Okay, as I said I might, I’m posting the full text of ‘Devin Versus the Distinctive Sweater,’ which provided the ending sentence that I shared in the New Creations Blogfest. This is a bit longer than my usual posts, but I’ve decided against breaking it up for dramatic impact reasons. I hope that you enjoy it.
Devin Versus the Distinctive Sweater, by Chris Kelworth
The only thing that Devin Partlan understood was that he had to keep pedaling.
He didn’t know how he kept getting mixed up into this kind of thing. Just because his brother-in-law was some kind of spy, and Devin had accidentally found out the truth behind the ‘cover’, which suggested that Charlie wasn’t really that good at spy stuff, but so what? Devin suspected that there were other CIA agents whose family members knew some details about their jobs, and those family members weren’t constantly getting drafted and inveigled into missions. It just wasn’t at all professional.
On the other hand, after this kind of thing had already come up three times, possibly Devin should have thought better of planning a trip to Paris on the second anniversary of his and Kelly’s wedding. He’d thought twice about it, more about the money than the possibilities of French counterspies putting his life in danger, but – well, his dear Kelly had wanted Paris so badly.
And that was why Devin was cycling desperately away from the bad guys, trying to remember how to get to the one CIA Sanctuary that Charlie had ever told him about south of the Pont D’lena.
At least he’d kept on biking ten miles a day, six days a week, since marrying Kelly.
It started with that man in the tuxedo who walked up to them in Notre Dame Cathedral.
No, that wasn’t really it, not a satisfying beginning. As he raced down the street, pumping the bike wheels along furiously, Devin decided that it had really started when they were packing for the trip. Charlie had volunteered to help Kelly arrange things – probably he was at loose ends because he was between missions or something and didn’t have anything to do for his cover job, but he wasn’t really being helpful. In fact, he was goofing around.
Beyond Charlie ‘goofing around,’ Devin didn’t really know how the melted candle wax had gotten all over his favorite navy sweater.
He’d been too busy to care, with all the other last-minute details to attend to. And to give him credit, Charlie had been honestly repentant over whatever-it-was and had done his best to make amends. He’d volunteered to take the sweater to ‘his dry cleaner’, (which was probably a top-secret CIA cleaning service that had to deal with powder burns and bloodstains on a regular basis, for all Devin knew,) and Devin knew that he wouldn’t need to worry about the cleaning bill. And when Kelly started to go on about how much she wanted to get a picture of him in a nice sweater in Notre Dame Cathedral, Charlie had volunteered one of his own. It was certainly a snappy-looking garment, though there was something distinctive about the pattern that Devin hadn’t quite been able to identify.
And so Devin put on the sweater on the day that they took the tour at Notre Dame, and Kelly got her picture, (actually she took nearly a dozen of them,) and a man in a tuxedo walked up to Devin when they were almost ready to leave, handed him one of those tiny little computer memory thingies, said “Piedmont,” and walked away.
“What the hell?” Devin exclaimed, and chased after the guy in the tuxedo, though part of him was already suspecting what was happening, and that he wouldn’t be able to stop it. “What is this?”
“Please, Agent Intersect,” the man in the tuxedo whispered. “Don’t make a public scene.” As soon as the man mentioned Charlie’s CIA code word, Devin knew that he wouldn’t be able to get any more answers out of him.
He called Charlie from the hotel, and Charlie wouldn’t tell him anything over an unsecure line – which was also an ‘of course.’ Arranging a secure connection without Kelly figuring out that something was strange took a little doing, but when a strange guy showed up at their door pretending to be some kind of long-lost high school friend, and asked if he could take Devin out for a quick drink, Devin was fairly quick to play along. Kelly did ask to come along and get to know ‘John’, but a bit of fast-talking delayed that intimacy until lunch on some unspecified day before the Partlans left Paris. ‘John’ led Devin to a small room in a building only half a block away from the hotel, and he found himself facing Charlie and some blonde spy girl over a videophone.
“Piedmont is a biological weapon, capable of triggering a pandemic virus,” Charlie explained once Devin had told him about the encounter at Notre Dame. “I’m sorry that you were brought into this. I picked up that sweater during a mission in Yangon, and it’s one of a kind. Apparently it’s mentioned in my file, so when you were spotted wearing it in Paris, somebody assumed that you were me. The memory card probably contains invaluable intelligence on the development of Piedmont, or somebody who might be trying to use it. It is imperative that this information be delivered safely into friendly hands.”
“Right… so what does this mean?” Devin asked, grumbling about it already.
“Just don’t go anywhere without the card. I trust you to keep it safe, but your hotel room could be broken into, even the vault in the lobby. Summer here,” and Charlie gestured to his lady friend, “will be travelling to Paris immediately, and she’ll make contact with you. Just give her the card, and your part of the mission is over. Anybody else who asks you for it or tries to take it from you… well, do whatever you can to keep it safe.”
“As long as it’s not a choice between keeping the card safe, or your sister,” Devin pointed out. “Which reminds me, the time for my drink is about up. I should get back to her.”
Devin didn’t need to wait for the guys in the shades to ask him about the card to recognize them as the ones who wanted it. Somehow he could just tell – maybe he was developing some spy instincts of his own. And it was a good thing that the bikes were just sitting there next to the riverfront barrier, unlocked. Well, it would have been best if there had only been one bike, but he’d lost the two guys in shades who’d tried to catch him on bikes easily enough. They weren’t even amateurs, just cyclists of opportunity or something like that.
The car that attempted to intercept him had been harder to shake, and this one guy wearing ray-bans on the skinny little Japanese motorcycle was just about impossible to shake, no matter what Devin tried to do. He had tried to dash across one of the bridges near the Eiffel tower when a deep black limousine pulled to a stop right in front of him. Unwilling to stop, Devin had tried to jump around the limo, and had ended up making a spectacular jump straight off the bridge and out over the river.
Hitting the water was the last thing he remembered for a long time.
“I was so worried about you, Devin.”
“I’m glad you’re doing better than I am, Kel,” Devin answered before he’d even worked out how bad he was doing. He seemed to be lying in a hospital bed, but didn’t appear to have broken bones or, as far as he could tell, have just come out of surgery. “How long is it since…?”
“Only six hours or so. Why did you bike off like that in the first place? Just couldn’t resist an opportunity for a race? You could have gotten seriously hurt.”
“Umm – I’m sorry, I won’t do it again.”
“And those men that you were racing with – I don’t think that they’re very good sports or something. One of them tried to steal your wallet after the ER doctors gave me your things.”
“Oh, no. Wait, ‘tried’ – so have you still got it?”
“Yes, and I had hospital security throw them out. And to think that I told Charlie that French people were civilized.”
“Could I take a look? Just to make sure that our credit cards are all accounted for, and so on?”
“I already checked everything, but yes.” She handed him the wallet, which had been her birthday present to him three years ago. “Cash, credit cards, hotel key, everything’s there. And what pictures did you think were so important that you couldn’t leave the film card in the hotel?”
“Pictures… oh, on the digital memory card?” Kelly nodded. “Sorry baby, that just slipped my mind. I had to swap out cards when we were in the Louvre, right? And so I put the old card somewhere that I knew it would be safe. Completely forgot to drop it in the wall safe in our hotel room last night.”
“Oh, okay.” Kelly sat down beside him and took his hand. “Wait – I had the camera the whole time we were at the Louvre.”
“I… maybe it was somewhere else, I’m not sure,” Devin muttered. “Do we have to figure it out right now?”
“No, no, of course we don’t.”
Everything else worked itself out reasonably well. Just as Devin was signing his discharge papers from the Paris hospital, he heard Kelly telling somebody else the story of how two Parisian teenagers had spotted his bicycle falling off the bridge and taken a boat out to look for him. “Oh, hi honey. Did you ever meet Summer Cooper? I don’t think that we ever crossed paths back in Brooklyn, but it seems Charlie told her to look us up while she was in Paris.”
“Summer, yeah, I think I saw you at Jeff Lester’s housewarming,” Devin muttered, taking the names out of thin air. “It’s so nice to see a familiar face, after the day that I’ve had.”
“I can believe it,” Summer said, offering her hand for Devin to shake. It wasn’t hard to palm the memory card to her, and she took the offering smoothly and transferred it to the pocket of her tight designer jeans.
That was about it. Devin and Kelly had dinner with Summer, which was reasonably convivial since all three of them knew Charlie well and could laugh about his mannerisms and pretentions together. Then Summer disappeared into the Parisian night, taking all trace of Piedmont with her, and good riddance.
And the first thing that Devin did when he got back to New York State was to head over to Charlie’s apartment and give him back his sweater. Just in case something else should happen with the damn thing if he forgot it for a few hours.