Profession: The Spy
No one knew much about Frix. He did not appear to have a family, an occupation, or anything else that normal people have. Frix wasn’t the village idiot, but could very well pass for it. He was a short, stocky man, and guessing his age was difficult because of how he kept himself: he was always dirty, wearing a patchwork of clothes and rags that were hardly fitting, and he was smelling horrible (to say the very least). He must have caught every available diseases known and unknown to man, and was still showing the scars and blotches of most of them. To say that Frix wasn’t an attractive man was an understatement. And to guess how come he was still alive was the wonder of the century.
Frix moved erratically.Some people said it was because of his many illnesses and injuries. And having stopped talking so long ago, there were very few people who could still remember what the sound of his voice sounded like. Not that Frix was speaking much before anyway; the few people who knew him back then were saying that he was always kind of “there”, wandering around the streets of the city, muttering to himself, but hardly bothering anyone. He was never caught stealing anything, or attacking anyone. The citizens were just guessing that Frix was feeding on rats, and this explained that. Most were just glad not thinking about him too much, except to be surprised at the thought of him being still alive.
Anyone who would have followed Frix around that particular day, would have been surprised to see his actions and whereabouts. The man was waiting patiently outside a warehouse in the port district of the city, trying to repair the remaining of what appeared to be his shoes with a piece of wood he found, until someone opened the door. But instead of going away, Frix calmly walked inside, as if this was expected.
“Ok, Frix… Let’s do this quickly. (…) On second thoughts, please, stay near the door! Oh! my God! The stench is unbearable!”, said a voice.
Normally, a sensible man would have been offended being talked to like that, no matter how true it was. But Frix was so used at being talked down to, he never even bothered to listen anymore. Silently, he replaced his newly fixed “shoe” on his right foot and removed the one from the left. Inside, there was a damp sheet of paper.
Frix showed the paper to the man staying a little behind, waiting in the shadows. Clearly repulsed by Frix, the man made a motion to his personal secretary to go and get the piece of paper for him. The employee hesitated a second – rumors of the plague were starting to come back this year, and if someone somewhere had the disease, it was bound to be this wretched man. But an impatient grunt from the shadowy nobleman beckoned the secretary forward
Seeing the employee move towards him, Frix drew back and held out his other hand, clearly asking for money first. The personal secretary reached for his pocket and threw some change on the floor, clearly having some difficulty with the odor emanating from Frix. Seeing the coins on the ground, the latter then handed over the piece of paper to the employee, who took it with great hesitation, silently praying that he wasn’t about to catch some deadly virus.
Very hastily, Frix picked up the coins from the floor and left the warehouse, leaving the nobleman and his personal secretary inside, still pinching their nose.
“Why in God’s name must we deal with such a filthy man, my lord? What’s use is a man like that to us? I don’t understand.
– Because no one will think in a million years of associating such a man to me! Just like no one will ever figure out that I got the proof that Haig Grossman has been has been bribing the mayor. With this in my possession, Grossman is as good as ruined.
– I’m still not convinced that Frix is a safe bet. He knows too much, and about too many people. Surely, he’s been doing this kind of work for others as well. Who’s to say he won’t come back against you when you put Grossman away? He will know for sure that you’re behind it!”
The nobleman took a few seconds to think it through. He normally didn’t like being second-guessed, and under normal circumstances, this minion would be put back to his place promptly. But the nobleman was trying to figure out the big picture here: he had been doing more and more shady things lately to speed up his rise. His ruthlessness took him on the brink of triumph, but also made him more exposed than he ever was before. And this feeble personal secretary was privy to all of it. No, it wasn’t Frix the nobleman was worried about. Frix wouldn’t come back to haunt him… And Frix certainly wouldn’t say a word to anyone. And who would believe him, anyway? The personal secretary, on the other hand… He already had the reputation of being an exceedingly ambitious young man. Would he spill the beans for the right price? The nobleman was troubled by the lack of answer to his own question.
“I think you’re right, said the nobleman after a long pause. The Frix problem has to be taken care of permanently. Please, hurry, and fix this for me. No one will miss him anyway”
With that, the employee quickly bowed in agreement, smiled slightly, and hurried outside. The nobleman was tying up both loose ends at once – the secretary would surely get caught murdering an innocent man. Then, it would be a simple matter of making an accident “happen” in jail. Accidents happen so quickly, don’t they? And just like that, a potentially jeopardizing situation would then be resolved to the nobleman’s satisfaction.
Finding back Frix was child play for the secretary. Frix wasn’t walking very fast, that was a given, but anyone could find him by smell alone. And the smell led to a baker’s window where Frix, fully knowing the baker would never let him inside his store, was nevertheless checking out delicacies with real appetite.
Approaching nonchalantly, the secretary was already dreaming about what he would do with the extra money his master would certainly give him for getting rid of a potentially embarrassing witness. Lost in his deep thoughts, he didn’t notice that Frix was more watchful than he seemed to be. And before he had time to take out the knife that he planned to kill Frix with, the latter quickly turned around and, plunged a small knife of his own into the side of the employee’s body. That knife was a little bigger, coated with a deadly mixture.
Frix kept the blade in and stared steady and clear on the secretary’s face, who was trying desperately to breathe, the secretary understood that he, like everybody else, had been fooled. Frix had been an act, all along. The smell, the clothes, the demeanor – everything was an act. Everyone had been fooled, for years!
“The poison won’t kill you right away, said Frix in a cold, yet assured voice. But you’re about to suffer. A lot.
-Who are you? asked the secretary, his small knife falling from his left sleeve and onto the ground of the bakery’s dark alley. The voice he just heard was clear, pronounced with a strange foreign accent that he had never heard before.
– You don’t have to know that. That information would be of no use to you. In the meantime, before you die, I want you to report back to your master. Tell him not to try this again, ever. I know much more about him than he thinks, and I would know exactly how to hurt him and the people that he depends on.”
And just like that, Frix turned back into the wretched shell of a man he had been for all these years, and walked slowly away from that part of the city.
In a complete state of shock, the secretary tried to keep Frix from leaving, tried to cry out for help but no words would come out of his mouth. He had contortions and drool at the corner of his mouth. Trying to get up, he then fell on his knees in front of the baker’s window, completely helpless, his hair falling in blobs around his face.
Something kept playing again and again in his head: “It was all an act.”