General Stepanenkov’s customers were supposed to pick up the ellipton at two A.M. Smolensk time. Jorgenson figured that if the operation went as planned their team, and the plane, would land at their airfield in southern Latvia an hour afterward at most. Three A.M..
Washington D.C. was eight hours behind Smolensk, and the digital clock on his desk read eight P.M. precisely, one hour after that.
Of course, the plane might simply have been late, or the exchange slowed down by some minor complication. But the longer the team stayed in place, the harder it became for them to keep hidden, especially when the sun came up – as it would in three hours.
The phone rang.
“Any word on the team?”
“We’re still waiting.” Candito sighed audibly, as if he was going to say something more.
Jorgenson tensed, waited for it.
“There’s been a spike in signals traffic out of western Russia, a lot of planes in the air. There’s word that something’s been shot down, maybe an airliner, though it’s not clear who did it.”
“Fuck,” was all Jorgenson managed. “Any word on a crash site? Or movement by units of the Border Guard Service, or the Internal Troops in the area?” Both the KGB, and the Ministry of the Interior, controlled paramilitary forces bigger than most national armies. “Army?”
“None so far, but we’ll keep you posted.”
“Do that.” And then, “Thanks.”
Jorgenson hung up, went slack in his chair, let his head hang off the back. It was possible all this was a coincidence, but that was too much to hope for. They now had to face a whole range of unwelcome possibilities, about which they could do little now: that their people had been killed for a start, or captured. There was a very good risk of the operation being tied back to Argus – while their prize ended up out in the world, with who knew what consequences.
Jorgenson remembered Russell protesting his decision here in his office. The judgment of a man whose preferred mode of inebriation was eating a cheap, greasy sandwich was not to be trusted in matters such as these. Still, much as he resented the fact, it seemed possible Russell had been right after all.