A Simple Man

An unmarked army truck car pulled up beside a grey concrete wall. Several soldiers in plain green combat gear leapt out, forming a protective circle around the truck. Three large men in dark suits followed. One of the men slid his hand along the featureless wall until a small door opened. The other two men went forward to help a more normally built man from the high cab. He was of medium height, slightly over weight around the middle, with receding dark hair, brown eyes and the beginnings of a double chin. He wore a light grey suit with a blue silk handkerchief in the top pocket.

Two of the dark suits entered the doorway, leaving the third outside sweating in the equatorial sun.

Heavy steps clanged down an iron staircase, light steps tapped more sedately behind. Exactly one hundred steps later the party emerged onto a small landing. At one end a steel door stood open spilling multi-coloured light against shiny shoes. In the doorway, one hand outstretched, stood a figure in a white lab coat, haloed by the light beyond. "Good morning sir, how nice to see you again, please come in, the action is about to start."

The V.I.P. shook the man's hand with just the required pressure; not too soft, which would indicate weakness or effeminate behaviour, not too strong, proving a need to dominate. "It's good to be here, not too late I hope?" He give the man a number seven smile (semi-serious, you're in trouble if I am).

"No, not at all, please make yourself comfortable, it's a bit basic I'm afraid, but only to be expected in the circumstances."

One of the dark suited men looked briefly around the room, paying scant attention to the handful of seated figures arranged in a half-circle around a bank of monitors. He then stepped back nodding for the V.I.P. to enter. The dark suits stood on the landing either side of the steel door, backs to the wall as it clanged shut. The sound of bolts closing grated through the door frame, the men looked at each other but didn't speak.

Inside, the V.I.P. was led to a large chair beside which stood a low table. Bottles of mineral water and fruit juices sat on the table, all unopened.

"If I could just explain what we are seeing here," said the scientist, gesturing towards the screens. Now he had time to look at the scientist properly; a tall man but lean with it, with a broad face, a small moustache, grey eyes and a sharp nose, the V.I.P. realised he couldn't remember where they had met before. It didn't really matter, the man would probably tell him himself later.

"On the central monitor is the view from the camera located on C.R.one..."

"C.R.one?" interrupted the V.I.P.

"That's the name of the agent we are using at the moment. The monitor to the left, that's your left, is a camera located on our second agent. Let me talk you through a few facts whilst we watch. "

Quite simply he was average; in height, weight, build, colour. In looks, behaviour, voice pattern and dress he was normal. If he passed you in the street or stood next to you in the lift, you wouldn't have remembered a single detail about him. But the external veneer hid something quite different and altogether shocking.

He had spent a lot of time in a secret bunker located in a third world country. These countries often do favours for one superpower or another, it helps to be seen "in public" with those kind of people.
Whilst in this bunker he had learned how to fit in with any crowd, in any situation, without being noticed. This man could travel almost anywhere, enter almost any building, only trained personnel would be able to describe him accurately later.

He had a purpose of course, as they all do, but not one he could use every day. But he was a patient man, they had made sure of that, and was completely ready when the call came in.

Arriving in the country of his destination, under a properly issued passport of course, he began blending in. The immigration officer paid him scant attention, as the man had known he would, waving him through without even touching the passport. Customs officers had stopped the person several places in front of him, and the exact same number behind.

A taxi took him to the hotel, an average place, not too expensive, but clean and comfortable. From conversations with the driver he had calculated the average tip and paid accordingly. The taxi driver could no more recall the passenger he had just dropped off than he could ones five or six years earlier.

The man checked into the hotel under his given name, which was common, easily spelled but wasn't Smith or Jones. He had timed his arrival during a busy period. The desk clerk served somebody else and answered the phone at the same time, thus not observing the man too closely.

Whilst waiting for the signal to go, he neither stayed in his room nor was never there, he ordered room service at normal times and ate in the restaurant when everyone else did. He left a polite amount uneaten on his plate and smiled at the waitress because 91% of the other men did.

The phone rang whilst he sat in his room, a signal like a fax machine trying to connect sounded in his ear for less than one second. The man left his room, checked out and left the hotel, he would never return, nor would anyone remember he had been there.

The man was now seated in a busy station waiting area, in just a few minutes he would be able to perform the task he had been sent to do. The station was very crowded today, so he was easily able to blend in. A man approached, he wore a dirty coat and bags around his feet. The dirty man held his hands out to several of the people, 19% of which gave him something, noted the man, 11% gave him silver coins. As the dirty man neared, the average man reached into his pocket and picked out several small copper coins and one silver. When the three people next to him ignored the dirty man, he placed them in the outstretched palm, the man mumbled a thank you then shuffled on.

Several of the people waiting clutched flags bearing the face of the president. The president was expected any moment. A train rushed into the station and the crowd began to surge forwards, the man moved with the flow, not too near the front, not too far from the back.

The train passed through the station bound for elsewhere. The crowd sagged disappointedly, small gaps appeared, seats were re-taken. The next train arrived more slowly, gliding to a stop. Again the crowds surged forwards, this time the man was nearer the front, having watched the tide of people ebb and flow, he had judged the gaps to perfection and made his way to the front with very little trouble. To carry out his job correctly he needed to be up close.

The station fell silent as the carriage doors slid open. A large man dressed in a dark suit emerged, followed quickly by several more. They fanned out, one of them shaking hands with a local police officer. After exchanging a few words, the suited man returned to the train.

In front of the middle carriage a space had been cleared then roped off by the local police. The dark suited men stood in front of the middle door of the carriage in a neat horseshoe pattern. Several minutes later a tall, thin man of late years emerged from the train, he waved as the crowd cheered enthusiastically. It was the face on the flags.

Behind the president came the vice president and several major government officials. They each passed among the crowd shaking hands seemingly at random. The average man knew better. He had been given information on these events. An exact analysis showed which people and in what proportion got to shake hands with various politicians. Funnily enough presidents with a dwindling loyalty shook hands with almost the entire front row.

The average man was no longer simply average, he was now an average voter. Coincidentally, the man was on the front row in an identified favourite spot of the president. The man shook hands with two other officials before catching the eye of the president.

Despite his obvious complexities he was a simple man, with only one task to perform, a single purpose to his short existence. The tools of his trade may have been complex to the point of esoteria, but his one function was clinical in its simplicity.

President and average voter met, shook hands, the president had a firm handshake, he looked up into the man's face and smiled. The man didn't smile back, he exploded.

- Copyright Steve Dean