The spy, the photographer and the briefcase

Sutirtha Paul – Class XI

Apeejay School, Salt Lake, Kolkata.

Katha Utsav 2016

‘Brown overcoat, clean shaven, blue-striped tie, camera and a briefcase – Yes that must be him’ – murmured Freeman. He followed him to the train – carriage 21. Freeman got into carriage 20. He had been involved in far more dangerous missions – but this was a bit complicated. His orders – ‘Retrieve the briefcase without starting an international incident. ‘A mole in the service had tipped them off about the Whiting papers being smuggled across the border by a photographer –this man.’ A direct arrest was impossible – without the Losnovians crying foul. The job had to be done discreetly – and Freedman was the man chosen.

Unobtrusively, he occupied an empty berth opposite to the photographer and waited for his chance. The photographer was preparing to open the briefcase. Now was his chance – to see where the papers could be hidden. He climbed up the upper berth to get a clear view. Just as the photographer opened – a portly, swarthy faced man crossed over and began talking animatedly with the photographer. Drat! His view was blocked. He waited for the man to move. Alas! He only managed to catch a glimpse of the briefcase before the photographer closed it.

He decided to wait until the photographer retired for the night before trying to make a dash for it. He noted where the photographer kept it and then went down to the pantry car for supper. He however was short on time. There were only eight hours before they would be entering Losnovania and if anything was to be done must be done before it. Leaving Losnovania was difficult, even more so with the briefcase.

The photographer soon retired. Freeman decided it was time to act. He silently moved to the place where he thought the briefcase was and grabbed it. He then moved to a lit area in the next compartment – to examine its contents in peace. The briefcase – though he had only managed to catch a fleeting glimpse – did not look like what he thought it did. He rummaged through its contents before stumbling upon a passport – a different name. Drat! The photographer must have changed it when he was in the pantry car. He then proceeded to return it. However just as he kept it back in its place, the photographer leapt up, Freeman ducked inside the next berth and sighed. Thank God! The carriage light was off.

Freeman decided that it would be unwise to do anything further that night and proceeded to wait for it in the morning.

It was morning. There was only an hour left to retrieve it. The swarthy faced man was taking to the photographer. Freeman noticed that the man had the same make and colour of briefcase as the photographer. This gave him an idea. As the man left Freeman followed him. The man left the briefcase on the luggage rack and left the compartment. Freeman discreetly grabbed it and moved towards the photographer. He went ahead and asked for a match. As the photographer delved into his pockets, Freeman exchanged the briefcases, accepted the match and while trying to look as normal as possible exited the carriage. He got down from the train just before the border and made his way towards the Nova – the pre-arranged rendezvous point and where a room had been booked for him in advance. He took the keys and went to his room.

In his room, he opened the briefcase. Lo and behold! It was only filled with paper, pieces and pieces of crumple trash paper! It was a trick!

A knock on the door – handed him a telegram. ‘Abort mission. Intelligence wrong. ‘Well so much for his spy work. The other boys must never hear about this. He chucked the telegram and the briefcase in the bin and checked out.