Mr. John Smith

I’m watching the 2014 film called the November Man starring Pierce Bronsan. About spies, assassins, foreign countries, the CIA, the usual. A pretty good flick.

It made me remember the only person I have ever met who might be called a spy. Certainly undercover.

In the late 1980s my boss sent me on a three-week garden tour of England, Scotland, and Wales. Long story why.

I flew in coach to Gatwick, not Heathrow. The passenger next to me was drinking as heavily as I was.

I think the fact that I worked for a landscape contractor may have made me less of a concern. He never gave me his name.

He started talking about how the military would drop soldiers out of their rolls, only to immediately pick them up as civilians for a special assignment. After the job was done, say in a year, they would get put back into official active duty.

Interesting. So, where are we going with this?

I wasn’t sure until a few moments later. We were both watching the inflight television when a commercial came on with Mary Tyler Moore. She was promoting Ronald Reagan’s War on Drugs. Or was it really Nancy Reagan’s War?

At this point my fellow passenger became agitated. “You tell me about the war on drugs, Mary!” he nearly shouted. “You tell me!”

I looked at him a little stunned and he looked a little embarrassed. He then explained that he was headed to Norway where he would be helping with security for a drug lord who had decided to talk.

He said he was tired.

He said he had been traveling for a long time and that he was bothered by how the airline required him to keep his gun locked in the pilot’s cabin during flight.

He then produced a gold badge with the inscription CID on it. I did not recognize those letters. I looked it up later. It stands for the Criminal Investigation Command, the “D” retained for historical reasons.

I might have doubted him until we landed. The flight attendant came up on the PA, advising all passengers to remain seated for now. And then a pause and then this: “Would Mr. John Smith please come to the front of the plane? Would Mr. John Smith please come forward.”

Without saying goodbye, my seat mate rose and moved up the aisle.

When I eventually got off the plane, I could see John Smith on the level below talking to some suit who was very glad to see him. The suit was all smiles and laughter. John Smith wasn’t laughing.


By thomasfarley01

Business writer and graphic arts gadfly.

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