Chapter 1

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The overcast sky combined with cold drizzle, kept an embrace on the night as the taxi drove up to the airport. The front tire rubbed against the curb jolting the car and leaving a black smear on the cement. Ahead of them, doors were open on vans, cars, and taxis, where active hands pulled overstuffed suitcases to the wet sidewalk. The luggage and other items pretending to be luggage were dragged and carried inside the wide doors, to waiting check-in agents.

The cab driver waited, reluctant to step out into the mist for his fare and the tip he believed he deserved. His swarthy features betrayed his heritage, while the anticipation of a huge tip hinted at his God. Mason Borders paid the driver along with the tip, accustomed to the lack of gratitude.  He was in his early forties, tall, with a muscular physique. Dark haired  cut shorter than the current fashion, it would curl when touched by the rain. His long legs hinted at strength and promoted his height. He always seemed to walk with a purpose, confident in his manner. His eyes were gray, hinting at his northern heritage. Behind them sparked a superior intelligence. Women found him attractive.

Borders was a senior agent for CSIS, cleared to the highest level, a solver of problems, an eliminator of threats. He and his partner were on an assignment that at first glance looked like a vacation cruise on the Mediterranean. This expense paid cruise was part of their job. All they had to do was stop a terrorist with plans to bomb one of the ships ports of calls. The information was scant. The only description given was that the man wore a white Panama hat. It wasn’t much to go on. How many would wear a Panama on a ship with two-thousand passengers? He was sure further information would follow. Deep down, Borders hoped this had nothing to do with the trouble in Syria. He had had his fill of those terrorists.

 His partner for this assignment was Chapel Hill, a man with whom he only had a scant relationship. Hill was thick bodied and barrel-chested, a fireplug of a man. Shorter than Borders, he was in his late forties. He sported a thatch of red hair - that displayed a habit of being unruly. He had brown eyes, punched into a fleshly face, that on most occasions appeared glazed. Enemies, as well as friends, called him ‘beer barrel,’ hinting at his devotion for his favorite drink, and his drinking habit as excess. Borders looked upon him as a burden rather than an asset.

Borders and Hill lifted their luggage from the trunk, as the drizzle misted their faces. Borders pulled down the trunk lid of the taxi and was thanked with a cascade of water from the spinning tires as the cab pulled away. They followed the other passengers through the sliding doors, which swooshed back and forth as each group entered and left its field of control. Their shoes squished on the slippery floor. Borders took a backward glance at the rain and thought of the sunny weather that awaited them on their cruise on the Mediterranean. ‘Isn’t it always warm in Italy?’

From the corner of his eye, Borders noticed a tow truck approaching. It was the Parking Police on the prowl for prey. The driver with bulging eyes round and black, like a cartoon character, failed to see any customer, his eyes more focused on Borders and Hill than on offending vehicles. He passed by. The day was young. He had adequate time to reach his quota and keep his job. The sliding door swooshed behind them, blocking out the rain.

The floor was slippery, from the traffic of shoes and boots. It left the shape of a fleur-de-lis on the wet floor as people broke off in three directions. Passengers and staff crisscrossed in front of them. Pilots and hatless flight attendants headed for their planes while passengers gawked at them and wondered. Small children wandered by with one hand clutching a parent and the other dragging an undersized suitcase. A large dog, unhappy in his cage, barked incessantly.

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