Chapter 3

May 23, 2011 at 1:51 pm (The Job)

Parker collected her sensors and drove back to the inn she had booked. She’d already swept the place for bugs once, but she did it a second time. When she was convinced that she was as alone as she could get, Parker opened her laptop. Navigating through her own security checks to get to the internet, she connected to a banking site from the Cayman Islands.

The bank was one used by the agency to conduct all of their international transactions. Money from Parker’s jobs would be deposited into her account and then, via a system her geek friend had put in place, automatically transferred to an entirely different bank. It wasn’t foolproof, but it was better than anything Parker could have come up with on her own.

Opening the manila envelope, she pulled a single sheet of paper from inside. A quick look showed nothing else in the envelope and nothing written on the inside. The paper was blank except for a 12-digit alphanumeric code. The code, when used correctly, would unlock the details of the job.

Instead of inputting her bank account number to log in, she used the code from the envelope. A black screen appeared, with a blinking cursor in the top left of the screen. Parker typed in her login name and hit enter. When the cursor returned to the upper left, she typed in her password.

The screen changed from flat black to a standard agency webpage. The agency symbol, a W within a circle, appeared in the upper left-hand corner with the words The Wingate Agency directly below it. Parker had no idea who Wingate was, or even if he’d been a real person. The target’s name, Carlson Wagner, stood out in bold capital letters in the centre of the page. A picture of Wagner, a studio shot, took up the upper right-hand corner of the page. Below that was a block of text. Nowhere on the webpage would it be suggested that Carlson Wagner had been marked for termination. To anyone else, the webpage would look like an online resume for Wagner.

The webpage also gave her another very important piece of information. It told her how much she’d be paid for the job. Nothing was written out in numbers. It wouldn’t say $250,000 upon proof of completion. It said, simply, Level Three C Remuneration. Parker had never seen that level on any of her jobs before. The Vegas job she’d just completed paid her $35,000 and came in at Level Ten B. Level Eight was $100,000-$400,000. By Level Six the pay scale jumped to a maximum of $1,000,000. The letter following the level told her where in the pay range the job fell. It was based on an A, B, or C scale, where A is the lowest end of the range and C is the highest. A Level Three C job would pay her $5,000,000. It was a hell of a jump in pay grade and it made Parker’s eye twitch.

The meeting with Ingram served two purposes. It gave Parker the timeframe and it gave her the code to access the webpage. The date of termination wouldn’t show up on the webpage, especially since they wanted the hit to happen on a very specific date. Parker skimmed through the data provided. It included a list of known hobbies, hangouts and associates.

Carlson Wagner owned a private plane. That could have made Parker’s job a whole lot harder, if not for the specific deadline. She didn’t have access to a private plane and doubted, even for a job this high profile, that she could convince the agency to give her one. Carlson had a home in upstate New York, apartments in Paris, London and Berlin, and a family estate in Austria. Carlson’s parents had moved to New York before he was born, but they had strong family ties to the old country.

The website included addresses for each house and it listed the types of cars he owned. Carlson liked to drive whenever he could. A complete itinerary for the day of termination had also been supplied. Carlson would be in London to attend a series of meetings on a controversial new weapon that one of his pharmaceutical company’s smaller subsidiaries had produced. It was the weapons system that provided the controversy. No larger than a pen and, in fact, shaped like one, the system shot darts at high velocity. Nothing unusual about that, except that the darts were needle-thin and about as long as the average human eyelash. The ampoule core could hold a few precious drops of any sort of liquid. Some of the world’s most highly pervasive toxins and diseases required less than a drop to infect. The cartridge carried up to forty darts that could be fired all at once, or individually. It wasn’t a weapon of mass destruction, but it could cause a significant loss of life, depending on how it was used.

Carlson announced that he intended to market it for military use only. However, he didn’t specify which military would get to use it. As a United States citizen operating an American-based company, it was natural for the US military to presume that Carlson would limit sales to the US. As an Austrian born on US soil, the Austrian government felt they had equal rights to the weapons system. And when Carlson opened a new laboratory in the middle of east London, to produce the weapon, the Brits wanted their share of the new system, as well.

Parker could see several reasons why those countries would want the man alive. Whoever wanted him dead must be outside that circle. Or, if they had an in at the company, one who stood a step or two away from the top job, then a vacancy could prove profitable. None of that mattered to Parker. It wouldn’t change the job.

Using her computer’s print-screen function, Parker captured images of the website. It was quicker than writing down all of the details and made it less likely that she’d copy incorrect information. The website wouldn’t be accessible for much longer. Scrolling to the very bottom of the page, she saw the usual confirmation section. All a hitter had to do was enter their personal code into the box and the job became theirs.

There was no decision necessary. It wasn’t the fee that enticed her, though the money would be welcome. The target meant nothing to her, just as all of her previous targets had been faceless shells. The silhouette at the end of a shooting range held her interest longer than most targets did. She entered her code into the confirmation box because she didn’t have any other choice.

Her preference to remain a small fish in a giant pond had just been taken from her. And taken by a man she loathed. Parker felt certain that Ingram would screw her over at the very first opportunity. She had to be ready for it, but she also had to focus on the job. She couldn’t waste her time wondering what moves Ingram would make. She’d just have to be prepared for any eventuality. It came with the job.

***

“Sir,” the agency tech called Ingram on his personal cell phone. “The page has been accessed. The correct code has been entered into the confirmation box.”

Ingram smiled. He knew her curiosity would get to her. Both the target and the fee for the job would be too enticing to ignore. The target was a challenge. To complete the kill on a man often surrounded by personal security guards would be difficult, to say the least. The fee was too high to ignore. “Give it one hour to see if she accesses it again and then take it down.”

“Yes, sir,” the tech agreed.

Ingram hung up and turned to face Seth. He had to control the shudder that wanted to run through him. Seth’s face was impassive. It was the only look he’d ever seen on the man’s face. He rarely talked, didn’t laugh. The man had dead eyes. They weren’t cold, as though he was thinking about killing right now. They weren’t bored or tired or angry. There was nothing in them. Ingram doubted they ever changed.

“You know where she’s staying?” he asked.

Seth didn’t answer. It was a stupid question, Ingram realized. The man knew his job. Ingram was letting the excitement get to him. Through careful manipulation, he’d turned the job into a twofer. Wagner had to die, that was the job. Parker would be silenced afterward. That was the bonus. He’d garnered a special kind of hate for her over the past few years.

“She has accessed the site,” Ingram told Seth.

Without a word, Seth opened the car door and stepped out. Ingram settled into his seat and allowed his breathing to even out. He didn’t believe he was afraid of Seth, but he was cautious of the man. Currently assigned to the Wagner job, Seth was expected to follow Ingram’s orders. He didn’t do anything outside of his orders, ever. But he could receive alternate orders. Ingram wasn’t the man at the top. He was several very significant rungs below that. There were too many people, for Ingram’s peace of mind, who could change Seth’s orders without any notice.

So he worked hard to keep his nose clean and he made sure his boss was always happy. Pulling out his phone, he called the man. His phone automatically scrambled his call. His boss’ phone descrambled it using a predetermined set of conditions. Mainly, it ensured that his boss was alone to receive the call.

When the line connected, no greeting was given.

“It has begun,” Ingram said and hung up. Motioning for his driver to head out, Ingram reviewed his next steps. He had to wait for Seth’s report on Parker’s movements. It was expected that she would set off for London soon. The tight deadline gave her little time to waste.

In the meantime, Ingram had a couple of details to tie up. He would see to disposing of the tech himself. The guy knew the contents of the website and could become a problem later. Doing the job himself would ensure fewer hands on deck. Fewer hands meant fewer chances for the plan to go sideways. They had too much riding on the execution of this plan for there to be any screw ups along the way.

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