The Spy Game

Hale's eyes opened.

It didn't do him much good, though, since the bunker sealed him in a darkness as black as the inside of his eyelids. This was by no means an unusual occurrence. Every day for the past few months had started this way, and yet on this black morning, Hale felt uneasy.

Hale held his breath, and strained to hear something out of the ordinary, like the tiny crunch of dirt underfoot, or the creak of a board on the stairway outside of the bunker, or even one uneven breath that betrayed an unwanted assassin.

Nothing out of place.

All he heard was the rhythmic breathing that blanketed his instincts and lulled him back to sleep. Everything was all right…

But everything was not all right! He blinked away the sleep and tried to think clearly.

Silently, blindly, Hale let his hand dangle over the side of his cot, and his fingers brushed the cold, dirt floor. He ground his fingers into the damp soil, slowly easing a pebble into his palm. Where's that door…? he thought. A little to the left.

The pebble sailed through the air, and hit the steel door with an infinitesimal tink!

Hale listened again. The rhythmic breathing had stopped. Stopped completely. There was dead silence for almost a minute, before the youngest, Millicent, gasped shrilly for breath. Hale slowly rolled off his cot and onto his feet, and so did the others in the bunker. With much grumbling, someone managed to find and light a match. The flame was a welcome relief.

The dim, flickering light allowed the gray concrete walls to loom up from the blackness. Eight restless people, Hale's comrades in arms, threw twisted shadows against this backdrop. Davis was shaking his head as he lit each of the candles, mumbling, "Nearly had a heart attack… Paranoid bleepity bleepers…" Millicent was whispering nervously to the senior officer, presumably asking why someone had given a warning. Others were asking the same, in more heated tones.

Hale bit his lip while he scanned the rapidly vanishing darkness. Nothing out of place. He bent and picked through the shoebox squashed under his footlocker. Nothing missing…

Hale nearly snapped the hand off when one clamped down on his shoulder. Davis chuckled near his ear, "Not my favorite way to start the morning."

Hale smiled, but didn't take his eyes off the box. "Not mine, either."

Millicent also appeared out of nowhere, already seated on Hale's cot. "Joe?" she said, in an almost whiny tone. "Do you know what happened? No one else knows and I thought that because you are so smart and clever you would know what happened."

Hale sighed. "I thought I heard something, but I was wrong. Everything's okay, Milly."

Millicent smiled and sighed, "Okay, Joe."

Hale looked carefully at her face, and asked, "Milly, did you… move anything in my box?"

"No," she said simply, looking honestly perplexed.

"Hmmm…"

Davis's eyebrows drew together, and he lowered his head even closer to Hale's. "Something missing?" he asked in a low voice.

Hale shook his head.

Davis straightened up, relieved. He boomed, "Dang it, you almost gave me a heart attack! Second time in ten minutes- You better be careful!" He chuckled again, and whispered in a joking voice, "Can't have our main cryptographer's codes stolen, now can we?"

"What is 'cryptographer'?" Millicent asked, now looking completely befuddled.

"I'll tell you later," Hale said with a grin. He ruffled her blond hair.

She wrinkled her nose at him. "I am not six!" she huffed.

Hale opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by a woman who called, "Hey Julius! What brings you down to the pit?"

Hale glanced towards the steel door, and saw Julius by the door. Now Hale's unease was compounded. Julius was the man who let the little pockets of resistance stay in the bunker under his house. He even served as the courier between the other secret soldiers, and the only reason he would appear before their poker game would be to give them a message from headquarters.

Julius hesitated. One hand stayed on the steel door, while the other was curled tightly around a set of papers. He spoke quietly to the senior officer, Williams. Across the room, Hale carefully read Julius's lips. "I'll leave the orders on the desk." He moved towards a second, wooden door, and disappeared inside Williams's office.

Hale glanced at Davis, who was also watching Julius like a hawk.

Julius reappeared a few minutes later, nodded towards Williams, and shifted the camera to his other hand so he could open the door. With a creak that made Hale shudder, the steel door swung open, and swung closed.

"Wonder what Julius dropped off this time," Davis said in his usual booming voice.

"I wonder…" Hale mumbled distantly.

"You leave again tonight?" Millicent said anxiously.

Hale managed to distract himself from his growing sense of unease. He smiled. "Probably not. Now stop worrying and come play checkers with me!"

As luck would have it, they did leave again that night. Hale translated the encrypted papers over a few hours, only to find urgent orders from headquarters. They stated that a caravan of weapons was going to be passing close to the secret bunker's location, and that they had to ambush it immediately.

They ambushed the trucks at just the place the message had indicated, but the guards were ready. Hale and his comrades fled and managed to get back to the bunker without discovery.

"How is it possible?!" Hale fumed. "How could they possibly be expecting us?

Davis shrugged. "I dunno. They're paranoid nuts, I guess."

Hale said, "That's funny because it's true, but it's not the time." He resumed pacing the floor, kicking up dirt as he went. He was in such frenzy that the others were forced to back away from the dust cloud he was making. "How? They couldn't have gotten a hold of the orders. Julius is the only one who handles them and they're encoded with a code that only Carl Garrison in headquarters and I know."

"Maybe someone cracked it," Milly suggested.

"Impossible," Hale stated. "The code is so convoluted and so random I have to keep a printed copy of the formula."

"Maybe someone stole it," Milly suggested.

Davis leaped to his feet. "What? We're family! There's not a man in here that would betray another! Hale, that girl of yours is talking mutiny. What have you been telling her if she thinks we're a bunch of traitorous brigands?"

"I did not-" Milly started defensively.

"Shut up, Mathew," Hale mumbled. "But you're right. It would be suicide for anyone to play spy."

There was silence where Hale continued to pace furiously.

"Give it a rest!" Davis yelled. "Good grief, you're making me dizzy with all your circling! Come to bed before your head explodes. Whatever happened, it can wait until morning."

Hale agreed, but as he closed his eyes, it felt like he was still pacing. His brain rolled from side to side, mulling over everything that had happened that day, from the first moment of unease to the last quiet "Goodnight," spoken hours previous.

Hale's eyes opened.

He rolled off his bed, away from Davis's cot, and said, "Wake up!"

The room remained filled with rhythmic breathing.

He ground his fingers into the dirt, and found a considerable sized rock. The rock sailed through the air, smashing into the door with a loud clang! that made every breath in the room stop.

"Wake up!" he said again.

A match flickered to life. Davis swore. "Joe, I told you to go to bed!"

"Milly," Hale said quickly, "get Julius. He ought to hear this too."

Milly was across the room in an instant. She opened the screeching steel door and closed it with an equally loud creak.

"What's all this about?" Col. Williams asked as the candles were lit.

Hale explained calmly, barely able to contain himself, "We have a traitor in our midst."

The door opened again, noisily, and Julius appeared in his bedclothes with Milly at his side.

"A spy," Williams said slowly, raising an eyebrow skeptically.

"A spy," Hale confirmed. "Yesterday, I woke up early in the morning."

"Yesterday?" someone said. "You woke us all up just now, Hale!

Hale whirled around and pointed at the person who had spoken. "How loud is the door?"

"Very," she said flatly.

"So why is it that the door didn't creak when Julius appeared in the bunker?"

"Maybe he flew in through the wall," jeered another.

"Yeah, spies don't use doors," called another.

"Or maybe he was inside before any of us saw him," Hale suggested. "After all, Julius didn't have a camera in his hand before we saw him go into the Colonel's office, and he had one when he left. That suggests he was inside beforehand. That he left a camera inside."

Julius finally grasped the situation. "W-Wait," he stuttered, "you think I told the enemy what the orders said? After all I've done for the resistance, you think-"

Williams held up a hand for silence. "Hale, what do you think you're doing, accusing an ally and a friend of treason?"

"Hear me out!" Hale cried defensively, holding out his hands. "Julius didn't give us new orders, either. We got those a week ago; I started translating them on Monday myself! So why would he be holding orders he had delivered days ago, while he was by the door out of the bunker, after having been in Williams's office?"

"Maybe he was trying to steal them," Milly piped up. She was suddenly standing at his elbow.

"And a bloody lot that would do!" Davis boomed, looking livid at Hale's treasonous talk. "They're encrypted with a cipher only you know and Garrison know! You said it yourself!"

"Ah, but I also said I kept a written copy of the key," Hale pointed out. "And yesterday, I checked the box like I do every morning, and I saw that the papers had been shuffled around. Someone had taken them out without me knowing. Someone had quickly recorded the information of each sheet. One can easily imagine they used a camera to do the recording." The other's eyes snapped back to Julius, who was looking quite muddled.

Hale sighed, rubbing his forehead slowly. "And… here's the unfortunate part. Julius doesn't own a camera, and even if he did, he wouldn't know where to find the code sheets."

Julius blurted, "So it couldn't have been me! You're just making things up off the top of-"

"He doesn't have a camera, and he doesn't know where the code is." Hale gradually turned to face Davis. "But you do."

A deathly silence fell upon the concrete bunker.

"Why'd you do it?" he asked his friend quietly. "Why'd you help this man copy our orders and send them to our enemy?"

Davis shrugged. He rubbed his rough fingers together, anxious, and said in a low voice, "We're loosing the war. You know it as well as I do, and as well as Julius does. I figured… if I could get Julius to put in a good word for me, I might… you know… have a place in New America."

Hale's shoulders sagged. "I see."

Williams cleared his throat. "Julius Goldberg, Mathew Davis," he said, "you are under arrest for acts against the United States of America."

Milly grinned up at him. "You did it, Joe! You found out how it was possible! Now we do not have to worry about spies ever again." She beamed happily, and watched as the others tied up the squirming, protesting Julius and the downcast Davis, who insisted on putting the cuffs on himself.

He nodded. "Yeah. I guess we don't…"

Milly stared ponderously at him, her face skewed up with concentration. Finally she cried, "Probably not! Now stop worrying and come play checkers with me!"

Hale laughed and tussled her hair. "Alright. Do you want to be red or black this time?"