The sharp clang of metal on metal rang through the fuselage of the windowless C-130 transport, causing the provost to jump. Outside, someone was banging the butt of a pistol against the aircraft's hatch and demanding entry.
"Everyone stay seated," the C-130 pilot commanded, moving toward the door. "It's the Turkish police. They just drove out to the plane."
The provost and Ferris exchanged a quick glance.
From the flurry of panicked calls among the WHO staff on board, the provost sensed that their containment mission had failed. Zobrist carried out his plan, he thought. And my company made it possible.
Outside the hatch, authoritative-sounding voices began shouting in Turkish.
The provost jumped to his feet. "Don't open the door!" he ordered the pilot.
The pilot stopped short, glaring at the provost. "Why the hell not?"
"The WHO is an international relief organization," the provost replied, "and this plane is sovereign territory!"
The pilot shook his head. "Sir, this plane is parked at a Turkish airport, and until it leaves Turkish airspace, it is subject to the laws of the land." The pilot moved to the exit and threw open the hatch.
Two uniformed men stared in. Their humorless eyes showed not the slightest hint of leniency. "Who is the captain of this aircraft?" one of them demanded in a heavy accent.
"I am," the pilot said.
An officer handed the pilot two sheets of paper. "Arrest documents. These two passengers must come with us."
The pilot skimmed the pages and glanced over at the provost and Ferris.
"Call Dr. Sinskey," the provost ordered the WHO pilot. "We're on an international emergency mission."
One of the officers eyed the provost with an amused sneer. "Dr. Elizabeth Sinskey? Director of the World Health Organization? She is the one who ordered your arrest."
"That can't be," the provost replied. "Mr. Ferris and I are here in Turkey trying to help Dr. Sinskey."
"Then you are not doing a very good job," the second officer replied. "Dr. Sinskey contacted us and named you both as conspirators in a bioterrorism plot on Turkish soil." He pulled out handcuffs. "You both are coming to headquarters for questioning."
"I demand an attorney!" the provost shouted.
Thirty seconds later, he and Ferris were shackled, muscled down the gangway, and shoved roughly into the backseat of a black sedan. The sedan raced away, skimming across the tarmac to a remote corner of the airport, where it stopped at a chicken-wire fence that had been cut and pulled apart to allow their car to pass. Once through the perimeter fence, the car bounced across a dusty wasteland of broken airport machinery and came to a halt near an old service building
The two uniformed men got out of the sedan and scanned the area. Apparently satisfied that they had not been followed, they stripped off their police uniforms and tossed them aside. Then they helped Ferris and the provost out of the car and removed their handcuffs.
The provost rubbed his wrists, realizing that he would not do well in captivity.
"The car keys are under the mat," one of the agents said, motioning to a white van parked nearby. "There's a duffel in the backseat with everything you requested-travel documents, cash, prepaid phones, clothing, as well as a few other items we thought you might appreciate."
"Thank you," the provost said. "You guys are good."
"Just well trained, sir."
With that, the two Turkish men got back into the black sedan and drove off.
Sinskey was never going to let me walk away, the provost reminded himself. Having sensed as much while flying to Istanbul, the provost had e-mailed an alert to the Consortium's local branch, indicating that he and Ferris might need an extraction.
"You think she'll come after us?" Ferris asked.
"Sinskey?" The provost nodded. "Absolutely. Although I suspect she has other concerns at the moment."
The two men climbed into the white van, and the provost rummaged through the contents of the duffel, getting their documentation in order. He pulled out a baseball cap and slipped it on. Wrapped inside the cap, he found a small bottle of Highland Park single malt.
These guys are good.
The provost eyed the amber liquid, telling himself he should wait until tomorrow. Then again, he pictured Zobrist's Solublon bag and wondered what tomorrow would even look like.
I broke my cardinal rule, he thought. I gave up my client.
The provost felt strangely adrift, knowing that in the coming days the world would be blanketed with news of a catastrophe in which he had played a very significant role. This would not have happened without me.
For the first time in his life, ignorance no longer felt like the moral high ground. His fingers broke the seal on the bottle of Scotch.
Enjoy it, he told himself. One way or another, your days are numbered.
The provost took a deep pull on the bottle, relishing the warmth in his throat.
Suddenly the darkness lit up with spotlights and the blue flashing strobes of police cars, which surrounded them on all sides.
The provost looked frantically in every direction ... and then sat as still as stone.
As armed Turkish police officers approached the van, rifles extended, the provost took a final sip of Highland Park and quietly raised his hands over his head.
This time, he knew, the officers were not his own.