DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 5B
September 2, 2011
* * *
Finishing his drink, Derek returned to his room. He had a decision to make. Whether Fidel’s people had arrested his hotel contact or not – and it seemed likely – it was now completely clear that his network was blown. The Cubans suspected he was an agent for someone and were delicately trying to prove it – hence last night’s surveillance at the dead-drop.
The only reason he could come up with for why they hadn’t arrested him, thrown him into an underground cell and attached a car battery to his testicles was the possibility that he wasn’t an agent and he actually could bring an international distribution deal to the CDC. But it meant they were really keeping an eye on him, which made his job that much more difficult.
Changing out of his suit, he sat down at the desk to write up a report. He spent several hours doing that, taking a break to eat a room service meal, then finishing up his report. He imagined that the Cubans would try to get a copy of it, and he hoped it was a very boring read. He also hoped that if they did read it and paid any attention to it, they would loosen their grip on him a bit, because one of his points in the report was his concern that the CDC executives weren’t being transparent about their technical manufacturing capabilities.
Maybe it would be a goad.
Finally, around eleven o’clock, he turned the TV on and changed into dark clothes. Once again he snuck out of the hotel. Then he began a series of short cab drives around Havana, finally getting dropped off about eight blocks from the ocean northwest of Havana.
He walked toward the beach, keeping to the shadows. Eventually he came across a series of beach houses. Many of them were rental homes, although some were owned by the elites of Cuban business and government.
Derek watched one of the houses for a very long time. It appeared abandoned. That gave him hope that the Agency’s backup plans hadn’t been blown like his initial network had been.
Moving out of the shadows, he approached the garage of the house and punched in a security code. A green light came on and the garage door rolled open. He slid under and got the garage door back down.
He flicked on a light.
Inside was a motorcycle, a Volkswagen, and several cases of equipment. He took a moment to do a quick search of the house to make sure no one was there. It was empty. Looking out a wall of windows, standing in the dark, he saw that the neighbors probably weren’t home either. It was a nice beach, though. White sand. A beach cabana. Propped on the neighbor’s dock were two kayaks.
Back in the garage, he opened up the containers. One of them held climbing gear and burglar tools. Another held recon gear – a night vision monocular, infrared camera, a small parabolic microphone, bugs.
A third contained weapons. He selected a Beretta 9mm, slammed in a cartridge, and pocketed an extra.
Tonight was just recon. He took the night vision gear and the camera, fired up the motorcycle, and headed toward the CBC.
* * *
Derek struggled upward, spinning wildly in the crashing waves. His lungs burned, adrenaline coursed through him, burning like acid in his veins. Another wave spun him in circles. Then he was free. He sucked in air just before another wave crashed over him.
He struggled up again and was struck on the shoulder by something. Flailing out, he grabbed it.
It was his paddle. Thank God!
Clinging to it, he stared around in the inky black. Another wave crashed over him. Coughing, sputtering, he struggled to pull out his tiny flashlight. Raising it above his head as best he could, he flashed it around.
Way off in the distance he thought he saw the kayak. Clinging to the paddle, he started to swim in that direction. Derek was a strong swimmer. Only recently discharged from the U.S. Army with the brand new rank of Colonel, he was U.S. Special Forces. He was in peak condition. But swimming in a storm like this wasn’t about swimming. It was madness. It was about survival.
There was no straight line.
He caught a wave and surfed atop it, crashing deep, almost losing his grip on the paddle, which made swimming almost impossible.
And then he saw it. The kayak.
For certain. A good fifty feet away.
He thrashed toward it, the strength in his arms seeping away. It seemed the harder he swam the further away it grew.
Derek caught another wave, rose high, then found himself somersaulting through the air, crashing into a trough. He clung to the paddle. It was his lifeline. His only hope.
And the kayak smashed into him. The bow slammed into his head. Pain exploded and he felt consciousness start to slip away. With strength born of desperation he jammed the paddle into the cockpit and snagged one hand in the carry-rope on the bow.
A wave caught the kayak and sent it spinning again. Pain shuddered through his wrist and shoulder as the kayak hit him again. He gripped the rope with both hands and held on.