A “Gray Man’s” Handwriting

Angela took the baseball back and threw me an old-fashioned curve ball. “Also, Sally, had we been watching the hotel front desk, what we would look for if you approached it was how much your eyes and head moved in all directions maintaining your situational awareness. And if we saw a lot of that, we might pay more attention to, say, your receiving a package from the hotel front desk and storing it in the locked Patron storage boxes to the desk’s right side.”

I handled my face like I’m supposed to, and with a speed that has no place in time, I knew the answer: they HAD a customs tripwire, but it was so old that the customs agents had half forgotten it, and we got through before they figured things out.

Then, I made my decision and tacitly admitted that this was real. “Moreover, Emily, every bit of tradecraft has a down side. From Ralph and Angela’s perspective, they would have to find where I was staying first, because our intention to enter into Pacifica was unknown to them until we stepped off the plane. Because of the Pacifica issued visas, they would have the names of my new identity and my old one, perhaps even with my passport picture, so they could look for me in their files. It would show a pattern of upscale business dress for me and a penchant for very expensive hotels for Lady Chief. So Ralph and Angela would be a day behind us…wait a minute, how do I know that? you say,…well their surveillance showed me taking my package to an already acquired hotel box, one which I had rented on the day we checked in.

“This is what we call a spy’s “handwriting” or the underlying way that they do their tradecraft. Like genuine handwriting, each spy’s tradecraft is unique. So is each agency’s.

“For example, a GLCIS Truth Team would consist of one professional killer with no arrest record (a lower level agency clerk for his day job) and two criminal thugs with either outstanding crime of violence warrants or previous convictions under probation, which GLCIS took over. They actually lived in GLICS Headquarters on one whole separate floor with their own separate elevator. They each had a GPS implanted in them and were subject to very strict curfew to keep them off the street at night. They were, as well, forbidden to go into certain areas of the city that are known to foster petty criminals, and were also forbidden to stay any length of time, day or night, in motel and hotel rooms. If they were in need of sexual relief, they would have to go to a discreet house in a non-criminal neighborhood, that paid protection money to Chicago organized crime. Since we didn’t expect them to be celibate monks, we had address lists of these for them.

“On a hit, only the killer would have a firearm, usually a .22 pistol with a silencer. The others would carry only knives or blackjacks. So a spy killing, face to face, involving .22 rounds, with others knifed or knocked out as opposition would have “GLCIS handwriting”. Mossad, on the other hand, uses a team solely of professional killers, all armed with 9mm guns like Angela and Ralph, but also silenced. They usually just kill spies rather than interrogate them, and also go to extremes to showcase their handwriting when they kill a spy to “send a message” to the agency that the spy worked for.”

Angela responded, “Certainly the files were helpful. Since it was your habit to stay in upscale hotels and take taxis when you needed something in the city, we staked out Portland’s best and most expensive: The Fortune. Our inference was correct. We kept watch in the lobby until Sally came down to get her mail, which was this package. We’re still very curious to know what was in it and why Sally left it there.”

Angela went on, “Being a gray man is not just about how you dress. My standard outfit is distinctly NOT for doing business, even though a stakeout of this type is my business. The last thing Ralph and I wanted was to look like two armed plain clothes cops on stakeout in the lobby. His subordinates might not notice, but the desk manager is responsible for the lobby as well, and he would have spotted us very quickly, approached us for identification, and maybe even thrown us out once we confirmed his suspicions. Criminals, perps, persons of interest, and adversary spies patronize hotels, too; tip generously; and have the right to have the hotel intervene to keep their activities private. At least the management of the Fortune thinks so, and that’s part of the reason it’s Portland’s best hotel.

“So we mostly never sat together, and each of us would leave the lobby while the other one still scrutinized the parade of guests and visitors. I would return with a small package from the gift shop and sit in a different chair than the one I last used. Ralph would then mosey over to the hotel bar for a beer and a tray of nachos. When he came back, he would sit in a different chair and I would suddenly have an urgent need for the Ladies Room. Having adjusted my menstrual needs and freshened my make up, I would come out and find still a third chair to use.

“If Ralph was nowhere to be seen, then he had spotted someone and was outside on the Dictapad with David. When he returned he would sit next to me and we would appear to chat casually with my writing down a pad number for him to call. This is an excellent ruse for us. Since we’re both so tall, our making a casual match in the lobby is not something startling. With a shorter partner, either he or I would need a different ruse to chat about our new orders from David. A good one would be for one of us to carry a briefcase and show the other the papers inside.”

“That isn’t too much at one time, is it, Emily?” I queried judiciously.

“Well, maybe. But I could see that this was a conversation between you and Angela and not to me. I’m pretty sure I understood both what you didn’t say and what you did. It gave me chills thinking of it, particularly in light of your Lady Chief’s description of ordering 28 people killed.” For the first time her voice was not tentative but strong.

“Isn’t she a wonder, Angela?” I didn’t wait for an answer, “All this has been going on around you and you’ve been carefully shielded from it while it has. As we said in our meeting this morning, we don’t think that PI’s shielding you from it is a very good idea. This is probably enough for now. Would one of you two stay down here and go through gun safety and gun handling with Emily?”

Angela grabbed the ball again, “I’ll do that and I’ll try to get her up to dry fire practice.” And, of course, she would finally brief Emily about who, what, and how dangerous we really were, or at least how dangerous they thought we were. Our score on that scale clearly increased after Lady Chief’s little talk and my remark about telling some pimp that I would kill him. Not to mention my little philosophical exesis on spying and human decency. Probably she would tell Emily that they think my package contains our guns. That would get Emily’s undivided attention on the firearm lesson, just like it did for Elizabeth and I so many years ago.

“If you want snap caps for the gun, I have them.” Another tacit admission. If I brought 9mm snap caps for dry firing practice, then there must be a 9mm gun around somewhere. It was obvious I wasn’t carrying. The close fit of both my jacket and skirt would print almost any 9mm gun, inside the waist or out. So the next best guess would be in my package.

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