Chapter Two: Ghosts of the Past
The tranquil calm of Cedar Bay had a way of making the rest of the world feel miles away, and yet the ghost of his past had found him even here. Nate had been staring at the text message for a solid ten minutes, the worn wooden planks of the dock beneath him, the salty air kissing his skin, and the comforting familiarity of the ‘Quiet Lady’ bobbing gently beside him all suddenly feeling very distant.
Nate thumbed the message again, the cryptic string of numbers and letters hinting at a specter he had long since buried. The encryption was an old CIA code, one that very few knew. The message was simple, but it sent icy tendrils of dread snaking through him. “Karkarov alive. Confirm?”
He took a slow, steadying breath. Ivan Karkarov. A name he hadn’t thought about in years. He had seen the man’s body, cold and lifeless. He had watched as they put him in the ground. It was over. It had to be.
“A penny for your thoughts?” The voice snapped him out of his musings. He turned, the old bait shop owner standing there, his weathered face etched with lines of concern. He grunted noncommittally, slipping the phone back into his pocket.
The older man seemed to understand, nodding as he shuffled back towards his shop. “Storm’s brewing,” he warned cryptically before disappearing inside.
Nate found himself staring out at the horizon, at the dark clouds that seemed to be closing in all too quickly. “I know,” he murmured to the empty dock, a sense of unease settling in his stomach.
His phone buzzed again, another message. His heart pounded in his chest as he pulled it out, his fingers numb as he read the text. It was an address, followed by a time. Today. His former handler wanted to meet.
He stowed his phone away, his mind a whirl of questions and doubts. Karkarov, alive? It was impossible. And yet, the cold dread gnawing at his insides told him that he needed to know for sure. He needed to meet Marlene.
His peaceful life, the lull of the ocean, the simple pleasure of restoring the ‘Quiet Lady’ — it all felt like a lifetime away as he climbed into his truck, the roar of the engine a stark contrast to the serene silence of the coastal town.