Agent, double-agent. Intelligence, counter-intelligence. Eyes-only, ears-only. Strike, counterstrike. Blind, double-blind. Just a couple of things in the business they throw out to make us learn. All it really does is confuse us; I never paid much attention to the jargon. But at the same time, it's important. The more we study it, learn it, and love it, then more the enemy has to learn about us to fully understand us. The problem with that is that it makes understanding ourselves even more of a challenge than understanding them. Keeping track of both is tiring work, especially considering just how many enemies we've been stacking up over the years.
When the Soviet Union fell, there was a lot of money in being in the intelligence business. Unfortunately, all of this work was dirty money, very dirty money. The agency wound up giving me the job of playing clean-up man. I was to get in, play dirty, and take out our own agents who were playing the field. It isn't an easy job playing the field you're trying to burn.
Most of the best money was in tracking the movement of the massive weapons stockpiles that went missing when the Soviet Union fell. A lot of it went to arms dealers, but the best open stockpiles were kept in secret locations. The people who knew where to find these stockpiles, were the now unemployed KGB agents. A few of our own agents figured out the potential for profit here and decided to make a move.
The first bust was simple enough, it was just a regular stash of AK's, Makarov pistols, and a few RPG-7's. A KGB informant hired one of our agents to act as a letterbox between himself and an Irish arms dealer. My job wasn't to care about the weapons and where they went, it was just to kill our guy. If I took him out before the deal could be made, great, but that was secondary. The funny thing about dirty agents is if they're dirty in one way, they're dirty in another. I managed to lure him out in the open using a honey pot, or basically I paid a woman to get close to him. It was as simple as that: sex.
Sex sells, sex kills.
I never got to find out if the sale wound up going through or not. Doesn't matter though, I got the job done. Detaching yourself is critical if you wanna do my job. You start getting attached, then you start losing your ability to pull the trigger. You can't pull the trigger, then the other guy does it first and you're dead.
I got a lot of jobs after that. I had to do a lot of things to get my targets. The easiest way was to play dirty. I made myself look like I was just as bad as they were and then I could be trusted. The were a lot of lies and it was confusing work, but it paid off. I was good at what I did.
My newest target is a guy who goes by Shadow. Not a very creative name by any stretch of the imagination, but it fits the bill. Actually, if Croatia's OBS is to believed, Shadow is just their code word for the guy. All I really have is their word, which is the source for our intel, the Russian's intel, and so forth. He got himself quite the reputation as the dirtiest man in the books. I used everything I had to try to flush this guy out. Decoys, honey pots... everything. None of it worked. That was when I decided I would hit the source of the intelligence: Croatia.
Instead of playing this one in the dark, I decided to play this one naked, or without any cover. The Croatians knew who I was the whole time. I didn't like having my cards down like that, but there was no other way. They tell me they've captured one of Shadow's associates and arrange for me to interrogate the guy. It's a pretty lucky break for me that the Croatians have it out for this guy too. Apparently the Shadow's been taking stuff from them just like everyone else. A lot of people want this guy dead.
The first guy I'm supposed to meet is a man whose name is Boris, nothing else. It's obviously a cover, but that doesn't really matter. Pretty quirky guy, but he seems to know what he's doing. I meet him outside an abandoned trainyard and I remember exactly how he greeted, “You're the guy, yes?”
He was supposed to ask me for a password, but I figured he was dispensing with all that, “Yeah, I'm 'the guy'.”
“Don't bullshit me, American, you need the password.”
“You didn't ask for it.”
“Password or I walk.”
“The red mirror reflects blue.”
Boris laughs at that, “I wonder how they think of these passwords...”
“You got me,” I answer with a sigh.
“Silence. You speak when I ask you to speak.”
“But-” I cut myself off realizing that this might be some protocol I'm not familiar with. The Croatians are ex-Soviet, so I figure their way of doing things must be different.
“Come, prisoner is inside,” Boris says as he walks to the nearest building. It was old and rusted, exactly like you might see in a movie. The air was pretty musty and I can't imagine what kind of molds and diseases grew around me. Inside was just one guard with an SKS and a guy with the crap beaten out of him tied to a chair. Part of me felt for him, but the part I act on didn't care. Boris yelled at the prisoner, “Hey! Wake up, we've got a guest. You're going to tell the American all you know about Shadow.”
The man doesn't even look up, “I told you,” he spat blood, “all I know.”
“Look at the American when you speak!” Boris ordered.
The man looked up at me and then squinted, “Oh, God.”
“What?” I ask.
He starts to laugh, “Oh, my God, this is too funny. Sucks for you though.”
I shot my eyebrow up as high as it went.
The prisoner just keeps laughing as he explains, “I get it now! There is no 'Shadow'! That's why nobody can find him!”
Boris punched the guy, “Talk!”
“If you'd stop hitting me, I was getting there, Boris,” the prisoner said in the most condescending way I could imagine. He cleared his throat, “You are the Shadow.”
“What?” I didn't understand. That's not possible, my job is to find and kill the Shadow.
“In all the confusion of war intelligence, your dozens of covers started to cross over and eventually they formed just one master identity: The Shadow. So, little did you know,” he laughed again, “you set out to kill yourself!”
Boris opened up a file, where he must have had a picture of the one suspected to be the Shadow, and then looked at me. His eyes went wide.
“Spy games sure suck, don't they?”
I see Boris reaching inside his jacket for his pistol. I could reach for mine, but what would the point of that be? I could beg for my life, but that wouldn't do anything, would it? I was free for the killing. I'm a deniable asset; the Croatians can kill me without any diplomatic ramifications. This is the end.
Boris' pistol is out and he takes aim. Before he fires, he asks, “How does it feel? To atone for all of your murders and lies?”
“It's a relief, to be honest,” are my last words. In a split second, there's a boom followed by a sharp pain in my forehead. There's nothing after that. I'm dead and that's that. Spy games sure suck, don't they?