Central, how should I proceed from here? Over.

Cobra, return to headquarters for debriefing. Your job here is done. Central out.

With that, Cobra furtively checked to make sure no one was watching him. Then, he took his hand out of his pocket, picked up his fake cane, took his glasses off, and got off the bench he had been waiting on for the past hour. He stretched briefly, then headed out of the park, disappearing back into the vast, anonymous population of the city.

October 06, 2023 20:57

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