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Targets of Revenge
A WEEK EARLIER, SANDOR’S boss at the Central Intelligence Agency, Deputy Director Mark Byrnes, had not only refused to sanction the proposed mission into the Venezuelan jungle. He had specifically ordered Sandor not to undertake the operation.
Sandor had been careful not to make a formal request for approval when he discussed his idea with Byrnes. He had merely floated a trial balloon.
The DD shot it down without hesitation.
“We’re not in the vendetta business,” Byrnes told him. “We’ll take care of this in due course.”
It had been less than a month since Sandor and his team prevented an attack on American oil refineries along the Gulf Coast, but Sandor argued it was past the time for them to address the unfinished business of that mission. Although the main damage had been averted, several soldiers had died in the process of disarming one of the explosive devices. Before that, terrorists had taken down a commercial airliner in the Caribbean, followed by a deadly assault on a communications center. All told, those attacks cost the lives of hundreds of civilians and military personnel. And then there was the matter of a CIA operative, Sandor’s close friend, who was killed in action during an incursion in North Korea where the terrorist plot was first uncovered.
The mastermind behind all of these calamities had never surfaced, keeping a safe distance from the action as he played out his murderous scheme. Rafael Cabello, a Venezuelan known in the intelligence community as Adina, had orchestrated the entire affair, never putting himself in harm’s way as all of those innocent people died in the wake of his treachery.
Sandor was not inclined to wait for action in due course, as the Deputy Director suggested. He was determined to act now.
“Sir, there’s no telling what Adina may be up to next. At the very least a reconnaissance mission could gather some valuable intelligence.”
Byrnes fixed his subordinate with a knowing stare. “Reconnaissance? Come on Sandor, we didn’t just meet this morning. I know exactly what you have in mind.”
Sandor responded with the most innocent look he could muster. “Sir?”
“You’re not thinking about intelligence gathering. You’re thinking about liquidating Adina.”
Byrnes stood up, walked around his desk, and leaned against the edge, looking down at his agent. “Of course I am. But losing you or Raabe or Bergenn isn’t going to help me right now, is it?”
“That would be impossible, sir. I’m your punishment from God. You’ll never lose me.”
Byrnes treated Sandor to one of his famous scowls, a look that was somewhere between indigestion and a reaction to a rotten odor. Byrnes was a patient man, but he was not renowned for his sense of humor. “Spare me your witty repartee. I’m ordering you to stay away from this. We’ve met with DHS and we’re developing plans with the NCTC to deal with what happened. And, just so you know how far up the food chain this goes, the Director of National Intelligence is all over this as well. You’re on a need-to-know basis, and right now you don’t need to know.”
“If plans are being made I think I’ve earned the right to be read in.”
“I’ll be sure to make a note of that in the file,” Byrnes said as he returned to his chair. “Meantime, let me remind you that you’re an agent of the United States government under my command, and you’ll do as I say. Is that clear?”
“Venezuela is a hostile nation. If one of my agents were caught in an act of espionage within that country, the repercussions would be severe. Are you clear on that, too?”
“Not exactly. Are you saying that the key is not to get caught?”
“Sandor . . .”
“Is there anything else?”
“I’m entitled to some leave. I was planning to take a week, if that’s all right.”
“That’s fine, you really should take some time. You’ve certainly earned that.” As Sandor stood, the DD added, “But mark my words. You head off on some escapade of your own and I promise you, none of the good you’ve done will stop me from turning your world upside down. You read me?”
“Completely,” Sandor said again, then turned and was gone.
Bergenn and Raabe had been on the mission in North Korea with Sandor and they shared his views of Adina. When Sandor invited them for drinks that night and explained what he had in mind, there was no need to ask twice if they wanted in.
“You should know that Byrnes warned me off any nonsanctioned activities.”
“There’s a shock,” Raabe replied.
Sandor then told them that the National Counter-Terrorism Center was already working out some strategies of their own, and that the DNI was also reviewing the situation.
“I doubt they’re thinking what you’re thinking,” Raabe said.
“Just wanted you to know everything I know.”
Bergenn said there was no reason for them to get in the way of the other agencies.
“By the time they put a plan in place we’ll be all done and back home,” Raabe said.
“My thinking exactly,” Sandor agreed.
Bergenn said he would make the contacts Sandor requested. Raabe was still on a medical leave for the injuries he sustained during the operation in Pyongyang. He agreed to work from home, arranging for the equipment they would need. Then they planned to meet in three days in Curaçao.
Meanwhile, Sandor was going to take a short trip to visit a friend in St. Barths.