He checks his watch; the countdown timer reads, “00:07:22”.
In a desolate harbour along the East River, the engine of a stylish and agile-looking cruising boat ignites. A tanned strapping man with dark shoulder-length hair tied up in a bun leaps off the cruiser onto the harbour and crouches as he attempts to release the cruiser’s anchor.
‘It is very cold out here,’ Jay calmly says from behind the man.
The man freezes for a moment, but doesn’t turn as he slowly stands.
‘I know you have a weapon on you,’ Jay says. ‘I wouldn’t expect any less. It’s almost certainly a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle, and it’s by your left hip – I can tell by the way you move; I’ve been watching you. I also know right now you are seriously considering reaching for it. Don’t.’
The man is visibly astounded, because he does in fact have a .44 Magnum Desert Eagle tucked in his belt by his left hip. ‘You are the Captain, yes?’ he asks with a heavy Latin accent.
The man slowly turns around to face Jay. He stares at Jay, who’s still wearing the pyjamas and slippers. The man does a good job at hiding his bewilderment whilst remaining outwardly stern, but then he breaks a smile.
‘I know what you’re thinking,’ Jay says. ‘And you are correct, I am unarmed. But there are at most three steps between us. I will be on you before you can pull out the gun. Your neck will be exposed and I will shatter your throat with one strike. Your death will be slow as you choke on your blood. But the moment you hit the deck, I’d have forgotten all about you. I will drive the boat and rendezvous with your people at the strip. And if they don’t oblige, I will kill them too and fly the plane. It’s a Cessna 400, I’ve flown one twice before. And nothing will come of your deaths. The people you work for will accept it as the cost of doing business. Because what is the alternative? You come after me? After us? We are ghosts. We are nowhere and everywhere. We surface only to destroy. But then that’s why we were hired.’
There is a pause as they stare intently at each other and the man strongly considers Jay’s words.
‘In short,’ Jay continues. ‘I don’t need you or your people. But I’d rather not kill you either. So, what’s it going to be?’
The man nods and says, ‘Okay, captain. Let’s go.’
Jay nods and the man turns around to complete releasing the cruiser’s anchor. The man leaps onto the cruiser and Jay follows close behind. They hurry into the cockpit and the man calmly directs the cruiser out of the harbour. The further away from the harbour the faster the cruiser goes, until it reaches its incredible top speed.
The man glances at Jay and says, ‘Your people told me to leave, that you were not going to make it to the harbour.’
‘I know,’ Jay says as he stares into the deep dark emptiness ahead.
It’s a very sunny day in little Havana as the sun seemingly hangs right above and the sky is devoid of clouds. Jay, resembling a tourist in every manner especially in his Havana hat and aviator sunglasses, walks casually along a very lively street and steps into a convenient store. He takes off his sunglasses as he walks directly to the chirpy cashier behind the till. He politely smiles and asks in fluent Spanish, without a hint of his British accent, for a burner – a cheap prepaid mobile phone. Without saying a word, the cashier hands him a burner with the price stickered on the packet. Jay gives the cashier $30 in cash and walks out of the store, leaving his change.
He wears his sunglasses as he walks along the street. He unpacks the phone and tosses the packet into a bin before he dials a number into the phone. It rings twice before it is answered. But there is no sound at the other end of the line. And there won’t be; it’s a voice recognition answering machine.
‘One … two … three … four … five,’ Jay says into the phone, and ends the call.
A moment later, the phone rings and Jay immediately answers.
‘Captain,’ Mr Smith says. ‘Line secure?’
‘It’s a burner. Disposing it once this conversation is done.’
‘You’ve lost the SIM?’
A moment of silence.
‘Why not use it. It is always secure.’
‘This will do just fine for the moment. You disagree?’
The truth is that Jay doesn’t want to use the SIM because in the worst-case scenario – his employers are working against him – he doesn’t want his exact location tracked, and Mr Smith knows this. Pressing the issue will only make Jay more cautious.
‘I gather you made it to the extraction.’
‘Yes. As always.’
‘As always,’ Mr smith repeats. ‘I must admit that I underestimated you. It won’t ever happen again.’ He pauses a moment to allow Jay to respond, but Jay doesn’t. ‘Captain, I know you don’t make mistakes. You killed the wrong officer. Why?’
‘That’s not important.’
‘Everything is important. And you let the wife live, even after she saw your face.’
‘She wasn’t part of the job.’
‘But she saw your face.’
‘Captain, you’re going home.’
‘That’s not our deal. It’s one more job and I’m done. I’ll go home then.’
‘Well, Captain, you should’ve thought about that. I didn’t think I’d ever have to say this to you, but … it is too late for morals. We can’t use you right now. Your description is all over the wires. You need a break.’
‘Until the dust settles, you do. We’ve informed the Cubans of the change in plan. I’ll be in touch.’
Mr smith ends the call.
Jay stops and closes his eyes as he fights hard to control his emotions. He instinctively clenches his fists until the phone suddenly crushes in his right hand. He snaps open his eyes and stares at the crushed phone. He laughs at himself.
‘Alright then,’ he says to himself. ‘Home it is.’ He laughs softly, but he’s not amused.