CH 6: Digital Ghosts

The screen flickered to life as Dorian plugged in the USB drive. His breath caught in his throat as files began to populate the display. Folders labeled with dates and cryptic code names filled the screen, each a digital ghost from his father's shadowy past.

He clicked on the earliest folder: "Operation Midnight Havana - 1985."

Photographs, mission reports, and surveillance logs cascaded before his eyes. His father's face, younger and unburdened, stared back at him from group photos with other operatives. The CIA watermark on each document seemed to mock the life Dorian thought he knew.

One report caught his eye: "Asset Acquisition - Operation Rum Runner."

As Dorian read, his blood ran cold. The CIA hadn't just been gathering intelligence; they'd been actively undermining Castro's regime by co-opting local smuggling routes. What had started as a mission to disrupt communist supply lines had evolved into something far more insidious.

His phone buzzed, startling him. The caller ID read "Ocean Blue - Miami."

"Dorian Batiste," he answered, his voice hoarse.

"Mr. Batiste, it's Jerome from Ocean Blue. We've got a situation." The manager's voice was tense, barely controlled panic seeping through.

"What kind of situation, Jerome?"

"A guest overdosed in one of the penthouse suites. But that's not the worst of it. When the paramedics arrived, they found... other things."

Dorian's mind raced, connecting dots he didn't want to acknowledge. "What kind of 'other things'?"

"Drugs, Mr. Batiste. A lot of them. And some documents that look... well, they look pretty damn incriminating for the hotel."

Dorian's jaw clenched, a surge of anger and fear coursing through him. "Shit!" he spat out, his voice a low growl. "I'm on my way. Don't fucking touch anything else. And Jerome? Not a damn word to anyone. You hear me? This stays between us for now."

"Y-yes, Mr. Batiste," Jerome stammered, clearly taken aback by his boss's intensity.

He ended the call, his mind whirling. The crisis in Miami couldn't be a coincidence, not with what he'd just uncovered about his father's past.

Dorian quickly copied the USB contents to an encrypted hard drive and pocketed both. He needed to access that safety deposit box before leaving for Miami.

The Iberia Bank stood like a sentinel of old money on St. Charles Avenue. As Dorian approached, the hairs on the back of his neck stood up. A man reading a newspaper across the street seemed too interested in his racing form. A woman at the ATM had been there since Dorian turned the corner.

Inside, the safety deposit box yielded more questions than answers: an old Cuban passport in his father's name, a ledger filled with columns of numbers and code names, and a key to what looked like a boat lock.

As Dorian exited the bank, a text from an unknown number buzzed his phone: "We need to talk. Your place. Now. - V"

Back at his penthouse, Vivian was waiting, tension written in every line of her body.

"Who are you really?" Dorian demanded without preamble.

Vivian's eyes flashed. "I could ask you the same thing, Dorian. Or should I call you 'son of the ghost'?"

Dorian's hand inched toward his Beretta. "What do you know about my father?"

"Enough to know you're in danger," Vivian replied. "I'm undercover, Dorian. DEA. We've been tracking a massive drug smuggling operation with roots in Cuba. An operation that seems to have tentacles in your hotels."

Dorian's mind reeled. "Me cago en la leche," he muttered, his Cuban heritage coloring his words. Then, louder, "You've been using me? Joder, Vivian! All this time?"

"At first," Vivian admitted, her eyes not quite meeting his. "But it became... complicated."

Dorian ran a hand through his hair, disbelief and anger warring on his face. "Complicated? La madre que te pariĆ³... I trusted you, Vivian. I let you into my life, my bed, and all this time you were just, what, gathering intel?"

Before Vivian could respond, Dorian's phone buzzed again. Ramirez: "Get out. Now. They're coming."

The penthouse door exploded inward. Three men in tactical gear burst in, weapons raised.

"Down! On the ground!" one shouted.

Dorian dove behind the sofa, reaching for his Beretta. Vivian was already moving, her own weapon appearing as if by magic.

Gunfire erupted, shattering the penthouse's windows. Dorian's world narrowed to the next second, the next breath, as bullets tore through the air around him.

He was cornered, outgunned, with no clear escape route. As he locked eyes with Vivian across the chaos of his shattered living room, one thought blazed through his mind:

The ghosts of his father's past had just become terrifyingly real.

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