The Skorpion Directive - By David Stone


Micah Dalton, riding a crowded escalator up into the cold blue light of the Schottentor trolley station, was instantly spotted by a member of the Überwachungs-Dienst, in this case a twenty-eight-year-old cut-crystal blonde named Lasha Seigel. Seigel had been assigned the trigger position, the trigger being the most likely member of the Overwatch Service to have First Contact with the target.

HumInt obtained by the Cousins—they would not reveal the source—indicated that Dalton was likely to surface at the Schottentor subway stop at some point in the early evening of this day. Seigel had therefore taken up her trigger post at daybreak, in a vacant office on the fifth floor of the Volksbank, on the far side of Währinger Strasse, and had remained there ever since, fixed, alone, without relief, mainly because her boss, Rolf Jägermeier, was a Pfennigfuchseres Arschloch, a blunt Teutonic curse that, when sounded out, needs no translation. The rest of the “box” team would commence der Aufzug—the lift, the active mobile surveillance operation—as soon as Seigel established First Contact. Which, to her credit, she managed to do three seconds after Dalton cleared the escalator exit. In another two seconds she had a digital camera with a thousand-millimeter lens zeroed in on Dalton’s face. And as soon as she had it focused, down in his lizard brain, Micah Dalton sensed . . . something. Nothing as specific as a surveillance lens, or the adrenalized young woman behind it. Just a sudden and skin-crawling sense of unease. In his current state, this was not surprising.

He had not slept for two days, and his weary mind was far away in London, recalling the murder of an Uzbek courier on an escalator very much like this one. He became aware that his pulse rate was also climbing, but thinking about the Uzbek’s murder could be the cause of that as well, since Dalton had been the murderer.

The Agency had gone to no end of trouble to recruit this Uzbek, whose family was supposed to have a direct connection with the largest al-Qaeda unit in Tashkent, and they were not at all pleased to learn that he had already been doubled by the Albanians, or at least that’s what Dalton had been told, by Tony Crane, the head of the CIA’s London Station. Dalton, whose time in the Fifth Special Forces had given him some intimate and bloody contact with the Albanians, didn’t think they had enough tradecraft to double a decaf mocha latte.

No matter. According to Tony Crane, the inconvenient Uzbek needed his ticket punched. Crane was a languid blond-haired Back Bay princeling with a perma-tan, a history degree from Oxford, and a Harvard Yard drawl. His only firsthand experience of incoming fire was facing a forehand smash on a clay court. Nevertheless, Crane labored, with some success, at least among the young and gullible on the staff, to create the impression that he and sudden death had been roommates at Choate. Crane wanted “the hit” done in a memorable way, “so those fucking Albanians would get the fucking point.”

Crane’s XO, Stennis Corso, known as Pinky behind his back, a round, seal-like little man with tiny pink ears and bright pink cheeks and soft pink hands that were always raw from too much scrubbing—no one at London Station cared to know why—had a hopelessly mad crush on Dalton at the time, so Dalton got the assignment as a kind of burnt offering from Pinky, whose private passion for Dalton had tented Pinky’s hand-sewn Quaker bedspread for over two years.

Dalton resented the assignment bitterly: he didn’t mind a necessary combat killing, but he deeply despised murder. Nevertheless, he had stayed on the Uzbek for a couple of weeks, realizing pretty early on that, for a double agent supposedly steeped in guile, the fragile old man had the situational awareness of a mollusk.

On the day marked for what Crane liked to call “the hit”—the Friday of the Victoria Day weekend, a three-day holiday in London—Dalton had stalked him for hours, checking for countersurveillance, waiting for his moment, which, as these moments often do, presented itself on an escalator, in this case the one inside the Marylebone tube station. He could still see the old man’s tweed coat, draped over his narrow bony shoulders like a shawl, his yellow-gray hair, damp with sweat, his left hand shoved deep into his coat pocket, a few inches of his spine showing above a grimy white shirt collar, as he rode