7 A.M. C.A.T.
The hangar looked barely large enough to house one airplane. Okapi directed the jeep over a dirt road that was even bumpier than the roads they'd been traveling so far. He stopped in the shade of a tree and cut the engine. Kilmer climbed out the jeep first, then helped Frankie out. She tried to make eye contact with him, hoping to convey an apology, but he refused to meet her gaze.
"You go with Okapi round the back. I'll take the front." He slipped his gun out of his holster and checked that the magazine was full. Frankie knew he never went anywhere without a full clip, and recognized this as avoidance behavior. She sighed; now was not the time to worry about personal issues.
"Okay." She looked at Okapi, then headed to the back of the building. Okapi hurried after her.
There were two large sliding doors, a rusted chain looped through the handles, secured with a padlock. Frankie noticed a window on the left side and cautiously approached it. The glass was caked with dust.
"It doesn't look like anyone's been here in years."
Okapi shrugged. "My source says this is the place."
"Well, there's no way we're getting in without bolt cutters. Let's go round to the front. Maybe Kilmer's having better luck."
Kilmer was, in fact, having better luck. Though the door was also padlocked closed, there was a window that had been boarded up. He pried the nails loose and pulled the board free. Then, slowly and carefully, he climbed through the window and into the building.
It was dark and smelled musty. The air was stale and it was a moment before his eyes adjusted to the dimness. He took a mini-flashlight from his pocket and began to investigate.
Ten minutes later, he was convinced that the whole exercise had been a pointless waste of time. The hangar was empty: no plane, no people, not even a single crate. He returned to the window just as Frankie was climbing through it.
"Hey." She hopped inside, dusting her hands on her thighs. "Find anything?"
He shone the flashlight around. "There's nothing here."
He felt something brush against his foot. Glancing down, he realized he had to amend that statement. "Umm, Frankie?"
She followed his gaze. "Okay. Don't move."
Kilmer couldn't take his eyes off the snake that was now slowly moving towards Frankie. There wasn't enough light to identify it, but he wasn't going to take any chances. Very slowly, he raised his gun.
It was too close to Frankie. In the dim light, he couldn't be sure he wouldn't hit her.
"Shoot it," she said. Her voice was taught, and she held herself absolutely still.
"On three, I want you to dive to your right. Okay?"
She didn't ask questions, just replied, "Okay."
"One. Two. Three."
Frankie moved. He fired. Frankie scrambled to her feet and moved further from the snake. Neither of them said anything for a moment. Kilmer nudged the snake with the toe of his boot. When he was sure it was dead, he turned to Frankie. Even in the dim light, he could see she was shaking.
"Are you okay?"
"Yeah. I don't like snakes."
"I know." Without thinking, he reached for her and pulled her closer, wrapping an arm around her. "I don't like them much either."
"Where's Okapi?" he asked as the thought occurred to him.
"He saw a shed at the other end of the runway. He wanted to check it out."
Kilmer released Frankie, but gave her arm a squeeze before letting go. "Let's go see if he found something useful."
They stepped over the remains of the snake. Frankie climbed out the window first, then Kilmer. His feet had barely touched the ground when Okapi came running up to them, slightly breathless, his weapon drawn.
"I heard a shot. What happened?"
"Snake." Kilmer gestured to the open window. Okapi peered through, then turned around.
"That was a spitting cobra. Did it--?" He left the question unfinished as both Frankie and Kilmer shook their heads.
"What did you find in the shed?" Kilmer asked.
"I think you need to see for yourself."
Frankie was still slightly shaken from the encounter with the snake, and lagged behind the men as they headed for the shed. She could handle terrorists, gunfire and many other things, but show her a snake and she froze up. Thankfully Kilmer had been there, she thought.
They reached the shed and the three of them crowded into the small room. It contained a bed, a small refrigerator and a gas stove. Frankie pointed out the think layer of dust covering the top of the fridge.
"Someone doesn't like to clean."
Kilmer opened the fridge. The smell of stale milk immediately filled the air and Frankie actually took a step towards the open door.
"So what was it you wanted us to see?" Kilmer asked.
"Someone's been living here."
"I think it's time we met your contact," Kilmer said, "because so far he's given us dead leads."
Okapi didn't reply immediately. Then he bowed his head and, taking his cell phone from his pocket, slipped past Frankie on his way outside. Kilmer waited for a moment, then switched on his PPX.
"Jelani, I need whatever information you can get me on Benjamin Okapi."
Frankie could tell by the set of his shoulders how tense he was. Glancing behind her to make sure Okapi was still busy with his phone call, she slowly approached Kilmer.
He didn't look at her, and she knew him well enough to realize he was still upset at her earlier comment. They had always been good at hurting each other, she thought with a touch of sadness.
"John, I'm sorry about what I said earlier. It was uncalled for."
He sighed. "I was baiting you. It's okay."
"I overreacted." She paused; apologizing was new for both of them. "Umm, so are we okay?"
"Okay." She turned to go outside; the shed was stuffy and she needed fresh air. Kilmer touched her arm.
"Are you okay?"
"Look, I know the other night probably wasn't a good idea." He lowered his voice, even though there was no one to overhear. "But I don't regret it."
"I don't want things to be different between us now. You've been so distant, Frankie." He exhaled, finally releasing her arm. "If all you want is friendship, then that's fine. But let's at least be friends then."
She hadn't expected this, and it touched something deep inside her, stirring long-suppressed feelings. "Can we talk about this later?"
"I'd like that."
Okapi entered, smiling broadly. "I've spoken to my contact."
"I thought we were supposed to have met your contact here." The tension was back in Kilmer's voice.
"He is not sure you can be trusted."
"He is not sure we can be trusted? He's the one who told us to come out here." Kilmer shook his head. As he moved past Frankie, she heard him mutter, "I hate Africa."