Chapter 19

October 3, 2011 at 4:22 pm (The Job)

Seth slathered on more sunscreen and scowled up at the sun. It beat down on his head, searing his skin and making him sweat off the lotion he’d just applied. He hated the sun. His skin was not prone to tanning, was in fact turning bright red as he stood at the street corner trying to determine which way to go. He could burn through his clothing, he was sure of it. But he couldn’t restrict his search to the evening hours, when the sun had lost its heat.

The call had been late in coming. Seth had expected it several days ago, but it had finally come and that’s what mattered. The conversation had been brief. It had, in fact, been one word before the line had disconnected. Rarotonga was not what he’d wanted to hear. The heat this time of year would be enough to fry him inside of a few minutes. He’d purchased enough sunscreen to fill a swimming pool, but could already feel the itchy burn on the back of his neck.

He’d chartered a private plane to get him to the island swiftly. Losing two days to commercial travel was not an option. He knew of the deadline that Ingram and Leland were working towards. It was the same deadline they’d given him. Seth was starting to get very annoyed with the job. He’d never had so much difficulty with a target, even in his early days. He didn’t think he’d gotten too cocky. He knew how good he was. He didn’t think Parker was better, just lucky. Her luck was due to run out.

He arrived at the island before Simon and Parker were expected to. That was speculation on his part. He didn’t know where they were when the call came in. He didn’t know what names they were using either. He couldn’t hack the hotel databases in search of them. Simon had given him nothing but the name of the island. Even that had been given grudgingly, if the tone it was presented in was any indication.

Extrapolating based off where he’d last seen them and adding in the chatter he’d heard over the wire about a scuffle in Paris, and assuming that Simon wouldn’t have the means to book a private flight, Seth decided he had had enough of a lead to get settled in and prepare for their arrival. He’d chosen a hotel on the northern coast of the island, not far from the airport. His chartered flight was waiting for him. Once the job was done, he would disappear for a while.

Seth headed down the main street, that being about the only really good road on the island. Called Ara Tapu, it ringed the entire island on the outer edge. Three mountainous peaks made up the centre of Rarotonga. There was no road that cut through the middle of the island. The mountains made it nearly impossible to traverse easily. Most of the island’s over fourteen thousand inhabitants made their homes in the villages on the edges of the island.

Focusing his attention on the chief town, Avarua, Seth began his search. His contract didn’t include a hit on Donovan. If he found the man, he would leave him be. Seth wouldn’t do the agency any favours. He had his orders and he would see them through and that was the extent of his involvement. He didn’t care if Donovan was killed and Leland took over running the agency.

Searching for Donovan was not going to be an easy task. Seth was glad it was not his task. Still, searching for those who were searching for Donovan would not be any easier. Clusters of houses could be found nearer the main road, but the closer one got to the start of the mountains, the more spread out the houses became. Enormous palm trees and lower lying bush provided ample cover for him, but it gave just as much to the people he would be tracking.

After several hours spent trekking through the town, he determined that his best solution was to take Parker out once she exited the airport. He’d noticed a small treed area across from the main parking lot. It wasn’t as dense as he would have liked, but it would do. By the time anyone realized what had happened and where the shot had come from, Parker would be dead and Seth would be halfway to Switzerland.

Returning to his hotel, Seth gathered his tools into a dark sack. Adding in a flashlight and extra batteries, netting to provide camouflage and a two-day supply of dried fruits and meats as well as bottles of water, he closed the sack and slung it over his shoulder. The extra supplies hid the shape of his gun case. The heat was going to be his biggest obstacle; the heat and the bugs. The trees would keep the sun off him. It was all he could be grateful for. Slipping his hotel pass into a pocket in his pants and zippering it closed, he headed out into the night.

***

The boy flitted down a narrow space in between two buildings, heading for the church in the centre of town. He’d been asked to watch the watchers, paid very well to see the job done without taking time away for his other pursuits. He didn’t mind using his body to make money. Women did it all the time, too. His mother had done it, before the drugs had rotted her brain. Now she spent most of her days and nights sitting in the street, zoned out and unaware of everything around her.

His father was a white man who had paid for his mother back when she’d been beautiful. He’d been on vacation on the island and had left it long before there was any evidence a child had been conceived. She’d named her son after the father; Gavin. She’d never learned his last name or she would have given the boy that, too. He’d gotten her prettiness which had earned him several black eyes in school. He’d dropped out when he was ten, to take care of his sisters. Now that prettiness worked in his favour.

Gavin ducked into a tiny crevice in the wall and remained there for a full hour. He knew the streets better than anyone. He’d lived on them for the last three years, since he’d quit school. He knew enough not to let the men follow him to the church or risk the white man’s life. It was too dark to see him. Anyone following him would have to give up.

Once he was certain he was alone, he crept out of his hole and carried on. He had a message to deliver and payment to receive.  From the darkness, he dashed out into the bright lights of the main strip. Tourists crowded the streets and he ducked his way in between them, keeping himself small and difficult to spot. He repeated this process several times, creeping around in the dark and then running about in the bright lights.

Gavin knew about night vision goggles. He had a deal with a local hotel to use their internet when it wasn’t busy with guests. He liked to watch the American movies. He liked guns and explosions and he especially liked gadgets. He was saving his money to buy a cell phone, but his youngest sister was starting grade school next fall and she needed good clothes and books. He had plenty of time to save enough money, but Gavin liked to plan ahead. His sisters came first. He wanted them to go to school and not to have to sell their bodies.

He taught them the dangers of doing drugs by taking them to visit their mum. They almost didn’t recognize her anymore. His youngest sister always cried when they went. Their mum scared them now. Soon Gavin wouldn’t take them anymore. Soon their mum would die. He would be sad to lose her, but on some level he knew that he’d actually lost her a long time ago.

Shaking the thoughts from his head, Gavin darted down another alley. Rounding the corner, he saw the church sitting quietly in the dark. A cinderblock wall fenced off the small parking lot from the buildings surrounding the church. The blocks had been whitewashed some time ago and needed to be done again. Gavin walked along the edge of the wall and stepped in behind the dumpster. It was the only one in the city that wasn’t overflowing with garbage.

Counting four rows to the left of the corner and five rows up from the ground, Gavin tucked his note into one of the cubby holes in the cinderblock. Two rows further to the left and one row down, he found payment for his last delivery. Without pausing to count the money, he walked all the way around the church and crossed the front lawn before heading back into the heart of the city.

***

Zaum waited until he was certain the boy had left before crawling out of his hiding place at the edge of the church parking lot. Three of his men had mentioned the boy running through the neighbourhood, keeping an eye on everything. Zaum figured that if anyone would know where a tourist was hiding, he would.

Stalking across the parking lot, he reached into the cubbyhole he’d seen the kid place his note. Tearing it out, he flipped the folded piece of paper open and frowned at the words he saw there. In a very tidy script, in precise English, he read:

Your men move like elephants. You are better, but I still sensed you once you moved in behind me. I have eyes all over the city. If you are not looking to purchase my services for the evening, I suggest you leave me be.

Zaum crumpled the note into a ball and tossed it into the Dumpster. Heading for the front of the church, Zaum keyed in his mike and contacted his team. He hit the street running as he gave his orders to his men.

“Find the boy. I’m through playing with the little fucker. He knows where Donovan is and I’m going to extract the information from him. Contact me when you have him.”

Zaum headed into the town and began weaving his way through the tourists. Locals stood on the sidewalks asking for money or holding out handmade crafts to purchase. In some sections of town, the offerings were no less discreet, though decidedly more illegal. Drugs, sex or a combination of the two could be purchased as easily as a souvenir.

I have eyes all over the city.

Zaum thought he sensed someone nearby, but when he turned to look, there was no one around. The kid couldn’t have everyone in town on his payroll, assuming he even had a payroll. The idea was ludicrous. Yet he couldn’t shake the sense that the shadows were shifting as he walked past. People blended into the darkness. Whispers floated on the air.

The kid had disappeared.

***

It took the better part of two days and three flights for Parker and Simon to get from Paris to Rarotonga. Parker’s internal clock couldn’t keep up with all of the changes. By the time she exited the last plane and dragged her butt through the small terminal, she was fighting to keep her eyes open.

Simon had faired a little better. He’d managed to sleep most of the first leg and all of the third. Simon wrapped his arm around her shoulder to support her as she stumbled along. They paused at one of the huts outside the terminal to be welcomed by some of the locals and then Simon steered her toward the car park. He’d rented a small car in case their search for Donovan took them outside the town of Avarua.

Simon was very solicitous of her, guiding her directly to the car and unlocking her door for her. He stood back as she took her seat, closing the door for her and then he opened the trunk to stow their suitcases. Settling in behind the wheel, he started the car and drove straight off. He had already consulted a map and knew the general layout of the town. He breathed a little easier once they were away from the airport.

In addition to the car, he’d also booked them a room, knowing they’d need a few hours to crash before beginning their search of the island. Parker was grateful for those small considerations. After checking in and dumping her bag next to the TV stand, Parker dropped face down onto the bed and didn’t move for five straight hours.

When she awoke it was dark and Simon was in the shower. The indentation in the pillow next to her suggested he’d gotten some sleep. She spent ten minutes doing the few yoga moves she could remember from the two classes she’d taken. The stretches got the blood flowing in her limbs and she felt looser and ready for action. When Simon exited the bathroom, Parker slipped in and had a quick shower.

They opted to eat before they walked through the town. They dressed in dark clothing and packed tools and weapons into two backpacks. The night was warm, still almost eighty degrees with a slight breeze blowing in off the water. The hotel’s outdoor café served food until midnight. Parker selected a table with a view of the main street into town. The café offered Western fare, so she opted for a burger and fries. Simon chose a steak and ordered a beer to wash it down.

The café’s patio wasn’t empty. Two other couples had chosen tables with a view of the water. Keeping their voices down, Parker and Simon hashed out a quick plan to search the town for Donovan. Neither one bothered to mention going to his hotel. Donovan was too smart to actually stay there. It made sense to split up. The town sprawled out over some distance, with their hotel sitting smack in the middle of it. Simon opted to head west, back toward the airport, which left Parker heading east.

They had decided on a surface level search, just to get the lay of the land and then they would pair up for the deeper search. After testing their mikes to ensure they worked, they hit the streets. Parker moved two blocks off the main strip, keeping to the alleys. They were darker and quieter, which allowed her to focus on her surroundings.

After two blocks, Parker sensed her tail. One more block determined that the guy wasn’t some guy who thought she was a horny tourist looking for a quickie in an alley. The guy was good, very light on his feet, but not quite as silent as he needed to be. Nothing about her said ‘operative’ unless dark clothing and a backpack were immediately suspect, so she continued to ignore his presence and maintain her cover. She tapped her mike twice, to alert Simon.

“What do you have?” he asked.

She tapped another two times. It wasn’t a code for anything specific. It simply told him that she couldn’t talk, which told him she had a tail.

“Circle back toward the hotel and I’ll come in behind you.”

Parker took a left at the next alley entrance, keeping to the shadows of the side streets. If her tail was going to make a move before Simon showed up, she didn’t want a large audience witnessing their scuffle. She could feel eyes on her as she passed darkened doorways, but she ignored them. Her tail was maintaining his distance from her, for now. She had only walked a short distance down the alley before she heard a man snarl behind her.

“Gotcha, you little shit.”

Gavin squirmed in the man’s clutches, but couldn’t break the hold. He kicked the man’s legs, trying to break his knees. The mercenary swore at the pain, but maintained his grip. Hauling the kid up, he circled his arm around the kid’s waist and squeezed tight.

His air blocked off, Gavin started to feel lightheaded. He silently cursed himself for getting distracted by the woman. He knew what would happen when the leader of these mercenary’s got a hold of him. For the first time in a very long while, Gavin felt fear. His sisters would have no one to care for them if he disappeared.

The mercenary spoke into his mike, giving the rest of the team his coordinates. He adjusted the boy under his arm and turned back for the entrance to the alley. Parker slipped up behind him and grabbed the collar of his shirt. Wrenching backwards, she threw the man off balance. She shoved the muzzle of her gun into the flesh behind his ear.

“Let the kid go,” Parker ordered him.

“Who the fuck are you?” he demanded, as he tried to determine how much trouble he was in.

Parker removed the gun from his neck and shoved it into his crotch, from behind. “The only question you want to be asking right now is ‘Do I want to piss like a girl for the rest of my life?’ Let the kid go. I won’t ask a third time.”

The mercenary dropped the kid and watched him sprint off down the alley. Parker kicked the guy in the back of his right knee. As he lost his balance, she brought her gun up and slammed it against the side of his head. He crashed to the ground.

“You alright?” Simon’s voice whispered in her ear. “I’m five minutes out.”

“I’m going to ground until I know how many are out here,” Parker replied. She turned and headed deeper into the darkened alley.

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