Authors: Douglas E. Richards
Tags: #Science Fiction, #Thriller, #Mystery, #Suspense, #Adventure, #Fantasy
vaguely felt his legs, arms, and torso being repositioned, and his body being
dragged a few feet across the floor like a one hundred and eighty pound sack of
cement, and then heard the apartment door shut quietly. He could see Kira
Miller out of the corner of one eye. She was holding a large black duffel with
three zippered compartments. Her hair was now longer than in the photos he had
seen and she had dyed it blond. She was wearing bulky clothing that was far too
large for her, in such a way as to add ten pounds to her appearance, and
wire-rimmed glasses. Even dazed as he was, Desh was impressed with the
simplicity but effectiveness of her disguise. Unless you had reason to suspect
this woman was Kira Miller, you’d be hard pressed to pick her out of a crowd.
Griffin was a massive speed bump on the carpet a few feet away; unconscious or
attacker knew his paralysis would only last about five minutes and didn’t waste
an instant. She moved as if a
official had a
stopwatch on her, removing his windbreaker and watch and frantically conducting
a full body search, not leaving a single inch of David Desh unchecked. She
immediately found both guns and both knives and relieved him of them expertly,
along with his shoulder holster.
this completed, Kira Miller pulled a pair of stainless steel fabric shears from
her duffel and hastily cut through Desh’s button-down shirt and white
undershirt, tossing both garments aside and producing a large gray sweatshirt
from a bag beside her. She pulled the sweatshirt over his head and slipped his
arms through as if he were an infant, with remarkable facility but with a
decided lack of gentleness. Finally, she produced an assortment of thin white
plastic strips from the bag, between two and four feet long.
recognized these thin strips instantly: plastic handcuffs. These plasticuffs,
also called zip-strips, could only be removed if someone cut through the
hardened, injection molded nylon plastic; a surprisingly difficult task.
pulled Desh’s right arm out from his body as far as it would go, wrapped the
bendable plastic stick around his wrist, and ratcheted it tight. She pulled
Griffin’s heavy, lifeless left arm closer to Desh and used a long plasticuff
bracelet to cuff the two men together.
she quickly backed fifteen feet away; showing tremendous respect for Desh’s
training and abilities. She was smart and careful. Even the fastest, most
accomplished street fighter or martial artist couldn’t disarm a vigilant
assailant as long as they maintained a respectful distance. In addition, she
had tied him to a virtually immovable anchor—the three- hundred-pound
dead-weight of Matt Griffin—who, Desh noted with relief, was breathing
shallowly, indicating that at least he wasn’t tied to a corpse. For the moment,
anyway. So far, her tactics had been flawless.
the effects of the stun gun were beginning to wear off, Kira Miller held up a
sheet of paper on which she had used black marker to write a message in large,
A SINGLE WORD, EVEN BREATHE TOO HARD, AND I’LL PUT A BULLET IN YOUR HEAD.
put a finger to her lips to underscore the point and pointed his own gun at him
meaningfully. She held up a second sheet.
IF YOU UNDERSTAND
nodded warily. From the look in her eye, he didn’t doubt for a second she would
carry out her threat.
pulled out a third sheet, already prepared, an indication that she had planned
her attack with military precision.
WAIST DOWN. COMPLETELY NAKED. NO WORDS. NO NOISE
kicked off his shoes and clumsily pulled off his socks, pants and briefs: a
difficult task from a supine position and anchored to Griffin that involved
flopping about like a fish out of water and contorting like a circus performer.
was focusing too hard on the imminent threat to his life to waste any energy
feeling self-conscious or humiliated about his nudity, but it was human nature
to feel more vulnerable when naked, and he was no exception.
tossed him a pair of gray sweatpants that matched the sweatshirt he was now
wearing and motioned with her head for him to put them on. He was only too
happy to comply. All in all, while she didn’t seem to like his taste in
clothing, he was encouraged that she was taking the time to see that he was
re-clothed. If her plan was to execute him in the apartment, this wouldn’t have
mattered. On the other hand, Desh remembered Jeffrey Dahmer, and he realized it
was dangerous to make any assumptions about her actions or motives. She could
be dancing to a song that only she could hear.
he finished re-dressing, she tossed him a pair of soft leather slip-on shoes
from her bag, and he managed to get them on his feet. The fit was perfect. And
why not? He had bought several pairs of shoes in the past, online, and she now
had ready access to the e-mail confirmations of these orders.
tossed three plasticuff strips to him, one after another, and he gathered them
up wordlessly. She held up another sign.
TIGHT AROUND EACH ANKLE. THE OTHER BETWEEN THEM
took several minutes, but Desh did as she had ordered. His feet were now cuffed
together in a three-plasticuff chain, leaving about eighteen inches of play
motioned for him to roll onto his stomach and put his arms behind his back,
which he found a way to do despite having to drag Griffin’s arm along for the
ride. She held the gun against his head with one hand and slipped a plasticuff lasso
around his crossed wrists with the other, yanking it so tight that it bit into
Desh’s ankles linked and his wrists now firmly secured behind his back, Kira
cut him loose from Griffin using his own knife and retreated rapidly to a safe
distance the moment she had. Desh noted she was quite agile and light-footed.
motioned for Desh to get up, which he did awkwardly and with considerable
difficulty. She opened the door, checked the hallway, and directed him to
enter. Only being able to move his feet a slight distance apart, he was forced
to shuffle them in a rapid-fire series of tiny steps. Kira followed about eight
feet behind, her gun tucked beneath her oversized sweater but not wavering from
was now after ten o’clock and the hallway remained deserted. A rental car was
parked just outside the exit from Griffin’s building; a large Ford sedan. As
Desh shuffled toward the car, Kira pushed a button on the remote and the trunk
popped open. It was completely empty.
motioned for Desh to climb inside.
miserably, he bent at the waist and slid into the trunk headfirst, having to
curl up into a ball to fit inside the tight quarters.
didn’t waste a moment. The instant he was fully inside, she pushed the trunk
door closed in a single, smooth motion, and Desh was plunged into an
all-enveloping, claustrophobic darkness.
Miller drove for about ninety minutes. The air in the trunk was stale to begin
with and got steadily worse as time wore on. While there were long stretches
during which the ride was relatively smooth, probably indicating highway
driving, there were also brief interludes during which Desh was bounced around
violently, jarring him inside and out and inflicting several minor cuts and
bruises. Finally, after what seemed like forever to Desh, the car stopped for
good. A minute later the trunk was popped open again.
out,” ordered Kira in hushed tones, shielding Desh as well as she could from
any possible onlookers. She held a stun gun in one hand and her black duffel in
the other, and it was clear she had no intention of helping him.
out. Legs first,” she instructed. “Silently. Call attention to yourself and
you’re dead,” she threatened.
as he was, not to mention crowded into close quarters, it took a Herculean
effort to comply, but he was finally able to manage it. They were at a seedy
motel that stretched like a single-story serpent around a pothole-filled
parking lot, forming three legs of a rectangle. The building was poorly
maintained and the grounds were almost completely lacking in external lighting.
had parked directly in front of one of the rooms and she quickly ushered Desh
inside. The unmistakable stench of mildew assailed them as they entered along
with a stale, smoky odor that could only have been generated by thousands of
cigarettes smoked there through time. The door opened into a short corridor,
about five feet long, with the bathroom on the immediate right, and then
widened into a main room that was surprisingly large. Long, garish drapes were
hung across the only window and a cigarette burn adorned the bottom of a faded
bedspread. The room was one of a pair of front-to-back, rather than
side-to-side, adjoining rooms. At the back wall, two thin wooden doors were
both open, creating a narrow passage between the two separate but identical
rooms. Kira had obviously rented both, but had left the lights off in the one
on the bed,” she commanded once they had entered. “With your back against the
climbed onto the queen-sized bed as instructed, and she looped a plastic
restraint around one of the outer wooden posts that were on both sides of the
thin headboard, and then through his plasticuffs.
lamp sitting on a small end table by the bed currently illuminated the entire
room. Kira had knotted a thin rope around its cord, with the free end of the
rope tied in a noose. She lifted the noose off the floor and walked to the
door, looping it around the handle and pulling tight. This caused the lamp cord
to become as taut as it could possibly be and still remain plugged into the
wall outlet. She must have measured this carefully beforehand. She then quickly
and expertly ran a trip wire across the corridor where it met the main room,
about a foot off the ground.
done, Kira removed a pair of state-of-the-art thermal imaging goggles from her
bag and strapped them on, leaving them on her head and ready to be slid over
her eyes. She pulled out a black jumpsuit, made from an unusual material that
appeared to be partially crystalline, stepped into it, and zipped it up, so
that her entire body was completely covered all the way up to her chin. She
then retreated to a wooden chair twenty feet away and moved it so that it
couldn’t be seen from the doorway. All of her activities had been well planned
and had been performed with military efficiency.
her preparations completed, Kira tossed her wire-rimmed glasses into the open
duffel, sat in the chair, and shifted her gaze to David Desh.
let out a heavy sigh. “Are you okay?” she asked with what appeared to be
look of disbelief came over Desh. After all this, this was her first question
of him? Why the pretend concern for his welfare? “What am I doing here?” he
snapped, now that speech was apparently no longer punishable by death.
frowned, almost regretfully. “I needed to speak with you. Convince you that I’m
not the villain you think I am. That I’m innocent.”
was taken aback. “Innocent! Are you kidding? You go from, ‘quiet or I’ll put a
bullet between your eyes’ to claiming you’re innocent.”
hadn’t known what to expect—torture, threats?—but protestations of innocence
wasn’t on the list. But to what end? He was already at her mercy. Was she
simply attempting to keep him off balance?
frowned deeply. “Look, I’m truly sorry for what I just put you through.
. Believe me, this wasn’t the
first impression I would have liked to make. But I’m innocent nonetheless.”
snorted. “Just how stupid do you think I am!” he snapped. “You blast me with
enough electricity to light up Broadway. You repeatedly threaten my life. You
leave Matt Griffin for dead. And now you have me hogtied to a bed at gunpoint.”
He shook his head. “I must be missing how this adds up to your being an
innocent woman,” he finished bitterly.
can assure you your hacker friend will be fine. I just hit him with a very
potent sleep agent. He’ll wake up tomorrow more refreshed than he’s been in
years,” she added. “With no memory of what happened. But I had to handle things
this way. You’re far too dangerous to be given even a little wiggle room. This
was my only option.”
do you figure?”
yourself in my shoes. If you wanted to have a friendly conversation with
someone who’s been preconditioned to think you’re the devil incarnate, and who
also happens to have Special Forces training and is constantly being monitored,
how would you go about it?”
ignored the question. “What makes you think I’m being monitored?”
the people behind Connelly won’t spare any measure to get their hands on me,”
she said with absolute conviction. “And not for the reasons you think,” she
added. “Do you really think they just sent you off on your own recognizance? Just
like that? I’m far too important to them for that. Rest assured, they’ve been
tracking your every move since you took this assignment.”
raised his eyebrows. “People behind Connelly?” he repeated.
is just a dupe in this game. Just like you,” she said bluntly. “The people
pulling his strings are the ones tracking you.”
they’re tracking me, as you say, how is it they didn’t intervene in my
shook her head. “They don’t have a
tail on you,” she replied
smoothly. “You’re too well trained for that. Even if they put two or three cars
on you, you’d eventually spot the tail and it would blow up in their faces.” She
paused. “Besides, it’s a waste of manpower. They figured if you managed to find
me at all it would take you weeks. Remote monitoring was enough.”
see,” he said patronizingly. “I suppose they imbedded a subtle tracking device
in my underwear.”
easy smile lit up her face. “I have to admit, that
she said sheepishly, an amused twinkle in her eye. “But I wouldn't completely
put it past them either. I’ve been erring on the side of caution and it seems
to be working for me so far.”
felt himself being instantly drawn in by her incandescent eyes and
unselfconscious smile. Kira’s effortless charm and physical appeal were more
powerful and disarming than he had at first realized. Her features could not
have been gentler or more feminine. Her movements were lithe and athletic,
despite her bulky clothing, and her voice was soft and appealing. Her eyelashes
were long and her jaw and cheekbones delicate. Her wide, blue eyes were warm
forced himself to blink and break her momentary spell, annoyed with himself for
responding to her with anything other than total revulsion. “You took great
pains to ensure quiet in Griffin's apartment. So you obviously think he's
sighed. “I'm afraid so.”
would they possibly even know to bug him? I didn’t even know he existed until thirty-six
monitoring your phone calls. As soon as you arranged an appointment with him
they probably set up listening devices in his apartment. Again, I’m not sure
they did, but I operated under this assumption.”
you sent the text that lured me back to Griffin’s apartment?”
done,” he said with a look of disgust, although this look was reserved for
How had he been so sloppy
even as he chastised himself, he realized that Kira Miller's boldness had
helped force his error. She had been on to him, probably before he had even
taken the assignment, and she had acted with stunning speed and decisiveness;
using tactics she had never used before to totally blindside him.
expected her to be gloating, but she appeared more apologetic than ever.
your own logic,” he said, “you carried out a very successful, silent abduction.
My clothes, phone, car, and weapons are far away. Nothing left to bug or
track.” He nodded toward the door of the motel. “So why the trip wire and other
precautions? There’s erring on the side of caution and there’s irrationality,”
he pointed out.
they’ll track us here, all right. If we’re lucky, we’ll be long gone by the
time they do. On the other hand, if
lucky, I need to be
what form do you expect their luck to take?”
or later—hopefully later—they’ll realize that the homing devices they put in
your car, or your clothing, or . . . wherever, haven’t moved in a while. They’ll
track them to Griffin’s apartment and realize you aren’t there. After you
visited Griffin, they may have decided to surveil the parking lot of his
building periodically via satellite. If they were lucky and managed to capture
an image of the car I’m using, this will greatly accelerate their search.” Kira
paused. “I just hope they don’t arrive before I’ve accomplished my mission,”
he said, raising his eyebrows. “And what mission is that?”
gazed into his eyes for several long seconds and then sighed. “Recruiting you
over to my side,” she finally said earnestly.