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Authors: Ben Coes

Tags: #Thriller

Independence Day (8 page)

BOOK: Independence Day
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Within a few months, Pyotr taught himself enough programming to hack into the Union Bank of Sevastopol, where he established a bank account and then stole $25,000 from an account inside the bank. He used the money to buy a laptop computer and a wireless router, which he arranged to have delivered to the post office down the street from the orphanage. After splicing the Internet cable that came into the building, he added the router to the orphanage’s dusty utilities closet. It was his escape hatch. Every night, he climbed through it, venturing out into a world beyond Saint Anselm by the Sea, beyond Sevastopol, beyond the shores of a country that had bequeathed to him a destroyed and hateful heart.

Sascha was the only person in the world who knew him from the orphanage. Sascha was the only one who knew the truth about Cloud’s father. That he hadn’t killed himself. That an American had done it, a man with a scar.

He trusted him because when you are orphans together, something happens between you that is stronger even than the ties of siblings. It is what you have when you combine self-hatred and anger, when violence and deceit are inflicted upon you at the youngest of ages; it is the feeling of trying to scratch an itch that will never go away, the itch that is the answer to the question: Why did they leave me?

Why did this happen to me? What did I do to deserve this?

The unsung chorus of the orphan.

Within the hell that is the sole real thing that an orphan possesses, misery pools like molten lava and eventually hardens into rock, then steel. It bonds orphan to orphan, and it can never be broken.

“Do you remember Klimsov?” asked Cloud, returning from his memory, looking at the chess game on the computer screen before Sascha.

“Yes. What about him?”

“He was such a crappy chess player,” said Cloud, studying the chessboard. It was his move.

“I never played him,” said Sascha.

“I did. He sucked.”

“Why did you think of that old bastard?”

“Because I was wondering if he taught you how to play,” said Cloud.

He leaned forward and typed into the keyboard.

“Checkmate, Sascha. Now go fuck yourself.”





A white, unmarked Gulfstream V touched down at precisely two o’clock on a cloud-covered, brutally humid afternoon. Dewey followed Bond down the jet’s stairs as, in the distance, a black Chevy Suburban sped across the tarmac.

“Speak of the devil,” muttered Bond.

“Who is it?”


The Suburban made a beeline for Dewey and Bond, stopping directly in front of them. Dewey and Bond stood still. Both men were still dressed in tactical gear.

The back window opened. Sitting in the backseat was Gant. He had a stern look on his face.

“How did Iguala go?” he asked, looking at Bond.


“What happened?” asked Gant, his eyes scanning Dewey from head to toe as he waited for Bond to answer.

“We achieved the objective of the mission,” said Bond. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, we’re both sort of tired.”

“Take me through the minute-by-minute,” said Gant.

“Sir, it’ll be in the brief.”

“Right now.”

Bond took a deep breath, trying to control his temper. He nodded at Dewey and they started to walk away.

The back door of the SUV suddenly opened. Gant stepped out and caught up to Dewey and Bond, stopping directly in their path.

Gant crossed his arms, fuming. His attention shot to Dewey, again looking him up and down. Dewey didn’t react. In fact, he didn’t look back, choosing instead to simply stare off into the distance, ignoring Gant.

“I want the first debrief,” said Gant, pointing at Bond.

Bond looked at Gant’s finger, pointing at him.

“No disrespect, but I report to Bill Polk,” said Bond, barely above a whisper. “He gets the brief, not you.”





Dewey sat at the bottom of a winding, carpeted stairway, on the first floor of an old, beautiful, impeccably designed town house, drinking a beer. It was his fourth beer. On second thought, it might have been his fifth. He was leaning against the wall, legs crossed in front of him, still dressed in tactical gear.

Dewey owned the town house now. Jessica had left it to him. It was the first time he’d stepped inside it since her death.

Next to him was a case of beer, five bottles missing. Two six-packs were Bud Light, two were Yuengling, a slightly heavier concoction. Dewey drank a Bud in between Yuenglings. He looked at Bud Light as being the equivalent to drinking water, a way to make sure he didn’t get too drunk. Of course, the bottle of Jack Daniel’s still inside the paper bag would soon make that whole thought process pointless.

His eyes were glued to the wall, at a large oil painting of a green iris. It was Jessica’s favorite painting. Dewey wasn’t thinking about the painting, however. He wasn’t thinking about Jessica either. He wasn’t even thinking about Gant, though he knew he’d likely come to Andrews for the sole purpose of eyeballing Dewey.

Dewey was thinking about Mexico.

He could count on one hand the number of operational failures he’d experienced. Invariably, they had been failures due to circumstances beyond his control. All of them occurred on complicated, difficult operations. Mexico should’ve been easy. It wasn’t particularly dangerous, complicated, or logistically challenging. It was a brilliantly planned operation, which is why it was so relatively safe and simple. Yet he froze like a deer in the headlights.

Dewey was searching for the meaning of it all. Why had he not grabbed the door handle? Where had that paralysis come from? But the harder he searched for an answer, the more elusive it became. Yet he knew he needed to find the answer. He didn’t have a choice. Calibrisi hadn’t come to Castine to recruit him. He’d come to rescue him.

Dewey pulled out his cell phone and hit a speed-dial number.

“Yeah?” came the voice.

“Hey, Rob.”

Tacoma, an ex–Navy SEAL, was Dewey’s closest friend, that is, if he actually had friends. Dewey hadn’t spoken to Tacoma since a few days before Jessica’s funeral.


“I’m good, thanks for asking,” said Dewey.

“Like I’m the one who went off grid, asshole. What are you doing? Are you still up in Maine? What are you gonna become, a fucking lobsterman?”

“Maybe,” said Dewey. “I like lobsters. Sorry for not calling. I’ve been … well, I’ve been getting my head straight.”

“Uh-oh. Are you doing yoga or some shit like that? Acupuncture? No, wait, you’re a fucking vegan, aren’t you? I knew it. Just tell me you’re not driving a Prius. I swear, I’ll never talk to you again.”

Dewey laughed.

“No, I still have my balls. I’m in D.C. I’m at Jess’s.”

“Really? Awesome.”

Tacoma did his best to act positive, despite the mention of Jessica and the fact that Dewey was in what was to have been their future home, obviously alone.

“I’ll be back in a few days,” continued Tacoma. “You want to get together?”

“Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Listen, they’re telling us to shut off our phones,” said Tacoma. “I’ll call you when—”

“I have a quick question.”

“Uh-oh. Let me guess. You’re in jail. Call fuckin’ Hector, man.”

Dewey laughed again.

“You still fight?” asked Dewey.

“What do you mean, ‘fight’?”

“Mixed martial arts. That UFC shit you’re always talking about.”

Tacoma paused.

“Yeah,” he involuntarily offered. “Why?”

“You like it?”

“It’s not as much fun as it used to be. There are some punks out there. Last time I was at a gym, I almost got my neck broken. All these guys think they’re gonna be famous. Scouts from UFC are always there, so they’re showing off. That being said, it’s the only way to keep sharp, other than running ops, of course.”

Dewey reached for the brown bag. He unscrewed the cap and took a large swig.

“There’s a decent gym in Adams Morgan. Some good fighters.”

“Is that where you almost got your neck broke?”

“No,” said Tacoma. He paused for several moments. “Dewey, look, I know you.”

“What the fuck does that mean?”

“I know you’ve been drinking.”

Dewey looked at the case of beer. He picked up the Jack Daniel’s and took another gulp.

“Tell me the name of the gym,” said Dewey. “I promise I won’t kill anyone.”

Tacoma laughed.

“I’m not worried about them.”


Tacoma let out a sigh.

“Okay, fine. It’s in southeast, out near Redskins stadium. It’s called Whitewater. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

*   *   *

The neighborhood was one, possibly two steps up the economic ladder from ghetto. A few stores had hand-scrawled signs advertising their wares. Others sat vacant, shuttered in graffiti-covered corrugated steel. People were gathered on the stoops of boarded-up, burned-out town houses, drinking and smoking.

At eight o’clock, the night was still young. But darkness had long ago descended on this forgotten part of the nation’s capital.

The taxi driver dropped Dewey at the back edge of Lincoln Park, unwilling to go any farther into the neighborhood. Dewey climbed out, without tipping, and walked the last dozen blocks to Whitewater MMA.

Dewey had on jeans and a green T-shirt, along with running shoes. He walked down the sidewalk, a hard look on his face, staring a thousand miles away as he moved toward the gym. He stepped through the steel door of the gymnasium as, a few blocks away, a siren started to wail.

The inside of Whitewater was humid, with a sharp, acrid smell that stung the nostrils. Years’ worth of body odor hovered in the cavernous gym. To most, the smell sent a wave of disgust, even nausea. But Dewey breathed it in. It was an odor he knew well, a smell he’d hated, then come to love, first at BC, the stench of the varsity football team locker room. In Rangers, it was the CQB room, where Dewey learned the basics of hand-to-hand combat, alongside the rest of his Ranger class. It’s not that the memories were fond ones, but they were part of him.

There was a large crowd, fifty or sixty people, mostly young men, black or Hispanic, in their late teens or early twenties. The few who were older had on street clothing. These were, Dewey guessed, coaches and scouts.

A few heads turned as Dewey stepped through the door. He was greeted with cold stares.

There were three rings. Two were smaller sparring rings, used for practice. Both were occupied. In one, a small tattoo-covered Hispanic kid was working with a coach. He had on red Lycra shorts and no shirt. He was barefoot. The coach was working on his kicking attack. Every few seconds, he would launch a vicious series of kicks, his feet sometimes slashing above his coach’s head.

The other ring had a bout going on. A few people were watching as the two barefoot, muscled fighters circled each other. One of them suddenly charged the other, leaping, kicking his right foot toward his opponent’s head, striking it, sending the man tumbling down to the mat as blood surged from his mouth. But the man on the ground was up in seconds, side-crawling away from a second strike, standing quickly, then slamming a fist into his opponent’s torso, followed by another, then tackling him to the mat.

“Hey, it ain’t free.”

Dewey’s head turned. A man in a wheelchair was looking at him.

“You wanna watch, fine, but it ain’t free.”

“How much?”

“Ten bucks.”

“How much for one of the rings?”

The man in the wheelchair looked Dewey up and down.

“What do you want it for?” he asked. “You gonna do some Pilates?”

Dewey looked at him, ignoring his taunt.

“How much to fight?”



The man grinned.

“What’d you watch some UFC on TV? This ain’t the place for amateur white guys from Alexandria to learn how to fight.”

Dewey scanned him with his eyes.

“How much for a fight?”

The man reached for Dewey’s right arm, grabbing him by the wrist, tugging it down toward him. He lifted Dewey’s T-shirt, revealing a long, nasty-looking purple-and-pink scar, which ran from his shoulder blade down the front of his biceps.

“What the fuck is that from?”

Dewey ignored the question.

“Tough guy. Okay, you want a fight, I’ll get you a fight.”

The man took a whistle from around his neck. He blew it. A moment later, a tall black man approached.

“Daryl,” he said, nodding at Dewey, “get Chico or one of the other young guys. Put ’em in the big ring. Pretty boy here wants to relive his youth.”

The man in the wheelchair turned back to Dewey.

“Fifty bucks, up front.”

*   *   *

In a small locker room off the main gym, Dewey removed his shoes, jeans, and T-shirt. Beneath, he had on cutoff khaki shorts, covered in paint stains. They were the only shorts he could find at the town house.

He walked back inside the gymnasium. The smaller rings were empty now. The crowd had gathered around the center ring. Dewey pushed his way through.

Daryl was standing in the middle of the ring, there to officiate. Behind him was a short, stocky Hispanic kid who wore a bright yellow Lycra body suit. His arms, neck, and legs were covered in colorful tattoos. He had short-cropped black hair. A tattoo of a large tear was painted below his left eye. He was stacked with muscle, punching the air in place and bouncing on his bare feet as Dewey climbed into the ring.

Daryl looked at Dewey’s shorts, then at his scar, then at him. He walked to Dewey, leaning toward him.

“Hey, man, no shame if you wanna bail now,” he whispered, “know what I mean?”

Dewey didn’t respond.

The truth is, he barely heard the words.

Maybe it was the smell of the gym. Or the eyes, filled with doubt, now upon him. Maybe it was the sight of the fight before, in the sparring ring, the kick, the blood spilling onto the mat. Whatever it was, he started to feel the warmth that for too long had gone missing. The warmth that should’ve found him in Mexico. Adrenaline. It was only the faintest hint of it, and yet it was unmistakable. He glanced down at his right arm. He saw the small black tattoo of a lightning bolt. And then whatever warmth was there flamed into fire.

BOOK: Independence Day
13.74Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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