Continued from Thirty-four: the Testimony of Madison Sinclair
Hansen wasn’t high up in the Chamber, but he was high enough to know what had happened in Kathmandu. He had heard about the success of Blackout, then the removal of all parties by Tangible Stream. He had been part of the recovery team, and now he was part of the section created to learn the truth.
And in Samarkand he was going to find it. Or at least some small part of it.
A source had come to light, an element of the Tangible Stream group from Kathmandu. He had a storied history. A gift so perfect made the Chamber nervous, but what he had shared so far had been corroborated as best it could. He appeared to be a legitimate source.
But there was no way Hansen—or any operative of the Shadow Chamber—was going to walk into a meeting like that blind. Not a chance. Hansen had four heavy lifters in the crowd at the Registan, the conveniently public place where the meet was to take place. Four thugs to watch his back made him feel comfortable. The sniper watching the main square made him feel invincible.
Hansen, this is Comm. The voice spoke in his head. The entire operation was connected though a parapsychic network. Monitor is on line and feeding data to your team.
Understood. Though he only had to think it, Hansen tended to sub-vocalize. Alert me when the target arrives.
It wouldn’t be long. The Burmese had said the source was punctual. They had said Rudi the Russian kept his appointments. They also said that they wanted Rudi dead.
Once he had provided them every scrape of information they could squeeze out of his brain, the Chamber would happily do their friends in Myanmar that favour.
His thoughts on the meet and its consequences for Rudi the Russian, Hansen didn’t have eyes for the three structures around him, the intricate carvings, the tile and colours. He was oblivious to the beauty that brought so many to this place. He had no idea of their significance, of their history. To him, it was background. It was nothing.
He hadn’t been bothering to watch the crowd—no point with Monitor scanning—so when he saw the target, he couldn’t help but straighten. Rudi looked fitter than in the picture the Burmese had provided. Still beefy, he looked solid. The breeze roused and tousled his blonde hair, as thin as in the photos but no longer military short. Those intent gray eyes searched the sparse crowd.
Another man walked with Rudi, this one with dark hair and a swimmer’s build. He had an easy smile and walked with a bit of a swagger. He didn’t watch the crowd, didn’t seem aware of his surroundings at all. Not a bodyguard, for certain, so what was he?
Monitor, I have eyes on target. Can you confirm?
I have nothing, Hansen. Are you certain it’s the Russian?
It looks just like him. Hansen began to search for exits. The two were walking straight to him.
There’s a dead zone that seems to moving toward–. Monitor said no more.
Comm, this is Hansen, I’ve lost Monitor. Comm? Comm? Anyone?
“No one will be answering you, Mr. Hansen.” Rudi the Russian’s English had only the hint of an accent. “My associate, Mr. Sinclair, is my own little cone of silence.”
“A Get Smart reference?” The man Rudi had called Sinclair chuckled. “I like working with you.”
Hansen felt some relief when he noted his four minders moving through the crowd. They had their hands under their jackets, on their weapons.
“Call off the dogs.” Rudi tapped Hansen’s chest. “You’ve been marked.”
Hansen looked down and saw the red dot of a laser on his chest. “I can’t call them off. You took me off the network.”
“Don’t you have like a hand signal or something?” Sinclair asked. “Like steal third or something?”
Rudi put his hand under his jacket, and Hansen saw the Yarygin Grach pistol there. Hansen gestured to the minders, and they got the message. They didn’t peel off, but they stopped advancing.
“Very good, Mr. Hansen,” Rudi said. “If you continue to cooperate, you will likely make it through the day alive.”
“Who are you people?” A stupid question, and Hansen knew it, but it had slipped out.
“Tangible Stream, of course.” Rudi patted Hansen’s shoulder. “But you already knew that.”
Sinclair put on a pair of sunglasses. “By the way, your sniper team? You can cross them off your Christmas card list. They’ve met a couple of friends of mine named Becca and Boyle. If your minders try to stop us from walking out of here, they won’t be joining you at the company bowling tourney on Tuesdays.”
“Bowling?” Hansen cleared his throat. He recognized that he had no control over this situation.
“Mr. Sinclair’s humour is opaque at best,” Rudi said. “But we will be leaving, and you will be joining us.”
“Yes, I insist,” said a woman’s voice behind him.
Hansen turned. The speaker had fine, fair hair pulled back in a bun. She had an athletic build and an attractive face. Hansen recognized the device in her left ear—one of the Blackout devices. She must have noticed where his eyes had gone and she tapped it.
“Our own brand, with some special modifications,” she said. “Now, Mr. Hansen, we are going to walk out of here and into a waiting vehicle. A friend of ours named the Bedouin would like to talk to you about the Shadow Chamber. We hear you know all sorts of interesting things, and you’re going to be very happy to tell us everything.”
Hansen knew he should be saying no to that, yet he couldn’t help but say yes. He really wanted to help these people, and they deserved to know everything he did about the Shadow Chamber.
After only a few footsteps he heard shouting behind him, then shooting. The shooting ended quickly. Craning his neck to get a look, he saw his four minders, two lying on the ground, two falling—all had guns in their hands, their blood staining the ground.
It didn’t bother him. Not one bit. He was looking forward to meeting the Bedouin.