Thursday, April 15, 2010
Upcoming Release and Excerpt: Clean Slate by Aleksandr Voinov and Barbara Sheridan
To tide us over, here’s an excerpt I from over at Aleksandr Voinov’s website.
“Did he text you again?” Chris asked, wiping the rifle down with a rag.
“Yeah, he did.”
“And you gave him your work contacts?”
John looked up, looking wounded. “We were going steady for more than three years, Chris. Sorry. But I did love that guy.”
Chris arched an eyebrow and put the weapon down. Making a move on his heartsore teammate might be a terrible idea, but he liked John especially because he was fairly emotional. Chris sometimes called him his “sane part,” but, of course, that was a simplification and an exaggeration. It did take a crazy motherfucker to work for GORGON. Now that John’s boyfriend was out of the picture, maybe something would happen. Wasn’t that the best way to mend a broken heart?
Chris wrapped up the rifle, placed it in a sports bag, and added a couple magazines. Five rounds should be enough for everybody, but still.
“Okay. You ready to kill that motherfucker?” Chris asked, grabbing his bag.
They drove up the hill, silent for the most part. Idle chatter or listening to music might break concentration, even though John couldn’t quite suppress the memories. Three and a half years gone, just like that. He hadn’t been an easy partner to live with, and Wayne had assumed John fucked around with other guys during all the traveling he was doing because of the job. How ironic. The missions made him feel more lonely, if anything, and while a domestic life was difficult to maintain, he’d bent over backwards to at least give it a shot.
GORGON discouraged relationships for exactly that reason. Deep undercover usually meant they matched him up with somebody who could act as if he or she was a partner. Every now and then, GORGON teammates even married—proof that whoever put teammates together could have had a career as a real matchmaker. In this case, he wondered if they hadn’t teamed him up with Chris the Manslut so he’d slow the rate at which Chris went through his many affairs. Fat chance. He’d never doubt Chris’s professional integrity, and he’d trust him with his life, but in terms of a personal life, John couldn’t get his head around Chris’s voracious appetite for more-or-less anonymous sex. Exchanging phone numbers in the morning didn’t make it non-anonymous in John’s book. Somebody at GORGON must be laughing their head off at this team-up.
He pulled the pistol from its holster and checked it again. He’d act as Chris’s spotter for the hit, meaning he protected him close range and watched to see if the target went down. Chris was by far the better marksman, so that made sense.
Chris pulled into a parking space halfway up the hill, then grabbed his bag. They left the car behind, moving uphill well off the riding trail. Despite the shade of the pine forest, it was warm and the breeze from the Mediterranean died in the thick vegetation before it could bring relief.
John cursed himself for deciding to wear the dark blazer to cover the holster under his arm. But they had decided to do the hit during the day rather than at night, because daytime was the only time when their mark was actually at home and vulnerable.
Finally, they got to the private access road leading up to the lodge. Chris took position on a rock overlooking the crossing; John settled down too. Their mark’s red Maserati GranTurismo had to slow down before getting on the main road due to the potholes. If he didn’t want to fuck up the car’s axles, he had to slow down to a crawl here, and that would give them plenty of time to blow his brains out.
It shouldn’t take longer than an hour.
No sportscar. Chris gritted his teeth, but damn, two hours was nothing if he was waiting for his shot. He should be able to wait like this for a few more hours, or, if the mark didn’t show up soon, change positions with John. Getting the mark was more important than the boredom or even the fucking mosquitoes that had heard the rumor they were the featured item at the daily buffet.
As he was about to swat one of those bloodthirsty bitches on his knuckles, a car engine howled, but it came from the wrong direction. A black Jeep Cherokee barreled up the road and turned into the private street, easily bouncing over the potholes. Oh, the mark had visitors.
John tapped him on the thigh. “Shit, that’s wrong.”
“Those guys were armed to the teeth.” John was about to break cover, but Chris had his hands full and couldn’t press him down. “Maybe they are….”
“Hmm, possibly. Not a bad solution, actually.”
“If it is a solution.” John shook his head. “Let’s go.”
“Not yet. Give them five minutes to fight it out.”
They waited, breathless, and Chris wished he’d brought some body armor. Damn them for keeping this low-key. He half-expected their mark to try and make a run for it, which would mean they could pull off the hit as planned, but as the time passed, he had to admit it was not the likeliest scenario. Then an explosion, like from a hand grenade. They looked at each other, and John clearly thought the same thing he did.
“Fuck this, let’s go,” John said.
They gathered their gear and carefully followed along the road.
Where the Jeep had crashed through the entrance, two guards were perforated and very clearly dead. Uzi, Chris reckoned. Nice work.
“Shit. That’s messy,” John muttered with more distaste than a man of his profession should have.
“Clearly meant to send a message,” Chris murmured, breaking into a jog. The grounds surrounding the opulent lodge were well-kept: park-like, while still providing plenty of cover. Up this close, they couldn’t hear gun shots, so either people did the dirty work with suppressors or the fight was over. Chris knew which one he preferred. He slung the sniper rifle on his back and pulled his Beretta as they advanced on the house.
The door had been ripped out with an explosive charge. Half the front was missing, opening the view to a generous wood-paneled hall that took most of the lower floor and two dead men; their ski masks marked them as attackers. Another dead man, half his face torn off, most likely a bodyguard.
They moved forward. Still two shooters unaccounted for, plus their mark. Stairs suspended in the middle of the house led to a second level. Another corpse on the way up: attacker number three. Further up, a bedroom with a large bathroom. In the bath, spread out over the tiles, the body of a young dark-haired woman, naked and very beautiful, limbs angled uncomfortably. Chris paused for a moment, noticing faint surgery scars under her too perfect, large breasts before he turned around.
A final gunman lay sprawled near the bed, shot twice, in throat and chest, at short range. Crumpled behind the bed, their mark, Andrei Voronin, naked and covered in blood. His left wrist was broken, a shard of bone poking angrily through the skin.
John moved to crouch near the body.
“He’s bought it,” Chris told him. “And the hooker too.” Chris patted his teammate on the shoulder. “Looks like our work here is done.” He’d already stepped away when John’s voice made him stop.
“Not for long. He took it in the head.” Chris turned and lined up the gun. Chest, throat, face should do it. No need to make the man suffer. “I’ll just finish him.”
John stepped into his way. “He’s alive. We need to get him out of here. Stat.”
“We’re here to kill him, John. What the fuck are you thinking?”
“They said neutralize,” John reminded him in that prissy don’t even think of fucking with me tone. “But if you feel better about it, I’ll call in.”
“A couple bullets is a good way to accomplish that,” Chris groused while John pulled out the phone and pressed fast dial. A warning glance told him not to shoot the mark before John stepped to the side. It did give Chris a few moments to study the mark’s body, all toned like that of a habitual runner, his light eyes staring into nothing while the brain connected to those eyes was likely dribbling out of the temple wound. Three-day stubble, blond hair wet and shoulder-length. Nice-sized cock. If the man was a grower, that hooker had at least gone out with a smile.
John pocketed the phone. “They say ‘deal with it’.”
“Carte blanche, aka ‘fuck if we care’,” Chris translated. No fucking wonder. GORGON trusted its agents on the ground to make judgment calls. Still, they’d agreed and planned to kill Andrei. Pulling a 180-degree turn out of nowhere was just fucking irritating, especially since they had no planning in place to accommodate that.
“Let’s get a move on before somebody shows up. He needs a hospital, and fast.”
“Here’s goodbye to going to that casino after the job.” The expression on John’s face showed him there was no point in arguing. “You’re an asshole,” Chris mumbled as he helped his partner wrap Voronin in the least bloody sheet and hustle him outside.
“Fucking stupid idea, Johnny,” Chris reminded him multiple times as they picked the least unobtrusive route back to their vehicle. “And we’re going to explain this to the hospital staff how?”
They got Voronin safely into the back seat. “I’ll figure it out on the way, now move!”
True to his word, John had all the bases covered by the time they reached the nearest hospital.
Chris’s hope the mark would die on the way proved wrong. It was just a ten-minute drive—everything in Monaco was close—and John alerted the hospital by cell phone, so nurses were waiting with a gurney when they pulled into the parking lot. A whole flock of doctors and nurses came to take the patient in, and John told them some bullshit story about having found him out in the forest, giving directions that were close enough to the real place.
Damn, the boy was slick. It was one of the things Chris had always found attractive about him: he could bullshit his way into or out of anything. No wonder GORGON had recruited him.
When John sat down in the car again, Chris regarded him and his bloodied jacket. He looked agitated, flushed, but the sexiness of the look was dulled by the fact that their car now stank like a slaughterhouse. “Why the fuck, John? Why didn’t we just finish him off there or let him bleed out? He won’t make it. Have you seen his skull?”
“That’s precisely why I think he might make it. It was hard to tell, but the exit wound was as if the bullet skidded around his skull and came out near where it entered. It’s not entirely unheard of. There was a skirmish once where—”
“Oh, not that shit again.”
John fell silent. “Fine. I’ll stop. But I’m calling it in.”
Chris exited the vehicle and leaned against the fender while John worked his oratory magic on their superior, no doubt explaining why “neutralize” these days meant “getting him to ER” and setting up everything else they’d need.
The local cops would be curious, too; gun battles were rare in Europe where restrictive gun laws kept anything bigger and more lethal than an airgun out of civilian hands. Chris wasn’t worried, though. GORGON would make sure any investigation would run exactly the way they wanted. The Monaco PD wouldn’t be the first local cops that found themselves overruled from high above and their investigations canceled out of nowhere. GORGON carried the bigger stick.
When he finally got off the phone, John looked at him. “The boss says he’s our responsibility. She said ‘make the best of it’, so all bets are off.”
“Forgers at HQ will manufacture a false identity and paper trail so one of ours claims to be next of kin and move Voronin to another facility if he survives. We take it from there.”
"Nice one,” Chris muttered. But it made sense. They knew the mark best and could work more efficiently on the case than anybody they could bring in from outside on short notice. “Short notice” was, of course, entirely John’s fault.
After the interview with the local cops, they headed back to their rented apartment in a luxury complex on the edge of Monte Carlo to shower and change. A crew from GORGON was already waiting to sanitize the car.