the fact that Veil's strength was rapidly failing, the blow landed with enough force to break the wristlock and drive the man away. There was a gurgle of surprise, accompanied by a burst of bubbles that shimmered with a pink glow in his drug-clouded field of vision.

Veil swept his arms up over his head, driving himself down hard to a squatting position on the bottom. He immediately pushed off, extending his arms over his head and angling toward the side of the pool. He broke the surface just inches from the edge, slapped his palms on the deck, and pulled. His momentum carried him cleanly out of the water. He swayed with dizziness, coughing and gasping for breath, but managed to stay on his feet.

He had to get into the locker room, had to get to his gym bag.

There was an explosion of water four feet to his right as the yellow-haired, deeply tanned man burst out of the water like a missile launched from a submarine. The golden man landed light as a cat on the deck, then immediately dropped on his hands and executed a gymnast's leg sweep in an attempt to cut Veil's legs out from under him.

Veil hopped over the scythe of the man's legs, then dove toward the center of the pool. He entered the water at a sharp angle and, wincing at the sick pain in his head, immediately reversed his direction, crabbing down and back. The golden man landed in the water and shot past overhead. Veil turned, pulled to the surface, and again hopped up on the deck. He grabbed a long-poled skimming net from a rack on the wall, spun around, and crouched, ready to jab with the pole's blunt end. His muscles felt rubbery.

The golden man was treading water easily in the center of the pool, long yellow hair floating around his shoulders. There was surprise and respect in the dark brown eyes that studied Veil. 'Don't resist,' he said in a flat voice. 'It won't do you any good. I won't hurt you if you don't force me to. You won't feel anything.'

American, Veil thought. Home-grown talent. He judged him to be in his mid-twenties. It was all Veil could do to draw a breath, and the golden man wasn't even breathing hard. 'My dentist used to say things like that,' Veil replied in a voice that sounded like it came from an echo chamber inside his head. 'I think I'll decline your offer and just wait here until somebody shows up.'

'The doors are locked. Nobody's coming in, and you're not walking out.'

'Talk is cheap, my young friend. What else do you have to show me besides your vocabulary?'

'I heard you used to be quite the martial artist, Kendry. Well, you're not anywhere near top stuff now. You're past it. Even without that shit in you, you'd be no match for me. Accept my offer.'

'If you think you're so goddam good, why don't you wait for me on the other side of the pool? As soon as I stop seeing two of you, I'll see if I can't make you work up a sweat.'

'Don't take me for a fool, Kendry. I was just stating a fact, not issuing a challenge. This is just business.'

'You're Madison's man, right? How is that fat, sadistic bastard?'

The golden man did not answer.

'Why the hell pick this place to come after me?' Veil continued. 'What was wrong with New York?'

The golden man's response this time was a faint smile as, head up and eyes fixed on the end of the skimming net pole, he began to glide slowly toward Veil.

He waited until the man was a few feet closer, then hurled the pole at his head. The golden man casually knocked the pole away with the side of a thickly callused hand. Veil launched himself into the air. He soared over the golden man's head, landed flat on his stomach and chest in a racing dive, and sprinted toward the opposite side.

Now he was exactly where the assassin wanted him, Veil thought, in the water. But swimming across the pool was the most direct route to the locker room, and that was where he had to go. The time he had already gained seemed to be working to his advantage, for he no longer had the urge to gag and cough. The drug was passing out of his system. He felt better but nowhere near well enough to turn and fight. He needed still more time.

Feigning only slightly more exhaustion than he actually felt, Veil slowed as he approached the side and listened carefully to the sound of the golden man thrashing through the water after him. He gripped the edge, made a motion as if he were going to haul himself out of the water, then flipped over on his back, cocked his right leg, and kicked out at the golden man's face. The assassin managed to partially block the kick, but a popping sound and a rush of blood told Veil that, at the least, the man's nose was broken.

The assassin grabbed for Veil's ankle, but Veil was already out of the water and staggering into the locker room.

More than a minute passed. Then the golden man appeared, naked and silent as a shadow, at the far end of a row of lockers. Blood still flowed freely from his nose and mouth, but he gave no indication that he was in pain. He stared for a few moments at Veil, who was sitting on a long wooden bench, gagging and coughing as he slumped over a blue canvas gym bag.

'You should have done as I asked,' the golden man said, lisping slightly as his tongue passed over the space where his front teeth had been. 'You hurt me, and now I'm going to hurt you before I kill you. In the end it will still look as though you drowned.'

Suddenly Veil straightened. There was a flash of movement as his hand came out of the bag and he hurled a set of heavy ankle weights at the assassin's head. Displaying incredible reflexes, depth perception, and nerve, the golden man calmly reached out and plucked the leather-and-lead missile from the air. The golden man smiled with contempt, then shrugged and started to toss the weights to one side. In that instant of wasted motion and flickering concentration, Veil threw the bench. The golden man was able to sidestep the flying bench, but by then Veil was in on him.

Chapter 5


Where did you learn to use your hands like that, Kendry?'

'I don't know what you mean, Lieutenant.'

'You tore away a man's throat with your bare hands.'

'That's ridiculous, Lieutenant. I don't even have long fingernails.'

'Don't be a fucking wise-ass! You did it! I want to know where you learned how to do it.'

'I pushed him away from me,' Veil replied quietly. 'He tripped and caught his throat on the sharp edge of the locker. It was a freak accident.'

'Do you expect me to believe that story?'

'It's true.'

'You're not going to like it much if I decide to book you on a murder charge.'

'I didn't like it much when that man tried to rob me.'

'Tell me again what happened.'

'I'd worked out in the weight room and taken a swim. I was getting dressed when this man came up. He swung those ankle weights in my face and demanded my wallet.'

'The man was naked, Kendry. Have you ever heard of a naked mugger?'

'Come on, Lieutenant. This happened in a locker room. Obviously, the man was on his way to take a swim. He noticed me coming out of the pool and figured I was an easy mark.'

'You don't look like an easy mark to me, Kendry. As a matter of fact, you look pretty damn solid.'

'He had the weights. He said he was going to smash in my face if I didn't give him the wallet.'

The man questioning him snorted with disgust and looked away. Veil relaxed slightly and glanced around the room. There were three men with him in the small reception area outside the director's office. His interrogator had been introduced to him as Lieutenant Parker. Parker was a lean, hard man whom Veil judged to be in his mid-fifties. His close-cropped, iron-gray hair matched the color of his eyes. He kept toying with a pencil and yellow pad set squarely in front of him on a secretary's desk, but he had yet to write anything down. There was an almost palpable air of suspicion and disbelief about the man, but he did not seem able to mount a sustained verbal attack. It struck him that Parker badly wanted to pursue a different line of questioning, but for some reason felt constrained from doing so.

Вы читаете Veil
Добавить отзыв


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

Отметить Добавить цитату