Continued from Twenty-five: Hard Driving
Twenty-six: Overt Sly
The first word that came to Rudi when he met the contact was unimpressive. Short, squat, with a patchy beard and missing teeth, Gurung had told him the contact wanted to be known as ‘Sly.’ Apparently, he idolized Stallone. Rudi decided he had better play the silent partner role, as Gurung had warned him of ‘Sly’s’ fragile ego.
“He’s not much to look at, but he’s connected and he’s done his time in.” Gurung apparently meant time in the Brigade of the Gurkhas. Rudi didn’t question him. Perhaps he could do so later . . . if he cared to.
They met Sly and his entourage of seven heavily armed locals behind a popular nightclub in a less than popular part of Kathmandu. The night had turned wet almost as soon as it had turned dark. The alley behind the club had piles of refuse and smashed crates. Light from the street offered a modicum of illumination. Tall buildings on either side made the alley a canyon. Metal fire escapes led up their roofs.
Gurung and Rudi arrived in a beat-up old Jetta. Sly and his boys arrived in three slick and shiny SUVs. Sly and Gurung embraced, back-patting and speaking quietly to each other. The seven toughs eyed Rudi. Sly’s entourage all carried cut-down AKMs. Rudi gave them a sweet smile.
He could play the hard man when warranted.
Greetings done, Sly guided Gurung over to one of the SUVs, waving for Rudi to follow them. Sly lit a cigarette and glanced around, shoulders hunched.
“I have the information you wanted.” Sly spoke English with only a slight accent. “It wasn’t as hard to find as you expected. It was very much in the open.”
Gurung’s brow furrowed. “That does not make sense.”
Sly held his cigarette with his teeth as he spoke. “Someone wants to hide it from the Americans and from the Chinese, even from the Russians, but they didn’t think about us.”
Us? Would that be smugglers? Hijackers? Government security? Gurung had never said exactly how Sly knew what he knew. Rudi suddenly didn’t like playing the silent partner.
“The delivery is something big,” Sly said. “They needed a truck. I received information second-hand through the dispatcher. It’s not 100 percent solid, but it is 90 percent solid.”
“How big?” Gurung asked. “Do you know?”
“Three containers, all the size of refrigerators.” Sly stretched his arms out, measuring out a relatively modest fridge. “The dispatcher said they were heavy. They had a little tractor to load them.”
Gurung scratched the back of his head. “But not to unload them?”
“The dispatcher didn’t mention anything about it.” Sly pulled his jacket collar higher. “I don’t think it was with the truck. I did not see a tractor when I saw the trucks at their garage.”
“You were seen at the garage?” Gurung’s eyes narrowed.
“I would not be noticed,” Sly said. “I visit there often. I have friends there. I have friends everywhere.”
Gurung crossed his arms and leaned toward Sly. “If you were there and asking questions, it is possible you may have been seen.”
“I think you maybe became paranoid.” Sly offered a smile. “No one notices me. I go everywhere, and nobody notices me.” Sly put his hand on Gurung’s shoulder. “The troubles, the gunfights and killings, this is a part of that?”
Gurung patted Sly’s arm. “Not a part of that, no. The city has been crazy since everything went quiet.”
“Not this crazy.” Sly spoke quietly, his voice not quite a whisper. “The last few days have been much worse.”
The cell phone in Rudi’s pocket began to warble. Sly’s smile faded. Gurung slowly turned to look at him, his eyes accusing. Rudi let the phone ring. Answering it would only make it worse.
Sly leaned closer to Gurung. “Talk truth to me: are you Agency? You are asking these questions, you have a wireless and everyone says the CIA is behind the situation. You are working for the Agency, aren’t you?”
The grin Gurung mustered looked weak, strained. “Of course not.”
“It is my alarm.” Rudi delivered this as straight as he could. He had beat polygraphs and Sodium thiopental, he could beat Sly. “I am late taking my medication, that is all.”
Gurung’s grin strengthened. “It is the only thing our cell phones are good for here.”
“An alarm, of course.” Sly withdrew his hand. “Next time your alarm rings, you can answer it.”
Rudi didn’t allow any reaction to reach his face. He resumed his silence. Sly’s gaze didn’t leave him.
“You have the address for the deliveries?” Gurung asked.
Sly reached under his jacket and took out a long, manila envelope, folded. He handed it to Gurung. “It is all there. Copies of any record I could find, and the destination.”
“That was a risk.” Gurung handed the envelope to Rudi.
“Not for me,” Sly said.
Rudi’s cell phone sounded again. This time, Sly did not seem surprised. Gurung ignored it. Rudi took out the phone. “I will try to turn off the alarm. It is complicated and I am easily confused.”
Moving so the body of the SUV shielded him from Gurung, Sly, and Sly’s friends, Rudi checked the phone. He had missed the call but he knew the number. It was one of the phones that Boyle and his group used. He looked around. No one watched, at least no one he could see. Boyle would not call without a good reason. He well knew Rudi and Gurung were meeting a contact.
Rudi dialled. He recognized Willow’s voice when she answered. “Gurung?”
“No, this is Rudi,” he said.
“Okay, Rudi, listen, Yu’s people can track the cell phones.” Willow spoke quickly. Rudi heard tension in her voice. That surprised him, even given the nature of the information. “You need to dispose of yours and meet us at the rally point.”
“Our business is concluded.” Rudi put confidence into his voice. “We will depart immediately.”
“Right.” And she was gone.
Rudi held the cell phone, staring at it. Yu’s people could be converging even now. He dialled Walker.
It was Lt. Park that answered. “Rudi? What’s going on? Why did you leave Gurung?”
“I received a call from Willow,” Rudi said. “Yu’s people are tracking the cells. We are to dump them and meet back at the rally point.”
“Understood.” Lt. Park spoke in good, crisp, efficient military. “We’ll cover your escape.”
“Be seeing you.” And Rudi hung up.
He didn’t wait any longer, didn’t consider his options. Opening the back, he removed the battery and tossed that deeper into the alley. He ground the rest of the phone underfoot, but expected that would do little. A tracking chip could survive that. He didn’t have the time to do it right. He returned to the meet, Sly’s eyes fixed on him, the suspicion obvious. He had a thick, white envelope in his hand.
“I am very late with my medication,” Rudi said. “We must go immediately.”
“Thanks for your help.” Gurung offered his hand to Sly. “I’ll be in touch.”
Sly didn’t take the hand. “I might not be here to help, not if I do not know who I work for.”
Gurung’s hand dropped to his side. “I’m sorry to hear that but—”
The plume of blood marking the exit wound in Sly’s chest registered with Rudi the moment before the gunshot. A second plume and a second shot followed close on it. Rudi scrambled back behind the SUV, dragging his Yarygin Grach pistol out of its holster at his back.
Boyle had said carry heavy, but it was hard to carry heavier without intimidating the contact.
Gurung joined him. By that time, Sly’s people had figured out someone was shooting, and they decided to shoot back. The SUV took plenty of hits. Risking a glance underneath, it looked to Rudi like most of those hits came from Sly’s people.
“Your friends are shooting at us,” Rudi said.
“Those are not my friends.” Gurung glanced under the vehicle as well. “Some of them are trying to get the shooter.”
Rudi frowned as he considered Gurung. “You mean they are firing blindly into the dark in the other direction, yes?”
“Was the call important?” Gurung had his Browning Hi-Power in hand, but had not used it. He also had not carried heavy.
They had left their artillery in the car.
“Yu’s people are tracking the cell phones,” Rudi said.
Gurung gestured toward the hail of gunfire with his pistol. “Do you think the sniper was with Yu?”
“Or Sly was followed after acquiring all the documentation,” Rudi said. “You were correct when you said he had not been careful.”
“It looks like Sly’s people suspect us,” Gurung said.
As the shooting slowed, Rudi checked the action from under the SUV. Four of Sly’s people advanced slowly, apparently not aware one could both look and shoot under the body of the vehicle. For a moment, Rudi considered shooting out their legs. He and Gurung needed to leave, and Sly’s boys were in the way. He had no animosity, but they didn’t leave him much choice.
About three metres of open ground lay between their SUV cover and the car. Rudi pointed to it. “We need to go. I will cover you.”
Gurung didn’t argue. He tossed his Browning to Rudi, then prepared to sprint. Rudi started shooting. He had some troubles, given that he wasn’t used to shooting under a vehicle, but after five rounds, he had clipped one in the leg and another in the groin. Both dropped. The other two scurried back, firing wildly, looking for cover.
Rudi heard the car. He rose and started shooting, a weapon in each hand. He didn’t bother to aim. He didn’t intend to hit anything. This was suppressive fire. He wanted to get to the car and get out before the opposition felt safe raising their heads.
Gurung had the passenger door open. Rudi didn’t stop firing, even once he was in the seat. Gurung pulled away, the door still hanging open, Rudi firing off the last three rounds before both weapons went dry.
A bullet struck the hood, penetrating the engine. The car went dead. Rudi saw the shooter–up on a roof, further along the alley. From the angle, this was not the shooter who had taken out Sly. And right now, that shooter had a clean line of sight on both Rudi and Gurung.
Tossing the Browning to Gurung, Rudi pulled out the suppressed MP5 he had left in the vehicle. He didn’t have the time to line up the shot, to do anything pretty. He switched it to cyclic and started putting bursts in the general vicinity of the shooter.
More suppressive fire. He needed to make time. He needed to catch a break.
Gurung hauled out his FAL.
Rudi had to change targets as two of Sly’s people got brave. Rudi couldn’t play nice any longer. He couldn’t hold back. He put a burst into one, then the other. Both went down. He didn’t think either had armour.
They shouldn’t have been stupid. He couldn’t waste any more time on them.
The FAL roared as Gurung engaged the shooter. “Move. We need another vehicle.”
Rudi considered the SUVs. One of them hadn’t been touched. He reloaded the MP5, recovered his Yarygin Grach, then stepped out of the car. Movement at the alley mouth made him crouch and spin.
Walker and Park. Walker had an M4. Park had an AKM.
“The car is dead.” Rudi kept his head down. “We need one of the trucks.”
Walker nodded. “Park, cover us.”
Park had already fired three quick rounds at the same shooter Gurung targeted. She moved to kneel behind the passenger door of the car. The door might not stop bullets, but it could foul up a shooter’s aim. It might make the difference between centre mass and a hole in the arm.
“You good at hotwiring these things?” Walker asked Rudi, yanking open the door.
“Stealing a car?” Rudi slung the MP5. “Piece of cake.”
“I damn well hope so.” Walker fired into the alley, tagging armed opposition.
The target went down, but he wasn’t from Sly’s gang. This one wore a full tactical outfit, even a helmet. More of Yu’s people? The assault team supporting the snipers?
Rudi’s day got a whole lot worse.
Continued in Twenty-seven: Hitting the Fan