Cruel Paradise

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Chapter 12

Smith and Martin had holed up in the ancient fort for the night, keeping a lookout and waiting to see what the guards’ next move would be. Neither of them could sleep anyway. The words from mainland control kept resonating in their heads. Tensions escalating. Possible mobilization of warships to the Caribbean. They were reassured that they’d either be lifted out or have a place on a ship, which would likely use one of the secluded harbors of Tortola as a strategic point.

Both wondered what events could have taken place in the bigger scheme of things to cause more tension. Had the ESU overtaken Mexico after all? Any information on the subject was still classified, naturally. But if they’d been on the mainland, at least a rare media leak might have provided a little more insight. They were so isolated that there was no way any gossip could travel to them. Even the islanders had virtually no concept of anything that ever occurred beyond their peaceful bay.

Instead they were relegated to await further instructions, and that meant securing a location to create a stable hot spot, a location that wouldn’t be compromised. Abandoned though it was, their accommodations at the old fort would not suffice. It was very close to the harbor and on the original main coastal highway of Road Town. Both the undisguised location and the hard, roughly hewn coral blocks that formed the fort walls were less than ideal, and each agent was grateful for an excuse to find a more comfortable option. And a secure one, of course. It was best not to chance it by staying there; they needed to keep moving.

Morning, Day 3

The sun rose to find the agents discussing their options. The two factions of guards had appeared to be moving south towards the middle of the island, and north back to Parham Town respectively. Would the northbound group be dispatched to join with the other one? Would the southbound group continue canvassing the island, or stop at some point and turn back, isolating the search area to the northern half? It was impossible to speculate, given the highly unskilled and unmotivated nature of the troop.

Going back to Parham Town was needlessly risky, and moving south on the heels of the ambitious guards seemed to be an equally bad idea, disorganized though they were. The pair could move due west to the opposite coast where they’d likely remain completely undiscovered, however the coves on that side of the island faced the Gulf of Mexico, and if the US wanted a secluded place to disguise a warship, they would surely use the east coast harbors. Moving south down the coast didn’t make much sense either. If the command base opted to send a helicopter, they’d want to stay as covert as possible and avoid flying over the entire island if they could help it, so the rendezvous point would be in the north. Therefore it seemed that the best course of action was to stick to Road Town, as long as the lieutenant and his men remained absent.

Having profiled the area when they’d arrived years ago, Smith and Martin knew that they had a few specific locations to consider in the Road Town area. There was another old fort further inland, just to the south. There was the former H.M.S Prison back on the inner streets of Road Town. And of course any of the abandoned homes would do.

In the end, they actually chose to return to their post at the old governor’s house. Even if the guards did return to the area, it was unlikely that they’d revisit the estate, having scoured it once already. The rest of their gear was (hopefully) still there, undiscovered, and it would be easy to set everything up again to be much more operational than they could be in the wild with only meager essentials to aid them. The batteries in their tablet and cell were pretty powerful, but not necessarily good enough to last for days on end if they were forced to go on the run again, especially if their rescue got rescheduled. And finally, they wouldn’t have to deal with the snakes, scorpions, and insects that had inevitably taken up a happy residence in one of the other sites. Beyond all that, the roof gave them a great vantage point over the surrounding forest and the harbor. It wasn’t a difficult decision to arrive at.

§

While the two agents had begun packing up for their covert return to the governor’s house, John Dorian, Lieutenant Howell’s chosen second-in-command and the head of the group that had returned to Parham Town, was nervously waiting for an audience with Governor Tholen.

Rex Tholen was pacing a small bedroom on the second floor of his estate, to which no one but himself was allowed entrance. It was outfitted with his own top of the line tablet and decrypting software, which remained active at all times, ready to intercept any communication. He’d had it installed shortly after Blane Aberland had alerted him to the presence of American military agents on the island. The elaborate set-up, complete with a sealed room, was for the express purpose of listening to their encrypted transmissions, which were easy to decipher when you had an inside man to explain the code. It was Governor Tholen’s insurance plan, and at this moment he was very glad that he’d decided to implement it.

He too had received the immensely troubling report of the possible mobilization of US troops. Tholen always preferred to stay one step ahead of his adversaries, and this news forced him to re-examine his options. He was presently one step ahead of them, but he wouldn’t be for long if he didn’t react quickly. The additional information that the remaining two agents were turning on Aberland to get back to the mainland wasn’t unexpected. They were mindless idiots and didn’t pose a legitimate threat to anything, and therefore none of his concern in the slightest. However, it put Aberland on the run, and if the bumbling force of lazy island guards could get their hands on him in time, he could serve another purpose. Aberland could be paraded through town as a prisoner, providing the perfect distraction for his escape.

But where to go? This was an unfortunate gap in his backup plans that he hadn’t thought through yet. Previously he’d maintained a good relationship with a few colleagues on other islands and the coast of South America, but these had lapsed since they’d been drawing retaliation from the United States. And the only way that Rex Tholen was going to join with the Socialists would be by force, since it meant sacrificing his opulent lifestyle for “the common good.” Not terribly appealing for a man of his means. This constraint also eliminated practically every country south of Mexico. Perhaps he could just lay low on one of the smaller British Virgin Islands, where he could still operate the drug trade, if it were feasible.

Tholen’s two-way radio buzzed on the nightstand in the corner, causing him to pause in his worried pacing. It was Howell, finally calling in to provide an update. Tholen marched over and answered bluntly, “What is it.” His crisp British accent only intensified the lethal intensity in his voice.

“Still looking sir,” came the response.

He didn’t care about the details, their location, or their tactics. No news was bad news, and Howell knew it. No response necessary. Tholen slammed the radio down with a curse, just in time to hear a timid knock at the door. Turning on his heel, he exited the room briskly to address the house manager, who had knocked again more quietly.

A few moments later, the head guard was admitted to Governor Tholen’s office, where he was seated at his massive marble desk. Though his governorship was dressed impeccably and didn’t have a hair out of place, as usual, the expression on his face was sour. He drummed his fingers rapidly on the desk as he stared off in to oblivion, already looking gravely displeased. Swallowing nervously, the guard remained standing at attention near the door, almost as though he was keeping it nearby as an escape route while he waited for Tholen to acknowledge him.

The governor’s eyes angrily met his as he seemed to snap out of his grave musings. “Well?” he barked. The dark-complected guard put on a brave face and stepped forward.

“I am sure that you already know this sir. We broke in to two groups yesterday. The Lieutenant is leading half of de men southward an’ I led my half north. I have not heard from the Lieutenant, but my men foun’ no trace a’ Blane Aberland,” he said, practically spitting Aberland’s name. Islanders hate betrayal above all things.

“Actually, I was not aware of this. It is excessively disappointing that the Lieutenant has chosen not to make contact with me yet,” he paused, letting the intimidating silence hang heavy in the room. The guard didn’t need to know otherwise. It would only provide him more incentive to take action.

“And the girl?” Tholen demanded.

Confusion flitted across the guard’s face. “I didn’ know we were still looking for her, but no trace a’ her either.”

Tholen sat in silence, bridging his fingers as he contemplated these new developments, or lack thereof. She was probably half-dead somewhere in the woods by now, but he still hated a loose end.

“Return to the forest with your men and reunite with the Lieutenant. When you find them, tell the Lieutenant to radio me immediately or I will personally ensure that he is afflicted with some serious consequences. I want both of those traitors strung up like hogs on a spit, dead or alive!! Do you understand?!” He slammed his fist on the desk to drive the point home, and the guard nodded, practically tripping over his feet as he left the room as fast as he could.

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