Chapter 10

July 18, 2011 at 12:36 am (The Job)

Wagner was on schedule, as expected. His morning had consisted of a breakfast meeting with two representatives from the World Health Organization. They had expressed concern over Wagner’s London laboratory using spider venom in a modern weapon. Wagner had laughed and said how darts were hardly modern. What was an arrow, after all, but a fletched dart and they had been used for centuries over.

His breakfast partners had not appreciated his humour, but Wagner could care less. For all the good that his corporations had done, there would always be a pocket of people who were never satisfied. Wagner had long ago learned to ignore them. If they had a large enough voice to be heard over the crowd, he found a way to placate them and still get his work done. If they could get lost in the din, he ignored them entirely and went about his business as usual.

Now, his schedule called for a stroll in Hyde Park before being whisked away to another set of meetings with several Members of Parliament. The stroll allowed the press to move in and it allowed Wagner to give a speech on innovation in science, while actively touting his company.

Accepting the bottle of water from one of the reporters, Wagner had already forgotten the man’s name, he broke the seal on the cap and guzzled a few mouthfuls before motioning for questions.

“Mr. Wagner, can you tell us if you intend to give Viagra a run for its money?”

Wagner smiled at the question. He finally recalled the man’s name, Gill Holland, and focused his full attention on him.

“Mr. Holland, while our work with the venom from the Brazilian Wandering Spider does include the potential for a new player in that particular market, it isn’t our main focus.” Before anyone else could toss out the follow up question, Wagner continued. “Our main focus with this venom is to distill it down to a level that is no longer toxic to humans, but does, instead, create a mild paralysis. This paralysis would fade over time and would eventually return a person to their normal state.”

“What is the use of such a drug?” Holland asked.

“Its uses are primarily military-based. It would be infinitely beneficial to be able to incapacitate ones enemy swiftly as well as selectively. There are several drugs on the market that can incapacitate people swiftly, but they require close-in handling, which can be difficult or impossible to achieve, depending on the target’s whereabouts. With this dart and its unique delivery system, we’re hoping to directly compete with some of the already established products on the market.”

Wagner fielded questions for a few minutes before his PR team quietly but firmly started moving people along. Several reporters were given unlimited access to Wagner, including Gill Holland, but the remainder of the crowd was left behind as they made their way to the cars parked nearby. Holland fell into step beside Wagner, asking several follow-up questions in a low voice.

“The WHO has expressed some concern over the creation of this weapon. How will you address their concerns?”

Wagner’s PR firm had chosen Holland to act as a plant among the regular reporters, tossing out questions Wagner wanted to give answers to and drowning out unsavoury questions from other reporters. He didn’t have to answer the question. It was given for the benefit of any reporters loitering near the cars.

“That’s a very good question, Gill,” Wagner began. He stepped to the side as a group of girls passed by, silently swearing as one nicked the back of his hand with something sharp from her bag. Turning around, he could see that she had hundreds of safety pins, spikes and what appeared to be actual bullets attached to every surface of the bag. She didn’t notice that her bag had cut him. She continued on, trailing a little behind the rest of the pack.

Turning to his PR man, he gestured to the cut on his hand. The blood had welled up, spilling a few droplets onto the ground. Using the water bottle he still carried, Wagner poured some over the cut. Patting the wound dry, his PR man then placed a large bandage over the cut. Wagner sipped from the water bottle, trying to ignore the sting of the cut. With his hand bandaged up, he slipped into the car and rested his head against the seat back. He refused to ride with anyone, preferring his solitude for the short journey to his hotel before his meetings with the MPs. Suddenly exhausted, Wagner shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep.

***

“Where the hell is she?” Ingram demanded. He had been following Wagner’s progress through his day and had yet to pick out Parker anywhere. Soon, Wagner would be closed up with the MPs and she wouldn’t be able to get anywhere near him for several hours.

Ingram wasn’t asking the question of anyone. There was no one in the room with him. Leland had called to request progress, but since the job was still incomplete, Ingram didn’t have any progress to report. One of the agency’s tech gurus had tapped into CCTV, allowing Ingram to follow Wagner for a significant portion of his daily schedule. The trip into the park had been one of the blank spots in their coverage and Ingram had assumed that Parker would use that to her advantage.

But he’d watched as Wagner had climbed into the back of his car, unmolested. He’d paused outside the car briefly but his back had been turned to the camera Ingram was using, blocking what was happening. Ingram wondered if something had spooked Parker and she was going to allow Wagner to live past their deadline. Not checking in to tell them that could be considered a breach of contract. They couldn’t, technically, eliminate her for that. She’d get a serious reprimand on her file and would be bumped down to shit jobs again, but since that’s where she’d just come from, Ingram doubted that Parker would mind it much.

He’d be pissed if she’d determined that for herself and had decided to let Wagner’s hit go unfinished so that she could return to her old job. He’d also be fucked. The board had to be down one member before the next session, thereby allowing for a tie. Leland’s plans for the agency centered on the need for a tie-breaking vote.

If Parker couldn’t get the job done, Ingram needed to make sure someone was in place to do it for her. Picking up his phone, Ingram dialed a number. When the call connected, Ingram spoke.

“You are go.”

***

Seth was as confused about Parker’s plans as Ingram was. He’d been waiting across the street from Wagner’s townhouse early that morning. One of three spots he’d selected as optimum kill spots, Seth had eagerly anticipated a bullet streaking through the air to catch Wagner in the head or chest. Wagner had stepped from his house, walked down the short path to the car and slipped into the back, unharmed.

Seth had broken down his rifle and replaced it in its case. Carefully surveying the area, he had slipped away. He ignored several of the stops in between the morning departure and the stroll through the park. The park, he felt, was the most optimum place to get the job done. If Parker was skilled as a sniper, she could take the shot from a mile away and no one would be able to find her.

As Wagner neared his car and the group of girls approached, Seth had had a clear view of the contact between the girl with the strange bag and Wagner. Seth had spotted the blood on Wagner’s hand. He’d taken several shots of the girl with his camera. Close inspection showed that there was no way the girl could be Parker in disguise. She was far too short.

Wagner settled into his car and Seth began packing up his belongings once more. Out of the corner of his eye, he watched as one of the reporters headed down the long line of waiting vehicles. Seth had observed the guy chatting with Wagner in public and in private, several times over the course of the last hour. Expecting him to pick a car near the end of the line, Seth was mildly surprised to see the reporter continue walking down the sidewalk.

Pulling his binoculars from his pack, Seth trained them on the reporter’s back. He had an unhurried gait, his long legs eating up the distance quickly. At the entrance to the Hyde Park Corner tube station, Seth watched as the reporter ducked in and headed down the stairs. Apparently he no longer rated a ride in one of Wagner’s cars. Replacing the binoculars in his pack, Seth left his second vantage spot of the day.

***

Jack Tunn wore a path in the carpet behind his desk. He paced two quick circuits in front of the windows and then stopped to look out briefly before returning to his pacing. Back and forth, he had paced out the last half hour. Something was happening, he could feel it. Leland was unavailable. Ingram was holed up in his office. Tunn’s secretary had told him that Ingram was more irritable than usual.

Whatever their plan was, it was happening today. Jack hoped Donovan was hidden well. His efforts to uncover the man’s whereabouts had come to nothing. If he had a hitter on his tail, Donovan was on his own. Not unaccustomed to watching his back, Donovan was still out of practice.

The more Jack thought about the timing, the more he hit on the session next week. It was an annual meeting that was, more or less, a formality. The question of whether the agency should take on a more active role in international politics came down to a vote. The nine members of the board would cast their ballot for or against, the votes would be tallied and, inevitably, the motion would fail.

That didn’t explain Donovan’s disappearance, since the president didn’t participate in the vote. Donovan could, conceivably, sway one of the board members to change his vote, but Jack knew that Donovan was against the idea as well. A more active role would equate to selective terminations of key world leaders. It would be a huge undertaking that would use up all of the agency’s resources and then some. In Jack’s opinion, it would be suicide.

But there were a few who disagreed with Jack’s opinion. The vote required a majority to pass. With nine members, that meant five votes for or against. Each year the vote had been nearly unanimous in its negative decision. Last year had been a surprise. Four of the nine members had voted yes. The board had not seen any change in membership over the past year, so Jack expected that the vote would be the same as the previous year.

He wasn’t one hundred percent certain of that though. And with Donovan missing, Leland would be poised to step in as President in his absence. Jack wondered if Leland had the chops to talk one of the remaining five members into changing their vote. He hated to leave it to chance.

His phone rang and Jack felt as though a lead weight had just dropped into his stomach. Reaching over, he plucked it up without glancing at the readout. “Jack Tunn,” he responded.

“You’d better turn on the TV, sir,” his secretary replied. “It doesn’t matter which channel.”

Jack grabbed the remote and pressed the power button. His TV was mounted to the wall directly across from his desk, allowing him to watch the news as he worked. Already set to CNN, Jack watched in horror as the reporter reiterated their breaking news story.

“In London on a press junket to promote a new weapon, Carlson Wagner, President and CEO of Wagner Pharmaceuticals was found dead in the back seat of his car. Cause of death is unknown at this time.”

Jack tuned out the reporter. It didn’t matter what she said. The only thought swirling around in his head was that Leland had done it. He’d sanctioned the killing of a member of the agency’s board. Wagner, one of the five who were opposed to the idea of changing the agency’s mandate on international politics, was dead, leaving the board at an even split for votes.

The deciding vote, then, went to the president of the agency. With Donovan missing, Leland would take over as acting president. If the vote occurred before Donovan showed up, Leland would make the call.

Jack knew that the only person who could stop Leland now was Donovan. Picking up his phone, Jack began calling in markers. Even a whisper of word on Donovan’s whereabouts had to be investigated. The clock was ticking. He had one week before the board placed their vote.

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