Chapter 30 of 74, in which Team Temple lands in the U.S. Virgin Islands
Dr. Peter Hall and Dalila Atieno walk separately through the sleek, cool lobby of the sprawling Virgin Isle Hotel overlooking the harbor at Charlotte Amalie. They mix easily with the legions of well-to-do guests of the largest resort on the island. Built in 1950, the hotel was the first modern resort in the U.S. Virgin Islands, and its completion ushered in an era of modern tourism in the American Paradise. The Virgin Isle’s mountainside setting takes full advantage not only of the spectacular view of the Caribbean Sea south of the small capital city, but also of the fresh trade winds that routinely caress the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. A spacious sun deck packed with cushioned chaise lounges surrounding a sparkling oval pool completes a setting more suited to an extended tropical frolic than the deadly serious business of Cold War espionage.
Hall and Atieno add themselves to the small queue forming at the registration desk.
“All courtesy of the American taxpayer,” Dalila quips quietly over her shoulder.
“We’ll have to make sure they get good value. Besides, we’re only here for a week. If we have to stay longer, Nick says he may have less opulent and less visible lodgings for us towards the west end of the island.”
Nick and Kyle Richardson checked in last night and left their hotel rooms first thing in the morning to recon a safe house for the four of them. The Virgin Isle, its constant boisterous crowds providing a degree of security through anonymity, will have to do in the meantime.
Pete Hall looks around as he waits in line to register. The idea of being thrust into the middle of a dangerous contest between the world’s premier nuclear powers appeals to his sense of adventure. But as he scans the well-heeled crowd he has to admit he wouldn’t be able pick a KGB agent out of a crowd of MI5 operatives, let alone hold his own in the mix if things suddenly heated up. With little to go on besides what he was able to glean from his one appearance at CIA headquarters and the slimmest of briefings from Temple when he was recruited for the trip, he hopes his role is limited to providing scientific expertise rather than firepower or muscle.
Dalila Atieno brings a different set of skills to the team. In the brief time that Nick has worked with her, she has impressed him with her courage, confidence, and intellect. She never flinched during the shootout in Cairo, and she handled herself like a seasoned veteran in Voi. The questions she asked Nick during their layover in San Juan after absorbing the file prepared for her at Langley–questions about timing, assets, local intel, logistics, entry points, hard targets, contingencies, redundancies, and more than a dozen other subjects–revealed a nimble mind perfectly suited to precise and nearly instantaneous analysis. Courageous, confident, and exceedingly bright. Whether she knows it or not, whether she likes it or not, Dalila Atieno is for the moment an American spy.