The Double Date

“How much longer?” James looked at his watch, glanced through the door spyhole then walked over to his colleague.

“I’m working on it,” replied William, tapping rapidly on the keyboard.

“Encrypted huh?”

“Yes.”

“Brett Sinclair would have cracked it by now.”

“You do know, don’t you, that Brett Sinclair is just a TV show. He’s not a real person. It’s just fantasy. You know, like that world inside your head.”

“I’m just saying, that’s all. I thought you were the uber-nerd. You can crack it, can’t you?”

“It’s encrypted with a triple-DES key.”

“Is that a yes or a no?”

“Technically, it’s a no. No-one can decrypt a triple-DES key, not without a supercomputer and, oh, say about a thousand years.”

“So you screwed up?”

“No, I haven’t screwed up.” The effort to remain calm showed in William’s strained tone. “I just need the right key, which is what I’m searching for now. Why don’t you be a good little meathead and go guard the door while the grown-ups work?”

“You sure you can do it?”

“If I can be left alone to work, yes.”

“So, how long?”

“I don’t know. It’ll take as long as it takes.”

James looked at his watch.

“Can’t we just take the hard disk and work on it later?”

“No.”

“Why not?”

William sighed and turned to face James.

“Because he’s VPC’ed into a server.” He looked at James, who nodded in the manner of one who is lost at sea but wants to give the impression he has a compass. “Because the files are not on this computer, they’re on a computer far, far away. We’re talking to that computer with magic invisible radio waves. If we take the disk out, the magic radio waves go back to the land of Oz, and the beautiful princess will never get freed from the tower.”

“Jeez, okay. I only asked.” James walked back to the door, glanced through the spyhole then checked his watch. “I have every confidence in you, you know that. Some of the other guys, they think you’re just a geeky nerd, but me, I wouldn’t dismiss you like that. In today’s world, we need geeky nerds.”

“I’m flattered,” said William, scrolling through a folder on the C drive.

“It’s just, you don’t need to be quite so nerdy, you know? Sure, you got a brain the size of a planet, and that’s cool. I mean, I’ll hold my hand up, Helsinki would have been harder without you.”

“Helsinki would have been impossible without me,” muttered William.

“But I just thought, you know, this being our, what, fifth mission together, some coolness might have rubbed off on you, and some geek skills rubbed off on me.”

“You think you can just pick up IT skills by hanging with geeks?”

“Well, I at least thought you might have picked up some tips from me.”

“From you?” William snorted and moved onto the next folder.

“Oh come on. Why’d you come work for the Service? It was for the guns and the girls, right?”

“For the opportunity to work at the cutting edge of IT security and to serve my country.”

“Jesus, you almost sound as though you mean that. But seriously, we have the coolest job in the world. You could have wall-to-wall chicks, if you just learnt to, I don’t know, switch off the nerd for a while.”

“I do all right.”

“Yeah, sure.”

“I do. I just don’t post my victories up on Facebook, that’s all.”

“Name one victory.”

“I’m working.”

“Just one. Boys and hookers don’t count.”

“Look, just let me work. I’m not playing your stupid games.”

“That’s what I thought.”

“Olga.”

“What?”

“Olga. Berlin, last month.”

“Ah.”

“Ah what?”

“Ah, technically, that doesn’t count.”

“What do you mean?”

“No, you’re right. Olga, Congratulations, but one girl, in all this time?”

“Why doesn’t Olga count?”

“Look, it slipped out. I didn’t mean that.”

“What?”

James sighed and walked over to the bed. He sat on the edge.

“You know that Israeli attache in Berlin? Ruth?”

“The one you tried to suck the face off?”

“The one I shared a mutual attraction with, yes. Well, she wouldn’t agree a date without getting one for her friend. So we sort of arranged a hook-up.”

“No, I met her at the bar. I chatted her up. Me, no help from you.”

“Yes, well, she was sort of expecting you. That’s why she was giving you the eye. She found the whole spy thing a turn-on.”

William frowned. “The spy thing? I told her I sold insurance.”

“Yes, well, she knew Ruth was an embassy attache, and so we sort of let her think that you were a spy, sort of.”

“You broke my cover?”

“It got you laid.”

“But you broke my cover!”

“I’m not sure she really believed it. Be fair, you make a more convincing insurance salesman than a spy.”

“But you told a foreign national that I worked for the Service.”

“There’s no harm. It’s not like you made a second date with her. Besides, Oprah says that honesty is the basis of any good relationship.”

“Oprah?”

“Eight days stake-out in Yemen with no alcohol and the only English programs on the TV were I Love Lucy and Oprah. What would you choose? Look, just work your nerd magic and let’s get out of here. We can fight over it later.” James glanced at his watch.

William waved vaguely at the screen. “Oh, I already cracked it. It’s just downloading onto the thumb drive now. What is it with your watch today? What’s the rush?”

“No rush,” said James, glancing at his watch again.

“Who is she?”

“Who?”

“The hot date you’re scared you’ll miss.”

“Okay, okay. At the hotel this morning, I went for a workout in the gym. There was a stewardess on the cycle machine. Man. Anyway, she’s got a flight tomorrow at 0600 hours and nothing to do till then.”

“We’re on a mission, James. You know the protocol. Lie low and don’t attract attention.”

“You ever knew Cartwright? He was in Columbia about four years ago, that time when it all hit the fan. They shot him in his hotel room. Asleep and stone-cold sober in his bed, as per protocol. Come on, it’s the perfect cover. If we had just done a mission like this, no-one would believe we’d be stupid enough to go out on the town. And frankly, I’d feel a lot safer in someone else’s bed, if you know what I mean. Besides, they don’t roster just one flight attendant per plane. She’ll have a friend, guaranteed.”

“Jesus, you’ve not told her we’re in the Service.”

“What? No. No need, not this time. Come on, William. Bill. Billy-boy. Why not? And tomorrow we both go our own sweet way. Where’s the harm? Only get a move on. The target’s unsecured, if you get my drift. I don’t want some sales rep getting in there before me.”

“Okay, okay,” said William, pulling the thumb drive from the socket. “Only it would have gone a lot quicker if we could have asked the target for the key first.”

“What? Are you saying it’s my fault?”

“Well, you’re the one that shot him,” said William, indicating the body on the bed beside James.

“I thought he was going for a gun.”

William surveyed the area around the keyboard to ensure he had not left anything behind.

“He was naked in bed, James.”

“So? Don’t you sleep with a gun under your pillow?”

“Unbelievable,” muttered William, making his way towards the door. “We’re making the drop first, okay?”

James rose from the bed, checked the room with a cursory glance and followed his partner.

“Stop nagging, or I won’t ask her to bring a friend,” he said, as they stepped into the corridor.

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About snodlander
Snodlander is the nom de plume of Bob Simms. He is an IT trainer, but it's not as glamourous as it sounds. When he's not enthralling classes with adventures through SQL Server, he writes, draws and drinks his own home-brew. Buy his novel on Amazon Kindle at The Young Demon Keeper, It's 74p, for crying out loud!

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