The Darkening of the Light

 

                The iron rungs of the bench had grown feeble with rust.  Red dust flaked to the ground as Percival Contgale plopped down on the cold metal.  His trench coat kept most of the wind out, but holding onto his hat had become an issue.  The brown fedora seemed inclined to leap of his head, like a gymnast dismounting from a pommel horse.  He clutched his hat to his head as another gust came whipping down the sidewalk.  His hat had more weight to it than normal.  Spots was able to outfit the brim with a radio transmitter, allowing headquarters to track his every movement.  Percival tightened his grip, knowing that if he lost this hat, Director Black would make him reimburse the expense out of his own paycheck.

Just getting to this drop spot had been a hassle.  Percival’s wristwatch hadn’t kept proper time since Spots outfitted it with a tiny video camera.  And his automobile had been on fritz as well.  The engineering team at the Brightwater Garage had modified the small, sputtering Fiat with all manner of gadgets and apparatuses.  Unfortunately Percival’s training had been cut short and he wasn’t able to completely read the new manual.  While driving on the highway, he had meant to turn on his windshield wipers.  He was surprised when a jet black stream of oil shot from his rear fender, coating the concrete behind him.  The fifteen car pile-up was sure to be on the BBC evening news.  Not an auspicious start to his career as a secret agent.

The Brightwater Guard was new to the international scene and Percival was a greenhorn even amongst the rest of the new spies.   The initial job advertisement he read in the Mirror had listed 3-5 years of surveillance, recognizance, and international intrigue experience.  But he had submitted his resume months ago, never thinking he’d even get an interview. Yet here he was, sitting on a bench outside of a London Supper Club, waiting to meet someone only known as the Silver Crow. 

A man wearing a black pea coat and dark wool cap walked down the vacant sidewalk.  Percival’s heart leapt.  It would be his first clandestine meeting and he was more than anxious to prove his worth.  The Silver Crow walked up to the iron bench and sat next to Percival.  There was a beat of silence as the two spies settled in, each sizing up the other and planning their respective strategies. 

“There’s an ancient puzzle in the hightower,” Percival said out loud, hoping the code words would initiate the transaction.  At the end of this conversation, the Brightwater Guards would be in possession of a floppy disk which was said to contain the blueprints for the Chinese naval base.

“Pardon?”  The Silver Crow asked.  Perhaps the blustery weather had muffled the words.  Or perhaps Percival had forgotten the correct order.  His counter-part was supposed to say, “And the thunder will light the way.”

“There’s an ancient puzzle in the hightower?” Percival asked instead, louder this time.  Was that the code phrase?  Or was it “Night begins with the darkening of the light?”  He struggled his first week with all the poorly worded aphorisms. 

“Sorry, mate.  I’m not quite sure what you’re speaking about.  Is this the stop for the coach?”

Percival’s breath became short and his face flushed, the heat a stark contrast to the cold wind.  He had the wrong person.  He should have known the Silver Crow would be a bit more silver than this black-clad man sitting in front of him.  However he was so excited to start he had jumped the gun and compromised his identity.

“No, it’s not.  I’ve made a mistake.”  Percival probed his cyanide tooth with his tongue, wondering if he should chomp down on it and end this embarrassing episode in a poisonous froth. 

“Wait, are you Percival Contgale?” the man asked.

This was how his life ended.  Percival  let out a small, wet puff of flatulence.  It would hopefully be swept up in the wind and carried away.  The man in black was likely an assassin.  He would pull out a sterling silver Walther pistol with a suppressor attached.  The gun may have some sort or animal carved into the handle or a phrase in Latin. Sic semper Tyrannus or Spuctaum Tauri.   Two quick and muffled shots to his chest would be the end of Percival Contgale’s short career.  “No,” replied the new spy, breathless with fear.

“Oh,” said the man.  “Pity.  I’m supposed to meet him here and give him some floppy disk with blueprints to a Chinese naval base.”

“Oh!” A wave of relief flushed over Percy.  He knew it all along.  There was nothing to be frightened of.  He was sitting next an honest, no-nonsense spy who preferred straight talk and not meaningless metaphors.  “Why yes, I’m him.  Pleasure to meet you.  You know, for a moment I had thou—“

The dull thump of a silenced Silver pistol echoed off the brick.  And the wind carried the sound away.

 

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