I’m back home and this story has been sitting on a back burner for a few months, waiting for some more to be written.
The trouble is, there are also other stories to write, and I’m not very good at prioritising.
But, here we are, a few minutes opened up and it didn’t take long to get back into the groove.
Just the person to see next
I couldn’t imagine what those details were. But if it was a setup, it was a very elaborate one, by people who knew our systems and procedures. Naturally, the first thought that sprang to mind, someone who was working here, or used to.
Then I had another thought, what if none of us was meant to survive the operation, and hat we had been selected specifically because we were new to field operations. At the briefing, we had been told this was simple surveillance, observe and report, nothing more.
Usually we had one experienced member and three new team members, the experienced member was there to continue on the job training and evaluation. What worried me was that an experienced member could be taken out apparently as easy as the others.
And my money was not on the guy I’d cornered. Of course, I could be wrong, and no doubt circumstantial evidence would go a long way towards proving that, but in my estimation, a cornered man like he was, with a thirst and talent for killing, would not have hesitated to kill me before I’d got three words out.
I believed him. He was scared and, now that I thought about it, confused. That was anything but the m.o. of a conscienceless killer.
The wrinkle that hadn’t been accounted for was the explosion. No one could have predicted that, or its effect on the operation. It might well have saved him, except that I didn’t play by the rules and reconnected with him. Maybe he had felt safe after taking out the others, and assuming I’d been taken down by the explosion.
Except, if I didn’t think he did the killing, who did, and why? Severin? Just who the hell is this Severin? There’s been no indication he wasn’t one of us.
I was pondering that question when the woman returned and sat down again. This time her stare wasn’t quite as glacial.
“Describe this Severin.”
She opened her notebook, and had her pencil ready. Odd that she should be taking notes in pencil.
I described him. Five feet eight inches tall, 250 pounds, thinning black hair, making him anywhere between 35 and 50, though I thought he was mid-forties. He wore a tweed suit, rather an odd choice for the climate, and had the aroma of cigarette smoke hanging about him.
Every free moment I saw him, he had a cigarette, so I thought he was quite possibly a chain smoker, and from that, perhaps a man with bad nerves, or who worried a lot. Now I knew he was not one of us, that could be interpreted as thinking he might get caught.
But he was confident, and outgoing, which meant he was quite sure he wouldn’t get caught, and that meant, quite possibly there was someone within our department that was working for or with him and had covered his comings and goings. Either that or he had a universal passcode key to come and go as he pleased.
When I finished the description I could see a flicker of recognition. IT was possible she knew who he might be, and if so, I was betting she knew him by another name. I asked if that was the case.
“You know who this man is, don’t you?”
The stern reproving look returned. “What makes you think that?”
“I read faces. Yours is not a poker face.”
“Well, that disappoints me because I like to play poker. Perhaps the people I play with have a different view.”
“I’m usually a good judge of character.”
“It’s let you down this time.” She stood. “Before you go, one of the supervisors here would like a word with you. His name is Nobbin. He works out of another office and is coming here directly. After that, you’re free to go.”
She didn’t wait to say goodbye, and I was glad I managed to keep a straight face long enough.
Nobbin. Just the man I wanted to see.
© Charles Heath 2019