If you missed Chapters 1-9, read them at the Deals are not Enough page. Yes, I realize I’m running a bit behind schedule, and yes, I am working hard to get this heart-pounding, action-packed spy genre story back on track. Enjoy.
“You need a ride?” a man asks, animated.
“Ride?” another asks. “Ride?”
The men are motioning towards their vehicles, parked off the tarmac.
“No, thank you,” I reply, scanning for my contact. I stretch my back, trying to wake up.
Even though it is after midnight, I’m overwhelmed by the heat, an all encompassing heat like I’ve never experienced before. I’d only been able to catnap on the flight into Sierra Leone. I’m not one to get a good deep sleep on a plane. Flying into the Lungi International Airport had been startling. As we descended, everything had been dark – pitch black – the sky, the ground. I’m glad the pilot knew where he was supposed to land.
A man in a white hat approaches me. “Nice night for a ride to the city?”
“A city under the stars,” I reply.
He nods, and leads the way towards an older 4 Runner, about 20 feet off. I’m already glad at the prospect of A/C. How on Earth will I manage once the sun rises?
“Have a nice flight, Agent Cat?” he asks once we are in the car. I stow my satchel carefully in the backseat.
“As nice as a flight can be, Agent 78.” Truth is the flight wasn’t so bad, except perhaps the landing bit. It was the waiting and waiting through customs and past guards that was less than pleasant.
We are driving down a narrow, unlit, paved road. Although it is very late, I’m surprised to see many people out walking along the edge of the street. Periodically, I notice carts and tables full of goods, lit dimly with candles.
“Makeshift markets,” Agent 78 tells me.
I keep my eyes peeled for Samuel. The package in his possession is clearly part of Mouse’s master plan of spreading bad deals across the globe. If I can intercept the package, I’ll be one step closer to Mouse, and one step closer to putting an evil daily deal site to rest.
Just as we approach the ferry terminal, I spot a man in a white and black jumpsuit on a motorcycle. But the cars and crowds of people are growing thick, and his motorcycle is quickly enveloped.
“He was there – but I lost him!”
“We’ll find him again on the ferry,” Agent 78 reassures me.
We are at the ferry terminal that will take us across into downtown Freetown. Many people have gathered here to wait, and it is a vibrant scene even though it is the middle of the night.
We soon begin to board the ferry. From inside the car, I notice people donned in colorful African garb and others in military uniform. A few look like missionary workers. Two men have painted their beards white and are telling jokes in Creole to a laughing crowd. Others still are selling meat on sticks and other hot food.
I spy him again. Samuel.
“I’ll meet up again soon,” I tell Agent 78, hopping out of the car and slinking onto the boat.
I watch as Samuel parks his motorcycle and removes the package from Van Straten before heading into the seating area. I move in. He goes up a flight of stairs. Then another. And another. He is on the top deck, and he clutches the package tighter past thick crowds of people seated and ready for the ferry to depart. I keep my distance, and watch as he sinks into a seat on the far corner of the deck. I hide beneath the feet of a couple people who are laughing and talking loudly, drinking bottled soda and unaware of my presence. The ferry is crowded, and it’s hot, but no one seems to be complaining. It’s as if they’ve all thought this a jolly good time to have a nice chat. They all seem so happy, though I can’t say the same of myself in this heat.
Not once during the 30-minute ferry ride does Samuel move or rummage with the package. Once the ferry stops, I make my way back down the flights of stairs and into the car dock where I find Agent 78 waiting in the 4 Runner.
“The motorcycle is several vehicles ahead. Follow it,” I tell him.
It is now past 2 am. I am hot. Hot and tired and trying to not think of how perfectly lovely it would be to be curled up and sleeping in Winston’s office…perhaps on the brown leather chair…
“Hold on, Agent Cat, we’ve got ourselves a car chase,” Agent 78 announces.
And so a spy’s got to do what a spy’s got to do.
We make our way through downtown Freetown, slowly at first, through the congestion of cars, motorcycles, and pedestrians who don’t seem to find a use for sidewalks. There is no light, the shops have closed, yet the people happily walk the streets and talk as they go. We make a sudden right turn, then a left, and then another right. It’s confusing, and jarring. Punctuating the ride is the occasional sound of African hip hop music drifting out of clubs.
“This is not the sort of car chase I’m used to, Agent 78.”
“Well Freetown isn’t your average car chase city.” Agent 78 is intent on the road, the wheel, and the motorcycle ahead of him.
Samuel seems unaware he’s been followed. This may not be a bad thing. We make our way outside of Freetown and follow Samuel up to a large structure.
“Brooksfield National Stadium,” Agent 78 informs me.
“Wait here,” I instruct. I don’t want to get too close to Samuel, and risk blowing my cover.
I grab my satchel out of the backseat and make my way silently up towards the football stadium. I hop over a chain link fence and then scurry up and down the bleachers. I finally obtain a good vantage point, far out of sight. My eyes adjust, taking in the dark and the distance. Samuel is pacing across the field, package in hand. I sneak the voice recorder out. A couple minutes later, a man arrives. Abu.
“Here is the package,” Samuel tells him. “All the instructions from Mouse have been included. Read them carefully, and then route the remaining instructions to our husky contact.”
“It is understood,” Abu responds.
“Do not fail, and you will be rewarded,” Samuel says, returning to his motorcycle.
I watch briefly as Abu climbs into his small Toyota before I hightail it back to Agent 78.
“That’s Abu!” I tell him.
The road out of the stadium begins to zigzag – and without warning. The car ride, the heat, the lack of sleep – are all beginning to catch up with me. I begin to have a rather low moment where I contemplate calling Winston in for back-up. Then I quickly remember our last conversation and my quest to prove that I’m just a capable a spy as he is – cat or not.
The sky is turning pale; the day is dawning. I can now see we have been driving past a number of shanty houses. People are waking up, pouring out of the houses to get their tasks done for the day. There is cooking, cleaning, and selling of wares. And then there are more people. And more still. The streets come to life with their activity. Occasionally, the car hits a pothole or a bump. The road is descending. We are headed for the water.
After a good 40 minutes, we are now driving along the water. The view is stunning – pristine sands and beach, and no development or pollution. I roll down my window and take in a deep breath. The sea breeze invigorates me.
When I see Abu’s Toyota take a turn down the beach, I announce to Agent 78, “this is as far as I’ll need you to go.”
Agent 78 nods, stopping the car. “Best of luck, Agent Fat Cat.”
I wave back before scurrying down the beach to a concrete restaurant that reminds me of my days in the Caribbean. I am reminded suddenly how hungry I am. My stomach growls. I decide to take the direct approach.
I make my way up to the bar. “Cassava soup, please?”
The dark skinned man rubs his hand on a towel, smiling at me. “You hungry, cat? You look….well fed.”
Shoot. I’d right forgotten about that.
“I’d say…you not from around here?”
“Just passing through, my good man,” I say as calmly as I can muster. “So, how about that cassava?”
He nods, and heads back into the kitchen. I realize I won’t be staying for soup. I slink out the front door and head to the back. I peer inside and see him working in the kitchen. The package has been shoved just inside the back door. Quietly – oh so quietly, I stand on my hind legs and try to make out the label…I make out a name, and then note: University of Washington.
I take a quick photo image of the box.
“You there!” Abu is racing towards the back door, knife still in hand from preparing my cassava.
I duck out quickly as his knife sticks hard into the ground just behind me. He chases me for a few paces, before giving up. That’s one thing cats have on humans. We outrun.