In “The Stream,” Boyle and his team get jumped in Kathmandu by a crew who may work for the Chinese.
In “The Vault,” a special section of Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is monitoring Kathmandu, which has gone dark to all electronic and parapsychic traffic. Madison and Heather, two agents from the Vault, joined their international spec ops team in “Meet & Greet.” While on the trail of Boyle, the team is ambushed by a group of parapsyches able to break through the Kathmandu silence. The team foiled the ambush, but at the end of “Dirty Hands,” they were facing the business ends of more firearms.
In “Mission Unlikely,” we learn that Boyle and his team have gone missing. Becca meets Alex in Monrovia in order to get him to come with her to Kathmandu to find Boyle. Off the record and off the reservation. Alex then goes to meet a contact in Burma in “The Russian.” Rudi the Russian agrees to supply both equipment and information for Alex’s forway into Nepal.
In “The Bedouin,” Kyle and Meredith from the Prospero Group contract the intelligence broker known as the Bedouin to get them a lead on what is happening in Kathmandu. The Bedouin returns to old haunts in “From Delhi With Indifference,” only to be ambushed by hit teams led by a man with a Nepalese name but an American accent.
Now, Alex and Becca try to make contact with a prisoner in Kathmandu allegedly connected to Tangible Stream.
Nine: Target of Opportunity
Alex watched Becca walk with feigned uncertainty toward the woman’s prison. He really thought calling that place a “prison” was a bit of a stretch. Anyone half-way competent could move through the guards and into the compound with ease. A chain link fence? One evening with Becca to watch his back, and Alex could be in, get the target, and get out. Sure the compound had a back-up generator, but Alex had a Knight’s Armament SR-25 sniper rifle back at the safehouse that could take care of that once the power lines had been cut.
So why did the Stream allow one of its operatives to rot away in there?
He glanced at the the thick-set Gurkha beside him, all neck and shoulders and barrel chest. “So tell me again how we know this Jane Doe is Stream.”
Jane Doe. Nobody knew her name.
The ex-Brigade of the Gurkhas, ex-private military contract, and present fixer lined up by Rudi the Russian named Gurung shrugged. “We don’t know for certain. The SR-25 I got you? I got one for Boyle also. It was presented as Jane Doe’s murder weapon. I would say that puts her on his team.”
Mr. Gurung had set Boyle up with equipment as well. Not through Rudi, but through someone else. Gurung couldn’t say much, but he admitted to working with the Stream before. No names. Alex wouldn’t expect any. He had no way to verify, no way to ascertain the facts. He had to go by instinct. Instinct told him to trust Gurung.
Becca spoke to the guards. She had a bag of toiletries that she would pass on to the Jane Doe if allowed. The toiletries really were toiletries, no files in the bar of soap. Becca was bait. Anyone watching would see the hand-off. Then they’d be on Becca. The hope was that Alex would be on them.
“You talk to your commando buddy again?” Alex watched Becca rather than Gurung.
“Yes, and he’s asking about Boyle,” Gurung said. “I couldn’t give him anything, but I told him about Jane Doe. He didn’t require confirmation, he just asked for me to arrange a meet.”
Confirmation? Was that a dig? Alex glanced at Gurung. “What did you tell him?”
“I told him that I would work on it.” Gurung offered Scott a tight grin. “That got him excited.”
Becca continued to converse with the guards. She didn’t speak Nepalese, so Alex assumed someone there was speaking English to her. Maybe they were talking past each other, each one speaking a different language, talking louder and louder as if that would help with the translation. Becca didn’t seem ignorant enough for that. What about the guards?
“This team your Kiwi comes from sounds a touch strange,” Scott said. “A Kiwi, a Yank, a Brit, and two Canucks? Who put that together?”
“I know the Limey,” said Gurung. “He goes by Flick. Used to be SAS, then Increment. These days, I don’t know.”
“He’s black ops.” Alex left it at that. As he scanned the surroundings, he noted a single figure watching the prison, possibly watching Becca. “Son of a bitch. Check him out, black coat, over by the broken wall.”
Gurung did it nice and subtle. He rubbed his nose. “He certainly appears to be surveillance.”
“Look again. I mean really look.” Alex slid out his Para-Ordnance LDA, keeping it close to his body, almost hidden.
“Is he talking on a cell phone?” Gurung asked.
“He’s apparently got a hell of a provider, since that’s likely the only cell working in this city.” Alex sought his target’s back up. He couldn’t find it. “I can’t believe this guy is going solo. Are you armed?”
Gurung pulled back his loose shirt to reveal a Browning Hi-Power autoloader. “Always.”
Showing Gurung his back put Alex in a hell of a position. If Gurung wasn’t all he said he was, if he was playing the other side of the street, he might take the opportunity to end Alex. Still, there was no way for Alex to get Becca on board without alerting the target.
“This guy is in on something.” Alex started moving. He needed to be in position to become a shadow when the target moved. “Give me five metres. And watch my back.”
With a wink, Gurung patted his shirt where it covered his Browning.
Alex had the nonchalant, discrete move to position down to an art. He knew what speed he could make without getting marked, how to watch without looking like he watched, and where and when to slow and stop to be ready to move again. Usually, moving unseen through a foreign country could prove difficult for someone with the wrong colour of skin. Fortunately, Kathmandu had attracted more than the usual number of visitors since going dark. Alex could count at least ten other people in close proximity that looked American or European.
The target didn’t seem local either. Alex would guess Chinese. That would make sense, given the victim of Jane Doe’s alleged murder was also Chinese. Still, Rudi had said the Chinese weren’t involved. Taiwan didn’t make much sense—not that any of it did. It looked like someone wanted fingers pointing at China.
Alex found himself a comfortable perch, a place to watch Joe Target until he began to move. Alex slid off his rucksack and took out his handy guide book. His silenced MP7 hid in that rucksack, which now rested against his leg. So did a thermos of milk and a sandwich. Lunch.
Becca left the prison without passing on the package. She actually gave it to the guard. Playing the naive traveller?
Joe Target closed his cell phone and was in motion. He lacked any kind of subtlety. It was like watching a bad TV episode. Becca must have noted him, but she knew her part. Lead him into a carefully chosen cul de sac, where they could hopefully take him alive.
Or, if necessary, kill him without attracting much notice.
Alex couldn’t check to see if Gurung followed him. Doing so would alert any opposition. He just hoped that Gurung lived up to his reputation, that he could spot Joe Target’s support and put himself in a place to intervene should the situation get kinetic.
Another 200 metres, and Becca would turn left into a small alley. A few steps past that, and she’d turn left into a small courtyard. There, she’d get the silenced Steyr TMP sub-machine gun out of her backpack/fashionable purse. Joe Target would hopefully surrender when faced with the business end of a firearm. If not, Alex would take him from behind and flex cuff him. Worse came to worse, if he tried to throw down, Becca would simply air him out.
Nice plan. Simple plan. Everyone expected it to completely wash once the actors were in motion.
When one initiated a snatch-and-grab, one needed to consider all the possibilities. One always over-estimated one’s opponents, expected third parties to interfere, prepared for exfiltrations and evacuations. One rarely expected one’s plan to come to fruition exactly as laid out.
Becca turned left. Joe Target, barely three metres behind her, did the same. Knowing the action would paint him for surveillance, Alex hurried to a quick jog. Already making himself obvious, Alex risked a quick glance to try to pick out opposition.
He saw Gurung, still playing the nobody. He saw no opposition. No reaction to his movement.
Is this guy really going solo?
Alex met Joe Target at the mouth of the alley, running away from Becca. The look on his face told Alex this man didn’t expect a complete wash, didn’t plan for eventualities, and only over-estimated himself.
This man was no professional.
Alex cracked him on the bridge of his nose with the butt of his automatic. Alex was already supporting Joe Target when he started to collapse. Using his momentum, Alex pushed Joe Target’s limp body back into the alley, and into Becca’s waiting arms. They cuffed him, then deposited him in the courtyard.
“That was weird.” Becca held her Steyr in one hand, her eyes on the mouth of the alley.
“It’s more than weird,” Alex said, “That guy has a cell phone that works. I marked him as someone involved, but now I’m starting to wonder.”
“Maybe he was just playing?” Becca considered the groaning Mr. Target. “Maybe he’s delusional or something.”
“Delusional or not, he was following you.” Alex held the Para-Ordnance autoloader down by his leg, inconspicuous. “Gurung’s likely watching, and I don’t hear fireworks, but I’m going to eyeball it before we go.”
Becca nodded, and moved to stand half in the courtyard, able to watch the alley and its mouth from cover.
The twisting fist in his gut that told Alex everything was wrong yanked a little harder as he inched toward the mouth of the alley. He had no idea what to expect. Nothing was what he got. Absolutely nothing. Gurung stood across the street. He met Alex’s eyes and shrugged. Normally Alex would consider that unprofessional, but this time he just did the same.
What the hell was going on?
Taking a big risk, Alex crossed the street to speak to Gurung. He couldn’t feel eyes on him, didn’t sense any surveillance. Maybe Joe Target honestly had no back up. Totally solo.
“Listen, this is making me sweat,” said Gurung. “Do you have the right guy?”
“Our problem,” Alex said. “I’ll be in touch with you. I have a feeling I’m going to have some requests, maybe something to pass on to Rudi.”
“I’ll be waiting by the phone.” Gurung gave a little half-smile. “If they arrest you, I promise I’ll bring you a thermos of milk and a nice sandwich.”
Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons will continue with “A Cat’s Reward.”