The lid of the safety deposit box was jammed shut by three decades of corrosion that had penetrated the otherwise meticulously climate controlled vault of Banque Raifferische & Cie in Bern, Switzerland.
It was the only room in the entire 17th century building that was not monitored, recorded and tagged with the best facial and behavioral recognition software money could buy.
John Ammann had three minutes to perform a five minute task. The four stories of cement, steel, cobblestone and history above his head separated him from all trace of a signal from his team. Wanded by security and required to hand over his cell phone - and the nano-particulate impregnated case - he had only the benign contents of his pockets to assist him in his covert mission.
Two minutes forty-seven seconds to extract the contents of the safety deposit box, find the one specific string of numbers and letters amongst any papers that may or may not be in there, and return it to its place undetected.
His box - 230818 - lay on the impeccable marble-topped table. It was his excuse.
The other box - 230817 - sat next to it. It was his mission.
He reached into the ticket pocket in his lightly pinstriped charcoal vest and withdrew a pinchful of coins. A five Euro coin, two 1 Euro coins and something that would be overlooked by anyone but him… because it was exactly what he was looking for.
Ammann pressed the flat of his B.A.T. against the side of box 230817 and wedged its flat head screwdriver under the lip of the deposit box top. With a confident stroke, he drew the B.A.T. down one long side, turned the box and repeated the same along the other.
Under legitimate circumstances a bank employee would be obliged to assist opening the decades old sealed box. He was barely allowed to be in this room, let alone explore the mostly-unknown contents of a box described only in the fuzzy details of intelligence briefs dating from the Cold War era.
Two minutes and twenty-eight seconds left. He gripped the lid of the box and tugged upward, his elbows tucked close to his hips for added leverage as he had been trained. No movement.
Ammann’s hand reached into his pants pocket, withdrawing a single key on a simple fob. He quickly clipped the B.A.T. onto the ring, wedged the bottle opener/pry tip under the front of the box’s lid and tugged the ring.
The three-decades-closed box popped open with the enthusiasm of a long retired jack in the box, but it was open nonetheless and none too soon. Another tug and his were the first eyes to see its contents since nearly before he was alive. His key and B.A.T. were dropped silently into his trouser pocket. Now he had two minutes and one second left to find what he was looking for and replace box 230817 into the gaping slot in the wall before anything was discovered out of place.
Within 60 minutes he would be arriving at the airport, B.A.T. still in his pocket, code memorized, mission accomplished and clearing security on his flight back to NYC.
On his flight back to The Corporate.
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