Chapter 14

August 14, 2011 at 8:44 pm (The Job)

“We need to find Donovan before one of Leland’s guys does,” Petrillo said.

“Why?” Parker asked.

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that there’s a vote coming down and if Donovan doesn’t turn up alive, that vote will get postponed. However, if Leland’s guys can find Donovan, kill him and then have the body ‘discovered’ the board will have to replace Donovan. By all accounts, that job will likely go to Leland. With the board being down one member, he would be the deciding vote if it came to a tie.”

“What are they voting on?” Parker asked. Board politics were not her strong suit. She didn’t know anyone on the board, where they met, or what they really did.

“Rumour has it Leland wants to take the agency into deeper waters. He wants us to have more control over the political climate. Not just ours, but the world’s.”

“Political assassinations?” Parker asked.

“Yeah, as well as anyone who has a dramatic effect on a country’s politics, even if they aren’t representing the government. It could mean a tremendous amount of work, but it would also get extremely dangerous.”

Not that her work wasn’t dangerous enough already, Parker thought. Political assassinations came with the highest price tag, both in what they paid and what they cost. Get caught, you could expect a torturous interrogation to determine what you knew and who you worked for. Pull it off and you could expect multiple millions for one job. The Wagner job was peanuts by comparison.

“Any idea where Donovan went?” she asked.

“None,” Petrillo admitted. “I’m working on it though. I’ve got a couple leads to tug on and then, hopefully, I’ll have something for you. In the meantime, keep yourself out of Seth’s crosshairs.”

“Right,” Parker sighed.

When he’d ensured the call was disconnected, Petrillo stared at the man standing next to him. “I hope you know what you’re doing.”

“It’s the only way to ensure her safety,” Jack said.

“If you’re not on her side, she’ll hunt you down, you realize that?” Petrillo warned him. It was a bold move, given that Jack could have outed Petrillo as Parker’s internal source. He’d have been executed on the spot. No trial, no jury, no warning.

“We’re all working toward the same goal here. None of us wants Leland in command of this organization.”

When Jack had overheard the rumblings in the corridors about Parker casing Wagner right before the hit went down, he knew Leland was tossing her to the wolves. She’d messed up whatever plan they’d had and now they were trying to recover. They couldn’t say, outright, that she’d done the hit. That would be showing their hand too soon. But a discredited hitter would be left to drift in the winds. She wouldn’t be able to trust anyone. Jack could use that.

“You have any insight into Donovan’s current whereabouts?” Petrillo had already set up a series of searches for Donovan’s likeness at all of the larger and several of the smaller airports. If he’d taken a flight out of the country, Petrillo would find him. If he’d done something sneaky, Petrillo’s job would be much harder. But sneaky would work in Donovan’s favour. If Petrillo had a difficult time finding him, then Leland’s and Ingram’s men would have it even tougher.

“No, but I have an idea where you might focus your attention,” Jack admitted.

“A particular country he likes?”

“No, I was thinking more along the lines of a particular company he used to work for and some documents he might have obtained through them. Specifically, The Company.”

Petrillo felt the sweat break out on the back of his neck. “You want me to hack into CIA databases to find documents they may have given to Donovan?”

“Yes, from when he worked there. I’m certain he must have at least once set of fake IDs that he never employed while he worked for them.”

Petrillo swiped his hand across his neck, wiping the moisture on his jeans. He wasn’t particularly worried about hacking their databases. He was a little cautious of them possibly sending out a tracer bot to find his name. He didn’t need a couple of spooks appearing on his doorstep at two in the morning. Even his wife wouldn’t be able to intimidate them.

If he could create a blind, so it appeared his bots were coming from someone else’s computer, then he wouldn’t worry as much. The more he thought about the idea, the more Petrillo’s fingers itched to get started. He had just the candidate, too. If he made it a decent attempt, but left one tiny little detail for the spooks to find, then perhaps Ingram would be out of their hair for good. Oh, to be so lucky as to get rid of that asshole, he thought.

“Ok, I’ll give it a shot. Any idea where I should focus my attention? I’ve never been in their databases before.”

“There will be a note in their personnel file directing authorized users to a classified database, code worded, password protected and constantly monitored. Trip even a single flag and you’ll get booted out. They won’t bother to try and track you, they’ll just want you out.”

“Where do I find these code words and passwords?”

“I have no idea. I never worked for them. Don’t you have a program that can crack them?”

Petrillo paused in his typing to stare up at Jack as though he’d lost his mind. “Do you have any idea how long it can take a program to crack a single password? If it’s 128-bit encrypted, fucking forget about it. I’d need a Cray and in case you haven’t noticed, this piece of shit at my feet ain’t that.”

“You’ll think of something,” Jack replied. “You have to, for all our sakes.”

“Go away now, I have work to do.” Petrillo muttered under his breath about Cray’s and encryption passwords as Jack left the room. Once the door closed behind him, Petrillo flexed his fingers, cracking several knuckles in the process. He didn’t have a Cray at his feet, but he knew where he could borrow a few cycles from one.

In actuality, it was several Cray’s. All strung together, spitting out millions of bits of data per second and hardly getting the workout they’d been designed for. In his spare time, Petrillo had created a backdoor into the Bowden-Dunlop Military Defense Contractors’ system. They designed supercomputers used in missile defense systems and employed 128-bit encryption in everything, right down to the order form for their daily Starbucks’ runs.

Petrillo hadn’t cracked their system, he’d been allowed in. Not legitimately, mind you. A hacker friend of his who worked for the defense contractor thought it would be interesting to do a test, to see how long it would take someone to notice their system was bleeding cycles. Petrillo’s backdoor access had been open for over two years now. It was a good testament to the shoddy security standards surrounding defense contracts.

But, it worked in his favour, especially now. First taking some time to structure his search parameters, Petrillo then opened his backdoor access and was about to get to work when his computer alerted him to an internal message. Opening the message system, he saw that he had another missive from Ingram. Rolling his eyes, Petrillo clicked on the message, determined to find a way to ignore whatever Ingram wanted. After a few sentences, he realized that that was not going to be possible.

Activate the entire European network to watch for Parker? There would be few places she could go to avoid being spotted. She knew of them, sure, but that didn’t mean she could make use of them. He hoped she had a pack full of truly excellent disguises. She was going to need them.

Breaking the large packet of information into several smaller ones, Petrillo parceled them out to his staff. They were too efficient not to get the orders out in record time.

***

Jack read the report his assistant had handed him regarding the bombing incident the previous evening. The press was calling it a random attack, because they couldn’t determine why the house would be attacked. Jack knew it wasn’t a random attack and, though he certainly couldn’t prove it, he was sure the hit had come from the agency. He knew the target and he knew who used to employ the target.

The Wappel Group was one of their largest competitor’s. Not overseen by a board such as the agency was, TWG handed down jobs from the top. Their vice-president, the man who had just been blown sky high, was the main go-to guy for sanctioning hits. Even if their third-in-command was ready to take over straight away, TWG would likely have a rocky few months. Their current clients would want to know what information the target had given up before he’d died.

Leland was initiating his own agenda. Once the next hit came down, Jack would have a fair idea of how escalated the timeframe was. Until Donovan was found alive, Jack’s hands were tied. He could actively defy Leland and call his actions into question, but with no corroborating evidence to prove that Leland had instructed Mr. Chu to complete the job, it would be Jack’s word against Leland’s. Jack didn’t trust his position enough to put it to the test. Leland had spies throughout all levels of the agency and any one of them could trip Jack up.

As much as it galled him to do it, Jack would have to bide his time and allow Leland to continue, unchallenged.

***

“It’s about fucking time you called me!” Petrillo shrieked in her ear.

“I just talked to you a few hours ago,” Parker reminded him.

“Yeah, well I left you several messages since then. Didn’t you think that maybe I had something important to tell you?” he demanded.

Parker sighed and rolled her eyes. She sipped from her coffee cup and watched the people milling about near the canal. She stood outside the Feels Good café, where patrons could enjoy a tea and a toke and not get harassed about it. She wasn’t a pot head and she’d never tried it. The smell was enough to put her off. She figured she had about twenty more minutes before the lingering odour would annoy her and she’d have to move on.

“I’m sorry I didn’t check my messages sooner,” she replied, attempting to placate him.

Petrillo grunted. “Look, you need to watch your back in Amsterdam. Ingram has the entire European watcher network activated and they’re all focused on you.”

Crap, she thought. Was that who the bald guy was? A watcher? “I think I may have spotted one. He got on the same plane as me.”

“Not a watcher,” Petrillo replied. “They watch, they don’t follow. If he’s following you, he’s a hitter.”

“Then why hasn’t he hit me?” Parker demanded.

“I can’t answer that. His orders would be to take you out with all due haste. If he’s waiting, he’s playing his own game.”

Great, she had an entire network of watchers eyeballing her and a hitter with his own agenda breathing down her neck. And she had no idea what she could do to prove her innocence. She highly doubted the agency would care even if she could prove that the hit was legit. It appeared the agency was undergoing a management upheaval. Those who were currently in charge wanted her dead. That was her main focus. That meant getting those who were currently in charge, out of their places of power. The only way she could see to do that would be to find Donovan. Even that wasn’t a guarantee of her safety. But it was a start.

“I need to find Donovan. Can you get me a name or a location to start looking?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m working on that. It’s complicated and extremely dodgy, but I’m breaking through the barriers, one by one. I’ll have that info for you as soon as I can. In the meantime, stay invisible.”

Parker disconnected and tucked the phone into her pocket. She could do invisible. She had carried with her a full kit for creating believable disguises. If the watcher network was clocking in overtime trying to find her, she didn’t want to give them an easy go of it. Picking up her bag, she tossed it over her shoulder and headed for the nearest cheap motel.

***

Simon spotted the watcher seconds before Parker did. The guy wasn’t particularly discreet about having spotted her. The minute he saw her he spun around and pulled his phone out of his pocket. Before Simon could intercede, Parker stepped up to the man and jabbed something into his back. Cupping her hand over his mouth to stifle the scream, she dragged him toward the doorway of an abandoned shop and settled him down on the ground. Slipping the phone from his hand, she pocketed it and continued on her way.

Simon stepped into the doorway and felt for a pulse. When he found one, he bent down and gripped the man’s head in his hands. A sharp twist snapped the vertebra and the watcher’s body relaxed against the side of the shop. Moving away from the body, Simon continued down the street, keeping an eye on Parker, while also searching the area. If the agency had called out the watchers, they could be all over the city.

Parker scanned through the list of calls and breathed a little easier when she saw that he hadn’t gotten a message out. She tossed the phone into the canal and carried on. As she passed a row of shops she caught his reflection in the window. The bald guy wasn’t even trying to hide from her. Picking up her pace as she strode along the canal, Parker didn’t notice the watcher until it was too late. He had his phone in his hand and was passing on his message. As she approached him, she watched his eyes bug out. Snatching the phone from his hand, she pushed him into the canal. Carrying on, she started moving faster. She’d have to hole up somewhere and use one of her disguises. She had no doubt the last watcher had gotten through to someone. Soon another hitter would be charging after her. Or maybe whoever was in charge would force the bald guy’s hand.

Simon peered into the canal and watched as the agency’s watcher swam to shore on the opposite side. He didn’t have time to quietly finish the guy and still keep an eye on Parker. He knew she’d spotted him and was getting ready to run. Simon left the watcher to report in and carried on after Parker.

***

Seth got the call from Leland. The watcher who had spotted her in Amsterdam had indeed gotten a message out. He’d given her location and the direction she’d been heading in. Other local watchers had attempted to keep her in their sights, but reported that a man was following Parker and taking out any watcher who made their presence known. Consequently, the information received from Amsterdam was old and inaccurate.

Seth didn’t care. He had a starting point and he could find her once he arrived. He knew that she would soon be leaving Amsterdam, especially if the watchers were being obvious enough to get themselves killed. The new guy could be a problem. Leland had no idea who was helping Parker, but Seth figured he was lying. Seth had finally determined how Parker had gotten the Wagner job done. He recalled watching the male reporter head for the tube station and he vaguely recalled seeing another man head the same way not long after.

Seth had asked Leland if he’d employed a second hitter, but Leland assured him that he had not. Again, Seth assumed he was lying. No matter, Seth was better than anyone the agency could send. He had a decent visual impression of the second hitter and if he couldn’t find Parker in Amsterdam, he could always look for the bald guy. He was eager to get the annoyance of this job out of the way. He knew that Josie Rider was anxiously awaiting his return. He would not let her down.

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