Read The Enemy Online

Authors: Tom Wood

Tags: #Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Thrillers, #Suspense

The Enemy (2 page)

BOOK: The Enemy
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Before the businessman could zoom in closer to prepare for the shot, a tiny flicker of light from a window of the hotel’s thirteenth floor caught his attention. He quickly raised the barrel of the MSG-9,
angling up the scope to check out the light source. He feared a guest was better enjoying the view of the city through a telescope or pair of binoculars. From an elevated position they might inadvertently spot him, and if so, he would have to forget about the contract and make a quick escape. No point completing the kill if the police apprehended him afterwards.

Once the reticule centred over the window he increased the magnification of the scope, and saw the source of the flicker was not the reflection of sunlight on the lenses of binoculars or a telescope but a rifle scope like his own.

A suppressed muzzle flash transformed the businessman’s surprise to alarm for the two-thirds of a second it took for the bullet to reach his head.

Pink mist swirled in the air.

CHAPTER 2

Victor watched the body fall out of sight and took his eye away from the scope as the crack of the shot slowly faded into nothingness. The rifle’s long sound suppressor had negated the muzzle report but could do nothing to stop the sonic boom emitted when the bullet broke the sound barrier. Though a person with the right ear would know a shot had been fired, without the accompanying muzzle blast and flash its point of origin would be all but impossible to decipher. Subsonic ammunition would have eliminated most of the sound, only it was windy in Bucharest, and at a distance of six hundred yards, Victor didn’t trust the slower round’s accuracy.

The hotel-room window hadn’t opened far enough for his purposes so Victor had unscrewed the pane. As a result it was cold inside the room, but the flow of air would help disperse the tang of cordite. Shooting with the rifle barrel outside of the window would have helped with the smell, but it would also have helped give him away. Only amateurs operated like that.

Quickly, but not hurrying, Victor unscrewed the suppressor from the rifle’s barrel and disassembled the weapon. He placed the individual parts back inside the foam rubber insert of a leather briefcase. The process took less than fifteen seconds. Using a handkerchief, he retrieved the hot brass shell case from the floor and placed it in a pocket. He then moved the armchair he’d been sitting on away from the window and back to its original corner. With his foot, he rubbed the depressions from the carpet where the chair legs had rested near the window.

He screwed the windowpane back in place and used a small piece of sandpaper to smooth the heads of the screws. He surveyed the room for signs of his presence. It was contemporary, neat and very
clean. Neutral colours. Lots of stainless steel and lightwood. No personality in the décor but no offence either. He saw nothing to be concerned over. He hadn’t used the bed or the bathroom, or so much as turned a tap. Hard as it had been to resist the pull of 300-thread-count sheets, the room was a strike point – nothing more – and tasting its comforts wasn’t worth the implicit risk. Sleeping in the same place where he fulfilled a contract was simply not how Victor conducted business.

Happy he’d left no physical evidence to tie him to the room, Victor placed the briefcase inside a larger suitcase, closed it and exited the hotel room. His pulse was two beats per minute above his resting heart rate. He didn’t have to worry about fingerprints as a clear silicone solution covered his hands to prevent oil from his skin leaving prints on anything he touched.

He walked to the stairwell to avoid the security camera near the elevator and descended to the first floor. He passed through the lobby, ignoring the commotion, with his head angled slightly downward so the cameras there would only see his forehead and hair.

Near to the hotel entrance, a tall, wide-shouldered man in jeans and a beige overcoat was speaking frantically to a similarly sized but older man. Both looked Eastern European, Slavic – Russians or Ukrainians maybe. The older man appeared to be in his late forties, clothed in a fine black pinstripe suit that was perfectly cut across his large, muscular frame. He had short-cropped black hair that was grey at the temples, and a clean-shaven face. He stood left side-on to Victor and the jagged line of scar tissue forming the bottom of the ear was clearly visible. There was no earlobe.

Four other men surrounded the two Slavs. All were pale-skinned Eastern Europeans, all in dark suits, all muscular but not overly so, all with the bearing of ex-military high-end bodyguards. They formed a tactical screen around the man in the beige overcoat and the older man in the pinstripe suit, each looking in a different direction – overlapping fields of vision, alert, good, primary hands hovering near their waists, ready to earn their pay cheques.

As Victor approached the desk he heard the large man in the overcoat explaining in Russian why the man in the pinstripe – the VIP –
needed to wait inside. Victor pretended not to understand the topic of conversation as he reached the front desk and stood at an angle so the nearest camera would only catch the back of his skull.

The receptionist behind the desk looked flustered, staring at the group of Slavs, and didn’t notice Victor’s presence until he held a hand across the guy’s line of sight.

‘Sorry, sir,’ he said in Romanian-accented English, ‘how can I help you?’

‘I’d like to check out early, please.’

Victor gave his details, handed back his keycard, and waited for the receptionist to finish doing whatever receptionists had to do, all the while listening to every word of the conversation between the head bodyguard and his VIP.

As he checked the bill and went to sign the paperwork, he heard heavy footsteps approaching. Normally, Victor never allowed anyone to walk up behind him, but conscious of the security camera, and in the process of signing out, he couldn’t reposition himself without drawing attention to what he was doing. And the bodyguards looked observant enough not to let such telling movements go unnoticed.

As a result Victor stood still as he finished putting his alias’s signature on the bottom of the form, and received a predicted shove to the shoulder from the bodyguard as he arrived at the desk to bark orders at the receptionist. Victor didn’t dodge and he didn’t resist the shove – again to preserve his cover as a forgettable guest – but the bodyguard had to weigh two hundred and thirty useful pounds and Victor stumbled. He recovered his footing easier than a surprised businessman might have, but only to stop himself crashing to the floor.

Before he could make an expected angry – but not too angry – comment, he heard the man in the pinstripe suit shout, ‘
Nikolai
.’

The guy in the beige overcoat turned from the front desk to look at his boss. Victor looked too.

The forty-something VIP stormed towards his head bodyguard, the other four guards rushing to maintain a full screen around him, five paces out, no corner of the lobby not covered by at least one set of eyes.

‘Nikolai, you disrespectful brute,’ the man in the pinstripe said as he drew near, ‘apologise to this man immediately.’

He gestured to Victor, and Victor recognised the rural Ukrainian accent.

The bodyguard called Nikolai looked at Victor and said, in inflectionless English, ‘Sorry.’

‘It’s fine,’ Victor said back.

The Ukrainian in the pinstripe suit turned to him. ‘Forgive me, please. My friend here has yet to be civilised. More primate than human. I do hope you’re not hurt.’

‘I’m okay.’

Victor took a step away, eager to end the interaction with the man whose life he had saved. Each second here increased his risk of exposure exponentially. The Ukrainian looked at Victor with a curious, almost intense gaze.

‘Oh, no,’ the Ukrainian said as his gaze dropped, ‘your suit.’

Victor looked too, seeing the small tear in his right jacket sleeve. It must have caught on the corner of the front desk as he stumbled.

‘It’s okay,’ Victor said. ‘It can be fixed.’

‘No, it’s ruined.’ The Ukrainian turned to Nikolai, and said in Russian, ‘You stupid fuck, look what you’ve done.’ He faced Victor again. ‘I’m so sorry. And that’s such a nice suit too. I can see you are a man who cares about how he dresses, as do I. I would give you money for a replacement, only I don’t carry any quantity of cash, and who has a chequebook these days?’

‘There’s no need, really,’ Victor said, thinking he’d have drawn less attention to himself if he had back-flipped out of Nikolai’s way.

‘There’s every need.’ The Ukrainian reached into his inside jacket pocket and produced a business card. He handed it to Victor. ‘I’m afraid I’m in the middle of a crisis at the moment, otherwise I would take you for a new suit, but here’s my card. Call me and we can work something out. If you are ever in Moscow I will have my tailor make you a suit so fine it will make you weep.’

Victor took the card. In both Cyrillic script and English, it said:
Vladimir Kasakov
. There was a phone number and a Moscow office address.

‘That’s very kind of you, Mr Kasakov,’ Victor replied.

‘Now, before my employees can do any more damage, you must excuse me.’

Victor nodded and headed to the front entrance. He didn’t turn around, but he felt eyes watching him the whole time.

Outside it was cold and the doorman looked far too frail to be still doing the job at his age, especially in this weather. Victor’s gaze drifted to the eleven-storey building whose ugliness was all too apparent even at over six hundred yards. The assassin had been right to shoot from there. Other buildings were closer, but not as well positioned to command an uninterrupted view of the hotel entrance. Victor would have used it himself, had their roles been reversed. He would have been more careful not to die there, however.

Victor saw his reflection in the hotel’s glass doors and noted that he didn’t look too dissimilar to the man he’d shot. He wore a charcoal grey suit with a white shirt and sky blue tie underneath his black overcoat. Perfect urban camouflage. His dark hair was short and not styled, his beard trimmed short. He looked like a stockbroker or lawyer, one that kept a smart but unremarkable appearance. He blended into the background, seldom seen, rarely noticed. Unremembered.

In a taxi, he unwrapped a stick of peppermint chewing gum and folded it into his mouth. He’d read gum made a good substitute for cigarettes, but no matter how much he chewed he couldn’t inhale any smoke from the stuff.

He had the driver take him to Gara de Nord station where he purchased a ticket to Constanta and boarded the train seven minutes before it was set to depart. He left his seat six minutes later and disembarked five seconds before the doors closed and locked. He left the station by a different exit, climbed into another taxi and told the driver to take him to Her
u Park, where he walked leisurely through the park before exiting and entering the Charles de Gaulle Plaza. He took a seat in the lobby and read a complimentary magazine while he watched the main entrance.

With no one registering on his threat radar after five minutes, he
stood and descended the stairs to the lowest level of the underground parking garage. One of the high-speed elevators then carried him to the top floor. He went back down in a different elevator to the fourth floor and used the stairs to return to the lobby. He left the building by a side entrance.

He walked to the closest metro station and stayed on for thirty minutes, switching trains and doubling back on himself before changing routes and leaving at the University of Bucharest station. After a pleasant walk through the campus, a taxi took him to Elisabeta Boulevard near to City Hall and from there he walked the short distance to the entrance of the Ci
migiu Gardens.

The park was quiet and peaceful. He passed few people as he made his way to the circular alley of the Rondul Român where he spent some time looking at its twelve stone busts of famous Romanian writers while he finished his counter surveillance. His precautions were as essential a part of fulfilling a job as squeezing the trigger. The successful execution of a contract depended on remaining unnoticed and untraced. Nearly anyone could kill another person, but few people could get away with it once, let alone time after time.

BOOK: The Enemy
4.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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