Friday, September 04, 2015

The Khartoum Project

By Gabriel Timar
Suspense/Thriller, 312 pages, cover art by Pat Evans

The Khartoum project takes the reader for a ride in the netherworld of the intelligence community. On this highway to hell, one must win or die…no matter how brave, ruthless, and inventive. Monica Brett in the mission to Khartoum pushes to the limit and beyond.

After having dinner at the Cafe de Paris, Monica walked toward her hotel. The little alarm bell pounded into her mind in the intelligence school suddenly sent a warning. She looked around carefully at several occasions and realized two men wearing trench coats, felt hats and black gloves were following her.

She quickly stepped into a little accessories store no more than a block from the hotel. The two men patiently waited outside. Stepping to the cash register to pay for the pair of elk-hide gloves she bought, she kept watching the men in the mirror behind the sales clerk. Monica took as much time paying her bill as she could, and did not want to turn her face in the direction of the men. The saleslady did not understand Monica's procrastination.

"Anything wrong, ma'am?" she asked.

"No, no thank you. I was just thinking what else I was supposed to buy…"

"Another pair of gloves perhaps," she suggested, "We have a special on the white glace today."

"No, thank you. Auf wiedersehen," Monica said and spun around. At the exit, she picked up a large flyer advertising the store and walked out. Passing her shadowers, she walked in the direction from which she had come. Glancing at the two men, Monica did not recognize them; they were complete strangers.

As she did not want to lead them directly to her hotel, with deliberate strides she walked down the Rue de Mont Blanc, one of the main thoroughfares leading to the center of the city. Looking back occasionally, she noticed the men following at a respectful distance. She decided to do the wounded buffalo act, the trick she learned at the training school. The wounded beast normally withdraws into the thickest bush, stalks the hunter, gets behind the pursuer, and tramples him.

To pull this trick on two stalkers was not easy, but Monica had to try. She briskly walked to the first corner, checking the two agents more than thirty feet behind her. As soon as she turned the corner, she broke into a run for ten seconds and slowed down to her regular stride. When she looked back, the two men were rounding the corner. As she had more than fifty meters on them, when she turned the next corner, she ran flat out all the way around the block.

Passing the starting point, she stood at the corner and waited. In a few seconds, the two agents turned the corner huffing and puffing. Monica stuck out her right leg and the agent ahead of his partner fell over. The second managed to stop. Covering her left hand with the flyer, Monica stepped up to the agent still on his feet. "Hold it, buster, I've got a gun on you. Don't do anything foolish."

He looked surprised, but recovered quickly.

"Don't do anything hasty, Miss Brett. We are your friends," he stammered.

"Nevertheless, hand over your gun, please."

"My gun?" he asked in a surprised tone. "I don't carry one. In Switzerland it is against the law for a foreigner to own firearms." He opened his jacket: "You may search me if you wish."

"Why are you following me?"

"Look," he started in a convincing tone, "I'm not what you think. I'm on your side."

"Interesting," Monica said with a wry little smile.

The other agent stood up and dusted his pants.

"You don't understand, Miss Brett. We want to talk to you."

"Start talking," Monica said tersely.

"Why don't you let me buy you a cup of coffee?" he said. "Put your gun away, and I'll explain everything to your satisfaction, I'm sure you'll understand."

"That is a unique pickup line. I'm not interested."

"We work for the Rittmeister. He assigned us to provide security for your project."

Monica knew immediately that the man was not what he purported to be. The Rittmeister had not assigned anybody to protect her.

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