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“We verified,” Cheval said, “that they had such protocols in place. We also verified this past week that they feared the third cell had been intercepted months ago.”

“Why?” Rapp asked.

“Because no one had heard from them,” Butler said. “They went complet

ely dark. No communication whatsoever.”

“What about finances?” Rapp asked.

“We found the account. It hasn’t been touched in five months.”

Rapp shook his head with a bit of skepticism. “We all know how expensive it is to run an operation like this. To move men and materials into position . . . to bribe people to look the other way . . . we’re talking a significant amount of cash.”

“I agree,” Butler said as he reached under the table and retrieved a file of his own. Instead of manila this one was brown, but every bit as worn as the one Cheval had on the table. “And I think I know where they got it.”

“South American drug money,” Rapp said, still not buying it.

“Yes.” Butler tapped the file and with a dire expression said, “Mitch, I can’t stress this enough. I trust you. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have boarded a plane this afternoon and flown down here.”


“What I have in this file is extremely sensitive. It is information that you need to see, but how it came into my possession is one of my government’s most closely guarded secrets.”

Rapp thought he knew the cause of Butler’s cautiousness and nodded. “You’re worried about exposing your source.”


“Tell me how you want me to handle it?”

“For starters, nothing gets put in writing. At least nothing truthful.”

Rapp smiled. “Create a false source—Cuban, perhaps?”

Butler hadn’t considered going that far. He was thinking more of a misdirection play, but he instantly liked the idea of creating a ghost. It would unnerve the Cuban intelligence service and force them to dump resources into chasing a mole. “We can talk about that later, but let’s go over the background material first. I’ve checked on this first part. You can confirm this information with your Drug Enforcement Agency. This past week, while the world has been focused on the attacks in Washington, a minor drug war has erupted in South America. It started in a remote jungle region of the Triple Frontier and has spread to a half dozen cities. The estimates of those murdered is in excess of one hundred people and while they can’t seem to agree on who started it, they all agree on the single event that caused the spark.”

Butler retrieved a pair of black-rimmed reading glasses and put them on. He opened the file, withdrew a satellite photograph, and then closed it. He slid the image to the middle of the table so Rapp could see better and pointed at a line of brown in a photo that was filled with green. “Jungle landing strip operated by the Red Command Cartel out of São Paulo. It serves as regional distribution center for their cocainemanufacturing operation. Local peasants cultivate the coca crops, make the cocaine, and then they bring it to this strip where it is gathered and shipped out once a week.

“Three days before the attack on Washington, the facility was hit. It hasn’t been easy to get exact numbers, but we think approximately eight of the cartel’s men were killed and the entire week’s shipment was stolen. Again, there’s all kinds of rumors floating around, but the estimated street value of the stolen merchandise is somewhere between ten and twenty million dollars.”

“That’s a lot of cocaine,” Rapp said.

“The Red Command agrees. They have offered massive rewards. They want their drugs back, and they want the guilty party punished. They played nice for a few days last week and then when no useful information turned up they began hitting the rival cartels and all hell broke loose.”

“You don’t think it was a rival cartel?” Rapp asked.

“No. I think it was the third cell.”

Rapp nodded. “I’m listening.”

“This is where it gets tricky. What I’m about to tell you is for your ears and Irene’s only.”

“Understood,” Rapp said. They could figure out the best way to disburse the information later.

“The same day that the distribution center got hit a plane showed up in Cuba, with nine men and two pallets of cocaine. They were met by a colonel in the Cuban army and a small contingent of soldiers who helped them off-load the cocaine and transfer it onto two speedboats. This particular colonel was given 10 percent of the shipment in exchange for his help. Somewhere between one and two million dollars in product.”

Rapp digested the information and said, “Cuba isn’t exactly my area of expertise, but from what I’ve heard this isn’t an uncommon thing.”

“It happens to be one of my areas of expertise, and there’s more.” Butler withdrew another satellite photo. It was another shot of the jungle but instead of a rectangular clearing this one was square. An analyst had taken the time to label the various features. “We’ve all seen this before. Barracks over here, obstacle course here, this square area here used for PT, and a firing range here.”