Authors: Mark Dawson
ALSO BY MARK DAWSON
The Black Mile
One Thousand Yards
The Sword of God
In Cold Blood
Blood Moon Rising
Blood and Roses
The Art of Falling Apart
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, organizations, places, events, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.
Text copyright © 2015 Mark Dawson
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, or stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without express written permission of the publisher.
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Cover design by Lisa Horton
To Mrs D, FD and SD
t was three in the morning when Beatrix Rose finally reached the Wiltshire village where Lydia Chisholm made her home. She had been following her for two hours, all the way south from London. She turned the stolen Kawasaki off the A road, passed a cute village pub and then turned sharply behind it and followed a gentle rise to a series of even prettier houses. Beatrix had extinguished the headlamp five minutes earlier, and now she killed the engine and freewheeled to a stop. She flicked out the kickstand and rested the bike on it carefully. Chisholm’s top-of-the-range BMW drove on and parked next to a dark blue Audi A3. Beatrix jogged along the road, keeping close to the thick verge of hawthorn, her rucksack bouncing up and down on her back.
Chisholm and her husband got out, locked the door and climbed the steps from the road to the front door. Chisholm went first, opening the door and stepping inside. Her husband followed. A hall light flicked on.
Beatrix edged closer to the house. Some of the nearby dwellings were thatched, and all of them looked expensive. The mainline station was a ten-minute drive away, and London was ninety
by train from there. It was at the edge of a reasonable distance to consider commuting, and Beatrix guessed that the people who did travel in from the village were more likely to be senior staff who had the latitude to work from home. That supposition was borne out by the cars that were parked along the edge of the road: Range
, Porsches, Jaguars, more BMWs. The houses had big
, manicured gardens, swimming pools. There was money here, and influence, too. But she had known that already.
Chisholm and her husband had been in town all day. Chisholm had been to a meeting of the board of the private security contractors that she had established after leaving Group Fifteen. Manage Risk was a serious concern, with offices around the world, and it counted among its senior employees one of Chisholm’s old
in the Group, Joshua Joyce. Beatrix had been in Somalia last week where she had reacquainted herself with Joyce. He had been assigned as security on a freighter that had been captured by al-Shabaab off the coast. Beatrix had infiltrated the country and the town in which the terrorists had made their stronghold.
Joyce was an ex-employee now.
She had struck his name from her Kill List.
Beatrix had returned home to Morocco to find excellent news waiting for her. Michael Pope, the new Control of Group Fifteen, had reported that they had located Chisholm, too. Beatrix had immediately boarded a flight from Marrakech to Heathrow. She had followed Chisholm for two days and constructed the plan that was now drawing to its conclusion.
Chisholm’s house was a large square building with broad windows on both sides of the porch, five windows on the first floor and two dormers on top. It looked as if it was in the middle of a refurbishment program. The stonework had been repointed, and the lime render on the exterior walls was fresh. There was an alarm box beneath the eaves and a satellite dish positioned discreetly away from public view. There was a broad lawn to the right of the house with what looked like a tennis court behind it and an ornamental garden to the left. The land sloped up steeply behind the property, with the deeper darkness of a copse of tall fir and oak providing a border to that side.
Beatrix waited until the downstairs light was switched off and then moved forward. A stone wall separated the property from the road, and she slipped between it and the BMW, dropped down to her belly and slithered forward. The car was still warm, the engine ticking as the temperature bled away in the coolness of the night. She removed the rucksack and opened it, took out three pounds of Semtex and a disposable mobile phone that she had purchased earlier that day. The phone was wrapped around the detonator with gaffer tape, and that, in turn, was wrapped around the plastique. She took the wire that ran from the phone and connected it to the detonator, peeled away the adhesive backing and pressed the bomb to the underside of the car, right below the fuel tank.
She had a few hours to wait.
She made her way back to her motorbike and hid it in a nearby lane, beneath a railway bridge that boomed and shook as a late night goods train rumbled over it. She clambered over a nearby fence and negotiated a paddock and then a pig field until she had found her way to the large garden at the back of Chisholm’s house. There was a tumbledown shed next to the vegetable patch, and it offered a decent view of the house, the BMW and the road for twenty yards on either side. It was perfect.
Beatrix took out her night vision binoculars, zipped up her leather jacket and settled down to wait.
It was dawn when the early commuters made their way out of their houses to their cars. There had been no movement outside the house until then. The upstairs bathroom light had flicked on at three, and then, five minutes later, it had been extinguished again. Someone using the bathroom and then going back to bed. There had been nothing else to concern her since then.
She had taken the opportunity to study the rest of the property: there was a large extension to the rear, a kitchen that she could see when she focussed her binoculars on the ground floor window that faced her, an oil tank fifty feet away from her hiding position. It was a desirable property. Expensive.
There had been no question of sleep for her. She was too keyed up for that, and far too professional to allow even the
that she might be distracted and miss something
. Her eyes stung a little as the sun cast a thin glow over the top of the ridge that formed the slope on the other side of the valley, but she would have no rest now. That would come later.
A car rolled slowly down the hill towards the main road.
It was six-thirty.
Just a commuter. She let it go.
The lights in the kitchen came on.
Beatrix raised her binoculars. She caught a glimpse of a woman from behind: a cream shirt, a black skirt, a jacket held in the crook of one arm. The woman moved in and out of sight until she paused at the window and looked out, and Beatrix confirmed her target.
Beatrix had to wait just another ten minutes before she came out of the front of the house, a slice of half-eaten toast in one hand and a travel beaker in the other. She negotiated the steps to the road, acknowledged a jogger who was running with her dog, rested the beaker on the roof of the car as she opened the door, took the beaker again and got inside.
Beatrix unzipped her leather jacket and took out her phone.
She had two numbers to call.
She selected the first and let it ring.
“Who is this?”
“I’d be surprised if you’ve forgotten.”
“I don’t . . .”
“It’s Number One.”
Lydia’s voice was horribly unfamiliar. The last time they had met, Beatrix had stabbed her in the throat with a letter opener, and the blade had pierced her larynx. Pope had explained that it had been necessary to perform an emergency laryngectomy in order to save her life. A speech valve had been fitted to enable her to speak. Her words sounded wet and awkward, and they were difficult to interpret.
“Where are you?”
“Looking right at you.”
She watched as Chisholm yanked her head around, trying to spot her.
That was good.
She was right to panic.
“I’m here,” Beatrix said. “I can see you very well. You’re in your car. You’ve just finished your breakfast. Toast and coffee to go.”
Chisholm kept looking, unable to find her.
“What do you want?”
“What do you think I want?”
“To talk? We can talk. Come into the house. We can talk about whatever you want.”
“I don’t think so.”
The car door started to open.
“Don’t do that,” Beatrix warned. “Stay in the car.”
“Come on,” she said, looking round again. “This is crazy. I’m coming out. We can talk . . .”
“There’s a bomb under your car, Lydia.”
She stopped moving.
“A pound of Semtex. Right underneath you.”
The door closed again. Chisholm was still, looking through the windscreen, dead ahead. “What do you want?”
“The last ten years of my life back. My husband. To see my little girl grow up. But you can’t help me with any of that.”
“I’m sorry,” Lydia said. “Control gave us a direct order. I know you have a reason to be angry, but you should take it up with him.”
“I intend to,” she said. “I’m working my way up. But you’r
Beatrix came out of the shed and negotiated the garden,
the boundary fence for the next property until she had a better view of the BMW and the front of the house.
“Let me help you,” Chisholm offered.
“Okay. Where’s Control?”
“I don’t know. I swear I don’t.”
Another car rolled slowly down the road. “Let it go,” Beatrix warned.
She did. It disappeared out of sight.
“Come on,” Chisholm protested.
“What about the others?”
“Spenser is dead.”
“I know. I killed him.”
“In Russia. You and John Milton, right?”
“That’s right. I knelt down next to him, and I slit his throat from ear to ear.”
“And Joyce, too. The thing in Somalia.”
“I’m doing well, aren’t I? Two down. Four to go.”
“I can give you Duffy.”
“What’s that worth to you? You’ll leave?”
“Maybe I won’t kill your husband.”
“Rose . . .”
“Joyce told me Duffy was in Iraq.”
“Yes. He is. He works for us. Manage Risk has a contract with American Petroleum. We run security for their executive team. He’s been out there for months. I can give you a precise location.”
“That’s alright. I can take it from here.”
“So you’ll leave?”
“What do you think? After what you did? Of course not.”
did? Come on, Beatrix. Listen to my voice. Listen to what you did to me. I sound like a freak. Isn’t that enough?”
“No. Not nearly. Any last words?” She almost laughed. “I’m sorry. That was insensitive of me.”
Chisholm slumped back into the seat. Beatrix almost thought she could see the fight drain out of her. She turned her head to the left and looked up the steps to the front of the house. Beatrix looked in that direction and saw that the front door had opened. A man was standing there. Middle-aged, salmon-pink trousers, blazer.
y. Officer class. She paused for a moment, her resolution wavering just a little, and then she remembered, back to a life that seemed a hundred years ago: Lydia Chisholm in Beatrix’s front room, her husband and daughter on the sofa, fear and confusion on both of their faces. The unsaid agreement that she and Lucas had shared, the shot from Chisholm’s pistol that had killed him, the second shot into Beatrix’s shoulder, the terror on Isabella’s face and then the black well of sadness and loss that she had willingly thrown herself into so that she might save her daughter’s life.
Beatrix remembered all of that as she thumbed through the phone for the second number that she needed.
“Beatrix,” Chisholm begged. “Please.”
“Your husband. Robert Chisholm. Royal Anglians, First
. Set up Manage Risk’s London office with you. Shall I take him ou
“No. He has nothing to do with any of this.”
“Rose . . .”
Beatrix called the number. The BMW remained intact for a fraction of a second, raised up off the ground by the unfolding viciousness of the detonation beneath it, but an instant later the fuel tank ruptured and it was consumed by a terrific blast. The quicksilver expansion of the hot gasses from the explosive created a
wave that would have crushed Lydia before the tank burst, but immolated fragments of her body and the car were thrown for hundreds of yards in all directions. The boom echoed around the village and out into the valley beyond, bouncing off the slopes of the ridge and echoing back again like a peal of distant thunder. Every window in the Chisholms’ house and the houses nearby
. There was a terrific tumult for a moment, and then all fell silent. The peace did not last: the pigs in the pig field started to squeal in panic, the horses in the paddock whinnied and bucked, and there was a loud wail from the house as an alarm sounded.
Beatrix felt numbed. She didn’t feel any sense of triumph nor even satisfaction, but then she hadn’t expected to, either.
Three to go.