Bloody Sunday – Ben Coes

The plane was long, shiny, and black: a Bombardier Global 7000, owned by the Gustave Roussy Institute, one of the most advanced cancer research and treatment centers in the world. Part of the hospital’s variety of offerings was a dramatic and very expensive accouterment: remote, on-site, fully staffed, complete diagnostic biological protocols and analysis and, in turn, determination as to whether a patient has cancer—and if so, what course of action should be taken. This gave them the ability to assess any individual, anywhere in the world—provided they had the wherewithal to foot the bill. Seven hours before, another plane from the Institute had flown the same course: Paris to Pyongyang, North Korea. That plane was a cargo plane, loaded with a variety of advanced diagnostic medical equipment, including state-of-the-art MRI, CT scan, blood, oxygen, and cellular analytic hardware, and cutting-edge radiologic equipment. All of the equipment was now in position at the Pyongyang Medical College Hospital. The Bombardier carried a team of cancer specialists, all under the leadership of Dr. Marc de Saint-Phalle. De Saint-Phalle was widely considered to be the top cancer specialist in the world. A total of ten people from the Institute were with him, among them doctors, radiologists, and nurses skilled in fieldwork and known for their proficiency and operational precision. De Saint-Phalle had handpicked every one of them. The first six seats were occupied by a different group. Each man was young—midtwenties—and stocky. Two were bald and clean-shaven. The others had longish hair and thick beards.

All of them were ex–Israeli military—Sayeret Metkal to be exact, which was, along with Shayetet 13, Israel’s most elite group of Special Forces operators. They were all highly trained, skilled at counterterrorism operations, anti-guerrilla warfare, and all manner of tight-sight envelope protection and penetration, firearms and explosives, cold weapons, surveillance, face-to-face combat, and extended fieldwork in network-dark locations. They were from a private, London-based company called Four Winds LP, known for their military skills and discretion. The Institute was an important client. What country the Institute was going to—who they were going to see—these were state secrets and the Institute had learned to trust that the soldiers of Four Winds would not leak the secrets of the world leaders they were sometimes paid to try and heal. The trip to North Korea had taken a month to negotiate. The North Koreans didn’t balk at the Institute’s price: $57.2 million for two days’ work—but they resisted when the Institute insisted on bringing their own security. Finally, when it was clear the Institute would not relent, Pyongyang agreed to allow a full-on security squad, armed to the teeth. Kim Jong-un had a reputation.

If tests showed he had something wrong with him, he was the sort to order the execution of those giving the diagnosis. He might still do the same—but now Pyongyang understood that many people would die if Kim attempted to harm de Saint-Phalle or one of his team. De Saint-Phalle knew the drill. It was not the first time he’d traveled to hostile territory in order to examine a dictator. Without de Saint-Phalle, Kim would have no choice but to bring in an inferior team from China— or else rely on North Korea’s own team of cancer specialists, whose knowledge and abilities were decades behind the Institute’s. De Saint-Phalle looked across the aisle. A woman, Dr. Megan Licameli, with short, jet-black hair, was reading the same set of documents he was: Kim’s health records going back to his childhood. “It’s in the genetics,” said de Saint-Phalle. “What is?” “Declination of the pancreatic mechanism.

Whether it’s the trypsinogen gene or ataxia telangiectasia we won’t know until later.” “I read it differently,” said Megan. “The primary DNA structure is decaying. Hydrolysis, oxidation, or nonenzymatic methylation. The DNA is unstable. If you look at the sequences of his parents as compared to his grandparents, there is material genetic crossover. His grandmother was related to his grandfather before they married. Then his father married his first cousin. His basic indices are falling apart. Of course he has cancer.

Not to mention, he’s probably completely insane. Explain to me again, Marc, why are we going?” De Saint-Phalle paused. “If I had a dollar for every time I think I know what I’m going to find before I find something completely different—or nothing at all—I’d be a very rich man.” “You are a very rich man,” said Megan. “What if you had a dollar for every time what you predicted came true? Would that pile be bigger?” De Saint-Phalle grinned. “Maybe,” he said. * * * The streets in Pyongyang were closed. All citizens not at work had been ordered inside for the fourhour period of time, in the middle of the day, that Kim would be traveling to the hospital. The motorcade began at the Ryongsong Residence. Five vehicles in all: four black Range Rovers and, in the middle, a long, dark red Mercedes limousine, bulletproof, steel-plated undercarriage, a driver with a small pile of submachine guns on the side seat, despite the many layers of protection along the route and within flanking range of the limousine.

Inside the hospital, the mood was hushed as Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s supreme leader, waddled down the quiet, brightly lit sixth-floor hallway. Other than a three-man security detail, the only individual accompanying Kim was General Pak Yong-sik. Yong-sik was the head of the North Korean armed forces, the Korean People’s Army, or KPA. By number of soldiers, KPA was the largest military force in the world. But this was not why Yong-sik was here. Yong-sik was Kim’s most trusted confidant, the only other man in North Korea who knew something was very wrong with the thirty-five-year-old Kim. Yong-sik had served under Kim’s father, Kim Jong-il. Back then, Yong-sik had become Kim Jong-il’s closest ally and friend. Yong-sik had been appointed head of the KPA at age thirty, leapfrogging over more than a hundred more senior officers. General Yong-sik was older now but remained the second-most-powerful man in North Korea.

If he’d been like a brother to Kim Jong-il, he was like a father to Kim Jong-un, who, at age thirty-five, was not only infected with cancer, but was also a chain-smoking alcoholic who snorted cocaine throughout the day and could not sleep unless he passed out. Kim was his own worst enemy. He started smoking at age nine and drinking by eleven. He lost his virginity at age twelve to a stunning prostitute flown into Pyongyang from New York City. He attended a highly exclusive, highly secretive boarding school in Switzerland and returned home during his last year there, expelled after attempting to rape the fourteen-year-old daughter of one of the instructors at the school. Kim Jong-il’s gift to the school—to keep the story of his aberrant son out of the press—was a $50 million check. Kim’s life had been one of moneyed debauchery mixed with the sudden acquisition of power in a country trained like dogs to believe their supreme leader was a demigod. At the end of the long hallway, a set of double doors was closed. Outside, two of the Israeli gunmen stood at attention, each man clutching a submachine gun, trained at the ground. Kim approached.

Rather than being angry at the sight of the armed foreigners, he smiled and extended his hand. “Welcome to North Korea,” he said in nearly flawless English, a soft accent the only giveaway that it wasn’t his first language. “Thank you, sir,” said one of the Israelis, nodding politely and scanning Yong-sik and the threeman security detail. The other Israeli reached for the door handle and opened it for Kim and the others in his entourage. One of the North Korean guards remained outside the doors with the Israelis while the others trailed Kim and Yong-sik inside. The examination room was cavernous. For the purposes of the examination, the Institute’s team of medical engineers had appropriated the hospital’s largest operating room. The Institute’s equipment was set up in a horseshoe around a central operating table. The room was two stories high. A second floor opened up to a balcony filled with seats, now empty.

Beeping and pinging from various machines provided a steady din. Two more Israeli gunmen stood on opposite sides of the examination room. A third man was in the balcony amphitheater, standing and watching from above, a high-powered rifle across his chest. The French medical team stood in the room, motionless and silent as Kim entered. They all wore uniforms that were light blue. Everyone had on surgical hats, except for the man in the middle of the group, de Saint-Phalle, who stood before the large stainless steel examination table. De Saint-Phalle stepped toward Kim and bowed slightly, then extended his hand. “Chairman,” said de Saint-Phalle. “I am Marc de Saint-Phalle from Gustave Roussy. It is a pleasure to meet you, sir.

” Kim shook de Saint-Phalle’s hand but though he wanted to smile, a nervous, distressed, even vulnerable look appeared on his face. He said nothing. He couldn’t speak. For a moment, it appeared he might break down. “Does it hurt right now?” said de Saint-Phalle, trying to ease Kim’s fears by engaging him in a simple question. Kim nodded, placing his right hand on the side of his torso. “On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you’ve ever felt, and one being no pain at all, how would you rate the pain?” “Six,” said Kim. “It never goes away, except with the painkillers. Can you help me?” “We’re here to determine what is wrong, Chairman,” said de Saint-Phalle. “We’re doctors and researchers who’ve devoted our lives to understanding and treating all forms of cancer.

At this point, we don’t even know what it is.” “You saw the results of the blood test.” “Yes, I did,” said de Saint-Phalle. “You have elevated platelets and white blood cells, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cancer, sir.” “Can you save me if it is?” whispered Kim. De Saint-Phalle cast a glance to Yong-sik. “If you can be saved, yes, we will save you,” said de Saint-Phalle. “But first, let’s determine what’s causing the pain in your side. Your doctors were not allowed to run the sort of tests that will be needed to diagnose what is going on. We’re going to run those tests.

” “What if it’s cancer?” “Let’s cross that bridge if and when we get to it.” “I want to know.” De Saint-Phalle looked at Megan for a moment, then back to Kim. “One of four outcomes will come from our two days of tests,” said de Saint-Phalle. “One, you don’t have cancer. We find out what the pain is and recommend a course of action. Then we fly home. Two, you have cancer and it’s treatable with various strategies and treatments available right here in Pyongyang, with our guidance from Villejuif. Three, you have cancer and it cannot be treated locally, in which case we would advise you to come to Villejuif, where we can treat it properly.” Kim nodded.

“And what is the fourth?” said Kim. “The last scenario is some sort of advanced inoperable cancer,” said de Saint-Phalle evenly. “But again, we don’t know anything yet, and the fact that you walked in here and are not displaying signs that would normally signal terminal cancer is a promising beginning. Now, if you will, please sit down on the examination table and point to where it hurts.” * * * By the end of the first day of tests, de Saint-Phalle and his team knew what was wrong. It didn’t take long. With each set of test results, like a sculpture forming out of a mass of rock, they honed in on a precise picture of what was wrong. They would not need a second day of tests. The results of the four biopsies were conclusive. That it was advanced cancer of the pancreas was immediately apparent, but the biopsies performed on Kim’s liver, kidneys, and stomach showed an even more frightening discovery.

The cancer was an extremely aggressive, rapidly metastasizing type of the disease that rendered any more tests unnecessary and any potential cures impossible. The team from the Institute all agreed that it was inoperable. The only thing they couldn’t agree on was how long Kim had to live. De Saint-Phalle believed Kim had, at most, a month, Megan Licameli predicted that North Korea’s leader would be dead within a week. What de Saint-Phalle told no one was that he’d known the moment he looked into Kim’s eyes. He didn’t know what exact form the cancer would take, but he’d learned to recognize the look. He’d seen it so many times he could tell the difference; the difference between the normal, horrible worry that all patients emoted before knowing whether or not they were sick, and the spectral, indescribable chill of those poor souls who already knew they were dying, that they were almost dead. De Saint-Phalle called Yong-sik at just after ten o’clock that evening. “I think you should come to the hospital,” said de Saint-Phalle. “I’ll leave right now.

” Forty-five minutes later, Yong-sik entered the operating room. De Saint-Phalle was alone. The medical equipment, brought in by the Institute, was gone, already on the plane. The rest of the medical team was back at the airport. Even the Israelis were back on board the waiting Bombardier, something de Saint-Phalle insisted upon. He wanted to handle this alone. Yong-sik was still dressed in military uniform, his chest emblazoned with colored insignia and medals. De Saint-Phalle looked at Yong-sik with a steady, emotionless stare. “Where’s the rest of your team?” said Yong-sik. “On the plane, General.

A second day of tests won’t be necessary.” Yong-sik paused. His hand reached for the table to steady himself. “Tell me.” “Chairman Kim has inoperable cancer,” said de Saint-Phalle. “It started in his pancreas and spread. It’s now in virtually every part of his body, including his bones, which is likely the reason he’s having breakthrough pain. But it’s everywhere.” “Metastasized?” said Yong-sik. “Correct.

A very aggressive form of cancer.” “What about radiation?” asked Yong-sik. “Chemotherapy? What about operating on him? Right now. Tonight.” De Saint-Phalle shook his head. “It’s too late, sir. At this point, to kill the cancer we’d have to kill Kim. No amount of radiation, drugs, or surgical procedures would be adequate. It would simply be a waste of Chairman Kim’s final days. A painful waste, I might add.

Because at the end of the day it wouldn’t work. There’s simply no way to halt the progression. I’m very sorry.” Yong-sik looked at de Saint-Phalle for several moments. His eyes became red with emotion. He sidled up to the examination table and pulled himself onto it, sitting down. “I’d like to inform Chairman Kim as soon as possible,” said de Saint-Phalle. “I will tell him.” “It’s my responsibility as his doctor,” said de Saint-Phalle. “He’ll have questions you can’t answer.

” Yong-sik shook his head. “Thank you for coming,” said Yong-sik, wiping his eyes and standing. He reached out and shook hands with de Saint-Phalle. “You are a good doctor, an honest man. There is only one person who can inform the supreme leader. I’ll have you driven to your plane. When you’re in the air, I will go see him. You might have armed men protecting you, but he is unpredictable. If he’s going to kill someone, it should be me.” * * * An hour later, Yong-sik stepped inside Chairman Kim’s massive, palatial bedroom.

Kim was seated in bed, beneath the covers, dressed in maroon silk pajamas. He was smoking a cigarette; the ashtray was on the duvet in the middle of the bed. A lone light was on in the room, a large glass lamp on the bedside table, and it cast a gold hue across the room. A glass of red wine was on the bedside table. Behind Kim, on the wall, was an oil painting. It showed his father, Kim Jong-il, and Kim. In the painting, Kim was a child. He was seated on his father’s lap, a big smile on his face. His father was holding Kim’s hand in his own, a tender look on his face as he held his young son. Yong-sik walked across the soft Oriental carpet and came to Kim’s bedside.

He bowed before Kim for a few seconds, then raised his head and looked at him. Kim took a drag from his cigarette, then exhaled. “How bad is it?” said Kim. Yong-sik started to talk, but then became choked up. “Come now, General, certainly it cannot be that bad?” Yong-sik nodded. “I’m afraid it is, my leader,” he said. Over the next few minutes, Yong-sik relayed the medical findings by the team from Gustave Roussy. Kim calmly sipped from his wineglass as he listened, then lit another cigarette. His face was blank as stone, though it was not a look of resignation or fear. It was a frightening look, a look Yongsik recognized, when Kim wanted—needed—someone to blame, a scapegoat, a release valve for the deep, unquenchable anger that coursed through him like molten metal.

When Yong-sik was finished, he looked up at Kim. He couldn’t hide his own emotion. It wasn’t fear, but rather something only he knew, something he could never say to anyone, not even Kim. It was the sorrow of a father who suddenly understands his son is going to die. “How dare you!” said Kim, seething. “I’m the one dying, not you!” Yong-sik nodded. “I … I’m sorry,” said Yong-sik quietly. Kim took another sip of wine. “You wanted me to go see these doctors two years ago,” said Kim, staring off into space, thinking aloud. “You were right.

You’re always right, General. You were the one who told me my father died. I would never harm you. You’re the only family I have ever known. Did you know I can’t even remember what my father was like? It is only through your stories of him that I have any idea.” “He would be very proud of you,” said Yong-sik. “Do you mean that?” “Yes.” Kim put the empty wineglass down and leaned back into a big pillow. He stared again off into the darkness of the room, lost in his thoughts. His eyes abruptly cut to Yong-sik.

The look had returned, as Yong-sik knew it would—the anger and resentment, the fury of a man dying, a man who believed he was immortal. His black eyes flashed hatred and rage. “No, he wouldn’t be proud of me,” said Kim, his voice inflecting with emotion. “But he will be. If I am going to die, I will bring others with me like nobody else has. I always knew the sign would come, the reason my father built the nuclear weapons. Finally, the sign is upon me. Don’t you see?” Yong-sik nodded, though he wasn’t sure what Kim was talking about. “I will join my father and grandfather now,” said Kim. “If I am to die, it will not be in vain.

It is time. It is time to show our enemy that death comes to us all. I will leave this earth an inferno. I will light the world on fire! I will light America in flames from the North Korean sun!” 1 LA VILLA BLEUE SIDI BOU SAÏD TUNISIA NORTH AFRICA On a small terrace outside of a hotel room on the coast of North Africa, a man stood. It was nighttime and he’d been standing in the same place for two hours. In his hand was a pair of large stainless steel, high-powered binoculars. He kept them aimed at the ocean and a large yacht moored offshore, its lights still blazing yellow despite the late hour. He could see people inside the main cabin of the $190 million yacht. The man slid a small switch on the side of the binoculars and all colors disappeared. He’d activated the binoculars’ thermal imaging system and was now able to look at the yacht’s heat patterns.

The yacht, and everything around it, went black. Near the front, a cloud of white showed the large boat’s motor as it idled. Inside the cabin, fuzzy white silhouettes appeared as if in a photo negative, as the occupants of the yacht were revealed, their bodies emitting enough heat to enable the binoculars to relay the fuzzy white carapaces. He counted eleven people on board. Several people were asleep. Some were still moving. He studied the decks of the two-hundred-foot yacht. He counted two men on the stern of the boat, a man at the bow, and one other man who was walking along the near side—the port side of the yacht. This was the security cordon, there to guard the occupants of the yacht. It was a serious crew, all ex-military and armed to the teeth.

The man’s hair was down to his shoulders and messed up, even a little oily, as if he hadn’t bathed in a few days. In fact, it’d been more than a week since soap or shampoo touched him, though he’d swum in the ocean many times. A mess of mustache and beard covered his face, which was tanned a deep brown. He wore jeans and nothing else. His shoulders and chest were brown. He had thick shoulders and arms, ripped with muscles. On his left shoulder was a jagged, wide, thick scar. On his right bicep was a small tattoo, cut in black ink, no bigger than a dime: a lightning bolt. Beneath the man’s left armpit was a worn, custom-made leather holster. Inside was a gun: Colt 1911.

A long, black suppressor was threaded into the muzzle of the gun. It was one thirty in the morning local time. He stared for a few more moments, then put the binoculars down on a table. He picked up a glass from the table. It was half filled with bourbon. The temperature was in the eighties, yet a stiff wind chopped from the ocean across the small town on Tunisia’s coast and it was pleasant. He’d been in Africa for a week now, in Tunisia for three days, in Sidi Bou Sa ïd for eighteen hours. He took a large sip of bourbon and stared out at the black ocean. Despite the late hour, the sky to the east held an ambient bluish black, and it made the horizon visible in eerie purple. Below the hotel, the small tourist town of Sidi Bou Saïd spread in a meandering crosshatch of white stucco, cobblestone streets, and blue trim, inclining steeply toward the ocean’s shore.

He could hear music from an outdoor café somewhere nearby, a light drumbeat mixed with sitar and a soft female voice singing in Arabic. It was a sleepy beach town, peaceful, off the beaten track, out of the way. Everything about the little town was idyllic. Except on this particular terrace. For here, quiet was juxtaposed to the anger in the man’s eyes— two eyes of steel blue that looked cold, alert, and vicious. They were eyes that hinted at violence. Operational. Then he saw her. Was it the alcohol? She was on the terrace, to his right. Her brown hair was being blown by the wind.

She was looking at him, pleading with him, reaching her hand out.… Holly. He shook his head, trying to push her away, clutching the glass and taking another sip, a sip he didn’t want. But as hard as he fought, he couldn’t stop looking back at her—at the mirage, the memory, of his wife, taken from him more than a decade before by a bullet. “I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’m so sorry. I didn’t know. You have to believe me.…” His whisper trailed off as a gust from the Mediterranean sent his hair awry, tousling it in a sudden breeze. Dewey Andreas took another large sip of bourbon, draining the glass.

He leaned over and poured more bourbon into the glass, then lifted it to his lips and took another big sip. He removed a pack of cigarettes from his jeans pocket and lit one. It had been two months now since Dewey learned the truth. The truth. That his wife hadn’t killed herself. That they’d killed her and made it look like a suicide. A military unit where spouses were forbidden, an elite, highly secret squad of operators culled exclusively from Delta and Navy SEALs, brainchild of the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, who wanted a covert kill team deployable on American soil, outside the bounds of the law. But nothing had gone as planned. He’d been charged with Holly’s murder and by the time the jury acquitted him, the unit’s recruiters had moved on, leaving Dewey to pick up the pieces of his shattered life without the woman he loved. He was kicked out of the military a day after his acquittal.

A military, a country, he’d risked his life for. Like Holly, gone with the wind, gone forever. All of it was visited on him like a ferocious lightning strike from a clear sky, the bolt hitting with such force it should have killed him. But it didn’t. Instead, it hardened him, hardened what was already the hardest of American tough. Dewey had learned to accept his fate. Had learned to accept Holly’s suicide. He fled America for the U.K., taking a job on an offshore oil platform in the North Sea, delivered by helicopter to the rig in the middle of a brutal winter storm.

It was there—on that rig, then another, and still others, off the coast of Africa, Europe, and South America—that Dewey had healed. Or, perhaps more accurately, where Dewey had sealed off and destroyed every part of him capable of feeling. Working as a roughneck had not just provided an escape—it had hardened him, even beyond what the American military was capable of, for it was offshore where the only law that mattered was the law of the jungle. It was offshore where Dewey Andreas learned what an animal he could be, what an animal he was. And then, Dewey had returned to the fold. He’d been reeled back into the government that betrayed him. A cell of Islamic terrorists had targeted America—their first target the massive oil platform Dewey was gang chief on. Despite the way he’d been treated, Dewey risked his life to fight them. As much as he hated the government that kicked him out, that falsely accused him of murdering the woman he loved, he still loved the United States of America. He was American.

Nothing could strip the red, white, and blue from his heart. After returning, Dewey found people inside the government he trusted. The U.S. government, in turn, found Dewey to be its most formidable weapon. Since returning to stop the attack on America, Dewey had led a coup in Pakistan, and stolen Iran’s only nuclear device hours before it was to be detonated in Tel Aviv. He’d stopped a cell of ISIS terrorists who’d taken over a dormitory at Columbia University. He stopped an assassination attempt on the president of the United States. But it was that last act—stopping Charles Bruner from killing President Dellenbaugh—that changed everything, for it was Bruner who wanted to recruit him a decade before. It was Bruner who’d ordered Holly’s murder.

Murder. He shut his eyes, holding back tears. He clenched his fist and slammed it into the railing at the side of the terrace. Too hard. He looked down, unclenching his fist. He hadn’t broken anything, but blood coursed from the knuckle. He took another sip. Everything Dewey thought he knew was an illusion. The death he’d spent a decade getting over was an illusion. They’d come for him and murdered her.

Murdered her just so he could serve in their secretive unit unencumbered by family. “Why the hell do you think I would’ve gone with you? Fuck you,” he whispered. It was the same question he’d been asking himself for weeks, for months. I’d never join you. I would never have joined you, you arrogant son of a bitch. Dewey had killed the man behind it all, Charles Bruner, but it did little to assuage his anger, his hatred, and his guilt. He’d gotten Holly murdered. Not intentionally, but he was the one they wanted and he was the reason the unit’s henchman had jammed his service pistol into Holly’s mouth and blown off the back of her head. Now all he could feel was anger—a dark, cruel, hate-filled anger that was growing by the hour. In four months, Dewey had done little except look for the one man remaining.

It had become his singular obsession. To the exclusion of friends, job, family, Daisy. A year ago, he imagined marrying Daisy. Now, he couldn’t talk to her, so deep was the guilt that occupied his troubled mind. Someday he’d explain to her why he never returned her calls, why he didn’t answer the door when she came looking. But not this day. This day was for Holly. He took another sip of bourbon, then took a deep drag on the cigarette, casually scanning the cobblestone streets that ran below the slightly dilapidated hotel, then the ocean, once again eyeing the yacht moored at the far edge of the small harbor. “I’m coming for you,” he whispered as he stared out at the yellow dot. He took one last puff of the cigarette then flicked it from the terrace.

He pushed his hand back through his hair. He watched as a young couple walked in a slightly inebriated zigzag down the cobblestones, the woman laughing at something the man said. He looked back at the yacht. Suddenly, the lights disappeared. He picked up the binoculars and scanned the boat again. Except for a low glow from the running lights along the gunnels of the boat, all other lights were off. He flipped on thermal. Again, he counted the bodies of people inside the boat, all apparently at rest. He counted two gunmen who remained on the deck of the boat, standing guard despite the darkness. It’s time.

Dewey slammed down the rest of the bourbon then turned and entered the darkened hotel room. He flipped on the lights. His eyes caught the visitor seated on the sofa. In the same moment, he ripped the gun from beneath his left armpit and swept it toward the figure. “Don’t shoot,” said Tacoma, raising his hands and staring calmly at Dewey. Tacoma was leaning back, both feet on the table. He wore a pair of bright white slides. He held a beer in his hand. He looked casually up at Dewey. Dewey held Tacoma in the firing line of the suppressor for an extra second, then stuffed the gun back inside the holster.

“I hope you don’t mind,” said Tacoma, taking a sip of beer. “It was in the fridge. I had another one too.” “What the fuck are you doing here?” said Dewey as he moved to the credenza and placed his glass down. “I’m here to stop you before you do something stupid,” said Tacoma. “It’s too late,” said Dewey. “Who sent you? Hector?” “I came on my own,” said Tacoma. “But they know you’re here.” “Who?” “Langley. I … well, I sort of read something on Hector’s desk.

” Dewey shot Tacoma a look. “What the hell does that mean?” “There’s a RECON team coming to get you,” said Tacoma. “There’s three of them in the lobby. They’re waiting for you to walk out. Probably dart you up with some tizanidine and fly you home.” Dewey found the bottle of bourbon on the counter and poured half a glass. “I thought you said you came alone?” “I did. I knew they were sending in a team. I beat them here,” said Tacoma, grinning. “What do you want, a medal? Why should I believe you?” “I wouldn’t lie to you,” said Tacoma. “Even though you’re an ungrateful asshole.” Dewey ignored the taunt. He looked at Tacoma. “Do they know you’re here?” said Dewey. “I don’t think so,” said Tacoma. “I have a car a few blocks away and a plane waiting at the airport. We should probably get going—we’ll need to go out through the service entrance.” Dewey put the glass down and looked at Tacoma with a perplexed expression. “Rob,” said Dewey sharply. “I’m not leaving.” Dewey walked to the closet and removed a large duffel bag. “If Langley can find you, so can whoever you came here to kill,” said Tacoma, pointing to the ocean. “Whoever’s on that fucking yacht. Have you considered that?” Dewey carried the duffel to the middle of the room and set it down on the coffee table in front of Tacoma, pushing his feet off to accommodate the bag. “How did Langley know I was here?” he asked, unzipping the bag. “You set off a tracker a week ago,” said Tacoma, “when you walked into Dulles. Then you popped the grid at Heathrow, but the tracker didn’t go blue, so they know you connected. They pushed every known alias against the X6 framework. You popped the grid again in Tangiers under the name Dane Walker. Three days ago you flashed again when you entered Tunisia.” “Impressive,” said Dewey casually as he rifled through his duffel bag and removed several items and placed them on the credenza: explosives; a set of advanced, waterproof night optics called “fourquads”; a SIG P226 with a suppressor already threaded into the muzzle; extra magazines; and a white nylon shoulder holster. He took the .45 from beneath his armpit and set it down, not looking at Tacoma, who sat down. “Who are you here for, Dewey?” Dewey removed a tactical wet suit from the duffel bag—short-sleeved, midthigh, with several airtight pockets. “Unless you want to see my ass, you might want to look away,” said Dewey. He took off his clothing and quickly pulled the wet suit on. He started stuffing the airtight pockets with guns, ammo, and explosives. Finally, he walked to the credenza and bolted down the remaining quarter glass of bourbon. Dewey continued staring blankly at Tacoma, picking up one of the guns and sticking it into an airtight pocket on his right thigh. “What do you want me to tell you, Rob? How I found out my wife didn’t commit suicide and someone in fact murdered her? How I’m going to go put a bullet in one of the motherfuckers behind it? Is that what you’re wondering? Because that’s what I’m doing. And anyone who stands in my way is going to die.” Tacoma leaned back. He was silent for several moments. “So that’s what this is about?” Tacoma said. “Yeah, that’s what this is about. I’m going to install some air-conditioning in Peter Flaherty’s skull.” “It won’t bring Holly back.” “No shit,” said Dewey, continuing to prepare. “So you found Flaherty?” Dewey shot him a look. “There’s a Tier One kill order on him,” said Tacoma. “There’s a right way and a wrong way to kill him. This is the wrong way.” “There’s no wrong way,” said Dewey. “Flaherty killed my wife. He staged her suicide then put my gun in her mouth and pulled the trigger.” “Do you know the operating environment?” said Tacoma. “How many men he has? Electronic surveillance, trip wires? Let JSOC send in a team of SEALs.” “No way. JSOC was who let Flaherty escape from Guantánamo in the first place. I’ll take my chances.” Dewey reached into the duffel and removed two small cubes, one orange-colored, the other gray, each the size of a pack of cigarettes, along with a black object the size and shape of a AA battery. He put them in a third airtight pocket on the side of his left thigh then zipped it tight. “You need sanction before you go out and just put a bullet in someone, otherwise you lose any sort of protection they can provide,” said Tacoma. “Bullets,” said Dewey.

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