Writer: Peter Atwood
Weird Tales Story: All In (Issue #350, May/June)
Writer Bio: Peter Atwood is a writer and editor who lives in Ottawa, Canada, where he once grew up and to where he returned after living in Toronto, Seoul, and Cairo.
My wife is not a spy. She does have top secret clearance and, at times, I have first learned about an incident at work on our walk to the grocery store, out of range of the bugs it was best to assume were in the apartment. The circumstances behind these facts, sadly, are much less glamorous than they sound. (Hell, there are corporate non-disclosure agreements that wouldn’t let you reveal the dress code for casual Fridays.)
My wife, however, has met spies, and I guess I have too, and the stories that get swapped when we’re out to dinner with her embassy colleagues all have the same patina of the mundane.
In Beijing, when the secret police break into your home, little is secret about the affair. You’re likely to return to your door unlocked, your shopping list on the table, not by the phone where you left it, your bedside reading opened, and dusty footprints across the rug. But this is deliberate clumsiness-you know without doubt they were there.
In Khartoum, an immigration officer visiting from the embassy in Cairo was surprised when his local driver picked him up at the airport, opened the trunk, stepped back, and then blithely watched him pile his own luggage in. The driver’s lack of customer service became clear later in the week when the immigration officers noticed guards and police on the street saluting whenever they stopped.
In Seoul, a diplomat became accustomed to his political minder always trailing a block behind or watching from across the intersection. Once, puzzling out which direction to turn-buildings are not numbered in any order in South Korea’s capital, and what numbers exist relate to a geographic gu, or narrow district, not in any helpful way to the street you’re on-the minder, who knew the diplomat’s appointments for the day, walked up. “Mister, you are looking for the ministry of naval industry?” he offers, and then helpfully gives directions.
My friends joke about the black leather cat suit hidden in my wife’s closet and the Walther PPK in her purse. And while I think she’s got enough sultriness to pull off such a costume, Halloween is my only hope of seeing it.
She did pluck a long hair from my sweater the other day, stretched it between her fingers, held it up to the light, and pointed out that it was too fair and thin to be one of hers. And while, sadly, the circumstances behind another woman’s hair on my collar are much less glamorous than I might wish, it was evidence enough that she, I think, would make a competent spy.