Image of Short Story
He finishes his drink, and briefly makes eye contact with the man across from him at the table. He excuses himself and stands, giving a stiff nod to the men at the table as they continue their conversation, hardly acknowledging his withdrawal. He mutters something indistinct about needing to take a piss, and walks to the restroom, every footstep seemingly louder and more startling than the last.

As he pushes the door open he is bathed in harsh fluorescent light. The only noise inside comes from a sole individual sharing the restroom. The man is tall. Maybe half a head taller, with salt and pepper hair and distinct jawline. like you stretched a piece of leather around the corner of a wall. Jaws continues to wash his hands. He too, makes brief eye contact with the man before lowering his gaze to his hands.

Looking ahead and the man continues down the long room to the stall furthest from the door, never breaking step or slowing. His heart beats faster. He feels the blood rushing to his head.

As he opens the stall his hand slips on the sliding latch. Fumbling, he quickly closes and locks the door behind him, shutting off everything outside but the light flooding in through the crack between the wall and the stall’s door. It splits the dimly lit space angle. He shoves his hand into the pocket of his old jacket, and pulls from it a small canister. The small cylinder is no bigger than a stack of dimes, but it shines like polished silver. Its contents, everything he has spent the last two years working for. Trained for the years before that. The reason he suffered in this miserable dreary place, surrounded by people he couldn’t understand.

The man reaches his hand behind the toilet, under the pipe, allowing the canister to snap on with a sharp magnetic snap before withdrawing his phone from the other pocket. He types the passcode quickly but incorrectly, requiring a second attempt to open it before he could send a message. He does not have time for these errors. He punches the code again.

As the app opens, he quickly types a number in, the message field. The man has no contacts saved. Too risky. Six words are all he can manage.


As he hits send, the incessant beam of light disappears. Replaced by a cold dark shadow that belongs to the same body as the heavy black boots that now stand outside the door.

He slowly lets the phone fall from his hand and slide into the toilet bowl. The man’s hand slips into his jacket one last time. No longer with the nervousness of the moments before, but with a calm resolve that now washes over him. He can feel his heart beat in his fingertips. From the jacket he pulls a pistol. Heavy in his hand, but not a foreign feel by any means.

He first raises his eyes to the door, then the pistol, and curses the carelessness that has led him to this moment. He exhales. Then the latch brakes.

“One week ago we lost communication with Wright,” Albert says as he paces in front of me.

He is a short man with a bristling mustache. He paces another length of the room before stopping to my right, red in the face. The man has gone soft behind a desk. Not anything like what his reputation would have led someone to believe.

“Just yesterday his body was found.” Albert slides a folder across the table to me.

I open the file, already knowing what to expect. Wright had had his flaws. He drank too much. Among other vices. But he was reliable. He had been in deep cover for nearly two years without issue. He reported in on time, and as planned. He would never disappear without communicating it in some way. All last week the team had been scrambling to find informants who had seen or heard of him. But the usuals had been coming back with nothing.

Inside is a high resolution photograph of a body in a ratty leather jacket, sprawled in the corner of an alley. Wrights left arm is going the wrong direction at the elbow, but it’s his face that makes me gag. The jaw is held on by little more than the skin, and his face is hardly recognizable.

“They forced his mouth around the toilet bowl, and played a damn football match with his skull.”

I close the folder, sick to my stomach.

“He sent a final message, indicating that the intelligence he collected was hidden in the stall of the restroom. Taylor you...” He trails off for a moment, his voice falling from the assertive barking tone that I have grown so accustomed to.

“...you will be tasked with retrieving it, relaying the contents to us. After infiltrating the Syndicate you will not return, but continue to gather intelligence.” He can hardly look me in the eyes, “You will replace him, as the new mole.” He finishes as he looks at me again.

There is always a new man to replace the last. Every life is expendable, and I am about to begin another