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Authors: Alan Jacobson

No Way Out

BOOK: No Way Out
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No Way Out

A Karen Vail Novel

Alan Jacobson

Contents

Author’s Note

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 19

Chapter 20

Chapter 21

Chapter 22

Chapter 23

Chapter 24

Chapter 25

Chapter 26

Chapter 27

Chapter 28

Chapter 29

Chapter 30

Chapter 31

Chapter 32

Chapter 33

Chapter 34

Chapter 35

Chapter 36

Chapter 37

Chapter 38

Chapter 39

Chapter 40

Chapter 41

Chapter 42

Chapter 43

Chapter 44

Chapter 45

Chapter 46

Chapter 47

Chapter 48

Chapter 49

Chapter 50

Chapter 51

Chapter 52

Chapter 53

Chapter 54

Chapter 55

Chapter 56

Chapter 57

Chapter 58

Chapter 59

Chapter 60

Chapter 61

Chapter 62

Chapter 63

Chapter 64

Chapter 65

Chapter 66

Chapter 67

Chapter 68

Chapter 69

Chapter 70

Chapter 71

Chapter 72

Chapter 73

Chapter 74

Chapter 75

Chapter 76

Chapter 77

Chapter 78

Chapter 79

Chapter 80

Chapter 81

Chapter 82

Acknowledgments

About the Author

Copyright

For Louis Brill, my junior high school English teacher. Mr. Brill had a long-lasting impact on my life—so much so that it might be said that my writing career would not have been realized had he not instilled in me a love of English and the beauty of the written word.

In what is undoubtedly a first for a dedication, I offer a peek at one of Mr. Brill’s lessons, which dealt with the importance of using proper grammar—commas, in particular. Consider this sentence:

Let’s go eat, grandmother.

Remove the comma and you are left with:

Let’s go eat grandmother.

It’s a simple illustration, but one that has stuck with me for decades.

Mr. Brill, this one’s for you.

Author's Note

This is a work of fiction. The characters and organizations appearing in this novel, including the British Heritage Party and the British Shakespeare Academy, are products of the author's imagination. The events depicted are fictitious, and none of them really happened. Some literary license has been taken concerning geographical settings and standard police procedures, but these modifications are minor and, for the most part, will only be apparent to those familiar with the particular settings and procedures.

“Before you embark on a journey

of revenge, dig two graves.”

- Confucius

“All warfare is based on deception.”

- Sun Tzu

“Affairs are easier of entrance than of exit;

and it is but common prudence to see

our way out before we venture in.”

-
Aesop

1

Plaza Mayor

Madrid, Spain

“C
ould really do with a fag about now.”

A number of responses flooded Karen Vail’s thoughts—and not all of them politically correct. The one she chose was borderline, yet biting.

“I don’t do fags,” Vail said, knowing full well that the British man was talking about bumming a cigarette off her.

The homicide detective squinted, unsure of what to make of the feisty redhead—let alone her comment.

After a moment, he rocked back on his heels and said, “Your theory of finding signature within MO was quite intriguing.”

FBI profiler Karen Vail, in Madrid as part of the Behavioral Analysis Unit’s effort to provide instruction on criminal investigative analysis to the world’s police force, held out her hand. “Karen Vail.”

“Ingram Losner.” The thin man paused, then said, “You did know I was talking about a cigarette, a smoke. Not a back tickler.”

Back tickler?
“I did,” she said. “But that wasn’t the first thing that crossed my mind. I don’t know a whole lot of British expressions, but isn’t that one outdated?”

“Old habits die hard. Kind of like smoking.”

Vail looked across the tourist-filled plaza at a mime who was clad in thick green metallic paint, standing rock still and holding a broom. “I stopped smoking a while ago. Shitty habit.” She faced Losner. “You do know what shitty is, right?”

“Of course.”

“I’m just saying. You people say ‘pissed’ for drunk, ‘fag’ for cigarette, ‘football’ for soccer—personally, I think we Americans have improved the English language.”

“Agent Vail,” said a suited man with a thick Spanish accent.

Vail turned. “Oh, Detective—” She snapped her fingers. “Heredia.”

“Very good, yes. I found your discussion of sexual homicide fascinating. It reminded me of a case I had four years—” His two-way radio chirped and he frowned. “Excuse me.” He yanked it from his belt. “Estoy fuera de servicio.”
I’m off-duty.
But a woman’s staccato speech erupted from the speaker, and Heredia’s expression hardened. He responded, “Sí, sí, estoy aquí.”
Yes, yes, I’m here.

Vail struggled to follow the exchange. Her conversational Spanish was poor and the brush-up audio course she listened to in the weeks before her departure required more time than she had to give.

Vail picked up a few words and missed several others, but she got this much:

Two murder suspects. Your location. Gray and blue backpacks.

Heredia’s head moved left and right as he scanned the crowd in front of him. “There!” He brought the radio to his mouth. “Los veo.”
I see them.

Vail followed his gaze to two men a dozen feet away. They were carrying colored rucksacks like the ones the dispatcher had described.

“Policia,” Heredia called out. “Necesito hablar contigo.”
I need to talk with you.

They turned to look, saw Heredia moving toward them, and took off.

Heredia followed, as did Vail. Losner’s voice receded behind her as she charged into the throng: “You’ve got no jurisdiction—you’re just a citizen!”

No, I’m a cop. And those are fleeing murder suspects.

Navigating through the dense horde of tourists and college students crowding the massive square, Vail saw the men running toward a side street. She did likewise, headed in their direction through the plaza’s archway exit onto Calle del Siete de Julio.

“You see them?”

Heredia
. Behind her, slightly to her left—and suddenly blocked by a heavyset woman with a stroller.

“Got a visual!” she said without taking her eyes off the fleeing men.

Whether or not this was her jurisdiction, Vail was an officer of the law down to her bones. True, she was unarmed, and in Spain her FBI creds were worth less than the brass alloy her badge was made from—but none of that mattered as she sprinted ahead, darting around, and into, passersby.

Something deep down—the inner voice she sometimes ignored—
Come on, Karen, admit it: you ignore me all the time!
—told her to back off, to remember what she was here for. No matter how she parsed it, she was not in Spain to engage murder suspects in a foot race through the streets of Madrid.

Yet here she was, pushing forward, hurtling toward…who knew what.

She followed the men as they turned left onto Calle Mayor, through the flow of tourists and city dwellers, although the crowd had thinned considerably as she and Heredia put distance between them and the plaza.

As she crossed Calle del Duque de Najera, one of the men peeled left down the side street.

“I got him,” Heredia shouted.

Vail took the gray-backpacked man who continued straight. He slowed along Calle del Factor to dodge a passing taxi, its angry horn blaring.

On her left stood the imposing, brick Pallacio de Uceda. A soldier was stationed at one of the main entrances, a fully automatic machine gun slung over his shoulder. Asking him for assistance was out of the question; she had walked by the building two days ago and tried to chat him up about the best place to grab a taxi. He would not divert his attention to even talk with her, let alone join a harebrained chase.

Vail passed a Museo del Jamon restaurant on her left—with wrapped pig parts hanging in the window—and a cell phone store to her right.

The suspect dodged traffic and crossed the large avenue, Calle de Bailén. Slightly to the right and down the street was the massive complex of the Palacio Real de Madrid—the Royal Palace of Madrid.

But the guy toting the gray backpack was not headed toward the royal’s home—too much security there.

He swung left toward a sizable gray and tan structure, sharply spiked wrought iron fencing rising behind what appeared to be a statue of Pope John Paul II. A dozen crosses sat atop spires of varying heights, the most prominent being the building’s bell tower.

Vail’s suspect turned left down the steeply sloped side street, then ran up some stone stairs and through the church’s side door, the entrance to the Crypt of the Almudena Cathedral—a place one of the detectives had told her she “had to visit.”

This didn’t really qualify as a visit, but what the hell—she wasn’t going to have time to see the place otherwise.

As she entered the cathedral, a short man with frizzled gray hair was on his feet, looking to his right, pointing beyond the entryway. He turned to Vail and yelled, “Él no pagó!”

“Yeah, and I’m not paying either, buddy,” she said as she shouldered past him into the crypt. But the view immediately stopped her. “Holy shit—er, holy mother of God.”
Please, God, don’t strike me down. I meant no disrespect. But the view is kind of breathtaking.

Charcoal-veined ivory marble tiles stretched a hundred yards down a long corridor lined with dozens of ornate columns and gold light fixtures. Strategic spotlights buried in the floor and accent lighting atop the columns lit the arching, atriumed ceiling, providing a dramatic aura in the dimly illuminated interior.

Vail couldn’t decide if the place was exquisite or gaudy.

But one thing was clear: her suspect was nowhere in sight.

She moved forward cautiously, down the corridor, passing open rooms to her right—private crypts with carved mantles, religious figurines and some of the most complex stained glass windows Vail had ever seen. Angel-themed murals made of inlaid tile formed the backdrop for works of ancient porcelain pottery set on elaborate pedestals.

“Yo sé que estás aquí,” Vail shouted.
I know you’re here.
“Policía! ¡Salga!”
Police! Come out!

At least, I think that’s what I said. Should’ve paid more attention to that audio course.

Footsteps, twenty feet away, in the crypt off to her right.

Vail moved in the direction of the sound, reaching for her absent Glock.
Shit. What am I going to do, spit on him? Yell at him? Well, I’ll definitely yell at him, but what’s that gonna get me?

As she passed the area where she had heard the noise, the clunk of something heavy striking the wall off to her left echoed in the corridor. She flinched and swung her head in that direction—but someone grabbed her from behind, locking the crook of his elbow into her larynx and yanking her backward. Vail pried at the man’s wrist, attempting to leverage his arm off her windpipe, but the pressure against her neck only increased.

She slammed her heel into his foot—and he released his hold enough for her to turn her head to the side and squirm down, out from under his grip. But then he brought his left knee up and swung it around, slamming into her side and sending her sprawling deeper into the crypt.

She landed face down on the slick tile floor and was trying to get up when he grabbed the back of her shirt and flung her into the stone wall. Her shoulder absorbed most of the impact, and she bounced back enough to give her the momentum to stumble forward, toward the opening that led to the corridor.

But he fisted her blouse and yanked her back toward him, then cupped a hand across her mouth. She wind-milled her elbows, striking him sharply in the nose and cheek—yet his grip remained firm.

He clamped a hand over her eyes and tried to force her to the ground.

Vail reached out blindly and grabbed for something—anything—and felt two objects. She took one in each hand and heaved them behind her, above her head.

They struck her attacker in the face.

He froze on impact—and she drove the point of her elbow into his abdomen. As he released his grip, she spun around, put her head down and struck him in the stomach, driving him backward like a linebacker doing tackling drills.

He grabbed her hair and pulled—but momentum and adrenaline propelled her forward several steps until they both struck the wall. It knocked the wind out of him and he lost his hold on her. She fell to the floor, landing on her bottom.

Vail got on her feet, ready to strike if he came at her again. And that’s when she realized that it was not the wall that had taken away his breath, but the wrought iron gate.

That, and the curved, razor-sharp pointed arrows atop the metal fencing.

As she advanced on him, it became clear that the murder suspect with the gray backpack was no longer a threat: the prongs had punctured the back of his skull, killing him instantly.

Footsteps. Running, echoing.

Shouting voices: “Policia! ¡Salga ahora!” Police! Come out now!

Now there’s a new one. Wish I’d thought of that.

Two cops appeared with handguns, pointed not at their dead suspect, but at her.

Vail did what all people are supposed to do when armed law enforcement personnel yell at you: she lifted both hands above her head. The universal sign for “I am so screwed.”

“FBI,” she said, not knowing if they understood English. And there was no way she’d be able to translate Federal Bureau of Investigation into Spanish. But she tried anyway. “Bureau Federale de Investigación.”

They looked at one another, hesitated—and then handcuffed her.

Typical cops. Don’t like fibbies.

As they led her away, she realized she had a problem. Murder suspect or not, she had killed a man in a foreign country. She was, as a buddy of hers liked to say, “in the shit.”

Lucy, you got some ’splaining to do.

VAIL FORCED A SMILE. She had been in the police interview room for thirty minutes, doing her best to explain her actions. But her piss-poor Spanish and their piss-poor English made for a lot of confusion and misunderstood hand gestures. Unfortunately, the one hand gesture Vail preferred to use would not have done her much good.

They finally summoned a translator.

“As I’ve been trying to tell you, I’m a Supervisory Special Agent for the FBI in the United States. I’m teaching a conference on behavioral analysis to your detectives.” She stopped and waited for the man to finish turning her English into Spanish. Accurately, she hoped.

A few exchanges later, she wondered if the interpreter understood English either. As he and the police official discussed the score of the soccer game between Real Madrid and Barcelona—they couldn’t have been talking about what she had just said because she had only uttered three sentences—Vail realized that her do-it-yourself attempt to save her ass was falling short.

“Find Detective Heredia. He’ll tell you. There was a call over his radio about two murder suspects.” She finished the story, and then the interpreter stopped and waited for her to continue. But she felt she’d already provided the police enough information for him to laugh, slap her on the back, apologize for putting her through the embarrassment of getting arrested—and then offer to take her out for tapas and beer.

He did none of that. Instead, he turned to face her and said, through the interpreter, “The Almudena Cathedral is the seat of the Madrid archdiocese. You disrespected our national treasure and destroyed valuable artifacts.”

Yikes, the archdiocese? For sure I’m gonna burn in hell.
“It’s a really beautiful church.”
Over the top gaudy, if you must know
. “I’m truly sorry. I should’ve let the murder suspect get away.”

Some rapid-fire Spanish, and then the translation. “You have no jurisdiction here. Why did you initiate foot pursuit?”

I’m sure my boss will be asking me that same question.

“Instinct,” she said with a shrug. “I’m a cop. No matter what country I’m in, I live to catch the bad guys.”

The man frowned and shook his head.

Really? Not even a thank-you?

He walked to a phone, babbled something into the receiver, waited, then babbled some more. He finally returned and said, “Your FBI will be handling this.”

I can’t wait.

VAIL SAT IN THE STATION for another forty minutes, waiting for things to get sorted out. Because of the time difference, she was sure the delay was due to an inability to reach someone at the Bureau. She didn’t even know the protocol for a situation like this. It probably involved the Madrid FBI Legat, or legal attaché, calling his contact in the States, who would then alert an assistant director in charge, who would then call her boss. If that scenario was correct, she was not looking forward to hearing her name tossed about in hushed curses—not only for what she had done but because she did it at an “inconvenient” hour.

BOOK: No Way Out
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