Out of Africa

The Bitter Enemy

"Loyalty to country always. Loyalty to government, when it deserves it."
~Mark Twain.

London, England.

The morning sky was still a flat, muted grey by the time Clyde Easter's car pulled up to the London Interpol Office—were he in the country, he would probably be able to see the first pink fingers of dawn feathering the edges of the horizon, but it was blotted out by the smog and cityscape.

It was a damnable hour, when the city was quiet and almost asleep, the streets bare except for a few drunken uni kids stumbling home from a night of too much dancing and too much alcohol.

He shouldn't even be awake at this hour, much less already fully dressed and at the office. However, after his phone call with Emily, he'd been unable to go back to sleep—some of it was due to his concern over recent events, but most of it was due to his own self-aggravation at provoking her.

Emily Prentiss was a good agent. He knew that, he'd always known that. She'd proven herself many times, over many years.

But he'd also seen the way she was, back when Doyle returned. He'd seen the way she acted around her BAU team mates—and he'd noticed that it was nothing like the old Prentiss he knew, the one who kept everyone at arm's length, the one who knew how to distance herself, how to protect herself from dangerous emotions like love and loyalty.

Loyalty in and of itself wasn't bad—but when it was a personal loyalty, a devotion to an individual instead of an idea, then it became a liability. Clyde Easter was a loyal man—he was loyal to his homeland, loyal to the idea of justice and vengeance, loyal to the moral code that he'd crafted for himself over the years. However, he bore no fealty to any man, woman, or agency—that way, if anyone came into opposition with his ideals, he had no qualms about taking them out. It was a choice he'd made long ago, a sacrifice for queen and country, and he'd never regretted it. In fact, it was this creed that had gotten him here, into the top ranks of the world's most elite law enforcement organization.

He had to question Emily's loyalty. She didn't understand that, and that was what bothered him—because there was a time when she would have understood, when she wouldn't have bristled at the accusations or even batted an eye at all. She was drifting away from the creed, from the foundation upon which their lives had to be built.

Once, he'd seen her as an equal—he'd never met another person who could adapt so quickly to their lifestyle, who seemed to take it on as naturally as breathing, and he thought he'd finally found a match, an ally with whom he could build his career. In order to truly be successful in this game, one needed to have a second-in-command who was trustworthy and competent, and Emily Prentiss was both.

After Doyle, however, Emily had left, softened by that blonde-haired brat and a sudden need to care for him (that was when she'd first begun to crack, when Doyle brought his son Declan into the picture). But once everything was finally sorted between Doyle and Emily, Clyde had held onto the slim hope that she could finally move on, move back to who she truly was. Clyde received his promotion, and he knew that he wanted to bring her back into the fold, to set her up to rise through the ranks as his right-hand. She'd accepted the offer, and he'd thought that perhaps they were finally back on track. Her time in the BAU was simply a little detour, and he didn't begrudge her a season of rest. She'd earned it.

But over the past year, he'd begun to realize that the old Prentiss was dead and gone—and no matter how hard he tried, he couldn't resurrect her.

Today was a perfect case-in-point. One aside about her former colleagues and she was up in arms. Not a good sign at all. They were in the middle of what could become an international fiasco, and she was already showing signs of weakness—her sense of loyalty would keep her from cutting off the dead weight, if it came to that. It was becoming a liability.

Clyde Easter did not like liabilities.

He had not been in his office a full five minutes before Constance Connelly appeared in his doorway, face drawn in her usual somber expression.

"The facial recognition software tagged a match on one of the men from the Nairobi attack," she informed him, her smoky voice lined with a sense of knowing that filled him with dread. "And I guarantee you'll want to see what we've caught in our nets."

"How'd you know that I was here?" He glanced around—the office was practically dead at this hour, aside from a few late-shift analysts.

"I'm obsessed with you," she said dryly, her deadpan expression never giving anything away. "I wouldn't be a very good stalker if I didn't know exactly where you were at all times."

He smirked at the quip—he was infamous for his snarkiness, but Constance Connelly made him look like an amateur. It was one of the many things he liked about her.

She stood next to him, holding up her tablet for inspection. On the screen was a mug shot, "Say hello to an old friend."

"Mariatu Wasaki," Clyde knew who it was, long before he read the name. "Christ, are we sure it's him?"

"Eighty-seven percent match. Even after enhancement, the security footage isn't the best. It's as close to certain as we're gonna be, until we bring in his head for facial reconstruction."

"That might be a bit more difficult than expected," Clyde admitted. He gave a heavy sigh, "I spoke to Chief Prentiss earlier this morning—apparently one of our terrorists got away. I would bet good money that Mr. Wasaki is our missing man."

"Clever bastard," Constance muttered with a slight shake of her head. Mariatu Wasaki had been dancing out of their clutches for almost three decades now. "Got more luck than God gave a cat."

Clyde gave a grim, humorless smile at the pronouncement. It was true.

He handed the tablet back to his colleague, taking a moment to observe her—as usual, her auburn hair was meticulously swooped back into a twist, makeup unsmudged and clothes unwrinkled. She had a natural beauty, but it was a cold beauty, not a thing born of warm smiles and dancing eyes, but rather one formed by well-sculpted cheekbones, pale skin, and eyes the deep shale blue of the sea, with a graceful neck and long, thin limbs that made her seem taller than her relatively short height (she was at least half a foot shorter than he was). She had a nice smile, when she used it, but she was not the kind of woman that you'd approach at a pub and offer to buy a drink. She was the kind who'd sit in the back, smoking and quietly ordering her own drinks, the kind too beautiful to approach, the kind you'd worship from afar.

"Have you been here all night?" Despite her fresh appearance, he couldn't imagine her getting to the office this early in the morning.

"I don't sleep much," she returned simply.

"Yes. I seem to remember that you used to like staying up all hours of the night."

She pretended not to hear that. Instead she focused on her tablet, completely unruffled by his teasing (another reason he liked her, because she could roll with his punches).

"We need to call the task force in Nairobi and inform them."

He cringed slightly at the pronouncement—he hadn't expected to engage Emily Prentiss so soon after their little spat. He'd hoped that she'd have time to cool off, and he seriously doubted that a mere two hours had been enough to take the edge off her current aggravation towards him.

As always, Constance noticed his hesitation, "Is there a problem, Mr. Easter?"

He didn't miss the sarcasm in her tone. She only referred to him as Mr. whenever she was being condescending or otherwise snarky.

"There's always a problem, Ms. Connelly," he returned. She smiled at that, but it didn't quite reach her eyes.

She turned to go, "I'll start pulling any security footage that we can find from local airports within a fifty-mile radius of Nairobi. I'll have the analysts scan passenger manifests for any of his known aliases, see if he used any of his previous identities."

"But if they're known identities, shouldn't they already be on a watchlist?" Clyde asked. "Kenya has always been very good about cooperating with Interpol."

"Some of the names are too common to feasibly put on the list," she informed him. With a dry quirk of her brow, she added, "Unless you want to stop and search every John Smith that boards a plane."

She gave another smile, a true one that reached her knowing eyes, "Besides, the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, have kept some of his names clean, so that he thinks they haven't been linked to him. Easier to find him again if we already know the alias."

He didn't share her humor. It was grim truth of their world, but the truthfulness behind it didn't make it any easier to bear—Mariatu Wasaki had been allowed to roam free, even when international authorities knew where he was (a rare occurrence), because he was a medium-sized fish that led them to other bigger fish.

Constance noticed his somber expression, and she stopped, lightly leaning against the door frame.

"Hey," she called softly, bringing his attention back to her. "Maybe this will break the camel's back."

He understood what she meant by this—maybe this latest act of cruelty would be the final push needed to convince their superiors that Wasaki needed to be taken out for good, maybe they would finally see that the benefit of his survival and freedom no longer outweighed the destruction and chaos that followed.

"I wouldn't hold my breath," he warned her.

She gave a slight shrug and another cat-like smile, "I never do."

Central Shopping Center. Nairobi, Kenya.

Benjamin Arterton took another deep breath as he looked up from his clipboard, taking a moment to survey the dozen or so white-suits picking through the eastern section. He'd known that by informing the others of the latest discovery, this place would be turned into a veritable beehive of activity.

The trouble with beehives was that they had bees. And bees had stingers.

There had already been a few pointed questions as to why the Americans had already been at the site to make the discovery in the first place. He hadn't missed the vague accusations in the tone of such queries, but he'd kept calm and simply reminded everyone that Agents Lewis and Masterson had requested to be informed the instant that the remaining quadrants were opened—every agency had the chance to do the same, but they'd opted to wait until the scheduled meet-up.

And, of course, everyone wanted a crack at the area where the IED had been found. It was like trying to wrangle a herd of kindergartners. Absolute madness.

Major Zamir appeared beside him, offering a bottle of water, which he gratefully accepted.

"Glorified hall monitor is not so fun, is it?" She commented dryly.

He chuckled at the quip, "No. Not so fun at all."

She scanned the area, her gaze coming to rest on the Americans, who were now in a western quadrant, away from the rest of the forensic melee. "Interesting. They find the biggest piece of evidence, and then move to the section with the least evidence to offer."

"I believe they're trying to play fair," he informed her, the tone of her comment irritating him. Lewis and Masterson had yielded the field to the other investigators, even when by right, they had been there first. It was almost noble (at least in their line of work), and he didn't like the fact that everyone else seemed to view them in the opposite light.

"If it were me, I would not worry so much about playing fair," she admitted, taking a sip from her own water bottle. "Terrorists don't play fair. Perhaps we shouldn't either."

He glanced over at her, taking a moment to study her profile before quietly adding, "We're supposed to be better than them."

The corner of her lips curled into a disdainful smirk. "And how has that helped us? We're still losing. The mothers who lost children here, will you reassure them that at least we are better people than the ones who killed their sons and daughters? I am certain they will find that very comforting."

Dr. Arterton didn't have a response for that.

Zamir noticed Chava Azoulay was watching her again—she stamped down a wave of irritation as she turned away. They hadn't spoken all morning, but Yonah could feel the questions in the younger agent's eyes, the questions that she didn't dare voice aloud. Of course, it didn't help that a body was missing—they both knew whose it was, even without saying so.

Mariatu Wasaki. A man of legend—even his name was not real, but rather one chosen by him, many years ago, when he was crafting his persona. The name itself was his call-sign, his battle cry, his mission in life.

The Bitter Enemy. Yes, he'd named himself well. Five years ago, he'd been the mastermind behind an attack in Tel Aviv that had killed hundreds of innocent civilians. He would soon learn that on that day, he'd made the bitterest enemy of all—the nation of Israel, who would not allow his crime to go unpunished.

Zamir's lips pressed into a thin line as she thought about how long the past five years had been, how bleak and seemingly futile. Now they had him. Now vengeance would be served.

She tried to keep herself from getting too hopeful—there was still a chance that he could slip out of their grasp again, disappearing into the underground network of terrorists, smugglers, drug dealers, and slavers that he'd developed over the years. But something felt so right, as if it were destined to finally happen. They'd never been this close to him—and she'd be damned for all eternity if she let him get away.

Yonah Zamir had been stationed in Tel Aviv at the time. She'd been one of the officers called in to the bombing, one of the unfortunate souls who had to walk through the burning metals and the pleas of the dying, the air filled with acrid smoke and the wails of mothers, fathers, children, friends, lovers, strangers. She'd held a child—so small and so damaged that she couldn't even tell if it was a boy or a girl, only that it was a toddler, bloodied and maimed and clinging to life with a heartbreaking determination—and she'd carried it out to the rescue workers. Bits of the babe's burned flesh had stuck to the fabric of her jumpsuit, and the child had screamed in agony.

If there was a hell, she had already walked through it.

She never knew if the child had survived. Part of her had hoped that it didn't. She hated herself for wishing such a thing. She'd half-expected God to smite her and take away her own living child as punishment, but no vengeance had come—in fact, she'd become pregnant with her second child not long after that. Perhaps He'd seen the mercy behind her cruel prayer.

Even now, her throat remembered the heaviness of the smoke, and her eyes stung with unshed tears. There wasn't a single day of her life that she did not see the child's face, or hear its screams. She knew that even after she took out the man responsible for such suffering, the memory would not simply fade away—however, she clung to the vain hope that somehow, she would be able to find some solace in knowing that she'd finally brought some kind of justice to it all.

But was it justice? If a man brutally maimed and murdered hundreds, and then himself went out with a quick, clean bullet to the head, could that really be considered just or fair?

Yonah knew the answer. And she knew that was why she would be forever haunted by the burned child.

Regardless of this knowledge, she'd dedicated her life to finding this man—her husband had joked that she knew more details of Mariatu Wasaki's life than she did of her own family. She was a woman obsessed, possessed with a singular desire to find the man behind so many atrocities. She'd even wondered if she would retire after she caught him. It would be the deepest achievement of her life, and perhaps then the burning children and crying mothers would let her get some peace, let her enjoy her own children without the heavy weight of guilt pressing onto her heart and shoulders.

If only Azoulay wouldn't give it all away at the last moment.

Yonah pushed down another wave of irritation, taking a deep breath as she reminded herself that no one else knew or even noticed what was going on. Ha-Mossad had promised to send someone—she knew that it would not be too much longer before the other agencies figured out who Wasaki was, and subsequently realized that he was the missing man, but every precious minute until then was another sixty seconds that a Kidon agent got closer to finding him and taking him out before the others did. It was a gamble, but she felt that the odds were in her favor.

"I must get back to work," she informed Dr. Arterton, giving a slight nod as she pivoted on her heel and headed back to the evidence tables.

The tables designated for evidence found in the eastern quadrants were already filled with bullet casings, bits of metal and glass tipped with blood, fibers, charred unrecognizable things—and of course, the infamous IED, already in a large evidence bag and patiently awaiting its ride to the lab at CID. She picked it up, rubbing the frayed straps through the slick plastic bag.

You escaped death this time, you coward. You won't be so lucky the next. My only regret is that I won't be the one to kill you myself.

CID Headquarters. Nairobi, Kenya.

Mika Kimathi continued to twirl his pen between his fingertips as he stared at the boards in the conference room, his eyes bouncing from the photos of ANAM members to the blueprint of the Central Shopping Center.

It didn't make sense. There was no feasible way that their missing man could slip out of the eastern entrance in time to escape before the detonation collapsed the entire eastern section. Which meant he would have had to leave by another entrance—any other direction would put him walking past his fellow ANAM members, obviously without his IED, which would have raised questions.

Things weren't adding up.

And no one else had any answers, either. Today, they'd split between the two conference rooms, with the Germans, Israelis, and Canadians in the other room while the Americans, British, and various CIA operatives took the main one.

His boss breezed back into the room, holding up her cellphone as she stated, "That was Clyde Easter at Interpol."

Chief Prentiss had gotten a call a few minutes earlier, and she'd left the room to take it—Mika had instantly known that it had to be someone important.

"I think I know who our missing hostage-taker is," she announced. Everyone sat up, all interest in the room turned to her. She went to the board, pulling off one of the screen shots from the video and resetting it squarely in the center of the board, "Mariatu Wasaki. Interpol has been watching him for some time now—we believe he's West African by birth, possibly from Senegal or Guinea, since he often speaks in French or arranges his English to fit French grammatical structure. He's approximately forty to forty-six years of age and has spent the last twenty-something years as a terrorist-for-hire. He's been the architect behind several attacks from various organizations—religious, political, environmental, he doesn't discriminate, so long as it's against governments in general and Western powers in particular."

CIA Operative Addison Cortez crossed her arms over her chest with a heavy sigh—she'd heard that name before, "Wasaki's a major player. If he was coming into the area, there should have been more chatter."

"It's possible that even the men who died in the attack didn't know who he was," Emily pointed out. "They were merely foot soldiers, it may not have seemed necessary to inform them of the plan."

"Wait...so you're saying that some of the ANAM organization knew that Wasaki would survive?" Addison's face skewed in confusion.

"It makes sense," David Rossi assured her, using his hands to illustrate his point. "The head honchos who brought him in knew who he was—they'd also know that he wasn't going to give his life for the cause. Of course, they wouldn't tell the others that, because it would negatively affect morale. I mean, why take orders from a guy who's too scared to actually die with you?"

Mika had already grabbed his laptop, finding Wasaki's profile on the Interpol database. He held up his hand to politely interrupt, "According to his jacket info, we've been tracking his movements—well, as best we could, anyways—for the last fifteen years. His most recent hit was five months ago, when he was in Spain."

"Spain?" Addison looked over at Mika. "That's a long way from Kenya."

"If Interpol knew where he was, why didn't they grab him?" Spencer spoke up.

"Some of our intel comes in after a target leaves the area," Mika explained. "For example, the entry on Spain was added to our system in May, but he was actually in the country during the month of April."

"Our confidential informants meet on various schedules," Emily added. "Some only meet their handlers once or twice a month—sometimes it's due to the fact that there isn't much activity going on, and sometimes it's simply because their lifestyle is so volatile that they have to be extremely careful with their meets."

She quickly switched gears, trying to get them back on track, "Let's keep in mind that Mariatu Wasaki has been identified in the footage, and even though he seems to best fit the personality and motivation of our missing man, there were reports of two men matching his description, and there's still a chance that one of the bodies in the morgue could belong to him."

"We need to figure out who the other non-East African man was," Hotch agreed.

"And send the new information down to the morgue," Addison added. "Maybe they can rule out whether or not Wasaki's on one of those slabs."

Emily gave a curt nod of approval before turning slightly towards Hotch, "I've already informed our analysts in London to start searching Wasaki's known contacts—maybe the other foreigner is among them."

Hotch glanced down at his watch. Garcia was probably still asleep—she needed the rest, it would be alright to entrust someone else with intel management for a little while. Not that it was really his call anymore, since Prentiss was the superior officer.

Reid was leaning over in his chair, reading Wasaki's profile over Mika's shoulder, "Guys, we're looking at an extreme case of Anti-Social Personality Disorder—he seems to be a cross between a malevolent and risk-taking sub-types."

"You'd have to a risk-taker, in his line of work," Rossi agreed. With a slight grimace, he admitted, "This is beginning to remind me of Izzy Rogers and Matthew Downs."

"Their behavioral profiles are similar," Prentiss set her hands on her hips as she gave slight shrug. "Except that Rogers and Downs did it for the thrill, and Wasaki does it for the money."

"Maybe not," Spencer sat up suddenly. "Ted Turner once said 'Life is a game, money is how we keep score.' Maybe Wasaki sees money the same way. The cash he makes from each organization allows him to travel and plan more attacks."

"When you're doing something you love, the money is just the cherry on the cake," Rossi followed the line of thought. He was nodding in agreement with Reid's idea, "He's a terrorist-for-hire, but not because he loves the pay. He loves the thrill of the job itself."

"And participating in the attacks that he plans is the ultimate joyride," Emily added. Her brow scrunched in concern, "If he's a true thrill-seeking personality type, he wouldn't slink out some back exit."

Aaron was already ahead of her, moving down the hall as he declared, "He would have walked out the front door."

"No great discovery was ever made without a bold guess."
~Isaac Newton.

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