~~A Fictional Tale~~
It all started two days ago on Saturday. I received a call to erase at a location on Manhattan’s upper side. I cannot say whether it was the east side or the west side, because that information is classified. Outside, it was raining in torrents, like a waterfall at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.
My supplies and tools were already in my beamer (BMW) cleaning van. I waited for “the package,” which usually includes: details of the place, photos of the scene before the incident, a few relevant social media pics and whatever keys I would require. Two hours later, much to my displeasure, “the package” finally arrived. That meant I had a short window to get in and get out under the cover of darkness.
I arrived at the address and was about to enter when all hell broke loose. Security alarms went off, the neighbor’s dogs began to bark and motion sensors triggered the outside lights. Someone with a flashlight in their hand called out, “Who’s there! I’m calling the cops.” I ran back to my vehicle and sped away like a lightning bolt in a hurricane.
That was two days ago.
Now, an eraser’s closest ally is anonymity’s comforting womb. Thus, even the slightest whiff of public exposure is to be avoided like duct tape on a windshield in Summer. Therefore, when images of my shadowy form, albeit blurry ones, were splashed on the next morning’s news, I was in a panic.
My mind skidded into a Skittles bag of colorful scenarios. I ran through a mental list of who might want to set me up. Perhaps, the actual culprit, maybe a fellow spy, wanted me to take the wrap for his or her crime. Or worse, someone wanted to frame me as a traitor.
I decided to check with the person who delivered “the package” to see if I could suss out who the protagonists might be in this drama.
When I arrived at the address of the package delivery person, known only by his pseudonym, Mr. Shimmer, police barricades were in place. A throng of police were swarming the area. I offered a twenty dollar bill to a kid riding by on an electric scooter, to get closer and find out any details he could. He informed me that the occupant had died. No more details were known.
A dead end, or perhaps this was bigger than I thought? Maybe the real culprit was now “cleaning house,” “tying up loose ends,” or whatever unfortunate euphemism comes to mind which means the sordid act of getting rid of anyone that would tie a person to a major felony.
Just then, my phone rang. It was my closest friend, and a former spy, Calico. Yes, I said close friend. The illusion that a spy circumnavigates the globe by herself and gets the job done solo, is a junkyard full of hoopties. You need friends in this business even your enemies, and you have to trust a few of them sometimes, too.
“I ain’t got no grudge against you Suede, but I bin callin’ you all night. You ain’t pickin’ up. We ain’t friends no more or what? I got some urgent info for youz. Meet me at O’ Malleys in the back, pronto.”
“Something strange is going on my friend,” I replied, sensing his angst. “I am trying to get to the bottom of it without involving you. I will explain when we meet.”
You know that feeling you get that something is not quite right? When I turned onto Main Street to park as I usually do, in the back alley near Calico’s loft in the Nyack neighborhood, I thought I saw two shadowy figures in a car watching the alleyway.
I immediately thought of several unflattering scenarios: maybe they were waiting for me to arrive, or perhaps Calico was in trouble. Maybe it was not related to me at all. Of course, I quickly dismissed the latter. Because my motto is: “Paranoia keeps me alive.” Therefore, I circled the block once, ditched my car in an underground parking lot and phoned Calico. The call went straight to voice mail.
As I began walking down Main Street heading for O’Malley’s a hooded bike delivery man slapped a small package in my gut region. He was good, pressing the package into my torso without breaking his peddling motion. I swung around in time to see him turn the corner and speed away.
I returned to my car in the underground parking lot and opened the package. It was another job. This time in an apartment overlooking Central Park. Current and former photos were included, the key and the passcode for the security system. Oddly, a small note was included: “This one needs to be done during the day, today.”
I never do an erase in daylight, too many eyes to spot my movements, and not enough shadows to cloak me. Plus, an upscale place like that address has security personnel who know all the residents and their visitors.
You do not refuse a job to erase if you can help it. There is usually hell to pay. Some Senior Command heavyweights order a place scrubbed of evidence affecting national security—means big trouble for them and for you, if you decline.
I thought long and hard. If, I decline then, there could be problems higher up the chain. If I went and got caught…Well, you know how that will go for me.
Against my better judgement, I accepted the job.
I called my friend Calico, this time I left a message saying I was on a cleaning job. He knows when I say that, what I mean.
I prepped for the job doing a bit of scouting on the high rise building in question. Not much physical security visible, just the front desk with two Security Guards. However, there was a host of motion sensing cameras covering every angle of the perimeter. I decided that I would pitch up to the back door, and ask to be let in. I readied my cover story in my mind.
I parked in the delivery bay of the high rise, as per my normal modus operandi. Because, a cleaning van in a delivery loading dock does not look out of place. I rang the receiving door bell. The Security Guard, surprisingly, responded very quickly.
He said, “Come on in. It’s “Rooftop” right? We were told to expect you.” Now, you can well imagine, in ten years in this profession, I have never been greeted at a place where I was sent to clandestinely erase evidence. So I was more than a bit alarmed at this Security Guard’s greeting. Not to mention, he knew my pseudonym!
My mind was reeling. I did not let it show, however. I acted the part.
“Oh yeah, I got a call to do some work upstairs,” I replied nonchalantly. “May I come in?”
“Yeah, yeah sure, right this way. Let me unlock the freight elevator for you,” said the Security Guard. I looked into his eyes and saw only duplicity covering his sugar coated words. I did not believe a word he said. Therefore, I hesitated.
Now folks — you know you are in the spy business too long when, you recognize the sound of a colt .45 hammer clicking from its safety position, over a two way radio on someone’s belt.
I bolted out the receiving door just ahead of the bullet from the other Security Guard’s gun, who was lurking in the shadows. I jumped onto the hood of my van, scrambled off it spread eagled, and ran to the driver side door. I lunged in and sped away in reverse and then executed a 180 degree spin positioning my van forward, and peeled out of there.
****To be continued next week****