To Catch a Spy

By Anne Kimbell

Chapter One

They say spring is the best time of the year in Paris to recruit a spy. The girls on the Champs Elysee have taken off their heavy winter coats and are in their budding phase. It's a good time to dangle a dangerous job in front of a reluctant recruit. The sap is rising.

Sam smiled ruefully, and rubbed his cheek, rough with a stubble of beard after another long day in the Defense Attaché's office at the American Embassy. No time to shave before he met his contact. Though "contact" was not exactly the right word for Rick. It might have been in Prague ten years ago. But now Sam was playing a long shot... and he knew it.

He looked down at the card in his hand. It was on heavy card stock, and slightly larger than usual. Trust Rick to get things right. From his perfectly cut tweed jacket, to his own special brand of aftershave to his cool good looks and athletic charm. He looked and behaved so correctly that no one ever found out exactly what it was he did. Sam was counting on the fact that the charm still worked, and that his operative's instincts were still intact after ten lazy years selling chemicals to private industry.

The bistro at the corner of Rue de la Verite was almost deserted at this hour of the afternoon, except for an old man sipping his Pernod and watching the parade of spring dresses outside the window through watery eyes. Sam lowered his girth into a seat in a darkened corner, depriving himself of a view of the girls, and focusing his highly developed talent of persuasion on the job at hand.

He had found a hook to catch Rick but he had to use it quickly. The assignment was too delicate and too dangerous to send an amateur. Yet, when Rick had left the service ten years ago, he had made it clear that he didn't want to play anymore. More than that, he had insulted enough of the top brass to make sure that no one would ask him again. He was a black sheep, a cast out and just right for the job.

Sam leaned back, ordered a glass of the Pernod and waited. Patience had always been one of his virtues. Now that he was ready for retirement, he could feel it ebbing. Rick had to take this assignment. There was no one else immediately available and too much was at risk to wait.


Rick Harrison walked briskly along the tree shaded Boulevard Monmartre. His eyes narrowed against the dying sunlight of a spring afternoon. He cursed himself silently for agreeing to meet Sam Shepherd. It was a stupid thing to do, and Rick prided himself on never making stupid moves. In fact, he rarely made any moves these days that weren't calculated to increase either his net worth, or his ability to do just exactly what he pleased for the rest of his life.

Sam had come swimming out of his past, surfacing almost as if from a dream, with a simple request to meet him for a drink in a spot they had frequented another lifetime ago. Knowing Sam, there must be an ulterior motive, and unless the answer was spelled in megabucks, Rick just wasn't interested.

He slowed his pace as he reached the corner of Rue de la Verite. An old habit of self preservation made him check the people near the entrance; a mother with her two small children out for an afternoon stroll; a young couple arm in arm; and a teenager trying to light a cigarette. Rick smiled bitterly. These days it could easily be the teenager. He watched the boy for a minute, as he hunched his shoulders under his thin blue sweater and slouched around the corner.

Rick hesitated for a moment, then entered the bar and ordered a vin ordinare from the bored bartender. He caught his first glimpse of Sam out of the corner of his eye, portlier than he remembered, but still with the look of an aging cherub that fooled many people into not taking him seriously. A decided plus for someone in the intelligence community.

They glanced at each other, like two fighters squaring off for a rematch after ten years. Then Rick picked up his glass, and walked to the shadowy corner table where Sam sat and waited, wearing a puckish grin. To Rick's acute discomfort, Sam stood up and embraced him like a long lost brother.

"It's been a long time", Sam said. "Have you missed all the excitement?"

Rick looked around warily. He had always been a little afraid of Sam's jovial glee, and his being involved in clandestine work for the intelligence community. And he suspected that more than one job had short circuited because of Sam's delight in letting people know what position he occupied at the embassy. But he was also quick to do a favor for a friend. And after all these years, Rick needed a favor, an added reason for agreeing to this meeting.

After a few minutes of polite banter in French, just enough to give the impression of two old friends meeting for a petit verre before going home to their wives and families, Rick dropped his voice and spoke quietly in English.

"So what's the deal Sam? You didn't invite me here just to see the color of my eyes again."

Sam smiled, wryly." I hear you sell agricultural chemicals now for one of the big pharmaceutical companies, and that your territory is North Africa, the Magreb. That could be of interest to us."

"You in the market for fertilizer?" Rick responded, narrowing his eyes and lighting a cigarette.

"No, but some friends of mine in Tunisia could use a little help. A week or so of your time, collect some information, perhaps a document or two, and leave somewhat richer for your trouble."

Rick leaned back in the booth, and for the first time he almost smiled.

"You're offering me a week in Tunis, all expenses paid. What if the PLO, or one of the right wing Muslim organizations hear about this?"

Sam stopped smiling. "They won't hear about it, if you're careful. And if you're smart, you can be in and out before anyone knows you're there. You can even sell a few chemicals, or fertilizer, or whatever you're selling, on the side."

"Any reason that you can think of that I should do this for you?"

"Don't do it for me, or for your country, or for money, do it for yourself."

" Merde, Sam. That man died and went to hell a long time ago. But thanks for the vote of confidence in a middle aged chemical salesman."

"Rick, a middle aged chemical salesman is just what we need in Tunisia right now, with some very special Eastern European scientists meeting in Tunis, for what we know not for sure, but we need to know, because these same chemicals innocently used for fertilizer can be used for more lethal purposes, and the scientists involved in this meeting in Tunisia are not fertilizer specialists!"

Rick finished his wine with a grimace of distaste, rose to his feet and extended his hand.

"Sam, no more of those games for me, so count me out on this one". Sam clasped the extended hand, while holding out a white card, embossed with the seal of the United States of America, with the other.

"Call me if you change your mind. And best regards to Melanie and to Robbie".

Rick took the card. It was hard to keep his hand from shaking. The bastard knew, and that was why he had tracked him down, and invited him here in the first place. He knew that Robbie had disappeared somewhere between Morocco and Tunisia. And he was offering his help. But as was conditional. Remembering Melanie's voice on the phone this morning, he was tempted. But not enough to let Sam know that he had won...not right away anyhow. Let him sweat it out for a day or so. "I'll call you", he said, dropping a hundred franc note on the table. "The drinks are on me".

Rick caught a cab and went directly back to his hotel in a discrete neighborhood, within walking distance of the Champs Elysee. His phone was ringing as he entered the room. The antique sound of Paris telephones annoyed him. In fact, almost everything annoyed him since Melanie's call this morning. Why had she let the kid go off on his own this summer? Seventeen was no age to go tramping around Africa, and the Magreb in particularly, with a bunch of kids, whose only experience of life came from a high priced prep school. Algeria and Libya certainly wouldn't be safe, even though Morocco and Tunisia might be.

He picked up the phone on its final ring, just in time to hear the operator telling his ex-wife that he wasn't there. He had a moment's instinct to skip the whole mess. Melanie had raised Robbie with her father's money, and her father's help. After all, Robbie's grandfather was Duke Weston, New York's super industrialist, and had business interests all over the world, including North Africa. Let them get him out of trouble.

Despite himself, her voice on the other end of the line sounded good. Perhaps it was just his male satisfaction in having her ask him for help. Besides, she was paying for the call, and being emotional on the long distance telephone had always been one of her strong points. Particularly when she needed something. But this time the tears sounded real.

Rick loosened his tie and sat gingerly on the usual fragile, small, pink, satin chair, while he listened. Their son Robbie had disappeared in Tunis two weeks ago, saying he was going to visit some friends in Sidi Bou Said. There had been no trace of him since, no ransom note and the Embassy had been unable to help. Could Rick please go and make some inquiries through his friends in government in Tunisia?

"I just know that he's in some kind of terrible trouble. It's our fault for not staying together, and raising him in a family". On this familiar guilt ridden note, Rick quickly made his excuses and hung up the phone. Melanie was going to get her way again. He was going to Tunisia.


Robbie Benson Harrison, The Third, woke from a drugged sleep to find himself in an unfamiliar room, lit only by a window high up in the wall, covered with an intricate iron grill work. His head ached, and he had trouble focusing his eyes. He seemed to be wearing some kind of long, dirty dress and his feet were bare. He struggled to get up, only to find that one ankle was tied to the bed. A voice shouted at him harshly, in Arabic, and, when he continued to struggle to free himself, he heard a noise and everything went black.

His captor smiled, showing only three teeth, and then as the call to prayers began, silently prostrated himself toward Mecca.

Anne Kimbell's books, including To Catch a Spy, are available at

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