I am Mashie Niblick. I am presently employed as the greenskeeper of the Hoity Toity Golf and Monopoly Club in Tracy. My other employment is as an agent for a government alphabet organization that gathers intelligence around the world. They wanted me to be the person in London that welcomes a spy who was coming out from deep cover. There was going to be a couple arriving. They wanted me to have a female assistant. I did not feel comfortable in that type of situation. Many women in the organization would have volunteered to be my wife for a couple of weeks as a cover, but I had a problem with that. I was in love with a local Tracy woman who had just gotten her PhD in Kinesiological Psychology. I wanted no relationship other than with her.
So, since she already knew my boss, Hugh McAdoo, I got his approval to have her work with me. Then, and yes, after my boss’ approval, I proposed, and she said yes, even to the whirlwind wedding plans done by Dr. Glyce Yeggs while Pauline took a crash course in being an agent. One of her instructors predicted that she would learn enough to get herself killed. I am earnestly praying that he was wrong.
The wedding went off without a hitch. If I ever must do it again… Nope, I won’t say it, but if you want a wonderful wedding planned and executed in a few weeks, Dr. Trinity Naomi Tesla (TNT or Glyce, short for nitroglycerin, to her friends) Yeggs, PhD, is a great choice. And she never missed a lecture. Amazing.
But my new boss, the president at the golf club, surprised everyone by volunteering to provide the transportation for the honeymoon. All we had to do was agree that she, Amy G. Dala, and her two pilots could come along on the honeymoon. Okay, not everywhere, just on the flight to and from. She sat in the jump seat in the cockpit so that Pauline and I had the main cabin to ourselves. And this is not the type of story that goes into any more details than just that. It took me months to get around to the first kiss, and I feel uncomfortable talking about that!
We arrived a few days before our agents from deep cover would arrive. Ms. Dala arranged for us to play some golf while she went to London on a business trip. We played Royal Troon. Pauline nearly got a hole in one on the Postage Stamp, and I missed the green, but I was putting for par. I missed the putt, but who was counting? Are you kidding? We were both counting, we each had a scorecard, just to prove we were there. The next day, we played the Old Course at St. Andrews. Each day of golfing, when I was not playing golf, I was talking to the greenskeepers, comparing notes, and Pauline found a spa somewhere. I was learning from people who groomed the courses that on occasion hosted The Open Championship. I kept asking Pauline to pinch me. I could not believe this fairytale honeymoon. The problem is that Pauline pinched me. My first lesson on married life was that I learned that my wife knew how to inflict pain.
After our little golf outing, we took the train to London and an agent picked us up at King’s Cross. We were given a three-bedroom apartment (excuse me, flat) in Paddington that the organization uses as a safehouse. I asked our driver if there was a 4:50 from Paddington station. He laughed, and Pauline asked what I was talking about. I told her the basic plot of 4:50 from Paddington by Agatha Christie. She squeezed my arm, obviously confident that I could read. After all, she had tons of education. It would not do to marry an illiterate. The agent explained that they would be as invisible as possible, but we would have people following us and people following the followers all the time. We had to make sure that the agents from deep cover came by themselves.
The next day, we went to Heathrow. It was arranged when the couple came through emigration, they would be asked to go into an interview room, and we accepted the hand over from there once the emigration agents and custom agents were satisfied. We were not allowed in the interview room, but we stood in the next room as they came through the door. I knew immediately why I had been selected to welcome the couple. Hugh McAdoo has a twisted sense of humor.
Anyuta walked up to me and slapped me hard across the face.
I smiled and said, “Anyuta, meaning Grace, you still have not forgiven me. What irony.”
She spit in my face. “And Raimonds, you did not live up to your name either. You were supposed to guard me. You are the worst excuse for a human being that I know. You abandoned me. I was tortured, and now I can have no children. You seem to enjoy abusing women. I see you have a new trollop by your side.”
I corrected her. “That is no trollop. That is my wife. Pauline, meet Anyuta, the first Pauline, and her husband, Lester. Let us all behave while we go to the safehouse.” We went by train to Paddington Station. I was starting to recognize those who were following.
As we settled into the flat, Anyuta told Pauline, “It will not be long before he sells you to someone.” Pauline smiled in return. Lester had not said a word the entire time. Willard Millard Fillmore, a.k.a. ‘Jack’, had sold the information that Anyuta was working for us. When she was captured, I did everything that I could to rescue her, but I only succeeded after she had been tortured. We already had a psychologist on our team, Lester, and he provided therapy. At the end of the therapy, she hated me, and she married Lester. It was thought that they could relocate in Latvia and go under deep cover together. With news that Mr. Fillmore had compromised all the deep cover agents, we started recalling them, but Lester was hard to find.
I pulled him aside while Anyuta and Pauline were talking. He didn’t want to talk, but he finally said, “You knew Latvia like the back of your hand. You could have found us, but no, you were too busy doing something else.”
“Yeah,” I said, “I might have gotten to you sooner than the others did, but I was tracking down the source of the leaks. We didn’t know who was compromised, and we thought we plugged the leak soon enough. I’m sorry it got rough for you, but some folks didn’t make it out alive. But you can sleep well tonight. Will Mill Fill is behind bars, and we are tracking down the people he communicated with. Once we go through the usual routine here, I have a private sector company jet that will take us home. We will drop you off in DC, and then we’ll be on our way home. Who knows. This may be my last mission.”
“I heard about ‘Jack’ being arrested. Good riddance, but you? You were hardcore. I figured that you would go out in a blaze of bullets somewhere, and you haven’t gotten enough time in to retire. Something must have changed you.”
“The lady that is helping Anyuta settle into the apartment is what changed me. She is not an agent; she just got a job as a college professor. If you have trouble with your gold swing, she can fix anything. It might take a while and some practice, but she is amazing. But I do not want to expose her to this life any more than I have to on this job. What happened to Anyuta still haunts me.”
The rest of our conversation was about the people that were killed as a result of the leaked information by “Jack.”
After a few days of doing normal tourist things, to see if someone would follow them, Pauline and I excused ourselves to see if they would try to contact someone. But we also needed a chance to compare notes.
I asked Pauline what she thought of the agent and the spy he had married.
Pauline rolled her eyes. “Anyuta is a beautiful lady, but she thoroughly hates you, a little too much. I think your friend Lester brainwashed her into thinking everything bad was due to you. His end game was to get Anyuta for himself. She thinks that you have had a long string of operatives who have been killed or captured.”
“I never, not until her, and then I was betrayed.”
“I know, sweetie. When I had my training sessions, I looked up all your old case files and your record was impeccable. She mentioned several people that you had nothing to do with and your friend ‘Jack’ became involved. But the interesting thing is that Lester was involved in those cases. ‘Jack’ was turned. That is obvious, but could Lester be another?”
“Are you sure? You had never heard of Lester until we met at the airport.”
“I am sorry to break this to you, but Hugh McAdoo thought you might refuse the assignment if you knew who you were picking up, but he let me know. I had already cross referenced the cases, anything where Lester was involved.”
“Did Hugh suspect him?”
“He was suspicious in that Lester did not respond to the primary or secondary signal to come out of deep cover. He could not be found, and as far as anyone knows, he has told no one where he was hiding or why he was hiding. If he had no knowledge that the operation was compromised, he should have been at his post. That is all that Hugh asked me to figure out in polite conversation.”
I scratched my chin. “I wasn’t so polite. I bluntly brought it up a few times and he changed the subject. It is hard going through this kind of cat and mouse game when the guy you suspect help invent some of the techniques. He is smart as a whip. The only thing that he has said that I think was a mistake is that he knew that ‘Jack’ had been arrested. He was already hiding, without contact from anyone on this side. How could he have known?”
Pauline smiled, “That’s why I have an idea. Anyuta has done more than hint about wanting a day to herself with neither of us looking over her shoulder. I have researched spas near Royal St. George’s. There are a couple of spas very close by. We can actually spend the night in one of the spa hotels if the local agents approve of the plan, otherwise we can leave long before dawn from here. It is a little over a two-hour drive from here. Getting them out of a flat that they know is bugged might do the trick. But if I played golf with Lester alone, I can get him out of his comfort zone and he might slip up.”
“But Lester cheats!”
Pauline smiled at the double meaning. “First, I swore an oath to be faithful to you forever, and that is something you can rely upon. Second, you forget what I have spent my life up until now doing. If I can get inside people’s heads to correct their golf swing or improve their accuracy pitching a fastball or whatever the sport or industrial activity, I can teach him how to screw up his swing. You already told him what I did for your golf swing. He will be putty in my hands. He’ll start spraying the ball everywhere, and I will tell him that it doesn’t come together on the first lesson. I won’t totally ruin his golf game, just enough bad advice to have a comfortable lead so that he gets into a supercompetitive mode and forgets his every word and action are being watched.”
“And where am I during all this? We could have a threesome.”
“For one thing, dear, you would get stuck in the giant sand bunker on the fourth hole and we would never see you again. And secondly, you can have a long talk with the greenskeeper while we are playing. And we can have a couple of female agents who have never followed us around having a spa treatment along with Anyuta. She won’t escape, but I do not think she will try. Lester has her brainwashed and totally dependent upon him. She really wants to experience baseball games, hot dogs, and apple pie. Since she cannot have children, she wants to settle down and adopt.”
I felt numb. I was the agent. Pauline was just along for the ride, plus I knew that she was great with conversation and observation. It seemed she had taken over this operation. And somehow, I like the idea. Everything got approved. Of course, Anyuta wanted the most expensive spa treatment available. She never attempted an escape. In fact, when we picked her up, she begged for more time in the mud bath. I had a grand time with the greenskeeper, learning the differences between the Scotland climate and the climate near the English Channel, none of it was directly applicable to the Tracy climate.
And Pauline became convinced that Lester had been turned. He never admitted where he had been hiding, but a few odd comments convinced Pauline that his story did not add up. We sent our reports to Hugh McAdoo, and he decided to keep Lester in the game, but feed him false information. We might be able to flush some of the bad guys out into the open.
After we provided the hand-off in DC, we were again alone in the spacious cabin of a luxury private jet. As we sat on the sofa, watching a movie, Pauline cuddled really close.
Out of the blue, I said, “I really feel bad about Anyuta. I worked her as an agent and fell in love with her. She only wanted an ideal life that she had seen in old American sitcoms. Now, she will live a lie until the point when Hugh has used Lester to his limits and then Lester will be arrested, and Anyuta will be alone.”
Pauline mused, “And I feel bad about Mashie Niblick. He comes home from a Honeymoon, pining about another woman instead of his wife, and he has a very big decision to make about his future. Are you a greenskeeper or are you the super spy that saves the world?”
I groaned, ”I want to be the greenskeeper, but I do not need much more time to reach minimal retirement as the super spy that saves the world.”
Pauline beamed, “I have enjoyed this honeymoon for more reasons than the obvious one, the honeymoon part. Hugh has been impressed also. Among our watchers were a couple of supervisors, and they want to hire me, on contract only, to do some more work for them.”
“Wait! That’s the way they hook a lot of people.”
Pauline nodded, “Yes, and they want us to work as a team. It will never affect my teaching schedule or you during busy seasons when you have big tournaments. And as for the retirement, when you add the points toward retirement, you could medically retire, and still consult, with one more minor injury.”
“Really?” I asked, and we kissed and embraced. Then suddenly she pinched me hard! I yelped in pain. “What did you do that for?! I did not say anything about dreaming or pinching!”
Pauline purred, “Oh, did that hurt my baby? I smell an on-the-job minor injury on our hands. When we land, Hugh will meet us at the airport in Tracy to have you sign retirement paperwork.”
As we embraced again, with no pinching, I was excited that everything was falling into place so that the dream could continue, but with someone by my side that was several steps ahead of me at every turn, it was a little bit scary. But I could not admit to being scared. I was the big, bad super spy that might just save the world.
Royal Troon and the Old Course at St. Andrews are venues for The Open Championship, what many people call the British Open. Royal Troon is on the west coast of Scotland and St. Andrews is on the east coast of Scotland. The postage stamp green, so-called for being very small, is the eighth hole on the course.
The novel, 4:50 from Paddington, is a Miss Marple story by Agatha Christie featuring a witness who thought she saw a murder in progress as one train passed other on a parallel track. In the USA, it was first published as What Mrs. McGillicuddy Saw!
Royal St. George’s is on the southeast corner of England and is also a venue for The Open Championship. It is not the only English course in the rotation, but the closest to London and just a few kilometers north of Dover on Sandwich Bay.