Draft of New Chapter of The Shadow Chamber

I finished another chapter in Nick Temple File no. 5, The Shadow Chamber. It may become Chapter 1 which will take the reader right to the action before heading for some backstory. I used that device in The Heraklion Gambit, and I like the effect. At any rate, whatever chapter number it ends up being, it's below. Remember, it's a draft so it may be rough in spots.

CHAPTER X: Predator as Prey

January, 1967

His mind keeps coming back to the year. 1967. This morning, as he was cleaning the barrel of one of two M40 sniper rifles Langley arranged to be sent to Sheridan Barracks, Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, it hit him. 

“Holy shit. I’ll be 50 this year,” he said out loud to no one in particular. 

It hit him as he was about to head deep into the Bavarian Alps to hunt down a man threatening to expose the details of every former and active intelligence gathering operation of the CIA, the U.S. Army, and the National Security Agency on the European continent. It was clear to him that the tactical end of the mission had taken an unusually dangerous physical turn. And in that moment of lucid self-awareness, he had to admit that from here on out the mission might best be handled by someone at least a decade, and maybe two decades younger than World War II OSS veteran and charter CIA member Nick Temple.

While most of his contemporaries sit in comfortably secure government offices a hemisphere away, or in luxurious corporate boardrooms of various world capitals, Nick lies motionless and half-buried in a bed of snow, his cheek pressed against the cold wooden stock of his M40, waiting for his target to emerge. He keeps the scope of his rifle trained on the low-slung door of a crude, one-room alpine cabin 150 meters beyond the tree line and scrub vegetation protecting Nick from detection. Fifty meters to his left his long-time comrade in arms, Arnie Miller, similarly armed with the Marine Corps’ latest sniper rifle, scans the ridge beyond the cabin for any sign that the competition is about to show up. 

“Fifty! Jesus H. Christ! What the hell am I doing?” Nick thinks to himself for about the tenth time that morning. The 3:30 a.m. wake-up, the weapons check, the MCI-ration “breakfast” in the dark, the 15 kilometer hike in the snow at altitude to chase down a sliver of questionable intel, and now the agonizing wait for something, anything to happen all combine to prompt another round of wondering if this is it for him, if he just isn’t cut out for the field anymore, if his next mission should be to find a quiet home in some leafy D.C. suburb to share with Margot Zeller for the rest of his life.

Nick’s focus returns to the cabin. The tip he received in a Garmisch bierstube two nights ago is looking weak. Maybe a goose chase. Maybe a diversion. So far, no smoke, no lights, not a sign of life inside. He shifts his weight slightly to relieve the pressure on his right side, and straightens his neck taking his sight off his scope for a moment. A light snow continues to fall and blankets the mountain in silence. 

As Nick is about to return to the scope, the report of a rifle splits the pure alpine air. He reacts by digging as discreetly as possible deeper into his camouflaged position, while backing slightly to take greater advantage of the cover a massive pine’s trunk affords him. He scans the horizon through his scope. Nothing! He arches his back slightly and glances to his left, to Arnie’s position. A symmetrical red stain spreads rapidly out on the snow from the right side of what was moments earlier Arnie’s head. A direct hit, a brutal end, and Nick knows he’s on his own.