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Authors: David Stone

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The Skorpion Directive (4 page)

BOOK: The Skorpion Directive
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“I live to serve.”
“I think I may have developed a following here in Vienna.”
“What? You mean surveillance?”
“Yes. Very persistent. Skills only adequate. And not a small outfit. At least eight, maybe twelve people. Foot. Mobile. High-quality gear. Is there any Company-connected reason why I should be getting this sort of attention?”
Sally paused, thinking about the phone lines and the general air of impending doom that was pervading the CIA these days.
“You’re thinking of the Black Mariah, are you?”
This was a reference to Mariah Vale, until a few weeks ago the chief of the Audit Committee, now promoted to the Executive Secretariat.
“Yes. I know they boosted her upstairs after her little triumph with the mole, and now I hear she’s on a head-hunting mission.”
“Yes. She seems to think the President’s slogan about HOPE stands for ‘Heads on Pikes Everywhere.’ But your head has not come up on a pike yet, at least officially, and I’d know it if it had. My guy doesn’t allow poaching, and you’re still on his roster. I mean, that’s not to say he wouldn’t carve out your googlies with an ice-cream scoop if she wanted him to. But Vale would have to clear it with him first, go through the channels, and she hasn’t.”
“You’d know?”
“Micah. Sweetheart. This is the CIA, not the IRS. Nobody here can keep a secret. Just ask
The New York Times
.”
“So I can assume these people don’t work for us?”
“Yes. For now. But let me see what else I can find out. Can you tell me why you’re in Vienna? Maybe it’s relevant?”
“I’m seeing an old friend.”
“Dear God. Not that Cora Vasari creature? I thought her family stashed her away in a castle in Crete and barred you from the gates?”
“It’s a villa in Anacapri, as far as I know. And yes, they have. But Cora’s no ‘creature.’ ”
“I know. I know. Mandy Pownall told me all about her. Mandy loathes her, root and branch, mainly because Mandy has plans for you herself. Anyway, I’m just heating you up. You haven’t said why you’re in Vienna. Or who you’re there to meet.”
“I don’t like to say it in the clear.”
“You’re not in the clear. This line is shielded.”
“Well, keep it to yourself, but I’m meeting Issadore Galan. Galan’s got a problem, a nasty one. I need to meet him, take care of it.”
“Okay. No need to get more specific. Good luck with him. In the meantime, I don’t think whoever is on you is any friend of ours. So you be careful. Lots of people don’t like you very much. Especially those Cagey Bees. They’re all over Vienna too, horrible nasty little bugs. And you can’t trust the Austrians either. Hitler was an Austrian. So was Henry Kissinger.”
“Hitler was a Bavarian, but I hear you. Bye, Sally.”
He rung off, set the machine down, thought it over for a moment, and then picked it up again, hit BROWSER, and pulled up a restricted CIA search engine. Cesar, polishing his silver and looking in the mirror behind the bar, studied the young American’s rocky face for a time and then put his head down and went back to his work.
 
 
 
ALTHOUGH
Rolf Jägermeier was indeed a
Pfennigfuchseres Arschloch
, he was also a seasoned street operator, and it had been his bitter experience to lose more than one target inside a hotel. A sallow, boneless man with a wide dish-shaped face made morose by years spent disapproving of everything placed in front of it, he had sat slumped down behind the wheel of the gray Audi, fretting and biting his nails for two hours, while the target—who was
really
beginning to grind on Jagermeir’s nerves—sat at the long bar inside the Regina Hotel, quietly drinking serial scotches and, as far as his watchers could tell from their occasional furtive sashays through the lobby, playing games on his
dämliches
BlackBerry.
In the meantime, Jägermeier had multiple agents out and about in the streets, cooling their heels, wandering aimlessly around the Ring District or sitting in cafés buying themselves Löwenbräus and Weiner Schnitzels on his ticket, and all of this dead-end farrago at double time and a half for excessive overtime.
And then there was Veronika Miklas, the aristocratic little bitch, who had gotten herself so completely burned at the intersection of Währinger Strasse and Rooseveltplatz—she lit his
verfluchte
Z
igarette
, can you believe it?

so there was no point paying her overtime to hang about the perimeter with nothing useful to do. At least he could do something about
her
, which was to cut her loose and send her home. And he was really looking forward to doing it.
He’d get that stiff-necked little
Kokain-Kopf
under his heel and grind her into a stain. When he got through with her, she’d be in a mobile unit on her way back to her artsy little flat in Heiligenstadt, sniveling into a hankie, with her tiny ears pinned back and burning cherry bright. So something to savor, at least. But how was he supposed to justify all of this killer overtime to necrotizing fasciitis, his
Spitzname
for Nenia Faschi, their section chief?
Reluctantly, after some more nail biting and fretting, Jägermeier decided to confirm Dalton’s status again, this time sending in Jürgen Stodt, the tall, bald kid Dalton had observed necking with a girl at the intersection of Rooseveltplatz and Währinger Strasse.
Stodt now wore a shapeless cloth shooting cap—backward, of course—and a very nice Burberry overcoat to hide his baggy jeans. Dalton would have recognized him anyway—the cow-pie boots alone would have been enough—and he tried hard not to laugh out loud as the kid moonwalked slowly by the entrance to the bar, trailing his ragged laces, looking maniacally interested in a rack of tourist magazines.
Stodt sent Jägermeier a couple of clicks on his wrist mike to confirm that the target was still there and then continued his lace-dragging, boot-schlumping progress through the lobby and out the exit that led onto the grounds of the Votivkirche.
As soon as Stodt had pushed through the heavy glass doors, Dalton got up from the bar, laying down a fat sheaf of euros. He smiled at the old Hussar, who gave him a sharp salute, his long, sad face cracking into a sideways grin for just a moment.
“Sie haben ihn eingeschläfert, glaube ich, mein Herr.”
Dalton considered the old man for a long, taut moment.
“You think I have put
whom
to sleep, Cesar?”
Cesar looked down at the velvet cloth in his hands, moved it in a small circle to clear away a nonexistent speck, and then looked back at Dalton, his face suddenly quite stern.

Die Überwachungs-Dienst.
The bloody OSE.”
“Really,” said Dalton, showing his teeth in a sideways smile. “And why do you say that?”
Cesar shrugged, raised a shaggy white brow.

Die gottverdamten Sozialisten
. They are always in and out of here. They use the washrooms, pissing all over the walls, fucking Bolsheviks. They never pay the attendant. They hang around in the lobby, scratching their arses and picking their noses, and bringing down the tone. Their street boss is a penny-pinching arsehole named Rolf Jägermeier. Squats at
my
bar, taking up two stools. Drinks
kaltes Wasser
and stuffs
gesalzene Nüsse
down his face. Never the smile, never the tip bigger than Stalin’s pizzle. You are
amerikanischer Soldat
?”
Dalton considered lying but decided against it.
“What gave me away?”
Cesar touched the Warsaw Cavalry pin on his lapel.
“You knew this. What it means. Did not have to ask. And you carry yourself like a soldier. May I ask what unit you are with?”
“I started out with the Fifth Special Forces at Fort Campbell in Kentucky. Since then I have . . . diversified.”
That got a broad smile, with more than a little of the Cossack in it. “Why are the Socialists interested in you? Are you spy?”
Dalton smiled, this time more convincingly.
“If I were spy, I would deny it.”
“And if you were not . . .”
“I would of course deny it.”
Cesar’s seamed face cracked into a predatory grin.

Ja
. I would deny it too. I do not wish to be . . .
unverschämt
? Impertinent?”
“Please. Be my guest.”
“On your honor as a soldier, do you mean to bring harm to any civilians here in Wien? To do any violence or damage to innocents?”
“In no way. I’m here to meet a friend. And then quietly go.”
Cesar said nothing for a full minute. Dalton felt his appraisal. It was not unlike standing in front of an open furnace.

Gut. Ich glaube Ihnen
. I believe you. Do you wish to shake off these Socialist
Welpen
?”
“It would be . . . useful.”
Cesar nodded, his face hardening.
“There is a subcellar hallway that leads to the Votivkirche—”
“There is? Why?”
Cesar shrugged, turned his palms upward.
“This is an old hotel. In the time of
Der Kalte Krieg
—even before—in Wein there are always tunnels. In the old days, for lovers and thieves and Hungarians. Later, for the Bolshies and the Nazis and the black market. Wein is a raddled old whore, but she still keeps her secrets. Do you love your very expensive coat?”
Dalton turned around, looked down at his long blue overcoat.
“I have sincerely enjoyed having it.”
“You will have to leave it.”
“Done. I thank you. Is there anything I can do . . . ?”
Cesar stiffened, his cheeks darkening.
“Are you offering me
money
?”
 
 
 
MIDNIGHT,
and the tiny pink ears that were burning cherry bright did not belong to Veronika Miklas. Jägermeier had suffered through a very disagreeable confrontation with Veronika, who had set him down hard when, after making a couple of snide references to her previous relationship with “recreational chemistry”—a sore point—he started to criticize her
professional
skills, she finally reminding him, at the end of a short, sharp encounter conducted on her part with the kind of subzero ferocity that her class had once used to put the peasantry in its place, that her great-grandfather, Wilhelm Miklas, had been the President Doctor of Austria, and had, on March 11, 1938, single-handedly faced down Seyss-Inquart and all his Hitlerite flunkies, thank you very much, you nasty little
Schneckengewinde
.
The interview ended in his complete rout—she had called him a nasty little worm, and he had actually apologized to her—and now, perhaps as an indirect result, Jägermeier found that he really—no,
really
—had to pee.
He decided to do a press check on the target, while he was at it, dragging his numb butt and aching back out of the miasmic funk of his own methane-rich atmospherics. The Audi was also his personal service car, and he spent more time in it than he did at home in his lonely bed. Jägermeier hauled himself across the steps of the Votivkirche and into the lobby of the Regina, slouching, if not toward Bethlehem, then toward the men’s washroom hidden behind a row of fake linden trees.
As he passed the entrance to the bar, he glanced sideways just long enough to see that the target was still there—the lazy son of a bitch—sitting with his back to the door now, hunched over what Jägermeier presumed was that damned BlackBerry, his girly-man blond hair splayed out across the collar of his coat and glowing in the downlight.
What a
tanzender Junge
he is
, thought Jägermeier, with a curl of his thick red lips. Krokodil!
Hah! The only people who have to fear this
Krokodil
are in the Vienna Boys Choir.
 
 
 
SADLY
for Rolf Jagermeir’s career prospects, the
tanzender Junge—
the dancing boy—was actually slightly more than two miles north-northwest of the Regina Hotel, sitting on a bench in a small park at the intersection of Heiligenstadter Strasse and Barawitzkag, watching the main entrance to a dreary, slab-sided concrete block of Bolshevik Bauhaus called, appropriately, the Wohnungen Arbeitnehmer Hafen—Workers’ Haven Apartments.
The blond-haired person currently sitting at the long bar back at the Regina, wearing Dalton’s Zegna topcoat, secretly enjoying Dalton’s scent—a mix of Balkan Sobranie cigarettes and some sort of spicy lemon-scented cologne—and idly fingering the pockets, which were stuffed with euros, was the old Hussar’s niece, Steffi, who had been dragooned into service in exchange for a pocketful of ready cash and the grim admiration of her terrifying grand-uncle Cesar.
Dalton had already done a series of routine checks to see if there was still any kind of surveillance on him. He was reasonably certain there was not, and that there was no security guard in the building.
He had only been there for little over an hour, and he was prepared to spend the night, but a few minutes later a familiar rat-brown Opel pulled up at the curb outside the entrance to the Workers’ Haven. There was some sort of brief exchange of hugs with the driver, who, his face caught in a shaft of dim light, looked to be the round fat man with the umbrella he had last seen in Sigmund Freud Park.
In a moment the passenger door popped open, and the Girl With the Silver Lighter got out onto the sidewalk, looking weary and wrung out as she waved the Opel off, and then turned to trudge up the walkway to the entrance doors. Dalton, moving soundlessly across the lawn, reached her just as she put her hand on the chrome bar, saying, as softly and as nonthreateningly as he could, “
Vorzüglich, Fräulein.”
Her response was immediate—a lithe twist of her body, the leading edge of her left hand bladed and taut, a white blur striking at the front of Dalton’s throat. Had she got this very professional strike home, it could have, very likely would have, crushed his larynx, and his short but memorable career would have ended with his slowly choking to death on the scruffy lawn of a workers’ housing project in the suburbs of Vienna. However, she did not get it home. Dalton caught the blow in his left hand, turning the palm strike into a rolling armlock and pressing her up against the glass door, doing as little harm as he could manage, saying, in English, “Please, Miss Miklas, I’m not here to hurt you. Please.”
BOOK: The Skorpion Directive
9.01Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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