Chapter 60, in which Nick experiences rejection and acceptance
A ROOM WITH A VIEW
“Request denied. You’re on your own, Nick.”
“With all due respect, sir, I think you’re making a mistake.”
“Given what we know about what Ivan’s up to in Cuba, there simply aren’t any resources to reallocate. Cuba is everyone’s top priority. Hell, it’s our only priority for the duration whether that’s a good idea or not.”
“Sorry it has to be that way, Nick.”
“Not your fault, sir. We’ll take care of business here. You may see a boat and a car or two on the final tab for this op.”
“Cash we can spare, but that’s about it. Still have the Treasury checks?”
“I do, and I’ll take that as preapproval.”
“Fair enough. I trust your judgment.”
“Thanks for that. By the way, the next time you see Bill Johnson tell him Kyle’s taken over his spot as my personal conscience.”
“Glad to hear someone’s doing it. Keep me in the loop, Nick.”
“I’ll do it, sir. I get the feeling things are about to heat up down here, so we may be out of contact for a while. If that’s the case, not to worry.”
The Director laughs.
“Worry? Hell, we’re only looking at nuclear war here. Who’s got time to worry? Out here.”
Nick hangs up the secure line and turns to Dalila.
“You catch the gist of that?”
“Only that we’re not going to get any help. Did he explain why?”
“It seems the Sovs are loading up on nuclear hardware about 90 miles from Florida, as they like to say. It’s got everyone on a hair trigger. Huge surprise. Everything from Alaska south is on alert or about to go on alert. In short, the country’s assets are otherwise engaged for the moment.”
“Sometimes less is more.”
“It’s certainly easier to control, and in our case, it is what it is. We’ll just have to make do. Let’s throw these maps in the Jeep and get some dinner. I know just the place.”
The restaurant on Mafolie Hill overlooks Charlotte Amalie and its harbor to the south. The restaurant itself is not much more than a wide, covered gallery open on three sides to spectacular views below. The fare is simple; the entire menu is hand-painted onto the side of a small ceramic bottle that also serves as a vase for fresh tropical flowers on each of the restaurant’s 15 tables. As the evening darkens, the only light in the restaurant is the warm, diffuse glow of candlelight from hanging hurricane lamps.
While Nick and Dalila wait for their meal, a storm from the east lingers momentarily over Charlotte Amalie and dumps a torrent of rain. Canvas awnings protect the restaurant’s patrons from the downpour without obstructing the vista. The intoxicating effect of being awash in the storm’s fresh air is followed by a caress from the trade winds pushing the squall west.
Nick refills their wine glasses with the generic Bordeaux that is the restaurant’s only red offering.
“You think we have a chance?”
“No sweat. We’re going to find the lab and stop this guy.”
“You’re very confident. Is that from experience?”
“There’s no other endgame that’s acceptable.”
“So we do what we have to do?”
“Something like that, but there are limits.”
“What are the limits?”
“Believe it or not, there are some things I just won’t do. If not, I’m no different from Kropotkin.”
“You’re worlds apart. You needn’t fret about it.”
“I don’t, for the most part.”
“I’m spoiling our beautiful evening with questions that have no answers.”
“Not at all. Ask me anything.”
“My first question was really about the two of us.”
“I’m a better field agent than analyst.”
“And what are your field agent instincts telling you?”
“How do you like island life?”
“Life in the tropics? I love it. It’s beautiful here. But I love Kenya, too. And I want to go back when we’re done here.”
“Do you miss it?”
“I haven’t been homesick since I went off to London as a schoolgirl, if that’s what you mean.”
“No. Something deeper.”
“I should miss its people if I didn’t return. I love the people of Kenya, my people, and I want to be their servant, their heroine even.”
“We’re not so different.”
“I’ve always been told opposites attract.”
Nick reaches for her hand.
“Our little headquarters is getting crowded,” Dalila whispers.
“I know a place nearby with a pool.”
“A midnight swim?”
“I’ll take you there after dinner.”
Dalila leans in and whispers, “Take me now, Nick.”