Ana glanced quickly over her shoulder before boarding the plane to check whether the man was still following her.
She had spotted him at the Oriente station the day before, his observant scowl a dead giveaway as an agent on a mission. She knew her cover was blown and was going to have to come up with something new very fast because things would begin crumbling around her in no time. Word on the street was that he had been following her since Iceland, asking discreetly around but not really gathering any substantial information, until Lisbon. Either she was losing her touch or he was damned good at his job, either way it spelled trouble. The other agencies hadn’t caught on yet because they were all looking for a man, and that was her safety net. She was counting on losing him again soon once she touched down in Germany where her next assignment was waiting. The only instructions she had been given was that The Link would be waiting for her at a small café tucked away in the picturesque Böttcherstraße in Bremen with her new identity papers, yet another untraceable weapon and access to a bank account in Stockholm. By the sound of it, this was going to be an expensive assignment, but then again they all were, considering the time and effort required to establish her cover and tap into the local network.
The seat in business class had been the only one open when she went online for a last-minute booking, and it was perfectly fine with Ana. She needed the silence to think and gather her thoughts as she strategized her next moves, although there was very little she could do without knowing whether her new identity was male or female. This lifestyle was exciting but also draining, having to remember new details about a fake past all the time. She looked forward to the time when she could be the one calling the shots but she first had to prove herself and climb the ranks. Carelessness and blowing her cover were certainly not going to do advance her career in Distant Shores, such as it was. She checked her encrypted emails once again to confirm the meeting place and the identity of The Link. This was a new man, apparently the second generation of a powerful mafia family in Lisbon that had operations all over the world. She had dealt with his father and uncles up to now, but never with the young gun who seemed ambitious and ruthless enough to replace his uncle. Unlike her, though, he used his street name openly. The Fonz.
As the train pulled out of the Hamburg Main Station, Affonso frowned and checked his watch. He had flown in two nights ago from Amsterdam and decided to take a side trip to Hamburg and check in on some old friends at the Reeperbahn. His uncle had given him instructions to meet up with certain people to get to know them and the work better. The area was known to the world over for prostitution and provided a convenient cover for their other businesses, the true source of the Family money. Needless to say, Fonz was fascinated by the city, the area, and most of all by the intricate network that his uncle had set up over the last 20 years. It was one thing to read the reports and listen to the negotiations, but quite a different story to suddenly have decision-making power and a tangible influence on the operations. He was looking forward to meeting a person known only as The Messenger but seemed to be one of the most brilliant strategists the underground world had ever come across. The Messenger apparently had nerves of steel, was as unscrupulous as they came, and was feared the world over. His uncle had only met The Messenger once but never seen the face because they spoke through the confessionary box inside a church, a thick curtain dividing them and speaking only in whispers. So Fonz actually had no idea whether he was looking for a man or a woman, but was carrying the new identity papers for a man.
Jacob parked the car and stepped out. All roads had led him to Bremen he was ready to cast a net and reel in the catch. This chase had gone on long enough and he was getting annoyed at it all, frustrated at the constant shadow chasing and lack of concrete evidence to pin on The Messenger. He had jumped on the next plane in Lisbon as soon as he realized where she was going and managed to land 30minutes after her flight, now the trail had gone cold again. His head was still spinning with the infinite possibilities of where to start and the new cover she might take up or the Pirates she could establish contact with. The agent who hand been planted deep in the Lisbon underworld years ago was also having difficulties passing on new information, especially with pending changing of the guards among the leadership. The man being groomed to take over had left last week for Amsterdam. A cold chill ran down his back that had nothing to do with the bitter cold. Catching The Messenger was one thing, but bringing down the entire network was something else, and Jacob knew he would not come out of it alive.
Ana checked her watch and calculated what time it would be back home. She had time for a quick phone call to her son and wanted to check in with her father as well, who was babysitting again. Neither of them knew the true nature of her work, assuming that she was on another business trip. Her mother had recently passed away and it had devastated her father. Florence’s death had ripped both their worlds apart, but somehow brought closer to her father in a way she had never imagined possible.