A Spy in McLeod Ganj
by Sameer Kulkarni
Table of Contents|
parts: 1, 2, 3
The next day, Major went to the Viceroy House again and asked the security guard to take him to the room where the woman was held.
‘Did you have a good night’s sleep, madam?’
‘Well, the reason for my visit today is that we are going to have to let you go. The doctors couldn’t find any traces of the poison, nor did they find any needle marks as you had claimed should surely be on the body.’
‘But that’s not possible.’
‘We are very sure. Pandey-ji, please help madam with whatever forms need to be filled out and then let her go. Madam, if you are hungry, Tea House serves breakfast until 11:00. Have a good day!’
Major then went and asked John McCormick if everything had gone according to the plan. John said that he had given the final map to Mark last evening, and Mark must have passed it along to Jin, if Major’s theory was to the mark.
Presently, after being released from solitary confinement, Jin confirmed that the envelope she had on her was intact and started walking towards the other end of the town. The handoff time was between 1:00 pm and 4:00 pm every day for seven days, after which the mission was to be aborted and considered a failure.
By the time she took the trail and reached the temple, it was only 2.30 pm. She went behind the temple and took the campers’ trail. She found that her handler was just looking over the valley with his binoculars. Seeing her approach, he turned and smiled.
‘Did you get it?’
‘Yes, I did. I told you I was good. Just needed someone to trust me.’
‘Where is Bo?’
‘Bo is dead. I saw him talking twice to that Tea House proprietor. As soon as I reached the Tea House, he stopped talking. I had to get rid of him.’
‘And what happened to the body?’
‘You needn’t worry about it. It’s all taken care of. You wanted the map, and there it is, in that envelope. See you back home.’
When she was coming back in to the town, Jin kept thinking of how simple it had all been. She had been involved in many assignments before, but this was her first assignment in India, and her first related to border control.
For a moment she dreamed about the camera flashes and the award ceremony dinner where the President himself would congratulate her for her bravery. However, a small tumble on a loose rock brought her back to earth. She wondered how she could award herself right now and decided that the occasion called for a small boast to the Tea House proprietor.
When she reached the Tea House, Major Menon was busy writing something on the “Today’s Special” board. Seeing her approach, he stopped writing.
‘Hello! Pick any table you want, I will be with you in a minute.’
‘No, I am fine. Just wanted a word with you.’
‘Oh, all right! I will ask Bahadur to get us some tea,’ he said, and went into the kitchen. Once inside, he instructed Bahadur to go and fetch Pandey-ji from across the road. He also asked Bahadur to take his army jacket with him and have Pandey-ji put it on so he could pretend to be a high-ranking army officer.
‘The tea will be here soon. What is it that you wanted to talk about?’
‘The autopsy. What did the doctors say?’
‘Well, they couldn’t find anything interesting. It looked like a regular case of cardiac arrest. Poor fellow had a weak heart, as it happens.’
‘I wish you really had doctors like we have in China, of great calibre.’
‘I don’t think I understand you.’
‘I killed Bo, that man who was lying there,’ she said, pointing to the table where the incident had happened. ‘I injected a lethal dose of Bupivacaine. I told you about that, and your doctors still couldn’t find a trace of it.’
‘Well, you were lying, and I don’t know why.’
‘Well, you are dumb and so are your doctors. But it suits me just fine, because I am not locked up.’
‘So why are you here?’
‘Just wanted to make sure you are aware. It’s important to learn and improve,’ she said, and stood up, wanting to leave.
‘Ignorance is bliss.’
‘You know your vices then.’
‘I was talking about you.’
‘What do you mean?’
‘I don’t know how they made you a spy. We have newspaper boys who are more prudent.’
‘A spy?’ she said, and failing to hide how rattled she was, added, ‘You are accusing a Chinese tourist. I will report you to the consulate.’
‘I wonder if they had you checked before they gave you the assignment. Oh, wait, you were saying the doctors aren’t so good there?’
‘If you had the same quality of doctors here, I would be in jail for having committed a murder.’
‘Oh, we wouldn’t want that, would we?’
‘Why not? Don’t you want to arrest criminals?’
‘If we had arrested you, how would we have known what your bigger plan was?’
‘What bigger plan?’
‘Phobrang is close to the Indochina border. This project, I am sure, will be of significant interest to the Chinese government. They sent a small team here to get the specific details.’
‘You knew it all along?’
‘Never underestimate a hotel manager, madam, especially a hotel manager who has served in the army and has seen a thing or two. He knows everything, he watches everyone. I saw through your whole reasoning for getting locked up, but then I didn’t want to alert the authorities; the media would have heard of it, and the whole thing would have been in papers. For all I know, your handler might have even killed you.’
‘But you still didn’t stop me?’
‘Why would I stop you? Oh, by the way, the envelope that you handed over to your colleague contained a fake map: actually a road construction plan to a remote temple.’
‘Wh... what are you talking about?’
‘Oh, Major Pandey is here! He is in charge of the local legislation here, I think he will know what to do best.’ In the sudden jolt she had just received, Jin failed to see that the army officer standing in front of her was actually the same guard who had watched over her in Viceroy House.
‘What if I hadn’t returned here after the handover?’
‘Well, your main motive would still have stayed defeated. It wasn’t you I was interested in; it was what you were doing with something that didn’t belong to you or your country. Well, I hope Beijing will give you a well-awaited welcome. Major Pandey, will you see that Jin gets dispatched promptly?’
In a few days, as he was scrolling through The Times, Major saw a small headline on the front page: ‘Beijing executes two spies for treason.’ The words that came out of his mouth, as he grabbed his cup were, ‘A bit harsh, I think.’
Copyright © 2017 by Sameer Kulkarni