Authors: Chris Holm
About the Author
Chris Holm is an award-winning short story writer whose work has appeared in a number of magazines and anthologies, including Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Needle: A Magazine of Noir, and The Best American Mystery Stories. His critically acclaimed trilogy of Collector novels, which blend fantasy with old-fashioned crime pulp, appeared on over forty Year’s Best lists. He lives in Portland, Maine.
Also by Chris Holm
The Collector Series
The Big Reap
The Wrong Goodbye
First published in Great Britain in 2015 by Mulholland Books
An imprint of Hodder & Stoughton
An Hachette UK company
Copyright © Chris Holm 2015
The right of Chris Holm to be identified as the Author
of the Work has been asserted by him in accordance with the
Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be
reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form
or by any means without the prior written permission of the publisher,
nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other
than that in which it is published and without a similar condition
being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
All characters in this publication are fictitious and any resemblance
to real persons, living or dead is purely coincidental.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library
Hardback ISBN 978 1 473 60614 2
Trade Paperback ISBN 978 1 473 60615 9
Ebook ISBN 978 1 473 60613 5
Printed and bound by Clays Ltd, St Ives plc
Hodder & Stoughton policy is to use papers that are natural, renewable
and recyclable products and made from wood grown in sustainable forests.
The logging and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to
the environmental regulations of the country of origin.
Hodder & Stoughton Ltd
50 Victoria Embankment
London EC4Y 0DZ
For Katrina—again, or for the first time
Nor is there any law more just, than that he who has plotted death shall perish by his own plot.
We can’t all be saints.
The streets of downtown Miami shimmered in the evening heat, the summer air rich with spice and song. Neon and rum and the warm ocean breeze conspired to make the city thrum with lurid anticipation. It was, after all, a Friday night in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Still, no one who walked that night beneath the broad modern portico of the Morales Incorporated Building suspected they’d briefly occupied the spot where a man was about to die.
Edgar Morales pushed through the revolving doors of the gleaming steel-and-glass building that bore his name and stepped onto the sunbaked concrete. After a day spent in climate-controlled comfort, the hot breath of the city set him sweating. He checked his watch. It was precisely six thirteen p.m. Most days, Edgar’s car would come around to pick him up at precisely six fifteen—but today was not most days. Today Edgar’s car would not be coming, for it had been disabled. Fixing it would delay his driver long enough to leave Morales exposed so that the man the Corporation—as the Cuban Mafia calls itself—sent to kill him could complete his task.
He wasn’t exposed
for Michael Hendricks’s taste.
Hendricks watched Morales through the telescopic sight of his M40A3 sniper rifle from his perch some four blocks down the street. His vision was distorted slightly by the tinted window through which he peered, and by the stolen Escalade’s vibration as its AC labored to cool its spacious interior. Hendricks had found the vehicle in a long-term parking lot at Miami International a few hours back. Gleaming black with chromed-out rims, an enormous cabin, and tinted windows all around, it made the perfect downtown Miami sniper blind. He would have preferred to set up in one of the many towers that faced Morales Incorporated—shots from above were less likely to encounter an obstruction prior to finding their target, and both witnesses and routes of egress could be more easily planned for and controlled—but that damned overhang shielded the entryway from view at such an angle. So instead, he made do, slipping a valet a hundred bucks for the privilege of parking in the far corner of a boutique hotel’s parking lot, which had decent sight lines to the building’s entrance. Time was, a hundred bucks could have gotten you a
in this town—but not anymore, and certainly not at
He’d been sitting there for an hour watching traffic roll by, the AC blasting in a vain attempt to keep the heat and humidity at bay. The air was so heavy and still, the strips of fabric he’d tied to the street signs to serve as wind indicators hadn’t moved since he’d first parked. The lack of wind was to Hendricks’s advantage. Wind was second only to gravity in its ability to alter a bullet’s trajectory, and since its force was not constant, it was far harder to account for. But he’d need to take the humidity into account. Air this water-laden was sure to slow his bullet down—enough, at this distance, to lower his point of impact by three full inches. Three inches could be the difference between a kill shot and a graze.
This muggy weather was disgusting, Hendricks thought, much like the cup of café con leche that sat undrunk in the cup holder beside him—thick, cloying, and sticky. And the palette of the city grated on him— everything was canary and coral and aquamarine. Hendricks missed the dark greens and cold blues of northern New England, where even the hottest summer sun failed to warm the deepest hollows of the forest, and the water ran cold all year long. Miami was beautiful, sure, but that beauty was as garish and artificial as the siliconed women who walked its streets.
Everything about the place felt insincere.
Best to get the job over with and get out of here.
Through his scope, Hendricks watched Morales look left and right, surveying the busy street as if for his missing ride, and then descend the wide concrete steps toward the curb. Men in business suits jostled for position beside bronzed women in skimpy beach gear, waiting for the crosswalk light to change.
“We’re a go,” Hendricks said. He turned the key in the ignition, cutting the engine but leaving the battery engaged. The world around him went silent, and the car’s vibration stilled. “Tell me you’re in the system.”
“I’m in,” came the reply through his Bluetooth, “but understand, the security is first-rate. It cycles through its diagnostics at five-second intervals. If any unauthorized command is detected, an alarm is triggered. And if that happens, the cops’ll be at your position in minutes.”
“You saying you can’t do it?”
“I’m saying once you give the go-ahead, you’ll have three seconds, no more.”
“Guess I’d better make those seconds count,” Hendricks said. “On my mark.”
Morales reached the curb. Hendricks pivoted his rifle first left, then right, taking in the scene through his scope. He gave a nod of satisfaction at what he saw and lowered the passenger-side front window, sighting his target through the opening, his weapon’s bipod steadied against the leather sill.