She’d left it at the front desk.
“Meet me at the used bookstore at Provinski Square a little before five. When you get there, buy the green copy of Great Expectations that has a small piece missing from the top of its cover. Make sure they put it in a bag. When you see me coming, leave the store, turn right and walk toward the subway entrance. I’ll be right behind you. Have the bag under your arm. I’ll exchange it with my copy (which contains the codes you need) as we pass through the entrance area. Once we’re inside, you head toward the information kiosk, and I’ll continue to the escalator. As soon as I’m out of sight, leave the station and walk across the square. You’ll see a black Yugo parked on the other side. The driver will be standing next to it. He’ll take you where you need to go.”
It was now five o’clock. It was cold and starting to rain. He had the book, and was waiting just inside the store entrance. He could see the black Yugo parked across the square. The driver was pacing back and forth on the sidewalk next to it, and appeared to be nervous.
Five-thirty. Still no sign of her. A few minutes later the driver quit pacing, got in the car, and drove away. He waited another twenty minutes, but by then it was clear that something had gone wrong. So he gave it up, hailed a taxi, and went back to the hotel. He hoped that she would call, or leave a message, but she didn’t.
Late that night he was advised that the deal had definitely gone south, but no details were offered. He was instructed to pack and get out as soon as possible. Early the next morning he was on the first flight back to the States.
Once the plane had reached cruising altitude, he unbuckled his seatbelt, opened his briefcase and took out the book. It was large and unusually heavy. Why this book? And why didn’t she show up? Did she change her mind at the last minute, or was it something more ominous?
Normally he didn’t feel anything more than disappointment and frustration when this kind of thing happened. But this was different. She was different. An unusual bond had formed between them over the past few weeks. It wasn’t romantic. It was more complex than that.
He looked down through the window at the thick blanket of clouds stretching to the horizon, hiding everything below. It was the perfect metaphor, he thought, given the way this project was ending. Everything was now being erased behind a thick layer of secrecy.
Looking back at the book, he was reminded that he hadn’t read Great Expectations. It seemed like the perfect title. Or at least would have been, if the exchange had taken place as planned. “What the hell,” he thought. “At least it’ll help kill some time on the way back.” Then he put on his reading glasses, leaned back in his seat, and opened the book . . .
Debris from the resulting explosion was spread over a three mile area surrounding the crash site…and it took well over a month to gather together everything that was identifiable. But no trace of him–or the book–was ever found.