Continued from Nineteen: Getting In Your Head
Twenty: Face to Face
The alley provided long shadows and plenty of cover. Mads crouched beside some old, apparently empty crates, his eyes on the door. Was the target in there? Somewhere, deep inside where he didn’t have to examine it too closely, Mads hoped the place was empty. It wasn’t that he was particularly afraid for himself. He wouldn’t be expected to do any of the hard charging, not with Walker, Digs, and Becca all there. No, Mads just didn’t like all the turns this mission had taken.
In there? Maybe the biggest turn of all.
Even though he knew where Walker hid, with Gurung—minding an unconscious prisoner—close beside him, Mads couldn’t really make them out. He couldn’t see anyone except Becca. She had decided she wanted to get a look in the second floor window. Gurung’s information was that the second storey was vacant. It would make an easy entry if so.
She hung there, suspended—Mads had seen her gear, all straps and pinions—while she examined the window frame. The door swung open. Mads grip tightened around his Sauer .40 P229 autoloader pistol. His mouth went dry. He didn’t recognize this guy. Tall, the guy had fair hair, military short and a little thin. He had broad shoulders, a strong jaw, and looked pretty thick under his jacket.
The guy looked down the alley as he withdrew a pack of cigarettes from under his jacket. Cigarette in mouth, his hand disappeared into his pocket. Over him, Becca had shifted. The climbing device held her aloft as though she were some kind of spider. She had a suppressed Heckler & Koch USP Tactical autoloader at the ready.
She always has the coolest kit. Mads shifted as he watched her.
Did the guy hear? His brow furrowed. His eyes scanned the alley.
Becca put the gun to his head. “Stay quiet. I cannot hesitate in killing you.”
Inwardly, Mads cringed. That was some horrible, horrible Russian.
And that made him pause. Why Russian?
“Your grammar is terrible.” The guy spoke Russian. Perfect Russian. Good guess on Becca’s part?
“You move, I shoot.” Becca should’ve switched to English. Maybe she knew something about this guy, had recognized him.
From the top of his head? How did that make sense?
The guy’s hand, the one with the lighter, started to move for his hip. A gun. Must be.
Had Becca noted it also? “You get gun, you dead.”
That’s when Walker spoke, using English. “You say the wrong thing, she will kill you. Is Boyle inside?”
Gurung had led them there. He claimed he had set this place up for Boyle and crew, and had recently delivered some equipment. It sounded like the Stream were setting up their own little interrogation chamber in there.
Slight movement caught Mads’ eye. He noted the red dot on Becca’s neck. “Becca’s lit up.”
Had it been Mads, he would have jerked around up there, frantically trying to get the laser sight’s aiming point off him. Becca, however, simply removed the gun from the Guy’s head.
The Guy put his lighter away. His hand came out empty. “Do I have a guardian angel? I always hoped so.” He spoke in English with only the slightest of accents.
Becca detached herself from the wall, landing almost silently beside the Guy. He surged back, but his face remained impassive.
“I’m betting that you would be Rudi.” She holstered her USP.
The Guy watched her, taking a long drag from his cigarette. He snapped the fingers of his free hand. “Rebecca, yes? The one he calls Becca.”
Becca smiled. “Then Boyle is in there.”
Walker emerged from the dark, Gurung at his side. Walker’s MP5K sub machine-gun hung on its tactical harness. Gurung carried the prisoner taken in the alley shootout in which Dyck had been wounded.
“There’s no need for this hostility,” Gurung said. “Rudi is on our side.”
“I thought you were in Burma.” That came from Heather, who approached Rudi with a hand out.
The Guy, apparently named Rudi, took her hand in both of his. “Heather, Heather, I should have known the beautiful Canadian would be you. Now all this trouble is of worth.”
The door opened. Hands went to weapons, but no one drew. Mads had burned the face of the man at the door into his memory. Here he was, the object of their mission. Boyle had a half-smile on his face as he offered his hand to Becca.
“I guess you were worried.” He spoke with the slightest hint of a lilt.
Son of a bitch. Mads thought he heard genuine warmth in that voice.
“The CIA wanting you dead?” Becca shook his hand. She all but beamed. “Yeah, I got worried. Then I got Scott.”
Boyle turned to Walker. “Scott is back at your safehouse?”
Walker nodded. “He brought a doctor for a wounded teammate. He stayed on with another of my team.”
“Yes, I was wondering where Sergeant Everson might be.” Boyle’s eyes moved around the alley. “But is all the party here?”
Mads stood up. “No one here but us chickens.”
Two feet hit the pavement an arm’s length to his right, and Mads jumped. The woman standing beside him unhitched herself from a line. She had a Knight’s Armament SR-25 sniper rifle in hand. Slim beneath all her gear, her hair tied back, she had sharp features that made her almost look like a classical statue in the shadows.
“Chickens is right.” And she spoke with a decidedly English accent. If he had to guess, Mads would have said Lake District.
“Shadowy meetings with excessive firearms and posturing make me nervous.” Mads holstered his weapon. “I’m funny that way.”
She winked. “Yeah. That’s about the only way, too.”
Mads immediately liked her. She turned to Boyle. “You want me back in overwatch? Front or back?”
“Sensors and cameras in position?” When she nodded, Boyle gestured through the door. “Then let’s all sit down for some tea and a face to face.” He turned to Walker. “I am guessing you need this prisoner interrogated and Gurung told you we had the goods. Is that right?”
Boyle and Becca went in first, followed by Rudi and Heather, chatting away as though they had met at the local market. Gurung entered without further comment. Walker watched Mads. He had a lop-sided grin playing on the fringes of his mouth.
The woman patted Mads’ arm as she passed. “Let’s get going then, chuckles.”
Walker shrugged and followed her in. Mads did the same, before the door closed. He didn’t know what he expected inside, but something more than what he saw. The place looked abandoned, save for some very temporary looking tables on which sat plenty of electronics equipment. He saw cots and packs, a gas stove and a small electric fridge. The diesel generator beside it told him this crew came prepared. That shouldn’t have surprised him. Weren’t these the ninjas?
Boyle sat in a small folding chair, encompassing the rest of the sparse furnishings with a wave of his arm. “Get comfortable, all. Rudi, can you show Gurung where to deposit the package?”
Mads didn’t like the way Boyle referred to the live prisoner as a package. Then again, why would he expect these guys to be anything other than stone cold?
“I’m guessing Gurung brought our guy to you.” Becca already had the fridge door open and had pulled out a bottle of water. “Did you get anything from him?”
“His name is Huang,” Boyle said. “Family name is all, though if it’s his own or not is up in the air. He’s had his memory wiped by someone good. He’s got false implants, but weak ones. They left him particularly vulnerable to parapsychic exploration.”
Becca leaned against one of the tables. She frowned. “That’s all we know? No handler?”
“We got a name, got some contact information, and we’re trying to run it down.” Boyle nodded at the various electronic equipment on the tables. “We got their broadcast technology reverse engineered and re-built into something that helps us monitor them. We’re seventy-five percent certain that we have the handler, a guy named Chris Yu, but who’s going by Yu Le around here.”
“Progress.” Walker sat on one of the cots, right on the edge. “I like it.”
“Does that mean you’re not planning on arresting me?” Boyle asked.
“Frankly, ever since our fake briefer linked you to Alexander Scott, I’ve had my questions.” Walker shrugged. “If it were my decision, I’d say it’s time to join forces. It sounds to me like we’ve got a common enemy.”
“If it’s not your decision, whose is it?” Boyle’s eyes moved to Heather.
“Yeah, it’s kind of mine,” Heather said.
Boyle’s smile made Mads think he was either amused or really didn’t care too much. “And you have reservations?”
“Let me tell you what I see.” Heather still stood, and Mads noted she leaned ever so slightly toward Boyle. “We mark a Tangible Stream signature in Kathmandu–“
Boyle raised his hand. “We being the Canadian military?”
“We being none of your concern, right now.” Heather glanced at Walker. “Let’s just say we work with Walker’s gang. So, the Stream is in Kathmandu and then the place goes dark. Totally dark.”
“I can tell you for certain that Cascade wasn’t the only ESPer in theatre,” Boyle said. “We were here because we had a lead on a non-state actor with a parapsychic asset intent on inserting this asset into China.”
Becca stood straight. “That would be Blackout?”
Boyle raised an eyebrow. “Blackout was the name we had for the asset. Theirs, not ours. How’d you hear about it?”
Rudi had returned with Gurung but without the prisoner. Rudi crossed his arms and leaned against the wall. “I told you I passed on what information I had to Scott. That was part of it.”
“We thought we had quite a coup with that intel,” Boyle said. “I didn’t realize it was in the open. From the Russians?” Boyle waited for Rudi to nod before continuing. “Figures. So, we had a rogue ESPer, possibly weaponized, named Blackout headed for China. Then we get jumped, here, by the Chinese who think we are CIA. The thing is, I don’t think they were Chinese, and this Chris Yu may be the lead we need to track down that end of it. Someone here is playing a game.”
“And they want you out of it,” Becca said. “What about the girl in prison, the one we thought was your sniper?”
Boyle rubbed his forehead. “Yeah, that was a kind of a dirty trick. We planted the weapon on her. She matched Willow pretty well, enough that anyone who had intel on the team might make the mistake. That left us with a hidden ace.”
“And now?” Walker asked. “What are your plans now?”
“Now?” Boyle looked around the room. “I guess that all depends.”
“Heather held up her hands in surrender. “Consider us in, at least for now. Your story fits our information, and given the situation, I’d say cooperation makes sense.” She looked to Mads, a little late if looking for input.
“I’m all for joining forces.” Mads would have made the same call. It still bugged him that Heather had kept information from him, but he was a professional. They had a job to do.
“Then we’ve got two targets for now.” Boyle held up one finger. “Chris Yu, once we have a positive fix, is begging for a visit. Second,” he held up a piece of paper in his other hand, “we have information on a shipment that moved through Vladivostock and ended up here. That could provide another lead.”
Gurung stepped forward and took the paper. “I can look into it. Give me a few hours. Is this our rally point?”
“This is.” Boyle pointed to Rudi. “Take Rudi with you. He has the proper skillset for this kind of job.”
The smile that came to Rudi’s face had a touch of the predator to it. “I do at that.”
“For the rest of us, we have leads on Chris Yu that need to be run down, both physically and electronically.” Boyle inhaled as if to speak more, but paused when a woman appeared at the top of the stairs.
The woman had an athletic build and an attractive face, with fine, fair hair pulled back in a bun. She looked exhausted. “We’ve got problems. I think I know the opposition, and you’re not going to like it.”
Continued in Twenty One: Fruits of the Mind Field