The Lion &
At least the seating in the small special ops jet was comfortable. After the earlier chopper flight anything would have been an improvement, but this was down right luxury. A serviceman provided good strong coffee and Steve sipped his now as the plane streaked towards Minnesota. Bob had curled up in a blue wool blanket and was fast asleep. She looks positively enchanting asleep, Steve thought. Too bad awake she's such a - He stopped the thought in mid word. No point in tearing down the one person I need to trust the most.
"Sir," a flight member stepped close to his seat. "There is a call for you on the flight deck."
Steve unclipped the seatbelt and rose, careful not to disturb his slumbering partner and followed the attendant through the tiny cabin into the cockpit.
The navigator handed him a headset.
"McGarrett," he uttered into the mouthpiece.
"Steve, this line is secure," Garrison started. "I received some information from the field office in Kansas. What the devil were you doing in Kansas?"
He began to respond.
"Never mind," Garrison countered. "Intelligence felt it important for me to relay the findings of the autopsy on a dead suspect - Beltan."
"Yes," Steve acknowledged, a little surprised at the odd path this information had taken.
"He was killed by a .22 caliber projectile, dead center his heart. Work of a highly skilled shooter. All the police were armed with .38s."
Steve paused. If the officers did not shoot him, who did?
"Trajectory indicates it was fired at ground level, facing him."
That lets out a sniper on the rooftop. And the cops wouldn't have let a civilian into their midst. "Who is following up with this in Kansas?" he asked.
"There are two field agents from NSA going over everything - and the cops backgrounds. Steve-" he paused, discomfort in his tone. "I am having a dossier from the CIA encrypted and wired to you. You should be receiving it now."
Even as Garrison spoke, Steve could hear the telefax onboard grinding away.
"You know the routine. Read it. Destroy it. Steve, watch your back." Garrison cut the line.
Steve waited for the telefax to complete the shiny facsimile. True to their dedicated calling, no one in the flight crew as much as glanced in his direction. He started to return to the cabin, then halted. In his hands was the background and service record of Roberta Archer. He scanned through the family history, noting both parents were dead with no siblings. There was a history of two serious attachments to "other", but nothing listed in the last three years. The record seemed spotless. Then why did they send me this? He noted her advanced degree in nuclear physics which seemed to co-inside with her introduction to the FBI special investigations unit almost to the day of her graduation. It took three readings before he noticed there was a time gap for her of about four months in 1978. Perhaps it was a classified assignment, not too hard to believe. Perhaps something else. But Garrison sent this to me not even wanting to risk discussing it on an encrypted line.
He glanced at the pilot. "How long?'
"On the ground in 30 minutes, sir."
"Thank you." He flipped the switch on the small shredder next to the telefax and watched as it chewed up the paper he'd just studied.
Steve made his way back to his seat, gazing again at Bob's sleeping form. Somehow she did not look as enchanting as she had a moment ago. It is possible that she is some kind of a mole? He forced his tired mind to go back over the details of the insane last 48 hours. She had presented four possible candidates. Who fingered Beltan? I did. Did she do something to influence that? I don't remember her doing anything. She found the missing data each time. Could it be possible she was actually taking the data at that moment? What about the tape she described that would have been needed. Was that mis-information? Am I chasing an elaborate red herring? And if I am, what is really happening and where?
He rubbed his forehead
and peered out of the portal at the brilliant clouds below. Where do I
go from here?
The green Volvo wagon had turned towards the English channel, following the highway that kept the channel on the right. Danny glanced at the road signs that flew by, recognizing one for Bernières-Sur-Mer.
"You look unslept," Uain commented.
No use denying it. "I haven't gotten much rest in the last day or so. A lot has happened," he commented. Up ahead lay Courseulles. The car made a sudden wrenching left turn off onto an obscure back road and bounced over rocks and potholes, not decreasing speed by much. It spun to a stop before an old German bunker.
The building had seen much abuse. Obviously a military target in 1944 there were still old craters and blackened scars to tell the story. The old metal doors were rusted and looked unused. Vines and weeds had grown up around the sides until it looked a little like an old turtle hiding in the shrubbery.
Uain gestured him out of the car and Danny got out wondering if Camp was out there somewhere. Years of experience had taught him never to underestimate the capabilities of his former superior. It was raining a drizzling, cold shower now as the Uain's driver struggled to pull open the heavily rusted door. The metal gave a mournful creak.
"Need some WD-40 on that," Danny remarked.
Uain did not laugh.
The interior was dark, damp and sparsely furnished. A table and a few chairs were to one side and some rolled up blankets in the corner. Two men who had been playing cards at the table rose upon their arrival and quickly vacated the room.
Uain slid onto one chair and Danny one opposite him. "Talk," Uain ordered.
Danny blinked. About what? "Nice weather we're having," he remarked.
"Are you an ass?" Uain muttered. "I don't have time to waste. There is too much at stake here. Where is the delivery to be made?"
"Delivery - your delivery," he clarified.
"You don't seriously believe we will just up pick a case of plutonium like the morning paper, do you?" Uain growled, starting to become irritated.
"Look, you dragged me in here - at gunpoint. How the hell do I know who you really are?" Danny shot back. "Why should I trust you? You tell me you are Uain. Maybe not, huh?" After all, I'm not really Leon.
Uain glared at him. "We have been through too much for this," he snapped. "Mounir was going to sell to the highest bidder in spite of all he had been given. It would have undone everything - everything! Now you are going to play twenty questions with me?! I think not. We believed that the American unit was loyal or we would never have approached you. Now you are in or out. Which?"
Danny noted that Uain's right hand was in his pocket, probably resting on that damned Taurus. He could envision a .44 slug passed neatly between his own eyes. "We are in - of course. I have been through a lot. It's tough to know who to trust in this mess."
Uain did not seem to relax much. "Nothing has changed."
Danny wondered if he could risk attempting to take the upper hand. "Everything has changed," he countered. "You used unreliable, hothead middle easterners - trusting them. Then you pull a rouse and send my partner off to who knows the hell where - not trusting me. Then you have the balls to tell me nothing has changed?"
Uain's expression grew grave. "Do you trust your partner?"
He paused. Is this a test? "What?" He stalled for time to feel this one out.
"Your partner - how well do you know him?"
I need to find out what he knows. Does he know Camp is an American spy? "This is my first time to serve with him. He is very good."
"He is an American CIA agent," Uain said bluntly.
Danny gave what would pass as a sneering smile. "No. I don't believe that."
"Believe it or not. It is true." Uain suddenly leaned in eye to eye across the table. "So my question for you is - who are you?"
Danny maintained the stare, not flinching, not blinking. One wrong breath and I am dead. "I am the man who is ready to turn over two and a half million American dollars and deliver your package as planned."
Uain, if he was not completely satisfied, at least relaxed a little. "The goal was to frighten them, to make them see how perilous this all is - not to make our most fearsome nightmares come to pass. Mounir almost cost us everything - everything. You cannot appreciate how close we came."
"Of course I can," Danny retaliated, although he was quickly trying to process what Uain had said. "I was the one in Lebanon - remember? We removed your threat and cleaned up your mistake."
Uain leaned back in the chair, eying Danny closely. "Then you also know we do not have the plutonium. Yet you just offered to buy it from me."
Charisa Beltan stepped away from the doorway of the hospital room where her young son slept. "They tell me he is doing better," she told Steve and Bob. "I don't know what would have happened if we had not come to Mayo."
They walked to the solarium and sat down on couches that faced. "Mrs. Beltan, what happened to get your son here?" Bob asked.
"Frank came home - he said that it had been arranged by someone at work for Michael to be admitted without having to wait," she explained. "He said he promised to do some extra field work. It seemed a bit cold to me that a co-worker would have not just helped."
"Some people just look at what is in their own best interests," Bob agreed. "Did he ever tell you anything about that work?"
She slowly shook her head. "It was going to require travel. He called me once, said he was on the west coast. He was supposed to call last night, but didn't."
"Did he mention the co-worker's name?" she asked.
Again Charisa shook her head no. "Is there something wrong?"
"Mrs. Beltan, your husband died this morning," Bob said in a voice of sympathy.
She gasped in shock. "Oh my God!"
Steve had been sitting by observing both of the women. Charisa Beltan could not have known that no special clearance would have been necessary to admit her son. Mayo would have admitted him anyway due to how serious his situation was. Someone had convinced the Beltans that Frank needed to sell out his country to save his child. And now Beltan had paid with his life. And perhaps his killer was sitting across from his wife. Bob's expression, soft touch and soothing voice were intoxicatingly sincere. It was hard to believe that she might be a mole. It was also frightening to think that with the death of Beltan their trail has also died. Where do we go from here?
Bob was gently allowing Charisa to ramble on about her family life, her husband, waiting for something of value to surface by itself, but nothing seemed to be coming quickly. Friends, associates, banking, nothing seemed to be decent lead.
At last they were exiting the hospital into the cold, windy, gray mid-western afternoon. Snow was beginning to fall. Different from the light flurries of Kansas, this was heavy, large particles, blown by the persistent high plains winds that were rapidly gaining strength. Bob sighed as they opened the doors to the government car. "Well?"
Steve slid into the driver's seat. He gave a wry look. "We go back over everything again. First, back to the Beltans' home in Dallas."
"Agency did that," Bob commented.
His look tensed. "I didn't do it."
She shrugged. "Maybe we need to look for where he might have had the opportunity to turn over his information."
"Okay. Why don't you work that angle."
"We don't have to hold each other's hand here," he commented. "Perhaps we will cover more ground working independently."
Bob did not reply right away. Finally as Steve turned the car out of parking lot headed back for the municipal airport she commented. "You men are all alike."
He blinked. "Excuse me?"
"You said so yourself back in Wichita - you don't think a woman can do this. I am just a hindrance."
"Actually, that wasn't my thought at all," he replied truthfully. "We have been stumbling over each other throughout this entire investigation - flying from one end of this country to the other - and frankly haven't got much to show for this. You want to back track Beltan - fine do it. I want to check the Dallas home again. We can compare notes later." He was irritated and uncomfortable with having to be respectful on this challenge. It would have been easier to just tell her to do her job because he said so. "I hope this isn't something personal," he remarked.
She crossed her arms. "Hardly."
"Good, that is a relief." He could feel the tension. We have a two hour flight down to Dallas. It is not going to be a happy one. We have spent over two days running all over, getting no where. It is time to go back to the basics, examine the evidence for myself and start over. And it will cost us time that I hope we have.
The wipers were trying valiantly to clear the precipitation from the windshield, but the large snowflakes were slamming into the glass freezing on impact; visibility was dropping rapidly. The highway was transformed in minutes into a slick and icy skating rink.
"We may not be flying out of anywhere," Bob remarked.
Steve did not reply. The idea of being stranded the night in Minnesota while some terrorist cell somewhere was calmly assembling a missile - perhaps complete with nuclear material seemed insane. And where will they point it? And why? Does there need to be a reason why?
They exited the car at the airport and entered the small terminal, stamping snow from their shoes and brushing it from their coats. Their pilot was gazing at a six month old Ladies Home Journal, a bored expression on his face. "Sorry, folks," he remarked upon spotting their approach. He gestured with a thumb towards the weather. "Mother Nature had other ideas for this evening. We're here for the duration."
"How long is that?" Steve demanded, not revealing emotion.
"Radar says perhaps twelve hours - a little less."
Steve glanced at his watch. "Okay. Well, you stay on the weather. Let me know as soon as we can make an attempt out of here."
He nodded. "Will do, sir."
"Now what?" Bob remarked.
Danny knew he had possibly made a lethal error. Uain sat without emotion before him, like the cat waiting for the mouse to twitch a whisker. He feverishly attempted to build something plausible in his mind, and still look cool and calm. Never let them see you sweat. "Nothing has been as it should be. My contact -" he shrugged - "then this American turned up, claimed he could deliver - I thought he was with us - now you tell me he isn't - but he rescued me when Haidad's people would have killed me."
Uaim seemed to mull that over a little. "Abjar? What happened to him?"
"He's dead. He got greedy at the bidding table. He and the American shot up the place," Danny remarked.
"But you remained alive."
"I shot back. American said his name was Don Martin," Danny felt like his tired mind was staying only one second ahead of Uain. "Abjar tricked us - it backfired. A bunch of hothead Iranians probably killed Abjar, probably Mounir. I never got close to the plutonium, but I did get to Haidad's facility. He looked ready to accept it. Haidad was a traitor - ready to kill me. Then the American Martin rescued me. Seemed like he was on our team to me."
Uain's thick gray brows knit in thought. The story was certainly twisted and confusing. "The plutonium?"
"I told you. I never had it, or saw it. I was hoping it had been delivered here. Whoever killed Mounir must have it."
Uain tapped a finger thoughtfully on the old wooden table top and Danny found himself reminiscing about Steve's finger-snapping during thought processing. He forced his exhausted mind to focus on Uain. "And this American?"
Danny shrugged. "He rescued me. Said he was IRA."
"You were foolish to trust him."
"Really? Dammit - I had to trust someone, didn't I? So far he's protected me more than you have," Danny shot out, afterwards wondering about the wisdom of the statement.
"His name is not Martin - well, it is, but it is Marten Camp," Uain stated. "He is of the CIA. The Americans are reacting as we believed they would - in great fear that a nuclear missile is being developed by a terrorist group that may be able to detonate a nuclear device. They are afraid. We want them afraid - but afraid of us." Uain stopped talking.
Danny struggled to get his mind around what he was learning. This was supposed to be a warped doomsday game. They were going to make it look like a terrorist threat, but as a bluff. Looks like the bluff went sour - and now it may be real.
Uain quietly rose from the table, his right hand still in his pocket. "Outside."
Danny carefully got to his feet, pretty sure he was being led to his execution and trying to memorize anything within grasp that could alter his situation. Uain motioned him to open the heavy steal door. He shoved against the groaning metal, aware Uain was standing about three steps behind. He took one step toward as the metal door began to move, then spun back on his other leg grabbing with both hands Uain's hand that was raising the gun. Uain stumbled to one side as they grappled over the weapon, pointing upward. It fired once, the bullet ricocheting wildly around the concrete and steel walls. Uain had the height, but Danny the strength. Again the gun fired, narrowly missing Danny's face. He jammed a well-placed knee into Uain's groin and the Irishman gave a sharp cry of pain. Making the most of the moment of advantage, Danny managed to get the gun from his aggressor.
Uain, now unarmed fell back, hands raised. "I was not going to kill you!" he declared.
"Sure you weren't," Danny retorted. "You have your flunkies outside to do that for you."
"Listen to me!' Uain pleaded.
"No - you listen to me." Danny paused, trying to catch his breath. Okay, just what do I want to say? "We have one thing in common - find that plutonium before we have a real Armageddon around here. Now, what was your plan?"
Uain stared at him in shock, eyes narrowing. "Who are you?"
He gave a half smile. "My questions. The plan!"
Uain's expression suddenly changed as Danny heard the door behind him suddenly whine a warning that someone else was coming in. Danny spun around, expecting Uain's men. Before he could register anything, his world suddenly exploded into darkness...
....I am still alive.
A scream pierced the black void around him.
Not my scream. That's good. His right ear and jaw throbbed as a reminder of what had knocked him senseless. Danny half opened his eyes and oriented himself to where he lay sprawled on the ground outside of the bunker. Without moving, he could see the car that had brought him here earlier, its hood raised, the engine running.
Uain sat bound to a straight chair in front of the car. Another man, back to Danny stood holding jumper cables, a cord in either hand. He brought them close together and an electric spark fired between them. "You will tell me or die," the man promised.
Danny blinked. I know that voice.
Uain, grimaced, shivering as he shook his head no.
The man shrugged, bringing the cables one to either side of the Irishman's head.
Uain stiffened and shrieked uncontrollably, his body jerking, eyes wide. There was an acrid stench of burning flesh. As his torturer lowered the cables, Uain collapsed limply in the chair, still conscious, but dazed.
Good God, we need Uain alive, Danny thought as his mind cleared. How do I stop this? He took a slow breath, trying to think of an action.
Marten Camp turned from Uain towards him. "Stay where you are," he snapped, coldly.
Danny lay on the ground, mouth agape. Camp? He slowly sat up, then began to get to his feet. "What -"
Camp turned towards him again, gun in hand and fired, the slug striking the dirt inches from Danny's hand. "You heard me. I know what you did."
He does? What did I do? Danny's mind staggered in new panic, the momentary feeling that things were again under control washed away by renewed confusion.
Camp focused once again on Uain. "Talk." He playfully arced the jumper cables. The car engine revved as the alternator compensated.
Uain stared wide-eyed.
"I'm not gonna screw up and kill you - not for a while," Camp murmured. "You're a strong old goat - you know that."
"You already killed the courier," Uain muttered.
"No I didn't," Camp growled. "I killed Haidad -and Mounir. He killed your courier," he jerked his thumb towards Danny. He tapped the cables together again and they gave a jolting snap. "Tell me who was to deliver to Mounir?"
"Abjar," murmured Uain, eye on the electrified cables.
Camp sighed. "Convenient. He's dead, too. Before him."
Uain clamped his lips together.
Camp shook his head. "A name."
Uain closed his eyes.
Camp shoved the cables against Uain's crotch and the man's screams again filled the wet woodlands.
Danny's stomach turned in nausea. I must stop this. But how? He strangely found himself looking towards Uain as the ally and Camp as the monster. He did not doubt for a moment that if Camp had threatened to kill him, he would.
Uain's cries died away amongst the trees as he lost consciousness. Camp checked his eyes, made a sound of disgust and dropped the cables on the dirt drive.
Danny remained where he was, trying to control his pounding heart and breathing.
Camp glanced at him. "Get the hell up," he muttered in distain.
"Is he dead?" Danny asked.
"No. I'll give him a minute or two." Camp sat down on the car bumper, his pistol still in hand.
"So are you going to shoot me or what?" Danny asked.
"Shoot you?" Camp looked up with a slight sardonic grin. "Think I should?"
Danny's anger exploded. "What the hell is going on around here! You took off, no signal or anything - just leave me without cover! Then I just manage to get things under control and you come bursting in here, knock me out - you shot at me for godssakes - and you're electrocuting an old man who right now is our only source! Did you even know that his team wasn't originally planning anything but a trick to get world governments to stop nuclear arms? They don't even have the plutonium - a REAL terrorist bunch managed to intercept it! He doesn't have anything!"
Camp stood silence, expressional for a moment. "Then he is Uain?"
"Uain? You knew that?"
Marten pursed his lips and raised an eyebrow. "There are always a few tree huggers out there gumming stuff up."
Danny clenched a fist at his side. "Did you know about Leon agus Uain?"
Camp disconnected the cables from the battery terminal and slammed down the car's hood. "There were two choices left back in Qab Elais. When this fool called I made a choice. The wrong one." He aimed the gun loosely at the still unconscious Uain, then lowered his hand. "The trail is through Libya."
"Libya?" Danny asked. "We're going to Libya?"
"No, I'm going to Libya." He raised the gun towards Danny.
"Camp!" He gasped in shock.
End part 5