The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1) (7 page)

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
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I set my glass down and leaned forward. “Okay, so what am I up against?”

“This is interesting.” More keystrokes. “It looks like … for whatever reason, he’s only running a portion of his security. Must think that security guard at the front gate is enough to create an impression.” Malcolm shook his head. “He’s lazy. Installed that system when he built the house, but hasn’t run the full thing in over a year.” He turned to me with a grin. “Looks like it’s your lucky day.”

I snorted. “I hope you’re right.”

He spun the 3-D image around and we searched for a room that might hold relics. “There.” I pointed to a big room on the second floor. “Can you get more detail on that?”

He switched the view and pulled up the room’s security camera. I gripped the edge of his desk. Display cases and pedestals spread across the entire room, but the randomness of it was peculiar. I recognized some of the pieces from Mom’s reports as well as bits I’d stumbled across in Ralph’s boxes. “This is the room.”

He panned the camera. I wasn’t spotting the ring, but that didn’t mean anything. The images weren’t one hundred percent clear, and there were a lot there. I knew though that the piece was there. It had to be.

Together we studied the room. I frowned and leaned closer to the screen. “He doesn’t have any idea what these are. There’s no other reason he’d have such a mix of Muslim and Jewish and Christian artifacts beside each other like that. It’s as if he collects them for collection’s sake.” I sat back and crossed my arms. “Typical rich guy.”

“Yes, but that rich guy is standing between you and the next step, so you’re going to have to get in there and quickly.”

I sucked on my lower lip and pondered all the moving pieces. “This is insane. I’m going to get caught. But I think the piece is in there. The ring has to be in that collection.”

“You will get caught with that attitude.” He adjusted in the seat and winced.

“Are you hurt?” I hadn’t noticed when I’d first come in, too caught up in my own crap, but now I noticed the strain at the corners of his eyes and mouth. He moved again like he couldn’t get comfortable.

He waved away my concern. “My damn hip. I’ve put surgery off too long. They told me I won’t get another assignment until I get it fixed.”

I arched an eyebrow at him, just because they’d demanded it didn’t mean he was going to do it. “Did you bother calling a doctor yet?”

“Yes, dammit. I’m going in the morning. Dirty bastard is probably in cahoots with them.”

I smiled. “Maybe, but if you have to have it done...”

He grunted.

That wasn’t horrible news. I could deal with him going in for surgery. But he couldn’t get sick on me. That would put him out of commission for any further help on this project.

Malcolm reached over and patted my knee. “Work the facts. Find the holes. Watch your back.”

I sighed. I stood and brushed the legs of my pants. “Okay. I have to get on this.”

“Do the work, girl. Just do the work. Everything falls into place from there.” He hugged me. “But I am going with you.”

“Your hip, though.”

He waved a hand at me. “Hip, schmip. I’m not letting you do this one on your own.”

I knew better than to argue with the man who had raised me for the past fifteen years and taught me everything I knew. “We better get a move on, then.”

 

Chapter Twelve

 

I’d done my homework, but I didn’t feel any better about this. Not the settling calm like I felt when I went after a target. This felt disjointed, erratic, like we’d missed something. There shouldn’t be a reason for me to feel that way. We’d managed every single loose end. All I had to do was stroll in, find the piece, grab it, walk out.

My intuition guided me on every mission. When things didn’t seem right or a segment of intel didn’t feel right to anyone else, I trusted my gut and it had never let me down. To outsiders, I looked like a loose cannon, but my gut had never ever failed me. The trouble was that I couldn’t put my finger on the issue this time, so I had to go in with this abrasion rubbing me wrong.

Malcolm slowed the car two hundred yards from Dr. Felt’s and I rolled out. Armed with my favorite knives, I also had an earpiece that would keep me in contact with him. The plan was for him to cause a diversion on the far end of the estate that would draw the security guard away and then he’d cut the system in the house. There appeared to be nobody else there. The estate only employed two guards at night, one outside, and one inside. I knew the precision of the interior guard’s rounds, and we’d worked out timing that kept me on the far end of his route at all times.

I had more than enough time to get in and out without being spotted, as long as I could locate the relic. Maybe that’s what had me feeling sketchy. On the surveillance cam, we hadn’t found the ring yet. I had chalked that up to its size, lack of clean clarity, and the odd discombobulation that Felt had set up in his special “artifact” room.

I had faith, though.

The alarm would be back up and in place by the time he finished the circuit and if I was lucky, no one would even know the piece was missing until Felt came home….

And maybe not even then.

I jogged the last ten feet to the perimeter wall and eased around to the delivery gate, hiding behind thick shrubs. Once the system was off, this gate would electronically unlock. It was a terrible hole in the system, but one I was going to exploit like mad.

The earpiece crackled. “In position.”

I slowed my breathing and focused. This part was second nature to me and I was grateful for a space that didn’t hold a single memory. When I was working, nothing else existed. I was a machine.

Leaves rustled overhead and I breathed in the rich perfume of fresh-cut grass. Across the compound, tires squealed and I tensed. Malcolm’s distraction was in play. He’d flattened the rear driver’s-side tire before coming into view of the guard shack, timing it perfectly so he’d have a blowout at the main gates. Then he’d play up his age and deteriorating health to get the guard to help with the tire.

Guard One down.

Before exiting the car, he’d flip the remote on the alarm, disabling it.

I held my breath and waited for the—

Click.

The gates would only stay unlocked for ten seconds. I quickly checked to make sure I was still in the clear, then sprinted to the gates and slipped between the big metal doors.

Shadows stretched long across the delivery route and I sped toward the house. I wanted to be inside before the guard got Malcolm’s tire fixed. We knew it would take me forty-two seconds to get to the back entrance.

I made it in thirty-eight, jimmied the lock, and snuck inside. As expected, I stood in a large hub of the house. Tables and shelves lined the walls and the contents of the room sat in neatly labeled boxes and drawers—basically, it was the main storage room, where every delivery was catalogued and dispatched through the halls and doors splintering off the room to the other areas of the house.

The door closest led up a simple set of servant’s stairs and I took them quickly, wincing as the old wood groaned halfway up. At the top, I paused again, listening for anything that shouldn’t be here. The wide hallway was empty, save the pompous gleam of the rich floors oiled to perfection, paintings professionally lit and glowing in the darkness, high ceilings appropriately molded, domed skylights superbly gilded. Midway, the hallway opened up to the floor below and a gracious curve of stairs.

Across from those stairs was the closed door I needed.

I checked my watch. The guard was at the far end of the house, checking the windows and rooms in the master suite. I had four minutes and twelve seconds to locate and finish and get out of here.

In my ear, I heard Malcolm thank the guard. That didn’t worry me. I wanted Malcolm gone and at the rendezvous spot before I entered the room. I touched the knife at my hip, a subconscious check and an old habit. Then I stepped into the hallway and out of the shadows.

The power went out, squashing what little light I’d had in the hallway.

What the hell?

This wasn’t part of the plan. We didn’t have access to the main power for the house and wouldn’t have done anything with it if we had. I wanted that guard at the far end of the house to stay oblivious. Now he knew something was up and was scurrying this way.

I tapped my earpiece, but Malcolm stayed silent.

Shit!

I glanced over my shoulder at the empty staircase. If this were an assassination, I’d take my shot and get the hell out. But this wasn’t an assassination, this was a hundred miles outside my comfort zone. I had to get in that room. I moved further down the hall, scanning what I could as my eyes adjusted.

I passed the main stairs and a shadow crossed the moonlight filtering through the overhead skylight. I scrambled toward a table on the far side of the balcony and hid beside an ornate table and an obnoxiously large flower arrangement. The door teased me, fifteen feet away, across the wide-open expanse of polished floor. I should have taken my chances and rushed inside. Now I was just a sitting duck.

Movement toward the ceiling caught my eye and I pressed closer to the shadows against the wall. The scratch of glass cutters tensed my muscles and I watched the skylight.

A rappelling rope dropped through, followed immediately by a man.

Who the hell was this guy? No one was supposed to be here.

We’d done intel on top of intel.

Malcolm never failed, not like this.

I leaned closer for a better vantage point. It didn’t take any special skills to assess that this guy was a thief—and a professional.

Dressed in black with a sleek belt full of tools, he slid down the rope like a spider and landed on silent feet. A black beanie covered most of his hair, leaving his face free, but it was too dark to make out his features. I was lucky—had I not seen him come down, he’d have melted in the shadows and I’d have been ambushed. He crouched and pulled out a small flat device no bigger than an index card. I squinted but couldn’t figure out what it was or what it did. I shouldn’t be here wavering, I should be racing through that room, grabbing that ring, and getting out of here.

But he blocked both my exits and I couldn’t go out the windows without breaking a leg.

I may be an assassin, but I have a creed. I killed only bad people, and only ones I’d been hired to kill. I didn’t want this thief to force my hand. If things went bad, I’d rather run than kill an innocent, even if it meant I had to try again.

He lifted the device and panned it across the entire hallway. I froze. I really hoped that thing wasn’t a heat sensor or I was totally exposed. I couldn’t move or he’d see me.

My earpiece screeched and I jerked, digging in my ear to get it out. Malcolm must be trying to get the system figured out.

I looked up in time to see the thief pick me up on his device. His head jerked up and in a split second, he took off running.

Straight for me.

Instinct kicked in and I charged. He didn’t expect that and it gave me a tiny advantage. I hit him low in the belly and flipped him. We grappled. I punched. He kicked. Beneath my fists, his toned body deflected everything I gave him. I doubled the force of my punches, trying to get one to connect and slow him down.

He tried to put me in a chokehold. I slipped it and jammed a knee in his back, sending him flying. He scrambled across the floor and grabbed my ankle as I tried to kick him, making me stumble. I regained my balance and punched him in the face. He responded with a blow to the stomach and took off toward the room. I launched myself at him and took him down, wrapping my arm around his neck.

We traded the upper hand and my lungs burned as the fight took its toll. I needed to incapacitate him and get out of here. Interior security was going to do a sweep in less than a—

A device on his wrist chirped. “Dammit!” He punched me again and wrestled away. I gasped for air and gathered myself to attack him again. From a few feet away, he clicked off the alarm and shot a quick glance at the room, probably trying to figure out if he still had time to get in there.

I needed to take him out, now.

He grinned, bright white teeth shining in the soft glow of the hallway lights. His scruffy beard and blond curls sticking out from beneath his beanie conflicted with the sleek movements he’d displayed this far. Sparkling blue eyes belied the surprise of having me here, as if he were enjoying the challenge.

“You kind of screwed up my plan, sweetheart.”

I straightened and glared at him.

“I was here first.”

He bowed and extended an arm toward the room. “Be my guest.” He glanced at his chirping watch. “You have ten seconds to—”

“Hey!”

We spun. A security guard stood at the far end of the hallway, unholstering a weapon. He was too far away to take out. I lunged at the thief, punched and tripped him, then took off toward his rappelling rope. I leapt for it and scrambled up. I paused at the top, too curious not to take a look. He was furious. I’d gotten just enough jump on him and he knew it.

He took off in the other direction, then took a hard left. The guard didn’t know which one of us to chase and I was beyond pissed. I gathered up that bastard’s equipment and hauled it to the gate and slipped into the darkness, running to meet Malcolm.

BOOK: The Archangel Agenda (Evangeline Heart Book 1)
4.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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