Sunday, May 29, 2011

CHAPTER FOURTEEN




Kris Quinion walked down the curving staircase to the spacious living room of the two-story villa located in the rolling green hills just outside of Antofagasto.  She had figured Dillon would be up and about, but she didn’t expect to find him in the middle of a veritable war room.  Dillon’s extraordinary laptop was hooked up to a printer that was spitting out sheets of printed paper with hideously efficient speed.  Maps were pinned up on the walls, huge maps of the city and the surrounding countryside.  Photographs of the countryside and of the Gynt brothers were spread on the rectangular glass table.  Dillon was speaking into his cell phone even while typing on the keyboard of the computer that had come with the villa with a speed that a professional corporate secretary might have envied.  Kris didn’t interrupt him but instead went into the kitchen, and was grateful to find a full fresh pot of hot coffee waiting.  She poured herself a large mug and returned to the living room, where Dillon was finishing up his conversation.

            Kris looked out through the large glass doors that led to the patio and the kidney shaped Olympic sized swimming pool.  She sighed.  This was such a beautiful country and Kris was beginning to realize exactly how much she had missed South America.  Homesickness was washing through her and she was beginning to have regrets about insisting on helping Dillon in his mission to find Odin.  She could hop on a plane and be in Cristobal in four hours…

            “Good morning.”  Dillon put his phone down and turned in the swivel chair to smile at Kris.  “Sleep well?”

            “I had no idea how much I missed sleeping in a real bed until last night.  It seems like years since I had a decent night’s sleep.  But what about you?  Didn’t you sleep at all?”

            “Sure.  Two or three hours.”

            “That’s all?”

            “That’s more than enough.  And I sleep during the day.  Catnaps here and there.”

            Kris looked skeptical.  “I’ve never seen you sleep during the day since I’ve been with you.”

            “You weren’t supposed to.  It was part of my training. I can go to sleep while standing on my feet or walking and you’d never know it.”

            Kris still looked dubious but she let it go and waved at the room in general, taking in all the maps and papers in a single expansive gesture.  “So what’s all this then?”

            “Tracking down the Gynt boys.  Seems as if they’ve been missing for some time now.  Whereas they were quite visible previous to this Odin business.”

            Kris nodded.  “So that means that they’re probably helping their father.”

            Dillon held up a long forefinger and waggled it in a negative.  “Let’s not be so hasty.  It could be that they’re in hiding from their daddy as well.”

            “But you don’t believe that, do you?”

            Dillon shook his head.  “Frankly, no.  But I try to keep an open mind.”  He pointed at the laptop.  “I’m printing out complete records of their business holdings, houses they own and the like.  And I keep coming up with some interesting things.  The Gynt boys own more stuff under phony names and dummy corporations than they do under their own names.  Including quite a few electronics companies, research facilities and manufacturing plants.”

            Kris’s perfectly shaped eyebrows went up in sudden understanding.  “The Voice.  They could have had it built down here.”

            “I’d say that’s a good bet.  Wanna try for where?”  Dillon got up and walked into the kitchen to get himself some coffee.  Kris watched him, admiring his long muscular legs.  “You get three guesses and the first two don’t count.”

            “Somewhere in the jungle, right?”

            “Bingo.  But the problem is this: where in the jungle?”  Dillon returned to his seat with not only his coffee but also a cheese Danish.  Kris looked at the pastry longingly.

            “I didn’t see any Danish,” she said accusingly.

            “You didn’t look.  Focus, okay?  Where in the jungle would you hide a super weapon?”

            Kris shrugged.  “I have no idea.”  She turned her head, casually tossing her hair.  She was miffed about the Danish.

            Dillon sighed and got up to go get her a Danish.  While he did so, he said; “There’s one thing we know about The Voice: it takes massive amounts of power to run it so we’re talking about nuclear level power here.  Now I don’t believe for a second that even Odin would be able to build both The Voice and a nuclear power plant without somebody tumbling onto what he was doing, so that leaves one thing.”  Dillon returned with the Danish and handed it to Kris, who smiled and bit into it with relish.  “He’s using the natural geothermic energy of a volcano to power his weapon and guess what?  The Licancabur volcano is located in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile.”

            Kris looked up from her pastry.  “How can a dormant volcano have enough energy to power Odin’s weapon?”

            “You’re confusing a dormant volcano with an inactive one. He could still tap into a magma pocket and get more than enough energy.”

            “And what about the ring?”  Kris said.  “Exactly how does that bloody ring fit into everything?  That’s how we got involved in this ungodly mess in the first place.”

            Dillon shrugged.  “I haven’t forgotten about that but we’ve got to lay our hands on Odin before we can solve that mystery.”

            “So how do we find him?  What’s your plan?”

            “To find him?  I do it the easy way.  I let him find me.”

            “And then?”

            Dillon grinned.  “Take a wild guess.”

            “I would imagine we do our best to survive whatever he throws at us and then backtrack his trail until we get to him.”

            “Kris, you are developing quite the aptitude for this kinda work.”

            “So how exactly do we let Odin and his minions find us?”

            Dillon looked up at the ceiling thoughtfully.  “Well, if they’re as good as I think they are, then they’ll know we’re here by now; but that’s okay ‘cause we’re pulling out soon as we can.”

            “We are?  Where?”

            “Haven’t you been listening to a word I said?  We’re going north to the volcano and look for The Voice there.  No sense in hanging around Antofagasto.  What did you think we were going to do?  Go partying and wait for the Gynt boys to take a shot at us?”

            “It would be nice to have a couple of days to rest and relax.”

            “It’s time we don’t have, sweetheart.  And neither does the world.”  He stood up and walked over to where she was, gently pulling her to her feet.  His sparkling copper eyes looked down into her wide blue ones.  “Look, I know you said you wanted to help, but it’s going to get awful rough from here on and I’ve got a bad feeling that what’s coming up is going to make what we’ve been through so far look like a tea party.  Maybe it’s time for you to cash in your chips and go home.”

            Kris’s arms seemed to have a life of their own because before she knew what she was doing, they had slipped around Dillon’s lean waist.  She sighed as he pulled her closer to him and his face came closer to hers.  He murmured softly, “I’ve gotten quite fond of you, you know…and I wouldn’t want to see anything happen to you…”

            “What the hell is all this about?”  The sliding glass doors to the patio opened and a man entered the room.  He looked to be somewhere vaguely between fifty and seventy.  Silver-gray hair hung to his shoulders and a grizzled growth of three-day-old stubble covered his cheeks and chin, but he boasted a full and busy mustache.  Despite his obvious age, he was thin and lean and strong as a bullwhip, and his eyes twinkled with youthful vigor.  His faded khaki pants, battered old cowboy boots and well-worn leather flight jacket looked like something Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart might have worn in a 1930’s Howard Hawks movie.

            Dillon stepped away from Kris and snarled, “Dammit, Eli, your timing rots.”

            “And you’re getting sloppy.  You mean to say you didn’t know I was there for almost thirty seconds watching?”

            “No, you old pervert.  Kris, this is one of my closest and dearest friends, Elias Patrick Creed.  Eli, this is Kris.”

            With the grace of a Virginian gentleman of The Old South, Eli bowed and kissed Kris’s hand.  “And may I say that I understand Dillon being distracted by such a woman of exceptional and unusual beauty and charm.”

            Kris smiled and said; “Well…I must say I’m surprised that Dillon would have friends with such manners and a way with words.”

            Eli reached up a hand and slapped Dillon in the back of his head.  “Yeah, and I’m also a friend who’s telling him right in front of you that he better get his thinking outta his little head and back into his big one if he wants to live through this job.”  Eli turned a serious eye on Kris.  “And now that the pleasant introductions have concluded: go put on some damn clothes.”

            Kris gaped in astonishment for maybe ten seconds before scurrying up the staircase. Dillon grimaced when they heard her door slam.  “Jeez, Eli . . .  you know how long she’s gonna be mad?  That woman’s got a temper like you wouldn’t believe.”

            “Later for her. C’mere!”  Eli hugged the taller man warmly and clapped him on the back several times.  He stepped back and took a good look at him.  “How you been, kid?”

            “As you can see, I’m still in one piece.  You brought everything I asked?”

            “Soon as I got your email, I threw everything you wanted in a cargo plane and came on down.  Gretchen told me to tell you that she’ll be very hurt if you get yourself killed before she has a chance to marry you off.”

            Dillon grinned.  Gretchen was Eli’s plump, vivacious wife.  Eli lived with her and his eight children on a magnificent 1037-acre ranch in Colorado.  Eli had retired there after a full life of adventuring and mercenary work.  However, whenever Dillon called for help, he promptly dropped whatever he was doing and eagerly lent a hand.  Eli had been one of Dillon’s mentors when Dillon had first begun his career, and the two of them had shared many exploits together.

            Eli looked around the living room.  “You got anything to drink?  I’ve been here ten minutes and you haven’t even offered me so much as a lousy beer.  And are you going to explain just what the hell you’ve gotten yourself mixed up in now?  Your email wasn’t all that detailed.”

            Dillon motioned for Eli to have a seat.  “I’ll get us a six-pack and I’ll tell you the whole story.  It began when I was hired to recover this lousy, pain-in-the-ass ring…”


***


            Chew Mi was rather irritated that she hadn’t been allowed by Donovan and Paul to help search the city with the small army of mercenaries they had hired.  They had made inquiries and found out that a man fitting Dillon’s description had been seen in the city but then, after making several substantial purchases, he had simply vanished, as if he had left the country.  Donovan had even suggested that perhaps Dillon had done so, but Chew Mi quickly vetoed that idea.  “He’s still here, trust me.”

            Paul shrugged carelessly.  “It matters little.  We’ve got nearly 40 men looking for him.  If he’s here, they’ll find him and they’ll kill him.”

            Chew Mi laughed.  “You think so?  All you’re doing is sending him a warm-up.  Once he’s finished with your mercs, he’ll come after you.”

            “You give this man too much credit, Chew Mi,” Paul said angrily.  “He’s just luckier than most, that’s all.”

            “Say what you wish, but I was there at Dr. Numby’s castle and I saw first hand what he can do.  I barely escaped from him with my skin in one piece.  You’d do well to take him more seriously.”

            “Enough with the useless debate!”  Donovan snapped, irritated.  He had listened to the constant bickering between Chew Mi and his brother for days now and it frankly got on his last nerve.  The two of them would argue about everything and anything if left to their own devices.  “Paul, I have to leave immediately to take the replacement parts to Odin.  Would it be possible for you and Chew Mi to cease your antagonism long enough to accomplish the task assigned to you?”

            “Of course, Donovan.  Once we’ve taken care of this man, we’ll join you.”

            Chew Mi grumbled, “We’ve got to find him first…”


***


            Eli finished his third beer and tossed the empty can into the trash.  “That’s quite a story, partner.  You’ve been a bad, bad boy, haven’t you?”

            “I was just minding my business.  The last thing I wanted was to have half the world chasing my ass hither and yon.”  Dillon shook his head.  “And it’s not going to get any easier from here on out.”

            “So what’s the plan?”

            “Find Odin’s hideout and make that phone call to Tipp and then run like hell.  He wants to take out Odin so bad, fine, let him do it while I take a much-needed vacation.  Maybe I’ll come up to the ranch and hang out with you for a week or so.  I—” Dillon broke off as an insistent bleeping filled the room.  Eli looked up hopefully.

            Dillon walked over to his laptop and looked at the screen.  It had changed to a topographical map of the villa and the surrounding grounds.  “Hello, what have we here?  Company?”

            Eli ambled over to look at the screen with Dillon.  There were four red dots on the screen indicating four hostiles who had tripped the proximity sensors.  Eli hadn’t tripped the sensors because Eli had known where Dillon would place them. 
                                                                                                 
            “How you wanna handle this?”

            Dillon turned and lightly ran up the stairs to Kris’s room.  He rapped sharply on the door and the furious Kris quickly opened it; but she changed her attitude when she heard Dillon’s terse words.  “Get ready to move out.  There are four men on the grounds.  Stay in your room until either Eli or I come for you.  You still have the gun I gave you?”

            Kris nodded.

            “Good.  Anybody else comes through this door, shoot.”

            Dillon ran back down the stairs and rejoined Eli.  “How does it look to you?”

            Eli pointed at one red dot that wasn’t moving.  “Looks like this guy is hanging back.  Could be that he’s the straw boss of the outfit.”

            “Then that’s the one I want alive.  You go get him.  I’ll handle the others.”

            Eli grinned and reached under his jacket, withdrawing a genuine Bowie knife that looked almost as big as a machete.  It had a well-worn bone handle and the blade, though it was old, was still razor sharp.  Eli was an avid knife collector and had over 800 in his collection.  This particular one was one of his favorites, and he claimed the infamous Western outlaw Cole Younger had first owned it.

            “I said alive, Eli.  I mean it.  I need him to be able to answer questions.”

            Eli shrugged.  “Y’got three others out there.”

            “Not for long.”  Dillon’s copper eyes darkened to moody, angry molten gold.  “They picked a bad day to come foolin’ around in my backyard.”


***


            The three mercs were puzzled that they had been able to approach the house with no signs of being seen at all and no resistance.  They’d been briefed on Dillon and had been warned to not underestimate him.  One of the mercs had actually seen Dillon in action four years ago in Thailand, and he had assured his two companions that the stories were no exaggeration.  None of the mercs liked it.  It didn’t feel right at all—

            Dillon dropped lightly from a tree and stayed low to the ground, moving like a giant jungle cat, and pounced on the three men before they knew what the hell was going on.  The first man was paralyzed by a chop to the back of his neck that snapped it with a grisly, meaty POP.  Dillon’s hands were as hard as oak and knew exactly where to hit a man to kill him at once.  The second merc whirled, bringing up his silenced revolver.

            Dillon whirled, spun with a grace that seemed impossible for a man of his height and weight and appeared to actually levitate as his foot lashed out in a spinning back kick.  It nearly took off the second man’s head as it broke his neck and jaw at the same time.  He was dead before he hit the ground.  Dillon landed and caught the revolver on its way down.  The third merc was turning, lifting his pair of automatics but he was too slow.  Dillon fired twice, both silenced bullets catching the merc in the chest, pounding him backwards several steps.  Dillon fired two more times, blowing away the merc’s kneecaps, and the man screamed and dropped his weapons, clutching his shattered knees.  Dillon ruthlessly and coldly walked over to the merc and shot him right between the eyes.  Then he dropped the still smoking revolver next to the dead body, turned and headed back to the villa.

            Once inside, he ran up the stairs and called out, “Kris!” before knocking on the door.  It was thrown open a second later and Kris stood there, eyes big as cue balls. 

            “Get ready to get outta here.  And don’t look out back.”

            “I-I saw from the window—“

            “It was them or us, Kris.  The Gynt brothers sent them here to kill us.  Don’t forget that.”  Dillon walked back down the stairs where Eli was dragging in a most unwilling companion.  The gentleman looked somewhat disheveled and he had some lovely purpling bruises on one side of his face.  His wrists were bound behind his back with plastic binders (that Eli just happened to have on his person).

            “Here he is and he’s alive, by God.  You happy?”

            “Ecstatic.”  Dillon hunkered down next to the prisoner, who was staring up into his smiling face with an expression of great unease.  “How you doin’?”

            “Fine.”  The prisoner nodded and looked nervously from Dillon to Eli and back to Dillon.  “I suppose you’ve killed the others?”

            Dillon nodded, smiled pleasantly.  “Did it with my own two hands.  Not much of a workout.  If that’s all the Gynts have to throw at me, I’m disappointed.  Ah, it was the Gynt boys who hired you, wasn’t it?”

            The prisoner licked dry lips and his eyes narrowed craftily as he saw a possible way out of this.  “You’ll let me go if I tell you what I know?”

            There was the quiet, deadly hiss of steel sliding from a concealed sheath as Eli drew forth his Bowie knife and knelt down, holding the razor edge under the prisoner’s nose.  “I don’t think you quite understand your position, amigo…you’re gonna tell my boy everything he wants to know or I’m gonna start looking for your liver.”  Eli grinned wickedly.  “The hard way.”

            The prisoner shuddered and appealed to Dillon.  “C’mon man, you guys are professionals!  This is how the game works!  I tell you what you want to know and you let me go!”

            Dillon’s grin increased.  “Unless you start talking right now, I’m gonna let that crazy old man there have all the fun he wants cutting you up.  You think you got balls enough to take him hacking away at you with that blade?”

            The prisoner babbled; “It was the Gynts!  Sure, sure!  They hired a whole bunch of us…30…maybe 40…we were to keep searching until we flushed you out and then let them know exactly where you were!”

            “You’ve told them where this villa is?”

            “No!  I swear!  See, me and the others, we figured that maybe we could grab you and find out what the Gynts wanted from you…maybe it was something we could have kept for ourselves!”

            “Honor among thieves, eh, Dillon?”  Eli chuckled.  He poked the prisoner slightly with the knife.  “Keep talkin’ sonny…don’t make like a clam now.”

            “You got the Gynts worried.  They keep sayin’ that they have to get rid of you.  They never come out and said it, but it was obvious that there was somebody pullin’ their string.  And they had the Chinese girl raggin’ on ‘em as well.”

            “Chinese girl?  Young?  Hot looking?”

            Despite his predicament, the prisoner’s eyes flickered with lust.  “Yeah!  She spoke like she knew more than the Gynts.  And even though she’s only a kid, word has it she can handle herself.”

            Eli looked up at Dillon.  “That this Chew Mi you told me about?”

            Dillon nodded.  “Couldn’t be anybody but her.” 

            “Humph.  You been having considerable trouble with women on this job, haven’t you?”

            “You should meet Lady Thelma.  Now there’s a woman who has serious issues with men.  Drag his sorry ass into the next room and gag him then come on back and give me a hand packing my stuff.”


***


            It only took about two hours to drive to the secluded airstrip where Eli’s cargo plane was safely hidden.  Three men who Dillon recognized as hired guns Eli had used before guarded it.  Dillon nodded at them and they casually nodded back.  Dillon grinned at his friend as he climbed out of the jeep and helped Kris out.  “How’d you find this strip, Eli?”

            “C’mon, man…this part of the country is filthy with secret airstrips going back to World War II.  I know of about a dozen of ‘em myself. Some of us still rely on our brains and not that fancy hardware you like playing with.”

            “Gotta keep up with the times, old man.  You bring me my wheels?”

            Eli nodded and motioned for them to follow him up the ramp of the cargo plane into the main hold.  Locked securely into place was an oversized, modified Defender Land Rover.  Dillon grinned and ran his hand over the green and black hood of the vehicle.  It had huge halogen spotlights on the front and rear.  A tarp was covering the roof rack where there was equipment already packed.  Side bins were securely locked and extra cans with fuel and fresh water were lashed on the back.  Kris looked curiously at the outsized winches on the front and rear bumpers of the Land Rover.  The cable wound around the drums was as thick as a man’s thumb.  Two spare wheels were stowed in the spacious rear of the Land Rover, along with more metal bins.  It occurred to Kris that Dillon must have told Eli what he would need and the old man had packed the Land Rover to save time.

            “The GPS is up and running, so I can find you with no problem,” Eli was saying.  “You sure you don’t want me to come along?  We could leave the girl here with the boys.”  Eli looked at Kris.  “They won’t bother you, miss.  I can vouch for their behavior.  Sure, they look rough, but they’re okay.”

            “Negatory on that.”  Dillon said.  “I need you here.  You’re the designated cavalry in case I screw up and land up to my ass in a pit of alligators.”

            “Which, knowing you as well as I do is a dead bang certainty,” Eli replied cheerfully.  “Oh, well . . . I brought along an X-Box471 . . . I guess me and the boys can keep busy playing football while you’re off saving the world.”  Eli suddenly became serious.  “Look here…you get in over your head, don’t be too proud to yell for help.  That’s what I’m here for.  Okay?”  Eli roughly hugged Dillon and impulsively kissed his cheek.

            Dillon pushed the older man away and embarrassedly wiped his cheek.  “Will you stop doin’ that!  People already talk about us as it is!”

            Kris couldn’t help laughing at Dillon’s discomfort from Eli’s unashamed display of affection.  “Well, I think it’s sweet that a man Eli’s age can show his true feelings.”

            “You would…” Dillon grumbled.  “Get in the Land Rover.”

            “We’re leaving now?  Right now?”

            “No sense wasting time or daylight.  We are on the road.  Eli…keep your eyes on the GPS and your ears to the radio.”

            Eli walked over to a control panel and hit the switch that unlatched the Land Rover’s wheels.  Vaya con Dios, amigo…

Dillon started up the vehicle and the huge engine boomed into life, making Kris jump in surprise.  The entire vehicle was throbbing as if there was barely contained power surging through it.  Dillon drove down the ramp, high-fiving Eli as the Land Rover roared out of the cargo plane.  Once clear, Dillon turned the vehicle in a wide arc and gave it the gas, heading north toward where he was sure he would at last find Odin.

CHAPTER THIRTEEN





Tipp’s personal briefing room was certainly more comfortable and relaxed than the interrogation room.  Dillon made for the plushest looking chair in the room and flopped into it with a sigh of pure contentment.

“Now this is more like it,” he said with an amiable grin.  Tipp snorted in derision, walked over to his desk, and unlocked it, withdrawing a thick file folder from a drawer.  Inside the folder were a number of minidisks held in clear plastic pouches.  Tipp motioned at the black octagonal table in the center of the room.  Dillon leaned forward, his copper eyes sparkling with interest as he sipped from his bottle of water.

            Tipp placed one of the minidisks into a slot on the top of the table, and it automatically came to life, holographic displays floated in the air above the table’s surface, slowly revolving.  “You’re looking at digital holos of the destruction that has already been done by the Voice of Odin,” Tipp said, seating himself across the table from Dillon so that the two men were looking at each other through the holograms.  “Never in their wildest imaginations did anybody think a weapon like this could actually be built, much less used.”

            “Well, that’s the bad thing about weapons, isn’t it, Greg?  There’s not much point in building them if you’re not going to use them, right?  It’s a dilemma that goes back to the first caveman who clunked a wild pig on the head with the first club ever made.  How long do you think it took him before he started wondering how that club would sound going upside the head of the guy living in the cave next door?”

            “Spare me your simplistic moralizing.  You live in a fantasy world of good guys and bad guys and think everything can be explained on those terms.”

            “You’ve got a madman out there holding the world hostage with a weapon that can destroy by sound, and you’ve got the balls to say I’m living in a fantasy world?”  Dillon chuckled, tossed his empty water bottle behind him.  It arced through the air and landed neatly in the waste bucket by the door.  Tipp’s eyes opened wide in amazement.  “You got something stronger than water?  If I have to listen to your bullshit I’d rather do it while having a decent drink.”

            “There’s a bar behind you.”  While Dillon got up to hunt a bottle of Demarara rum, Tipp continued.  “As I’ve told you, Leopold Gynt was probably the world’s greatest expert in harmonics and wave pattern theory.  After the incident with the sonic bomb back in ’86, Gynt fully expected that he would be contracted to make more weapons.  He wasn’t. By all reports, he was bitter and angry that so many years of work went for nothing.  He disappeared from the public eye for a time, maybe about a year or so before resurfacing in South America.”

            “You keep talking about Gynt in the past tense, but you also said that you think he’s Odin.  Now, he’s either dead, in which case somebody else is using his work to carry out these attacks, or he’s still alive.  Which is it?”

            “He was in his early fifties back in ’86, so if he’s still alive today, he’d be an old man.  I think he’d be quite capable of directing these attacks, but he’d need help to do so, and I think that perhaps his two sons would be more than happy to provide that help.”

            Dillon sat down with his glass of rum, watched as Tipp inserted another disk, and the holograms shimmered and changed.  Now he was looking at two young men.  One with a mustache and large, mournful eyes, and the other somewhat beefier, with a cunning glare that bespoke of a devious mind.

            “Gynt’s sons.  Donovan and Paul Gynt.  After the sonic bomb test, Gynt relocated his family to Antofagasto, Chile, and desperately sought backers for his sonic experiments.”

            “Seems to me that there would be a lot of organizations and individuals who wouldn’t mind throwing a couple hundred million into a project like that.  He wouldn’t have much of a problem finding decent funding.”

            Tipp smiled sharkishly. “And he would have if it wasn’t made clear that both British and American intelligence agencies were keeping a close eye on Gynt.  We had no intention of using his sonic weapons and we damned well weren’t going to let someone else get their hands on them either.  Anytime someone approached Gynt, they were…discouraged from pursuing the matter further.”

            Dillon chewed on an ice cube thoughtfully.  “Why didn’t you just kill Gynt?”

            “It was a joint decision made by the heads of the allied intelligence agencies.  There was an outside chance that the time would come when we would have need of a sonic bomb.  So Gynt was left unmolested and alive.  But watched.”

            “And you wonder why the bastard’s got a mad on.”  Dillon shook his head.  “You went to him and said ‘pal, dream us up the most frightening weapon in mankind’s history’ and he did exactly what he was asked.  His only fault was that he did too good a job and so he was ostracized and exiled.  He wasn’t allowed to continue to develop or refine his work and no one would use what he’d already done.  This was after he spent the majority of his life working on this.  A life wasted.”

            Tipp sighed.  “Again, your schoolboy moralizing is totally irrelevant to this situation.  I thought you wanted a deal.”

            “I haven’t heard one yet.”

            “It’s a very simple one.”  Tipp tossed the file on the table.  “There’s everything I’ve got about Gynt and his two sons.  I’ll give you a plane and send you on your way.  If you get on Odin’s trail and find where he is, you make a phone call to me.  That’s it.”

            “Don’t you have agents down there in Chile hunting for the Gynt boys already?”

            “I would say that most of the world’s top intelligence agents are down there now looking for them.  Both of the Gynts have vanished, by the way.”

            Dillon sat back, a shrewd look in his eyes.  “So why would you think that one man would be able to do what all those fancy secret agents with their laser gun pens and secret decoder wristwatches can’t?”

            Tipp shrugged.  “You’re supposed to be highly intelligent with excellent deductive abilities.  You figure it out.”

            “Oh, I already have.”  Dillon got up to make himself another drink.  “Seems to me that if Gynt has been watched as carefully as you claim he has, then where the hell did he get the time and more importantly, the money to build this thing without anybody noticing what the hell was going on?”

            Tipp nodded.  “Incredible.  You can think.  Go on.”

            “Which means that Odin’s somehow infiltrated the intelligence community network to such a degree that he was able to feed back false information.  Or there’s a government sponsoring Odin behind your back, and they’re the ones who have been funding him and covering for him all these years.”

            Tipp nodded.  “You see my dilemma.  It hardly makes a difference how many agents there are down there or how good they are if there are other forces working against them, feeding them false information, sending them on wild goose chases.”

            Dillon sipped his drink.  “We could be talking about a rogue cell inside of an established agency.  Hell, Greg, it could be right inside yours.”

            Tipp nodded.  “That’s why I’m willing to take a chance on you.  And you’ve got your own lookout as well.  Odin’s not about to forget all the problems you’ve caused him.  I daresay he’s still got his people looking for you.”

            “I hope they’re people he’s got no more use for ‘cause anybody he sends after me I’m going to send right back in doggie bags.”  Dillon raised his glass.  “You’ve got a deal.”

            “Excellent.”  Tipp stood up to shake hands.  Dillon reached out and then hesitated.  Tipp frowned.  “What’s wrong?”

            “Kris Quinlan.  You think you could do me a solid and see that she gets back to London okay?”

            “As a matter of fact, I was hoping you’d take her with you.”

            Dillon looked at Tipp as if the man had burst out singing “Some Enchanted Evening”.  “Greg, I’m going to South America.  What am I going to do with her?”

            “I’d rather not have her here.  I’m going to have the devil of a time as is explaining why half of the bloody island is in flames!  And she can’t very well go back to England.  How long to you think it would be before Odin’s agents got a line on her and kidnapped or killed her?”

            “So take her somewhere and stick her in a safe house or something.  Dammit, Greg, I’ve already dragged that woman through enough!”

            “Doesn’t she come from somewhere in South America originally?”  Tipp asked.  “Cristobal, I think?  Would it be that much of a problem to drop her off there?  Surely she’s got family down there who can look after her until this business is over.”

            Dillon’s lips quirked as he thought it over.  “Okay, okay, I supposed that would be best for everybody all way round.  I’ll do it.  You’ll give me back my stuff and bring Kris to the airfield?”

            “Of course…just let me see if I can hunt up a plane that you haven’t destroyed yet….”


***


            Dillon climbed out of the 928 Lambert, a beautifully designed, gull-winged aircraft designed for long distance flights.  He had run through the pre-flight check and personally fueled the plane himself.  Although Tipp had given orders that Dillon was to be left alone, several of the soldiers were standing a respectful distance away, idly stroking their hand grenades and every once in a while throwing him looks most foul.  Dillon couldn’t blame them a bit.  He had made the security of PROJECT: 65 look like a joke, and hurt, maimed and even killed a few of the supposedly elite security force.  And now here he was being given an aircraft and being allowed to fly away just like that.  One of them might just take it into his head to say the hell with it and chuck a grenade at him.  Of course, Dillon had no intention of standing there while this happened but he understood the feeling behind it.  He didn’t know if he could have had that much discipline if the shoe was on the other foot.

            Tipp had found him the airplane and a relatively undamaged section of the airfield to work and take off from when he was ready.  The fires had been put out and the wreckage removed with the aid of a pair of bulldozers and several forklifts, but it would take a considerable amount of work to get the airstrip back in shape for regular flights to and from the island.

            Gregory Tipp drove up in a jeep with Kris Quinlan next to him.  Kris was wearing a cobalt blue jumpsuit with her riot of golden hair tucked under a black cap with a stingy brim.  Dillon’s eyes lit up as he saw that Kris had his equipment bag slung over her shoulder.  The soldiers, seeing Tipp, muttered among themselves and moved away.  The air was still tangy with the smell of burning gasoline and metal.  Dillon and Tipp watched the soldiers slowly walk away.

            “I think if you hadn’t shown up, there might have been a lynching,” Dillon said.

            “You killed four of their mates and put eighteen others in intensive care.  Six of them might not make it.  You really don’t give a rat’s ass about the consequences of your actions, do you?  I’ve heard for years that you’re a bloody menace and now after seeing you in action, I see that the stories weren’t exaggerated.  I’ll be cleaning up your mess for months.”

            Dillon’s eyes darkened to molten gold as he answered; “I’m gonna tell you something for free, Greg.  You can kiss my dimpled black ass, okay?  Nobody told you to stick me in your torture chair and try to turn my brains into tapioca.  Way I see it, we’re even.”

            Kris was standing by the door of the plane with Dillon’s bag.  “Dillon, can we just go?  Please?”

            He nodded.  “This isn’t getting us anywhere.  She’s right.  Best if I just go on and hold up my end of the deal.”

            Tipp nodded.  “Remember, you have no official standing with me.  You run into the wrong crowd and that’s your lookout.  The only thing I expect from you is a call when you’ve found Odin.”  Tipp rattled off a string of numbers.  “That’s a secure number where you can reach me, night or day.”  Dillon nodded and turned away but was stopped by Tipp’s firm hand on his elbow. 

            “Something else?”

            “Yes, there’s damn well something else. Our truce lasts only until Odin is either caught or killed.  Once that happens, I’ll be coming after you.  I don’t much like the thought of a man with your secrets and talents and acquired knowledge of things you have no business knowing running around. You need to be controlled.”

            Tipp felt a tug at his waist and suddenly, Dillon was pointing Tipp’s own gun right at his left eye.  “Then maybe I should blow what passes for your brains outta your head right now and get it over with,” Dillon snarled.  “You honestly think I wouldn’t?”

            Tipp smiled with absolutely no fear whatsoever.  “Not your way.  Oh, you could kill me if I were coming at you with a weapon, sure.  But like this?  Not bloody likely.”

            Dillon stood with the gun pointed at Tipp’s head.  He actually seemed to be thinking it over and for a second, Tipp saw something in Dillon’s eyes that made him think that he had made a very bad mistake indeed.

            Then the moment had passed. Tipp felt his gun being jammed back into its holster and his shoulders relaxed.  “I suggest you get on that plane now.”

            “And I suggest you stay as far away from me as you can, Tipp.  I can only be pushed so far and you’ve just used up any and all debts I might have owed you.  Stay off of my ass.  I mean what I say.”

            Dillon climbed aboard the plane and closed the hatch, dogging it shut securely, then went up to the cockpit.  He had intended to scan the plane for bugs but right now he just wanted to get the hell away from Tipp as fast as he could.  Kris was in the co-pilot’s seat, hands folded in her lap.  Dillon dropped into the pilot’s seat and slipped a headset on, waiting for the control tower to confirm that he could leave.  It was necessary for them to verify that he had a clear path since he would have to cut across several commercial airline routes in order to clear British air space in the shortest amount of time.

            Kris looked at Dillon; saw the anger in his face and the impatient way he manipulated the controls.  “You were honestly thinking about killing him, weren’t you?”

            “If it hadn’t been for one thing, I’d’ve killed him dead as Julius Caesar.”  Dillon muttered.  “You.”

            “Me?”

            “Of course, you!  If I had killed him we’d have never gotten off this miserable rock alive and I figure that after everything you’ve been through, the least I can do is take you to Cristobal.”

            “Cristobal?  Why?”

            “Because I can’t leave you here and I’m going to South America, that’s why!  Anything else you want to know?”  Dillon began taxiing into position for take-off.

            “That man Tipp told me you were going after Odin.  I want to come along and help.”

            “Surely you must be joking.  I don’t know if you’ve been paying close attention or not but people have been getting killed on a pretty regular basis lately.  And if you thought it was bad before, then things are really going to heat up.”

            Kris said quietly but firmly, “I’m involved in this.  I have been from the start, even though I tried to delude myself into believing that I wasn’t.  I’ve done a lot to hurt you and hold you back.  You’ve saved my life at every turn despite my being such a fool.  I really want to help.”

            Dillon looked at Kris and sighed.  “Oh, what the hell.  You might as well come to Chile for a while at any rate.  Maybe you can be useful until the bullets start flying.”

            Kris grinned and settled back in her seat as Dillon received his clearance.  He gunned the engines, sending the plane speeding down the runway.  Shortly, it was in the air, streaking through the sky in a burst of speed.  Dillon allowed a small smile to play across his lips.  Somewhere out there, Odin was waiting for him, and somehow he knew that very soon they were going to at last stand face to face.  And then the fun would really start.


***



Kris ate her second small bowl of pistachio ice cream slowly.  She was beginning to think that just maybe Dillon wasn’t coming back for her.  They had landed in Chile six hours ago on a secret airfield that wasn’t such a secret to Dillon obviously.  When she had asked how he found out about it, he had simply pointed at his laptop and she remembered the underground network he had told her about back on the train.  That seemed as if it had taken place years ago, so much had happened since then.

            Dillon had bargained with one of the men at the airfield to drive them into Antofagasto where Dillon had escorted Kris to a restaurant.  He had then spoken directly with the manager and returned to the rear booth where she sat.  “Wait here.  No matter how long it takes, just sit and relax.  Order whatever you want, the manager will take care of you.  If you want something to read like newspapers or magazines, do NOT go out for it yourself.  Tell the manager and he’ll send one of his people to get it for you.”

            “But where are you going?  Why can’t I come with you?”

            “Because I’ve got a lot of fast moving and some sneaky underhanded things I’ve gotta do and it’s better for you that you don’t be there when I do them.  Just eat and relax.”

            “What did you say to the manager?  Why is he going to let me sit here ordering anything I want without paying?”

            “I’ll pay him later.  And he’s letting you sit here because he thinks you’re Christina Agulera doing research for your upcoming starring role in Mission Impossible: 4.”

            “What?”

            Dillon grinned.  “Improvisation is very important in this business.  Catch you later.”

            But Kris was beginning to think that all that was just one of Dillon’s scams to get her out of harm’s way.  She was tired of eating and she had a small stack of magazines and newspapers at her elbow that she had read through twice at least.  And she had taken some eight photos with the manager and his family and signed five autographs for him that he was probably trying to sell on eBay right now, she thought wryly.

 At last the restaurant door was thrown open and Dillon strode in.  He no longer wore his ‘working clothes’ and was dressed in a midnight blue double-breasted Armani suit.  He had a fresh haircut and shave, and he looked more like a business executive than the rough-and-tumble adventurer she had become accustomed to.  He winked at Kris while he paid off the manager with the local currency. 

            “Sorry I took so long.  Let’s go.”  Dillon helped an indignant Kris out of her seat but she angrily yanked her arm away from his helpful hand.

            “Did you stop to think that maybe I might have liked a change of clothes as well?  Not to mention a hot shower or bath?  How can you be so selfish?”

            “Hey!  Don’t be like that!  I told you I had things I had to do.  Everything is all set for you.  You’ll be taken care of at the villa.”

            “Villa?  What villa?  Where?”

            “The villa I just bought on the outskirts of the city.”  Dillon held the door of the restaurant open for her and gestured.  “There’s our ride.”

            Kris’s lower jaw sagged open in astonishment.  A long bronze Mercedes-Benz limousine stood idling at the curb, the driver holding the rear passenger open for them.  Kris, frankly dazed and astonished, allowed herself to be helped into the back seat, which appeared to be large enough to host a good sized party.  Her eyes roved over the CD/DVD player, the satellite flat screen television with twenty-inch screen and the compact but fully stocked bar.  The driver closed the door, resumed his seat and soon they were moving into traffic.

            Dillon was opening a bottle of champagne while Kris found her tongue.  “How in God’s name did you pay for all this?”

            He finally got the bottle open and poured champagne for them both in tall crystal flutes as he answered.  “I’ve got pretty hefty accounts stashed in banks here and there.  It was just a matter of me transferring funds to a bank down here.  And then I had to purchase a villa to use as a base of operations.  No point in going to a hotel and advertising to Odin and his organization that I’m down here.”

            “But the bank will have records of the transfer of your funds, won’t they?”

            “No, because I used my laptop to wipe the transfer records clean.  Cost me a pretty penny in bribe money, let me tell you.  But I’ve got other enemies besides Odin and I couldn’t take the chance that they’ll trace me down here.  I’ve got enough on my plate without worrying about old baggage.”

            “So what do we do now?”

            Dillon held his flute of champagne up and clinked it against hers.  “We get you cleaned up, rest up and then we work on a plan for finding Donovan and Paul Gynt and through them, their daddy Odin.”


      ***


Chew Mi lay naked on a huge beach towel, tanning herself.  The intense South American sun was just perfect for getting an all over tan and Chew Mi had been appalled at just how pale her skin was once she had arrived here.  After a bit of difficulty locating them, she had successfully made contact with the Gynt brothers.  It was unfortunate that it had involved a bit of killing, but then again, breaking a neck here and there hardly bothered Chew Mi.

            The Gynts had brought her to one of their plantations, some thirty miles outside of Antofagasto.  This particular one was a rubber plantation, one of several they had purchased through falsified documents and smokescreens of fake identities.  It was easy to hide in Chile, even in this day and age of ultra sophisticated high tech equipment, if one knew how to make that self-same technology work to cover one’s tracks.

            Donovan and Paul were playing tennis nearby while Chew Mi took in her tanning.  Occasionally she would lift her head to watch them.  They didn’t look much like brothers she had noticed from the start.  Donovan was the taller, mustached Gynt with the slim build of a fencer or dancer.  His glowering, mournful eyes lent him an air of melancholy and misery.  Paul was the shorter, more muscular Gynt.  He was also the sneakier brother by far.  Donovan was a methodical planner where Paul was simply a born backstabber.

            The tennis game was interrupted by one of the servants coming from the huge three-story mansion and walking down the wide marble path to the tennis court.  “Secure communications for you, sirs.  And madam.”  The servant added, trying hard not to look at Chew Mi’s splendidly firm young body as she stood up with no shame whatsoever and walked over to where the servant was placing a laptop computer on a glass table. 

            Donovan and Paul wiped their faces dry with white face towels as Chew Mi sat in front of the laptop and punched in codes to open the video link.  Shortly, the screen was resolving into a shadowy form whose face was obscured by electronic distortion, as was the voice.  It was impossible to tell if the figure on the screen was white or black, male or female.  But their identity was confirmed by Chew Mi’s greeting.

            “Odin.  How may we serve you?”

            “You might put some clothes on to begin with,” the electronically disguised voice chided.  “Must you prance around like some ignorant slut?”

            Chew Mi pouted but wisely said nothing, just held out her hand as Donovan handed her a robe.  The man was making a heroic effort to control his laughter.  Once Chew Mi was covered up properly, Odin continued:

            “Certain components of The Voice have broken down and must need be replaced.  Donovan, I will expect you to have the parts shipped out here within 24 hours.”

            Donovan Gynt nodded.  “At once, Odin.”

            “Paul, I have a special job for you and Chew Mi.  Dillon has left England and he is headed here.”

            Chew Mi snarled; “Are you positive?”

            “My source of information is totally reliable.  I am tired of hearing this man’s name.  He has completely disrupted my British operations.  And I am going to have to arrange for Lady Thelma and her man Whalen to escape somehow.  She knows far too much to be allowed to remain in custody.  This means there are still more agents of mine who will have to be compromised and will no longer be of any use to me.  Dillon has cost me too much in time, equipment and people, and I want him destroyed.”

            Paul was nodding as he reached into a nearby cooler and got himself a fruit drink.  “I don’t see a problem with that.  Dillon’s wildly overrated if you ask me.  Nobody could be that good.”

            “Ask Chew Mi.  She fought him.”

            Paul shrugged.  “So she says.  If she did fight him and let him live, then I’d have to say that she has a measure of responsibility for Dillon getting back on your trail, correct?”

            Odin’s retort was sharp and to the point.  “And without Chew Mi, I would not have my ring.  She has been a good and faithful servant and I forgive her transgression in not killing Dillon when she had the chance because I am positive that such a lapse of judgment will NOT happen again.  Am I correct, Chew Mi?’

            “Yes, Odin.”  Chew Mi’s voice was a mouse squeak of contrition.

            “Then go about your jobs and be sure that you do not fail this time.  I am moving into the final stages of my master plan and I need no more annoying gnats like Dillon interfering.”