Category Archives: Preparation

Pressed for time

At precisely 8:29am Armand turned his custom-made leather office chair to the window facing the street. At precisely 8:30am the blonde in the black trenchcoat emerged from the Underground station. She was right on time. That was good. She was not carrying the valise. That was bad.

“Continue?” Armand asked his own reflection in the glass. They had come so far. So much planning would be wasted if they had to abort now. But it would be more than futile to continue if the mission was compromised. Always smarter to be patient, and Armand was nothing if not patient.

He returned his gaze to the blonde, who had stopped by the appointed newsstand and appeared to be perusing the pulpy magazines. To the untrained eye, she was just another attractive woman, an aspiring actress or model perhaps – the cities were full of them – who has stopped to see what celebrities made the tabloid covers.

He was nearly certain that the mission was a bust, and was about to swivel his chair back to the desk, and resume the tedium of his “job” anew, when he saw it. The signal. His pulse quickened, but just a touch. Nothing that would be perceptible to the untrained eye. So it was a go.

He turned back to his desk, ready, but full of questions. Where was the valise? Why was the mission a go without it? Perhaps they had been forced to hide the contents somewhere else on her person.

No time to think of that now. He would find out soon enough.

He adjusted the drawing pencil behind his ear, stood and walked out the office door.

“Watch out for the stenographers.”, he said softly to the empty hallway.


Armand sat as his cubicle in the windowless corner of the seventh floor office space. It was 8:15am and as usually he was the first to arrive. Charlie, who brings the donuts wouldn’t be there for another 7 minutes. Nancy, the accountant with the short fuse and the long lashes would follow exactly 3 and a half minutes later. Nancy had a sweet tooth, but it was more than Charlie’s donuts that she had in mind. An irrelevant observation, Armand thought, but a reflex nonetheless. Armand had been trained to observe, to watch. And to wait. But soon the waiting would be over thought Armand. The day of triumph was at hand. He was prepared.

Every day Armand’s pencil cup was filled with one dozen yellow-coated Dixon Ticonderoga 2b pencils with the faux copper metallic band encircling the standard 1/4 inch eraser. Every day, except today. Today Armand had replaced the 12 weak, soft-leaded pencils with one dozen blue-coated Faber-Castell 6h extra-hard eraserless graphite drawing pencils. Eleven now sat point down in his cup resting gently on points carefully honed to needle-sharpness. Were the tips visible, few would notice the glistening spectrum of color caused by the refraction of the light coating of black mamba venom. Armand would notice, but then Armand was trained to notice things.

But what of the twelth pencil? – why it was poised delicately behind Armand’s right ear in readiness, as was Armand – the delicate instrument and the patient agent both prepared for the long awaited signal…