I halt a good 50 yards down the terminal from the counter of the German airline that has the 7:15 flight to Copenhagen and slide left until I’m in the partial cover of the partition that marks the end of the section. I’m traveling light—three days of clean clothes, one dress shirt and tie, one pair of black leather loafers in the small carryon suitcase and a pair of hiking boots on my feet. If we have anything more formal to do we’ll just have to buy me a suit.
I like not knowing what this is about, what’s going to happen; “to retrieve something of great value.” I’m going to try and identify whoever I’m meeting before they see me, though I know that’s probably impossible. They must know who I am, what I look like, and I know nothing. Also, I’m six-five and easy to spot from a distance.
There aren’t a lot of people in my field of view, and instead of focusing on anyone or anything I let my vision blur a little and take in the whole, the gestalt of the scene, the two dark blue uniforms behind the ticket counter, the short line of people waiting with their suitcases next to their feet. In the open area behind the queue ropes, to the right, there are 4, 5, 6 shapes walking quickly, airport gait, toward me on their way to security.
There’s a figure, just one, in my ganzfeld that’s not doing airport things—standing in the far corner of the terminal, beyond the ticket counter and next to the exit doors. I let my vision sharpen again, until he comes clear, and although at this distance he looks the size of a toy soldier across a room I can see him looking straight at me.
I chuckle at that, the element of surprise lost but it was fun playing, and come out into the open, wheeling the suitcase behind me. I don’t look at him or head directly toward him, of course, but quarter away right, toward a line of seats along the back wall facing the ticket counters. They’re completely empty and I grab one in the middle, open my backpack and take out a copy of Buchan’s The Power House that I picked up for a quarter at the Palo Alto used bookstore. I figure it will be a few minutes before the contact man comes, so I forget about him and start in reading. And the first thing I read is:
I suppose that the explanation is that the world is full of clues to everything, and that if a man’s mind is sharp-set on any quest, he happens to notice and take advantage of what otherwise he would miss.
I read another page and glance up, and he’s just walking past, not looking at me, a medium height black man wearing black rimmed scholarly eyeglasses and an untucked light blue dress shirt that does a poor job of concealing his massive chest and shoulders. He’s got a gray windbreaker draped over his right arm. He sits to my left with one empty chair between and tosses the windbreaker on it, looks at his watch, and looking straight ahead at the ticket counter says, “The package is under the coat. I’m going to forget it when I get up in a minute, then come back for it. I’ll drop it in your lap and no one will be able to see it on the surveillance cameras.”
He sounds like a Brit, Oxford accent, and I’m surprised for just a second, then he turns slightly, looks me in the eye and smiles.
“I’ve known Jim White for a long time. He’s a bit of a trickster. Better button up your arsehole, young man.” I’m a little startled by this and he laughs softly at my expression.
“Go to the men’s and open the envelope in a stall. Don’t worry, it won’t self-destruct.” He laughs again, genuinely amused, gets up and moves off to the left. I pick up Buchan and get back to reading. After another page and a half, I catch a flash of blue in the corner of my eye.
“Pardon me,” he says, picks up the jacket and a thick envelope, the same color as the jacket, falls into my lap. I read for another 30 seconds, close the book on it and put it back in the pack.