This week's Friday Flash Fiction is another new genre for me to try out (anyone like Vince Flynn-style thrillers?). Not to mention it's also my longest entry yet, clocking in at just under 1900 words.
Bullet The Blue Sky
Jack Duncan had to kick out the back window to escape. He wrenched his body over the seat and through the shattered remnants of the car's window. Glass cut his arms and tore at his shirt, but he was more worried about what would happen next. Duncan rolled off the trunk of the Mercedes, bounced, rolled, and skittered to a stop on the blacktop. Lucky for him, the car behind them wasn't tailgating.
Duncan heard tires squeal and saw the Mercedes's tail lights turn on. He scrambled to his feet and to the edge of the Teddy Roosevelt Bridge. Both passenger side doors of the Mercedes swung open and Duncan heard yelling in Chinese. His hands were handcuffed behind his back, so he didn't want to do this, but he had no choice. He swung both legs over the guardrail and plunged feet first into the icy waters of the Potomac.
Six Hours Earlier
His SEAL days were long over, but Jack Duncan still liked to run five miles along the beach every morning at sunrise. It help keep him in shape and keep the edge on; an edge he hoped wasn't being dulled by his current desk job. He stepped out of the shower and toweled off. He looked at the scar in the mirror. It glowed white against his otherwise tanned skin. An eternal reminder of the stab wound he got last fall from Abu Saif in the mountains of Afghanistan.
His phone chirped and he flipped it open. “Go for Duncan.”
“Jack, it's Sid.”
Sid Lane was Duncan's handler at the CIA. “What's up, Sid?”
“We got a rush job for you. It has to do with the recent unpleasantness with China.”
Duncan's brain tingled. He mostly worked the Middle East desk, but anything to get back into the field. “OK. What is it?”
“Now don't get mad,” said Sid. “It's a training op.”
“Oh, fuck me. I'm not a babysitter.”
“I know. I know. But this is important.” Sid took a deep breath on the other end of the phone. “Our ambassador to China is hopping a military flight from Andrews to Beijing this afternoon. His daughter is going with him and has volunteered to provide us with some intel. She goes on trips with him all the time, so she's not going to raise any suspicion.”
“A diplomat's kid? You gotta be kidding me. No way. Absolutely not.”
“She approached us a couple months ago. She's already gotten a quick run-though at The Farm, so she knows the basic craft. We just need her to do one basic training mission here in D.C before we can sign off on her. Listen. You're the best we have. Just put her through her paces and see what she's got. If you give her a thumbs down, we won't send her. I already talked to the bosses and if you play this right, we could get you back in the field sooner rather than later.”
Duncan sighed and against his better judgment he said, “OK. I'll do it.”
Sid said, “Great. Her name's Amy Chen....”
Duncan said, “Really? Amy Chen? That's like the John Smith of Chinese-Americans.”
“That's her name. I'll e-mail you a photo of the girl and a briefing packet. It's a simple bug and follow of two Chinese case officers. They're having lunch at the Ambassador Hotel at 12:30.”
Duncan flipped his phone shut and got dressed.
When you're a spy, begin on time means you're late. Duncan arrived at the Ambassador Hotel nearly an hour before the Chinese spies were set to meet. He made mental notes of all the entrances and exits and emergency exits. The valet out front was manned by two college kids, and had security cameras pointed at the drop-off and key area. Duncan got a table in the outdoor cafe and ordered himself an orange juice.
Around 12:15, he noticed the girl approach the hotel. At least she was taught the value of coming early, even if fifteen minutes wasn't enough time. She took a seat on a park bench across the street, staring directly at the entrance of the hotel. And she was dressed all wrong too: wearing black slacks, a bright yellow shirt, and huge sunglasses. Duncan shook his head. With her location and clothing, the only way she could've been less subtle is if she had a big piece of poster board that said “Look at me! I'm a spy!”
A black Mercedes swung into the entrance of the hotel. Two Chinese men in black suits got out and the driver handed his keys to one of the college kids. The kid tore off and the two men entered the bar and got a seat in the indoor section of the cafe. A few minutes later, the kid came back and hung the Mercedes keys on the pegboard behind the valet podium. Duncan waited another five minutes until another car came in.
He put a few bucks on the table and walked out of the hotel. In a thick Texas drawl he said, “'Scuse me, son. Here's my claim ticket. How 'bout you go get my car?”
“I'm sorry, sir,” said the kid. “Jeremy does all the driving. The hotel doesn't like it when the desk is unattended.”
“Boy, do you know who I am? I'm Congressman Sam Hill from Texas. I think you'd better go get my car right now so I can get back to the Capital before the big vote this afternoon.”
The kid swiped the ticket from Duncan's hand and grabbed the keys from the pegboard. “I'm sorry, sir. Right away, sir.”
He sped off, leaving Duncan alone at the front of the hotel. He reached over the podium and grabbed the keys to the Chinese men's Mercedes. Duncan then calmly walked across the street to where Amy Chen was sitting. Without breaking stride he said, “Wait ten seconds and then follow me.”
Duncan picked a bench in a secluded part of the park, but one that still had a view of the hotel. Amy sat next to him. “So what are we going to do? Go in and pretend we're on a date. Do you want me to spill something on them?”
Duncan held up the keys. “This is one of the greatest advances in tradecraft in the past 20 years. Car keys are a great place to hide a listening device. Modern remotes have enough room for a transmitter as well as a built-in battery for power. All the operation costs is however much you want to tip the valet.”
Duncan unscrewed the back, attached the transmitter to the battery, and sealed the key up again. He handed it to Amy and said, “When there's only one guy at the valet I want you to go up there and start yelling at him. Say they brought back your car and it was scratched. Demand to see the manager. When he leaves, put this key back on spot 23. You got that? 23.”
She nodded her head. Amy crossed the street and started yelling at the valet. After a few seconds, she started to spout off in Chinese. Duncan didn't know what she was saying, but he caught the word gweilo which is a derogatory term for Caucasian. It means “ghost man” or something. The college kid practically ran inside and Amy put the keys back where she was supposed to.
“How’d I do?” she asked when she got back to the bench.
“Not bad,” said Duncan.
“Are you really the best CIA agent? I asked for the best because I want to do the job right,” she said.
“I’ve been running ops for more than a decade and I’m still alive. That’s all that matters to me.”
The two Chinese officers finished their lunch and went to the valet to retrieve their car. Duncan pulled a device that looked like an iPhone from his hip pocket. He switched it on and said, “This is the receiver. We’ll be able to hear everything they say as well as get a GPS fix on their location.”
The men got into the Mercedes and Duncan tuned the device to the right frequency. All he heard was Lady Gaga. He said, “What the…”
The Mercedes squealed to a halt at the curb next to them and he turned his head to the right. Amy Chen had a Beretta pointed at him. “Get in the car. Now.”
After swimming ashore and removing the handcuffs, Jack Duncan made his way to the national museum on Roosevelt Island. The pay phone in the parking lot must be one of the few left in D.C. He picked up the receiver and dialed a number from memory.
“This is Sidewinder. Get me Snake Doc.”
A few seconds later Sid Lane’s voice came on. “This is Snake Doctor.”
“Target’s been compromised.”
“Say again, Sidewinder.”
“The target’s been compromised. Need info on possible exfil routes.”
“Wait one.” After a few seconds of static Sid came back on the line and told him the ambassador’s plane was scheduled to take off from Andrews Air Force Base at 1900 that night.
“Get me cleared with the gate as someone from Homeland.”
“OK. What are you planning to do?” Duncan didn’t respond, so Sid said, “Sidewinder, we need her alive.”
“I’m not making any promises.”
“Damnit, Sidewinder…” was all he heard before he hung up the receiver.
Jack Duncan huddled next to a hanger near where the ambassador’s plane was waiting to take him, his daughter, and the US delegation to Beijing. He was dressed in all black and wore a light-weight Kevlar vest and black leather gloves. A cold wind whipped through the empty alleyways nearby. Air Force bases are nearly all cement and lose their residual heat soon after sunset.
A few minutes before 1900, a black Mercedes pulled up next to the hangar. It was identical to the one Duncan escaped from this afternoon except the rear window was intact. The two front doors opened and the Chinese spies got out. The one on the passenger side opened the rear door and Duncan spotted Amy Chen.
He left his position and fired an expert double-tap to the chest of the driver with his silenced 9mm pistol. He then swung his arm and caught the second spy in the forehead. Amy gasped and reached into her purse. Without a sound, Duncan was on her in seconds. His large hand wrapped around her smaller one, pointing her Beretta away from his body. The gun went off, sending a round harmlessly into the tarmac.
“Let go of me,” she said. “My father’s the ambassador.”
“I don’t give a shit who your father is,” said Duncan. “You’re a traitor to our country.”
“My father is a traitor to his.”
“Is that why you’re doing this? What happened? Did someone approach you on a trip with your father?”
“I don’t have to tell you anything. I know my rights.”
“You have no rights any more. The minute you flipped and became a double-agent, you signed your death warrant. Even your father can’t save you now.”
Amy Chen’s eyes got wide and she swallowed. “Are – are you going to kill me?”
Duncan said, “No. You’re going in a deep, dark hole where nobody will ever find you.”