Our story today is called "Double Cross". It was written by Joe Ray. Here is Maurice Joyce with the story.
Janet pulled the page from her typewriter and looked nervously at her wristwatch. It was almost time. From the inner office came sounds of her boss preparing to leave. The sounds of doors opening and closing. These sounds were well-known to her after eight years as his secretary. Then her boss himself stood at the door, pushing a long arm into his topcoat. She saw how good he looked in his gray suit. It seemed just right against his graying hair.
"Good night, Mr. Mason." she said with a weak smile.
"Good night, Janet. I'll see you Monday morning as usual."
He was quick and friendly. Perhaps, she only imagined the look of concern in his eyes as he walked out.
Janet covered her typewriter. She pulled a lipstick and mirror from her purse. Her hands were cold and shaky when she began to redden her lips and ran a comb through her hair. There would be no time to stop at the women's rest room this evening to do this. She felt a terror slowly rising up inside herself. How could she ever go through with it? But she knew she must. It was too late to retreat. She reached into a drawer and pulled out a knitting basket and a ball of wool with needles sticking out. At the bottom of the basket, lay three microfilms, each in a metal case. She stared at them, feeling guilty. She felt her nerve shocked as the whistle blew. She stuffed the wool back into the basket. She seized her purse and took a last look around the office. Then she walked into the hall filled with secretaries and clerks hurrying home, doors opened and more workers walked out into the hall. The click of high-heels made the pounding of Janet's heart seemed louder as she moved along with the crowd. It was likely every Friday. There was a noisy excitement in the air. Everyone was in a hurry to leave their desks. The weekend lay ahead.
Janet held her purse in one hand with the netting basket hooked over her wrist. She pushed away outside into the afternoon sunshine. "Easy, now." she told herself. She stopped to let the crowd flow past her. As she looked ahead down the long ramp leading to the guard's gate, her heart sank. Beside the regular guard Scotty, there was a guard she never saw before. He was helping Scotty inspect the people moving through the gate, he looked at their passes and badges. He peered into their purses and lunch pails more carefully than Scotty it seemed.
Janet retreated to the doorway of the building, as a rule, she did not leave so early and had forgotten that an extra guard was stationed at the gate at this hour. She noticed how tightly she was holding her purse. "Be calm," she said to herself, "be natural. Everything depends on getting through that gate."
Getting the microfilm had been easy enough with her security clearance but getting them pass the guard would be the test. She remembered how she and her husband Charles had gone over step by step what she was to do. They had prepared for a month. It'd sounded easy when Charles has given her the plan. He had worked it all out even before he told her what he wanted her to do. It was well-known that Janet was still a young bride. It seemed natural, therefore, to use a knitting basket to smuggle the films out of the plant. They chose the month when her old friend Scotty, the senior guard on the force, took his turn at the gate. She had spent the whole past month working on it. She often left the plant late and stopped at the gate to chat with him. She talked about his boy who was in the navy and she spoke about the little thing she was knitting. A few times, she tested him by being chatty, saying nothing about the knitting and then passing the knitting through without inspection.
The crowd at the gate got thin and the extra guard waved to Scotty as he moved off in the opposite direction. Janet closed her eyes a second and took a deep breath. Now, as naturally as possible, she moved down the ramp. She hoped the smile on her face did not appear as stiff as it felt.
She swallowed twice before she greeted her friend. "Hello! Scotty! How are you? " She felt a rush of guilt as a grin broke across his face browned by the sun. "Good evening Mrs. Heath, you are early tonight." "Yes, my husband is meeting me, Scotty." She held out her pass with her picture on it, and pulled back her coat so he could see her badge pinned to her dress. Scotty nodded, "How's the knitting? "This was it!' She removed a baby's woolen booty and held it out for his inspection. "I finished this one but haven't done much on the other, a hole on *. Oh, there is my husband after run. Good night, Scotty." She wondered if her voice sounded as shaky to him as it did to her own ears. She crashed the booty back into the basket and squeezed past the guardhouse. She half ran along the sidewalk. Scotty's good night followed her.
She forced herself to remain clam and slow down. She walked toward the green car parked at the curb. It's motor running. She was shaking so much. She could not turn the handle of the door. Charles reached over to open it for her and she slid into the seat beside him.
He looked at her, "Did you get them? " His voice was tense. He showed the pressure he must have been feeling while sitting there waiting for her to come through the gate. "Yes," she nodded with a dead feeling.
"Good girl, I knew you could do it." The car moved off into the traffic.
"Did you have any trouble getting the stuff? " Charles was pleasant again and gave her a cigarette. "Just try to relax," he said, "everything is all right. I will drop you off at the apartment as planed and then deliver the microfilms." He turned on the radio, "maybe some music will calm you."
At last, the car turned into a quiet street. Charles reached into the knitting basket and took the three shiny disks. He put them inside his coat pocket, then handed her the basket. He kissed her, "See you later." She entered her apartment like a person in a fog. She crossed to the wide window and looked out. Her husband's green car was pulling away from the stop light at the end of the street. She looked up and down in the street and then saw what she was looking for - a black car moved out from the driveway beyond the apartment house and followed her husband.
Behind the black car was another one inside the car was her boss. "Well," she said to the empty room, "that's that." But she continued standing looking out into the street, long after the three cars had disappeared from sight. She still felt numb, dead. She wondered when she would begin to feel something, the pain and guilt of a wife who had betrayed her husband. She thought back over everything that led up to that betrayal to the night less than six weeks after their marriage. She lay with her head on his arm and his hand gently stroked her hair. He confessed to her his connections and told her what he expected her to do. She remembered the horror she felt over this terrible request, the shock and disbelief. Her instinct had been to cry out to rebel, but some inner voice had warned her to be careful. This was something bigger than just herself and her marriage. A marriage now broken into little pieces and it had been something bigger than herself which made her tell her boss the facts. His calmness quieted her. She was able later to listen to a plan he developed together with the FBI for her to go along with her husband's plans.
It was almost dark outside when she turned from the window and reached for a table lamp. She crossed the room she had shared with Charles Heath. She took off her coat and opened a door to the clothes closet. She reached for a clothes hanger. Suddenly she stopped. One side of the closet was empty. All his clothes were gone. She looked around the room, all his things were gone as if there never had been such a person as Charles Heath. She was sharply hit by the full meaning of the situation. Charles had never meant to return. She had just been his tool, married her for his purpose. She wondered how many other tools there had been before her. She started to laugh, then, her laughter turned into sobs, great heaving sobs and she threw herself across the bed. As she gave in to her misery, there was a fleeting thought - I will cry tonight, tomorrow I'll call my lawyer.
You have heard the story "Double Cross". It was written by Joe Ray. It was published in anthology of short short stories volume 6 copyright Robert *. All rights reserved. Your storyteller was Maurice Joyce. This is Shep O'Neal.
(Adapated from putclub.)