This is a short story that is meant to be my “Ideal Spy Story” for a class I’ve been taking on spy fiction. I know there are some holes in the narrative, and everything happens pretty fast, but it was only meant to be 1,500 words for the class, and it’s over 3,000, so I had to stop. I easily could’ve written double that. Without further ado…
“I know what you’re hiding.”
Michael had been sound asleep when the phone had rang. He looked at the clock groggily, and the green digital glow told him it was just after 4 a.m. He struggled to come to his senses and cleared his throat to answer his phone.
“Hello?” Instead of a greeting he was met with what sounded like a threat. “Excuse me?” he said. His mind was quickly clearing itself of sleep as adrenaline started pumping through his system.
“I know what you’re hiding,” the man on the other end repeated.
His heart began to pound and his pulse quickened as he realized how serious the man sounded. An edge of rage inched into his voice, “Oh yeah, what’re you going to do about it?”
A slight chuckle was the man’s only response.
He knew. He really knew. But how could he? He had been so careful, so fastidious. Even his best friend didn’t know. His wife would’ve found out before this stranger. Wouldn’t she have? Unless someone was following him… He began to panic.
“What do you want?” he whispered harshly, suddenly realizing the importance of not waking his wife. For the first time ever, he thanked god she slept so heavily.
“What else? You’re going to pay me,” the voice answered.
Adam had been the store manager of a Walgreens for about five years now. He didn’t love or hate his job. Work was work to him. There were good days and there were bad. There were good customers and bad customers. Mostly he wished he never had to go to a job at all. He envied the rich because of their freedom, not because of the actual money. When the store was incredibly slow, he daydreamed about all the things one could do in life if they didn’t have to work. He would read all the books he’d always wanted to. He would watch every movie he could, from terrible ‘80s B-list horror movies that verged on porn to all the Oscar nominated films. He would get a pet. Fuck, maybe he would start writing poetry, or working out, listening to music, any hobby. As it was, he never actually did anything but work, and that was for not nearly enough money in his opinion.
On this particular day, there had been a shipment issue with toilet paper, and a convenience store cannot run out of toilet paper. He had spent the day on the phone with corporate and various warehouses and their delivery service branch trying to work out the problem, leaving his part-timers in control most of the day. He’d even had to keep someone over their allotted shift time. He ended up closing alone to make up the hours.
As he swept, he caught the corner of a large yellow mailing envelope sticking out from under one aisle’s shelf. He immediately felt annoyed. They only sold those in two packs, which meant someone had opened and stolen one envelope. He sighed as he leaned over to pick it up, setting it on the shelf beside him with a few other items that needed returned to their proper aisles. He had to remind his employees what those mirrors in the corners were for.
As he walked back to the front, he scooped up all the items on the shelf. And then he noticed something strange, it looked like the envelope was sealed.
He laid everything else on the cash wrap and looked at the envelope more closely. Sure enough, someone had licked it to seal it and closed the clasp through the hole. ‘Why would someone do that?’ he thought to himself, tugging on the flap gently. He wondered if someone had lost it and he shouldn’t open it, and then decided screw it, ‘I’m never going to be able to return anything if I don’t know what’s in it,’ he justified. Then curiosity got the best of him, and he ripped the envelope open and pulled out a small stack of papers.
He started to read, and it took a minute for his mind to catch up and compute what it was he was seeing. His mouth slowly fell open and his mind began to race. It was only then that he noticed the very official looking U.S. government seal and the red TOP SECRET stamped in the top corner.
Michael’s life was generally pretty dull. He worked in stocks for a large corporation, but lawyers and economists frequently mitigated his every move. Not only was it boring and highly controlled and constrained, but he was also generally not allowed to discuss it with anyone, not even his wife.
Besides his time at the office, he was generally at a bar or with his family, the first usually taking precedence. Being at home stressed him out. At some point, his wife had gotten old, and he had missed it. She used to care about having fun, spontaneous trips, sex on the kitchen counter. Now all she talked about were curtains, healthy recipes and after-school activities. Somehow, he’d gotten old too.
That’s why when he’d met Jacilyn she had seemed so exciting. She’d walked up to him in a bar, placed her hand on his shoulder and whispered in his ear that he looked like he needed some excitement in his life, then she’d smiled this killer 1,000 watt, dimpled grin. It had been over from that smile. His wife never stood a chance.
Everyday he spent with Jace felt like another chance at life. She was only twenty-two, blonde, beautiful, spontaneous, and shrieked every time she got excited. She made him feel young; like yes, he could still drink a fifth of tequila and go to a rave until 5 a.m.!
Don’t get him wrong, he loved his wife, but more in a mother-of-my-children kind of way. Still, despite his newfound romantic love for Jace, he knew he would never leave his wife and tear apart his family. She could have her curtains and he could have his mistress.
Or so he’d thought until that phone call. He’d been so careful to never go anywhere with Jace that anyone he’d know would see him. In fact, that had been relatively easy since she spent most of her time with other recent college graduates. But now, he wasn’t so sure. Had his wife suspected all those “long nights at the office”? Had she had someone follow him?
How did someone find out?
Adam had to know who left this envelope of information in his store. Whoever it was was going to want it back. Fast. And he was willing to bet that they would pay a lot for it.
He carefully replaced the papers in the envelope and walked to the backroom where the digital monitors were. There were multiple cameras in the store, all of which created a digital feed he could stream onto three monitors in the back room. They almost never actually used the system, but it was always running, generally in case of a major crime or robbery. He’d never actually had to use it, but he’d been trained very briefly on how it worked when he took over the store. There weren’t many cameras, but the aisle it had been in was at a good angle to one of the cameras. He thought he might be able to see the person’s face.
He skimmed through the day, stopping only to look at customers who loitered in that aisle. Finally he saw it, he couldn’t decide if the man had dropped it and kicked it under, or if he had hit it off the shelf at his knee-level and accidentally kicked it under. But Adam hadn’t been able to see the envelope on the shelf before…
The only problem was that he couldn’t see the man’s face, he’d been wearing a baseball cap and his back was to the camera the whole time. But then he realized that if he’d bought anything, he should be able to see his face from the camera behind the cash wrap that was angled specifically for this purpose. He switched feeds, waiting impatiently through the thirty seconds it took the video to show the man walking towards the counter. His breath caught, he waited in suspense. It was like a spy movie.
And there he was, clear as day. He was a regular. Adam even knew his name because he always paid with a credit card, Michael Berwyn.
This was one of the bad customers, a real asshole. He asked for help constantly, never buying the things he made people find for him or that he had haggled on prices or quality over. Instead he walked around, messed up displays, and then bought the same damn thing every time: a 20 oz. Mountain Dew and a pack of Marlboros. He was at least 45, and Adam always thought what grown man still drinks Mountain Dew like a teenager trying to stay up all night?
From there it was fairly simple to get his address and phone number from his credit card info. Adam only had to follow him for one night to know this guy was hiding something. He doubled back twice in strange routes before going to a club known with college students. He was also not dressed for going out, but rather looked overly discreet, in plain dark jeans, a navy t-shirt, black hooded sweatshirt and black baseball cap. He could’ve been Jason Bourne. Adam thought he knew exactly what he was hiding.
Adam smiled. This guy deserved what he had coming.
When the phone call had come in, Wendy had suddenly perked up. The Federal Bureau of Investigation had tapped this phone and been monitoring the line for three months in an investigation of corporate fraud, and this was the first interesting conversation that they’d heard, besides a few conversations that suggested the man’s infidelity. A computer system flagged key words when they came up, and her job was to listen to them for real information. While for the most part Wendy wondered why the system wasn’t better honed so that she could spend less time on useless, boring conversations, she did always find the personal dramas of their suspects highly interesting. However, this seemed different. This was blackmail. She notified her superior immediately, but they decided to wait for further contact to see where this was going.
When the second phone call came in, arranging a date and time for meeting, things got more serious.
“We need to meet,” said the unknown individual.
“You can’t prove anything,” said the FBI’s suspect.
“I have the documents,” the other replied. When he got no answer, he went on, “And I followed you.”
Tense silence was followed by concession, “Fine, how much do you want?”
Wendy had turned this over to her superior again, and this time the case was taken off her hands and reassigned to someone with a higher pay grade. ‘Well there goes my soap opera. Guess I will just have to wait for someone else to get interesting’ thought Wendy with a sigh.
“How could he have possibly gotten this information?” Jacobsen asked him.
“We don’t know. There has clearly been a leak in the FBI.”
“And we’re positive it’s not blackmail related to the corporate fraud in the company or his affair?” he questioned further.
“We are sure. No one knows about his woman, she has been cleared. And we still haven’t been able to prove he was even connected to the fraud. We have built up a file on him and the other man, the convenience store worker. We are positive.”
Jacobsen sighed. Sometimes his job was just so tedious. Why were there always leaks that he had to clean up after? For all intensive purposes, he was just the FBI’s janitor. “When are they meeting?”
“Tomorrow. Stopping this information from spreading has top priority.”
“Yeah, yeah, I get it. I’m calling her,” Jacobsen replied waving him out of his office. As the door swung shut, he picked up his phone receiver and began to dial.
Victoria got the phone call the night before the job. It was late, but she hadn’t had a gig in a while, so she didn’t mind.
Jacobsen, the only man who ever contacted her from the Bureau, informed her of the situation. It was going to be two men in a volatile situation he told her. You had better be careful he warned her.
She laughed at him and hung up.
Michael was extremely nervous. He still couldn’t believe any of this was happening. He didn’t even know what documents this guy meant, photos maybe? He did know that he didn’t want to risk ruining his family’s lives. He was having a hard time thinking clearly. All he could see was the look in his wife and kids’ eyes when they found out he’d betrayed them over a girl. The man had promised to give them to him in exchange for the money.
Michael had had to withdraw all his savings, and get his best friend, one of the firm’s accountants, to let him borrow money from the company. He knew his friend had done this before, and he’d never really approved, but he really needed it. Michael had told him he’d gotten into a fight with his wife and he was buying a very expensive diamond to make up, but that his bank wouldn’t let him withdraw that much at once, so he would put the firm’s money back just as soon as he could get it cleared through them. His friend had just winked and given him the money, (personally his friend thought he’d finally gotten caught in an affair. He’d suspected Michael had been having one for a while.) Michael didn’t know what he was going to do to pay them back after that, but that was the least of his concerns. All that mattered was that he had the $10 million.
Adam was also nervous. They were meeting in this guy’s house, which made him jumpy. ‘What if this dude has a gun?’ he’d thought. His brother had a handgun he’d gotten after his family’s home had been burgled, and he liked to take it to the range on occasion. Adam had borrowed it without asking, just in case.
While Michael had been securing money and Adam a gun, Victoria had been watching. She waited until his wife left for work, then picked the lock, and was in. And people and movies acted like her job was hard, she laughed. No complicated acrobatics needed, no cool devices that turn off alarms, no scaling buildings, just a lock picking set and a little skill. She scoped out the house upstairs and down, walked through, and debated where everything should go down. She could do it anywhere, but if they went to a different room, the element of surprise could get ruined with the open layout of the ground floor. She decided he would have to open the front door to let him in, and that she’d wait until they were both inside, and that would be it. In and out. She stepped into the deep coat closet in the wall just to the right of the front door, and waited.
When Adam arrived, Michael had been home for less than 5 minutes. He still had his coat on even. The doorbell rang, and Michael steeled himself for what was to come before opening it slowly. He looked blankly at the man on his stoop, he looked familiar but Michael just couldn’t place him. He moved to the side and let Adam in without a word, closing and locking the door behind him. He moved the curtain over the window to the side of the door and peaked out. There was no one else that he could see.
“Do you have the money?” asked Adam.
“Yes,” he answered, “do you have the proof?”
“Good, the money’s in the living room, let’s go in there,” he answered.
Suddenly the door to the coat closet flew open. A tall brunette with her hair pulled up into a high ponytail dressed in tight black pants, a black long-sleeved turtleneck, black leather gloves and knee-high black boots was suddenly in the room. Her makeup was impeccable, and she looked young and elegant. Michael’s mouth fell open.
“Who the fuck are you?” Adam screamed out. When Michael looked at him, he realized that he had pulled out a gun that he was pointing sideways at the woman, like he thought he was a gangster.
“Whoa man, you have a gun? What the hell?!” Michael yelled.
“W-who’s she?” Adam demanded, stuttering and yelling at the same time.
“None of your goddamned business,” she answered with a smile. And up came her arm with a gun in it. She aimed it at Adam’s head, and the silencer kept it quiet as she fired. It only made a small ppphut noise, and then he crumpled, the gun in his hand unused.
The last thing Michael remembered was her turning to him, her gun aimed at his head, and all he could think was that she looked just like James Bond in that little graphic at the beginning of each movie. He almost smiled until he realized that he was going to die in a splash of blood, just like all of those faceless people facing Bond. Then he raised his arms in front of his face, and then darkness.
Well, that had been just as easy as she had expected, Victoria thought. She hadn’t expected the one to have a gun, but he clearly didn’t know what he was doing. The safety had still been on. She pushed her bangs back out of her face, carefully spun the silencer off, placing it in her pocket, kissed her gun, (‘Another job well done dear,’) and replaced it in the holster under her arm. Then she reached back into the closet, and grabbed her black trench she’d hung up for the job, slipped it on and knotted its belt around her waist.
She looked at the mess and sighed, the guy with the gun had been a clean perfect shot directly between his eyes, giving him an extra, with a bloody tearstain, which stared at her just as blankly as the other two. She walked over to him and pulled a yellow mailing envelope out of his inside jacket pocket and placed in in her own, smirking slightly at her handiwork. She stopped by the other one. He was less satisfying; he’d thrown up his hands at the last second, so the bullet had gone through one hand first, and there was blood everywhere. She was slightly disappointed, but shrugged and stepped over him, careful to avoid getting his blood on her shoes.
She stopped by the hallway mirror and carefully checked her lipstick, her mouth in a slight pout as she dabbed at her bottom lip. She smiled softly at her reflection, and then walked calmly to the living room. She stooped and picked up the suitcase of money off the coffee table, looked once over her shoulder to survey her work one last time, and then slipped out the back door, locking it behind her.
No one would ever even know she was there.