“You’re not human.” Frank couldn’t understand how a woman who just lost her BMW to a bomb intended to kill her was calmly typing notes into her smart phone. Like he’d not just tackled her to the ground to keep parts of that luxury sedan from embedding themselves in her skin.

“It’s just a car.”

He wished Matt hadn’t stayed behind to aid the investigative team the CIA sent. If Matt had ridden along, Frank would have some backup. “Just a car? You think a BMW is just a car?”

Angela released a heavy sigh. Clicking off her phone, she lifted her head. “We could die from something much worse. An illness designed to torture us until we beg for death. Does that help you resonate how little importance material possessions hold over me?”

“Cars aside, you could be dead right now. We all could.”

Angela sat stiffly against the backseat of the government car, turning her attention at the scattered city lights below the H-1. “But we’re not.”

Frank threw his hands up in surrender.

“That was always your problem, Dalavanna.”

They’d be crammed in the backseat for at least half an hour yet. Maybe a little longer. Did he really want to spend it arguing?

“You focus on the wrong things,” continued Angela. “Worry too much about what might’ve happened instead of what still could.”

Frank bit down so hard on his lip that he tasted blood. Angela didn’t have to try to be mean. It came naturally. Maggie’s face was fighting its way through Frank’s emotional barrier. One that’d be much higher with a bottle of rum. As much as he didn’t want to talk to Angela anymore, he wanted to think about his failed wedding even less.

“Can he be trusted?” Frank nodded toward the scrawny driver. A younger man named Tommy. One who didn’t seem much older than the driver that’d picked Frank up from the airport that first night.

“Tommy’s my IT,” said Angela. “He’s a highly valued member of my team.”

Shouldn’t surprise him that Miss Top Agent had her own team already. First the BMW. Now the team. All that was left was a beachfront mansion and she’d have it all. Everything Frank had ever wanted from life. Well, not everything, thought Frank, glancing at her bare left hand.

“Where’s the count now?”

“Twenty-six,” said Tommy over his shoulder. “The hospital has quarantined two floors for flu patients.”

“Only two floors?” Frank asked, wondering how many were still alive, fighting the illness. Did they even know they were sick enough to die?

“Well—”

Angela’s phone rang, silencing the group. Frank strained to hear the caller on the other end, but the volume was set too low. Probably another precaution Miss Top Agent had considered essential.

“How did it get out?” Angela asked, her expression unreadable.

Frank couldn’t help himself. He nudged her arm, mouthing what at her. But she ignored him with ease.

“Understood.” Angela dropped the phone from her ear, staring straight ahead. Not saying a word. Punishing Frank for his insistence.

Had it not been a matter of life or death, Frank would’ve let her sit in inflated silence the rest of the drive. “Who was that?”

“Walsh.”

Though Frank really wanted to know why his boss was calling Angela directly and not him, the more important question won out. “What did he say?”

“The cover story’s been blown. There’s a riot at the airport.”

~*~

Frank finally gave up on being off duty when they entered the small headquarters and a gun was shoved at his chest, forcing him to take it. “You’re on assignment, so get over it.” Angela’s words lacked any inkling of sympathy, as usual. Frank might even have thrown in a jab. But shards of glass on the hallway floor silenced them all.

“Someone’s been in the lab,” said Angela, her voice low. Both hands gripping her pistol, she brought her arms up. “Tommy, take Dalavanna and go to the left. Secure the area.”

Sucking in a breath, Frank decided this wasn’t the time to let Angela have a piece of his mind. Treating him like he was lower than a young IT punk that called her Boss. Gun at the ready, Frank let Tommy lead the way through the winding hallway. One that snaked around the lab.

After checking a couple of janitor closets and empty offices, they met Angela at the lab entrance and went in together.

“Whoever was here is gone now.” Tommy set his gun back in his holster. Frank looked at Angela, waiting to see if she’d scold him. They’d cleared this side of the building, but that didn’t mean someone wasn’t lurking in the unchecked bathrooms or offices. Frank was about to volunteer to clear them when another person burst into the lab.

“Williams, how many times do I have to tell you not to jump into a room full of armed agents without announcing yourself?” Angela sucked in a breath. Frank watched to see if fire would breathe out her nose. Tommy seemed to be watching for the same thing.

“Sorry, Boss.” Once Williams was properly reprimanded, she spilled the story of the intruder. “We didn’t know anything was stolen until we heard the glass break. They dropped one.”

“Stolen?” Frank couldn’t help himself. He’d never been cornered into a situation where Angela was in charge. The power battle wasn’t anything new. “What was stolen?” He ignored the icy stares.

“The rest of the vaccine. It’s gone. All of it.”

Angela’s eyes flashed to three times their usual, pointed size. “Why is the lab empty? Where are the techs? They should be making more. Call them in—”

“They’re checking with every hospital and lab on the island.” Williams, a frail twig of a woman, looked terrified. Like she’d not yet delivered the worst of the news. “They took the Yersinia pestis supply. We can’t make any more of the vaccine.”

“The what?” repeated Frank.

“It’s a bacteria,” explained Tommy. “One associated with the bubonic plague.”

“The Black Death?” Frank ran a hand through his hair. “You’ve got to be kidding me. Ang, tell me he’s joking.”

Angela locked eyes with Frank, but refused to say anything. Her eyes said it all.

“I’ve been given the plague to fight off the flu? Doesn’t that sound a little backwards to you?” Frank felt his forehead, certain he’d be running a fever by now. Or that sweat would be pouring down his neck. Certain that he was on death’s doorstep.

“Don’t you know anything?” huffed Angela. “You fight disease with disease. And if you’d actually read the entire case file, you’d know that this strain of flu contains similar characteristics to the bubonic plague.”

“But now someone has your entire supply of The Black Death. Not just the vaccine with the plague in diluted amounts. They have lethal doses.”

“You two,” said Angela to Tommy and Williams, “search the building and perimeter again for traces.” When the two agents rushed for the door, Angela yelled after them, “Gloves!”

Frank shook his head. “We’re probably going to be dead in a couple days and you worry about contaminating evidence.”

Instead of an evil glare, Angela refused to meet his eyes. More wispy strands of hair were escaping her bun. The entire tight ball of precision was unraveling. But Angela didn’t seem to notice. She extracted her phone from her jacket pocket. “You’ll be lucky if we live two days after I tell Walsh what happened.”

~*~

“What do you mean they won’t send any more of the vaccine?” Frank sucked down his cup of water, already eyeing the water cooler from across the room. He’d been shoved into the reception area while Angela shut the door in his face and called Walsh to deliver the bad news.

Angela’s suit jacket was unbuttoned, her hair nearly free of the restraining bun. “No flights, remember?”

“But we’re the CIA!” Frank jumped up in his chair, darting for the water cooler.

“What are you doing?”

“I know you’re a little frazzled, Ang—”

“No.” Angela was eyeing his cup. “How much water have you had to drink?”

“A couple cups. Why, is it poison?” Frank tossed her a smirk before taking a nice, long gulp. But before he could swallow it all, Angela had bounded across the room and smacked the paper cup out of his hand. Water danced through the air, the cup smashing against the wall.

Frank bit down on his lip to keep from yelling. “Ang, I think your instincts are little rusty.”

“How thirsty are you?”

The words, odd at first, slowly resonated. A failed wedding no longer seemed so tragic. “I’m infected.”

 

To be continued…

 Tropical Fever – Part 5