Chapter 12

July 31, 2011 at 10:29 pm (The Job)

“Where the fuck did she go?” Leland demanded.

Ingram curbed his annoyance long enough to shrug his shoulders. Leland had stormed into his office once word had gone out that Wagner was dead. He’d demanded an update on Parker’s demise only to learn that she’d not only survived the hit, she’d done it completely off the radar.

Seth had been unsuccessful in locating Parker after the hit. He couldn’t even say for sure when the hit had taken place. Wagner had gotten into the back of his car, the car had driven away and when it had arrived at its next destination and the doorman had opened the door, Wagner was already dead. An autopsy was scheduled to determine the cause of death.

The police were hesitant to call it natural causes, due to the abject terror on Wagner’s face, captured by the rigors of death. The back of his hand had been scraped of all skin. His nails had clawed at his throat. Wagner’s death had not been quick, though the drive from the park to the hotel was only ten minutes.

The chauffeur had insisted that Wagner never attempted to get his attention during the drive. He’d had no idea that his passenger was in any distress. The driver’s credentials were above reproach. The agency had checked him out. He was just as horrified as everyone else when he discovered that his passenger had died in the back of his car.

Ingram had Seth on standby as he scrambled his best people to hunt down Parker. It was unthinkable that someone so low on the hitman totem pole could have accomplished such a feat. Even Jacob had never pulled off such a coup and he’d taught Parker everything he knew. With Jacob dead, they couldn’t even question him on Parker’s likely next moves.

Ingram hadn’t been trained to think like a hitter, so he could only guess at what she’d do based off what he had heard from previous cases. The only wrench in that plan was that the agency had never had a previous case quite like this. Ingram was annoyed to realize he was falling back on shit he’d seen in movies. Parker was not a one-woman army. She couldn’t get around without a lot of help.

He’d have to find her help and crush it.

***

When her plane landed, Parker was up and heading for the front of the plane. She didn’t want to get trapped in a long queue to get off. Taxiing to and from the airports and waiting in line for their turn on the runway had taken longer than the actual flight. When the doors opened, Parker was off. She barreled her way past the couple in front of her and loped down the gangway.

Entering the airport she checked her stride a little. She didn’t want to call too much attention to herself. She headed straight for customs and breezed through, offering a brief flirtation with the guard. Her passport stamped, Parker slung her bag over her shoulder and headed for the exit. A casual glance over her shoulder showed the bald-headed man stuck in the middle of the line of travelers. Two other planes had landed near the same time as theirs had. Several hundred people were impatiently waiting to clear customs and get on with their plans.

Parker hit the street and hailed a cab. She didn’t have a specific destination in mind yet. She didn’t know who the bad guy was or if he was a threat to her. He could just be a guy going to Amsterdam. But something about him didn’t read quite right. She couldn’t place the feeling, but she wouldn’t ignore it either. The agency was very far reaching.

Simon was annoyed at his delay in the customs line. He couldn’t race off the plane as Parker had done, without looking distinctly suspicious. Plus, he’d have given himself away. He’d caught her discreet look in his direction. She was aware of him and she was wary of him. He didn’t mind either one. He didn’t think she’d noticed him outside the Covent Garden station or on the train to Stansted. It could simply be his size that gave her pause.

By the time he exited the airport, Parker had a twenty minute lead on him. He sorely wished he’d dropped a GPS dot into her bag before they’d boarded the plane. Instead he’d have to go about his task of finding her the low tech way. He’d check with the hotels and hostels, with the car rental companies and he’d have a friend check the credit card companies. He had the name she was using, but wouldn’t put it past her to switch to a new one. It’s what he’d do.

He still hadn’t made his decision about who he was taking his orders from. He wanted a little more time tracking Parker and determining her worth before he made that choice.

***

Jack knew he had to be careful, but he also had to act. The remaining members of the board had practically gone into lockdown when they’d heard about Wagner’s assassination. If the hit had come from another organization wanting to shift the balance of power, they would all be targeted for elimination. Of the eight remaining members, Jack only contacted four of them. Those four that he knew, for certain, would vote against the change of policy for the agency. Of those four, only one man was willing to meet with him.

In Washington D.C there was no such thing as private conversation. Waiters eavesdropped on politicians in the hopes of learning a juicy bit of news. Cab drivers paid special attention to everyone getting into their cars and where those people were going. Still, Jack didn’t have the time to waste heading into Maryland or Virginia for a clandestine meeting at some out of the way park. He chose The Mall and, specifically, the steps leading to the National Museum of Natural History. In the middle of the afternoon on a sunny Tuesday, the steps were packed with tourists.

Jack had made the arrangements for the meet a half hour before he was expected to be there. He took a cab to the museum’s entrance on Constitution Ave. and walked through the building to the steps facing Madison Dr. Jack didn’t wear a wire, though he couldn’t be sure his contact would even ask about one. Most of the members of the board were businessmen. They hadn’t risen through the agency’s ranks to get where they were, they’d walked in off the street, essentially. The members were voted in by other members. The original members of the board, the first meeting of the nine, had created the agency and her mandates. They’d come first and once the jobs had been sanctioned, the hitters had come.

After forty years of service there were no original members left on the board. Spots on the board were not held for members of the family. If the heir to a board member who had died wanted in, they had to go through the process of being recommended for a spot and then winning the vote. Only one person had ever tried it and they hadn’t been successful in their bid.

“I didn’t want to meet with you.”

Jack looked around as the whisper floated down to him. He motioned for the man to sit. After a hasty look around, Davis Hughes pinched his trouser legs between his fingers to hold the crease and awkwardly squatted on the stairs next to him.

“You don’t know who you can trust,” Jack replied once his guest was reasonably comfortable.

“Of course not!” Davis said in a huff. “Wagner was killed and we hadn’t heard a thing.”

Jack could tell that wasn’t entirely true. He waited the man out.

“We hadn’t heard anything about Wagner. I did overhear something about Donovan,” Davis admitted.

“Do you know where he is?” Jack demanded.

“No and I still don’t know if I trust you.”

“Donovan is the only one who can save the vote next week,” Jack reminded him.

He watched as Davis’s face went pale. A slight flush crept up his neck and beads of sweat pearled on his forehead.

“They want the vote to pass,” Davis whispered, horrified. “It would be the ruin of us all.”

“They don’t think it would be. Donovan has to be found, alive, in time to cast his vote, or this time they’ll get exactly what they want.”

“You have to find him,” Davis insisted.

Jack refrained from rolling his eyes, barely. He went from mistrust to absolute trust inside of two minutes. He thought it was a new record. It also spoke volumes about the members of the board. Donovan taking a seat on the board would be the sort of shakeup it needed. Donovan had experience in the field, as Jack did.

“Where is Donovan?” he asked again.

“I don’t know. I warned him that I’d overheard a couple of members talking about his death as though it were a done deal. I couldn’t check to see who they were and I didn’t recognize their voices, though they must have been members because we had just adjourned the meeting and only members are allowed on the island during a vote.”

Jack grunted his annoyance. He didn’t know where the island was, because it was forbidden. He didn’t know when the board was meeting because it was forbidden. But with half the voters in Leland’s camp, he felt certain that Leland and perhaps even Ingram had been on that island. Davis was a fool to assume only the board knew of the island. The island would have a house and that house would have a staff and the island would require an airstrip and a pilot to get them there.

Davis wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. He’d come to his money the old fashioned way. He’d inherited it from a grandfather who had worked his ass off to earn it. Davis hadn’t felt the need to do the same and had already gone through half the fortune in less than ten years. If not for the business acumen of a few other members of the board, Davis likely would have run through the entire inheritance long ago. If not for the contacts Davis came with because of his grandfather’s business dealings, Davis wouldn’t have been offered a spot on the board. Once on the board, unless he royally fucked up, he was on it until he died.

Jack didn’t think that would be happening anytime soon. And it was the last thing the board needed right now. The guy was a wet blanket, but at least he was wise enough to know which way to cast his vote.

At least Jack now knew that he was looking for a living president. Someone who was still living was far easier to track than a body. Living people had habits and needs and desires that left a paper trail. Donovan had been out of the game a while but, once learned, the instincts kicked in and would give him an edge over the average man.

***

“Do we have anything on her that we can use to discredit her?” Leland asked. After several hours without any word on Parker’s whereabouts, he was starting to get nervous. The board would soon be asking questions and he didn’t have a scapegoat to offer them. Their plan had been a good one, he’d assumed. Granted, he wasn’t a field agent any more than Ingram was, but they had come up with a solution to every scenario that had cropped up. Ingram had taken care of Jacob right nicely. That could have been a royal clusterfuck.

“We can use the footage of her at Wagner’s lab to suggest that she was casing the place and, by extension, him. We have the use of one of her agency IDs showing her entering the country.” It sounded very weak to him now.

The plan had been a solid one, in his estimation. The date they’d given for the hit hadn’t been important, except as a way of knowing exactly where she would be. It had allowed Seth to keep an eye on her and get in place to take her down. Admittedly, he’d made several assumptions about her that hadn’t proven out. Her past jobs showed a tendency for knife work, but she’d clearly not used one here. Though they still waited on confirmation from the autopsy, it was looking like Wagner had been poisoned. Parker had never gone for a poison in any of her past jobs.

It pissed him off that she’d gone for one this time. Ingram knew, now, that he should have specified the way Wagner was expected to die. He’d worried that too many stipulations would have made her instantly wary. She’d gotten to that state eventually anyway.

“Without a sanctioned contract from the agency, even minimal proof will be enough to condemn her in the board’s eyes,” Ingram decided. Parker worked for them, she was in the vicinity at the time of his death and she couldn’t come forward to prove her innocence without getting killed. Yeah, Ingram thought, they could still pull this off.

“What happened to Donovan?” he asked.

Leland groaned. “I have no idea where that bastard went. It would be too much to hope that he died before we could kill him.”

Ingram felt a small lick of fire strike in the put of his stomach and wondered if the job was giving him an ulcer.

“We have to find Donovan and take care of him before the vote next week or they’ll postpone it.”

“Yes,” Leland agreed, “and we have to get started on the rest of our agenda. I’ve got our first target selected. Who do you have in mind to complete the job?”

“I figured this sort of work would be right up Mr. Chu’s alley.”

The name made Leland shudder. Mr. Chu, as he was referred to by everyone, had little concern for what polite circles had dubbed collateral damage. Mr. Chu always hit his target and he usually hit a dozen people nearby, as well. He said he liked to be thorough. Mr. Chu’s weapon of choice was the bomb. Suitcase bomb, car bomb, human bomb, he employed them all with expertise and no small amount of zeal.

Leland nodded. Mr. Chu would be the perfect agent for this next phase of their agenda.

“Give him his go.”

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