That evening, KAT, whose lapel pin said her name was Astra, sat within a circle of tiki torches, legs crossed, silky blouse buttoned, waiting for him at the pool bar. All guests wore green wristbands. Hers was black or dark blue. She was an Ecotour Advisor, according to the badge over her breast.

Ford, thirty meters away, was hidden by bushes and shadows. They had agreed to meet at eight. It was now eight forty-five. Using binoculars, he watched KAT check and recheck her watch. Watched her drum glossy fingernails on the table. She signaled the waiter and ordered another daiquiri. The bartender poured double strength and served it without making eye contact.

The woman, an exotic-looking brunette, was accustomed to third-world deference and other perks of the ruling class. But she was not accustomed to being stood up. She opened her purse, retrieved what appeared to be an iPhone but wasn’t, and typed a message in Spanish. The satellite phone in Ford’s pocket vibrated in response. He read, You’re late. I have a car if you need transport.

Instead of responding, he continued to observe, no longer using the binocs. Between the hotel and patio bar was a courtyard where, on this tropical night, small brown men on ladders wove lighted icicles through the palms, a shimmering umbrella effect. It was a reminder that even here, near the equator, Christmas was only a few weeks away.

Ford changed into tourist garb and hid his bag and swim fins in the bushes while the woman finished her drink. When she left in a huff, he followed. She made two stops before returning to a row of luxury cabanas that overlooked the beach. She was in Cinnamon Cottage—the buildings were named after spices or flowers—and her movements inside the cottage could be tracked by the lights she switched on. When he was convinced she was alone, he responded to her last text in English.

Mission scrubbed.

Through the window, he saw her hurry into the kitchenette, blouse unbuttoned, hair wrapped in a towel, and pick up the phone. Frustration; disapproval. It was in her mannerisms. She used her thumbs to type Why?

He didn’t respond.

She demanded, On whose authority?

Ford wrote, End contact, and powered off his phone. A satellite log, which she might be able to access, would confirm that he could no longer receive messages. The same satellites would also confirm his location was in Playa del Carmen. He had stashed a little GPS transmitter behind the bumper of a public bus after syncing, then disabling, the GPS in his own phone.

Deep Blue (Doc Ford Series #23)