Skull Island, South Pacific 1000 hours local 31 October 2009 Countdown: 2 years, 2 months, 1 day

Mateo stepped off the boat on to the concrete dock. Maybe fifty feet down the pier, Kenn Blanchard was greeting the latest contestant for Zombie Strike! Memories flooded Mateo’s mind as he remembered when he first came to this island some eighteen months ago. It seemed so long ago. Mateo turned back to help his companion off the boat.

“Welcome back my brother,” Kenn said as he walked up to Mateo. The handshake turned into a warm hug. “Who’s this you brought us?”

“Kenn Blanchard this is Jess Montgomery, my foster daughter,” Mateo introduced. The teenager smiled shyly as Kenn quirked an eyebrow.

“It’s a long story,” Mateo said, “Short version, her parents were killed during the fight at Forreston, and she didn’t have anywhere else to go.” Mateo looked back at Jess with a smile. Kenn could see some of the emotional wounds were healing, just very slowly.

“So you took her in,” Kenn finished with a smile, “The Steve said you had some personal business to take care of. Never mentioned you’d be bringing back a new daughter.” Kenn looked back at the boat and frowned.

“Where’s Collin?” Kenn asked.

“He isn’t here?” Mateo asked in surprise, “He left Florida with The Steve, Jim, and the Brits.”

“The Steve said he dropped them off at the airport,” Kenn answered, “Collin told him that he had to help you with some unfinished business.”

“I never saw him,” Mateo said, suddenly worried about his friend. Kenn read the younger man’s face and clasped his shoulder reassuringly.

“I wouldn’t worry Matt,” Kenn said, “Collin probably had something come up. What was he doing in Florida anyway?”

“I thought you sent him,” Mateo said, surprised by the question, “He said he was there to provide support for M&W’s investigative team.” The two men stopped and looked at each other with mirroring concerned looks. The unspoken questions hung in the air between them. What was going on with Collin?

Mobile, Alabama 2000 hours local 31 October 2009 Countdown: 2 years, 2 months, 1 day

Collin Dubois’s mind was alert to the danger around him as he strolled casually into the dive of a pub. It had taken a week to track his prey. Difficult, but not as challenging as hunting Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Afghanistan. Especially not as dangerous as his time in Ulster. The denizens of the pub noticed the tall black man as he entered, but didn’t consider him much of a threat. Bloody fools.

Collin’s target was sitting with the remains of his family. Collin almost laughed at how they looked and acted like stereotypical American bikers. He strode to their table as he unbuttoned his long coat. The target’s companions began to stand up, but he waved them down.

“Don’t see many black limeys,” Morris Templeton said, without a trace of his normal condescending sarcasm, “I also don’t see my money.” Collin sat down, ignoring the barb as well as the five other toughs trying to look intimidating. They wouldn’t have lasted a day in the paras.

“You lost the shipment,” Collin replied, “You should be happy I didn’t tell Mr. West exactly how you lost his drugs.” Collin was impressed. Templeton didn’t even flinch. “Needless to say, Mr. West was most displeased with your failure to fulfill your end of the agreement.” Collin’s flat, empty tone made Templeton sit up straight. A faint expression of worry and fear crossed the criminal’s face.

“I don’t want Mr. West unhappy,” Templeton said, matching Collin’s tone, “What can we do to make this right?” Collin smiled inwardly as the opportunity presented itself.

“Who was Keenan smuggling that zombie for?” Collin asked. Templeton’s eyebrow arched, surprised at the question. Then, Templeton swallowed a gulp of beer from the mug at his elbow. The man looked nervous, but he put up a brave façade. Collin and Templeton stared quietly at each other as the question hung in the air. Templeton finally folded in the silent battle of wills after a minute of quiet tension.

“Some guy named Castle,” Templeton answered, “Never heard of him before, but he fronted me a quarter mil to facilitate, so to speak.” Templeton paused. That explained Templeton’s reluctance to divulge what he knew. Simon West wasn’t known for being kind to his associates that went “off the reservation” as the American said. Collin watched as Templeton’s eyes went wide.

“Mr. West’s not going to blame me for that craziness back in Forreston!” Templeton said.

“I think you should worry less about that and more about preparing the next shipment,” Collin said, rising from the table. None of the Templeton family noticed the small box Collin attached to the underside of the table. Sometimes perfect tradecraft was wasted on boorish amateurs. They would never appreciate the subtle grace of a truly gifted operator.

Collin was two hundred meters from the pub when the bomb detonated. The front of the pub shattered in a shower of wood, plaster, and glass. Collin waited for two minutes to see if anyone emerged from the wreckage. No one did. Collin turned and walked down the darkened street. After about ten minutes, Collin pulled out a phone from his jacket.

“Yes?” intoned the cultured voice.

“It’s done, West,” Collin growled into the phone, “Time for you to bloody well hold up your end.”

“Of course, Mr. DuBois,” West answered with an excruciatingly polite tone, “Your sister’s debt is discharged. Yours, however, is still in effect. I expect you to honor the terms of our arrangement.” Collin didn’t answer. He cut the call off and walked to Mobile Bay. Collin tossed the phone into the black waters. It sank beneath the small waves like a rock. That unpleasantness was finished. For the moment, at least.

Collin retrieved his rental car from the small private lot some five blocks away. He drove back to Florida to catch a military flight from a former comrade. It wasn’t technically legit, but old favors went a long way. Part of him just couldn’t understand how he managed to get into this mess. Part of him wanted to hop the first plane back to London and put Simon West into a watery grave. Still, in the end, Collin knew he would do what was necessary until the opportunity presented itself. He could only hope that he wouldn’t betray his friends too badly before he could settle his accounts.

Zombie Strike Part 3 Chapter 16