by Matthew McLean
Opposite of the Ichiban-Martinez Building, across the way from Casino el Liberal, Wilcox Nixon watched two men hug on the roof of the casino. Shielded by the setting sun, behind the glass of his suite in the Plaza Carlos Holiday Inn, Nixon had been watching the casino since the man from Russia had arrived.
When the two men had stood across from each other on the night club rooftop, he hadn’t known what the men would do. Hug wasn’t even on the list of things he might have expected.
The knock at the door Nixon made curse and jump up from his place at the window, quickly leaving the surveillance equipment behind. As he walked to the door, crossing the floor of the suite, he drew his sidearm.
Looking through the peephole he recognized the individual behind it. Nixon smiled then disarmed the door security and opened it.
“Quick, get in here,” Nixon turned back to the window. “The Russian just arrived.”
“Russian?” Nixon’s visitor followed him in: He was a short man of Mongolian descent dressed in a sharp suit. He walked to the window and pushed the curtains slightly to the side to see the target. “I thought we were following a package.”
“Orders changed, Durham. Pursue and terminate courier.” Nixon sat down behind a set of gear at the window and began adjusting it to make sure it was tracking properly.
Durham took a quick look at the two men, then back at Nixon. “Who’s the target?”
“Dunno,” Nixon mumbled as he went over the equipment.
Durham cocked his head and mentally went over the mission parameters in his head one more time.
“How long have you been tracking the package?”
“Since it was lifted from the Oslo facility.”
“And when did orders change to void the courier?”
“Just after Moscow. Apparently the report got back to central and the change came down.”
Durham looked out the window again. The two men weren’t hugging anymore, but felt secure enough to remain on the rooftop. Nixon leaned over to adjust the parabolic microphone, but only static came out of the feedback. Whoever they were, Durham thought, they had enough sense to carry a white noise generator. At this distant even his augmented vision didn’t provide Durham with much detail of the scene. They were two men, white, one older, neither from Madrid.
“So who’s the courier?”
“Fuck I care?”
Durham looked back at Nixon and barely resisted the urge to shake his head. Some of his professional peers felt that asking no questions was the best policy. Durham disagreed.
He walked back to where he had set his luggage down and cracked open a laptop case. He moved it over to Nixon’s equipment, then began to connect several wires to the computer.
Nixon broke away from his voyeurism long enough to ask, “What are you doing?”
“I’m pulling in an image of the courier to run it against any databases we can secure. If the mission changed when he walked into it, the more we know about him the better.” Durham spoke without looking at Nixon, busily connecting the ports and wires.
Nixon turned back to the two men after briefly considering a protest. No skin off his nose.
The two passed the time without speaking for awhile. The noise of Durham’s typing and the low purr of the surveillance equipment filled the room.
After a time Nixon, still looking at the men on the roof through the ocular unit, said, “Haven’t seen you in awhile.”
“Had an accident outside of New York. I had to spend some extra time in the growth tank afterwards.”
“Good nap?” Nixon asked with a grin, turning to Durham.
Durham looked up at his sometimes partner, and smiled his response, “Fucker.”
Nixon chuckled, then the two lapsed back into silence. The two turned back to their separate tasks.
“They’re leaving,” Nixon said, leaning back in his chair away from the ocular unit.
“You can track the package still?” Durham did not look up from his typing.
“Sure,” Nixon turned to the tracking monitor. “Whatever case they put it in kept the signal scrambled for awhile, but I cracked it.” He adjusted a few knobs on the monitor. “But it looks like its switched hands. The other guy must have it now.”
“You’ve got all the entrances covered?”
Durham continued to type. Nixon shrugged and went back to the surveillance equipment, following the package with the monitors.
Durham spoke even as he continued to type, “I’ve got something. The composite of the courier I uploaded flagged a file out of the Black Box.”
Nixon turned away from his equipment; Durham had his attention. The Black Box was the secure server from which all agents received their orders and to which they uploaded their after action reports.
“There’s no name. Just an encoded file named Kansas. I can’t access it. This thing has about thirty hazard markers on it.”
Nixon felt his anxiety level jump. “What does that mean?”
“Nothing, just give me a minute to massage the security points. I’ll find something.” Durham stopped short, the sound of the keystrokes died instantly as he recognized the full-screen composite of the courier that came up on his screen.
Durham was a professional with a long career behind him. He had worked with many men and women, all of which had known the rules and lived by them. Except for one.
“Oh shit. That guy’s not Russian. He’s the Butcher.”