Chapter 9

July 3, 2011 at 10:49 pm (The Job) (, , , , , , )

Jack pulled up in front of Donovan’s house. The place was dark, not even a porch light on to guide people to the front door. Parking his car in the driveway, Jack got out and peered in the window of the garage. Donovan’s car was parked inside. Giving the door a little tug, Jack was surprised to feel it lift. Raising it two feet off the ground, he bent down and scanned the inside.

Slipping in under the door, he pulled it closed behind him. Removing his flashlight from an inside pocket, he flipped it on, cupping the end with his palm to dampen the glow. Edging around the side of the car, Jack approached the driver’s side window. A quick glance showed the car was empty.

The garage was large enough to house two cars, but Donovan lived alone. The opposite side of the garage was filled with tools, benches and the detritus of a half finished wood working project. The door leading to the inside of the house was locked. Jack slipped a small toolset from his inside pocket and selected a thin pick. Inserting the tool into the lock, he timed himself.

Twenty seconds for the first tumbler, thirty-eight for the second and Jack had the door open inside of two minutes. It wasn’t a personal best, but he couldn’t argue the results, either. Donovan’s alarm wasn’t set. Not a good sign. Jack traded his lock picks for his Glock. The door led to a short hallway that opened up into the kitchen.

A quick survey of the area showed everything in order. Heading down the hallway, Jack made his way to the living room. It appeared to be untouched. Donovan spent a large portion of his time either out of town or at the office. He didn’t entertain often. Returning to the kitchen, he passed through it to the back hallway. The house had three bedrooms, with the master at the far end.

The two smaller bedrooms and a bathroom all had their doors open. Jack swiftly cleared them before making his way down to the master bedroom. The door was closed around, but not firmly shut. Leaning against the door jam, out of the way of the opening, Jack used the toe of his boot to nudge the door open. A quick glance confirmed that the room appeared empty and Jack slipped inside, hugging the wall.

Checking the closet and the en suite bathroom, Jack returned to the main bedroom area. Searching through the drawers showed some clothing missing, but nothing was tossed around. The closet held a large suitcase and a smaller travel kit, but the midsized checked luggage and the matching carry-on were both missing.

The first bedroom he’d checked had been converted into an office. Rifling through the papers on the desk and through the drawers didn’t turn up any evidence of Donovan’s whereabouts. A small filing cabinet sitting on the floor next to the desk held tax receipts, owner’s manuals for household appliances and various other innocuous documents.

Donovan’s passport was missing or hidden very well. If he’d left of his own accord, why hadn’t he told the agency where he was going? Or, at the very least, that he wouldn’t be around for a while. As president of the agency, Donovan had certain responsibilities that had to be met. With Donovan AWOL, those responsibilities fell to the next in line. That would be Chris Leland.

And that made Jack very nervous. With his actions mostly unchecked, Leland had the opportunity to do a significant amount of damage to the agency. Jack didn’t believe that Leland had their best interests at heart. Leland was the sort of man who had his own agenda. Once he took the reins, even temporarily, he would begin pushing that agenda as hard as he could.

Jack couldn’t do anything to stop it unless he could prove that Leland had been instrumental in Donovan’s disappearance. Since he couldn’t determine where Donovan was, or that he’d fallen victim to foul play, Jack couldn’t adequately oppose any move that Leland made.

Locking the house behind him, Jack exited through the garage door and sat in his car. Tomorrow, he would have to announce that Donovan was missing and unable to be contacted. The agency could not be without an acting president. He hated to do it. He would have to keep a close eye on Leland while he continued his search for Donovan. He only hoped that Donovan wasn’t already dead.

***

Petrillo shrieked in surprise, the sound piercing in her ear. The microscopic ear bud allowed him to overhear her conversations. Parker could hear the vaguest suggestion of mad typing on his end. Nothing in their admittedly brief surveillance of the target had suggested he might have some knowledge of Parker or the agency.

“I’m looking, but I highly advise you to get the hell out of there, pronto,” Petrillo suggested unnecessarily.

Parker stood, clutching her purse in one hand. When Wagner attempted to stand she gripped him by the neck and forced him back down.

“Do not get up.”

Wagner gripped her hand, holding her in place. “Tell me if Howard Donovan is your target,” he implored her.

Staring at him, Parker saw the urgency in his eyes. “I am not familiar with that name,” she said, noncommittally. Turning, she walked to the entrance, collected her wrap and stepped out onto the street. Hailing a cab, Parker crawled into the back and told the driver just to go. Watching the front door of the club, she expected to see Wagner chasing after her, but he never made an appearance. After giving the taxi driver a proper destination, Parker kept her eyes on her surroundings. Just because Wagner wasn’t following her didn’t mean no one was.

Who the hell was Wagner and how did he know anything about her? She’d worn a disguise the entire time she’d been at Wagner’s lab. It wasn’t a strong disguise, but it would have been enough to mask her true identity. Her disguise tonight was even less like her natural colouring.

He knew her name. It wasn’t the name she’d been born with. It was the name the agency had given her upon her acceptance into the program. Wagner must have a contact within the agency. But what was it to him that she was around? Unless he had friends at that club and he thought she was there for one of them. Clearly he hadn’t put the attack on his lab into the same category as her presence at the club.

Was Seth involved? He must know her name. If he’d given it to Wagner, did that mean he was running a double cross? He knew of her presence at the lab. He was her watcher for the hit, wasn’t he? Could his presence have another meaning?

Parker couldn’t work it out. Whatever the hidden meanings behind Wagner’s appearance and Seth’s role in the Op, they were lost on her. She needed to talk to her mentor. She had graduated from her apprenticeship three years earlier and since then she had only contacted her mentor on her off days. She was confident in her job. He’d seen to that, encouraging her to take on greater responsibilities quickly.

“Ma’am?” her cab driver called out to gain her attention.

Parker jolted back to the present. She had arrived at her destination and she hadn’t been aware of it. It was decidedly dangerous to get lost in her thoughts when in the middle of an Op. Paying the driver, she left the cab and entered the St. James’s Park tube station. She didn’t care where the trains were going, though she had all of the lines memorized. Using the Oyster card she’d collected upon her arrival in England, she approached the turnstiles.

Pushing her way through, Parker scanned the people around her. Anyone paying her too much attention would not be immediately suspect. She stood out which, at the moment, was a definite drawback. Boarding a westbound Circle line train, she remained on it for three stops, before disembarking at South Kensington station. There she boarded a Piccadilly line train heading northeast. Train hopping for a full hour gave her enough confidence that she wasn’t being followed.

When she’d arrived in England she had made a point of picking a hotel near a train station. She’d gone from the airport straight to her hotel and checked in under one of her throwaway names. Using an entirely different name, she’d booked another hotel online, to be used as a backup if she felt the original location had been compromised.

There was no doubt in her mind that she needed that second hotel room now. She wanted a place where she could hide out for a few hours to collect herself. Wagner’s revelation had really thrown her for a loop. She needed to regain her equilibrium. And she needed to speak with Jacob. He would know what the hell was going on. He’d been with the agency for fifteen years. He wasn’t at the top of the pack, but he had a very comfortable spot in the middle.

Exiting the Lancaster Gate tube station, she walked through the traffic-heavy Sussex Gardens area, heading for Talbot Street. Positioned one block away from Paddington Station, the area afforded Parker several quick avenues of escape. She’d booked a room at the Quality Crown, requesting something at the front. Her room was on the second floor, to the right of the main lobby area. The window opened inward. The pillared hotel entrance boasted a tiny terrace above, which Parker could reach with a little careful manoeuvreing.

Dropping her bag on the table and kicking the heels off, Parker dragged the wig from her head. Removing the pins she’d tamped her own hair down with, she scrubbed her scalp to fluff up the wilted strands. Peeling off her dress, Parker tucked away the supplies for her disguise. Dressed in black yoga pants and a t-shirt that she’d picked up at a Black Keys concert a few months earlier, she settled on the bed with her phone. Dialing Jacob’s number from memory, she waited for the line to connect.

After four rings, his answering machine picked up. There was no message. He had never recorded one. He’d told her that he had never quite determined what he should say on them. Parker thought it was more likely that he was testing the caller. If there was nothing to identify that they had dialed the correct number, some people wouldn’t leave a message. He’d received infinitely more hang-ups than messages.

“Jacob, it’s Parker. I need to speak with you, immediately.” Parker left the number for the throwaway cell she’d purchased and hung up.

Standing, she paced the short length of the room several times, tapping her hand against her leg. She had an abundance of nervous energy and no good way to get rid of it. The best way was to have sex, but she didn’t feel like going to the effort of finding a guy.

She had no idea how long it would take for Jacob to return her call. He could be out on a job and not checking his messages. If he had only just started a job, he could be out of communication for a week or more. Her job deadline was three days away.

What the hell was going on? She had worked for the agency for five years and not once had she ever had a target approach her and call her by her agency name. Something about this job smelled off. It had done ever since her meeting with Ingram back in North Carolina. At the time she’d thought it was just him. Ingram had never been a trustworthy sort. She should have killed him and been done with it five years ago. She could have gotten away with it. Hitters were gold to the agency. Cleaners cost them money.

Female hitters were even more golden than men. They tended to be more methodical and, in some cases, far meaner than men. Jacob said that his caseload had nearly tripled when he’d taken on the role of her mentor. Her first year on her own, after her mentorship was finished, she’d completed eighteen jobs. Jacob, in the same time period, had only completed seven.

Taken as separate parts, the job didn’t appear any stranger than the others. Adding in Ingram’s unexpected presence as her handler, Seth’s shadowing her every move and now her target knowing who she is and the job felt wrong. Were they setting her up for something? She was already leery about taking on such a high profile case. Were they hoping she would fail? And, if so, why?

Nothing was adding up the way she needed it to. She needed to talk to Jacob to get his take on the situation. She hadn’t ever dealt with the bureaucrats at the agency and didn’t know who to take her concerns to. Jacob would have some insight into that.

***

Two days later Parker was starting to swear under her breath. She hadn’t heard from Jacob and didn’t expect to. She assumed he was on a job and couldn’t check his messages. She’d come to no concrete conclusions about the job. It still felt off.

She would have to fall back on her training. The ultimate rule, in a profession that bent them all, was to do the job. The hit was sanctioned. She had the proof of that sitting on her hard drive and in several other safe locations. She knew where the target would be at almost every minute the following day. She’d surveilled the area several times while she’d waited to hear from Jacob. She had a prime location and two backups.

The prime location offered her the most advantageous escape routes. It was the most publicly visible location, which meant that her weapon of choice had to be silent. A knife was silent, but the results were not. She could use the dart weapon on him, but the more she’d thought about it, the more she didn’t like the idea. The spider venom appeared to be a little iffy. It worked well on a gorilla that had a suppressed immune system, but didn’t work at all on a healthy animal. Parker couldn’t take the chance that Wagner was as healthy as a horse.

She had three methods in mind and the winner would depend on the situation she found herself in when she arrived at the primary location. Parker checked through her list of supplies one more time before tucking everything away. Slipping between the covers of her bed, she fell into an untroubled sleep.

***

“You’ve had no luck finding her?” Ingram demanded, incredulous. How difficult was it to find one woman when you had a pretty good idea where she’d be focusing her attention? Ingram kept his opinions to himself. He needed Seth. As much as it galled him to admit it, the bastard was good at his job, most of the time. Parker had several options for the hit and Seth had to be ready at all of them. It wasn’t an easy task, but then Seth was no amateur. And he was getting paid a fucking mint for this.

“She has not turned up at any of the locations, while I was at them,” Seth admitted. He wouldn’t admit that his attention had been a little distracted lately. He couldn’t get Josie off his mind. He missed her, he realized. He wanted to sneak into her house and watch her as she slept. He knew where she lived.

“That will make your job a little harder, not knowing which location she has picked.” Ingram didn’t care how difficult the job was, he just needed to know that Seth was on top of things. This hit had to go down a certain way. Any deviation from the plan and he would have a lot of cleanup work to do.

“I must go,” Seth said and hung up. He wanted to do a last quick surveillance of the main locations before tomorrow. Then, if time permitted, he would go to Josie’s.

Ingram cursed and slammed the phone down. He had considered getting a backup hitter to ensure that the job went the way he needed it to, but Leland had vetoed that idea. Too many people knowing about this job could prove problematic. If a hitter felt squeezed, they could take what they knew and extort a significant fee for their silence. It had happened several times in the past.

Still, an extra pair of eyes on sight appealed to Ingram. He knew that Leland would be pissed if he found out, but if all went according to plan, there would be no need for Leland to learn of Ingram’s decision. Picking up his secure cell phone, Ingram dialed a number.

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