DIRE STRAITS, Chapter 8A
September 19, 2011
Derek was one of thousands on bikes, motorcycles and scooters and he felt a level of anonymity he hadn’t felt in a car. Still, he was cautious, driving circuitously through the city. He drove around the CBC complex, not seeing much different. Security didn’t seem any higher. There were more cars in the complex. He knew from his brief tour that two of the manufacturing plants ran around the clock, but the R&D and administrative areas did not.
He drove the scooter past the safe house, seeing nothing. Derek drove the scooter several blocks away and parked it. Walking back toward the safe house, he found an isolated spot to keep an eye on the property, a brick wall bordering a row of apartment buildings. He sat in the shade of a eucalyptus, back against the wall, out of sight, watching people come and go. There was no movement in the house and no indication anyone was watching the house.
It was possible the Cubans had set up some sort of watch in the apartment building.
Derek knew paranoia from being in war zones, but that was a different kind of paranoia than he was experiencing in Cuba, where you trusted no one and suspected everyone.
In the Army, you trusted your squad and your partner, your fellow soldiers. They weren’t all trustworthy, but it gave you at least the illusion that someone had your back. As far as he was concerned, the CIA had given him a complete illusion of support. It all went to hell within a matter of hours. And he no longer trusted any of their backup plans.
As it grew dark, the area became even quieter. Leaving his watching spot, he began to stair-step around the area on foot, making sure he wasn’t being watched. When he was confident he wasn’t, he circled close to buildings near the ocean, and made his way to the beach. In the dark, he jogged down the waterline until he came to the safe house, which was dark.
He crouched in the sand and watched the house for a while. Still nothing.
He entered through the rear door to the garage and made a quick search of the house in the dark using night vision goggles stored in the garage. Standing in the front room, he peered out the windows at the street and the apartment building, scanning each window for any indication someone was watching the house. After a methodical scan, he decided he was probably safe.
In a back room was a computer. Next to the computer was a CD-ROM in a jewel case. Booting up the computer, Derek slid the CD into the drive. The CD-ROM apparently contained a few dozen photographs. A scan through them showed them to be shots of Havana – the beach, historical buildings, the Marecon.
Derek double-clicked on Photo 04, of the Marecon, waves crashing over the breakwall.
He typed: 8X3_$/>Fgi and pressed Enter.
The screen went blank except for a small square requiring an entry code.
Derek typed: CCcF*^@Zy+. But didn’t hit Enter. Enter would cause the DVD to be erased.
The photograph of the Marecon reappeared, then pixels slowly faded out until a message was visible.
Network blown. Exfil ASAP. Exfil 3 suggested.
Derek glanced at his watch. The Agency had sent him out with three contingency plans for leaving the country. One was to simply go to the airport and fly out as fast as he could. The second was to get to the Swiss Embassy. From there a route out of the country would be set in place.
Exfiltration #3 was more complicated. He was to get to a spot on the Cuba coast northwest of Havana on any given night by 2:45 AM. There was an exactly 15-minute window when a small boat would be available to get him off the island to a larger vessel waiting several miles off the coast.
There were other contingency plans, but getting all the way across the island to Guantanamo Bay was only useful if you were close to Guantanamo Bay.
Derek looked at his watch. It was just past midnight. Time to get moving. He typed in a set of figures that caused the CD to be deleted as well as cleaning the computer’s cache and ROM. He didn’t completely understand how the tech wizards at Langley and Meade made it work, but he’d take their word for it.
Sliding into the garage, he started packing for the trip out.