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Adrenaline
  • Текст добавлен: 4 октября 2016, 23:23

Текст книги "Adrenaline"


Автор книги: Jeff Abbott


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54

I WATCHED THE GUN POINTED in my direction. “I just saved your life. If I wanted you dead, I could have shot you in the back when we were running to the van.”

“But I don’t know you. And you walk in and everything goes to hell.”

“Everything went to hell because of Nic turning against you. I gave him to you and everything that happened since then confirms he was trying to screw you over.”

“But I don’t know you.” Logic wasn’t his strong point. “I’ve lost everybody. Everybody.”

He was scared.

“Listen, Piet. I have a few friends in Amsterdam. Maybe you know them. Gregor, he used to run a watch shop in Prague, he’s living here now. He was a friend of Nic’s. We did a bit of business last year. Ask him about me.” I was gambling huge here that Gregor would play along. Welcome to the tightrope.

“I know Gregor. The watch geek. Who else? Give me another name. One is not enough.”

The only other person I knew was Henrik, the soft-spoken bartender at the Rode Prins, and I’d only talked with him once or twice. But—if he was smart, he could cover me. I had no idea if he knew what kind of work Mila and I did. And by giving Piet the Rode Prins, I was giving him my hiding place in Amsterdam. Mila would kick my ass.

But it didn’t matter if Piet tied me to the Rode Prins; he was going to die soon. “I drink at a place called the Rode Prins, on the Prinsengracht. You know it?”

“I had a drink there, once.”

“A bartender there, Henrik, he knows me.”

“And what’s your drink?”

“Usually beer.” Henrik had served me only once, but I’d drunk the beer on his recommendation. I held my breath. “I’m not real original.”

He worked his phone, presumably summoning up the Rode Prins number from an Internet search. He pressed the button so I could hear him make the call.

But to Piet, I was Peter Samson. I was just Sam to Henrik. This might not work.

Henrik’s voice came on. “Rode Prins.”

“Henrik, please.”

“This is he.”

“Henrik, this will sound very strange, but do you know a gentleman who goes by the name Samson who drinks there now and then? Not Dutch.”

A pause. A painfully long pause. The barrel of Piet’s gun felt screwed into my temple.

Henrik said, “Samson? You mean Sam?”

“Yes, is that what you call him?”

Thank God, thank God.

“Yes, everyone calls him Sam. Dark blond hair, tall, midtwenties.”

“Yes. What is he?”

“You mean what nationality is Sam? I don’t know. Wait. I saw him once take stuff out of his pocket to get his money, set it on the bar. His passport was Canadian. I remarked on it then.”

“Do you know what kind of work he does?”

“No idea. He is one of those who doesn’t talk much about himself. Is he in some kind of trouble?”

“No, he’s not. What does he like to drink there?”

“Heineken. And, you know, I have a business to run, and you sound like a goddamn stalker. You like Sam’s green eyes, maybe?” Henrik got a little edge going in his voice. “You want a date with him? He doesn’t swing that way as far as I can tell, but you could leave your number.”

Piet hung up. Silence stretched for five long seconds. “I like you don’t talk about what you do. I don’t like people who talk too much.”

He dialed another number. “Speak and you’re dead,” Piet said.

“Hello?” a voice said.

Gregor. I could be dead in the next ten seconds.



55

GREGOR. THIS IS PIET. DO you know a man named Samson?”

A pause that ripped my heart from my chest. “Yes. But not well.” Establishing that all-important distance. “He’s in town,” Gregor said.

“What does he do?”

“Um. I would describe it nicely as transport work.”

“And?”

“I don’t know what else. Muscle when needed: Sam’s dangerous in a fight.”

“Who did he work for when you knew him?”

“The Vrana brothers, but they’re dead now. Pissed off their partners and got axed in the bathroom. He worked with Djuki, too.”

“Is Sam reliable or not?”

“Reliable. Kind of a know-it-all. But he can move all sorts of goods. He had inside contacts at legit shippers. Made things easier.”

I could feel the air give in my chest, a hollow breath. Gregor was repeating words he believed to be true.

“Thank you, Gregor. How are things?”

“Fine but slow. Do you think people don’t wear watches so much with their phones telling them the time now?”

Piet didn’t answer his question. “I can throw some major business your way. Very soon.”

“Good. Okay.” Now I could hear the tension in Gregor’s voice, the eagerness to be done with the conversation.

“Thank you, Gregor. We’ll speak soon.” Piet clicked off the phone. The barrel stayed in place.

“What the hell more do you want? A résumé?”

Now I pulled the car over to the side of the road, earning a honk from a truck behind me. I turned to look at him.

Piet was scared to death.

This stone-cold mother was in deep trouble. He’d lost his ally, who had betrayed him to an unseen enemy. He’d lost his distribution point for a lot of counterfeit goods and his slave trade. He’d lost two men that he’d counted on. He’d lost a warehouse full of goods and slaves that his clients would be expecting him to move. He had just lost a great deal of money. He’d been made by Nic, and he was being chased. This on top of the Turk blaring his name around town. Piet was rapidly becoming a liability, and he knew it.

“It’s gonna be okay, Piet. Chill.” And I carefully pushed the gun so that it was aimed at the van’s floorboards and not my body.

He let me.

“You don’t want to tell your boss about the day going bad,” I said.

“Shut the hell up and let’s go have a beer. At that Rode Prins.”



56

WE STEPPED INTO DE RODE PRINS. It wasn’t too busy; a group of young men sat at the biggest table, laughing, drinking beer, talking sports. A woman sat by herself, sipping lager, studying a guidebook to the city. In the back, a group of Scottish tourists downed beers in the corner and munched on plates of cheese, sausage, and fried lumps of something mysterious; an older man in a nice suit sat at the far end of the bar with a small glass of jenever, reading a newspaper. I could love the Rode Prins because it truly was a quiet neighborhood bar. From the wall, the red-splattered prince looked down on us all.

No sign of Mila. Henrik stood behind the bar and I gave him the slightest of nods.

“Some guy’s looking for you,” Henrik said.

I raised a thumb toward Piet. “My friend. He found me.”

Henrik nodded. Piet ordered two Heinekens for us; we sat at the opposite end of the bar from the man in the suit.

Dilemma, I thought, as Henrik brought us our beers. Piet seemed calmer. He needed me, badly. He was on my turf now, and I could beat him senseless, haul his sorry ass upstairs and question him hard for the location of the gang. And then I would probably kill him, since I could hardly hand him to the police while I still had work to do. But right now, with an infiltration and an attack on his resources, Edward might scramble, run to distant corners, and take Yasmin Zaid with him. I needed Piet alive, and I needed him as camouflage.

“Not a good day for you,” I said in a low whisper.

Piet sipped at his beer. He should have been running straight back to his boss Edward. But no one likes to be the bearer of bad news.

I began my slow squeeze. “I can see the mess you’ve landed in. You’ve got your regular business here. Maybe Nic helps you forge documents on his computer. You make most of your money from the women, moving them from eastern Europe to here. And you got hired for a truly big job, with this Edward dude. You broke out of your comfort zone, having to get goods to America.”

He glanced at me.

“Why do you think I left Prague all of a sudden? Man, I’ve been there.” I shook my head, sipped at the beer. I had killed two men less than an hour ago and now I sat in a bar, drinking. They’d never feel the cool comfort of beer in their mouths again. Fine. They’d made their choices. If I hadn’t killed them, innocents would have died. I wasn’t going to dwell on what I’d done. I wasn’t proud of it, either; it was what it was. But it was important that Piet think I was as awful as he was. My hand didn’t shake as I picked up the beer glass. It stayed steady.

“Edward isn’t going to take this news well, is he?”

“No.”

“And he doesn’t fire people.”

“No.”

“What is he like?”

Piet considered. “Very smart but he’s a dick. He’s English. He mentioned once he used to act, on the stage, I don’t know where, maybe in some backwater. Expert forger—I think he might have worked in intelligence once. He’s good at getting people to follow him. Talks like he was raised around money. He throws money around, too.”

“How do you know so much? He should keep his mouth shut.”

“Edward likes to be the most important man in the room. That often involves bragging.”

Time to play. “You might have to fire him.”

“Fire him?”

“You know, some clients interfere with profitability. That’s what happened in Prague. I fired clients who tried to screw me over.”

He laughed. “And now you’re running.”

“No, I’m laying low. It was best that if I didn’t want to be fired from this good, sweet world that I relocate for a bit.”

“Why are you telling me this?”

“Because I know how a guy like Edward works. He’s got critical goods he needs moved. They want to use our networks, our connections, because they need us. But if the job goes wrong, they don’t hesitate to kill us.” I felt like I was slipping entirely into a new skin; I finished my beer, gestured at Henrik for another round. “The point is, we’re businessmen, and guys like Edward are bigger trouble than they’re worth.”

“I can’t fire this guy. It would bring so much heat on me.”

“I wasn’t suggesting you should,” I lied. “You just have to be prepared for every eventuality.”

“When I tell him what happened—”

“The fact you’ve waited is going to piss him off,” I said. Right now I needed to be the voice of reason, someone Piet could trust. “He might run.”

“No. The job is too important to him.”

“And the job is what?”

His gaze slid back to me.

“How many friends do you have left, Piet?”

“Lots.”

“And I’m sure, now that this Edward might be gunning for you, they’ll be lining up to help.”

He let the sarcasm hang in the air for a long moment. “Why would you help me?”

“Money. I’m very predictable. And hell, man, I’m sort of deep in this now.”

“If I don’t do this job, I have not so much money. I need it. Badly.”

I wasn’t particularly interested in his financial woes. These guys were all the same: big risks, big payoffs, and they blew it on bling and expensive girlfriends. “Here’s the deal. You’re crippled right now. I still have my resources to help you move what the mystery meat is that you’re shuttling for this Edward guy. You’ve lost your team, you’ve lost some of your capital. You take me on as a partner, just for this job. I get half.”

“Half!” Red crawled into his cheeks and he didn’t bother to keep his voice down. The Scots and the old man glanced at us.

“Half,” I whispered. “I’m pulling your fat from the fire.”

“You underestimate me, Sam, very badly.” The words were stone cold.

“I think I’m estimating your sorry-ass position just fine. Good luck with Edward. And good luck with the police, or Dutch intel, or whoever’s gunning for you. Between those two, I predict a week full of puppies and rainbows for you, asshole.” I tossed euros on the counter, got up to leave. If he stayed, I would grab him when he walked out and haul his ass upstairs and let him see what a grieving husband and father could do to mortal flesh.

He let me take five steps before he spoke. “I’ll give you thirty percent.”

“Forty-five.”

“Forty,” he hissed. “I set up the job, I’ve done most of the work. You’re just helping me reach completion. Forty.”

I needed to let him win the battle. “All right, forty percent.”

He risked a smile at me; it was the same smile he’d given the captive women and it took a certain amount of self-control not to slam my beer glass into the shine of his crooked teeth.

“Then you deserve to know who we’re fighting.” He made his voice low.

“Yes.”

“It’s not the police. It’s a man. Bahjat Zaid.”

“I know that name.”

He raised an eyebrow.

“Military equipment manufacturer; I read the Economist, you know.” I risked a frown. “Did you counterfeit his goods? Rip him off?”

“Not me. He has a grudge against Edward.”

“Legit business types don’t hire gunmen.”

“Zaid does.”

So true. “And this respectable businessman’s trying to derail your big job?” I wanted to know if he would confide in me about Yasmin. “Why doesn’t he just call the cops?”

“He has his reasons.”

I took a sip of my beer. “What are you smuggling to the United States?”

“Can’t tell you.”

“Piet, I have to know. I can’t get it packaged and shipped without knowing. Be reasonable.”

His need to trust me won out. “Military equipment.”

“What kind?”

“Electronics.”

I didn’t like this vagueness but I wasn’t sure he’d tell me more, not in a public place. “What kind?”

“Experimental. Zaid has his reasons for keeping the police out.”

“What reasons?”

Piet finished his beer, watched the remaining suds inch down the empty glass.

What mattered was getting Piet and Edward and their group all together. I had to work that angle relentlessly.

So. Put the edge of the knife against Piet’s fears. “So you’re in a mess. You’re moving counterfeit cigs to the U.S., and you’re hiding Edward’s secret military experimental equipment inside the shipments. Now you’ve lost your cigarettes and your means of smuggling Edward’s gear.”

Piet clenched his eyes. “I’m screwed, and I don’t like being screwed.”

“So. We need goods to ship, to serve as camouflage for whatever Edward wants to get into America.”

“Yes.” For a moment he looked like a stressed owner of a small business, worrying over his accounts payable and an anemic cash flow.

“I have a solution.” One, I thought, that would get me close to Edward and Yasmin and the rest of the group.

“What?”

“We steal replacements.”

“Replacements?”

“Yes. Hijack a load of goods. Preferably counterfeit; that way, whoever you rob won’t go to the police and we ship whatever secret stuff Edward wants in the U.S. in the stolen goods containers.”

“It is a bold thing to steal a freight shipment.”

“Easiest thing in the world, if you know how to do it. But you and I can’t do it alone. This Edward guy, he must have people, yes?”

“Yes.”

“Then we need them.”

“They are not robbers.”

“Neither am I, but circumstance dictates. Do they want to get this electronic gear, whatever it is, to the U.S.?”

“Yes.”

“What is the gear?”

He leaned close to me. I could smell his deodorant, the soft stench of his scent, the beer on his breath. “Weapons.”

“Weapons. For who?”

“Not your concern.”

“What kind?”

“Terrible ones,” Piet said.

I said nothing for a long, long minute, let the conversation in the other parts of the Rode Prins rise and fall. Then:

“Define terrible,” I said. “Unlike you, I don’t bite off more than I can chew.” I had to play my part right, and it was okay to be scared of the enormity of a job.

“You can’t back out now.”

“Are you going to tell me the N word?”

“N word?”

“Nuclear.”

“Oh, my God,” Piet laughed. “Oh, no. No.” He laughed again. “No.”

“I need details.”

“Before I give you details, I need to talk with Edward.”

“Fine. I need to talk with Edward, too.”

“Why?”

“Because I blew Nic’s cover and I saved all your asses. I want payment. I want my slice of this, Piet. I’m getting shot at and I deserve a stake in this deal.” I made my words a hiss. Apply the pressure, I thought, crack him. Crack him now. Make the world an anvil falling from the sky in a twisted cartoon to obliterate his head. “I don’t share a bit of information on the shipments until I talk to this Edward and his people. Not a bit.”

I could sense the desperation coming off him. A dozen telling signs: in the flick of the tongue on his lips, in the way he held the heavy glass. This was a man not easily rattled and he was rattled, badly, by the thought of failing Edward.

He didn’t speak, so I asked, “When was your shipment supposed to arrive in Rotterdam?”

“Morning after tomorrow.”

“Then we don’t have much time, do we?” Tomorrow wasn’t enough time to plan a robbery, but I hoped that their desperation would be as great as mine.

“Edward does not rush. Ever. He will not be rushed by my deadline.”

In the mirrored wall of the bar, I saw Mila walk past us. She did not look at us; but she caught Piet’s eye.

He watched her pass with an appreciation that made my bones go cold. “That’s a prime little number.”

“Three or five?”

“Huh?”

“Little prime number. What, you don’t like math jokes?”

“Math only exists for money.”

Mila vanished through a door into the back of the Rode Prins. I wanted to talk to her, now, find out what had happened.

He finished his beer. “Come with me, Sam.”

I didn’t want to leave but I set my beer down. “Where are we going?”

“You want to meet Edward, you shall meet Edward. Let’s go.”

Finally. It would happen. I was going in unarmed, but I’d face the scarred man. Find my wife and my child.

Henrik watched us leave. I wondered if Mila was going to tail me again. But I never looked behind me to see. I couldn’t have Piet becoming suspicious.



57

I SAW HIM.” HOWELL STOOD in the quiet of the safe house in Amsterdam. Outside the spring light danced on the shallow waters of the Herengracht; bicyclists pedaled by slowly, savoring the lovely day. He could smell gunfire and blood as if it were burned into his clothes. “I saw Sam Capra. He fired on us. He left behind a warehouse full of goods that I suspect are stolen or counterfeit, and a room full of women I suspect are bound for sex slavery.”

“There has to be a reasonable explanation,” August said. A Company doctor was tending to his arm. He winced as the doctor closed a stitch.

“I think he went rogue long before his wife died. Has it occurred to anyone that he was the bad guy, not her? That Lucy wasn’t the driving force behind him turning traitor?” Howell said. “I appreciate your loyalty to him. But I am telling you, August, that it is misplaced and misspent on Sam Capra.”

“Or he thinks these people know where his wife is.”

“He shot at my men.”

“Did you see that?”

Howell hesitated. “No.”

August thanked the doctor, who left without a word. Then he turned to Howell. “Novem Soles.”

“What?”

“You asked him about the words Novem Soles. Is it a group? Could these people be it?”

“These people are apparently cheap traffickers. I doubt they’ve endowed themselves with some grand Latin name.”

“What’s Novem Soles, Howell?”

Howell crossed his arms. “A term heard mentioned on some monitored lines tied to criminal rings, or to government officials who were on the take. I don’t know if it’s a group, or a code name for a person, or what it is.”

“That dead man in Brooklyn had a tattoo of a stylized nine and a sun. Novem soles, nine suns. I didn’t sleep through Latin.”

“Maybe Sam Capra was working with these people on the bombing, and now they want him dead. Or maybe he’s turned against us since we let him walk.”

“We’ve thrown him away; are you surprised he’s landed with trash?” August said.

“The hard, awful truth is that the only survivors of the London office are the Capras. Someone recruited either Lucy or Sam, or both of them. They killed our people. They attacked us with impunity. That’s what’s unacceptable. He’s acting like a criminal. Pretty it up how you want it, August, but he’s a criminal, too.”

“You told him that you had proof he was innocent.”

“I lied,” Howell said. “It was a considered decision to let him go, to see what he did.”

“Then let’s use our contacts in the underworld here. Ferret him out. I’ll talk to him.”

“You,” Howell said, “are going home, soon as we can get you a plane.”

“Sir, don’t. Let me stay.”

“You’ve been shot, Agent Holdwine. Go home.”

“You’re going to kill Sam,” August said.

“Only if he tries to kill me,” Howell said.

“Sir, I request permission to stay. My injury is not that serious, and—”

“Permission denied. Get some rest, August. Read a good book, watch TV. You’ve earned some quiet.”

Howell walked out, shutting the door behind him. On the other side of the door, August considered. He still had the spare phone in his pocket, the number that he’d given to Sam in case someone came after him back in Brooklyn. It had never been used. He felt bad that Sam hadn’t called him after the attack in his apartment. Either Sam didn’t trust him, August thought, or he liked him too much to get him involved. But he still had a few hours in Amsterdam to hope for the phone to ring.


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