‘Open a door,’ Victor ordered.

The man was trembling, his voice laboured. ‘Which one?’

Victor put three bullets through where the lock met the door frame. A single bullet only worked in the movies. ‘That one.’ The man hesitated, and Victor applied more pressure. ‘Open it. Now.’

He was slow to turn the handle, and so Victor shoved him through. He knocked the door closed behind him with his foot as he followed.

‘Throw the gun on the bed.’

The man reached into his pocket and slowly pulled out his handgun, gripping it with only thumb and forefinger. He threw it onto the bed. It landed in the centre. Not a bad throw considering.

Victor let go of the blond guy and hurled him forward. He stumbled and collapsed to the floor. He lay in a crumpled heap, almost foetal, clutching at his damaged testicles. His Casanova days were very over. He was younger than the other three, twenty-seven at most. His features were different, his demeanour more controlled. Victor regarded him curiously, recognizing that he didn’t quite fit in with the others. An outsider. Or leader.

The man’s eyes flicked toward his right foot then quickly looked away. In a black leather shin holster, barely visible where the right pants cuff had come up in the fall, was a black snubnosed revolver. He saw that Victor had seen him look and read his thought process.

Victor shook his head just once.

He took a step forward, levelled the gun at the centre of the man’s forehead. ‘How many of you are there?’


‘Including you?’

He nodded, grimacing, not able to speak for a moment because of the agony in his groin. Excluding the big guy in the elevator, somewhere there were three more.

‘How many cars did you bring?’

The blond man was quick to answer, spitting the word out as fast as he could. ‘One.’

‘Just one?’

‘It’s a van.’

‘What’s the registration?’

‘I… I don’t know.’

Victor put a 5.7 mm into the floor between his legs. It wasn’t very economical with the remaining bullets but he didn’t have time for a lengthy interrogation.

The blond man stared at the singed hole in the carpet. ‘I swear.’

‘What make is it?’

‘I don’t know… it’s blue. A rental.’

His French was good but not fluent, not a native speaker.

Victor asked, ‘Do you know who I am?’

He didn’t answer straightaway. Victor took another step closer and the man found his voice. ‘No.’


‘Just an alias, we had a picture…’

‘How did you know where I’m staying?’

‘We were given the name of the hotel.’


‘Three days ago.’

Then his accent clicked. Victor switched to English. ‘You’re American.’

He spoke back in English. ‘Yes.’ He was from the South, Texas maybe.

‘Who’s in charge?’ Victor asked.

‘I am.’

‘Private sector?’


‘Have you been following me?’

‘We tried to but you always lost us.’

‘Why wait until now to kill me?’

The American paused for a moment before answering. ‘We had to wait for the green light.’

‘Which you received when?’


Victor could tell he had decided to tell the truth, perhaps thinking he might have a chance if he answered honestly. Blissful ignorance.

‘Why did you send those two guys in before I’d returned?’

The blond man grimaced again. ‘I lost my nerve. Thought you weren’t coming back. I sent them in to check.’ He scowled despite the pain. ‘Bad timing.’

‘That wasn’t very smart,’ Victor said. ‘What about the flash drive?’

‘We had to make sure you had it, then secure it and wait for instructions.’

Victor’s eyes narrowed. ‘Who are you working for?’

The man’s head slumped. Tears streamed down his cheeks. ‘Please…’

‘Who are you working for?’

He looked up at Victor, saw in his eyes that there was no mercy, no pity. He sobbed.

‘How the hell would I know?’

Victor believed him.

He shot him twice in the face.

He knelt down by the body, looking for some identification, and saw a radio in the inside jacket pocket, switched to send, the light flickering. There was a microphone attached to the underside of his collar.

A floorboard creaked.

Victor froze, looked over his shoulder.

Through the crack under the door Victor could see a shadow moving in the corridor outside. He dived to the right as the big guy with the dark beard burst into the room, submachine gun in hand, already firing before he’d acquired a target. It was a compact MP5K fitted with a long suppressor, its rapid reports reduced to a series of sustained muffled clicks.

The gunman shifted his aim, following Victor’s path as he leaped into the adjacent bathroom, bullets blowing a line of neat holes out of the wall behind him. Ejected brass cases clinked together on the carpet around the assassin’s feet.

In the bathroom, Victor came out of his roll into a crouch, letting off a quick shot, firing blind before he’d fully turned around. The bullet whizzed through the open doorway, sending up a puff of plaster as it struck the wall on the other side.

The bathroom was no more than six feet by four, a tiled box containing a bath, sink, and toilet. There were no defensible corners or objects behind which to take cover. On fully automatic the MP5K could unload its mag of thirty in just two and a quarter seconds. At this range, and with that volume of fire, the gunman literally couldn’t miss.

With his left hand Victor pulled the Beretta from the back of his waistband and pointed both guns at the doorway, one in each hand. Not so good for aiming accurately but he needed the extra stopping power if he was going to drop the gunman before he could open fire. He was a big guy and neither subsonic 5.7 mm or 9 mm rounds were going to guarantee putting him down instantly unless he was shot in the head, heart, or spine. But with enough bullets it wouldn’t matter where Victor hit. He held the Beretta directly below the FN so he could still line up one set of sights. Victor had seen amateurs hold two guns at arm’s length, hands shoulder-width apart, trying to emulate their favourite action movie stars. They always died quickly.

He heard something thud on the carpet and clink against the spent 9 mm casings on the floor. A second later came the sound of a gun reloading and the MP5K recocked. It hadn’t clicked empty but his attacker had loaded a full magazine anyway while he had the chance.

Victor stayed in a crouch, as far away from the opening as possible. If his enemy was smart enough to reload before he was empty he wouldn’t be stupid enough to burst into the room when all he had to do was point the gun

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