Steam rose from the washbasin. Victor turned off the hot tap and lowered the razor into the water. He’d already used scissors to trim his beard, and he shaved with the grain of his stubble — neck first, then cheeks, chin and finally upper lip. He was slow, careful. He couldn’t afford to walk around with a cut or shaving rash. After smearing his skin with aftershave balm, he used a set of clippers to cut his black hair to an even half inch.

When he’d finished he looked notably different from the man who had supposedly stayed in room 1312 of the Grand Plaza. The blue-coloured contact lenses and non-prescription glasses he’d worn had been disposed of before checking into his current hotel. It was a busy establishment located near to Otopeni International Airport. Far too busy for anyone to notice one particular guest had checked out with shorter hair and minus a beard. Victor didn’t put much faith in elaborate disguises. Unless prepared by a make-up artist they were seldom completely convincing, especially at close range. Wigs and peeling latex were more likely to draw attention than divert it.

He performed an intense thirty-minute workout routine consisting of bodyweight exercises and stretching. After he’d bathed, Victor sat down at the bedroom’s small desk. He picked up a 9 mm P226 SIG Sauer and stripped it down, cleaned it methodically, and reassembled the weapon. The gun was already clean, had never been fired, but it relaxed him to do something so familiar.

His CIA employer had supplied the SIG, like the rifle — a Dakota Longbow. Both had been waiting in the trunk of a plain sedan left for him in the long-stay parking lot of Otopeni International.

Though Victor had to admit it made his work considerably easier not to have to source and move his own weapons, he found the convenience outweighed by the sense of control he relinquished in doing so. For years he had answered to no one but himself, completely self-reliant. Now, being dependent on any person or organisation felt like a weight chained to his ankle.

More importantly, it put him at far greater risk. His employer not only knew whom he was going to kill and when, but also how and where he picked up the tools to do so. With such information a route could be cut straight through his defences.

For the time being he had little choice but to do things their way. The terms of his employment required him to do exactly as told, when told. In return, he was well paid and his CIA handler created a barrier between Victor and certain parties, including the rest of the CIA, who could make his life extremely difficult before extinguishing it. Victor was also prohibited from taking contracts from other sources and had so far honoured that condition. His freelancing days were over. He was now a CIA contractor. An expendable asset. Nothing more than a slave with a gun.

His left arm ached and he rubbed it gently. He had two thin scars — his most recent additions — one on top of his forearm, and one below, where a blade had plunged through his flesh. It had healed well, with no loss of dexterity, and a cosmetic surgeon had ensured the scarring was minimal, but occasionally the wound still caused him pain.

Protocol dictated that windows remained shut and locked, and shutters, blinds or drapes closed at all times. Therefore, to look out of the window, Victor gazed out through the slim opening between the drapes. It gave him a narrow view of the world outside — a glimpse of a world he had given up and could never recapture.

When he realised he was thinking about someone he’d told himself he had to forget, he removed a small bottle of vodka from the mini bar and downed it. It took all his willpower not to have another.

Victor moved the SIG to one side and got out a compact laptop computer. After it had powered on, he entered his password and opened an internet connection to check his Cayman Islands bank account. He was pleased to see a very large sum of money had recently been deposited. Victor had been paid the same amount two days prior, when he’d received the contract. It was the way he always used to operate — half before, half afterwards. This time the fee was higher than the initially agreed terms of his employment to compensate for the job’s short notice.

Up until two days ago, Victor had been preparing for what should have been his first assignment for the CIA. He had been told to expect a second and maybe third job soon after the first’s completion, but then the Bucharest contract had arrived unexpectedly — killing an assassin before he could kill a man his employer wanted to keep alive — with its strict deadline. Victor hadn’t hesitated in accepting it, glad for the chance to get back to work and shake off the rust. It had gone perfectly. His first job in half a year.

In less than a second the gun was in his hand and he was out of the chair.

He’d heard a scream. Female. Victor moved to the door, checked the spyhole. No one. He remained absolutely still, listening intently. He waited ten seconds, hearing nothing further. Keeping the SIG out of his sight down by his side, he opened the door, looked left then right. Clear.

After a minute he sat back down, surprised by the strength of his reaction. The scream could have been for any reason; someone in an adjoining room spilling coffee on their lap or startled in the shower by a spider. Either that or it had only been in his head and he was one more step along the road to insanity.

Keeping the gun in his right hand while he used the laptop’s touch pad with his left thumb, he navigated to the email account created to receive and send communications from his employer. Untraceable, he’d been assured. He had no reason to think otherwise. His employer didn’t want the NSA or GCHQ intercepting his emails to an internationally wanted contract killer. If nothing else, the account seemed to be immune from spam and that alone was enough to make Victor happier than he’d been in a long time.

A message from his employer sat in the inbox. He memorised the number it contained and entered it into the laptop’s VoIP program.

The laptop’s speakers played an imitation dialling tone for the nine seconds it took for the call to connect. The throaty baritone that answered through the computer speakers said, ‘Nice to hear from you again.’

Victor remained silent. He heard a click of a tongue.

‘Not a man to waste words, are you?’


‘All right,’ the control said. ‘We can dispense with the small talk if you like, Mr Tesseract.’

Victor had met his employer only once, nearly seven months before. It had been in a hospital room where the choice to work for the CIA had been offered to him, though it hadn’t been much of a choice at the time. The guy who’d come to see him had been fat, pushing two hundred and fifty pounds, average height, mid-fifties, greying hair, sharp eyes. He’d had the confidence and bearing of a high-ranking official but with the manner of a former field operative. He might as well have had a badge that said Clandestine Services. He hadn’t given his name and neither had he asked for Victor’s. Their conversation had been brief, and Victor full of drugs, but he never forgot a face.

‘I don’t like that code name.’

‘You don’t?’ The voice sounded perplexed, almost offended. ‘I’m quite partial to it myself. Despite the history it carries.’

‘It’s the history I don’t like.’

‘You’ve never struck me as the prone-to-nightmares type.’

‘You have to dream to have nightmares,’ Victor replied. ‘But like you said, that code name has history. It’s been used before. Therefore it’s compromised. That’s why I have a problem with it.’

‘Ah, I see,’ his employer breathed. ‘You shouldn’t worry, my man, everyone who knows its connotations is dead.’

‘I don’t worry,’ Victor corrected. ‘And what you said is inaccurate. You’re alive.’

‘But you can trust me.’

Victor remained silent.

‘You know,’ his employer said, ‘you’d find our arrangement a lot more palatable if you lost some of that paranoia. I might just be the one person in the entire world you can actually trust.’

‘Trust is earned.’

‘So it is possible for me to earn your trust?’

‘Let’s not get ahead of ourselves.’

A moment of silence, maybe to accommodate a smile, before the voice said, ‘I think you’re forgetting the circumstances in which we met. You were wrapped up in so many bandages you should have been in a sarcophagus, not a hospital room in the back of beyond. If I’d wanted to, I could have sent you to the morgue there and then when it would have been quiet and convenient.’

‘Interesting,’ Victor said, ‘because at the time you told me you had no backup.’

‘Didn’t think I’d meet a lethal assassin all on my lonesome, did you?’

Вы читаете The Enemy
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату