BEHIND THE PICTURE
I was fairly sure that I was not followed. Just as a precaution I had gone around the block twice keeping a close eye on the rear vision mirror. Now as I approached the front door of the house I took a last look around before ringing the door bell.
Normally I would not go to a contacts house but the situation was desperate. Control needed the document urgently and the contact was beginning to lose his nerve and had refused to meet in a public area.
The door opened against a chain and a rather croaky, shaky voice said, “I did not send out for anything.” To which I replied, “I’m not delivering anything.” With the coded greeting out of the way the chain was taken off and the door opened. I had never met the contact before but was surprised that he looked so much older than his photo on our files.
He turned to go back inside as I asked him if the document was in a safe place. He nodded and started to turn back towards me. Suddenly there was the screech of tyres as a car came to a shuddering halt on the road. Instinctively I threw myself to the ground.
I had already drawn my pistol when there was the chattering scream of a machine gun. Bullets smashed into the door frame and the path sending chips of concrete and wood flying. The shooter must have been using a high speed model as the stream of bullets only lasted a second or two and he stopped to reload. That is what I hoped for anyway as I got to my knees and emptied my pistol into the front of the car at the curb. There was no return fire.
The front seat passenger was hanging half out of the side window. The gun had dropped from his hands onto the footpath. I could not see the driver. Suddenly the car took off in reverse with tyres smoking and disappeared up the road. Lights were coming on in the houses across the road. I went inside and closed the door.
The contact was lying just inside. His shirt was covered in blood. I knelt beside him. It was obvious that he had been hit hard and was not going to last for long. All I was interested in now was the document. I lifted his head and asked him where it as. He tried to point but his arm fell back by his side. I leaned close and he whispered, “Behind the picture. “ Then he gave a long sigh and was gone.
I would have to hurry. By now one of the neighbours had probably rung the police. I possibly only had minutes to find the document and get the hell out of here. Behind the picture he had said. There were dozens of them. They lined the hallway and there were more I could see in the lounge room. No time to waste. Rip them down and tear off the backing. There were shots of sporting greats at their moments of triumph, racing cars, horses winning races. Why did he have to be a sporting nut?
The minutes ticked by. At least fifty pictures in ruin on the floor. No document. Last picture. No document. What now? A deep voice says, “Police. Move and I will shoot you”. No siren. No time to escape.
In handcuffs near the door when I see it; on the mantelpiece a large trophy of a baseball pitcher throwing. Pitcher. Pitcher. Not picture you idiot.