Chapter 11

July 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm (The Job)

Gill Holland jogged down the steps to Hyde Park Corner’s tube station. Plugging his ticket into the machine, he pushed through the turnstile and headed for the trains. A discreet glance over his shoulder proved that he hadn’t been followed. None of the other reporters had stuck around once Wagner had gotten into the car.

When the train arrived, Gill boarded, opting to stand near the door. He wasn’t going far. Just a few minutes later, he stepped onto the platform at Covent Garden. The lineup for the elevators was ridiculous, but Gill didn’t notice. Heading for the stairs, he ignored the warning, already prepared for the 193 step hike.

After thirty stairs, Gill loosened his tie and pulled it over his head. At sixty stairs, he removed his jacket and tucked it under his arm. At ninety-five stairs a couple of kids passed him on their way down to the platform. Gill’s heart rate had kicked up a little, but he wasn’t sweating yet.

He removed his dress shirt at one hundred and twenty stairs. When he hit an even one hundred and fifty, Gill stopped and removed his pants. Instead of boxers, he had on spandex running shorts. Changing out of his wingtips, Gill tucked them into his briefcase and exchanged them for a pair of sneakers. Another ten steps and Gill removed the beard and moustache that had been driving him crazy for the past two hours.

Stepping out from the Tube station’s stairwell, Parker gave her businessman’s attire to the first homeless person she came across. He nodded his thanks and didn’t even blink at the manly attire or the fake beard.

Hailing a cab, Parker directed him to head for London Liverpool Street. Slipping a £20 note to the driver, Parker entered the station and purchased a ticket to Stansted Airport. With bare minutes to spare, she boarded the express train and headed for the first class car. In a little under an hour Parker exited the train and entered the airport. Having purchased her ticket online, she checked in, surrendered her luggage and made her way through the long lineup at security. Waiting for her plane to begin boarding, Parker watched BBC as they reported on breaking news in London.

She couldn’t know that Wagner’s last moments alive had seen him frantically clawing at the wound on his hand while he’d struggled for breath. In fact, the wound on his hand had had nothing to do with his death. The girl with the strange bag had been nothing more than a girl with a strange bag.

It was the water that had gotten him.

Parker, as Holland, had given him the water. It had been properly sealed to minimize suspicion. People rarely looked at their bottles of water. They didn’t examine them to ensure they hadn’t been tampered with. Most people didn’t have to worry about things like that. Wagner was not so lucky.

Parker had used a small gauge syringe to inject the bottle with enough [] to kill several men. Piercing the bottom of the bottle, she’d sealed it up after with waterproof epoxy. There had been no way of knowing how much water Wagner would drink. She had to ensure that even a single sip would get the job done. Diluted as it was, the single sip would take a few hours to do the job. Further sips would speed up the reaction time. Wasting a large portion of the water by dousing it on his cut had worried her, briefly, until she’d watched him take a long gulp of water directly afterward. Then she knew he wouldn’t make it to his next engagement.

So she’d opted for the Tube station. That had been a calculated risk, given that there was at least one watcher out there. She’d seen no indication of Seth’s presence, but knew him to be a long range guy. He could’ve been a mile away and had her in his sights and she wouldn’t have known it. Having safely made it to the underground was the first step in a long line of them. Her flight would take her to Amsterdam and from there Parker could disappear.

She had contacted Petrillo once the job was done and suggested he search for Jacob. She had a bad feeling about Jacob’s silence and Petrillo could confirm her suspicions. If Jacob was dead, she would be on her own for the first time since she’d joined the agency. Sure, she’d worked dozens of jobs on her own, but always in the back of her mind had been the knowledge that if the shit royally hit the fan she could contact Jacob for his invaluable advice.

Parker had a sixth sense about this job and felt certain it was going to spiral out of control very quickly. Once a job was complete, a hitter saw to their exit strategy. Cleaners were deployed to the scene to eliminate any trace evidence, though that would not be possible in this case. Once the hitter was safely out of the area, they were required to contact the agency. It was at that point that Parker assumed the whole contract would explode in her face. She had never trusted Ingram and knew he was shoveling the shit in this job. She had to watch herself or she’d step right in it.

***

Simon Halsted sat three rows behind Parker, on the left side of the plane. He’d hit the ground running once Ingram had given him the ‘go’ signal, though in truth, he’d already clocked in several days of research by then. Ingram had explained what Simon was on standby for. Simon was good at his job because he didn’t believe in standby. He was either on a job or he wasn’t. If Ingram had decided against the go signal, Simon would have simply filed the information he’d collected into a file and carried on with his regular work.

Simon had already located Wagner and determined most of his schedule for the day in question. He had taken a look at all of the people who were in close contact with Wagner that day. He’d checked online resources for all of the staff members, the reporters and the service people. He knew from past experience that it was dead easy to get a job with a catering company at the last minute. If people didn’t show up for work, the companies scrambled to fill spots. If you could fake a records check, you were in. The tighter the deadline for the caterer, the less they cared about appropriate paperwork.

Gill Holland had stood out like a sore thumb. A quick search showed that Holland existed, paid taxes in New York, had a small flat near but not quite in the Greenwich area and had flown, business class, to England three days earlier. A deeper search proved that Holland’s flat in New York was owned by a shell corporation with suspected ties to a Columbian drug cartel. Simon could admit that he was impressed by the skill of whoever had made the purchase of the apartment. No one could ever live there, because the cartel would find them and demand an explanation, but it gave her a legitimate address to call her own, on paper.

If one thing about Holland’s story proved to be false, Simon knew that everything else would eventually be proven false. It had taken him the better part of a full day to track down one of the flight attendants who worked the business section of Holland’s flight. Every seat had been occupied, but when shown a picture of Holland, the attendant could say with absolute clarity that this man was not on the plane in her section and definitely had not been in Seat 12A. 12A had been an overly large woman from Dubuque, Iowa.

Simon was already in place when Ingram gave him the green light to proceed. He’d taken dozens of photos of Holland and though he couldn’t reconcile the man he was seeing with the woman he expected to see, Simon had kept his eyes locked anyway. Like Seth, he had noticed the contact between Wagner and the girl with the backpack. Unlike Seth, Simon had kept his attention on Holland. The man’s expression hadn’t changed.

Instead of taking the stairs up from Covent Garden, Simon had barreled his way through the long queue to get into an elevator straight away. Tall, with a well-muscled body and a shaven head, people tended to get out of his way. Add in his elbows to jab people and a stone face to stare them down and Simon damn near had the elevator car to himself. At the top, he stepped out and crossed the street, heading away from the tube station. Approximating the time it would take to hike up the stairs, Simon worked his way back toward the tube station just as Parker stepped from the stairwell.

He followed her cab to the train station and took a seat one car back from hers. When the doors opened at the airport, he was first off the train. Up in the departures level, he noted the check-in desk she was headed for and consulted the directory to determine which flight she was on. Booking a ticket at the airline desk, he passed through security and maintained a discreet distance from her at all times.

Now, on the same flight and headed for Amsterdam, Simon enjoyed a small reprieve before he would have to make a decision. Ingram wanted Parker dead. Simon could take care of that inside the first few hours of her arrival in Amsterdam. Someone else wanted her alive. They needed some answers to some very pressing questions and Parker was the only one who appeared to be in possession of those answers. Once the plane landed, Simon would have to decide if he was better off killing Parker or keeping her alive long enough to question her. Slipping his earphones into his ears, Simon queued up his music and let his mind drift.

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