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It was a weekday afternoon, and the park was empty, except for birds and insects.

Eytan watched as his former boss, Rafael, walked down the footpath towards him. The old sly, as they referred to him, had weathered and arthritis was evident in his movements. He had a bag in his hand and a stuffed toy tucked under an arm.

‘For my granddaughter,’ said Rafael, as he sat down on the bench. He held up the stuffed toy, a teddy bear. Frumpy, with a red and gold ribbon.

The two men remained silent. Thoughts of their years together. Some pleasant, some less so, but all filled with danger. A misspoken word. A moment’s hesitation. A bullet with their name on it. That had been their lives.

But the silence did not last.

‘The agency agreed,’ said Rafael. ‘A clean slate. We’ll leave you be, to live your life.’

‘What life?’

With his family lost, and he labelled a traitor, though the charges did not stick, Eytan had little going for him. But they got him on another charge. Dereliction of duty. Nonsense, he had yelled, but to no avail.

He had friends in the agency but operatives like him. None with influence. Not even Rafael.

More silence. The air turned heavy. A pair of starlings landed near their feet. The couple pecked the ground, got into a noisy altercation and flew off.

‘I fixed up a job for you.’ The older man handed a slip of paper to Eytan and said, ‘Call that number.’

‘A truck driver?’ Eytan glanced at the crumpled paper.

‘Times are hard but they pay living wages,’ said Rafael, and he got up and gestured with the stuffed teddy bear. ‘Got to go. My granddaughter.’

After a long silence, Eytan sighed, and said, ‘Same routine?’

‘Yes. Old habits. They worked so far. So why change?’

One minute. That was the routine. The head-start, so neither knew where the other disappeared. Eytan smirked. Old sly.

He watched the old man walk away. There was something strange in his former boss’ gait. Something missing.

Then it occurred to Eytan. The bag. Rafael had left behind his bag.

And the bomb exploded.

Copyright @ Eric Alagan, 2019