Heidi Benson Stagg: Benchmarks

Charlie’s trained eyes peered through the binoculars from his vantage point at the top of the playground castle. He had a full view of the park and the turret shielded him from view of onlookers. He jotted notes in a little pad with a pencil, kept tucked in his suit pocket.

The man had approached the bench from the south, glancing furtively to his left and right several times before catching sight of the pretty young woman and quickening his pace when she looked up from her book with a smile.

Charlie shook his head at her book choice. “Anna Karenina? You’ve got to be kidding. Spies choosing to read a Russian author during a hand-off is practically a slap in the face.”

The couple embraced and he pulled her in for a lingering kiss.

“Nice touch,” Charlie thought, impressed with the depth of acting.

They sat and chatted for a few minutes, their hands never breaking contact. Charlie’s lip reading skills weren’t tested in the slightest by the easy exchange of pleasantries about their workday, her cat, and his favorite baseball team making it into the playoffs. Their English was flawless. He waited for the password and wasn’t disappointed.

“I can’t stay long. Let’s grab a quick bite. I want to get to class early to talk to the professor about the midterm,” she said.

Then, handing him her book, “Would you mind taking this home for me?”

He opened up the leather satchel he had slung over his shoulder and inserted the book. They walked back down the path from where he had come, arms around each other’s waists.

Charlie finished his report an hour later, ripping the sheet from the typewriter with a flourish and placing it on the Sergeant’s desk. He had all the details and a series of photos stealthily shot with his telephoto lens. He’d cracked the case and now all they had to do was send in the special agents for the arrest. A commendation would definitely be in order.

The next morning he arrived at the precinct to laughter. His theory was wrong. When the squad had knocked on the door of Professor Tolstoy with a search warrant late that evening, not a shred of evidence was found. The Professor, busy tutoring a student in subjects not taught at school, wasn’t amused and wanted the responsible detective’s head on a platter. Charlie’s head.

At the park that afternoon, Charlie reenacted the scene with his notepad in hand. He was carefully following the snitches lead, walking from the south and looking for the fourth bench on the left. As he retraced the steps, his eyes went to the bench where the young woman had been reading. Wait. That was the fourth bench on the right.

Charlie stared at the correct location. It was a memorial bench with a tiny engraved plaque on the back: “The two most powerful warriors are patience and time. – Leo Tolstoy”

“Damnit! Foiled again. I’ll get you, KGB.”

Comments are closed.