A posh club,
Two middle-aged men sat at a corner table, savouring their single-malt. They acknowledged passers-by, but didn’t encourage conversation, because they had important business to discuss.
“Who delivers documents by hand, these days? Haven’t they heard of e-mail?” asked the man with the pot-belly.
“Haan bhai, but e-mails can be hacked. This is highly classified data. There is just one copy of the document. It will be delivered by hand. We have to keep it safe,” said his friend, with the big moustache.
“How will it be delivered?”
“There is a guy at the Ministry of External Affairs, Bhushan Mehra. He will personally collect it from the ISRO liaison office, at Khar and hand it over to the Foreign Secretary.”
“Bunny Mehra? I play tennis with him. How did he get entangled in this business? He is a ghisa-pita civil servant, with no imagination. This cloak and dagger stuff is so unlike him.”
“I don’t know all that. All I know is, that the CIA is interested in the document. They know about it, but we have refused to give them a peek at it. So, they will try to steal it from Mehra’s house. Tell me, do you know anyone who can keep it safe?”
“What’s the timeline?”
“About ten days.”
“But, why is it going to the ISRO liaison office at all?” Pot-Belly was confused about this deviation from protocol.
“Arre Bhai, one of the liaison officers is running a double agent in the Middle East. He was once working undercover in that country. A woman working for a militant organisation, wanted to defect to the US. The ISRO guy persuaded her to turn double agent, instead. In R&AW circles, she is known as Begum Jaan. Her organisation has strong ties with a lot of Jihadi groups, and she is a part of their inner circle. Begum Jaan has foiled many attacks on Indian soil. She is sending him a very important document. I don’t have the clearance to know what it contains, so please don’t ask me for more details,” Mr. Moustache snapped.
“Ok, fine. I’ll find someone. Have another drink.”
Mrs. Bhushan Mehra was cracking eggs in a bowl, when the doorbell rang. The maid was late again today. She was full of excuses, as usual.
“My husband is ill, Memsaab. I have to stay in the hospital with him. My niece will come to your house everyday. Eh, come here, and say Namaste. She is shy, but fast. I’ve trained her well. Her name is Meena.”
Meena was definitely shy, but, she was not fast, by any yardstick. She was thorough, but very slow. The time she took to finish dusting, uff! But, Bunny’s study had never looked cleaner.
“Komal! Why is the maid cleaning my study?” Bhushan Mehra was livid!
“How many times have I told you that no one should enter my study?”
“Hush, Bunny.” His wife tried to placate him. “My knees were hurting today, so she offered to help me out. Why are you always so suspicious? Calm down. All this yelling is not good for your blood pressure.”
“Fine, but no one is allowed to enter my study for the next two days. Not even you!” Mr. Mehra stormed off. He had to collect that darned document, and keep it safe. He wasn’t made for all this secret spy stuff. But, he had jumped at the chance to perform this one daring task, before he retired from a dull career. He just hoped he wouldn’t be killed before then. No one gave Param Vir Chakras to elderly bureaucrats. Instead, they would try to gyp poor Komal out of his pension.
Mrs. Mehra saw him off with a sigh of relief. She didn’t want him scaring off her new party planner Maya. She was hosting a farewell party for one of her friends, the next day, and Maya was a great help.
When Mr. Mehra returned, his house had been dusted, mopped and polished from top to bottom. The next evening, a horde of women descended on his house. He had forgotten about his wife’s party. He locked himself in his study. The document was still safe inside a sealed brown paper cover, in his briefcase.
Suddenly, the electricity went off, and the house was plunged into darkness. Mr. Mehra went out to the fuse box. Soon, the lights came on. When he got back, he saw the maid sweeping pieces of a broken cup, just outside his study door. Why the heck was she always hanging around his study?
Before he could question her, Komal told him that Maya had dropped her cup in the dark. The maid was just cleaning it up.
Maya was looking very uneasy.
“Uncle, I was just coming out of the kitchen, when I heard someone at the door of your study. When I went closer, the person brushed past me, and I dropped the cup.”
“It must have been one of the guests, trying to get around in the dark. No harm done, Bunny,” said Komal.
Mr. Mehra made some polite noises and escaped. The first thing that he did, was to check the briefcase. It was exactly where he had left it, undisturbed. He opened it, and the brown cover was safe too. He heaved a sigh of relief.
The next morning, he took the briefcase straight to the office of the Foreign Secretary.
“Good morning, sir.”
“Ah, Mehra! You’ve been dabbling in some spy craft, I hear. What have you got for me?”
“Sir, this document contains the co-ordinates of the site of a nuclear reactor, being built in the Middle East, funded by three major terror groups. If we act now, we can stop it from being completed. Once it goes fully underground, it can’t be bombed.”
He opened the briefcase, and stuck his hand into the brown cover, only to blanch in fear, as he pulled out his empty hand.
“It’s gone! I can’t believe it. How did they get it?”
“Relax Mr. Mehra,” said a girl. “I have your document.”
To his total and complete astonishment, the maid, Meena walked in with the document.
“I was posted at your house, to ensure the safety of the document. Your party planner, Maya tried to break into your study, when the lights were out. I had already extracted the document, by then. Plus, I managed to give her a bit of a fright,” she said in fluent English.
“But, why would she do that?”
“Maya works for the CIA. Didn’t you know?”
“Who do you work for?”
“That’s classified information,” she said and walked out of the room, with a smile.
The Blackbird was going home to roost.
I am taking part in The Write Tribe Problogger October 2017 Blogging Challenge