I never learned the nature of the super-secret information that leaked out of the United States from Cape Canaveral and Houston Control, but it wasn't necessary for me to know that. I did learn that it would travel through Mexico and Central America, across to Cuba and then all the way to the Kremlin. Someone with authority finally got angry and frustrated enough about the leakage to launch an operation to plug it.
Covert investigation teams worked around the clock in Florida and Texas until somebody found the group's stateside base, or "safe house", in Houston.
I'd never know who found it, but it didn't matter. That wasn't my job.
My job was interception and dispatch.
Of course, any self-respecting undercover type could do the intercept. At the very least, those who worked at home should know how to keep information from getting out of the country. It was the "dispatch" part that brought me into it. The official terminology is "counter assassination"--in other words, "waste the bums". That kind of assignment tends to make some people squeamish and reluctant.
Not me, though. That's my job.
The night air was warm, but I didn't mind. I'd just passed three hours in one of those Texas honky-tonks watching "cowboys" doing the "two-step" to an endless succession of sound-alike songs about lost girls, pickup trucks, dogs and dead horses.I shouldn't judge, though. I can barely remember the words to "Happy Birthday". We won't even discuss what I do to the melody.
I sauntered up the street a few steps behind a noisy bar hopping group of four: three guys and one girl. As they passed the house in question, I slipped up to the door and had it open in ten seconds. Once in, I checked all the nooks and crannies, just to make sure no one else was there.
The living room was hardly furnished at all. No pictures on the walls, no couch, no easy chairs. Just a few folding chairs and two folding tables. One table was against the far wall with only a telephone on it.
I made note of the computer terminal on the other table in the middle of the room. The disc being delivered would no doubt be inspected before payment was made. Then I went to the telephone and fished in my pockets until I found the gadget.I've never been fond of gadgets.It's too easy to start depending on them. Then one day the batteries run out and you have to rely on your own strength and wits.What a tragedy.
I planted it on the bottom of the phone and pressed a button on my Government Issue Watch.
The shrill ringing of the phone split the silence of the room. I let it ring twice more, just to make sure it was working properly, then pressed the button again to stop the racket.
I smirked at the immediate silence. My tax dollars at work, I thought.
My cynicism was cut short by a sound outside. I slipped behind a cabinet and slipped the safety off my Glock before the door opened.
I heard the door close, then footsteps, and something being placed on the floor.
After what felt like a long silence, the door opened again. There was some quick shuffling, and then the voices began.
"Let's get this over with," a man said. He was frightened and nervous. Not a professional, this one.
"Oooh, you poor baby," crooned a familiar female voice. Maria Maltevar, code-name Minnie Mouse. I'd almost killed her once. This job was going to be a pleasure. "Does selling your country's secrets make you nervous?"
I almost chuckled. That's something traitors never seem to learn: even the people they sell out to despise them.
He didn't want to hear it. "Aw, shut up! Where's the money?"
Money. The same old, boring story.
I heard something being placed on the table and two clicks: a briefcase of some kind being opened.
"Right here, darling," Maria said. Then the syrup went out of her voice and she snapped, "Now where is the disc?"
I heard the hum as the computer was turned on, the clicking of the keys, and a feminine grunt of interest. I gave her just enough time to get a good look. Then I hit the button on my watch.
The telephone rang on cue and the tension level went up about a thousand percent.
"Who could that be?" Maria snapped, annoyed.
In one fluid motion, I stepped out and aimed. They were both at the computer, faces to the telephone, with their backs to me.
Just for effect I said, "Avon calling!"
Maria whirled around and reached for her own gun.
I gave her just enough time to recognize me before I pulled the trigger. She jerked as a small hole appeared between her eyes and the back of her head blew away.
My American friend was losing control. He went down on all fours in front of me. While he groveled, he groped for Maria's pistol, but his hands wouldn't cooperate. He whimpered like a frightened puppy, and he couldn't take his eyes off what had been Maria Maltevar.
I went into a forward roll as he finally grasped the piece and started to rise.Thoroughly enjoying myself, I came up facing him across the computer terminal. His voice went up an octave as I grinned before putting him out of his misery.
The phone continued ringing as I pulled the disc out of the terminal and counted the money. Five hundred thousand. Cheap at half the price, and not nearly enough. I stuffed everything into the briefcase; Maria's, no doubt; the money was still in it.
In a little while the gang in the Kremlin would know something was wrong and send investigators. Then, when they knew the score, they'd find a way to alert the authorities without revealing themselves. I wanted to be out of town while they were all rummaging around and out of the state while they were looking for me.
I pushed the button on my watch and the incessant ringing stopped.
One more quick look around, and a thorough search through two corpses' pockets, and I was almost ready.
Minnie Mouse and her rat were dead. "Not a creature was stirring..."
I retrieved the gadget from under the phone and slipped it back into on of my pockets.
"Wrong number!" I announced to the room.
Then I slipped out the door, trying to move quickly while blending with the shadows.