Continued from Twenty-nine: House Call
Thirty: No Delilah
The wall surrounding the estate did not matter. The many electronic baffles set to inhibit eavesdropping did not matter. The psychic shield so strong it gave pedestrians that passed the structure slight headaches or nausea—not even that mattered. Inside the white delivery van, two men watched and heard everything that happened in the house and on the grounds. Inside the van that looked like a hundred, maybe even a thousand other white delivery vans in Cairo, men had watched the happenings in that place and recorded it.
Nothing moved in the building or on the grounds.
They waited for Samson. They waited for him to act. They watched, they listened, but they had learned nothing. They needed more and Samson provided nothing.
Tonight, though, was special. Inside the van, alongside the tactical commander, sat the Bedouin. He had financed all this. He had used his considerable skills, contacts and compiled information to track an intelligence asset once used by Narcissus—the CIA’s parapsychic operations unit—to Cairo, to this place. The Bedouin believed he had found Samson’s safehouse, if not his base.
Unfortunately, though, the last 48 hours had revealed nothing of note, neither contacts nor communications. Was the Bedouin wrong about Samson? That would not be unique, simply rare.
“Do we have our teams in place?” the Bedouin asked the other man.
This other man wore the dark coveralls, body armour, tactical harness, and gear of an assaulter. He might pass for the scene commander on a SWAT team. He might pass for an elite counter-terrorist commando. He could do those jobs. Right now, he ran the operation for the Bedouin. He had command. “Both cells in place.”
The Bedouin tapped a screen showing the front door of the house. “Something is going on in there.”
Cody took a sip of his coffee, still steaming. The van also had a very expensive coffee maker. “If so, he hasn’t acted in the 48 hours we’ve had eyes on.”
Sitting back in the small chair, the Bedouin put his hands on his knees. “We may not be able to tap into his preferred method of contact.”
“Parapsych.” Cody’s brow furrowed, his eyes narrowed.
“Certainly,” the Bedouin said. “I am going in there to talk to him.”
“Talk?” Cody raised an eyebrow.
“Jus talk, for now.” The Bedouin rose from the chair, but the van ceiling forced him to crouch. “He has information we need. Let’s see if I can get it the easy way.”
“And if the easy way doesn’t work?” asked Cody. “Things could get messy.”
Pulling back his jacket, the Bedouin revealed his two Glock 18s in their shoulder rigs. “I’ve dealt with messy before.”
The Bedouin left the van and sauntered up to the gate. He considered the electronic lock, and then the physical lock. Taking a chance, he tried the gate. Open. He smiled.
While he had seen no evidence of it on the recordings he had received, the Bedouin had expected some level of security. It bothered him that he caught nothing. Either Samson had no security—which pointed to arrogance bordering on hubris or talents bordering on impossible—or he had secreted his security so well that the Bedouin could not identify it. Neither option was palatable.
The suitably ostentatious double doors like the gate were unlocked. The Bedouin pushed one open and stepped inside. While the interior proved as classically inspired and luxuriously grandiose as the grounds promised, it had only the most basic of furnishings. The house did not appear “lived in,” rather it appeared like a setting, something used to project an image without being used for its purpose.
Yet Samson was here.
Two staircases circled up on opposite walls to meet at a balcony on the second floor. Three other doors led out of the antechamber, but the Bedouin did not spend any time searching through the home for Samson.
“I am surprised how quickly you found me.”
The voice, confident and unconcerned, surprised the Bedouin. Years of practice ensured the surprise never made it to the physical surface, but surely something seeped onto his mental surface. Could Samson read that through the Bedouin’s training and will?
The Bedouin looked up. Samson leaned on the railing of the balcony, overlooking the entry.
“When one finds enough threads, the web invariably leads one to the spider,” the Bedouin said. “And I have gathered a surprising number of threads. With your background, I had expected more care.”
“Perhaps you expect too much.” Samson leaned on the rail, making no move to join the Bedouin nor inviting him up.
“Or perhaps you work with what you are given.” The Bedouin glanced around, but did not see any chairs. “The interesting thing is that I’ve got threads of your web leading to Kathmandu. I know you are involved there. None of the threads lead to the CIA, though. Certainly none lead to the shadow faction operating in Nepal.”
Samson smiled. “So, you know about that, do you? They believe they are quite impenetrable.”
“It’s odd how often I have noted recently that we all have our foibles.” The Bedouin propped his shoulder against the wall, crossing his arms at his chest.
“Foibles, or failings?”
“I’d need a dictionary definition of each to really be sure.” The Bedouin pointedly examined his surroundings. “Did the failings of Narcissus motivate you to leave?”
Samson’s eyes narrowed. “Narcissus? No. Narcissus is irrelevant. It still plays white hat versus black hat, blue against red. Narcissus doesn’t have the slightest idea what is going on around it.”
The Bedouin waited, but Samson said nothing more. “And by ‘going on around it,’ can I assume you mean this shadow faction within the CIA?”
“You can assume that, yes.”
“And what of them?”
Samson’s grip on the banister tightened. “They are making weapons.”
“I’m going to further assume that these are no normal weapons.” The Bedouin decided to fish. “You discovered Blackout.”
“Yes, Blackout.” Samson chewed on those words before spitting them out. “Blackout. They were turning people into weapons. Real weapons. They weren’t weaponizing people, they weren’t just genetically re-writing or altering. That wasn’t enough for them. They turned people into guns. They removed autonomy, they removed independence, they took living people and made living weapons.”
“Blackout.” The word escaped the Bedouin as a whisper. Very little in the world shocked the Bedouin. He had seen too much. He had done too much. But this, this chilled him. “Did they . . . ? Did you . . . ?”
Bitterness and anger both laced the laugh that came from Samson. “No. I escaped them. I got away. There were those from Narcissus who did not.”
“You need to come with me.” The Bedouin held out his hand. “You need to come with me to a safe location, some place not even the shadow faction will find you. I need to have my people debrief you. We need to shut down Blackout.”
“Do you honestly believe that will matter?” Samson released a long breath. As though it cleansed him, his body visibly relaxed as the air left him. “What you need to understand is that it’s not just the CIA. The Chinese do it. The Russians do it. The North Koreans and the Burmese do it. Everyone does it. Everyone wants to build the human weapon. It doesn’t matter if they are successful or not. People suffer and people die.”
“And so you have your agents in Kathmandu.”
“Kathmandu?” Samson paused. Such a small and insignificant might go unnoticed. The Bedouin noted it. “Yes, Kathmandu.”
“Not your agents then.”
Samson frowned. “You are better than advertised. And you do it without getting inside.”
That made the Bedouin smile. “Oh, I am inside all right. I just don’t need to pry into your brain. I do it different.”
“Who are you?” Samson rested his hands on the railing. “I mean really. Who are you?”
“Tell me about Kathmandu, and I’ll tell you about me.”
“Kathmandu?” Samson shrugged. “Kathmandu is a battleground. We caught the CIA there. We caught them and we used them. We’re going to start a war between them and the Chinese. The whole intelligence community will get sucked into it. When no one is looking, we’ll behead all the Blackouts, all those projects.”
“A diversion?” The Bedouin couldn’t believe it.
“Who could look away?”
The Bedouin waved that off. “It will not work. Both sides have already seen through it. There are protocols in place, ways to contact, deny and verify. This is common to all intelligence organs. It must be. The Cold War stayed cold because of it. It took no more than ten minutes for the CIA and State Security to disavow participation.”
Samson stepped back. He frowned. “It’s working right now. Kathmandu is a mess.”
“You’re right, but it’s not the Chinese,” the Bedouin said. “Who did this? Who’s running you?”
“You think I’m a pawn?”
“I think you’re a knight, possibly a bishop—you might even be the king—but you are not the player. Who’s running you?”
“You found me,” Samson said. “Find him.”
“You need to come with me, you need to work with me.” The Bedouin left his arms loose at his side. He had his jacket open just enough that he could get to the Glocks. The pot was ready to boil. “I can shut down Blackout with your help. I can shut them all down.”
“You?” Samson took a step to his right, toward an open door. “And who do you think you are? Who are you to shut down Blackout? You are nobody. I have a surprise for you. One you might not like. I actually know who you are. I’ve seen your file.”
“The Zeghida file?” The Bedouin didn’t like how famous that file had become. It was to be an option of last resort, not a best-seller. “Do you know who else saw that file? Evgeny. He told me that in Vladivostock.”
“Did he?” Samson’s voice carried little conviction and a lot of uncertainty.
Samson didn’t know Evgeny. That put Evgeny with the CIA shadow faction. Another piece of the puzzle in place.
“I have much of what I need from you.” The Bedouin stood straight, readying himself. “I only want a name. I want the next link in the chain. I don’t want to harm or hinder you. I understand why you are doing what you are doing. I want your boss. I need to talk to him.”
“You’re going to get nothing.” Samson pointed at the Bedouin. “I’ve been patient. That’s done. You are no one. You’re a cog in the machine. I’m breaking that machine. I’m tearing it down. You want to get torn down too? I won’t break a sweat. Then the rest of your team, so certain that they could come into my house and threaten me? They’ll be little more than gibbering wrecks when the Egyptian authorities get them. But you’re going to be a prize. You’re going to dance.”
“I’ve never been good at dancing,” the Bedouin said. “If you’ve read the file, you should know that. Ah, yes, the Algerian bit. I take it you’ve read the Ahmed Zeghida file? The one important thing that the file does not tell you is that Ahmed Zeghida died before his first birthday. I am not Algerian.”
The Bedouin saw it in Samson’s eyes. The semantic trigger had worked. Samson lurched forward, mouth open to speak. He caught hold of the railing, then went rigid.
“You didn’t catch the trick?” The Bedouin started climbing the stairs. “Even Evgeny caught it. Then again, one works with what one has, yes? I have questions, and you have answers. I know you had time to trigger your alarm and that you have people coming to rescue you. They won’t arrive in time.” The Bedouin reached Samson, whose eyes followed him. “You will answer my questions.”
Continued in Thirty-one: Cascade Effect