The Re-Doubled Secret Agent

25 Mar

Vaso Klin felt a deep shudder in his stomach as the border official entered his rail-train compartment to inspect entry visas and identification papers of passengers entered the frontiers of the land of Sturgya.

A short, fat man in blue cap and uniform looked with disdain at the foreign visitors, the last of the four to undergo scrutiny being Vaso, seated next to the door and to the right of the inspector.

The latter looked at the documents of the three others before turning to Vaso and taking his papers in hand. He read them in seconds, then turned to Vaso and asked him a question.

“What business is it that takes you into Sturgia?” he said curtly.

The long, thin man with hollow face and russet eyes attempted a smile. “I was born in the province of Machka and there are relatives there that I plan to visit. We have not seen each other for a number of years.”

Vaso stared up at the official, looking for signs that his fiction had been accepted as true and sufficient.

The border inspector pursed his lips and handed the papers back to the traveler. Then he speedily exited and closed the compartment door.

Vaso sighed with relief. He had gotten through the first hurdle and could proceed to engage in with the complicated role he had come to fulfill.

Many members of the large family of Klins had left their home village in Machka at the end of the war a decade before, fleeing as refugees from the advancing Sturgyan army and seeking protection within the land of Botya. Yet their minds and hearts remained focused on the lost province that was the object of their hopes and dreams. They organized and formed a secret army and an underground conspiracy to rid the lost province of its new masters. Barely out of his teens, Vaso joined the revolutionary organization and underwent semi-military training for future guerilla action inside Machka. But his intelligence and quick wit drew the attention of his superiors to a more difficult and important type of assigned activity for the young enthusiast.

“You can best help our liberation movement as an intelligence agent in civilian clothes, moving about in Machka and helping to carry out espionage, sabotage, and terror attacks,” he was informed. “It will be a dangerous task, but it can be a valuable contribution to our cause.”

Vaso accepted the role of becoming an agent and placing his life under the axe of the ultimate risk. He was willing to sacrifice himself completely for the sake of ending Sturgyan domination over his home province. The chances of his succeeding and surviving were small, but this was a game he thought of as the most exciting of all possible sports for someone his age.

Once he made contact with an internal group, Vaso went to work constructing explosive devices for them. His technical training allowed him to choose and put together the optimal bomb for each particular variety of target: a bank, freight train, truck mall, or government office. He went to different towns and villages to direct and coordinate actions aimed at making operation of the economy of Greater Sturgya as difficult as could be. Spreading alarm among the oppressors and confident hope among the oppressed was the goal of his hazardous assignment.

Weeks of journeying around to smaller towns and villages to advise and assist local outfits within the Revolutionary Organization finally brought Vaso to the provincial capital, Machka City. He stayed in a cheap, inconspicuous hotel and met in coffee houses with activists.

“A valuable recent recruit wishes to speak with you,” Vaso was told by an important city leader. “He has proven of enormous value to us, because the man happens to be a plainclothes detective on the police force here in the capital. His contacts with the top ranks of Sturgyan officials and bureaucrats provide us with very useful intelligence about what the enemy is up to. He constantly asks us for contact with someone who is coming from and going back to the leadership in Botya. The fellow’s name is Jaba Tonde.”

“Arrange for me to see this interesting person,” requested Vaso. “I would like to find out all he could accomplish for the cause.”

The two were introduced to each other in an obscure little Machkan restaurant in a section of the city where mill and factory workers lived in small wooden houses. They sat down opposite each other in a back room where no one would see or hear them.

Jaba Tonde appeared to be a well-dressed man of short stature and great muscular strength. He had dark features and shadowy black eyes. He spoke to Vaso without inhibition or fearfulness of any sort.

“I was in police school when the Sturgyans invaded and conquered our homeland. They needed all the operatives in law enforcement available, and I was recruited and later promoted to the rank of detective because my record was clear of any subversive connections or sympathies. There were many vacancies available because so many of our people had escaped over the border and become refugees in Botya.

“Because of my phenomenal success in the area of criminal investigation, my Sturgyan superiors came to trust and promote me. Last year, I was given a special, undercover post as our police department’s coordinator with the clandestine counter-intelligence branch of their Secret Bureau. That is when I made my decision to enter into direct cooperation with our Machkan underground resistance movement. I have been relaying valuable documents and information to the local activists of the R.O.”

“Yes,” said Vaso, “they have told me of how helpful that has been to their operations. “My greatest desire is to have you warn us when there is any Secret Bureau threat or danger to our plans and actions. Can you obtain timely knowledge to us?”

Jaba smile slyly. “That is my ambition, as well. But I have become aware of S.B. intentions to disrupt the operations of our leadership across the border in Botya. There will be occasions when it will become necessary to get word there as quickly as possible. I believe that is when close contact between me and you can be of inestimable value, my dear fellow. That is the main reason I wished to meet and consult with you.”

“Indeed,” agreed Vaso, “I will be crossing the boundary again in a few days from now. Whatever you can obtain in that period will be of great importance to our leaders over there. I shall become your partner in your efforts for our mother, precious Machka.” He beamed at the man who was acting as a double agent within the system of the Sturgyans.

On a number of trips back to the R.O. central leadership back in Botya, Vaso carried hidden in the bottoms of his luggage important documents from the Secret Bureau files that the double agent Jaba Tonde was able to copy and hand over.

The pair became familiar with each other, exchanging stories from their earlier life. Vaso, after roaming by rail about the countryside of Machka, stopped in the capital to gather more material of potential use to the secret liberation movement.

The two went to Jaba’s bachelor apartment late one night after time in a tavern frequented by discontented young people, mostly university students coping with Sturgyan cultural and political domination.

Both of them were tired and sat in silence for a time. Jaba stared at his insurgent comrade and decided to make a startling confession to him.

“I am going to tell you something, Vaso, that I would not dare confess to anyone else in the R.O. But I know and trust you, and my wish is to help protect and advance you as best I can.

“The Machkan agents in our land are known to the Sturgyan authorities and in danger of arrest or elimination at the point of a gun. I know that, because I have been the one identifying all of them.”

Vaso gulped and gasped for breath, his mind flooding with a dizzying avalanche of hormones. He felt a vague faintness all through his body.

Jaba continued.

“I have believed from brutal experience that the Machkan liberation movement is doomed to failure. There is no way that all this violence and terrorism can put an end to the victory of Sturgya’s arms in war. We are now a part of that country and are fated to remain so. That is historical fact that no one has the power to change.

“What was I to do? My personal future depended on what I decided to do. When the Secret Bureau came to ask me to cooperate with them in my position as a civilian police detective, I said yes. A refusal would have put an end to my career. You can see why I agreed to become a double agent by entering the Revolutionary Organization and informing on it for the Sturgyans.

“The material that I gave you to take to Botya was mostly minor and unimportant. It was meant to raise my credibility with the higher-ups in the movement and the Machkan underground. So far, I have had great success in finding our vital facts about terror activities. That is probably why so many of them have failed.” He rose from his chair and stepped close to the astounded, reeling Vaso. “I want you to join with me in using our positions and contacts to keep the Secret Bureau informed and aware of what is planned. You can be my eyes and ears at the R.O. headquarters over the border. There is a fortune for both of us in that, my friend.”

What could the other say in reply?

“I need to think it all over,” gravely mumbled Vaso. “It is an irreversible thing to do. Give me a day or so to consider what it would mean.”

This was a dilemma that upset the framework of concepts within which the secret agent conducted his precarious profession.

Was he to throw overboard his beliefs in the Machkan struggle for independence? Did he have to become a liar and faker? What would his comrade Jaba demand of him should he join him as a second double agent? But he would also then be a doubled double agent, a lying and phony one, a duplicitous double agent, a kind of triple agent.

Is that what I want, to become a repeating traitor? Vaso asked himself as he wrestled with the practical and moral questions involved.

Was he capable of survival in such a game of fictions? Would he, in the end, betray himself to one or the other side?

There was no clear, easy answer to the puzzle he was in.

“I will work with you, Jaba,” said Vaso in a slow, deliberative voice. “There is no other way for me to go forward. I cannot remain where I have been till now.”

The police detective beamed with his victory. “Good. I had confidence in your rationality and wise judgment. Now, I can tell you what your first major assignment is going to be.

“The Secret Bureau needs to know the location in Botya of the next general meeting of the R.O. lead directorate. The timing of that conference is also a vital subject. It is known that matters of major strategic importance will be on the agenda to be decided at that time, in that place.

“The Director of the Bureau has personally ordered that this somehow be done. It is part of something much bigger, about which I can only guess. All our resources are to be mobilized and applied to obtaining this specific information, and I believe you can be the means of our getting it, Vaso.”

The latter felt the weight of the heavy responsibility, in several senses, now focused upon him.

Jaba Tonde was important enough to the activity of the Secret Bureau in the province of Machka to be in direct contact with the highest regional official of the organization, Atno Xikne. The detective was eager to report on what he hoped to obtain through the double agent he had recruited for Sturgya. He waited for his clandestine superior in a dusty café a street away from police headquarters in downtown Machka City.

The stocky, totally bald figure sat down opposite Jaba and eyed him with baby blue eyes. “So, you say that you brought one of theirs over to work for us? Can the guy be trusted to do what he’s told?”

The detective grinned with confidence. “We have become close friends and I believe that he is someone who tried to avoid disappointing anyone that close to him. He gave me his word that he will return with a schedule and layout for where and when the central leaders of the R.O. are planning to assemble for an important strategic conference. When he returned here, I am certain he will possess al that we want and need for a cross-border attack that will decimate the head of that conspiracy. They will never recover from such a blow.

“That is why this fellow, Vaso Klin, is so important for the success of the Bureau in clearing out Machka and eliminating the terrorist danger.”

“I hope that what has been promised to you becomes fulfilled,” said Xikne with a deep, thoughtful sigh.

As the train to Botya wound its way through the eastern mountains of Machka and neared the frontier, Vaso considered his few options. Should he report what had happened to him to his R.O. superiors? What good that do him or anyone else? he concluded. No, he would neither reveal what had been offered to him, nor fulfill what he had promised to Jaba Tonde. That had occurred in a moment of startled confusion and desperation. It held no value as an obligation he had to respect and carry out.

What path was he to follow when he returned to his work in Machka? That was the great obstacle that would face him.

Vaso realized that he had to reach some decisions before too long.

Most of the secret agent’s rest time at the R.O. headquarters in the mountains of western Botya was focused on devising and writing down a false version of the time and place of the next meeting of the movement’s central leadership committee. His hope was that he could sell it as genuine to Jaba and his superiors in the Secret Bureau. He pondered over what more he might do in thwarting the devious designs of the Sturgyans and their tools like the detective.

I have become a doubled double agent, opposing the trickery of another double agent recruited by my national enemy, said Vaso to himself as he road the deisel train back to Machka City.

Will I be able to outsmart Jaba and the S.B. hierarchy? he wondered. How is all this subterfuge going to end?

Vaso suddenly made a decision to arm himself with a small weapon. He would ask one of the movement underground operatives he knew for such an item.

Would I have the willpower to kill someone I was acquainted with, like Jaba Tonde?

Jabe met a final time with Atno Xikne at a cheap restaurant before the scheduled return from Botya of the double agent recently recruited. Atno had a surprise request he wished to make to the police investigator.

“I want to meet this man and personally thank him for what he is doing for us,” announced the regional clandestine official. “That way I can get some measure of how far we might be able to go with him in the future. I have a series of plans that he could become a component of, once we know that the man is trustworthy.

“Do you think that you can arrange for me to be present when you meet with him and he hands over the requested material to you?”

Jaba gave a pleasant, confident smile. “I can’t see why not. It will be an easy matter. You can be at the tavern with me, waiting for him in the same backroom.”

Atno Xikne gave a nod. “I will look forward to meeting this new agent of ours.”

The restaurant was nearly empty at the late hour when Vaso walked in, a case full of his notes and diagrams under one arm. He knew exactly which room in the rear he was expected by the detective, Jaba Tonde.

As he stepped in through the door-less opening, his eyes caught the presence of a stranger sitting beside the man who called himself his partner.

Jaba was first to speak.

“Welcome back to Machka City, my friend. How are you, and how was your train journey?”

Vaso continued staring at the unknown person in an expensive business suit. “I am well, and I had a very good trip here.”

Jaba gave a laugh. “I am glad to hear that. But I can tell that you wonder who it is sitting with mw here. Let me tell you. This man is the head of the Secret Bureau in the province of Machka. All of its personnel are under his direct command. We are under his ultimate command, as you too are.

“I introduce you to Commander Atno Xikne.”

The latter stepped around the table and came close to the startled Vaso, who was uncertain what to expect.

“May I shake your hand, Agent Klin?” whispered the high official.

Vaso put his carrying case under his left shoulder and shook the offered hand.

“Please, let us all sit down and talk,” proposed Jaba in a cheerful voice.

Once Vaso was seated across from the other two, he handed his case over to Jaba on the other side.

“Thank you,” said the latter. “The Secret Bureau will forever be in your debt, dear comrade. But there are major tasks that remain undone. Our regional director wishes to inform you of what your next assignment shall consist of.” He turned his head to the side, signaling his superior that he now had the floor to speak.

Xikne stared at Vaso with an intense look. “Your next task will be a most difficult one, but vital to the security and future safety of this country. The leadership of the Revolutionary Organization must be destroyed, to the last man. We have to cut off the head of our mortal enemy in one final swoop. That is where you come in, my friend. You are to be the executioner of that group of arch-terrorists and criminals.”

Atno Xikne paused for a few seconds to study the surprised expression on the face of Vaso, then proceeded on.

“You happen to be a trusted agent of the R.O., with access to all parts of its mountain headquarters in Botya. This ability of yours to move around at will can facilitate your opportunity to wipe out all the members of the small central committee. You will know when they will be assembling for their next joint session together. A grenade attached to your body will be the weapon that you will hurl into the meeting place to annihilate them to the last man. Your safe escape can be planned and provided for, of course.

“This brave action will make you a figure that historians will never forget.”

Atno grinned at the designated assassin with an obviously evil emotion of merciless gloating.

What Vaso then did was also cold and devoid of inhibition of any sort.

Reaching with his right hand into his suit’s inner pocket, he quickly pulled out the revolver that he had come with. Jaba and the S.B. official passively watched as their new double agent pointed the weapon and fired a silent bullet directly into the neck of Atno Xikne before anything could be done to protect the targeted one.

Jaba watched in horror as a second bullet to the heart guaranteed that his superior officer was irreversibly dead. Fear seized hold of him. Was he about to become the second person to be killed that night?

With the gun still in his right hand, Vaso leaned over and picked up the case he had placed on the table top.

Without a word to the paralyzed, totally terrified Jaba, the shooter of the soundless shot turned about and made a rapid exit from the room.

Jaba never saw or heard from the supposed double agent ever again. In a short while, he also left the restaurant. The body of Atno Xikne was discovered by a cleaning woman the next morning. A mysterious killing remained, never to be solved by either the police or the S.B.

No one saw Vaso Klin in the future, in Machka City, the province of Machka, or anywhere in Sturgya or Botya. The man became a master of self-concealment.

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