This story is by Mila J. Jude and was part of our 2017 Winter Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The Protectors 1: The Edinburgh One O’clock Gun
Edinburgh, Scotland, 3 October 2017, Tuesday
At around 5:50 am, Pietro was almost done with his usual pre-opening activities. His shop’s specialty is Italian cuisine with some local and international dishes. He opens for breakfast at 6 am everyday. He can’t help but admire the magical view from his shop window: the street is lined with beautiful, ancient buildings and on top of a nearby hill called the Castle Rock, looms the magnificent and historical Edinburgh Castle. The Castle dates back to the 12th century. It was a cold, gray and misty morning.
From 6 am till 8 am Pietro was alone in his shop. His assistant Nina comes in only at 8 am.
Marina was walking hurriedly towards Pietro’s shop, thinking: “I should be at the Italian restaurant called Pietro’s Italian Treats at exactly 6:05. This is my first assignment so I need to be punctua;. I need to get Pietro’s attention for at least 10 minutes, and lead him towards his tiny kitchen.”
Marina was the first customer and as she entered the restaurant, Pietro greeted her cheerfully. She didn’t’ sit down but rather went to the display rack where pastries and cakes are displayed.
Marina asked Pietro, “I’m interested in the Scottish delicacy called Haggis. What is it made of?”
Pietro explained, “ ‘Haggis’ is made of minced sheep’s lungs, heart and liver, mixed with finely chopped onions, oatmeal and seasoning, spooned into the sheep’s intestine…”
Marina quickly replied: “I want to order haggis, ‘to go’,please”. She thought that haggis reminds her of her childhood favorite, in a faraway country, a dish made of pork intestines.
Pietro had to leave the counter and went inside to the small kitchen to prepare the haggis.
At this time 3 groups of clients came in and sat down in 3 separate tables and silently studied the menu.
The printed menu were placed it on each table every day before the opening of Pietro’s shop. The ‘wifi’ password is also printed with highlights at the front cover of the menu.
Marina was trained never to ask questions about her assignment but that doesn’t stop her from observing all around her. She noticed that the customers were fumbling under the table while Pietro was at the kitchen. She saw a tiny glint of metal being stuck by the customers under the table, like a suction. It was done so fast that when Pietro came back with her order wrapped in a brown paper bag, the customers were back to either studying the menu or busy with their phones.
Later in the day at 12:45 pm, Pietro’s shop was packed with the usual lunch crowd, mostly tourists.
Marina came in at this time, and took the last vacant chair. This time she immediately studied the menu and ordered a pasta dish from Nina. Marina seemed preoccupied this time as she took her pen and notebook and was soon busy reading from her book and holding her pen, just holding it, without writing. Pietro noticed this as odd.
As Marina’s order of pasta arrived, she asked for her bill and paid. She ate while still busy looking at her book. She felt nervous, the instruction was that at exactly 1 pm, when she hears the gun from nearby Edinburgh castle sound off, she has to press the pen very hard on the table and she should hold it for 5 minutes then leave immediately. The gun at Edinburgh Castle goes off at precisely 1 pm, it’s called the One o’clock gun. This started firing at precisely 1 pm every day (except Sundays and holidays) since the year 1861 to guide the ships in the Firth of Forth to set the maritime clocks that they needed to navigate the world’s oceans.
Exactly 5 minutes after the 1 pm gun went off, Marina stopped pressing the pen and left the restaurant. It was never explained by her superior and she never questioned why she was doing all this. He insisted that she should never question her assigned actions but just follow instructions with precision. It is also for her safety that she shouldn’t know the whole mission.
At around 1:10 pm, a few minutes after Marina left Pietro’s shop, a diner fell flat on his plate. He was alone in a corner. Pietro shouted to Nina to call the city’s emergency number. The victim is male and looks like one of the usual tourists in Edinburgh, complete with camera and wearing warm clothing. Most locals are in short sleeves shirts, while tourists from warm countries come bundled up in warm clothes.
At around 2 pm, Marina wass seated in a first class coach in a train to London. The train has free wifi and free flowing hot and cold drinks, snacks and fruits. She started reading the latest news from her phone. She selected the latest news in Edinburgh. The headline said: “A male tourist died of heart attack at around 1:20 pm at a restaurant called Pietro’s Italian Treats..”
Marina’s eyes blurred upon reading the news and thought, “Do I have anything to do with this?”
Meanwhile in London, four men were seated in a conference room. They call their group the Protectors. The other members of this governing body were aware of their conversation as one of the four men present was sending encrypted messages to those who were not present at the room.
“The mass media reported that Carlos Buenviaje died of heart attack at a restaurant in Edinburgh called Pietro’s Italian Treats. Our contact in Edinburgh confirmed it too”, said one of the Protectors.
“ The death of Buenviaje, who was the big boss of a syndicate that deals in white slavery, arms deals and drugs, is a big victory for our cause. His illegal activities harm our businesses and clients. He is at the top of our long list.”
‘We need to congratulate our team in Edinburgh. Agent Marina didn’t know the other team members of the mission and where she fits in. While talking to Pietro, it gave the chance to the other ‘diners’ to plant those transmitters in the shop. She also didn’t know that her pen used while writing in the shop was the trigger that killed X. All the transmitters were also removed by the other ‘diners’ as soon as Buenviaje fell flat on his plate and they all left before the police came”, said the 2nd Protector.
“Our team of scientists who designed the device that pierced Buenviaje’s heart, in less than 10 minutes after agent Marina triggered that pen, needs to be given an award. The device was a tiny drone, and was able to fly undetected, guided remotely through the transmitters planted in Pietro’s shop. It entered Buenviaje’s body through his nose and was guided till it pierced its way and reached his heart, where it exploded like a tiny but powerful bomb.’ Reported the 2nd Asian.
The other Protector, spoke: “We need to make sure that Pietro does not suspect anything about Marina and the other diners. Send someone to ‘interview’ Pietro”.
Edinburgh, 4 October 2017, Wednesday
At 6:05 am, the lady Reporter, before entering Pietro’s shop, turned the sign from OPEN to CLOSED and locked the door behind her. At this time, Pietro was still alone. She showed him an ID, a reporter from a local Edinburgh newspaper. She wanted to ask just a few questions, promised it will take less than 5 minutes. Her first question: “Did you notice anything unusual on the day Mr. Buenviaje fell flat on his plate?” To this Pietro replied: “No, I was actually very busy to notice anything”. She asked a few more questions and later gave her business card, thanked him and left.
Pietro thought: “I suspect that the lady was not actually a reporter. And that tourist girl yesterday morning and who later came at lunch time was suspicious. It was unusual that she was so inquisitive earlier about the menu, but she ignored me during that fateful lunchtime. I can’t place it specifically but I know there was some conspiracy going on.”
As soon the lady reporter left Pietro’s shop, she called from her mobile phone and said: “Negative. He is just a good cook, did not notice anything”.
Meanwhile, Pietro went to his private office and locked it up. He punched some numbers in his mobile phone. When the other line answered, he said, “I can assure you that Mr. Buenviaje’s death was not a foul play. I have given him that special seat in the corner. I assure you there was nothing unusual on that day and I never told anyone about Mr. Buenviaje’s identity”.
The person in the other line did not answer but just hung up.