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Chapter XXIII

“You did what?” Shield nearly dropped his gin and tonic.

Leaning over the railing on Zanzibar’s patio, Frankie spoke low to hide the sounds of their conversation. “You wanted to find the serpents, I found them.”

“Alright, great and now they’re going to kill you.”

Frankie sniffed, wounded. “Hardly,” he set aside his Riesling. “I hate to sound cocky, but I’ve handled more dangerous creatures then a couple of snakes.”

“And the concept of a set up didn’t dawn on you?”

“What set up?” laughed Frankie. “It’s a pit match. Me in a hole with a bunch of snakes. That’s good clean fun. If we were in trouble, they’d just line us up behind a barn and be done with us. They’re going to bring out some real, live Bhutan Tiger Snakes, and then you’ll have the proof you need.”

“Burmese,” Shield rolled his eyes. “And we already have the proof. I spoke to Suliman, they have a small colony of the animals in the exhibit hall. We know they’re here; it’s time to move to the operational phase of the plan.”

Frankie shook his head. “If there’s one thing I learned in the Agency – it’s not enough to know that something exists, you can only act on it if you know where it is. We don’t know where the little bastards are yet.”

“How do you know wrestling some snakes is going to tell anything?”

“Easy, if this is going to be a pit match, then they’re going to have to bring the snakes out from somewhere. Have LeHaze stake the place out.”

Shield gritted his teeth. “And if they’re seen? If things go south, the mission integrity has to be preserved.”

“I know, I know, you’ll hang me out to dry,” said Frankie. “I’ve seen that movie before.”

Shield decided it was time to move on but Frankie caught him by the arm. “As long as we’re handing out advice, maybe you’d like to hear some.”

“Not particularly.”

“You need to watch your back, your team is compromised.”

“Then you’re lucky, I don’t trust anyone.”

“Listen to me, I have a bad feeling about LeHaze.”

Shield felt impish. “Watch it, that’s technically my wife you’re talking about.”

“Yeah, that was pretty cute, wasn’t it?” he replied, not at all seeing the humor in the situation. “At the end of the day, I’d ask myself – why did she agree to come on this mission?”

“How about spending more time thinking about snakes than your personal views on a certain operative.”

“Where’s the difference?”


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