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Authors: David Stone

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The Skorpion Directive (10 page)

BOOK: The Skorpion Directive
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He clicked off, dropped the BlackBerry into his pocket. He heard the Benz growl to life, heard the engine snarling and the huge Pirellis shriek on the cobbles. If the Saab blew up now, at least Veronika would be shielded inside the Benz. Someone in the crowd shouted a complaint at her—
Fucking Nazi
—and Dalton got the wires loose. His chest was cased in ice, his heartbeat was redlining, and he wanted nothing more than to turn and run away. But all he could see was the lineup of little kids at the ice-cream wagon. Ninety seconds. He got a crackle out of the wires. The engine coughed, started up, died. Another spark, and he tugged on the throttle cable at the same time. The Saab started up. A cylinder misfiring made the engine rock and rattle. He slammed the lid, ran to the driver’s door.
Locked!
He looked around, saw a piece of rock lying on the ground, picked it up, stepped back, and threw it through the side window.
Heads turned at the sound of shattering glass. He was behind the wheel and slamming the Saab into gear as the shards were still hitting the cobblestones. He drove the pedal down, and the old wreck jerked forward.
He wrenched the wheel right, feeling the back end sliding. Straightening it out, he headed for the gate up a narrow lane that ran alongside the containment wall. Maybe he had sixty seconds. In his peripheral vision, he could see uniforms running toward him. He honked the horn at a fat man in cargo pants and Birkenstocks and a T-shirt that said DIVERS DO IT DEEPER, got the finger for his trouble. Someone was blowing a shrill whistle at him, someone was shouting in German, a stentorian official blare, “Halt!” He jinked the Saab left, cleared a bovine family licking cones. Someone was backing out of a slot right into his path. He accelerated, slammed into the rear taillight of the car, a Benz, silver. He scraped past it. There was the gate. A car was pulling into it. He floored the Saab, hearing the old motor grinding and the pistons chattering. He managed to get the Saab through the gate with an inch to spare, cutting off the incoming car, another outraged horn blast in his left ear as he sideswiped it. He looked for Veronika. He must have beaten her out of the yard—
Please don’t get too close to me.
He checked his rearview mirror, and there was the Benz a hundred feet behind him, as he jolted and bounced down the curve away from the cathedral. Now he was on a tree-shaded lane. He had no more time. No one was near him. He jerked the wheel to the left and punched through the hedgerow and right into a ditch by the side of the road. The Saab hit hard, the windshield cracked, and the engine abruptly died.
He rolled out of the Saab, slightly dazed, and heard Veronika calling his name. He scrambled out of the ditch. The Benz was right there, idling in the lane. He could hear a police klaxon sounding from the cathedral parking lot. Then he was in the Benz, and Veronika floored the accelerator.
They were a hundred feet away when the shock wave hit. The Benz rocked on its shocks. Dalton looked back, saw a pillar of fire and a column of smoke rising in a lazy spiral above the trees and into the blue sky. There was a gold-and-copper light inside the black funnel, and it made him think—insanely—of the crows they had seen near the Westbahnhof station wheeling in the rising light.
He checked the lane behind them. No one was following them. An exploding Saab tends to distract the chase.
Veronika got them onto the southbound S9, powered it onto the river road. The Danube flowed at their left, and Vienna filled up the screen. The big car moved fast, but in a zone of cast-iron silence. Even the sound of the tires on the blacktop was a distant hum, soothing and rhythmic. The outside world could have been a travelogue playing on a screen. They sat there for a time, listening to each other breathe.
“Are you all right?” asked Veronika, her voice a little tight.
“I am. Are you?”
“I’m okay.”
“Is your cell still on?”
“Yes.”
“Better turn it off. And your pager. We’re going dark.”
He tugged his BlackBerry out and was about to shut it down and take out the battery when he saw an e-mail notice on the screen. It was from Sally Fordyce. He clicked on it:
micah i must have hit a trip wire when I checked surveillance on you this is my last e-mail they’re taking my cell phone and putting me in lockdown remember what I said about HOPE
what is going on in this country?
be safe trust no one
semper fi
sally
He read the message twice and then shut the BlackBerry off, flipped it over, and took out the battery, just to be certain.
“Micah, what is going on? What was the e-mail?”
“From Sally Fordyce, an old friend at Langley. She just got arrested for trying to help me.”
“Jesus and Mary. I don’t understand any of this.”
Dalton pulled the paper out of his pocket, unrolled it, and held it out for her to read. She glanced down, scanned it quickly.
And then again more carefully.
He took it back.
Nothing was said for some time.
“I guess you’re staying with me after all,” he said finally. “I don’t trust anybody else to keep these people off you.”
“I would anyway. I told you that. And I think after this I may not have a job to go back to. There were security cameras in the parking lot. They would have seen me with you.”
She was right about that. He had seen the cameras outside the Westbahnhof as well, and they were low enough to see her kiss him. She was in it now, one way or another. And even if she left, it would drive him crazy just worrying about what might be happening to her. Last year he had made the mistake of leaving Cora Vasari’s safety in the hands of a Carabinieri protection unit. She had been shot and badly wounded by a Serbian assassin in Florence a week later.
People around me die.
But not this one.
“Something else to think about, Veronika . . .”
“Yes?”
“This guy, in the note, he names you.”
She frowned at that as she worked it through.
“But we only met a few hours ago. How could he know?”
“Great question. Also, the note’s fresh. It was stuck in Galan’s mouth only a little while before we got there. Galan’s blood was already dry. It had to be put there sometime this morning. There were security cameras in the lot. Are you allowed to park overnight there?”
“No. They lock the gates at ten p.m. They open automatically around dawn, I think. There are no guards on duty at night. They come on at eight in the morning. But there are signs. Your car would be towed.”
“The people we’re up against, they would have known that. So it had to have been driven there this morning. Based on the note, by people who knew your name. Somewhere there’s security video of the Saab arriving at Leopoldsberg. Video of the driver. Any idea of how we could get that?”
“It would have been easy a while ago. As a member of the Overwatch, I could easily requisition the security videos.”
“Do you have anyone on the inside who might do it for you?”
She said nothing for a time, staring out at the autobahn. They were passing a string of river barges towed by a fat little red tugboat with blue flowers painted on its funnel. A little blond boy on the foredeck, shirtless, was waving cheerfully at them as they blew by. Veronika, deep inside her thoughts, waved back at him anyway.
“Maybe . . . Jürgen Stodt.”
“Who’s he?”
She looked unhappy but managed to get it out.
“For a time . . . we were together. Last year. He works with me on the Overwatch. You saw him last night? Tall, skinny, he shaves his head now . . .”
“Wears big floppy hiking boots? Leaves the laces undone?”
“Yes. That’s him.”
Dalton didn’t say what he thought of Jürgen Stodt’s street skills, but if he’d managed to get more out of Veronika Miklas than the back of her hand he was better than he looked.
“Could you trust him?”
Veronika shrugged her shoulders, her cheeks reddening.
“He’s a big, floppy puppy. He makes those . . . floppy puppy eyes . . . at me still. He’s really very sweet. Yes. He would do it.”
“Would he keep his mouth shut?”
“Jürgen? Goodness no. He’d wet himself and roll over on his back as soon as somebody raised his voice. He’s afraid of everyone, and especially Nenia Faschi. But would that matter if he could get the video first?”
Dalton shook his head.
“No. It wouldn’t. How would you get in touch with him?”
She patted her laptop.
“He’s addicted to his Treo. Never shuts it off. Day and night. We could find an Internet café, I could send him a message, check for a reply at the next café down the road? Could they—whoever
they
are—trace that?”
“Yes. But that video’s worth the risk.”
They cruised on for a time, passing through downtown Vienna and on out into the lowlands. The land was emerald green and rolling, dotted with white-walled farmhouses and the silvery spikes of church steeples.
“These are very bad people, Micah. Do you have any idea who
they
are? He says ‘your old friend.’ Is it someone you know?”
“I know a lot of people who don’t like me very much. Only a very few of them are capable of getting an edge on a man like Galan and then doing what they did to him.”
“Your friend Galan. He was there?”
“Yes. In the trunk.”
“Oh, Micah . . . I’m so sorry. Was it very bad?”
Dalton told her a little. Not much. It was enough. They were passing through the middle of Vienna, lost in the morning traffic stream. There was no obvious pursuit. No choppers in the air.
In the far north behind him he could see a pillar of smoke rising into the sky above the green dome of Leopoldsberg: Issadore Galan’s funeral pyre.
“You said only a few people could—how you say—
get an edge
on Galan? What does this mean?”
“It means outmaneuver and defeat him. And there were very few men who could do that. There was a freelancer named Kiki Lujac. He used to work for Branco Gospic, and then he went into business with the KGB. He might do something like this. But this note—Lujac was fluent in English, well-educated, polished—he would never write a note like this. Besides, he would have taken pictures of the process and then put them on the Net. That was his . . . trademark.”
“We don’t know that he hasn’t. Where is he now?”
“Nobody knows. He was seen in Garrison, upper New York State, last winter. The FBI and NSA security people tore up the eastern seaboard looking for him, but they never got him.”
“Is there anyone else?”
“There was an old Comanche I ran into a while back. He’d have loved this kind of thing. But he’s dead now.”
“You’re sure?”
Dalton thought but did not say,
Pretty sure, Veronika, since I put a couple of .357s into his face, hacked his head off with a hatchet, stuck it in a beer cooler with some dry ice, and FedEx’d it to a state trooper in Butte.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure.”
“Anyone else?”
“Yes. A few. But this thing . . . it feels . . . Muslim.”
“Do you mean al-Qaeda.”
“No. Not their style. Too . . . byzantine. They like to blow up discos and incinerate office workers. This is more like the Chechens. Or the Albanians. Or the Serbs.”
“Slick. That name. Didn’t the man, the one you called Smoke, didn’t he call you Slick?”
“Yes. And he had an accent, sounded Balkan, maybe Russian. Lots of Muslims in the Balkans. And Yusef was definitely Muslim.”
“Have you ever operated against al-Qaeda?”
“Not since I joined the Agency. Before that, yes. With the Special Forces. In the Horn of Africa, Afghanistan. Waziristan. The Army had me in Kosovo and Bosnia for a while, before I got on with the Cleaners, and there was a heavy Muslim factor in that sector, although when I was there we were fighting to
protect
them from outfits like the Serb Skorpions. Maybe this Smoke guy was someone I knew. His fighting style was hard-core Special Forces. I think he might even be Spetsnaz. But if we had ever locked horns, it was sure as hell before he got all burned up. You see this Smoke guy now, you’re never going to forget him.”
Blood-red veins.
Pale green light.
Once again, something deep in the well of his memory, something dark, began to rise, a shapeless, cloudy horror full of blood-red veins, wrapped in pale green light.
He waited for the memory to declare itself, but instead it sank back again, clouded over, and was gone.
Veronika glanced over at Dalton and then back at the highway rolling toward them. Beyond Vienna, as you go south and west, the land grows craggy and begins a gradual climb toward the Alps and the mountain passes that lead down into Italy. Far in the southwest, the sun was glinting off a row of white shark’s teeth: spring snow in the high passes.
“So your friend did not betray you?” she said in a soft voice after a long silence.
“No,” said Dalton. “He didn’t.”
“What will we do now?”
“We try to get to Venice. It’s what Galan wanted me to do.”
“Did you set that up before . . . all this?”
“No. He left me a message.”
“How?”
Dalton told her.
“Merciful Christ.”
“You think so? That hasn’t been my experience.”
“What do those marks have to do with Venice?”
“Galan has rooms in Cannaregio, on the Fondamenta degli Ormesini, across from the Tempio Israelitico, in the old Jewish quarter.”
“The Ghetto?”
“Yes. He has a flat on the top floor of a little villa, with a terrace overlooking the canal. The number of his flat is 8B.”
CLASSIFIED UMBRA EYES DIAL
INTERNAL AUDIT COMMITTEE
File 92r: DALTON, MICAH
Service ID: REDACTED
 
 
Security cameras outside the Westbahnhof station Auto-Park in Vienna confirm that DALTON and MIKLAS arrived there at 0821 hours and that it appeared from their actions that some sort of physical intimacy had taken place, which is common in hostage situations if rape is a component.
 
 
Although the main security camera at Leopoldsberg malfunctioned, peripheral cameras confirm that DALTON and MIKLAS were next seen in the parking lot of the castle at 0917 hours, just prior to the explosion of a brown Saab.
 
 
In the confusion of the blast, which killed one and injured two police officers, the authorities lost track of the pair, and their current location or direction remains unknown.
 
 
MOSSAD confirms that the body found in the trunk of the Saab was that of GALAN, ISSADORE—a former MOSSAD agent currently in the employ of the Italian Carabinieri in Venice. BDS officers from the Vienna station have been dispatched to Venice to interview the local officials.
 
 
As GALAN, ISSADORE, was an Israeli citizen, The MOSSAD have expressed a desire to assist us in our inquiries into this matter. As a courtesy and at the request of the Consulate, we have notified the MOSSAD of DALTON’s last known GPS coordinates, as well as a description of his vehicle.
 
 
Actions considered at this time/date after consultation with Commander PEARSON, DD of Clandestine Services, and his Adviser Pro Tem, D. CATHER, former DD of Clandestine, with the DNI in attendance, include but are not limited to the possibility of an official Joint Task Force Liaison with elements of the FBI, the BDS, and the Justice Department, under the aegis of the Audit Committee’s Official Mandate: (op cit: Presidential Finding F2391).
 
 
No conclusion has as yet been reached, pending final decisions from POTUS/DNI.
 
 
LEGAL IMPLICATIONS:
 
 
The Secretariat, having consulted with General Counsel Dir/CIA Justice and DNI, takes note that new POTUS Intelligence ROE Policy mandates that, since all subsequent events that occurred in the early hours of the following morning had their predicate cause in DALTON’s aggressive response to the possibility of surveillance by Parties Unknown to him, Presidential Finding F2391 requires that legal responsibility for these outcomes must devolve upon DALTON and not upon this Agency or the U.S. Government, since DALTON was not acting in any official capacity as a CIA employee but as a private citizen.
CONCLUSION:
 
 
We bear
no legal responsibility for and offer no protection to
DALTON, MICAH, in this matter. This is the
official position
of the United States Government and as such will be communicated to the relevant authorities in Vienna, the UN, Tel Aviv, INTERPOL, and the ICC officials in Bonn. No statement will be issued to the media or the press concerning this matter until it has been resolved by the investigating authorities or by external events.
 
 
MARIAH VALE/OD/DD/EXECUTIVE SECRETARIAT
BOOK: The Skorpion Directive
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