Read Thin Line Online

Authors: L.T. Ryan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Murder, #Spies & Politics, #Assassinations, #Terrorism, #Thriller, #Thrillers, #Mystery & Thrillers

Thin Line (10 page)

BOOK: Thin Line
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She closed her eyes and exhaled deeply. The hair hanging to the side of her mouth puffed up and fell again like dying fireworks.

"What do you say?" I said.

She nodded, then leaned forward and kissed me. Pulling back, she asked, "Did you lock that door?"

I shook my head. Then I hopped over the bar and crossed the room. By the time I'd switched the latch, cut the lights, and turned back toward her, Clarissa
had her shirt off. I met her behind the bar once again, traced the curves of her soft flesh. And we sank to the floor and into one another.

A while later, I pulled the front door open. The smell of the city rode in on a cold gust. It might have been an improvement from the moldy entryway.
Clarissa's footsteps rose over the sounds of the street. I turned to see her standing a couple feet away.

"Will you be around tonight?" she said.

"If I am, I'll come by. What time are you working until?"

"I'll be back here at six and am staying until closing, or whatever time I kick the last loser out."

I smiled, kissed her, and then merged onto the crowded sidewalk, thinking I'd make it the next few blocks back to the apartment undisturbed.

I was wrong.

 

Chapter 16

THE BLACK CADILLAC that pulled to a stop ten feet in front of me had a deep dent in the fender and a series of scratches that continued past the front
door. Three men sat inside. They ranged from size extra-large to behemoth. The driver's door swung open and a guy wearing dark sunglasses and a leather
trench coat stepped out. His boot-covered left foot sunk into a slushy pothole. He didn't seem to care. Foot fully extracted, he peeled back one side of
his coat and revealed a pistol sunk into his waistband.

About that time, the front and rear passenger doors opened. One of the men looked like the first. I recognized the third guy.

"Don't bother running, Jack," Charles said. He glanced over the roof of the car and nodded at the driver, who took a step forward, reached out, and opened
the back door.

"I'll pass," I said. "Only a couple blocks to go."

"Get in," Charles said.

Taking my eyes off the men would be the worst thing I could do at that moment.

I did it anyway.

The bar's door remained closed. The blinds were drawn over the windows. Clarissa had no idea what was happening a few feet away from her establishment.

By the time I turned around, Charles's second henchman had rounded the trunk and was heading toward me.

"Don't think about it," Charles said at the same time my reflexes kicked in. "You may get him, but we'll get you. And not a single person out here will
admit to seeing anything."

I said nothing.

"I can see you're thinking hard on this. Let me make it easy for you, Jack. My boss wants to meet you. He's heard good things. I tried to dissuade him and
told him what a piece of trash you are. Despite that, he still wants to meet you. And he gave me the unfortunate displeasure of coming out here to get
you."

It was difficult to get a read on the man. His eyes were hidden behind mirrored sunglasses, and a thick layer of stubble covered his chin and cheeks. He
stuck his right arm over the roof and motioned toward his driver, who turned and slid into the car to his position behind the wheel. The guy who'd come
toward me from the rear of the vehicle also spun around and went back to his seat.

"See, Jack," Charles said. "Just come along for the ride. If you like what the Old Man has to say, you can cut a deal with him. If you don't, you'll be
free to walk out, and walk back home." He glanced at my waist, then back up. His gaze drifted past me. "You can keep your piece on you until we get to the
compound. Fair enough?"

As far as choices went, I had one. Go with him. It was obvious where I had been. They had probably been parked a block away waiting for me to leave the
bar. Perhaps she'd tipped them off. Or maybe they'd been watching me all morning.

A group of grade school kids approached, led by their teacher. I waited until they passed, then I stepped off the sidewalk, over a pothole full of ice and
water, and slipped inside the vehicle, taking a seat in the back next to henchman number two. It smelled like three sweaty guys and bagels in the cabin.

Charles sat down a moment later. The vehicle dipped to the right under his weight. The driver pulled away from the curb before the big man had managed to
slam his door shut.

"Guys," he said, "this is Jack. Jack, these are my guys."

No one spoke.

"Glad you listened to reason," Charles continued. "I don't know what you've heard about the Old Man, but I can tell you, his reach is long and wide these
days. In fact, I bet he knows a lot of the same people as you. You'd be surprised how much influence he has in certain circles."

Our stares met in the mirror centered in the sun visor. He lifted an eyebrow, inviting me to speak.

I didn't.

The route took us through Long Island City, to Sunnyside, and finally to Blissville. We entered a part of the city I'd never seen before, except maybe from
the air, and even then I wouldn't have been looking for it. The area we drove through was residential that bled into a warehouse district. The driver
navigated to the heart of the neighborhood. I spotted a few guys hanging on street corners. Some might figure them to be drug dealers, or perhaps spotters
for the dealers. They weren't. These guys had a look about them, the same look I'd seen on men I'd worked with while in the Marines and SIS.

These guys were trained killers. Some might have been ex-Special Forces. Some former soldiers who'd done time in Iraq or the 'Stan. Work was work, and it
wasn't uncommon to take whatever job came along.

"You spotted them," Charles said.

I nodded without looking in his direction. "Guess we're close."

"Yup."

The compound rose in front of us. It was two stories high, and between the structure and the land, it occupied an entire block. I wondered how they'd
managed to accomplish building something so massive in the area. How many people had they displaced to do so? A block this size could have housed fifty or
so families. The Old Man had connections, that much I knew. He must've called in more than a few favors to get the plans approved.

A black wrought-iron gate slid open, parting at the middle. The Cadillac bounced as it crossed from asphalt to concrete. Two men were positioned on either
side inside the fence. They were not bashful about putting their HK MP5s on display.

I swept the visible area looking for additional sentries and surveillance equipment. I found some of each: men positioned by the doors, on the roof, and on
the lawn; cameras mounted along the roof every twenty feet.

It was safe to assume that the Old Man was paranoid and believed in security. And, presumably, he had plenty of enemies, as well as friends who couldn't be
trusted.

We followed the driveway toward the rear of the house and came to a stop in front of a four-car garage. The driver cut the engine, and Charles stepped out.
The man in the back next to me remained seated. His gaze was fixed on the headrest in front of him.
Good doggie. Here's your treat.
Charles
disappeared behind the Cadillac. In my peripheral vision, I saw his meaty hand appear, then the door pop open.

"Let's go," Charles said.

I stuck one foot on the ground. Then someone grabbed hold of my elbow and pulled. I rotated my arm outward, clockwise, grabbed their forearm, and continued
in a clockwise motion. Whoever had grabbed my arm groaned in pain and released their grasp. I didn't give up so easy, though. I continued until the guy was
on his knees, face planted against the blanched concrete.

"That's enough," Charles said. "You don't need to be making enemies on your first day, Jack."

I released the man's arm and rose. The take-down had drawn the attention of several of the Old Man's sentries. I ignored the barrels aimed in my direction.

"Follow me." Charles waved toward the door. "They're going to pat you down inside." He glanced over his shoulder at me and smiled, then added, "It won't be
the first time, I'm sure. Just let them take your weapon. They'll lock it up and hold it until you leave. Any questions?"

I said nothing. Caught up with Charles on the walkway.

He stopped short of the door. It opened. A thick black man took its place. The guy was even bigger than Charles. After a big dinner they'd likely need to
grease him down to get him out. He was armed with an HK MP5, like everyone else, it seemed. He motioned me forward with the barrel of his submachine gun.

As I crossed the threshold, two sets of hands grabbed and pulled me in. I offered no resistance. There was no point. I'd been through the drill before.
These guys used more intimidation, but I didn't let it get to me. The less I resisted, the rougher they got. They kicked my legs wide. Twisted on my arms
until I submitted and planted my face against the wall. They did as Charles said, and confiscated my Beretta and locked it up.

Charles had come in while they were patting me down. He waited halfway down the hall. He turned and walked away the moment the large black man shoved me
forward.

"Hope to return the favor one day," I said to the trio who remained by the door.

"Bet that was the best date your ugly mug has had in quite a while," Charles said after I'd caught up to him. "Probably better looking than that skank you
hang out with at the bar."

I ignored his goading. In here, unarmed, a swing at him was all it would take for me to get fitted for concrete boots. I had no doubt an underground tunnel
led out of the compound and came up more than a few blocks away.

"Guess you're in agreement with my assessment of the bartender," he said.

"Don't use big words," I said. "Just makes you look even dumber."

He chuckled. "I think you and I are gonna be good friends, Jack."

"Don't count on it."

He stopped in front of paned French doors. Curtains on the inside blocked the view of the room behind.

"I'm not, Jack." Charles wrapped a hand around my shoulder. "You can count on that."

He rapped on the door with the thick knuckles of his left hand. They were scarred and permanently swollen, probably from years of cracking heads and
turning wrenches.

"What?" a thin voice called from inside the room.

"It's Charles, Boss. I brought Jack Noble in to see you."

I heard the sound of a cup or mug being set down on a table. The floor reverberated slightly, matching the footsteps I heard approaching from the other
side of the room. The doors swung inward. A slim Asian man in an Armani suit stood before me. He smiled, revealing crooked yellow teeth. The color matched the
whites of his eyes. His irises were clouded over. Spots adorned his cheeks. A Marlboro burned at the end of his fingertips, the smoke rising up his arm and
circling his neck and head.

"Jack Noble," he said, extending a bony hand. "What a surprise."

 

Chapter 17

THE ONLY SURPRISE was that a plastic sheet hadn't been spread across the floor in anticipation of my visit.

The Old Man took a step back. His grin widened as he opened his arms and gestured me inside the room. Charles slid his hand to the middle of my back. The
shove he gave me knocked me off balance for a second. I had to step forward to regain it, placing me inside the room before I had a chance to survey the
entire space.

"Have a seat, Mr. Jack," the Old Man said. He aimed a bony finger toward an overbearing mahogany desk, the kind of thing you'd expect to see in a monarch's
study.

Before I took a step, he turned his back on me and crossed the room. The doors shut. I glanced back over my shoulder. Charles had gone, leaving me alone
with the Old Man. I felt my chances of survival rise by a few notches.

"Sit, sit," he said, already settled into a plush leather chair.

I pulled back a seat and sank into it. It'd take me twice as long to get out of it should danger present itself. That was likely the purpose. It also
allowed the Old Man to sit almost a head higher than anyone across the desk from him.

"I'm sure you're wondering why I brought you here," he said.

"You want me to work for you."

Smiling, he grabbed a stack of papers and evened them out by tapping the edges against his desktop. The blank sides faced me. I couldn't tell what was
written on them. He set them to the side and placed his hands on the desk, palms down, tips aimed at me.

"I can get anyone to work for me, Mr. Jack. What I need is someone who can kill for me. And not just kill - because, as you can see, I have plenty of
firepower at my disposal, including men who have killed for a living as long as you've been alive." He cocked his head and narrowed his eyes. "Thirty,
right?"

"Just turned."

"Congratulations." His smile lingered for a moment. He continued. "I need someone who can get in and out, neutralize any target, and do so without leaving
a trace of evidence behind."

"I'm not your man."

"Someone who is self-sufficient, can cross borders, and has or can get contacts in those countries."

"I'm not your man."

He smiled, briefly, and diverted his eyes to the stack of papers. He looked up, said, "You're having trouble locating a target. Isn't that correct?"

I said nothing.

"Not only that," he continued, "but you also lost a corpse. One that has been determined to also dabble in the art of black operations. Dreadful."

I said nothing.

"I'll take your silence as an affirmative response."

Murmurs from the hall found their way into the room. The whispers didn't seem to distract the Old Man. He kept his focus on me. I couldn't flinch without
him reacting.

"I may be able to help you, Mr. Jack. Of course, in doing so, I'll expect something from you as well."

"Of course."

His smile returned. Those yellow teeth were the gatekeepers to a calloused heart. There was ice behind his cloudy eyes. He was as comfortable in his
two-thousand-dollar suit as he would be in sweats, issuing commands to street thugs. He might not pull the trigger now, but at one time he had, and enjoyed
it. At once, I felt equal parts hatred and kinship with the guy.

BOOK: Thin Line
6.31Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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