What he liked about sitting in the cafe and looking out the window was the glimpse it allotted him of two worlds; the view outside and the interior he could see reflected in the glass. He would visit daily, arrive at 06:00 on the dot, and leave when the place cleared out, usually around 10. He sat and read the paper but was always separate from the interior and exterior; he was far more transitory. In many ways, he was like the pane of glass itself, threaded precariously between worlds, neither here nor there nor coming or going. It was almost as if he was a figment.
And so, it was a surprise when she sat beside him and, without hesitation, said, “I find green tea bitter, but it is most pleasant with a bit of honey. Do you enjoy green tea with honey?” Like an echo in his mind, he had heard this before, a code of sorts, but he couldn't recall where it originated. "I do," he replied. The answer came as naturally as breathing, as innately as blinking. "I do," he said again, as though to himself, making sure he had spoken it aloud and not merely thought it. She studied him. He didn't want to break eye contact, and still unsure of the reality of this entire situation, he maintained his gaze.
“Well?” she said, holding out her hand.
“I suppose so,” he replied, taking hold.
She moved closer and sat beside him. Then, gently, she held his head in her hands and angled it ever so slightly. She also tilted hers, moving them together in unison.
From this position, they were looking toward the window. However, they were not looking out the window but for that middle ground, the center point he sought every time he came to the coffee shop. Then he recognized her statement and the question. “I find green tea bitter, but it is most pleasant with a bit of honey. Do you enjoy green tea with honey?”
“Just a moment,” he said.
She gazed at him inquisitively, expectantly, almost hopefully. There was a longing in her eyes, a shimmer that said, “Go on, you’ll get there; we’ve been here together. Then, finally, she said replied, “Yes?”
“I only drink robust black tea with raw cane sugar.” He said this with such conviction and inborn sincerity.
With that, she stood up and held out her hand. Upon taking hold of her hand, he felt something akin to intimacy, a deep interpersonal connection. However, it was something professional; there wasn’t anything sensual about it.
“Come,” she said, leading him to the window, to that which is both the reflection and the reflected.
She gave his hand a gentle but firm squeeze when they were slightly out of arm’s reach from the glass.
“Look,” she said, gesturing to the large pane that rose from floor to ceiling before them.
He saw his reflection in the glass. He saw life flowing outside and within the interior more accurately than ever. From this vantage point, he also saw three men within the interior seated around a corner table. They were not at all out of place in this setting, but their face flashed before his eyes like images on a screen, pictures from a projector in both portrait and profile. Then, everything came together; all the pieces fit, and the meaning of the phrase, the trigger, opened up, blossomed, and aligned like an equation that finally worked out to the correct answer.
He shifted his gaze and saw both his reflection and hers. She was still holding his hand. Then, with his opposite hand, he reached into his suit jacket pocket and felt his chest. He could feel the inhalations and exhalations, his chest's slow rise and fall, and the shift in his body as it moved. Stilling his breath even more, he became aware of a gentle rhythm, the soft thumping pattern of his heart. It was as if some tiny creature was trying to press through. Then, turning his attention to her reflection, he realized she had extracted two small pen-like objects from her pocket. Turning to him, she hugged him and passed one of the objects discreetly as she did. The cold steel within his palm sparked another set of equations that worked out perfectly. The two rotated in perfect harmony, like dancers, as if choreographed and moving to a rhythm only they heard.
That evening, the tiny cafe made headlines. No one would have guessed that the small, nondescript building, tucked down several sidestreets and well off the beaten track, would ever make the news, but it did.
Initially, fingers pointed toward various crime organizations. But it was too clean, with no bullets or bystanders.
There were those who knew, however.
After some examinations, two of the three men were declared the top priority of the attack. Each had puncture wounds precisely through their posterior auricular arteries.
So unexpected was the attack that two of the men were still seated, slumped over as if asleep. The third, the bulkier of the two and the only one who was armed, only had his gun, a Glock19, partially out of its holster. The make and model of the weapon were not something your average businessman carries, regardless of their desire for self-protection. It didn’t serve him well. He only made it a few paces from the table and was found face down with two puncture wounds at the base of his skull. His suit jacket was open, and his hand firmly gripped around the 9mm, but he hadn’t extracted it from the holster.
The assailants, who the media considered rogue terrorists, were found sitting together on a park bench two blocks away. According to the press, they had consumed cyanide tablets. Thus their deaths were ruled as suicides, news which helped further propel the story that they were not only terrorists but unhinged, too.
Because the press had conveniently used the word “terrorists,” the incident was deemed a matter of national security, and local police no longer held jurisdiction in any matters pertaining to the case. After this, hearsay, speculation, and wild stories about the occurrence ran wild.
But there were those who knew.
Because what better place is there to sell government secrets than amidst the hustle and bustle of a morning crowd of businesspeople, bleary-eyed college students, and blue-collar workers? How easy would it be to pass confidential material tucked neatly into the folds of a daily newspaper? Or swap briefcases conveniently placed too close together on the floor? And who would look questioningly at three businesspeople sitting together for what could easily be a pre-work meeting? Indeed not two lovers or a husband and wife holding hands, looking out the window, and embracing each other before parting ways to begin their days began.
But there were those who knew.
Operation: Swan Dive had numerous working parts; as the name suggests, it would either be a graceful descent into the water or a foolish leap culminating in a broken back.
And so, the leap of faith went like this: On that particular morning, what’s known as a “lullaby agent” was activated. Opposed to a sleeper agent, this individual has not been awaiting the green light on a mission. They have not been within the borders of a country anticipating their assignment. Instead, they have a neurological trigger that sets off their predetermined objectives. Sometimes it is a phrase or a song, etc. Until this point, until they are triggered, they are as average and as dull as everyone else. They go about their mundane lives, blissfully unaware that deep within the recesses of their neurological wiring is but one task for which they have been meticulously groomed.
Today, that task happened to be the assassination of two government officials selling highly classified secrets with mere penknives before their bodyguard unholstered his 9mm handgun and attempted to fulfill his occupational responsibilities.
Meanwhile, the two “terrorists” found on the park bench, John and Jane Doe, were heroin overdose victims pulled from the morgue with no next of kin. The feds cordoned off the area and propped up the supposed killers before the news leaked.
Finally, the two assassins would remain in the back of the cafe and wait until the news and media vans started arriving.
With legitimate press passes, a lapel microphone, and a Sony full HD camcorder, they would look the part of any other generic morning TV reporter and film crew seeking to capture and air the story along with a dozen different networks. The main difference was that the camcorder operated by the recently activated assassin held three thumb drives containing invaluable information, knowledge for which two government officials betrayed their countries, risked their lives, and eventually lost them. They wouldn’t be the first news team on the scene or second or third. They’d merge and join in when several other outlets. However, their broadcast didn’t go live to a local TV network, only to the agency, indicating that Operation: Swan Dive had been successful.