The rendezvous point was in the downtown district at an old automobile factory. The location had been chosen for its large space, suitable defenses, and its strategic positioning between the harbor and the Army base up north.

Three men in trenchcoats greeted John and his colleagues as they exited the taxi. The driver and passengers were replaced with new ones who then drove off without a word.

“Perry is inside,” one man said to John. “He told me you are urgently needed.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I don’t know. But I would hurry.”

The three remained outside as John and his companions entered the building through a steel-enforced door. Perry and Marlon were inside one of the meeting rooms in front of a large table overrun with electrical wires. Amid the tangled mess was a radio that drew everyone’s gaze.

“What is going on?” John asked.

Marlon took John aside and whispered in his ear. “You remember our radio frequency, right?”

“Yes. What of it?”

“During the operation, our man controlling the radio encountered some interference.”

“What kind of interference?”

“The chatter got gargled. He checked it out and discovered that there was another subcarrier in the frequency.”


“Someone else was listening. They knew we used this frequency.”

“How could this have happened?”

“Don’t know.”

Perry glanced at John, his forehead sweaty. An empty glass and a half-filled whiskey bottle was on one of the chairs near the table. “It means whoever was listening didn’t know our operation was going to happen that day. They have been scanning it on a constant basis.”

“What else have they heard?” Marlon asked.

“Doesn’t matter; it’s all in code,” John remarked. “It shouldn’t be a problem moving forward. Switch our frequencies and draw up a plan to switch it every week, or at least after each operation.”


John directed Marlon away from the group, showing him the envelope from his jacket. “That man who attacked us was carrying a letter to Chairman Hopkins.”

“Who was he?” Marlon asked.

“His name was Todor Georgiev.”

“You talk as though you knew him.”

“You should, too; years ago, we were supposed to ‘cope’ with him, but the mission was canceled at the last minute. No explanations whatsoever.”

Perry addressed John. “I don’t want you two to stay here. We need to keep moving around.”

“We will leave right away. In the meantime, double the number of operatives meeting with the woman tonight. It could be a trap.”

“Good idea. I’ll make the arrangements.”

“Not exactly what we expected, was it?”

“No. But I’m not too worried. I’m concerned. I think we may need to send a better message to these people.”

“I agree.”

“Next time, we ‘cope’ with our targets,” Marlon said. “All of them.”


Watkins walked briskly down the hall of the Senate Office Building. As he turned the corner, he found himself lost in a crowd of lobbyists waiting outside senators’ offices. Pushing his way through them, he reached Senator Kessler’s office.

Inside, Kessler quietly read a book at his desk. He was undisturbed by Watkins’ sudden and unannounced arrival.

Watkins waited quietly until the Senator put down the book and acknowledged him. “I know what you are about to say is neither pleasant nor something that should be overheard. Before you do say it, please shut my door.”

Watkins obeyed, then returned to Kessler’s desk. “Todor Georgiev is dead.”

“What happened?”

“We sent him to deliver the message to Hopkins, as you ordered. While he was there, former STIGMA operatives infiltrated the building and interrogated Hopkins. They got him to open his safe. We don’t know all the details, but it seems Georgiev arrived as they were leaving.”

“As I predicted, they came back to New York City. They are like stray dogs returning to their master’s house.”

“If I may be so bold, I expressed my concern about Georgiev. He was too conspicuous. He’s best delivering other kinds of messages, the ones you deliver with a fist or a pistol.”

Kessler was stern. “The committee and I believed if we sent a man of his stature, our former members would be more willing to comply with our requests.”

“But now they have the contents of Hopkins safe, and we have no idea what he had on the organization.”

Kessler rose from his desk and walked over to Watkins, placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder. “My friend, these people are quite resourceful. Quite resourceful. If we are to eliminate them, we will have to try a new approach.”

“What did you have in mind?”

“The new sectors are preparing their own operations. We will prepare ours. Tell Dr. Archon I want to activate Unit 18.”

Watkins looked at him fearfully. “Sir, I think this is something you may want to discuss with the rest of the committee. Dr. Archon has warned repeatedly the Unit is not ready for activation. They have tried field tests recently and all have proved disastrous.”

Kessler took his hand off Watkins’ shoulder and gripped his arm tight. “This is a war, comrade. War requires us to take strange, reckless, and even sometimes seemingly nonsensical actions. Sometimes they seem counter to the collective good of our organization and our cause. But those who can see beyond the moment can see the bigger picture outside of smaller, less consequential moves.”

“What do you want me to do in the meantime?” Watkins asked.

Kessler offered a cryptic smile. “Leave this one to me, comrade. I will show you how it is done.”


For all installments from The Shadow Men, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1: Excerpt 1
  2. Part 1: Excerpt 2
  3. Part 1: Excerpt 3
  4. Part 1: Excerpt 4
  5. Part 1: Excerpt 5
  6. Part 1: Excerpt 6
  7. Part 2: Excerpt 1
  8. Part 2: Excerpt 2
  9. Part 2: Excerpt 3
  10. Part 2: Excerpt 4
  11. Part 3: Excerpt 1
  12. Part 3: Excerpt 2
  13. Part 4: Excerpt 1
  14. Part 4: Excerpt 2