The Man in the Mask

The spy was there. Johnson spotted him immediately while walking out of the hotel foyer. Same guy as before. Couldn’t those idiots have sent somebody different or at least given this one a disguise? Amateurs. He’d have to lose him again.

He had the quick-change outfit on beneath his suit jacket. Record time for a change was thirty-one seconds. He did it in forty. Suit jacket, fake shirt, fake glasses off. Flat cap, sunglasses and earphones on. The mask had to stay. There was no inconspicuous way to pull your face off in the middle of a busy city street.

Johnson weaved through the lunchtime crowds until he reached the edge of the CBD and crossed over to the park where he would meet the informant. He glanced over his shoulder. The spy was gone.

He smiled.

He’d become very good at his job. The mask and disguises were important. But it was the little things. How you walked, how you talked, how you stood. That was his skill. His expertise. They had given him an old man’s mask but he could make himself look any age. That’s why the spy would never catch him.

He sat down on the park bench and signaled for the informant to approach by placing the brown leather bag with silver hardware beside him.

The early spring sunshine felt warm on his face. Well, not his face. His mask. He’d forgotten about the mask again.

He reached up and touched it. It felt so real. Wonderful piece of technology. He remembered when they were introduced. He was one of the first employees to get one. At first, he wished they hadn’t given him an old man’s mask but he learned the part quickly. He excelled at it.

He checked his watch. The informant was late. He scanned the area. Then a knot in his stomach almost bent him in two. The spy had walked out from behind the fountain straight ahead and was striding towards him. Johnson looked around for an escape but there was nothing to do. Nowhere to go. He’d finally been caught.

Best to play it cool. He pretended not to look as the spy sat down.

“I’m your informant.”

“Don’t lie. You’ve been following me for months. Years.”

“There’s something you need to know.”

Johnson turned to look as the spy reached inside his jacket and pulled out a hand mirror. He held the mirror up then flipped it around to point at Johnson.

Johnson reeled backwards and inspected his face. The mask had degraded. Badly. Great crevasses ran this way and that weaving their way through lesser wrinkles. He would have to get a new one. The agency would see to it.

He gathered himself and sat up straight. This spy was not going to get the better of him.

“And just what do I need to know?” he asked in his authoritative old man’s voice.

The spy looked at him sadly.

“You’re not wearing a mask.”