Chapter 20

October 4, 2011 at 11:04 pm (The Job)

“Fuck,” Seth muttered. The airport had been the perfect opportunity to hit Parker, until Simon had all but plastered himself to her side. Seth didn’t have any qualms about killing other people, but he knew the agency would have his hide if he killed Simon. Fucking golden boy couldn’t do anything wrong. And just what the hell was his game, anyway? Leland had intimated that Simon would stick close to Parker to get her into the open, so that Seth could take her out. Then Leland had changed his mind and said that Parker should be followed if she gets any leads on Donovan.

Seth didn’t give a fuck about Donovan, he just wanted this damn job done so he could get back to England. Josie Rider was waiting for him and he didn’t like keeping her waiting.

Seth tried to regain his calm, but the stress of getting back to Josie was starting to wear him thin. He wasn’t behaving rationally. He was getting impulsive. This must not continue. Before he could toss off his camouflage and leap to the ground in rage at Simon, Seth forced his mind to clear. He focused on letting the annoyances go. He would no longer trust any information Simon gave him. Seth would go back to doing things his own way. It had served him well in the past.

He could give it all up. The idea had never appealed to him before. He loved his job. It was the hunt that drew him in. He thought he would get bored of it, because his targets were never as good as he was. But always, there was something interesting to be found in the hunt. People surprised him, once in a while. They tried new things to escape him, forcing him to adapt. It was thrilling, almost as thrilling as when he finally caught them and they knew they had no other chance.

The look in their eyes when they knew their time was up was as rewarding as the money the agency paid him to do his job. He knew that when that reward became greater, in worth, than the money, he was in trouble. The difference between him and a serial killer was that he got paid to kill whereas a serial killer was compelled to kill. Once he crossed that line, he would become the hunted.

The thought of being hunted by those who used to pay him didn’t bother him quite as much as it should have. That was a thought to examine, in detail, at a later date.

Seth carefully folded up his camo netting and stored it in his pack. He had already ensured that any rations consumed during his vigil were properly disposed of. It was just heading toward sunset and traffic in the area was light. Climbing down from his perch in the tree, Seth casually walked along the edge of the beach until he got to his car.

He didn’t know what hotel they were staying in and he didn’t care. In order to find Donovan, they’d have to hit the town. And Seth could hide anywhere in the trees surrounding the town and watch them all. He could play with Parker, if he was of a mind to. Tease her, let her know he was nearby. He could maim her. Hit her in spots that would be an annoyance, but wouldn’t stop her.

It would be interesting to see how many seemingly inconsequential hits she could take before she died of blood loss or infection. He would like to see her riddled with pain; to watch her writhe in agony as he kept hitting her, again and again. How many bullets could he fit into her without finishing the job? Now that she’d screwed up his plans so often, whether it was Simon’s fault or not, Seth really wanted to play with her. Almost as much as his Josie.

Seth parked his car outside hit hotel room and checked to see if anything had been disturbed. He’d placed the Do Not Disturb sign on the door to discourage the maids from going inside. He checked that the tiny filament he’d taped to the door near the bottom edge was still in place. Inside, he dumped his extra rations, water and other excess gear, leaving only his rifle and ammo in the pack.

As he exited his hotel room and moved toward the city centre, he spotted a man heading his way at a quick pace. Not quite running, he loped along the sidewalk and ducked down an alley. Seth had seen enough under the one stingy streetlight the area offered to recognize Simon. Heading in behind him, Seth was careful to keep his distance, while still maintaining visual contact. Wherever Simon went, Parker wouldn’t be far behind. Perhaps he could finish her tonight.

And maybe it was time the agency had a new golden boy.


Gavin ducked under a rusted sheet of tin. The woman was coming up the alley after him. He didn’t think she’d spotted him, but he wouldn’t move until he knew for sure. She’d saved his butt and he was grateful, but he couldn’t afford to trust anyone now. The priest depended on him to keep his secret safe. His sisters depended on him to keep them alive.

When the woman passed by and continued down the alley, Gavin started to crawl out from under the tin sheet. He heard a commotion down at the other end of the alley and, turning, saw the lead mercenary and two others arrive on scene. Carefully crawling back into his hiding place, Gavin watched as the leader tried to revive his fallen soldier. When the soldier continued to sleep, one of the others hauled him over his shoulder and headed back the way he’d come.

The leader and the second soldier turned and headed up the alley after the woman. They passed by Gavin’s hideout and carried on. Gavin waited until they were out of sight before taking a shortcut to the main road. He couldn’t see the woman, but after chatting with a few locals he had her approximate whereabouts. Worried now, because she was heading for a dead end road, Gavin headed straight west and then curved in toward the north to cut her off.

Parker had just turned up the road when Gavin burst from the alley directly behind her. Whipping around, her gun up, she checked her shot just in time.

“That is a dead end. Quickly, this way,” he whispered, motioning her to follow him as he headed back into the alley.

Parker thought he might be the boy she’d assisted earlier, but it had been too dark for her to get a good look at him. He could lead her straight into a trap, but somehow she didn’t think so. As she crossed the road toward the alley, shots rang out. She felt the sizzle of a bullet as it clipped her right forearm. Diving to the ground, she rolled to a corner of the nearest building. Aiming back the way she’d just come, Parker opened fire.

Zaum’s men hit the ground as bullets strafed the air around them. Taking cover behind a dilapidated pickup, Zaum searched the darkness for the threat. He could just barely make out movement across the street, heading for the alley. Two more shots rang out and Zaum saw puffs of dirt rise up near the alley entrance.

At the same time Zaum noticed it, Parker realized that the shots weren’t coming from the mercenaries. Scrambling back into the darkness of the alley, she searched the trees ahead of her. Carefully moving further away from the alley entrance, Parker tried to spot the sniper, but it was too dark. Standing, she checked behind her for the kid and then darted across the alley and followed him down a side street.

He took several twists and turns, but appeared to be always heading in a southeasterly direction. Parker kept the kid directly in front of her to protect him from any gunfire that might come from behind. She tried to gauge his age, but the dimness of the alley made it difficult. He was tall, probably five and a half feet already, but his shoulders still held the slenderness of a young boy.

He only paused twice, to talk to a couple of the locals, before continuing on. After another few turns, he led her to the back door of a house. There were no lights on inside. Parker kept her gun tucked against her leg as she followed the kid through the sliding glass door.

Parker could see now that there were lights on inside. The room she entered was very softly lit with candles. And the room was packed with people. Men, women and children sat on the floor or crowded onto what little furniture the room held. Some of the younger children were sleeping.

“Parker, where are you?” Simon whispered in her ear.

“I’m out of sight. I had two chasing me and a third sniping from the trees. I’m going to scout around a little more.”

“Ok, I’ll take the perimeter and call in when I’ve got the lay of it.”

Parker switched off her mike. She could still hear Simon if he called in, but she wouldn’t transmit.

Gavin had come up to her when she’d started speaking and was looking at her curiously. “What do you use to talk to your team?”

Parker unzipped her coat to show him the small radio pack clasped to the inside. A device tinier than the smallest Bluetooth attached to her ear and allowed her to transmit audio as well as receive it.

Gavin looked at the earpiece and frowned. “Cell phone,” he said. “Are they tracking you here?”

“It’s not a cell phone, though it looks like a standard Bluetooth wireless receiver. This is not something you can buy at the local electronics shop. It is specially designed so that it can’t be tracked.” Parker couldn’t tell if her assurances were soothing the kid or not. “I’ll leave,” she decided. She didn’t know what this place was, but if the kid was worried about people finding them there, she wouldn’t add to his worry.

“No, you will stay. If they find us, we will deal with it.” Gavin led her through the living room and into the kitchen. Here, several women worked to prepare food for the inhabitants of the house.

Parker searched their faces, but couldn’t tell which one was the kid’s mother. Holding out her hand to the kid, she introduced herself. “I’m Parker. I appreciate your assistance back there.”

“As I appreciate yours,” Gavin replied. He gave her his name and explained a little of what he’d seen the past few days. “The leader of that group of soldiers is called Zaum. He has been here for a few days now, questioning all of the locals. He is trying to find a tourist named Donovan.”

“Yes, that makes sense,” Parker murmured.

Gavin felt a little unease building inside of him. He thought that perhaps Parker was involved with this search, but still didn’t know which side she was on. Until he did, he would pretend ignorance. “I do not know what Zaum wants with this tourist. He would not tell anyone.”

“He wants to kill him,” Parker confirmed what Gavin already knew.


“It’s a bit complicated. Donovan runs the organization we all work for. There are people there who want him gone and others, like me, who want him to remain. If Zaum can find and kill Donovan, it will mean a change in the power structure at the organization and some of us aren’t certain that change would be a good thing.”

“You are here to stop Zaum?” Gavin asked.

“I didn’t know Zaum was here. I assumed someone would be though. My goal is to get Donovan safely to the island.”

“Which island?”

“I have no idea, but Donovan knows. All I have to do is help him get there, alive.”

“What about the man you arrived with?”

Parker looked at him closely. How could he know about Simon? They’d only been on the island a few hours.

“The island grapevine is quite extensive. One just has to listen. As long as you speak the language,” he grinned at her and Parker was instantly reminded that this boy who spoke so well was still just a boy.

“The man I arrived with is called Simon and he’s helping me get Donovan to the island.”

Gavin paused as one of the men from the living room called out to him. He listened for a few minutes, asked a single question and then turned back to Parker. She noticed one of the boys got up from the couch and headed out the door into the night.

“Why is he conversing with the man in the trees?”

Parker brought her attention back to Gavin. “Why is he what?”

“Your Simon, why is he talking with the man who was shooting at you from the trees?”

“How do you know he was doing this?” Parker demanded.

“The grapevine. It is very efficient. Before he contacted you on your radio he was seen talking to the man in the trees. We do not know what was said, because the one who saw him does not speak English.”

Did it matter what was being said? If Simon was talking to the man who had shot at her, then they were on the same side. It didn’t make sense to her. Parker had a pretty good idea who was lurking in the trees. He’d not shown up in Paris, but they hadn’t stayed there very long. Of course they’d been on Rarotonga an even shorter amount of time. And, if it was Seth, he’d gotten here pretty fucking speedily.

“Do you know who the man in the trees is and when he arrived here?”

“We do not know his name, but some of the people who have served him in his hotel do not like him. The lady at the front desk says that he is very strange. His eyes, they are not alive. Do you know what I mean?”

Parker nodded. She’d not looked Seth in the eyes, but she could well imagine that they were as cold and lifeless as he was.

“He arrived here almost two full days ago. He did not come on a scheduled flight. His plane is still waiting at the airport.”

So, Seth had a private plane to ferry him to and from the island. Talk about your nice perks. Had the agency floated the bill for that one, or had Seth decided the cost was worth it?

“He hid in the trees across from the airport until just a few hours ago.”

Parker jolted back from her thoughts. She stared at Gavin while his words sunk into her brain. Seth had been waiting for his chance to hit her and if Simon hadn’t whisked her away as quickly as he had, she’d be dead now.

“It makes no sense,” she muttered. Had Simon suffered from a change of heart? Was he telling Seth that he was on his own now? Could she trust Simon with her back?

“I need some answers,” she whispered, not caring who in the room understood her.

“What are the questions?” Gavin asked.

She smiled at the kid. No doubt, if she put the questions to him, his network could probably come up with something. But these answers had to come straight from the horse’s mouth.

“I need to get the answers from Simon. I need to determine if he’s on the same page as me. If we’re working toward the same goal here,” she clarified, when she saw Gavin’s confusion.

“You would trust this man?” Gavin asked, a skeptical look on his face.

“Not exactly,” she hedged. It was hard to explain her world to someone like Gavin. Though he didn’t seem to be fazed by mercenaries shooting at people in the alleys, the idea that she could work with someone she didn’t fully trust was far more difficult to process.

“My business is pretty solitary,” she tried to explain. “Sometimes we work with others, but it’s rare and we keep an eye on them at all times.” Except when she was sleeping with them and sleeping next to them, she admitted, but only to herself.

“You use them,” Gavin said.

“Yeah, pretty much,” she agreed. “Simon is an excellent extra pair of hands to have around. As long as I don’t get complacent and forget that he could strike at me, I’ll be fine.” God, she hoped that were true.

“Would Simon want to harm this tourist?” Gavin asked.

“No, he doesn’t want the change of power any more than I do.” She tried to still believe that.

“What are you going to do?” he asked.

Parker had no idea. She doubted she could find Donovan even with Simon’s assistance. Once she’d arrived on the island and seen the sheer size of it, she’d known that finding Donovan would be akin to finding the proverbial needle in the haystack. If he’d packed up supplies and gone to live in the jungle, they’d never be able to track him. But she had no other choice.

“I’m going back out there to find Donovan.” And if she ran into Simon, she’d have to determine his intent based off his actions. She only hoped it didn’t get her killed. He and Seth were either working together or, if not exactly together, they were assisting each other’s cause. Which begged the question, just what was Simon’s cause?


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