“Do tell,” I murmured back politely, looking everywhere but at him. None of the other occupants were paying us the least bit of attention and the steward was in the galley.
“Not what you expected. Have you got it?” I placed a hand loosely on his newspaper. He reached into the attache case next to him, and I felt him slide something into the newspaper. I was watching his face, not the paper, and could see the sweat starting around his thinning hairline.
Casually, I lifted the newspaper. “Thanks, old man.” He nodded, then turned his attention to the window, and I walked away.
Back at my own table, I set the newspaper, still folded around whatever it was, between me and the window. Ignoring it, I set to work on the delicious snack. After a few short moments, I saw the man from the corner of my eye. He wiped his face with a bandana, and then rose and walked away from his table, headed for the other end of the dining car. I didn’t watch him go. Instead, I was scanning the car for the other occupants and their reactions.
None of them so much as looked up. I tidied up my table, then picked up the newspaper, all casual-like, before heading towards our compartment. I expected to find my wife there, but Karen was conspicuously absent. Still gossiping with Amelie, no doubt. I could take a look at what I’d been given before she got back, I was certain.
It’s not espionage if it’s just surreptitious instructions from your employer, I firmly believe. The Count’s motto was ‘Play to win. Whatever the cost.’ as it had been his father’s, and grandfather’s, and all the Derosier’s fading into the mists of history. None of them liked to be talked about, so I’d never been able to find out directly what they had done. It was more like building a picture from the frame, looking at what historical records didn’t say, than any explicitly limned actions.
Which included his use of our services. He didn’t acknowledge us, and I didn’t pretend he didn’t exist. I also didn’t court the loss of his account by broadcasting what we did for him, either. Besides which, I found the game amusing, and Karen found it downright titillating. I unfolded the newspaper and looked down at the film cartridge inside it. Not for the first time, I wondered where he’d found the film for his camera. I’d tried, and no one seemed to make it any longer, in these fallen times. Fortunately, I’m handy, so I’d been able to build myself a portable developer. Unfortunately, it was not so portable as to be useful in a sleeper cabin. I put the film in my breast pocket and turned my attention to the flimsy note included with it.
My prompt this week came from Fiona Grey with “Play to win. Whatever the cost.”
I prompted ‘Nother Mike with “With a ripple of iridescent wing…’
You can read the responses to prompts, and join in the challenge yourself, over at More Odds Than Ends. See you there!