Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons – A Cat’s Reward

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. Alex and Becca try to make contact with a prisoner in Kathmandu allegedly connected to Tangible Stream, but in “Target of Opportunity,” they find that someone is watching. That someone isn’t professional, and they capture him with ease. This doesn’t make them feel any better.

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, Rudi the Russian is in Kathmandu, sent by his Burmese bosses to kill someone.

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Ten: A Cat’s Reward

Rudi the Russian didn’t like this job. Working in Burma, that was one thing. Yeah, he hated the fucking generals, hated their obstinacy, hated their total lack of anything resembling common sense. Other than that, though, the job was good. He didn’t deal with domestic matters, only the various international conspiracies against Burma, of which there were none. Not that this mattered to the generals. Someone, somewhere was out to get them.

That job, Rudi tolerated because—perks aside—it paid well. This job . . . well, this job had no perks. It had only real problems that could cause Rudi annoyance. He didn’t like that.

Everyone thought they knew Rudi’s background. No one really did. He had been playing so many sides against each other in Russia that sometimes he didn’t even really know where his loyalties lay. He had done his share of killing. He had killed with his own hands and he had ordered murders. He had hoped to leave that all behind when he had left Russia behind.

A sanction had brought him to Nepal, one of those operations the Americans loved to call wetworks. He had come to Kathmandu to kill someone. And not just any someone, but the foremost freelance intelligence broker in the world. He was there to kill the Bedouin.

He still couldn’t figure out why the generals would want the Bedouin dead. True, the Bedouin had  never entered Burma, but he had done work for the generals. He had refused far more contracts than he had accepted, but did it warrant removal?

No, someone else was behind this. Someone the generals owed. The Chinese sprang to mind. In the end, it didn’t matter. He was contracted to the Burmese. They told him to remove the Bedouin. Did the why and who really matter so much?

Yes. It did. It really did. And that answer annoyed him. He was a professional and he had signed a contract. Now he needed to abide by that contract, personal issues aside. And really, was this a personal issue or just curiosity?

Perhaps a little of both.

He had Sahasya—first name? last name?—in sight, but the Bedouin had not yet arrived. Rudi’s information placed Sahasya as the Research and Analysis Wing’s man in Nepal. Someone somewhere had intercepted communications between this Sahasya and the Bedouin. That surprised Rudi. It also surprised Rudi that the Bedouin would be out in the open in this city. Something must have forced him here.

Something like the “Kathmandu matter,” as some newspapers had come to call it.

This city was on everyone’s mind. It was on Rudi’s mind. The little he knew of the situation made him sweat. Stay clear, his common sense told him. Leave it to the fools to rush in.

Making him, of course, a fool.

“You’re not going to find him.”

Rudi didn’t react. Didn’t spin around, or jump, or even speak. If the man behind him wanted to put a bullet in him, it would happen. Apparently, the man wanted to talk.

“I’m beginning to doubt he’s even here.” The speaker used relatively flat English. An American?

“Do I know you?” Rudi used Russian, just to see what would happen.

“You understand me, Rudi the Russian.” The speaker still used English. “You’ve got impressive defences, I’ll grant you, but in the end, they all fall.”

There, inside his mind, he felt the hand. Someone grabbing hold of him, like holding his soul. Rudi tried to react, tried to get his Yarygin Grach pistol. He couldn’t move.

“You will move to the alley,” the speaker said. “You will stop five metres in and wait.”

Rudi started to walk. He couldn’t help himself. Somehow, an ESPer had cracked the Kathmandu silence. Impossible? So the analyses had all said. All wrong. And he had paid good money to acquire those. Not that he could do anything about it now. No one would ever know about this. Rudi knew what awaited him in the alley. What he didn’t know was the who or the why.

The Bedouin? Considering Rudi was there to kill him, that made sense. Who else could it be?

He reached the mouth of the alley. He continued down it. There, about five metres in, he saw a man who looked like a local. He wore clean and pressed casual clothes with a jacket. It seemed that everyone with a weapon in Kathmandu wore a jacket. What was the point of carrying concealed if you broadcast the fact?

Stupid thing to be thinking when one’s life was being measured in footsteps.

Rudi halted five metres in, just in front of the local.

“You and I are not going to talk, but I’m going to learn everything you know.” The local smiled a cruel little smile that told Rudi this man enjoyed his work. “Then I will kill you. No one will miss you. You have questions, I know. Ask one question.”

And his voice was freed. “Who ordered this?”

“There are those that want to know everything that you know,” the local said. “I wish I could tell you more, but everything is darkness and smoke.” The local leaned close, his eyes intent on Rudi. “Tell me, does the name St. Martin mean something to you? No?” The local scowled. “Unfortunate. You will die ignorant, just as you–”

Rudi’s hand went to his pistol. It froze for a moment as he realized he moved freely. The local’s eyes widened as a hole drilled itself between them, and his shirt billowed as two others blossomed on his chest. Rudi had his pistol out and spun as the local dropped.

The man before him had a silenced SIG Sauer P226 autoloader aimed at Rudi’s heart. “Drop the weapon, Rudi.”

The woman to the side and just behind the man had silenced  Beretta 96 with an extended magazine also aimed at Rudi. Fine, fair hair pulled back in a bun, the woman had an athletic build and an attractive face, except for the fact that she appeared entirely capable of airing Rudi out with that Beretta.

The man had very short, dark hair and a craggy, angular face. He spoke English with an almost indiscernible Dublin lilt. His cold grey eyes said that he wouldn’t hesitate to put three rounds into Rudi.

“Boyle, I imagined you were dead.” Rudi holstered his pistol. He didn’t want to tempt Boyle to do anything rash, but he also had his pride. He wouldn’t drop this sidearm.

“That seems to be the consensus.” Boyle spoke with calm equanimity. Rudi would have felt more comfortable without the weapons pointed at him. “People either think I’m dead or want to kill me.”

“They were ESPers, operating in Kathmandu.” Rudi didn’t know why he felt compelled to state the obvious. A kind of shock, maybe? He had, very recently, believed himself about to die. It was still a possibility. “This one and the one in the street.”

It didn’t faze Boyle. “We noticed. The one who ambushed you followed you in. If it makes you feel better, he’s done.”

“You know how they do it?” Rudi asked. “How they break through the silence?”

“We’ve encountered something similar, yes.” Boyle gave the woman the briefest of glances before his eyes returned to Rudi. “Your minders are down. I hope you weren’t overly fond of them.”

Rudi’s eyes narrowed. “Minders?”

“Your babysitters.” A smirk played on Boyle’s face. “You didn’t know the Burmese sent a team to watch you? Really? You’re getting sloppy.”

And Rudi had to admit that Boyle was right. He hadn’t bothered to maintain security. He hadn’t bothered to be professional. So focused on his own disdain for the job on which he had been sent, he forgot the truest maxim of his job: trust no one. It was all falling apart and he was letting it happen.

“Did they think I was going to turn or something?” Rudi didn’t know if Boyle had the answer, but he needed to ask the question.

“You know what the cat got for being curious, right?” Boyle shook his head. “Always knew you had the white-hat streak in you, Rudi. I guess the Burmese didn’t appreciate you nosing around.”

“Sloppy isn’t a good enough word.” Rudi rubbed his eyes. “I got lazy. I got complacent.”

“Just so you know, the Bedouin isn’t here, he’s not in Kathmandu,” Boyle said. “He’s not stupid. You, though, I’m starting to wonder.”

“If you’re going to do it, just fucking do it, man.” The exasperation Rudi felt, the anger welling up inside him, he directed at Boyle. Everyone was playing Rudi for a patsy. Everyone.

The woman lowered her Beretta and took a few deep breaths. Rudi started to sweat. Something was about to happen. So far, everything that had happened that day had ended badly for Rudi. This didn’t look like it would be any different.

“Here’s how this is going to work,” Boyle said. “I don’t want Cascade here ripping through your brain. I’m sentimental that way. All the same, I’m going to ask you some questions and she’ll know if you’re lying. You get one chance, Rudi. One. You lie to me and you’re going to die here, right beside Mr. Smart-Ass Dolme.”

“She’s Cascade, then you’re Untold.” Rudi looked past them, searching the mouth of the alley. “And where is Willow?”

“Should’ve known someone was listening.” Boyle spit out the words with annoyance but no real venom. “Willow doesn’t concern you. What concerns you are the twelve rounds of 9 millimetre Parabellum I still have available to illustrate my displeasure. Are you ready to answer my questions, or do I need to start making that illustration?”

Rudi spat at Boyle’s feet. “I thought you were a decent man. Stupid, like you say. No one in the business is decent. The business isn’t decent.” He watched Boyle for two heartbeats. The hollow words and aspersions did nothing to make him feel better. As much as he hated it, he didn’t want to die. He had lost, yet again. “Ask your fucking questions, Boyle.”

The woman, Cascade, put something that looked like a headset transceiver over one of her ears. She nodded.

Boyle’s eyes bored into Rudi. “First one: is Gurung planning to kill Alex Scott?”

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Mundus Novit: Dark Horizons continues with “. . . I Would’ve Baked A Cake.”

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