Nick reached the bottom of the 3 story escalator and stepped smoothly off, bought a ticket, and passed through the hissing gate, strode quickly across the concourse and quickly down the stairs to the platform. Red Line – Wheaton Train 3:00 Minutes – flashed the digital sign hanging over the leading area. He’d have to switch trains at Metro Center, catch the Blue Line to Franconia-Springfield.
Nick scanned the platform for danger – his old habits returning without effort, like muscle memory in a boxing match. To his left and behind sat an old woman, green sweater, leaning heavily on a rolling wire shopping basket. To his right a young couple flirting, college kids he calculated, both with ipod wires in their ears.
A middle-aged couple were descending the escalator trying to fold a tourist map and arguing about how to properly get it back into its original format.
No obvious threats, maybe the Russians had grabbed the wrong person and Nikita would be released by the time he got to Boris’ office. Nick turned to look at the sign again, “Pentagon City Train – 2 minutes.” Nick turned to scan the terminal again when he saw the black fedora starting to appear above the edge of the balcony of the concourse. He instinctively backed up behind a thick column just behind him, circled behind it and peered out. Trouble, the man was scanning the platform searching each person on it, looking for someone.
Nick knew who the man was looking for, simple addition.
Nikita wasn’t an accident, but she was just leverage, they wanted him. The man was satisfied that his target hadn’t arrived yet and he turned his back to the platform leaning against the railed of the balcony. Nick slipped sideways to the next column and worked his way toward the far end of the platform nearest the back escalator that would take him up again and out of the Metro. There was no way to get on a train with this guy watching, he’d have to grab a taxi.
A sudden whoosh of air and an electronic horn signaled the incoming train. It slid to a smooth stop and the doors hissed open. Nick was lucky, it was a crowded train, and a large crowd moved his way and he slid seamlessly into it as it passed his hiding place and Nick stepped onto the escalator. Just before he rose up out of the platform, Nick stole a last look at the fedora and his eyes locked with the man. He looked familiar and Nick thought he saw a quick flash of recognition in the man’s face. Suddenly the man was gone from view. Nick turned and jogged up the left side of the escalator sure there would be another man above ground watching the entrances. Nick needed a plan, and he needed to think it up fast.