A little diversion
Returning home after the day out; Tom’s mother asked me, “Do you where Tom has gone.”
“At a school learning about a trip to Antigua, as far as I know,” I answered.
“Where’s that and why would he want to go?”
I tried to think of a way to explain the situation that had precipitated this.
It began at lunchtime; Tom, and I had been at this café and oddity shop; at the completion of our refreshment, the little old lady proprietor demanded that we tidy the table and dispose of the remnants in such a non-compromising tone that we complied. After which Tom became moody and distracted, plucking a mandarin from an adjacent tree he ate it, despite my advice that he should ask first. The shopkeeper had been observing this behaviour and opened the café door, then preemptively ordered him inside which to my surprise he complied. The old lady barred me from trying to follow.
I asked, “What’s happening; his mother is expecting him home soon, I will pay for the fruit if that’s the problem?”
“He has decided to join our organisation. After training Tom is going to Antigua,” She said.
“Why him? I have at least a passport and some training in the military,” I reasoned.
“He is under a Geas to do so, and you aren't,” She snapped shutting the door.
Perplexed I pondered the situation, then called the police but since he was over 18 and there voluntarily; there would be nothing that they could do about it.
I researched Antigua; this is a small island nation in the Caribbean initially it was English settled, and then became independent in 1981; peopled mostly of African descent, they speak English throughout the two larger islands Antigua and Barbuda. This information completed the story I had passed on to his mother leaving us both still bewildered.
“Well you will have to do something about it, he is your grandson, and you promised to look after him,” Samantha declared, “I can’t as I have my other children to consider.”
My wife Sandra chimed in with, “Whatever it takes, do it.”
So I entered the café and approached the shopkeeper firmly stating that I should accompany him on his quest.
“If you insist, though don’t expect any support from us,” She conceded, “You may sit in on the training and receive such briefings that we deem necessary.”
“If that helps keep Tom safe I will accept your conditions,” I replied wondering what situation I had got myself involved.
“Be here at 8 am and take a seat, any disruption, and you have to leave,” She stated.
“I will see you in the morning,” I accepted.
Bright and early I arrived at the appointed place and grabbed a seat in the room indicated for the venue. Tom was there together with a couple of young girls and a boy all of Tom’s age. I couldn’t help noticing that the two boys could be brothers both tall with red hair, and the two girls could be sisters with long brown hair and similar builds.
Not much happened for a while, the young people being unusually quiet, the Little Old Lady came out and announced that she was Mrs Noble and would start the brief. Waving at an operator behind us who started his projector, first, a map appeared on the screen at the front of the room. Mrs Noble indicated with a pointer that it was Antigua and rattled off several points describing them as the city, airport and the neighbouring islands such as Barbuda and the other smaller islands.
“Our interest lies on one of the two larger islands; the first task is to determine which,” Noble explained, “To this end, there will be two teams Tom and Anne in one, Steve and Jane the other. Mr Conroy is an observer who may be called on for assistance,” indicating me.
Then there were a series of people’s photos, with descriptions as to our relation to them.The first two were the subject of the search a young boy and a girl similar to our teams, which if they were located, the particulars were to be given to a contact there; then a series of useful contacts and finally several men to be avoided.
“How much danger is there from this last group?” I asked as the youths were placidly listening.
“Not too much except they are also looking for our subjects,” Mrs Noble advised.
“Do you have a reason for your people being sought by either party?” I asked.
“They have critical information affecting world peace or at least some diminishing of tensions; since we don't know what the information is, nothing concrete,” She suggested.
“Next, we prepare for the trip?” I suggested.
“Here are the booking details, as soon as you make your payments, you can proceed on the flight,” Mrs Noble declared.
Chapter 2 The search begins
There were no direct connections from Australia, except for random charters, so the flight was booked to the USA, across to Florida then a smaller aircraft to Puerto Rico. At that airport boarding another one to Antigua. After passing through customs and immigration Tom and his companion were to seek a hotel in the city while the other two were to board a boat for the trip over to the other island Barbuda. The weather coming from Brisbane in the winter was mild with the night time temperature only a couple of degrees below the day. The forecast was for some light rain though it is a relatively dry area.
My instruction was to observe from a distance and avoid being part of the group. Tom and Sue were to act like tourists and visit as many landmarks as possible to draw attention to themselves, a pass time I was not overly fussed. A few days went past before I noticed that they were receiving some scrutiny with one of the other party following and watching what they were doing. I, in turn, kept an eye on this new player and as I passed by Tom and gave the code for watchers.
"Watch out for the seagulls; they are dive bombing."
When the new party I christened Kaos moved off perhaps to report I followed him and noted where he was operating. Keeping as low a profile as possible, I observed that another of the identified agents was staying there as well. Moving on, being a white fellow in a predominately African population somewhat stands out, luckily so did the Kaos man. I used a contact number to call when I saw the other observers, "Spotted two staying at the Sandy Bay Hotel."
"Rodger," The response before hanging up.
'Short and sweet,' I thought, 'not much for any feedback'. I returned to my task of discrete observing, Arriving back at the hotel where I had left Tom and Anne, I soon found them happily carrying out their tourist routine. Without making contact, I resumed my hopefully subtle monitoring.
Nothing out of the ordinary happened, and at the end of the day, I made the routine phone call to the other team to receive the safe code for all happy, though there was the code for noticing one of the opposition. At the appointed hour I then had my call, so I was able to pass the message to say both teams safe but under hostile observation.
A little frustrated not having feedback on the overall picture so I could anticipate any action or the reason that no apparent effort to date. Perhaps the 'Kaos' were under instructions to keep under cover or since they already have the target under wraps, merely curious that doubles have turned up. Time will tell which guess is correct in the meantime we hurry up and wait; I had spent twenty-six years doing just that.
The next morning Tom and Anne set out for the next day of sightseeing. I almost hoped something would happen; it is not such a big island. An oldie like me has no problem; I can get excited about a back room exhibit laid out on a single table. Well, I can pretend at least to make the owners day. This day went OK with only peripheral observing until the end of the day when I noticed that another of the opposition faces had turned up and was hanging around making three close. The code for heads up to Tom was me putting on a red bandanna around my neck replacing a white one.
A worrying note was that Tom and Anne had been given movie tickets for that night with a promise that a taxi would be sent to pick them up. A slow bell tolled, I moved up to Tom and suggested, "Hail your taxi, this is too good to be true." So Tom rang and booked himself, I hailed a taxi myself and directed him to circulate at the time Tom was due to be picked up the two came out, a taxi pulled up, and they entered. Once the taxi driver had his destination with a booking to pick them up afterwards.
I directed my driver to follow trying to be subtle, but by the grin on his face, he must have guessed what I was doing. However, I was happy that there were no dramas and the two were delivered safely to the theatre.
"What's the chance that you could do the same for the trip home?" I asked.
"No problem boss," The driver assured, possibly as I tipped well.
Little did he know he was setting a world record being tipped by me, it felt something like extracting teeth. Hey, I have the Aussie tradition to uphold, so don't tell anyone I would never live it down.
I decided to sit through the movie, not something I would select for myself but watchable, Nothing overt happened, but I noticed that at least one of Kaos was watching as was another from the friendly team. The movie finished, and everyone made a rush for the exit, my cab was waiting across the road having to fend off eager travellers, he noticed my signal and elaborately started the meter. I made my way across and boarded,
"Okay, now we watch my companions come to their taxi. Thanks for waiting," I said.
"No problems boss, this is fun," The cabby responded in good spirit.
They came out and approached their taxi which they had booked for the return trip, apparently recognised the driver so climbed aboard. The Taxi started off towards the hotel where Tom and Anne were staying it wasn't far to travel. Two cars overtook us and with one on each end of Tom's car, succeeded in bringing the taxi to a halt and before my car could get close men jumped out and grabbed my two teens bundling them into the lead car; which then drove off at speed.
I urged my taxi to follow but the second car had blocked the road, and the driver disappeared into an alley leaving the car locked and immovable. "Damn, can you get around?" I asked.
"No boss someone is sitting on my tail so I can't back up and there is no room either side," The driver said.
"I will try the police, what's the emergency number?" I requested.
"911, we are at the corner of St Marys and High Streets," The driver supplied, "They went down St Marys."
"Thanks," I rang the number and passed the information on, receiving the promise that they would send someone, "There is a car blocking St Marys left by one accomplice."
I paid the taxi driver and walked around the jam looking for another taxi that I could hire to resume the search. I spotted one and hailed it, "Could you take me to the Sandy Bay Hotel?"
"No problem be there in five minutes," The Cabbie promised.
We arrived, and I paid him off, looking around the kidnap car was nowhere in sight. So I took another taxi back to my hotel reporting the bad news to the backup team.
As before the response was limited, "Rodger, we have a tail on the escape vehicle."
Okay, I suppose since they have done something about the situation, best I cool my heels and wait for more information. I phoned the other team with the code to report the capture of Tom and Anne this went to voice mail leaving me worried that they had suffered the same fate.
I decided to camp at the Sandy Bay area to see if I could spot and then follow one of the Kaos operatives. I didn't have too high hope that they wouldn't identify me.
I settled into a cafe across the road with a cup of tea and a local paper while I waited. I was surprised when the first man that I had spotted came out and walked down the road without seeming to take any notice of his surroundings.
I stood up and as nonchalantly wandered in the same direction, just observing the surrounding rather than eying my guide. I was aware that I had company as well, that 'eyes on my back' feeling that you get when someone is watching you. A pause and glance around caught one of the Kaos agents dodging behind a sign.
'They spotted me,' I thought, 'Best I keep away from alleys.'