~~~~~ A fictional tale ~~~~~~~
It was the kind of darkness, where a single candle on a rooftop could light up a whole city.
Rhea placed her now useless cellphone on the floor, and crawled furtively in the consuming darkness. Momentarily blinded by the darkness, she followed the outline of her overstuffed sofa with her hands, inching her way backwards, using the sofa as cover.
Each of her movements continued to invite flying debris, as several more bullets entertained target practice on her sofa.
Upon reaching her loft’s back wall she turned around depressing the pressure switch hidden behind what looked liked a book case. As the door swung open, she launched herself into the secret room. Its aperture closed swiftly behind her.
Within the secret room, Rhea had hidden emergency supplies: flashlights, a headlamp, food, clothing and funds. She also had her “go bag” (a bag with critical supplies necessary for a quick exit) packed with more funds, credit cards, travel documents, various pieces of identification, along with an unopened untraceable disposable cellphone.
Rhea changed her clothing and stuffed as much of her supplies in her “go bag” as possible. Moments later, she fled down the passageway from her secret room into the catacombs – into the bedrock of Athens’ history.
Her careful trek took her several hours through little-known ancient passageways beneath present-day Athens. And, while Rhea trod among the dust of three-thousand-year-old footpaths in the catacombs below; above, the pristine modern city streets began to stir.
As Rhea departed the catacombs, The Parthenon aglow atop the Acropolis caught her attention. Her eyes welled up as her heart overflowed with a sudden patriotic fervor. Her recent ordeal perhaps adding to her emotions, she suddenly remembered her love for Greece.
It was then that Rhea sensed that she was being watched.
Rhea circled around the city streets and doubled back several times in the Monastiraki shopping district, until she was comfortable that she was neither being followed, nor watched.
After an hour of retracing her steps, she slipped into the rear door of The NJV Athens Plaza hotel. The hotel’s back door had been left ajar by night staff taking out the trash. There, she rented a room for the next several days, greeting with a smile, the desk clerk’s polite non-verbal comment on the paucity of Rhea’s luggage.
Then she left the hotel, located a pay phone and contacted her employer’s Technical Operations unit. From them, she requested a new secure laptop and a new secure cellphone and number.
As she ended the call, she was sure she heard footsteps approaching her position. It was well after midnight, the street was relatively empty. Her cursory inspection of her surroundings revealed, to her trained eye, nothing of a suspicious nature.
Therefore, she made her way to the Syntagma 24 hour Xpress bus station, the pre-arranged site for the pickup of her new equipment. She walked carefully checking for anyone following as she made her way along the short distance to the Xpress bus station.
She was relieved to find a small crowd waiting for the next bus mingling in the area. The bench she was to occupy was empty. As she was about to make her way to the bench, she heard footsteps immediately behind her in the bushes on her right. She stopped. The shrouded footsteps stopped. She continued. And the footsteps resumed also.
She decided to walk past the bench and join the small crowd. She looked at the clock at the bus station, she had only fifteen minutes to collect her equipment. If she did not make this meeting her reliability would be in question.
Suddenly a tall smartly dressed gentleman in a three piece suit, a dark rain coat and a brown fedora with a black backpack over his shoulder, slipped quietly out of the bushes by the bench. Then, he sat down.
Rhea reasoned in her mind that she had to risk it. She needed her laptop and phone to do her job.
Therefore, she made her way to the bench where the gentleman sat. She positioned herself at the other edge of the bench, affording herself a quick exit, if needed.
Then, there was an awkward silence.
Next, the gentleman reached in his pocket and took our a piece of chalk. He carefully and meticulously drew the O in theta but left the space inside the O blank. Without speaking, he placed the chalk outside the character he just drew. And, he waited in silence.
Rhea breathed a sigh of relief. This was her equipment drop off protocol. Rhea picked up the chalk and drew the wavy line inside the O completing the Ѳ (fita) of the early Cyrillic alphabet.
The gentleman then reached inside his coat, and placed a package wrapped in brown packing paper on the bench. Then he slipped into the bushes and was gone. Inside the package was an ultrabook laptop in its carrying case, her new phone and all the necessary accessories.
Back in her hotel room, Rhea hurriedly completed and transmitted her field report chronicling the interception of the package including her subsequent failed attempt to catch the interloper.
To Rhea’s surprise, almost immediately, her friend and fellow field agent Markos Artemeos (aka “Shift Key”) called. His voice was almost a whisper. He requested that she meet him at eight o’clock later that morning at a Plaka café. Rhea questioned him on how he knew her new cellphone number. But, he offered no reply. Instead, to her further puzzlement, he insisted repeatedly that she ensure that she is not followed to their meeting. Rhea agreed.
What Rhea did not know was that the pair shadowing her (aka, “The twins”) were members of her employer’s counter intelligence unit. The twins were investigating highly suspicious agency activities by someone with the pseudonym, “Balthazar.” They had assigned field agent Shift Key to intercept the package. He had strict instructions to disguise his appearance and to avoid capture.
As soon as all evidence of movement ceased in Rhea’s secret loft apartment — across the street on the rooftop, Odyn (Rhea’s handler), turned off his scope and folded his rifle’s tripod.
He meticulously disassembled the weapon, placing it in the backpack designed for its housing. Moreover, he placed the top secret lightsaber-like module he “borrowed” to disable the electronics in Rhea’s loft, into one of the backpack’s zippered pockets.
In addition, Odyn cleaned his sniper’s perch (the rooftop where he was positioned) of all evidence of his presence. Then, he climbed down the fire-escape, and strode calmly into the muted shadows lingering in the bosom of midnight.
At four o’clock in the morning, in her hotel room, Rhea was in an exhausting and restless sleep. Suddenly, she was ejected from her tossing and turning and sat up, wide awake.
Then in the quiet stillness, an epiphany, a Damascus Road event, flashed across her mind. She whispered her revelation to herself, “It was a distraction, I was not a target!”
***To be continued next week***