Shortly after the realization that Frank was infected, he walked out of Hawaiian CIA headquarters.

Angela’s lashing words chased him down the block. “We need your help, Dalavanna.”

“I’m a dead man anyway,”  Frank called over his shoulder. “The vaccine didn’t work.”

“So you’re just going to die in vain?”

Instead of acknowledging the harsh comment, Frank turned a corner. He’d had just about enough of this bad luck. Frank intended to spend his remaining days—or maybe it was just hours—inundated by luxury. At the expense of his almost in-laws. He’d stop off for a quick drink then hail a cab back to the hotel. Where he’d order three bottles of the most expensive rum on the menu.

The dimly lit bar hid crumbling walls. Had Frank cared about living, he might’ve avoiding this dank establishment. It looked like he was the only white guy in the place. But that didn’t stop Frank from marching to the bar to order a double shot of Captain Morgan.

The bartender the size of a brick house gave Frank an appraising look. “I just want one.” Slapping a twenty dollar bill on the counter, Frank said, “Keep the change.”

A few grunts later, a shot glass appeared in front of Frank. The glass had no more than touched his lips when he heard a chair crack in half. He didn’t want to be the hero here either. He wanted to spend the rest of his night in his personal hot tub.

Frank threw the drink down his throat.

Fists and bottles flew as the fight grew behind him. Frank had to slip out so he could wallow in self-pity that his life was ending with nothing right about it. His fiancé had left him at the altar, and yet he’d made the stupid choice to get on the plane anyway. Things could be worse, he mused. They could’ve come to Hawaii a newlywed couple. Then Maggie would be infected too.

When a bottle crashed against the wall just feet from Frank, he sighed. He set the empty shot glass back on the counter, assessing his safest escape route before he ended up in the middle of a fight he knew nothing about.

Just feet from the exit, he heard, “Dalavanna, a little help here?”

How Matt had gone from assisting the CIA investigation of the car bombing to a bar fight in a hole-in-the-wall joint was beyond Frank. But he wouldn’t just leave his friend to die. Survival instincts kicked in as Frank leapt over a fallen table and threw a punch at a massive jawbone. The burly man fell instantly, already unconscious.

Frank hadn’t realized he’d needed to hit something that badly, but it felt good. It was one of the many reasons the almost in-laws didn’t approve of his line of work. Too violent for their tastes.

A few punches later, he and Matt slipped out of the bar before the bartender could successfully recruit backup. Frank chased after Matt down a dark alley, giving little thought to where they were going.

“I need your help, Frank,” said Matt once they’d stopped running. “Will you come with me?” Matt nodded toward a car parked along the side of the road. Looking around, Frank realized they were now in a residential neighborhood.

At one time, Frank guessed it was a nicer neighborhood. But windows were smashed in, lights were off, trash was strewn along the lawns. Wiping a line of sweat from his brow, Frank asked, “What happened here?”

“The riots have spread,” said Matt, dropping into his car.

“Where is everyone?”

“Some are hiding.” Matt threw his car into gear and sped down the road. “Some have gone to the airport or the docks, determined to get off the island.” Matt turned a sharp right corner. “Where have you been, Dalavanna?  Did you and Davis shut yourselves up in a closet for the past several hours or something?”

Frank wondered why Matt kept insisting there’d been something between him and Angela when there wasn’t. It’d be a long time before he ever got over Maggie. That thought made him laugh out loud.

“What’s funny?” asked Matt.

There’d no longer be a long time for Frank. “I should probably warn you that I’m infected.”

Another sharp corner. “I know.”

Frank jerked his head toward Matt. “How?” He’d felt uneasy about Matt hanging back to aid in the bomb post-investigation, but he’d not known why. “How could you possibly know that?” For the first time since storming out of the headquarters, Frank felt relief that he’d kept the gun.

“I know you think it’s weird that I just happen to show up in Hawaii.”

“You could say that.” Frank rested his hand on his hip. His loose Hawaiian shirt, the one he’d bought his first official day on the island while he waited for Walsh to call him back, hid the gun well.

“I couldn’t tell you anything before, because I wasn’t sure who the rat was.”

“We have a rat?”

“You know her.”

“Her?” repeated Frank. “Angela?”

“Yeah.”

Frank’s head spun. Miss Top Agent was a rat? He couldn’t believe it. It didn’t make any sense. She’d accomplished everything she’d ever wanted in her career. Hell, she’d accomplished everything Frank ever wanted in his career but didn’t have.

“Why are you acting so surprised?” Matt asked, turning into an alley in the murkier part of Honolulu Frank hadn’t seen during his time as a tourist. Dark ten-story buildings flanked them on all sides when Matt put the car in park. “I thought you ran from her when you figured it out.”

“I walked out because I’m infected. I’m going to die in a couple days. I didn’t come down here to play ‘save the world’ yet somehow the CIA decided I needed to.” The more Frank said out loud, the more he questioned everything. Why had Walsh sent Angela to him with a vaccine if she was the rat?

“Relax.” Matt turned off the ignition. “I have the real cure. Walsh gave Davis the wrong stuff.” Reaching for the car handle, Matt added, “Who do you think raided the lab?”

Nothing made sense to Frank any more.

“Angela wasn’t just cooking a bunch of vaccines,” continued Matt. “She was making more of that flu. Enough to take out half the continent.”

If the CIA had given Angela a placebo vaccine, Frank mused, then why wasn’t she sick too? And what possible motive would she have to wipe out an entire continent? But Frank didn’t have a lot of other options other than to follow Matt through a narrow door tucked behind a dumpster. In hopes that he’d learn more.

Once inside, Matt turned to Frank. “The people upstairs,” said Matt in a low voice, “they don’t know that I’m working for the good guys.”

Frank understood. He’d been uncover several times in his career. Often it’d been necessary to portray the villain to get to the ringleader. He hoped Matt had done just that with the person responsible for starting this fatal flu epidemic.

“Forgive me, Dalavanna, but I have to bloody you up a little bit.”

The last thing Frank remembered before a wall of black was the sight of Matt’s fist connecting with his jawbone.

~*~

When Frank regained consciousness, he was handcuffed. The dampness of the cement floor seeped through the cloth of his cargo shorts. And the gun he’d hidden beneath his Hawaiian shirt was gone.

The tiny room could hardly pass for a closet. Frank sat facing a heavy metal door, no doubt bolted shut from the outside. The only means of fresh air came from a window so narrow that a cat would have a hard time slinking through the strips of rebar.

Sweat poured down his face, despite the cooler temperature of the room. His throat scratched in agony. And Frank would kill someone if only to get a single sip of water. He now understood what Angela had been talking about during their drive to headquarters when she said that this illness would make them beg for death. If he didn’t get water soon, he didn’t want to go on.

Remembering Angela’s words only made him question everything all over again.

The heavy bolt slammed seconds before the door slid open. Two men Frank didn’t recognize marched into the room and grabbed him by the arms. They might’ve come from the shady bar he’d just visited. Looked shifty enough. “Boss wants to see you.”

The lone light bulb buzzed in agony as Frank was dragged down the narrow, dank hallway. At the end, he was shoved through a door on the left.

Frank tried to review the suspect list in his head, but their images blurred. They’d narrowed it down to three. That much he remembered. Two of them were Chinese, which made sense since China had created this fatal strain. The third Frank couldn’t place.

Behind a sturdy mahogany desk sat Matt. Frank looked around the room for the ringleader, but saw only a couple of men guarding doors.

“Sit him down in that chair,” Matt directed to the two men with shackled grips on his arms.

Despite the questions stewing, Frank kept quiet. Perhaps the ringleader hadn’t wanted his presence known yet. Maybe he was watching outside the room, curious about Frank’s reaction. Determining whether or not to give Frank the real vaccine or let him die.

“Frank, I need a favor.” Matt  looked up from the desk. “And if you help me out, I’ll give you one dose of that vaccine. The real vaccine.” Something was off. Something was really off. But the extreme thirst was robbing Frank’s sharpness.

“Special Agent Davis is guarding some important information, and I need you to get it.”

Had the story Matt relayed to Frank been true, it’d be crucial to get their hands on that information Angela was protecting. But Frank suspected Matt had lied about a great deal. And there was still the matter of his sudden appearance in a random hole-in-the-wall bar.

Frank was about to tell Matt to go to hell. He was a dead man anyway. At least by failing to aid Matt, he wouldn’t quite die in vain. Then he heard a shriek.

“Let me go!”

Since she’d ran from him at the church two days ago, Frank hadn’t been able to get her voice, her image, her caress out of his head. “Maggie?”

“Frank!”

“You get that information for me,” said Matt. “Then I’ll let you decide which one of you lives.”

 

To be continued…

 Tropical Fever – Part 6