Working for The Company means dealing with some dirty truths.
By Nick Lachmund
I was recruited to The Company when I was 26. I was working in military intelligence when I got a call to come to Canberra for a meeting. I was stationed in Darwin at the time and it was unusual request but no further information was forthcoming. When I got to Canberra I had a meeting with two men in dark suits. They asked me how committed I was to my country, and I told them I would die for it. They told me they had a job for me.
You might ask what we do at The Company. The answer isn’t a simple one. We do whatever our country needs us to do. We keep the people safe and we keep the Communists at bay. You’ll never read about us in the papers or hear about us on the radio. We are this country’s anonymous protectors.
For the past six months, we’ve known about the mole. Among other things, we received intel that some of our most important documents were leaked to a member of a local Polish Club. The Club is a known hot-spot for Communist agitators. It’s taken months to find the Club member that obtained the documents, but finally I have him. He sits across from me, picking at the cracked linoleum on the cheap table between us in this ugly motel room. I can tell he’s nervous. As he picks at the cracks, he intensely watches me smoke; following the flame on the cigarette with his eyes. He wants one. I offer him my packet and he snatches it greedily. After digging in my pocket, I find a matchbook and slide it across the table. I silently let him enjoy the first few puffs. His hand shakes as he ashes into a glass ashtray.
“I need to know who gave you the documents, Bogdan.” I tell him straight.
His eyes widen and shoot to the door. On the other side of the door my two best men are waiting, Nigel and Martin. I was worried it could be one of them. Working on the assumption that they can hear me through the paper-thin walls, I grab a phone book and tear out a page.
‘Which one?’ I write on the page.
He takes the page and writes, ‘Don’t know name. Just initials.”
I motion for him to go on but his eyes give away his fear. He knows what’s at stake here. After I give him a hard look, his demeanour changes and he visibly droops. He has no other option. Grasping the matchbook, he scrawls something inside and slides it across to me. I snatch it as greedily and he snatched the cigarette.
The initials in the book confirm my fears; they belong to one of my men.
On my way to this meeting, I had thought of a plan for this scenario. Catching Bogdan off guard, I quickly rise and move to the door.
“Wait,” he starts frantically.
Swinging the wooden door open, I see my two men.
“Come in.” I say.
They enter and look over the room and the nervous man.
“Martin, take my friend here back to base.” I say casually.
Martin moves behind Bogdan and grabs him firmly.
“No wait,” Bogdan starts but he is quickly removed from the room.
“What did he say, boss?” Nigel asks me eagerly.
“He wrote the initials of his contact on that matchbook.” I say, motioning to the table and avoiding eye contact.
Nigel and I have gotten close over the years. I helped him when he started and he has always been a reliable and trustworthy friend. It pains me to do this but The Company only has one way of dealing with moles.
As he picks up the matchbook I level my pistol and position the barrel of the silencer just behind Nigel’s right ear. Without further thought, I gently squeeze the trigger. He slumps forward, knocking the table onto its side, the glass ashtray shattering as it hits the ground. A spray of red marks the walls and floor. Nigel’s body stops twitching and I notice the matchbook still in his hand. Prying it free, I look at the initials it contains. ‘NW’: Nigel Watkins. I look down at the body again and a sense of melancholy overwhelms me. Why did he do this? I drop the matchbook onto his body and begin to walk away.
But then I stop. Something makes me stop. A thought? I walk back to the body and look at the matchbook. From this angle, it looks different. I pick it up again, holding it on the altered angle.
“It’s not NW.” I say the words aloud to no one in particular.
I look down at Nigel and an overwhelming burst of guilt hits me. But I can’t deal with that right now. I begin to run from the room, my pistol still in hand. I need to find him. I need to find him before he kills Bogdan and gets away. Martin Nicholson. I need to find ‘MN’.