It’s a bright Sunday morning, the birds are singing, and I’m just finishing breakfast when the doorbell rings. Of course, I know who it is, and again wonder what I’ve gotten myself in to.
When I open the door, there’s my old boss Al and a young women who I’ve never met before. She looks to be around 22 or so, and very cute. I invite them in and ask if they’d like any coffee, and both say yes.
After I pour the coffee all around, I just jump right into it. “Al, do you have my paperwork, and who is this young lady?”
“This is Tanya, who I talked to you about. I know I didn’t tell you was coming with me, it was a last minute decision.”
Tanya smiles sweetly, holds out her hand and says in a beautiful contralto voice, “It’s very nice to meet you Marty. I’ve heard a lot about you and your missions.”
“Thank you Tanya. Al has spoken very highly of you too. I didn’t expect to meet you so soon though. I thought you, Betsy and I were going to get together during the week.”
“Marty, I had Tanya in my office for a briefing this morning, so I figured why not bring her, and we can call Betsy and go over the mission. By the way, here’s the paperwork and check I promised to bring over.”
I opened the envelope, and this was by far the largest check I ever got from the company. My pension paperwork was in there as well, with the new monthly amount clearly stated. I swore that this was going to be my last job for them.
“This is going to be a fairly easy job for you and Betsy. You’re going to escort Tanya to a party at the Waldorf Astoria next Saturday night, posing as her grandparents. The cover story is that she is graduating from Columbia University with a law degree.
“This is a party the Russian ambassador is throwing for his son who also graduated. He invited the entire graduating class, over 600 people. The chances of the son knowing Tanya is zilch.
“We had the school place her name on the list that it sent to the ambassador and then she received the invitation. She responded with a plus two, providing the information for you and Betsy that we provided. The ambassador is taking the school at its word everyone on the list was properly vetted. That’s bad for him, good for us.
“Let me call Betsy now, and we’ll go over the rest of the plan, ok?”
Knowing that at this point I didn’t have a choice, I just nodded my agreement.
“Betsy, this is Al. I’m with Tanya and Marty. I’m putting you on speakerphone.”
“Hello, Tanya. Hi, Marty, I can’t wait to see you again!”
She said it with such enthusiasm that I found it hard to believe that she ripped out my heart, stomped on it and threw it in the trash all those years ago. I decided to be civil, but cool.
“Hello Betsy. It’s been a long time. Al tells me you’re a grandmother now.”
“Yes I am and loving every minute of it. I hadn’t spoken to him in years and unexpectedly he calls and asks me help. Of course, the money didn’t hurt either. It helps put my grandkids through school. Do you have any grandkids Marty?”
“Sorry to say I don’t. I had kids in my 30s and although they’re out on their own, now, they don’t have kids yet. I lost my wife five years ago to cancer and have lived a pretty solitude life until Al called me and made an offer I couldn’t refuse.”
“Okay folks, now that we’re all caught up, let me lay out the plan. Your cover is that you are Tanya’s very well off grandparents. Her parents died in a car crash right after she graduated college, before she went to law school. You’ve supported her since then, and she asked you to escort her to this party.
“You have a room reserved a floor above the Russian ambassador, right above his room. You are going to arrive fashionably late to the party because we need the ambassador to be out of room. When he leaves, so does his security. “The concierge that takes you to the room will have already put all the equipment you will need in the room, and help Tanya as well.
“We’ll be monitoring the security cameras, and as soon as the ambassador is in the elevator, Tanya is going to drop from your terrace to his, find his computer, hack it and copy all the files on it. The flash drive she is using will also use a secure connection back to headquarters, which will, I hope, break into the computer.
“HQ anticipates this process will take about ten minutes. When she’s done, the agent in your room will bring her back up. Everyone will get dressed, the concierge will escort you to the party and, an hour later, you can all disappear into the night. Are we clear?”
“I’m thinking that this sounds too easy, and I’m sure Mr. Murphy will make an appearance at some point during this mission. That’s not what I say.
“Sure Al, that’s a clear plan. The only thing I can see going wrong is if the ambassador suddenly decides he forgot something in the room, and heads up after a few minutes?”
“Marty, as soon as he enters the ballroom, will be inundated by people fawning all over him. Many of the serving staff are agents and we will have eyes on him at all time. If something happens, we’ll slow the elevators down and get Tanya out of there. Tanya has training in rappelling and rope climbing, and she is very fast.”
I turn to Tanya and ask, “Are you okay with this plan? Will you have enough time to get out if need be?”
“I can get up and down in 30 seconds, so I’m not worried. I’ll have all the equipment I’ll need and I’ve worked with Jeff before.”
This is the first I’ve heard his name and guess that’s our concierge.
“Al, can Jeff get Tanya out of their fast enough? What is so important on this computer?
“Marty, Jeff is strong like a bull, and he can lift Tanya up and put her down like she weighs nothing. As for what’s on the computer, that’s need to know. “I’ll tell you this. Getting that information will save many lives, and give us a leg up on a lot of their plans. The ambassador also is the station chief for their intelligence division.
Betsy has been quiet this entire time. I ask her if she’s okay with the plan.
“It seems simple enough to me. We’re just the window dressing, while Tanya and Jeff are doing the hard work. I’m fine with this.”
Tanya chimes in, “I’ve been training for this mission for a while and I’m okay with it. If you saw me do gymnastics, you’d understand. I can fly around like a squirrel!”
Al says, “Marty, you’ll be picked up by a limo on Saturday at 5 PM. Betsy and Tanya will be staying at a local hotel, and we’ll pick them up shortly after that. Wear business casual clothes, and any additional clothing will be at the hotel for you. Betsy, I’ll be in contact with you during the week. Are there any questions?”
“Nothing from me, I’ll see you on Saturday.” Betsy hangs up.
I always over think missions, and try to figure out things that can go wrong. I ask Al what if the ambassador leaves someone in his room.
“We’ve been watching them for weeks now, and wherever the ambassador goes, so do his guards. When the hotel staff cleaned the room, after he took up residence, we planted audio and video devices inside and outside the room. They are brand new technology and undetectable by any current device. We always know what’s going on inside the room. Are there any other concerns?”
“None; Tanya, I look forward to helping you on this mission and, Al, I hope to never hear from you after this.”
“No promises Marty. But you can always say no.”
“Gee, thanks Al. No is such an easy word to say, but hard for you to hear.”
I escorted them to the door and said my good byes, thinking the whole time that I hope I didn’t make a mistake.
Click here to read part one of Spies Like Us.
Click here to read part two of Spies Like Us.
Matt Seinberg lives on Long Island, a few minutes east of New York City. He looks at everything around him and notices much. Somewhat less cynical than dyed in the wool New Yorkers, Seinberg believes those who don't see what he does like reading about what he sees and what it means to him. Seinberg columns revel in the silly little things of life and laughter as well as much well-directed anger at inept, foolish public officials. Mostly, Seinberg writes for those who laugh easily at their own foibles as well as those of others.
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