Five more minutes.
“Hi, what can I get you?”
“I’m just waiting on a friend. Give me a few more minutes, thanks.”
I sat at the corner table of the cafe, right next to the window. My eyes scanned for a man dressed in all black, with a scar over his left eyebrow. I was bad at spotting people. Cannon always did the spotting for me, but he was sent to Vancouver for another mission. This was my first mission alone.
It’s fine. Everything is going to run smoothly.
Just as I tried to calm myself down, I caught a glimpse of a man, likely in his thirties, crossing the road. A long black overcoat draped over his slender figure, and his face was accompanied with a heavy moustache. My heart raced as I noticed the scar above his left eyebrow. This had to be the guy I was waiting for – our spy. The man glanced around the cafe, his eyes landing on mine for a brief moment. He gave a subtle nod, confirming his identity.
As he approached my table, I took a deep breath, steadying myself. This was it, the crucial moment. I had to execute this perfectly. He sat down across from me, casually pulling out a newspaper as if he were just another customer. I followed suit, and pretended to read a magazine, all while keeping an eye on him from above the pages.
The tension in the air was palpable, but I couldn’t afford to show any signs of nervousness. I waited for him to make the first move. After a few minutes of pretending to read, he slid a small envelope towards me. I picked it up with caution, simultaneously maintaining a nonchalant expression.
With the envelope now safely in my possession, I pretended to yawn and stretch, giving him a subtle signal that the transaction was complete. He responded with a slight nod before getting up to leave. As he walked away, I swiftly checked the contents of the envelope. It was all there .Classified documents which we needed our hands on, to expose a dangerous criminal network.
Feeling a mixture of relief and accomplishment, I got up from my seat and headed for the door, making sure not to attract any unnecessary attention. The mission was a success, and I was ready to report back to headquarters.
As I stepped out onto the street, a sudden rush of adrenaline shot through me. I had the unsettling feeling that I was being followed. Instinctively, I quickened my pace, trying to blend in with the busy crowd. I made my way through the bustling city, my senses on high alert, scanning my surroundings for any potential threats.
I felt a few suspicious figures linger behind me, their shadows, which constantly mirrored my every move, confirmed the suspicion. They were onto me, and I couldn’t risk leading them back to my team or the intelligence agency.
I needed to shake them off somehow.
I ducked into a nearby alley, taking sharp turns in an attempt to try confuse my pursuers. But the sound of footsteps behind me grew louder, and I knew I had to act fast.
I spotted an open door to what appeared to be an abandoned building. I made a split-second decision and darted inside. The place was dark and musty, filled with debris and long-forgotten items, as well as a stale smell which lingered in the air. A slight crack behind a stack of old wooden crates acted as my hiding spot, and I held my breath, praying they hadn’t seen me enter.
Minutes felt like hours as I waited. The tension suffocated me. I strained my ears, listening for any sign of movement. Finally, the sound of footsteps passed by the entrance of the building, and I knew they had moved on. I stayed hidden for a while longer, before taking a circuitous route back to my safehouse, making sure no one was tailing me.
As the clock struck midnight, I leaned back in my chair, the weight of the day’s events finally catching up to me. I couldn’t help but feel a rush of pride in completing my first solo mission.
I have to call Cannon and tell him about today.
I dialled Cannon’s number, and to my surprise, he picked up immediately.
“Cannon, I got the files. Will be heading back to the headquarters tomorrow.”
“This is not Cannon. You called the wrong number.”
Confused, I double-checked the number I had dialled. It was indeed Cannon’s number. But the voice on the other end of the line was unfamiliar. This couldn’t be right. Cannon wouldn’t joke around during a mission.
“Wait, who is this? Where’s Cannon?” I asked, trying to keep my voice steady, despite a strong sense of unease growing within me.
“I don’t know any Cannon,” the person replied tersely. “You’ve got the wrong number.”
Before I could say anything else, the line went dead, which left me stunned. Panic started to bubble inside me. What was going on? I needed to get back to the headquarters. Now.
I ran to the staircase, greeted by two masked figures blocking my escape route. I immediately reached for my hidden weapon, but they were faster, disarming me before I could react. One of them grabbed me roughly, forcing me inside the safehouse. I struggled against their grip, but they overpowered me. They tied me to a chair, leaving me completely helpless.
“What do you want? Who are you?” I demanded, my heart pounding.
“We know you have the files,” one of them sneered.
“Hand them over, and we might let you live.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I lied, in the hopes that I could buy some time. But they weren’t buying it. They ransacked the place, tearing it apart, immersed in a desperate search for the classified documents.
I couldn’t let them get their hands on the files. It could spell disaster for not only our agency, but also the safety of countless innocent lives. I needed to find a way out of this situation.
As they grew more frustrated with their search, I tried to analyse my surroundings for a potential escape route. The room was an old storage area, with rusty windows and a door that looked ready to fall off its hinges. If only I could break free and make a run for it…
Just as I was formulating a plan, one of them turned to me with a wicked smile.
“Looks like you’re not as smart as you think. We’ve tracked your every move since you left the cafe. Hand over the files, or we’ll make you regret it.”
I couldn’t give in. I knew that. I had to protect those documents at all costs. So, with adrenaline surging through me, I mustered all my strength and lunged at the nearest intruder. I managed to knock him off balance, but his partner swiftly intervened, striking my face with a brutal blow.
Dazed and disoriented, I fought to stay conscious. But the pain was too much – everything began to blur. My last conscious thought was of Cannon, and the worrying confusion regarding his absence.
What had happened to him? Was he in trouble too? I hoped he was safe, and that we would find each other again soon.
But for now, I had to focus on surviving.
As darkness enveloped me, I clung to the hope that my training and instincts would see me through. The fight wasn’t over yet, I told myself.
And then I passed out.
Written by Kelly Ma and edited by Sophia Oblefias. Published on 12/08/23. Header image by Jessie Zhang.