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C H A P T E R  F O U R



7 MAY, 1983


        18. 19. 20…

        The shape of each digit flicked to the next, and the next. 

        Cecilia tried not to let the numbers on the face of the watch impact her accretion of each heartbeat. She pushed her fingers harder against her neck to remind herself of what she was meant to be counting. 

        31. 32. 33–

        The watch reached the 30-second mark and Cecilia withdrew her fingers, doubling her count. She picked up a pencil and pad of paper from the coarse scarlet carpet at her side, scrawling her sum at the base of a column of similar numbers, each accompanied by a date and time.


        She studied the column for a moment, struggling to retain enough cohesive thought to remember what all of it meant as the midday heat sapped her of all inclination to do anything but nothing at all. She resigned herself to apathy and set down the notepad once more, her eyes wandering to the sight beyond the rusted cast iron railing. 

        A bustling street severed this building from the one ahead. It was packed from curb to curb with the shapes of people headed in every direction, clad in either extreme of worn, dull workwear or brightly-colored dresses and wrappings. Cecilia allowed her gaze to linger on one figure at a time, wondering who they were, where they had come from, or where they were headed. 

        She wished she could know the same for herself.

        A Tanzanian in a neatly pressed suit called out a greeting to a man in coveralls pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with burlap sacks. The businessman bravely cut across the busy street just to have a further word with his friend, causing an approaching dala dala to lay on its horn as it rumbled around him. They shook hands and continued their conversation gaily as if narrowly avoiding catastrophe was nothing to give pause to. A woman passing the pair was in the thick of chastising her boy for dashing out into the street to retrieve a ball and now pulled him along firmly by his wrist. A peddler just across the street offered strands of flowers to passersby, the fragrance of the blooms wafting upwards to where Cecilia sat.

        Her perch was a balcony that doubled as an awning for the shop below. The owner, Moses, sold maize flour and imported refreshments and dabbled in the distribution of newspapers on the side. It was lucrative enough of a business to support his wife, Neema, and their daughter, all of whom lived comfortably in the apartment above the store. The Makoyes had been her hosts since she had come to them three days prior.

        There was little she could recall of what had happened in the immediate moments before she succumbed to the pitch darkness of the jungle in what she had assumed to be her final rest. She had run the events of that night through her mind over and over again for the purpose of recording as accurate a timeline of events as she could on the worn pages of her notepad, and the more she recounted it, the less real it seemed. 

        She remembered the cool, smooth touch of the river rocks below her as they dug into her hands and knees, and she remembered pulling the thick strap of Davy’s water-laden vest as if it were their lifeline, gripping it so tightly that it was wet with blood as well. She remembered hearing him finally cough and gasp for air, just once, before she blacked out. But above all, and clear as day, she could remember the sight of what no words or reason could explain.

        That thing–the memory of it, anyways–had been her waking vision when she had come to. She had opened her eyes, and directly above her was the yawning glow of the moon in the expanse of stars. Although she could feel herself moving, the endless mural above her stood still. She had been convinced that she was traversing on to the next life until the rest of her senses reawakened and the deep, groaning rumble of a truck underneath her gently informed her that she was still very much alive. She had been lying in the bed of a mud-encrusted pickup amongst a jumble of plastic crates, and to her side sat Davy, his head turned to the touch of dawn’s light on the horizon. She had barely recognized him at first; all he had retained from his prior guise were his boots, which were so coated with dirt that they were hardly distinguishable. He had left behind all but a dark shirt and pocketed trousers of the same color, which were similarly stained with the red earth. Wrapped tightly around his right forearm arm was a strip of fabric torn from Cecilia’s jacket.

        She later learned from the driver, Nchimbi, that he had found them–or Davy, rather–walking alongside a seldom-used road a dozen or so miles from his village. Nchimbi had been returning from a neighboring town after dropping off a load of crops when he spotted them. Davy had been carrying her over his shoulders for at least two miles, the Tanzanian had figured. Davy told Nchimbi that they were part of a tour group and had become separated from the rest at some point during the previous day. Nchimbi had kindly offered to take them to his home in the village for food and water, and then to his cousin Moses in Moshi a few hours further down the road so that they could make arrangements to return to the US.

        Cecilia breathed in deeply, allowing the hot, humid air to soothe the dull ache in the root of her lungs. She pressed her hand against her sternum, feeling her chest slowly sink as she exhaled. 

She had been monitoring her health closely to avoid worry on behalf of Neema, who had fussed over         Cecilia–a complete stranger–as though she were family over the course of the past three days. Cecilia had been running a fever when she arrived in Moshi, which Neema tenderly treated as a result of her night spent cold and wet in the jungle, rather than the acute radiation sickness it really was. 

        Cecilia knew better than to grow hopeful in the seemingly-rapid improvement of her condition. She was well aware that the latent stage of her exposure was nothing but borrowed time. She could have days, weeks… There was no way to measure the severity of cell death or her lymphocyte count to be certain, so she did the best she could by simply keeping an eye on her resting heart rate. Neema did the rest for her by shoving a thermometer under her tongue several times a day, reading the output with either a disappointed “tsk” or a satisfied smile. Cecilia did what she could with this data.

        Another blare of a horn from the street pulled her out of her contemplative state. She peered over the edge of the balcony to see Davy emerge from the masses, his head low and his pace brisk. His efforts did little to dissuade the honks and lively calls of “Hey, mzungu!” that followed him across the street.

        She closed her notepad, marking the page with her pencil, and sat up straighter. The voice of Moses greeting Davy bellowed from below, followed by the sound of footsteps on the stairs. The Makoye child was down for her nap, and Cecilia silently implored Davy to meet their host’s hospitality with the bare minimum of proper social graces by not disturbing the peace of the quiet apartment upon his entrance. 

        Through the glass sliding door, Cecilia heard the muffled voice of Neema ushering him in. The two exchanged a few brief words that Cecilia couldn’t make out before the balcony door slid open and Davy emerged. He closed the door behind him and acknowledged Cecilia’s presence with nothing more than a glance in her direction. Exhaling deeply, he approached the railing, folding his arms over the top and leaning against it. 

        He seemed to be in the process of collecting his thoughts, and Cecilia allowed him a moment to do so.

A few loose, wet strands of hair curled over his brow, which had been constantly beaded with sweat for what seemed like the entirety of their time in Moshi. He sported a fashionable–if not somewhat outdated–polyester shirt and pants. The shirt, too, was most often accompanied by a ring of sweat around the collar. It was an almost comical sight, seeing someone of his stature in such an ensemble, but he was overall strikingly convincing in his attempt to emulate an ordinary Westerner. 

        He glanced at his watch, then out over the landscape beyond the city. Barely visible beyond the trees and rooftops was the peak of Kilimanjaro, much closer than it had been the night they had flown in. A tuft of white clouds skirted the mountain, shrouding the greenery at its base in roving shadows. 

        He reached into the front pocket of his shirt and withdrew a cigarette, most likely obtained from Moses, who, despite his wife’s wishes for his health, took the opportunity to light one or two up when Neema wasn’t around. Davy produced a scratched metal lighter from his back pocket and proceeded to flick the spark wheel, breaking the silence with a series of clicks. A small flame finally leaped up and he brought the lighter to the end of his cigarette. 

        They had barely shared any words over the course of the past three days, which should have been suspicious to the Makoyes if not for the fact that Davy had hardly been around at all, often disappearing into the dark streets in the dead of night or the middle of the day and returning hours later for a meal and a few pleasantries with their hosts before departing once more. Perhaps she should have been more concerned than she was, but little made sense anymore and all she knew for certain was that she needed a way out. He seemed keen on finding a way to make such a thing happen, so she had no complaint about him coming and going.

        “Have you been feeling strange at all?” Cecilia said finally.

The crook of his eyebrow twitched upward slightly, but he kept his attention directed towards the street.

        “No,” he said, the curtness of his word sending a puff of smoke over the edge of the balcony. The dried red flecks on his collar said otherwise. 

        Cecilia thought it best not to push the subject further. She cleared her throat. “I was talking to Neema today. There’s a bus that can take us straight to Dar es Sal–”

        “We’re not going to Dar es Salaam.”

        Cecilia found herself considerably annoyed by his interruption. Her head lolled back against the breezeblocks behind her as she tilted it upwards, watching as the smoke was pulled in circles above their heads by a lazily-spinning fan. “Where are we going, then? Because…” She trailed off, the heat and her general malaise stealing her desire to challenge him any further. She set her elbow against her knee and propped her chin up with her hand, looking out over the rooftops to her side with half-lidded eyes.

        “Suppose we go to Dar,” Davy said, exhaling a long wisp of smoke and turning his head in her direction, “and we walk into the embassy. What would you tell them?” 

        Cecilia didn’t move from her defeated slant. His malign prodding did nothing more than to drive home the realization she had come to quite early on in their stay. Despite this, she decided to humor him.

        “I’d tell them everything.”

        “Hm.” He took a long pull from the cigarette, nodding his head. “Everything?”

        Cecilia pressed her lips together as the familiar gnawing of hopelessness hollowed her chest. Somehow, he stood before her and alluded to the entirety of what they had been through as if it could be brushed off like a bad day. A little traffic on the Autobahn, but–hey–he made it to work on time. Spilled coffee on his new tie, but such a thing can be easily remedied with a fresh change. While she felt herself slowly losing her grip on her sanity, her reality, he appeared to have already moved on. The thought of it filled her with rage.

        “Did you–Did you not go through–and see–exactly the same things as I did?” Cecilia spat, looking up at him. “Am I losing my mind? Aren’t you…” She slid her hands over her face, trying to rub away the vision that haunted her every time she closed her eyes. “Is it the end of the fucking world?” she mumbled, a bitter laugh suddenly rising like bile in her throat. Cecilia chuckled twice, a tear sliding down her cheek. She quickly wiped it away.

        He said nothing. She could sense him shifting his weight, however, and she removed her hands from her eyes to see him stepping away from the railing. He backed himself against the opposite wall and slowly slid down it into a seated position, extending a leg outward as he reclined against the brick. He appeared quite unfazed as he continued to puff away on his cigarette.

        “Have you seen things like it before?” Cecilia muttered.

        Davy’s eyes scanned over the buildings ahead as he sat there, unhurried in giving her a response. He finally provided a shake of his head, then turned it to face her. 

        She hardly had the opportunity until now to fully digest his countenance. Recently-formed dark circles under his eyes made him appear older, but Cecilia figured him to be in his thirties. His coarse mustache was accompanied now by an unkempt growth of stubble on his jaw and chin, and the longest strands of his brown hair curled against the back of his collar. From the light that penetrated his irises from the side, they appeared to not be as dark as she had previously thought–more of a shade of green. They bore into her from across the balcony, and Cecilia averted her gaze.

        “And here I thought you were the expert,” he said. 

        Cecilia was caught off-guard by the disparaging nature of the remark. Still, she sought to take advantage of his first attempts at a real dialogue. “I’m a scientist, Captain–”

        “Don’t call me that.”

        “Sorry…” She squeezed the bridge of her nose and rolled her fist upwards against her forehead. “There isn’t a scientific explanation for what happened at CPM.” She sighed. “I mean–the explosion, the radiation… sure. It makes sense. But everything else…” She lowered her hand and looked up at him again, this time with renewed animosity. “What was it that you did? You–you and the others did something to the generators, didn’t you?”

        “Hm…” He pursed his lips and allowed his narrowed eyes to wander up to the ceiling, an exaggerated imitation of one lost in thought. He paused for a moment as smoke trailed from his nostrils, then shook his head. “No. No, I don’t think so.”

        “But you were ordered to do something,” Cecilia pressed. “Something backfired, or–or–”

        “Listen, kid,” Davy said tiredly, flicking the remainder of his cigarette through the railing. “Don’t waste your breath.” He lowered his chin and shot a cautionary look at her, cutting off her urge to insist. “Here’s some personal advice, and this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of offer from me, so do with it what you will.” 

        Cecilia chewed on her lower lip, waiting for him to continue.

        “You’re going to want to come out of this as clean as you can, aren’t you?” He emphasized his question by raising his eyebrows, awaiting her response.

        “Yes,” Cecilia said flatly.

        “Because it’s not looking too good for you, as far as your association with the Soviets goes.”

        “I’m not associating with the Soviets–”

        “Who’s the only other person who can back up your account of everything that happened?”


        “And how much do I know about you?”

        Cecilia frowned, narrowing her eyes. “I don’t know, how much do you know about me?”

        “Well,” Davy began, checking his watch again. “I know of your correspondence with Abramov’s staff over the past… well, about six months, right? I know about Dr. Welsh, your old professor–Did you know he was a member of the communist party, by the way? All of those confidential Soviet reports and documents that Kaneshiro was somehow able to provide you with… I remember every single one–and how we managed to run each of them out of the USSR.”

        Cecilia shrank down into herself, blinking slowly. 

        “There’s a reason the Soviets insisted that you be the one to meet with Abramov. Let’s just say, you weren’t necessarily chosen because you were Kaneshiro’s best and brightest–”

        “I’m not–I’m not some sort of.. spy–”

        “I didn’t say you were. But you see where I’m going with this.” Davy straightened up, resting his forearm on his upright knee and motioning to her. “You and me, we aren’t friends just because we made it out. I don’t want to have a heart-to-heart about what happened. I’m not trying to connect the dots.”


        “Getting us both out of here alive is where this ends.” He gestured once more to the space between them. “No, I’m not going to kill you. You’ve gotten yourself mixed up in some shit that you don’t fully understand, and you know what–I do feel sorry for you. But I have to cover my ass, too. I suggest you stop focusing on what happened and start thinking about what your next move will be.” He started to recline once more, then straightened up again. “And don’t antagonize me, or you’re going to hear about all of your Soviet correspondents right back from someone on the other side of a two-way mirror.”

        Cecilia was stunned. She could feel her eyes glazing over as Davy, unperturbed, leaned back against the wall once more, signifying the end of the longest arrangement of words she had ever heard him string together. 

        He slid his hand into his back pocket again and withdrew the lighter, sliding it across the carpet towards her. Cecilia leaned forward and collected it, confused. Davy nodded towards the notepad at her side. 

        “Last piece of advice. Burn it.” With the demand, he rose, reaching for the handle of the sliding door. “And say your goodbyes.” 

        He disappeared inside, leaving Cecilia holding her precious summation of resurfaced memories in one hand and its imminent destruction in the other.

        She gathered her feet under herself and stood. No longer protected by the waning sliver of shade, the sun beat down on her, exacerbating the feverish heat that already afflicted her. She flipped to the page on which she had detailed all she could remember from that night, her eyes trailing down the lines filled with scratched-out sentences and question marks. Arrows weaving across the page indicated where she had mistakenly placed events and later changed their order as more memories came to her.

        Cecilia began to tear out the page, then stopped. Perhaps he was right. 

        She summoned a flame from the lighter and held it to the corner of the thin pad of paper. The flame caught quickly, peeling up from the corner and slowly swallowing up the breadth of it. The blackened edges curled upwards, claiming the fading graphite markings forever. As the hungry flame approached the corner of the binding she held, she blew it out. 

        Cecilia held it for a moment as it smoldered, then smoked. She felt suddenly queasy, not from her ill health, but rather from the prospect that she was now terribly alone in her plight. She tossed the singed corner of binding out onto the street below, watching as it cartwheeled for a moment, then was swiftly ground into the dirt under the wheels of a passing dala dala.

        She slid open the door and stepped into the cool darkness of the apartment. Neema appeared from the small kitchenette carrying a plate of steaming ugali. She was a tall Maasai woman with strikingly high cheekbones and closely-cropped hair.

        “You are leaving so soon, Si-si?” Neema sighed, beaming in Cecilia’s direction as she set down the plate in front of Moses, who eagerly began to tuck in to the midday meal. She moved around the small table to help the toddler up onto her chair, then gave her husband’s shoulder a squeeze as she passed by once again.

        Moses was a good half-head shorter than his wife, but such a difference was truly only noticeable when he sat still; he was an animated, spirited man who commanded just as much of a presence with how much he enjoyed talking up himself and his escapades to anyone willing to lend an ear. Cecilia would miss his stories.

        “I’m afraid so,” Cecilia said, glancing towards the cramped entryway where Davy waited. “We can’t thank you enough for your hospitality.”

        “Karibu sana, sister. You have brought joy into our home.” Neema approached Cecilia with outstretched arms, pulling her into a tight embrace. Cecilia smiled against her shoulder, returning the gesture.

        “I wish I had something to give you in return,” Cecilia said quietly, feeling tears welling in her eyes. She had spoken so little truth to these good people in the past few days, but this she meant. “You’ve been so kind to us.”

        “Tutakutana tena, mwanangu. You owe us nothing but the promise of a safe return to your family.” She pulled away and gave Cecilia’s shoulders a squeeze, grinning widely. “Know that you are always welcome in our home.”

        Cecilia smiled. “Thank you as well, Moses,” she said, leaning to direct her gratitude in his direction. 

        “Karibu sana,” he said, distracted, his mouth half-full of food. “We will miss you, Si-si.”

        Cecilia begrudgingly made her way to the door, crouching to pull on the battered old sneakers that Neema had given her. She took her time lacing them up, waiting for the tears to clear from her eyes. Part of her wanted to remain here, in the humble haven of the Makoye home, because it had been far too long since anyone had treated her like family. It had been far too long since she had felt a mother’s warmth. 

        Davy opened the door and stepped out into the stairwell. As Cecilia turned her attention to the other shoe, she felt a light pull on her sleeve. She turned her head to the side and came face-to-face with the Makoye girl, who had somehow quietly liberated herself from her spot at the table. 

        “Hey,” Cecilia said, giving her a warm smile.

        “Bah bah sississi.” She opened and closed her fists excitedly, holding them out to Cecilia.

        “Bye-bye, Ira.” Cecilia took one of her little fists and planted a kiss on it. “Now go back to your mama before you get in trouble.”

        The girl giggled quietly as if her momentary escape would be just her and Cecilia’s little secret. She turned around to toddle back into the kitchen, and Cecilia straightened up. 

        “Sorry,” she muttered in Davy’s direction as she stepped through the door and pulled it shut behind her. She wanted to linger for a moment, but he was already halfway down the stairs and seemed to have no intention of waiting. 

        She followed suit and weaved around the displays in Moses’ tiny shop, passing the gaudy–yet comfortingly familiar–soft drink and snack logos that only served to remind her of a country she feared she would never be able to return to. The strung-up newspapers she passed still mentioned nothing of what had transpired not all that far from here less than a week ago, and she began to wonder which world power was behind the damage control efforts. 

        Whoever was covering it up was doing a hell of a job.

        Davy paused at the entrance of the shop. He had shrugged on a leather jacket and held out an old military-style hat and a button-up shirt.

        “Hide your hair.”

        Cecilia took the clothing and shrugged the shirt over the one she was wearing, then followed with the cap. She tucked her loose strands of hair up under the band, turning to face Davy expectantly. He tugged at the shoulders of the shirt, then pulled the visor of her hat down lower with somewhat excessive force, causing her to buckle slightly and wobble backward. Before she could regain her balance he was off again, leaving her to jog after him as he stepped off of the curb to cross the busy street.

        “Where are we going?” she called, dodging other pedestrians and coming up alongside him once more. She looked back to take one last glance at the balcony of the Makoyes’ home. She longed to at least stay for another meal with them, to revel in their warmth one last time before venturing back out into the unknown.

        She was pulled out of her silent, bittersweet goodbye by a momentum-halting yank on the collar of her shirt. She spun her head around and stumbled back a pace just as a car whizzed past mere inches from her feet. 

        “Pay attention,” Davy growled, releasing his hold as they continued across the street.

        “Sorry,” she mumbled again and matched her pace to his. 

        They followed the sidewalk for a block or two in silence before turning off down an alley. Davy seemed to know where he was going, which was of some comfort to Cecilia, who remembered none of it from their way in several days prior. 

        As they walked, the alleys and streets grew less heavily populated and more run down as they passed between districts. Lines tacked with clothing were strung between the buildings overhead, sending flickers of shadows over them as they moved. Davy reached into the band of his trousers and withdrew a handgun.

        “Jesus,” Cecilia breathed, her heart suddenly racing. “Where did you… Are you going to need that for something?”

        He said nothing as he released the magazine, checking it diligently and clicking it back into place. He slid the gun under his waistband again, pulling the bottom of his jacket over the protruding grip. 

        They emerged from another alley just as a procession of two police cars and a policeman on a motorbike sped past on the adjacent street. None of their lights were on, but Cecilia closed her eyes for a moment, trying to stay the pounding of her heart. 

        “Please tell me they’re not here for us,” she said quietly, as if they could hear her as they disappeared around a corner at the intersection down the road.

        “They shouldn’t be.”

        Davy continued across the street, and they fell into silence once more. Cecilia couldn’t deny feeling slightly more at ease knowing that Davy had a weapon, but the thought that he would feel the need to have one at all did little to reassure her further. A flash of scarlet caught her eye as her gaze traveled up his arm.

        Neema had kept him supplied with fresh bandages for his wound, which he had incessantly denied her help in dressing. Cecilia knew that a bullet wound would have quite literally blown a hole through their cover story, but she wished that Davy had been a little more amiable toward their hosts. 

        “You’re bleeding,” she said.

        “It happens.”

        Before Cecilia could say more, Davy slowed, scanned the street, and turned into an open doorway a step up from the sidewalk.

        Cecilia followed suit and suddenly found herself in what seemed to be a grimy, smoke-filled bar. It was surprisingly busy for it only being the early afternoon, but there was enough open space still for Cecilia to properly take in her surroundings. 

        There were a handful of hookah pipes allotted to three raised seating areas opposite the bar. Groups of men sat on the cracked cushions that semi-circled them as they discussed whatever business it was that brought them to such a location at such a time of day.

        Cecilia hung back, unsure if Davy expected her to follow him all the way in. She was already garnering stares from a few patrons, so she kept her head low as she waited close to the door. An out-of-place, dark-haired Caucasian man sat at the bar, his nose buried in a newspaper as he sipped the foam from a pint of vaguely urine-colored beer. He wore a pressed khaki racer jacket with a pair of sunglasses tucked into the front pocket, but seemed quite at ease in this environment despite his manicured appearance.

        Cecilia watched as Davy approached the man, then directed a word or two at him. The man looked up, a smile pulling at the slight wrinkles on his cheeks. The two clasped hands and pulled their shoulders together, then Davy leaned against the bar, his back to Cecilia. She strained to make out the stranger’s expression as he listened to whatever it was that Davy was saying to him. Davy turned to look at her over his shoulder, and almost simultaneously the man leaned over the bar to get a clearer look as well. Davy directed a nod to her, and Cecilia started moving around the handfuls of clientele, all drunk to varying degrees.

        As she neared, the stranger’s curious expression softened.

        “I must admit, I expected some sorta exotic, psycho femme fatale or something,” the man chuckled, extending a calloused hand. He was unquestionably American, undoubtedly a hotdog-eating New Yorker, and his breath reeked of alcohol. Cecilia didn’t know whether to take his remark as a compliment or an insult, and she certainly hoped he wasn’t going to be driving them anywhere.

        She took his hand. He gave a firm series of shakes, popping her wrist in the process.

        “Seen too many ‘a those Bond movies, I guess,” he offered, turning back to Davy. “Now,” he said, his tone changing as he addressed him. “This is gonna be a little different than what we discussed. They made a few changes to the arrangements.”

        Davy inhaled, pressing his fingers down either side of his mustache and pulling them to his chin as he leaned over the bar top.

        “What changes?” he hissed.

        The man seemed to have anticipated Davy’s reaction and held his hand up reassuringly, his eyebrows raised. “Ah-ah. This is a good thing. You’ve got those other guys turnin’ the town upside down lookin’ for ya. You never woulda made it out just the three of us.” Confident that he had convinced Davy, he continued. “First of all, I’m not the one driving you outta here.”

        Thank god.

        This didn’t appear to assuage Davy. He pursed his lips and straightened up, scanning the patrons of the bar. “Kai…” he cautioned, his jaw clenched.

        “My hands are tied, man, I’m sorry–Listen, the only way I was able to get out here at all was by getting on their payroll. It’s still good, alright? You’re still good with them.”

        “Whose payroll?” Cecilia stuttered.

        “Tell me how this is going to go down, Kai, right now,” Davy said, leaning in close to his contact’s face.

        Kai’s eyes flickered toward the door for a moment. “Hey, the party just walked in.”

        Davy and Cecilia turned to look in unison. Three more exceedingly out-of-place Caucasian men had just entered and began looking around as if they were taking mental note of every drunk in the building. One of them was dressed in a clean white business shirt and slacks, his sandy-colored hair neatly combed back as if he were an investor strolling down Wall Street. The man to his left wore the uniform of a sanitation worker, and the other wore a tourist outfit even more unforgivable than Davy’s.

        Business said something to Sanitation, and the small circus crossed the floor in Davy and Cecilia’s direction, drawing stares as they went.

        “You’ve got to be kidding me,” Davy breathed, turning back to Kai. His hand hovered above the band of his jacket.

        “Easy, easy. They’re with us. They’re cool,” Kai said.

        The trio came up alongside them at the bar, with Business taking his place close behind Cecilia while Sanitation and Tourist circled around Davy and Kai. By this point, the other patrons seemed to have lost interest in the spectacle and turned their attention once more to their glasses and pipes.

        “Just in time for a pint, fellas,” Kai joked, chuckling and rapping his knuckle on the bartop. The newcomers didn’t seem to share his knack for joviality. 

        Tourist reached around Davy and quickly frisked him, and almost simultaneously Cecilia felt Business’ hands do the same. Davy was visibly agitated by the action and scoffed as Tourist pulled the gun from his waistband and set it on the bar with a heavy, metallic thud. Business quickly reached forward and took it, sliding it into the back of his pants.

        “Right,” Tourist said with finality. “We’re going to walk outside. You and you,” he directed at Cecilia and Davy, “are going to get in the back seat of the white car. You,” he said to Kai, “will be in the sanitation truck. Let’s go.”

        Cecilia’s eyes widened in confusion as Business took hold of her arm and began to direct her back toward the door. 

        “Davy…?” She looked over her shoulder. He was also being pushed along and seemed less than pleased about it. He muttered something unintelligible–but scathing, by the intonation of it–towards Kai.

        They exited the bar and stepped back out into the blazing heat. Cecilia squinted as her eyes readjusted. At the curb was a white sanitation truck, and behind it was a similarly-colored sedan. As she was led towards the car she noticed that three Tanzanian policemen toting compact rifles were loitering in the rear of the truck. They sat upon the rear bumper, cigarettes teetering upon their lips as they watched the group pass. 

Business reached ahead and opened the rear door of the car, placing his hand on top of Cecila’s head and pushing her inside. Davy slid in next to her. The door was shut behind him, and Tourist took the wheel while Business took his seat on the passenger side, ahead of Davy.

        Cecilia watched through the windshield as the policemen on the sanitation truck ahead extinguished their cigarettes and took hold of the handles on the back. The rest of the entourage finished filing into the cab of the truck, and with a rumble, it lurched forward. The car sputtered to life and followed.

        A metallic clicking sound called Cecilia’s attention to the passenger seat, where Business had somehow produced a shotgun and was now feeding shotshells into it. He noticed her expression of apprehension. 

        “You’ll want to keep your head down if I have to use this, love,” he said, his r’s rounded in the unmistakable mark of an esteemed British accent.

        Davy turned in his seat with some difficulty, peering out the rear window. “Are you expecting to be followed?”

        “Well,” Business said as he planted the stock of the gun between his outermost leg and the car door, “we have a decoy crew en route to the airport. It sounds like they’ve gotten the attention of most of the riff-raff, so we should have a straight, clean shot to a smaller military airfield just east of the city.” He paused for a moment and glanced down the adjacent road as they continued through an intersection. “But, we’ve got to be prepared for anything with these guys–” he stopped himself and grinned, turning to face Davy. “Your guys, I should say.”

        Davy didn’t seem to be put at ease, but he softened any worry in his expression when he noticed Cecilia watching his reaction for any reason to be concerned. She sank lower in her seat and closed her eyes as the sun beat down on her from the window to her right. The heat trapped within the car only exacerbated the stench of body odor that seemed to be infused in the cushions, and her stomach churned as the car rounded a corner sharply. Sweat was beginning to dot her forehead under her hat and she swallowed forcefully, willing herself not to be sick.

        From her lower perspective, she could only barely see the clipped roofs of buildings on either side of the road as they sped onwards. Ahead, the policemen bobbed on the back of the sanitation truck, tossing a few nonchalant remarks back and forth amongst each other as though they weren’t perched precariously on the back of a moving vehicle with another following close behind. 

        The car began to slow, and a handheld radio squawked to life from the center console.

        “Got a policeman directing traffic at the intersection ahead. He’s one of ours and will let us through. Just sit tight.”

        Tourist picked up the radio. “Copy that.” He slowed the car to a stop behind the truck.

        “You’ve caused a right fuss with the whole CPM ordeal,” Business called back to Davy, watching the road ahead. “We’ve never had the CIA breathing down our necks quite like they have been this past week.”   He turned to face them both. “They’re good for their money, though, I’ll give them that.” He laughed, and Tourist joined in.

        “Where are we going?” Cecilia asked hesitantly, finally mustering the courage to pipe up.

        “You, love,” Business said with a chuckle, turning forward in his seat and scratching his nose, “are in no position to be asking the questions.”

        Cecilia looked to Davy for a response, but he was turned away, preoccupied with monitoring the stopped traffic around them. Their lane crept along faster than the others, at least, and finally, the sanitation truck ahead of them was given the signal to cross. 

        “Soviets should know better than to be stirring things up in a place like this,” Business added. “Bloody IMF’s got their hands in everything out here.”

        “What do you— No, no–The Soviets didn’t do anything,” Cecilia said, straightening up in her seat. She could suddenly feel the burn of Davy’s eyes upon her.

        “Oh, they did something alright, they dropped your fucking bomb on that town. Leveled it.” 

        “My bomb?” Cecilia’s heart began to pound. She clutched the headrest ahead of her and leaned toward the front two seats. “My bomb?” She spun to face Davy.

        Stop talking, he mouthed. He extended his arm forward across her shoulders and pushed her back against the seat.

        Business looked back to her once more as their car began to move. “Save the act. We’re not judge, jury, or executioner. You–”

        Cecilia was suddenly thrown against Davy as a tremendous force punched the car to the side with an ear-splitting peal of rending metal on metal.

        It was almost as if everything that came after transpired at half-speed. The windows on Davy’s side exploded into crystalline shards, the fragments twinkling in the dazzling sunlight as they pattered down across her like rain. Her head was half-covered by Davy’s still-outstretched arm, saving her from the brunt of the downpour. 

        Inertia then pulled her–hard–as the sedan ceased its sudden sideways trajectory. Cecilia was prised from Davy and thrown back against the opposite door. All 200-plus pounds of Davy followed as his shoulder was driven into her chest, forcing the air from her lungs with a sickening crack. 

        She gulped blindly for air, unable to hear her own gasps over the monotone whine in her ears that blocked out all else. Each forced breath sent a stabbing pain through her chest. Davy’s weight lifted and shadows danced on her eyelids, which she kept closed as she fumbled to brush away the bits of glass on her face. Muffled shouts and metallic pings pushed against her aching eardrums. The mere seconds seemed to last an eternity.

        She felt a hand around her wrist, and all at once she was pulled back into reality.

        “Go, go!”

        There was a squeal of tires and Cecilia was forced back against the seat once more as the car fishtailed and surged forward. Bewildered, she grasped the headrest behind her and used it to pull herself up and around, looking out the cracked rear window in time to see a battered black car skid out into the intersection behind them in pursuit.

        She squeezed her eyes shut and tried again to take in an adequate breath, her ribs screaming in protest. A hand pressed down on her head just as a bullet zipped through the glass and exited through the front windshield.

        “Keep. Your head. Down!” Davy shouted.

        Cecilia kept her cheek pressed to the seat and tried to gather her wits about her. Davy’s side of the car was heavily dented inwards, and the front passenger door was missing entirely. In the passenger seat, Business lay still. Thick streaks of blood were splattered across the dashboard.

        Davy dove for the radio, which was now wedged between the seat and the center console. Several more bullets tore through the passenger seat cushion. He freed the radio and ducked behind the rear seat once more.

        “Black sedan, black sedan!” he yelled into it. He gestured ahead to Tourist. “Catch up with the truck!” He reached around the passenger seat, pushing Business so that he slumped solidly forward against the dash. With a minor struggle, Davy retrieved the handgun protruding from Business’ waistband and racked the slide, waiting a moment before righting himself and firing two shots towards the vehicle behind them.

        Cecilia clasped her hands over her ears as they rang in response, and Davy ducked down as several more bullets peppered the seats in front of them. Cecilia turned to see the back of the sanitation truck come into view again ahead of them. The policemen on the back took aim, wildly firing their submachine guns one-handed in the direction of the black sedan. The sanitation truck lurched into an exit lane and popped a curb, causing the policemen to overcorrect their aim and send a spray of bullets through the windshield.

        “Augh!” Tourist clamped his hand over his arm, swerving the car across the next two lanes as they turned. 

        Davy swore as his gun flew from his grip and spun through the broken rear window, finally sliding off the trunk of the car. They were now separated from the sanitation truck by an assortment of cars and buses as they sped along the main road. 

        “Check fire!” Davy barked into the radio.

        Tourist cursed under his breath as he tried to find a way to cut across again, and the black sedan behind them found its opportunity to close the distance.

        Cecilia closed her eyes, preparing for the next barrage of bullets to be the one that would do them all in. There was no way any of them were making it out of this.


        She opened them again. 

        Davy nodded towards Business, shouting over the roar of the wind as they whipped past slower vehicles. “The shotgun!”

        Cecilia grit her teeth, steeling herself. Staying low, she reached towards the center console, hooking her fingers around the far edge and pulling herself forward just enough to be able to see over the other side of the seat. The shotgun had migrated to the footwell during the collision but appeared to be intact.

She reached towards Business, hooking her fingers into his belt and tugging him back into the seat. A large laceration marked his chest, and blood had turned the front of his shirt entirely red. Torn, sinewy muscle and thick beads of fat hung from the wound. 

        “Oh god, oh god,” Cecilia whimpered, trying to ignore the gore as she took hold of his leg and pulled herself forward again, sliding across the slick blood in his lap.

        “They’re coming around!” Davy yelled.

        Almost on cue, bullets tore through the side of the car. Cecilia flinched but continued to crawl towards the footwell with her arm extended. The gun was just out of reach.

        The car veered as Tourist tried to ram the sedan. Cecilia screamed as she was sent the rest of the way over the side of the seat. Davy caught her leg, the only thing keeping her from tumbling out onto the road that rushed past below. 

        “Come on!” Davy shouted.

        Cecilia strained, her ribs clicking as she reached for the barrel of the shotgun. Her finger grazed it, nudging it toward herself just enough to be able to take it into her hand.

        “Here!” She pulled it out of the footwell and blindly held it behind her, too afraid to turn back to look. 

        The gun was wrenched from her grasp, and she used both hands now to brace herself against the remainder of the doorframe just as Davy let go. There was a resounding blast and a split-second flash of light. The black sedan swerved violently, lost speed, and collided with an oncoming truck.

        She closed her eyes, her arms shaking from the exertion of holding herself inches from her death. She was grabbed by her waistband and pulled back all the way, and as she collapsed back against the seat she found herself, for a moment, able to ignore the searing pain in her ribs as her chest heaved. She drank in every breath she could.

        “We’re clear,” Davy panted. He leaned forward next to Tourist. “You gonna be alright?”

        “Yeah,” he said through his teeth. He shot a forlorn look over at Business’ lifeless form as if there was a chance he would stir. “Fuck!” Tourist said, slamming his fist against the wheel.

        Davy sat back heavily in the seat and exhaled, brushing the flecks of broken glass from his face and not seeming to feel–or at least care about–the cuts that they left in his skin as he did so. He seemed to sense Cecilia’s gaze upon him and looked at her for a moment, giving her a single, tired nod as he, too, fought to catch his breath.

        Cecilia let her head fall back against the seat and she closed her eyes, pressing her lips together and trying to channel her breathing through her nose. 

        No one spoke.

        Cecilia spent the rest of the ride phasing between states of awake and asleep as the passage of time slipped from her comprehension. Just beyond the outskirts of the city, they turned down a pitted dirt road. Cecilia’s eyes were only half-open as she spotted a tall, lone windsock out her window. It fluttered, gently greeting her like an old friend. She offered a weak smile. 

        She had only just arrived. The opportunity of a lifetime lay before her.

        The small convoy passed through a tall rolling gate and rounded a corrugated metal hangar. On the other side sat a medium-sized aircraft, as well as a half-dozen or so figures in various processes of boarding.

        The car pulled up alongside the plane, and two medics with a stretcher rushed to the passenger side of the car. Davy and Tourist both opened their doors and stepped out, but Cecilia stayed put. 

        She wanted nothing more than to sleep. She closed her eyes, her breathing growing shallow as she indulged her desire.

        She had fallen asleep on the long drive home from town, and her parents had let her sleep for just a while longer as they leaned back on the hood of the car and laughed and joked about everything under the stars. She could almost hear them talking now, and the deeper she fell into her rest, the clearer she could hear them. They would come to collect her soon and carry her up to bed, but for now, there was nothing but the bliss of sleep, and knowing that they were near.

        There was a jarring rap on her window and she stirred, her fantasy slipping from her grasp. Her eyes fluttered open again and she looked up to see a dark, moving shape outside the car window. The door was opened and before she could move she was abruptly pulled from her seat, leaving her to stumble over the tarmac as she regained her cognizance.

        Her hands were forcefully pulled behind her back, and with a sharp zip, a thin plastic band was bound tightly around her wrists. She looked up, bewildered.

        Before her stood a lean, well-dressed man with styled dark hair. He held his chin forward, and a formal smile crossed his face when he felt that he had obtained her full attention. 

        “Nolan Horne. I’m with the CIA.” He held out his hand, then seemed to remember that she was incapable of shaking it and withdrew it smoothly. “You’ve really got our work cut out for us.” He stepped backward and began to turn towards the plane. Cecilia felt herself being pushed forward to walk alongside him.

        She felt her jaw slacken as she realized what was going on.

        “You can owe the success of your exfiltration today to Javelin,” he continued, his polished shoes refracting the sunlight as he moved. “I’m sure you’ll become very acquainted with them. You are, after all, now in their custody.” He gestured to the stairs that led up to the plane. Cecilia froze.

        “Listen–I don’t know what you’ve been told–”

        He laughed, a genuine yet unfitting laugh, given her position. “Let me just get something straight, Ms. Whitaker, because I’d rather not keep these guys waiting any longer.” He slid his hands into the pockets of his tailored black suit pants and tilted his head so that he looked at her from under his brow. “You work with me, I can work with you. These guys,” he nodded towards the plane, “might not be so diplomatic.”

        “No. No, I–”

        “Just something for you to think about on the way over.”

        Cecilia’s heart pounded against her aching ribs. She looked up at the plane, then back to him. “Over to where?”

        Horne’s business-like smile returned. 

        “Pakistan, naturally.”

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