Chap. 2, part 2… 5 Pieces of the Past and One of the “Now.”
[Note: Unfortunately there is no way to record this week due to loud, consistent unavoidable noise. All apologies.]
A Humvee was waiting for Kyle Wade when he emerged from the bush. So was all the gear that had supposedly gone missing as well as the surprisingly unharmed guide that he was assured was torn apart and dragged off into the night.
Behind him he hefted a large net laden with the severed heads of four Painted Hunting Dogs.
Only an hour before he left the relative safety of the firepit and charged into the high grass with little more than that net and a machete. Of the nine animals that were claimed to have attacked the camp while he slept, he tracked, caught and killed almost half, starting with the Alpha and moving down in the pecking order to make sure the pack would be shattered long enough for them to get the hell out of there.
The guide stared at his feet, refusing to meet Wade’s confused, furious look. Was he just duped into a slaughter? And, one of an endangered, though brutally dangerous species?
Three dark grey suits climbed out of the vehicle.
“Mr. Wade, I presume,” smiled the smallest of them as he offered his hand. “I am Col. Hendricks.”
Kyle refused the handshake.
“That was quite a kill, ” the Colonel continued, unperturbed. “Epic, really. You are a man of great talent. Please, get in. We’d like a word.”
The hunter simply looked down at the deep bites in his hips and waist and passed out.
She hadn’t slept in 67 hours. There had just been too much to do. Or, at least think. So, the small, light woman left her lab and with a rolled yoga mat under one arm, headed off to Level 2 of Building C, Greenhouse T2.
Nodding to the posted guards, she swiped her ID card and spoke into the keypad: “Belinda Rothschild”.
She looked at one of the MP’s. “I have to try to nap for at least a few. Dim the lights once I’m settled, will you, Ed?”
He smiled, “Sure, Doc… But I need you to put your respirator on.”
“I will, I promise.”
“We go through this every time, Doc. I need to see you put it on… And, if you could not take it off again until you are sure I am not looking, that would make my life a lot easier.” He was still being kind, but there was a frustration there.
So, she slipped the mask over her mouth and nose and offered a muffly: “Sorry, Ed.”
“It’s okay, Doc. But try to remember my job is different than yours.”
The thick, bulletproof door beeped and slid open and she entered the sweet-smelling garden, unrolling the mat.
Watching through the glass once it closed again, the guard turned the lights down to their lowest level as Belinda dropped gently to the mat. Within minutes she was dreaming, doing her best to leave the challenges of Project Pickle up in the world of the awake, her lullaby not one of music but the heady, opiate scents of thousands of budding flowers.
Earlier in the evening, this had been a dinner party. But the events of the last three hours had turned it into an abattoir.
One of the victims was apparently lojacked and within minutes of his demise, the Spooks had arrived and soon after, Strishna.
Covering his shoes with biohazard booties, Benjamin entered the Chelsea Hotel apartment and heard the suits in the hall install and lock a portable barring system outside the door.
The mingled blood of a dozen people painted every surface, the scene made surrealistically worse by the Bose stereo’s cheery declaration that “if I knew you were comin’, I’d have baked a cake.”
Something moved behind the Italian marble kitchen island. Benjamin pulled on white linen gloves and then rubber ones over top. Kneeling down, he began drawing and writing in the human debris. He knew that he could do nothing until he could identify whoever was in the room with him, but he certainly might provoke It into speaking or showing Its face.
With a final hashmark traced, his intended result was made and the room filled with the angry bellows of a wounded humpback. And, with that, the man recognized the voice and even as the thing behind the counter realized its error, whispered, “Gotcha.”
He hadn’t really, but it was a start.
Chandra Singh sat on a little bench above the banks of the St. Lawrence River and gazed up at the strange complex. Leonard Cohen deeply droned of a secret life in her ears and she lost herself in the music and her rapidly unfolding sketches of the buildings.
Her eyes and pencil locked in angles and volumes and dimensions with amazing accuracy. While others’ minds had gone missing in the mazes of the design, the woman was completely at home.
“Thrilling, isn’t it?” a soft voice next to her slip through the gap between songs.
She looked over to find that a silver-haired woman in a fine business suit had some time joined her on the bench without her noticing.
“Yes,” Chandra replied, “Yes, it is.”
Her elegant elder looked back at the stack of architectural wonders. “Tell me,” she said, “If I wanted to hide something in that glorious chaos… What room would I choose?”
The Indian woman closed her eyes for a moment as she imagined the layout.
“Number 232,” she said slowly and the reply she got was merely a small key-card that read: 232.
The older woman nodded, tugged her left ear and a black Escalade rolled up and stopped in front of them.
Things soured quickly and downright curdled right after that. It may have just been a lucky guess, but that didn’t make Sandor feel any better. Neither did the fact that his back-up, for whatever reason, failed to arrive.
Someone marked him, sounded the alarm and hit the lights.
He went low and found the fuse box as quickly as he could, yanking its innards so he could equip his nightvision goggles without the fear of having getting blinded. His world went green, although he probably could’ve gotten by without them, the targets were so loud.
“MVD!” he shouted, “Stay where you are!” No one did and he hadn’t expected them to. These were more than gangsters, they had far more to lose by getting arrested than being killed.
Step, step, side, step, snap. One down. This dive backroom might be their barrel, but they were still fish in it.
Another snap. Two.
Then the air filled with gun shots but the flashes were not in the immediate vicinity, which meant they were firing at worst, nothing, at best, each other. Not ‘best’ best, because he needed someone alive. Anyone would do, but The Lionfish would be ideal.
Codename: Lionfish was a high-powered dealer in black-market tech, this breach was going to cost him about 3.5m euros. It was a big deal. A very big deal, but getting him in custody would bigger.
Step. Slip. Slit. Roll… Wait.
Lionfish literally tripped over Sandor, but had gotten tagged by friendly fire and was losing blood by the gush before the Vityaz agent had him bound. Tossing his goggles to the ground, Sandor backtracked, recounted his original steps. Through the kitchen, past screaming bar denizens, out the front door to the grey drizzle of Budapest.
The support vehicle was there, but empty, doors wide open. Dammit, again.
He threw the dying Lionfish in the back, chirped a digital key with the vehicle’s code and sped away up Andrassy Road.
Here. Wherever here is.
The lights are out. All of them. Except the Hotel. It has been difficult to notice with the street lit up by burning wreckage, but beyond the Hotel, not a bulb is burning. The air crackles and pops and smells like a tire fire.
After a few seconds, the interior lights of the Cafe flicker into being, but the neon sign only wheezes faintly.
One thing it doesn’t smell like is rain. But rain it does.
The growling shadow gets a friend, yipping in the distance beyond the Library and the shadow returns the call before a third, south down Hartattak.
Then the air-pressure changes, popping the ears. Just the eensiest little bit.
But enough to feel like someone slapped a lid on this terrarium.