Deckard and Nadeesha touched down in Berlin twenty-four hours later, met a courier outside the terminal who handed off their new passports, then rented a car and drove to Hamburg. Deckard made several attempts to ask his companion what their mission was and what would be expected of him, but she blew him off and made him drive while she worked from her iPad in the passenger seat.
They were flying out of Hamburg because it would raise too many suspicions if they showed up at the Berlin International Airport again five minutes later with new names and passports. Nadeesha also seemed to know that the security in Hamburg was not utilizing biometric sensors, at least not today. Otherwise, they would get popped as they went through security. If their biometrics were recorded in Berlin, put onto a computer database, and then their fingerprints or facial features were again read in Hamburg but attached to different names, it was safe to say they would both be spending the night, and many others, in a German prison.
Deckard drove through the cold overcast weather and drizzling rain until they neared the Hamburg airport.
“What are you doing?” Nadeesha asked him.
“Hold on,” Deckard said as he parked in front of a convenience store. A few minutes later he came back with a couple of disposable cameras. Getting back in the car, he shut the door and began tearing open the packages.
“We can buy a camera in the airport or once we land in Dubai,” Nadeesha said, thinking he wanted one as a part of their cover as tourists on their honeymoon.
“We have to zap the RFID chips in our old passports. We can keep them hidden in our luggage, but if a scanner in the airport or anywhere else picks up a second set of passports, we are screwed.”
Deckard tore up the camera’s plastic housing and yanked out the chip the camera’s flash device was mounted to. In a few minutes, he had pulled some other wires out of the cameras, stripped them, used some tack he had bought in the store to create a short across the leads from the battery, and held them up to the RFID chip mounted in the covers of their old passports. One by one, he zapped them, making the chips inside unreadable. They would still work as valid passports, and they could simply shrug their shoulders at customs if someone asked why the RFID wasn’t working. They could have been magnetized. Or something.
Nadeesha watched Deckard intently, the rain having matted down the hair on his head as he worked with his improvised tools.
“You learned how to do that in the ONI’s OPB course?” She asked.
“I learned how to do that from being on the run with no one else to rely on.”
With his task completed, Deckard got back outside, threw the remains of the disposable cameras in the trash and drove to the airport. They turned in the rental car, stashed away the old passports, pocketed the new ones, and then went to the ticket counter. One of Bill’s Liquid Sky cutouts, a shell company in Singapore, had already purchased their tickets with their new aliases.
Flying Emirates Airlines made any American airline company look like a dive bar with a blinking neon light, in the window where all you could order was warm cans of Budweiser beer. There was plenty of room to spread out, even when flying in the economy class. The service and the food were first-rate, unlike the soggy sandwiches you get on American Airlines or Delta.
Nadeesha continued working on her tablet before reading a newspaper, an Arabic language newspaper. Deckard had some suspicions about what she did when she was in the Army, but he couldn’t ask here and she wouldn’t answer him anyway. He heard about a cell of female intelligence operatives within JSOC. Ramon had mentioned The Harem to him at the party.
She read Arabic, but didn’t look it. More likely she was from Southern India. Her skin was the darkest brown except for her pink lips. By contrast the white around her large brown eyes stood out even more, made her even more beautiful, if that were possible. She stood as tall as Deckard’s shoulders. Lithe and fit, Deckard had not a single doubt that as an intelligence operative, she was able to elicit any information from any man on the planet.
He would give her his M4 and his MC-5 parachute any day, all she had to do was ask.
She knew English and Arabic, probably Hindi too. With her ethnic background she was able to blend in with a multitude of different cultures. She had a mouth on her too. That came from field work, from working around people like Deckard, and probably from getting treated like shit by far too many of them.
They ate their food in silence. Nadeesha then put her headphones on, crossed her arms, and watched an in-flight movie on the screen mounted to the seat in front of her. Deckard pulled out a book he had bought in the airport in Hamburg. He tried to read, but had trouble concentrating.
He couldn’t stop thinking about what he could be walking into in Dubai.
Sometime during the flight they both drifted off to sleep and only woke up when the flight attendants turned the cabin lights on as they prepared to land. Looking out the window, Deckard could see the city lit up in blue and gold in the night. As the Emirates Airlines jet pulled up to the terminal, Deckard and Nadeesha grabbed their carry-ons. The terminal was ultra-modern with slick chromed metal everywhere, mirrors on the ceilings, and artificial palm trees lining the courseway.
They paid no mind to the shops or roped-off Ferraris parked in the middle of the terminal. Although neither of them knew it of each other, both had been through this airport and operated in Dubai previously.
After clearing customs with their man and wife matching passports, they rented another car. This time Nadeesha took the wheel. It was her mission and she was going to be running it. Good thing they were not in Saudi Arabia, Deckard recalled. Otherwise, she wouldn’t have been allowed to drive even if she wanted to due to the strict Sharia law in place.
Hitting the road, it was only a twenty-minute drive to their hotel. They checked in and got a room with a single king-sized bed to stick with their cover. It was a five-star hotel, not far from the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. Deckard sat down on the bed and flipped on the television. He was starting to get used to the idea that he was just along for the ride and would have to react to whatever his teammate threw at him.
“I have to get ready,” she said as she opened her suitcase. “He will be here in a few hours.”
For once she didn’t blow him off.
“The target. He stays in this hotel whenever he flies in to Dubai for business. He is a financier for some bad people who do bad things in this part of the world.”
“I’m used to improvising on the fly, but I should tell you that, like anyone else, I can perform better when I know what my task and purpose is ahead of time.”
“You are my overwatch element,” she said as she swept her black hair over her shoulders. “Our information is that he stays here every time and that he likes to indulge in things that are hareem back in his home country.”
“And alcohol, but if I throw myself at him he will forget all about the hookers.”
“You just keep tabs on me downstairs in the bar or wherever he wants to take me. I need you to go out and run some errands before he gets here. Buy a couple cell phones, SIM cards, and then gas them up with phone cards. I need a way to alert you if something is wrong.”
Deckard nodded and took his passport and some local currency with him. Driving to the nearest shopping mall, he parked and walked through the sliding doors. It was absolutely freezing inside. Apparently the royal family wanted to show off to the rest of the world that, despite living in the desert, they had the best air conditioning that money could buy.
He found an electronics store and picked up a couple of cellular phones, installed the SIM cards, and then bought a bunch of phone cards. Back at the hotel he plugged both phones into the electrical outlets to make sure they had a charge.
The bathroom door opened and Nadeesha walked out with a towel wrapped around her body. She had just gotten out of the shower. A red cocktail dress hung in the closet on a hanger.
“If you need to take a shower, do it now because I need time to get ready.”
She wasn’t kidding. A makeup kit was laid out on the bed.
Deckard figured she was trying to drop a hint on him, and so he took a shower and changed into some fresh clothes. Henderson had made a postmortem clothing donation, Diesel jeans, another button-down shirt, and black shoes. When he came out of the bathroom, still drying his hair, Nadeesha was standing over her makeup case. She had somehow fit herself into the impossibly tight dress. The shoulder straps were undone and hung off her brown shoulders. Her chest looked like it was about to burst out of the dress at any moment.
“Come here,” she said as she turned around.
All business, Deckard told himself as he zipped up her dress.
“Take one of the cell phones. I programmed each phone’s number into the other. There is an app on the phone that you can press with one tap and it will bring up a distress message on the other phone. There is also a geo-location feature in case you lose track of me.”
Then, she turned her head to look back at him out of the corner of her eye.
“Don’t lose me,” she stated flatly.
“Good. Now go find something to do, and be ready for me in the bar downstairs in forty-five minutes. I have to take care of a few things.”
“Which of us is going to take this guy out, or both?”
“I handle that. I will call you when its done and for a pickup.”
Deckard grabbed one of the cell phones and pulled out the charger. Nadeesha tugged at the top of her dress to try to get comfortable in it. She did sexy amazingly well, but clearly she felt more comfortable doing shorts, a t-shirt, and a sub-machine gun. He didn’t blame her.
“Later,” he said as he closed the door behind him.
Outside, Deckard returned to their rental. Inside, he quickly rolled down the windows and blasted the air conditioning.
He did have something to do before they got started. While at the shopping mall he had also picked up an 11-piece steak knife cutting set. Using some duct tape he gotten at the hardware store, he cut pieces of cardboard and made improvised sheathes by folding the cardboard back on itself.
Then, he rolled back his sleeves, put the steak knives in their sheaths, and pressed them under his forearms while ringing rolls of duct tape over the cardboard and around his forearms. Once both knives were in place he rolled his sleeves back down. He would have to be careful. The improvised weapons would be concealed better if he was wearing a jacket, which he would if they ended up in another venue with mega air conditioning but otherwise it would just look out of place in the desert heat.
Even at night, the temperature would only drop from about 110 during the day down to about 95 degrees. It still felt like staring into a blow dryer, and it was almost 11pm. Locking up the car, he made his way back into the hotel and took a seat at the end of the bar.
His cell phone began to vibrate. It was Nadeesha texting him to announce that she would be down in a few minutes. Deckard walked into the bar and sat at a table where he could keep an eye on the entrance, the bar itself, and most of the tables. When the waitress arrived, he ordered a beer. Drinking was permissible for non-Muslims.
As he sipped the beer, his mind staggered for a moment as he wondered who was mean-mugging him across the bar. He didn’t even recognize his reflection in the mirror anymore. Although he was still in his thirties, he had grown old, gone through several more life cycles than most people do. He was bitter. Restless.
War was the only time the world made sense to him. Putting boots to asses was the only satisfaction he really had. It was something he was good at and something he kept doing because he enjoyed it. There were a lot of assholes in this world and he liked putting them out of business.
His self-reflection was thankfully broken as Nadeesha walked through the door. With her hair and makeup done up she could have graced the cover of any magazine she chose. Whoever this Arab financier was, he didn’t stand a chance. She’d probably murder him and then Deckard in their sleep before the night was over.
Nadeesha slid onto a stool at the bar with her back to him. She ordered a drink and shot down two men before it even arrived. They were fat Arabs, but not the right fat Arab.
Ten minutes later, he showed up. The Arab financier had the physique of a hippopotamus and a head shaped like a perfect egg. He wore a blue trainer outfit and tennis shoes. He clearly didn’t do much training, but this was the fashion in some parts of the world. Deckard pegged him as Lebanese. Probably Hezbollah.
As the bartender brought him a Martini, Nadeesha slid off her seat and approached him.
That was when a British expat decided to introduce herself to Deckard.
“Hi, I’m Audrey.”
Deckard reached out and shook her hand, smiling back at her.
“Jon,” he said, using the alias name on his passport. “Would you like to have a seat?”
“I thought I might trouble you for a light, but yes I would.” She sat down across from him.
Deckard didn’t mind, he kind of stood out sitting by himself.
They made small talk while he occasionally eyeballed Nadeesha and her prey. Audrey was in Dubai to spend a semester teaching English in a girls school. Technically she was doing her fellowship for her PhD back in the UK, but she needed to pick up some scratch in the meantime. Deckard offered vague details about himself, gave his cover without mentioning that he was “married” to the woman across the bar for obvious reasons.
Twenty minutes later found Nadeesha and the target walking out, arm in arm. Deckard sincerely hoped that this was a wham, bam, thank you ma’am type deal because he didn’t want to chase the would-be lovebirds all over town. No need to wine and dine.
“Be right back love, have to find the rest room.”
“Oh, see you soon!” Audrey said.
Deckard was relieved when he saw the couple heading for the elevators. He watched the digital readout above the elevator tick up and stop at the 21st floor. She was keeping this easy by making sure she took him to their room. He had the key card so if it got ugly he would be inside the room in seconds.
Jumping in the second elevator he hit the button for the 21st floor. The doors opened and Deckard stepped into the hall just in time to hear the door to their room slam shut. He hung out by a vending machine, pretending to try to jam a bill in it whenever someone walked by. He kept his keycard under the Dirham bill. He kept the ruse up for ten minutes, alternating between pretending to look at his cell phone and playing with the vending machine.
Then the cell phone vibrated. Deckard looked at the screen which displayed a single word
In a half-dozen long strides, he was at the door and shoving the key card in the reader. The LED on the door flashed green and Deckard flung the door open.
The Arab was stripped naked and had Nadeesha pinned against the wall, holding her by the neck. The woman’s brown arms and legs struggled against his weight as he pressed her into the wall. Deckard used the edge of his shoe in a downward strike that nearly separated the Arab’s calf muscle.
Nadeesha fell to the ground. She wore only a black thong, apparently well into the game of seducing the Arab.
Deckard didn’t notice as he fixated on his target, knocking him to the ground. With both hands, the American commando reached for his inner wrists and seized the knives by their handles. Tearing both free from their sheaths, he held the steak knives in a reverse grip. The Arab struggled to his feet, favoring his uninjured leg, both hands clutching his chest.
Deckard assumed a boxer’s stance. He was about to go to work.
“Wait!” Nadeesha shouted at him. “The Stux is starting to take effect.”
The financier staggered back to the ground. He looked as he was having a heart attack.
“Succinylcholine,” Nadeesha informed him as she picked up an empty syringe from the floor.
As their target squirmed on the carpet, Deckard looked back and noticed her nakedness. He pretended not to note that she was perfectly endowed in all the right places.
“It is a paralytic, but he wasn’t about to sit still for me to stick him in a vein so I had to put it in the muscle. The drug takes longer to kick in that way.”
Finally, the Arab went still. The room suddenly began to stink.
“Son of a bitch,” Deckard cursed. “He had a jumper in the door.”
Deckard looked back, making sure he looked her in the eye. For just a moment, he saw it. The hard case was gone and he saw what she looked like when she was scared. It had been a close call.
“Pack your shit,” Deckard ordered. “We can peel out of here tonight. It will take the authorities a while to put this together if they do at all.”
The female operative didn’t bother with a bra and threw on a white button down and then a pair of black slacks from her suitcase. Deckard just tossed whatever was laying around into their bags. Her make up, her hair dryer, his deodorant, he didn’t care what ended up in what suitcase. They were packed in five minutes and out the door. They left the corpse in place, resting in his own filth. Nadeesha made sure she policed up the empty syringe though.
They left the hotel without checking out. Halfway to the airport, Deckard zeroed out both of their cell phones and dumped them into the trash along with the syringe. He winced as he tore the cardboard sheaths off his forearms and chucked them into the garbage with the knives. Nadeesha got on her tablet and made sure their reservations were confirmed for their flight out. She checked them both in before they dumped the rental car and walked into the airport.
Two hours later they were in the air, catching the red eye out of Dubai. Landing in Italy, they split up and took separate evasion routes. Nadeesha bounced around for a few days in Africa. Deckard flew to Bangkok and went overland into Cambodia where he dumped his married passport and reverted to his single passport. From there, he caught a flight to Indonesia, and then on to Madagascar. Finally he booked a flight back to Mauritius. Nadeesha got a flight from Kenya and landed on the island the morning that the news broke in major international television outlets that someone had been assassinated in a hotel in Dubai.
The suspects were still at large and Dubai was cooperating with Interpol and other international organizations to compile evidence. A week later it was clear that the trail had run cold in Europe.