New York City

             Ted Snyder nervously tapped his foot against the floor.

“Relax,” the younger of the two Biermann brothers told him, seeing the worried expression on his face.  “The medical examiner confirmed that it was a heart attack.”

“Maybe they weren’t looking for the right thing in the tox screen.”

“Wait until the old man gets here and then we’ll get this all sorted out,” the older Biermann brother said, dismissively waving his hand.

They were seated for brunch just a few minutes ago and the waitress was now bringing their drink orders.  Ted was the CEO of a major defense company and knew his share of heavy drinkers in his industry, but the fact that the Biermann brothers routinely drank bourbon for breakfast was something that he could never quite figure out.  The waitress set down the Bloody Mary he ordered in front of him.

They sat in the old man’s favorite room, which had been reserved for their private meeting ahead of time.  The walls were painted in pastels and long, tall windows let the morning light in, giving the Upper East Side club a very warm feeling inside.  As one of Manhattan’s most exclusive clubs, the décor was strongly in contrast to the other stuffy formal clubs, some of which dated back to the Revolutionary War.

The Biermann brothers clinked glasses and drank up, but Ted wasn’t in the mood.  He’d spent a week holed up in a safe room eating military rations after Area 14 in Nevada got hit and then lived under unbearable amounts of security while still trying to run G3 Communications.  Only recently had he identified who was behind the strike in Nevada.  They believed that he had been killed in Syria.  Then General McCoy turned up dead in his backyard.  The coroner said it was a heart attack, but Ted wasn’t taking anything for granted at this point.

There was a knock at the door and then a body guard opened it for the old man.

George Szabo had arrived.

Having just celebrated his 90th birthday, he looked none the worse for wear.  The three men stood to shake hands with Szabo, which was nothing if not appropriate considering that he was the owner of The Others Club, not to mention a self-made billionaire.

Together, the Biermann brothers and Szabo occupied an interesting political space.  They were all billionaires with vast financial empires.  The brothers and Szabo also pulled political puppet strings through foundations, think tanks, and lobby groups both domestically and internationally.  Szabo was notionally on the left and the Biermann brothers notionally on the right, but as Ted watched them shake hands there was no doubt in his mind that they were all drinking bourbon together at the end of the day.  No matter who won, Wall Street won.  It was a fixed game if ever there was one.

With the three of them combined, the oligarchs controlled an entire political dialectic in America.  Through their media holdings and lobbyist firms, the left and the right ends of the spectrum were routinely played off each other for the gain of the three oligarchs.  Ted, on the other hand, was firmly inside the defense establishment and had spent his entire professional life there since retiring as a commander in the Navy.

But you couldn’t run a fixed game in a free market, so these titans of the finance sector had to employ various tools to maintain their oligarchy.  One of those tools was espionage.  Another was direct action by mercenary soldiers.  Lately, their hobby had been assassinating pro-democracy advocates in certain parts of the world.  They encouraged the Arab Spring in places where they wanted regime change, like in Egypt or Libya, and suppressed it to maintain the status quo in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

“I just heard back from my people,” Szabo said as he took his seat.  “I had them test for some specific chemical markers.”

Direct Action: Chapter Forty Three

Read Next: Direct Action: Chapter Forty Three

The Biermann brothers looked on with identical expressions.  Ted swallowed.

“McCoy took a suicide pill.  The type we issue to spies and assassins for deniable operations.”

“Fuck me,” Ted gasped.

Szabo ignored the foul language.

“We’ll just let the media continue to run with the story about the heart attack.  Worked with Bill Colby back when.  Might as well leave well enough alone.”

“Was it Deckard?” Ted asked.

“We don’t know for sure.  Our analysts are combing through some interesting metadata though.  Nothing definitive yet but…”

“But?” the older Biermann spoke up.

“They are ninety percent sure that he survived Syria.”

“Fuck,” Ted cursed again.

Szabo looked at him disapprovingly.

“The mission in Syria was an abject failure.  As near as we can tell, Deckard was the only survivor.  Somehow, he actually infiltrated Liquid Sky before Ted discovered that he was the one who did Area 14.”

“We’ve also heard from our contacts,” the younger Biermann said.

“In the Pentagon,” the older brother said finishing the other’s sentence.  “Chemical sensors picked up the detonation of one of the weapons.  They think it was sub-surface and mostly contained.”

“The other weapon is in possession of the Syrian government,” the younger brother picked up.  “They are asking for some serious collateral if we want it back.  This embarrassment is seriously limiting our kinetic options with the regime right now.”

“This has the potential to turn into a real shit show,” Ted said.  “We barely contained G3’s role in Nevada and Mexico.  Now we’ve got to contend with the Assad regime and Deckard on the loose.”

“Not to mention controlled leaks from foreign intelligence services trying to thwart our plans,” The younger Biermann said.

“A few nihilistic young people being manipulated by the FSB and MSS.  Nothing we haven’t handled in the past,” Szabo said as the server brought him his own bourbon.  The young woman took all of their brunch orders.  Once she left the room, Szabo continued the conversation.

“Liquid Sky no longer exists.  I want Cobra Gold pulled off the sabotage operation in Pakistan and Green Light taken off standby for Iran.  Both teams need to be on Deckard full time until he is eliminated.  The CIA has had him on a target deck for a while, but I know he has his fans at the Agency.  That ends now.  We start putting pressure on this issue from all sides.”

“He also has an operation in Kazakhstan, with tacit approval from the country’s government,” Ted said.

Szabo looked at the Biermann brothers.

“We’ll handle it,” they said in unison.  It was an annoying habit that the twins had.

“I don’t know how he has managed it and I don’t care, but Deckard has compromised huge portions of our ongoing operations.  The amount of damage he can still do is impossible to calculate,” Szabo lectured.  “I want all resources re-tasked and dedicated to destroying him immediately.”

“We’re on the same page,” the older Biermann said.

“Same here,” Ted confirmed.

“Tomorrow morning I have a meeting with the director-”

Szabo’s words were cut off as they heard a loud thud outside in the hall.

The four men turned as the door swung open.  Deckard stood in the doorway.  Walking inside, he pulled a chair from one of the other tables and sat himself with the oligarchs.  None of them said a word.  The Biermann brothers were literally speechless.  Ted may or may not have defecated in his pants judging from the expression on his face.  Szabo remained stoic.

Deckard reached into the pocket of the black leather jacket he wore and pulled out four cellophane wrappers, each containing a tiny white pill inside.  He tossed one onto each of their plates.

“Same deal I gave McCoy.  It is far better than any of you deserve.”

“If we refuse?” Szabo taunted.

Deckard shrugged.

“Ask your bodyguards outside, if any of them can still talk.”

Ted looked down at his suicide pill.

“You’ve run out of moves.  It’s over,” Deckard said as he looked at the old man.  “Take the pills.  Go out with what ever sorry fucking excuse for dignity you have left.  You’re still pieces of shit, but your legacies are secure.  Like McCoy, no one will ever know of the crimes that have been done in your names.”

“Hey, listen,” Ted began.  “You’ve got it all wrong-”

“Shut up,” Szabo ordered.

“Exactly,” Deckard agreed.  “I’m sick of looking at your goddamn faces.  Let’s get this over with.”

One by one the men sitting around the table opened the plastic wrapper, put the pills in their mouth, and then washed them down with their drinks.

Deckard sat back in his chair and waited for them to die.

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