The Terrorist’s Game
“When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep walking.”
-Sarah Jessica Parker
The yacht seemed deserted. The deck had covered and stacked lounge furniture on it as though it was patiently waiting for spring to arrive in the North Atlantic. There were no lights in the wheelhouse, or anywhere that Talia could see. She was confused. Where were the inhabitants, and why were they able to track them here? Suddenly, it all seemed like a sick and twisted distraction. She got a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Something was terribly wrong. There were no signs of life. What the hell was going on?
She climbed onto the deck via a ladder that seemed to be affixed to the side of the ship to board from a dingy, and Cameron boarded behind her.
He had the same feeling. Something was wrong. Why was the boat deserted? Why was Percival leading them there? What premeditated malignant move was it that they were entangled in?
“What do you think?” he whispered to Talia.
She didn’t turn to look at him. She was still scanning the area for a clue. “I don’t know. I don’t like this. This is the way every bad horror movie in the world begins.”
“Do you still think this is Percival’s yacht?” he asked.
“More than ever,” she replied. “What is he up to? I could be a trap. There aren’t even any footprints on this deck. It looks completely abandoned. Look at the scummy, slimy film everywhere. If someone had been here, there would be footprints.” She stopped whispering. “It’s just another wild goose chase. He got the best of us with a phone. Have to love that.”
Cameron looked at the deck. There was a shiny gooey liquid coating on it. He had never seen anything like it, but if someone walked on it, it would make a footprint. Percival had left a dummy boat sitting in Old Reykjavik Harbor. Why? There must be a reason, and he must have left a clue of his purpose or location, even if by accident.
“I’m taking a look around,” Cameron announced as he walked across the deck, slipping a bit on the gooey liquid. “He might have left a real clue somewhere.”
“Do you really think he would do that?” she asked.
“Not intentionally,” he scoffed as he walked by her. He motioned her to follow him. “Come on. No one’s perfect. He must have left something behind that we can use. Everybody’s luck runs out sooner or later. Everyone screws up sometime.”
She hated it when he was right. She didn’t want to look around the boat. She was afraid of what she might find. She was sure it was Percival’s yacht. He and his group were sick. She had read reports on the people that they needlessly tortured and killed in the name of vague motives. She also knew that if she didn’t try to find the clues, she may never rescue her daughter.
“I know,” she said. “I’m afraid of what we’ll find. God knows what he might have done in there.”
“Remember, he led us here,” he said. “If there was evidence of heinous activities inside, he wouldn’t have allowed us to follow him here. He’s not stupid, he’s twisted. There’s a huge difference. He would never overlook an obvious piece of evidence that would tie him to international crimes. I’m sure whatever we find in there won’t be obvious.”
“Damn, he was right twice in a row,” she thought. “I’m too close to this situation. I should let the geek handle it. He’s thinking clearer than I am, but I can’t let anyone else handle it. The bastard ruined my life, and I have to find him.”
“Okay, let’s go,” she replied.
Her mind started to wander. She wondered why a man who spent years in a programming lab, was so skilled at analyzing human nature. He said that he had read all of her books, but it seemed as though he had some experience, which he had not discussed, that made him excellent at guessing how a terrorist might think. She decide quickly to put all of her paranoia aside, and focus on the important issues at hand.
They made their way below deck. There was a plush living area, with several heavy duty marine windows so that people could sit and watch the outside world as they sat on custom built Italian leather seating and watched the 70 inch plasma smart TV. There was a fully stocked bar in the corner. There was plush marine carpeting on the floor, matching the furniture, and the entire room was tastefully decorated for a man. It was a man cave on water, and Talia believed that it would fit Percival, based on the background material she studied in his dossier. She knew some of what went on in his head, but she wished that she could guess what was in his head at that moment. If she could figure that out, maybe she could find her daughter.
The next room they entered was the galley with modern stainless steel appliances and a professional industrial style work area. The yacht seemed posh for a noble knight trying to make the world a fair place with equality for all. He pleaded the case of the downtrodden, but he lived a life of luxury. Finally, she saw the one thing that assured her he was Russian.
“Look,” she said, pointing.
“What?” he asked.
“I told you he was Russian,” she said walking across the room to a huge silver Samovar. It had intricate designs molded and carved into its exterior, and a handmade spout and spigot. “That is a traditional Russian samovar.”
“What’s a samovar?” he asked.
“A Russian tea brewing machine. Even Tsars used them. This reinforces my theory that the group was never Muslim. The designs carved into this machine are Russian. They are traditional patterns that have been used in designs for hundreds of years. In Russia.”
“Maybe they come from Kazakhstan,” he replied. “They were Soviet and are still Muslim.”
“Yes,” she admitted. She opened the cabinet above the samovar. “But, he wouldn’t have these.” She took a silver filigree tea glass and holder out of the cabinet. It stood on tiny little silver legs and had intricate designs, which included the double eagle crest of the Romanovs. “These are Russian to the core. 19th century.”
Suddenly a beeping sound came from the room adjacent the galley.
“What is that?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he replied, whispering again. “Maybe someone is here.”
“Then they’ve been inside of this boat for a long time,” she snarked. “It must be something else.”
The room that was beeping was a communications center. Every piece of equipment was on. There were no people, and no evidence thereof. There was dust on the equipment, leading them to believe that it had not been used in quite a while.
“Now we know how he diverted us here,” Cameron said out loud. “From what I see, it appears that it is all remotely accessible.” He looked around the console, investigating each device one at a time. He took pictures of the screens and some of the other electronics. “Nice. You could do anything without ever boarding. From the icons that I see on the main console, you could make coffee, operate the TV, and check on radio messages from a remote device. Probably a phone. Realistically, you could even steer the ship from another location. Look at this.” He gestured Talia to join him. “It’s a map of the world.”
“I can see that,” she groaned. “I don’t like this. Something is wrong. Who cares about a map?”
“Let me check things out,” he said. He looked at the screen with the map on it. “This is probably connected to the program he’s using to guide us.” He pointed to the map. “Look at this. There’s an endless loop leading all over the world. This is the phone trail that we’ve been trying to follow to pinpoint his location. There’s no end. This program completely masks his location. That’s clever.”
“What?” she snapped.
He pointed to the screen. There was a red line that went from Reykjavik to Gibraltar to Cairo to Washington and so on. “It keeps going and eventually loops back here. It’s ingenious.”
“We’ll never be able to track him,” she moaned. She heard beeping again. “Where is that coming from?”
“Down there,” he said, pointing to a cabinet underneath the monitors.
He searched for a port for his thumb drive. With a little luck, he could copy the programming for the jamming device. Then he could decode it. He fumbled around the console area until he found a USB port. He inserted the drive and started to work at the digital keyboard on the main screen.
Talia followed the sound of the beeping and Cameron’s pointed finger to the cabinet below. She opened it. There were plastic explosives inside and a detonator with a timer. The clock said 0:49 then it ticked with a beep to 0:48.
“Come on!” she yelled, grabbing him by the arm.
He grabbed the thumb drive and followed her through the lower deck and up the stairs. He didn’t stop to ask why she was hysterically frantic. The deck was slick and he had a horrible time running across it. He stuffed the drive into his pocket.
she again screamed, “Come on!”
She pushed him, forcing him to jump for the dock where the rest of the group stood waiting. She jumped behind him. She pulled him up.
“Run!” she yelled. “Everyone run!”
Eduard and their group started to run away from the dock. Talia caught up quickly with Cameron close behind. They ran along the docks barely escaping oncoming vehicles going to dinner at the various restaurants on the docks. They all ran, following Talia toward Harpa Concert Hall where the dancing lights set to the evening’s music were flashing.
The yacht exploded in one giant cloud of flames, debris, and smoke. Everyone stopped and stared. Flames rose into the dark night sky fading into the darkness tens of feet above the burning wreckage. No one spoke right away. There was very little remaining of the yacht on the water. There were only burning scraps of a hull in the water and on the docks.
Talia bent over and took several deep breaths. She looked up to see all of the men staring at her. “I figured out what the beeping was.”
She looked at the harbor. There was debris landing all over the place. It was raining deck furniture and galley cabinets; all of them on fire. Cars were skidding to a stop on the dock drive to try and avoid flying yacht pieces. The authorities were arriving with sirens blaring and lights flashing. She didn’t want to talk to the police. She didn’t know what to say.
“He couldn’t have known exactly when we would board the yacht,” she thought. “We must have triggered it, but how? I saw no booby traps. How could he have known that we were on that boat at that exact time?”
“That’s all you have to say?” Cameron yelled. “I found out what the beeping was?”
He was glad that he remembered how to run and jump. He also was happy that he was able to control his bodily functions. The last thing he wanted on top of everything else in his real life nightmare, was for Talia Anderson to see him lose control of his functions.
“I think we should slip inside Harpa,” Tyrell suggested. “We will fit right in, with the other over dressed people.” He waited for anyone to reply. “Does anyone want to explain this? We do not need an international incident with the newly elected President of Russia who was recently visited by the sitting President of Iceland.”
“Tyrell is correct,” Eduard agreed. “And I certainly do not wish to inadvertently involve Nina in this.”
The group walked as casually as possible to Harpa. Patrons, originally waiting to enter the concert hall for the evening’s performance by the philharmonic, were leaving the building to see the fire as the group entered. Soon there would be a crowd on the edge of the harbor enthralled in the excitement, and the local press would come.
“How did he know we were on the boat at exactly that time?” Talia whispered to Cameron.
“He couldn’t,” Cameron reasoned. “Unless he’s tracking us somehow. I didn’t see any cameras. It doesn’t add up.” He pulled the drive from his pocket. “Hopefully, this will help me figure it out.”
“You managed to find something in his files?” she asked.
“Of course,” he gloated. “I told you, I will find a way to track this bastard. If I’m lucky, this will tell me what I need to know.”
“I didn’t see a phone around or anything that he could use to watch us,” she said.
“Neither did I,” he replied. “It has to be some kind of tracking device, probably something in a phone. I’m thinking about something like the contact tracing that they tried to do during Covid-19.”
“He would need to be able to track a phone,” she argued. “No one has had the same phone all this time.”
“He calls regularly,” he rationalized. “Maybe it’s a remote program. I’m not sure, but I’ll figure it out.”
Talia shook her head and smiled. Maybe bringing Cameron along wasn’t a bad idea after all. She looked over her shoulder as she entered Harpa. She could still see the burning boat in the water. Percival had missed her. This game was not over yet. He was scared that she would find him, so he tried to eliminate her. If he thought that she was dead, she would have the advantage. Maybe that would cause him to make a mistake. The game had gone on much too long already, and she was running out of time. She had to find Anya.
She took another look at what was left of Percival’s yacht as she gazed out the flashing lighted windows of Harpa. “You missed me, you son of a bitch.”