The Case of the Misplaced Hero
by Camille LaGuire
Episode 15 - But Not a Professional Spy
ROZINSHURA HELD HIS life in his hands. That little bit of paper with scrawled notes in a childish code. It held the lives of perhaps hundreds or thousands of people. The future of all of Awarshawa.
A coup, it said. And names -- but no indication of whether the names were people to tell about the coup, or people who would perpetrate it. And both sides would have accomplices....
This bit of paper was a bomb, and if he handed it to the wrong person, it would be a disaster. War. A firing squad. Defeat for Awarshawa at the hands of foreign oppressors. Or perhaps local oppressors. He could not know what to do without more information.
He had to find out where this paper came from, and where it was going to.
And the answers lay across the desk from him, in the fuzzy head of that drunken, water-logged old man. Professor Thornton looked back at him with bleery but earnest gray eyes.
"I couldn't be a spy," he said. "If I were I spy, I would know how to get out of this, and I don't."
"Not a professional," said Rozinshura. "When a real spy uses a traveler such as yourself as a courier, that makes you a spy too."
"But I'm not a traveler," protested the professor. "I never go anywhere." The man seemed genuinely bewildered. Rozinshura was nearly sure that he had no idea what he was carrying.
"Where did you get this?"
"I don't know.
"You were drunk. Perhaps another passenger on the train gave it to you?"
"I don't think so. I was never on a train. I was walking home from the restaurant, and I jumped in the river instead, and I came up in a different river altogether."
Rozinshura struggled to understand what the man said. Was he simply too drunk to make sense, or did Rozinshura himself simply not speak Imprish well enough to understand.
"By restaurant you mean the dining car? You were drinking, yes?"
"I was drinking, yes."
"Perhaps you were with someone. Someone spoke to you while you were drinking?"
"Just Alex. And the waitress, but she was too angry to speak with me."
"Who is Alex?"
"Oh, he's a student. But not an ordinary student. Not ordinary at all." The professor leaned forward confidentially. "He's invisible. Not literally, of course -- you can't see through him -- but he blends in until you find out he's a hero. Like Zorro."
"Like a spy."
"I suppose it is like a spy."
"Did he give you anything? Papers? A book?"
"Yes, he did show me his paper as we were walking out of the restaurant. It was all nonsense of course."
Rozinshura sat back and nodded to himself. Yes, the spy has heard something, perhaps that the train will be attacked, even. Or perhaps he just fears it will be stopped and he will be searched. He slips the papers into the book and slips that into the pocket of the drunk to carry for him.
The captain questioned the man for a while, but he could not get a coherent discription of this Alex. It was worse when he tried to get the man to tell him where he had been going. In the man's slurred speech, the destination sounded like Meesheegun, and Rozinshura could not resolve it into any place he had heard of.
But then there was a knock at the door, and Niko, the cook, stuck his head in.
"Kinchin Captain," he said, "there is trouble."
He could hear the voice of Pookiterin calling from the hall behind him. "Where is your security? Get these people out of here!"
Rozinshura quickly slipped the paper into the book and the book into his pocket. He stepped out into the hall, and saw, though the tavern room, the passengers from the train flooding into the building.
Stay Tuned for Episode Sixteen: "The Flash Mob"
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