Authors: Jackie Ivie
Tags: #Romance, #Fantasy, #Paranormal, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Paranormal & Urban, #Romantic
by Jackie Ivie
A Vampire Assassin League Novella
“We Kill for Profit”
30th in series
Copyright 2016, Jackie Ivie
This book is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book, or portion thereof, in any form. This book may not be resold or uploaded for distribution to others.
This is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Anso was restless. Fidgety. On edge.
That was disconcerting.
It wasn’t the assignment. Everything was exactly as he liked it.
The situation carried a promise of battle; expectancy was like a drug. It was night. The hour, well past midnight. The temperature was chilly. Pockets of mist hung in the air. The odds were against him, too. His foes were armed. Primed. They hadn’t prepared well enough. He could pick off any one of them whenever he liked. His target was a man the world shouldn’t miss unduly. Vladimir Krenko was known for lack of scruples and cutthroat dealings. And there were plenty of shadow-filled venues available. One thing about Prague, it had a lot of shadow-filled areas. The space beneath him was mottled with dark spots. Long fingers of dimness. Wells of black space.
Anso smiled to himself. All he needed was to decide the moment to act. He handled assignments as he had when he’d been mortal. With quick movements. Harsh decisions. Brutal judgments. Each day had brought struggle. Another battle. A warring clan to be met and assimilated...or eliminated and then forgotten. Existence had been so simple then.
Or be conquered.
This assassination was nearly perfect.
He slipped the English longbow from his shoulder while focusing through an opening in the equine sculpture mounted on the roof. It would be an easy shot, especially with this weapon. He was above Wenceslas Square, directly across from Hotel
. The wide space was delineated by large historic buildings, featuring a lot of equine statues. That was probably due to it having been the
– horse market of the middle ages.
He didn’t ponder the reason for long. He didn’t much care.
Most of the statues were sculpted in an action pose. Rearing. Charging. Emerging from waves. The rare statues that carried a rider were devoted to heroes. The horse’s pose had significance. Four legs on the ground meant the rider had survived armed conflict sometime during his life. One leg lifted indicated the rider had been wounded in combat. Two legs up denoted a battle death.
Had Anso been immortalized in statuary, he would have had a horse with both front legs lifted.
If he’d finished dying.
And they’d found a body.
Selecting an arrow took mere moments, as did placing it in position. Seconds more passed as he pulled the bowstring, holding it taut. Sniper rifles were better for distance shots, but he preferred a bow. Always had. That was one benefit of vampirism. He had a lot of weaponry to choose from over the ages, and plenty of time to perfect skills.
Besides, it was always entertaining to create an incident with arcane weaponry, despite the warnings. His
arrows were hewn with infinite care, before feathers were hand-strung and sewn into place on the shaft. Very distinctive and incriminating, particularly if he factored in how many times these arrows had been gathered as evidence in the past. And how law enforcement agencies were cooperating nowadays.
The retinue of men that had emerged from the hotel opposite him was assembled on the street with militaristic precision. Their positions were clear. Their stance, threatening. Bodyguards. They scanned the square in every direction, but nobody looked up.
Not one of them noted the threat, despite being hired and paid by the man in their midst. Vladimir Krenko was the sixteenth richest man in the world. A man with so many enemies, the Vampire Assassin League had received four offers for his death in one twenty-four hour period.
Anso wondered which offer had been accepted.
Or, if they’d taken all of them.
He grunted and pulled the string just a fraction more. A creak from the yew wood accompanied the motion while the sinew bowstring bit into his fingers. The longbow had been designed by ancient Celts, taken over by King Edward the Third. Longshanks. And why? Because of the bow’s ability and range. An archer could launch twenty arrows a minute. Achieve a distance exceeding anything from a crossbow or re-curve one. The arrows could penetrate chainmail. It could even pierce armor.
Especially if Anso launched it.
The gathering at the hotel entrance made a visual target with a large bulls-eye at the center. Krenko was big. Barrel-chested. Loud. Wearing a silver-hued suit that exaggerated those qualities. It even reflected light. He shone as if spotlighted. Despite exquisite tailoring, the suit didn’t hide the man’s girth. Nor, did it conceal the weapons he carried. One gun in a shoulder holster. One at his hip. A small one at his back. Knives at each ankle. Krenko’s every movement put a corresponding definition to his array of weaponry.
He had a barely-clad beauty queen on each arm. They looked like they could use a wrap. Neither woman was armed. Nobody could fit a weapon in the small amount of fabric they wore. Not without leaving a bulge. And those two ladies didn’t have any excess bulges.
A count tallied ten bodyguards with Krenko tonight. Nine surrounded him. One stood at his back. They all appeared expectant, as if waiting for their ride. It wasn’t going to arrive. The limo driver had been the first casualty of this evening. But, maybe the fellow shouldn’t have fought back. As Anso watched, the man at Krenko’s back gestured and made phones calls. He didn’t act satisfied as he finished and barked something. The retinue moved, reassembling like a well-oiled machine. They started walking. Three men fronted the unit, shoulder-to-shoulder. Then came Krenko and his ladies, the phone-man directly behind. The remaining bodyguards took up the rear in double columns of two.
He’d miscalculated. An eleventh bodyguard came into view. This one was dark-clad, barely-noticeable. He kept to the shadows and constantly checked behind the group as he trailed them. His progress was quiet. Stealthy. Anso focused on him for a moment. Made his decision.
And took the shot.
~ ~ ~
“I can’t believe you talked me into a ghost tour. Everyone knows there is no such thing.
psychologists with a lot of schooling behind them and years of private practice.” Leah rubbed her hands along her arms, trying for warmth.
“Are you calling us old?”
Her companion had been her best friend since grammar school. They’d gone to college together. Graduated
Magna Cum Laude
. Opened a joint practice that was prospering quite nicely. He wasn’t aging as well as Leah, but nothing on him looked old. Or tired. Or cold. Mainly because he wore a man’s woolen suit.
And she didn’t.
Leah smirked. “No. I’m calling us thirty-four. And way too mature for this. I’m serious. I truly can’t believe you talked me into it.”
“Give me some credit, love. It took a half bottle of premium vodka and a lot of persuasion.
I had to buy the tickets.”
“I’m not in the mood, Steven. Your attempts at ‘funny-funny-ha-ha’ went out with that trek over ankle-twisting cobblestones. And for what? To see a supposedly haunted alehouse that had a lot of aromatic spirits hanging around the place, but nothing ethereal. Or remotely scary. That proves my last theory. They hire these tour guides for their acting ability. Face it.”
“That was almost an hour ago.”
“My point exactly. It’s close to one o’clock. In the morning. In the Czech Republic. Even if they say it’s a really warm spring, it’s beyond chilly. It’s late. I’m tired. We have a class that starts at eight. That’s why we came. We paid some big bucks to attend the psychologist convention in Prague. We’re here on business. Remember?”
“You need more vodka.”
“Oh. Funny. Funny. Ha. Ha,” Leah replied.
“Buck up. The tour is almost over.”
“And then what? We have an eighty block hike back to our hotel. Or...did you arrange a ride? Please tell me you did.”
“Quit exaggerating. It’s more like eight. Look at your map.”
“Eight? Might as well be eighty. Do you realize how cold it is? And how miserable these shoes are?”
“Grumble. Grumble. You know...most people wear sensible attire on a walking tour. It’s a physical comfort thing. You were warned beforehand to change.”
“After the fourth drink! You’re a sadist, Steven. I should have warned your wife before it was too late for the poor woman.”
“She’s immune. Hurry! We’re lagging behind!”
“Did I forget to mention this stupid, spandex girdle-thing? And you want me to hurry? I’m being pinched in half and having trouble breathing.”
“You’re wearing a girdle?”
“Oh. Crap. Forget I said anything, okay?”
“Oh. No way. Not an opening like that. I didn’t even think they still made girdles. Seriously?”
“It’s a specialty thing. From the Goddess Store on Tenth. They’re supposed to carve inches off your frame and smooth out bulges like muffin tops. And I can’t believe I’m telling you this. Promise you won’t tell anyone.”
“You might have to buy my silence.”
“How much do you want?”
He grinned. Steve had always had a killer grin. “Why in the hell are you wearing it?”
“Because I’m overweight.”
“The BMI lists me as obese.”
“The BMI lists everyone like that! My younger brother is a firefighter. You’ve seen him. He’s obese on that stupid scale. Does he look obese to you?”
“Your brother is six-foot-two of muscled gorgeousness. It’s hard to believe you are related.”
“Besides, your example is way off base. Your brother has a foot of height on me. And testosterone.”
“I’ll try another tack. How about this one? You are not overweight. You’re curvy. Men like curves. I should know. I am one.”
“That’s not what my last boyfriend said.”
“The guy was an ass. You should look higher for social contacts.”
“Ronald owned his own construction company.”
“My social calendar is not so full that I turn down good-looking men who own their own businesses. And their own homes. And don’t live with their parents.”
“Sounds like an egomaniac. Way too full of himself. He was probably middle-aged, too.”
“Like I said—”
“Why should I believe anything you say, anyway? You’re a psychologist. It’s your job to help people see beyond self-esteem issues.”
“Can I ask one question?”
“If you don’t try and analyze anything.”
“Did you gain weight after Ron asked you out?”
Leah sighed. “You’re going to try and analyze it, aren’t you? And I just said—”
“I’m going to say that’s a ‘no’. You haven’t gained any weight. That means he knew your dimensions when you began seeing each other. Am I right?”
“Is this going somewhere constructive?”
“I’m just trying to ascertain what made the man tick. If you were a certain size when he started seeing you, isn’t that what he wanted? Or...was he trying to improve you? Maybe you were another building project?”
“That’s it. You’re fired as my analyst. I’d rather talk to a wall. Now, can we move onto something else? Like my sore feet?”
“Get your ex into the office. I’ll give him a self-esteem issue so severe he’ll have trouble asking a woman out, let alone discussing her weight. And...you’re not crying, are you?”
“Shut up. Or I’m going to hike the eighty-eight blocks back to the hotel without you. And really be pissed when I get there.”
“So. We have one more place to see? Yes? Some church?”
“Reputedly the most haunted one in Europe.”
“Please. Spare me.”
“Come on already. You love gothic stuff, and this one is...really sweet. Just look.”
Leah looked up a mountain of stone steps facing them. There was a yellow-toned arched entrance at the top. The rest of the tour group was nearly there already. “Would you look at those stairs?” Her shoulders sagged.
“I could carry you. I mean, I may not be my brother, but I might have some firefighter physique in here somewhere. Hey. I just remembered. He broke up with his fiancée last month. Want me to set you up?”
Leah shot him a glance. “Jerk.”
“Ah!” His finger went up. “Made you smile.”
They started up the steps. By the tenth one, Leah knew she was in trouble. Her designer shoes had four inch heels, a one inch platform, and too small of a toe box. They looked nice. Made her legs looks even nicer. Which was why she’d bought them in the first place. And she was limping.
There was a plateau at each twelfth step, complete with stone-carved benches at the sides. They were difficult to see in the shadows. Eerie as all get-out. And heaven-sent.
“Oh! Look! I have been saved!”
Leah headed toward a bench with alacrity. Sat on stone that sent a shock of cold through her buttocks. She ignored it for the most part, slipped off a shoe, and started rubbing her foot.
“What are you doing?” Steve asked.