SPIES

 

 

I think Jenny has been hurt badly!

 

They wouldn't let me see her, in the hospital.

"You are not a relative. What are you to her?" They asked coolly.

Then Jenny's aunt marched into the waiting room, looking me over suspiciously.

"I didn't know Jenny had a male friend," she snapped.

I said I didnít want to be a bother, but begged her to let me know how her niece was doing. Hurriedly, I scribbled the telephone number of my hostel on the edge of a newspaper and she stuffed the ripped-off piece of paper into her handbag without saying anything.

 

Now I have been pacing up and down my street for hours, upset, worried, sad and, perhaps before all, guilty. Jenny's fate may be my fault. Haven't I turned her into a traitor of her country? This was selfish, though I did it for the good of my own people. But I did not think of her as a person, as a friend, and now someone has tried to kill her.

 

I stop at the top of the street, panting. It's a chilly late afternoon, autumn.  The sun is hiding behind streaks of clouds, painting them all sorts of colours.  The commuter traffic of the suburb has dwindled to a trickle.  There is hardly anyone walking about and wind gusts shake the branches of shrubs and trees in the gardens.

 

I did not plan to use Jenny.  I didn't even want to get to know her.  The truth is, I didn't even notice her, at first.  I stumbled over her legs as I was pushing through the crowd at a Sunday open-air concert.  I had spotted Ahi whose glances burnt on me like fire.  A pile of pitch-black hair wrapped her pretty face and came to rest on her bare shoulders and arms that were full and well shaped.  She had the most beautiful dark smooth skin.  I wanted to talk to her - madly.  She even looked back at me.  But I stumbled over Jenny's legs.  I couldn't just go on as if nothing had happened, could I?  I wasn't brought up that way.

 

I wish I knew how Jenny is.  Hers was a terrible accident.  She may be dying and I won't even be able to say goodbye.  Worse, I can't tell her that I really do care for her!  She may be unconscious, all bandaged up and her skin may be even paler than when I first saw her.

 

Strange these white-skinned folk!  Some of them get brown spots all over their skin, like Jenny.  When they stay in the sun too long they turn red, like Jenny.  She was sitting on the lawn, glanced up to me with her watery blue eyes, blushed and lowered her head.  By the time I had made sure that she was all right I had lost sight of Ahi.  Then the band started playing again, people wedged me in and I couldnít get away.

 

"I work in a science department," Jenny told me when the music stopped and she seemed proud that this sparked off my interest.  Science!  I knew this meant knowledge of the world, even of things that we can't see in our everyday lives. It means more than to know where to fish or hunt and when to sow our seeds.  My father had kept telling us already as kids that it was knowledge that made nations powerful.  He had called it the great mana and wanted me to get some of it.  He had made it possible for me to go to the mission school where a spindly nun with thin-framed spectacles had told us about science.  She was the only person knowing about science I had ever met on our island.

 

"I get through a lot of scientific information," Jenny carried on eagerly, "I'm just one of the typists but I've got to know quite a bit.  My family couldn't afford to let me study.  I had to leave school to earn money.  But now I type all these fancy things and I also read everything whether I understand it or not."

 

This reminded me vividly of the last hour with my father when he had said: "Bring back from Aotearoa as much knowledge as you can take!  Keep your eyes and ears open!  Our family has spent much money to let you go there.  Aotearoa is a powerful nation.  Why?  Because they have great knowledge.  Bring back some of this power to make your people powerful too.  People in Aotearoa might not want you to take their mana - but you are clever and, if need be, cunning. You'll do it!" I had promised my father to do my best.  I never thought that I might have to do this at the expense of another human being.

 

The cloudbank on the horizon has turned blood red.  I hardly ever see such a sunset and it frightens me.  I am still pacing up and down the street and the wind jumps at me, now and then, like an angry dog.  But I don't care.  I wish it would be me who was in hospital and not Jenny.

 

I am not sure why I met Jenny again after that concert.  Nothing attracted me to her as a woman.  She looked like a trapped mouse.  Her thin reddish hair was tied together at her neck.  Her pale freckled skin only glowed up when she was talking about her work and I did not like it when she looked at me with her watery eyes where I could hardly see any eyelashes.  I was sure though that she liked being with me.  It showed by the way she gently aimed to lean against me, without actually touching, and by the tenderness as she tapped her finger against my arm. 

 

"Youíre big and strong," she once whispered shyly.

"I need to be," I remember me answering, "I'm working on the wharf."

Her admiration touched me, though I felt nothing towards her but curiosity.  I saw her as a bridge to the great fountain of knowledge where she was working.  Aware of my interest in her work she talked to me about it, about the many hours she was sitting at her typewriter and how she stayed behind, when all the other typists had gone home, and tried to understand what she had typed.

 

It must have been obvious that I was only interested in her work and not in her.  I am not good at pretending.  But now I wish I could tell her that I didn't know my feelings well enough and that things are different now.  Her looks don't really matter.  I feel drawn to her passion for science and to her sweet gentleness.

 

We kept on meeting and I asked her to show me some of her typing.  She copied some, and more, and ever more.  And I stashed the papers away in my suitcase, making sure my roommate would not notice.  Often Jenny and I would sit together until late into the night, trying to work out what the words, the figures, and the numbers meant.  There was not much we could find out, but I was hoping that the spindly bespectacled science teacher at home might be able to explain the symbols and how they could be made to work.

 

"Weíre just like spies," laughed Jenny after this had been going on for a while and she explained to me that a spy gleans secrets from a foreign nation and passes them on to his own.

"What happens to spies if they get caught?"  I asked anxiously. 

"Theyíre put into jail or killed," she said mockingly.

"And the people who give them the secrets?"

"They don't fare any better, I think."  She looked thoughtful then.  "However, I'm not sure how secret these typescripts are.  It doesn't say anywhere they are."  She really didn't know.

 

Someone must have found out what we were doing.  Probably not my work mates.  They were kidding me about staying out at night so often, about not coming to the pub together with them.  They didn't even ask me.  They kind of "knew" I was seeing a girl and I just shrugged off their dirty jokes.  But somehow, someone must have found out.  Perhaps Jenny had been watched.  Yesterday, when she was walking back from her office, a car drove on to the footpath, ran her over and drove off.  How it all happened I don't know.  I only heard about it.  People were discussing it when I was waiting in the teashop where Jenny and I had wanted to meet.  They called it a freak accident.  Little did they know!  No one but an unscrupulous killer runs someone over and drives off.

 

"You must be freezing!  Are you coming in at all?"  I suddenly hear my roommate saying, startling me.  As if waking up I look around and see that the streetlights have come on.  I shiver with the cold and my anxious tension.

"Has there been a phone call for me?" 

My mate avoids the question.  "Is it about that girl?"  He asks with some sympathy. 

I nod.  Yes, it is about "that" girl; it is about Jenny!! 

"You haven't been that involved with her, have you?"

Haven't I?  I love her and she got hurt because of me.

 

Abruptly, my mate gives me a punch, beaming.  "Cheer up, mate!  Someone did ring up just now.  Your friendís going to be all right!"

I stare at him and it takes me a while to believe what he has said.  Then the streetlights seem to brighten and to skip up and down in front of my eyes.  My chest pumps out a mighty sob.  Hugging my mate, I almost squash him and start dancing around him.

"JENNY IS GOING TO BE ALL RIGHT!"  I cry as if the whole neighbourhood had to know!

 

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