Chapter 5

June 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm (The Job) (, , , , , , , , , )

The hallway was deserted. That suited Seth perfectly. His tech assist from the agency assured him that there were no eyes on him. He wasn’t worried about that. Any eyes could easily be closed, permanently. Following Parker into the building had been a cinch. Her efforts to override Stump’s pass to use her data was smart, but unnecessary. The agency had already cleared the way for her, expecting that she would need to search the lab in her efforts to understand her target better.

Seth stepped up to the door to the security room. The blind approach worked both ways. The guards couldn’t see him, but Seth couldn’t see them, either. He knew there were four guards in the room. He didn’t know the layout of the room, but he had the dimensions. Allowing for multiple possibilities, Seth pushed the door in.

Bumping into someone straight away, Seth barreled in, pushing the person near the door off balance. Gun up and firing before he’d fully entered the room, Seth dropped the two guards who sat furthest from him. One guard sat with his back to the door, the high back of his chair offering some cover. Seth fired two bullets through it and the man pitched forward onto his keyboard.

The final guard had just turned around, carrying his refilled coffee mug. Coffee splattered the wall and floor as the bullet tore through his throat. Seth turned to the woman cowering behind the door. Kicking the door closed, he hauled her to her feet. Her eyes were bright blue and as wide as they could get. Her skin, naturally pale, looked ghostly. With a quick glance around the room to confirm the other threats were dealt with, Seth returned his attention to the woman.

“What’s your name?” he asked.

When her voice failed her, Seth looked at her ID badge. “Josie Rider. That’s a pretty name.” Seth pulled one of the guards from his chair and dumped the body on the floor. He motioned for Josie to take a seat. When Josie stood frozen to the spot, staring in horror at the body, Seth gently dragged her to the chair. Pulling a roll of duct tape from a rack on the wall, he taped her wrists to the chair.

“I have a few hours to kill.” Seth ran a finger down Josie’s cheek. “I’m happy that you’ll be keeping me company, Josie Rider.”

The halls were silent except for the sonorous hum of the air conditioning unit. Parker had already changed from her sexy librarian outfit into her cat burglar outfit. Matte black from head to toe, sexy, it was not. It was functional, with several pockets to carry her tools, weapons and gadgets. Creeping down the hall, she headed for the stairs and the fifth floor.

During her brief stint as a library assistant, she had managed to locate a map of the building that outlined all of the various rooms. The laboratory and the veterinary clinic took up the entire fifth floor. Decontamination, medical and supply filled the fourth floor. The remaining three floors held offices for staff, a cafeteria and a 24-hour gym.

An online sign-out system informed Parker that the prototype for Wagner’s new weapon was locked up in a safe inside the lab. The veterinary clinic had three lockers full of various toxins. All of the toxins could, technically speaking, be found in nature. There appeared to be some experimentation with them, according to some notes Petrillo had helped her dig out. It was the same thing you found in any lab. How can we make this small amount of ‘substance’ go ten times further than it was ever meant to? In hybridizing the toxins, scientists were creating newer and deadlier strains. Parker hoped they were doing the same sort of experimentation on the cures for the toxins.

The lit stairwell had large windows allowing people on the outside to see in. Parker wondered if Seth was out there somewhere, waiting for her to fail. She hadn’t been surprised when Petrillo had told her about him. She’d known she had a watcher. Maybe it was a little surprising that they’d sent such a heavy hitter to watch her, but Parker refused to dwell on it. Petrillo had, so far, been unable to break into Seth’s file.

As she moved through the building, Petrillo erased all evidence that she’d ever been inside. In fact, he did it ahead of her. He timed the rotations of the hall cameras to be facing away from her as she approached them. As she stood beneath one camera, he swung it back the way she’d just come from. Parker had to zigzag across the fifth floor hallway, standing in each camera’s blind spot, to avoid being seen.

“Can you see inside the lab?” she asked. Petrillo had already confirmed that a couple of the lab techs were working late. She would have to get in and out without anyone seeing her, or she’d have to take care of them.

“The lights are on, but nobody’s home. Your entrance is clear, but after that, you’re on your own.”

Parker swiped her card through the reader and waited for the door to click. Pushing it open, she quickly stepped inside the room and shut the door behind her. She stood in the small anteroom and surveyed the rest of the lab. A large open area off to her left comprised the bulk of the lab space. Desks were loaded down with an assortment of science paraphernalia. Shelving units lined three of the four walls. The fourth wall held cages.

The animals inside the cages were mostly asleep, but she could hear the chittering of a couple of monkeys. None of the desks were currently occupied. Angling through the room, Parker headed for the door at the back. Petrillo had confirmed that it led into the decontamination suite and then on to the vet clinic beyond. Once inside the lab, the scientists could move freely between the three areas.

The decontamination suite was a fancy name for a chemical shower. No one was required to wear protective suits for the work done in this lab. As she moved toward the far door, Parker could hear the noise from the animals. They were upset and causing a ruckus. Pushing the door open, Parker eased her head around to take in the scene.

The room was filled with cages. Apes of various sizes pulled at their bars, shrieking and banging. The cause of the disturbance was easy to spot. On a cot tucked into the far corner, the two missing lab techs were having sex. Mating was a far better term for it. Parker rolled her eyes and left them to it. Ducking out of the room, she made her way back into the lab.

“If I were a safe,” Parker whispered, “where would I be?” Heading for the shelving units, Parker started pulling doors open. The shelves were stacked with supplies. Petri dishes, boxes of glass slides for microscopes and glass beakers of all shapes and sizes packed the upper levels. Boxes littered the floor of each shelf. Parker approached the last set of doors and flung them open.

“Yow!” she shrieked, taking a quick step backward. Clutching her heart, a shudder ran through her entire body. “Oh, fuck me,” she whispered.

“What?” Petrillo asked.

“Spiders,” she whispered.

“What?” he asked, confused.

“Big, mother-fucking spiders,” Parker replied, horrified. When she’d opened the doors, she must have startled them. Each spider stood with four of its eight hairy legs sticking straight in the air, swaying from side to side. Each one had to be four inches in length. They had two large eyes and six small, beady ones. At the front, where she assumed the fangs were, the hair was red. One spider per each plastic container, there must have been thirty of them. Parker looked at a sheet of paper taped to the inside of the door.

“I didn’t know you were afraid of spiders,” Petrillo noted, with some glee in his voice.

“Do a Google image search on Phoneutria fera,” Parker suggested, spelling it for him. Perusing the document taped to the door, she waited.

“Jesus fucking Christ!” he howled. “What the hell is that thing?”

“It’s apparently called a Brazilian Wandering Spider or South American Banana Spider. They can be found in crates of bananas.”

“Another good reason not to eat the bloody things,” Petrillo reasoned.

“Check on the toxicity of their venom, will you?” Parker asked. Carefully closing the doors, she returned to her search.

“It says that 20 micrograms will kill a mouse, but it doesn’t tell me how much it would take to kill a human. Their bite can be toxic to humans, though they’re also known for fake bites. By that, they mean the spider won’t always release venom when they bite, or not always a full dose.”

“They’re milking them,” Parker said. The sheet on the door listed which spiders had been milked of their venom and on which days. “I wonder if the amount of spider venom that could fit into one of the micro darts Wagner has created would be enough to kill a human.”

“They have apes in there, right?” Petrillo asked.

“I’m not going to try this shit on an ape, Petrillo,” Parker muttered. She had to draw the line somewhere, though it was a fairly faint line these days.

“I wasn’t suggesting that,” he grumbled. “I meant they must have some documentation on the effects, otherwise why have the apes?”

“Oh,” Parker said, “good point.” She stepped closer to the cages and some of the smaller monkeys peered out at her. Their little faces and large eyes made her sad.

None of the cages had any documentation attached to them. The monkeys would probably tear the sheets off. As she started to turn away, she noticed an odd sight in the last cage on the floor. Moving closer, Parker realized that the cage didn’t contain an animal, it contained a safe. The cage had been bolted to the floor. The cage door was closed with a standard, if heavy-duty, padlock. Parker placed an acid microdot on the keyhole and triggered the pressure sensitive pad. The acid quickly ate through the steel of the lock as though it was paper.

Pulling the door open, she saw that the safe was a standard floor safe which had also been bolted to the floor. Her acid microdots would be no help on the safe. Pulling a small container from a side pocket of her pants, Parker removed a wad of C4. Adding a clump to each hinge and another to the locking mechanism, Parker tied the pieces together with a chemical fuse. Breaking the seal, she released the chemical and moved out of the way.

The C4 exploded, destroying the hinges, but keeping the door to the safe and, more importantly, its contents, intact. Parker listened for any movement from the vet clinic. The monkeys were screeching and the apes in the far room were further agitated by the disturbance. She couldn’t hear anything from the two lovebirds. Hefting the door from the safe, she removed the contents and placed them all on a nearby desk.

“She’s getting outside help,” Ingram insisted.

“Of course she is,” Seth agreed. “I can see her right now and she’s talking to someone who isn’t in the room with her.”

“He’s poking around in your file,” Ingram informed him.

“What file? I’m not supposed to have one,” Seth reminded Ingram.

“Well, you do. I don’t know who made it, but it exists and it’s thorough.” Ingram could bullshit with the best of them. He knew exactly who had made the file. He’d made a habit of collecting as much data as he could keep on each of the hitters working for the agency. Ingram had personally cleaned several of Seth’s scenes. The file contained a few things that could get Seth into very hot water.

He hadn’t started the process. Each major hitter was told that their file was expunged once they reached a certain level. The agency never shredded anything. Ingram had solidified his position in the agency by providing irrefutable evidence of crimes committed. If Seth stepped out of line too far, his file could be used to reel him back in. If he was too far out, his file could be turned over to a few very highly placed members of international law enforcement. Seth was a strong asset, but the agency was all important.

“How thorough is it?” Seth demanded. His hand clenched and Josie gave a tiny yelp of pain. Easing his grip, Seth saw that he’d created large welts on her left breast, next to her nipple. He gently brushed his fingers over the inflamed area as he waited for Ingram’s response.

“It includes names of targets, dates of hits and in some cases, photo evidence of you in the area. It’s inconclusive, but would be enough for the police to hold you for questioning.” It contained a lot more than that, but Ingram didn’t want Seth to be too distracted from his main task.

“You will find out who is accessing it,” Seth insisted, “and you will give me his name.” Once the Parker job was done, he would take care of the snoop. Then he’d take care of his file. Since Ingram was obviously privy to the details and hadn’t mentioned it before, he would have to disappear as well.

“What the hell do you think we’ve been doing?” Ingram demanded. “We’re looking for the leak, but we haven’t been able to tap it.”

“Parker’s help works for the agency. If you haven’t been able to find him yet, then consider the fact that her help might be the one you’re asking to do the search.”

“We’ve already considered that. We’re confident it’s not him.” The agency had cameras in every corner of every room. All had been employed to uncover Parker’s assistant. There wasn’t a single technical engineer working inside the agency giving her assistance. Ingram had the techs trying to confirm if there was a hole in the system that someone from the outside could exploit. He’d been assured that it wasn’t possible, but Ingram had demanded a full systems check anyway.

“What is she doing?” Ingram asked.

“Searching the lab for something. She just blew the safe and is rifling through some paperwork.”

“Pull the plug on her search,” Ingram ordered him.

Seth searched Josie’s face. Her tears had long since dried on her cheeks. Her eyes had a slightly vacant quality to them. Seth ran a finger down the softness of her cheek. Josie’s eyes barely twitched. He hadn’t hurt her, to his way of thinking. She was so soft. The women he usually spent time with were not nearly as soft. He hated to leave her so soon.

“As you wish,” Seth complied, reluctantly. He disconnected the call and turned to Josie. Stroking her face, he whispered his goodbye. “Our time is at an end. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. You will remember me.”

Turning back to the security console, he hit the button for the general alarm. He clicked a few keys on the keyboard and then he fired his pistol at the screen. It short circuited, creating a small electrical fire. Grabbing his backpack, Seth gave one final glance at Josie before striding out the door.

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