Free Story: The Hitman Chronicles: Rumors of War – Chapter 7
Oceanport, New Jersey
Once a month since he’d been gone Kevin – his friend since they were in the foster home together – sent a security team out to check his house. And once a quarter he sent a cleaning crew to keep the place in shape.
When he called Kevin and told him he was coming back, Kevin sent both groups out to give the house a good once over. He’d even had the refrigerator and cabinets stocked with food. So when Duncan returned to his New Jersey home, it was as if he’d been gone overnight instead of for over two years.
He was in his basement gym this morning, stretching and pondering the situation.
He had to choose between the lesser of two evils. It would be safer to meet with Nikki in a public place. She’d be less likely to try something, if that was her plan, in public. He wasn’t worried about himself. But he was worried about Simone. He wished she was back in North Carolina with Maisha, where she’d be safe.
His niece was good. He knew that because he’d trained her himself. She could fight, no doubt. She’d kick the average dude’s ass without breaking a sweat. But firearms were really her thing. She was better with a firearm than anyone he’d ever known.
But when it came to killing, that was Nikira’s thing. Nikira was a pure killing machine. She could use her body, a firearm, a blade or damn near any object as an instrument of death.
So it would be safer for Simone if they met with Nikira in public.
But meeting in public, especially to plan a job, went against everything he and Nikira were trained to do. They existed in the shadows, and when it was time to work they reached out from those shadows, delivered death and blended back into the darkness.
The other option was to meet in private and hope that Nikira was on the level. Anything was possible with her. But the fact that she’d turned over two million dollars to him with no chance of getting it back was a good sign that she was being straight.
By the time he was done with his stretching routine he’d made his decision.
Simone was at the other side of his basement gym, standing in front of the wall mirror. She had double shoulder holsters strapped on, and was fooling around, playing quick draw against her reflection with .9 millimeter semi-automatics. As he watched, she drew the guns with blurring speed, tossed them in the air, spun around, caught them and dry-fired at her reflection.
“If this was a hundred years ago and you were in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show that would be cute,” he said. “But it’s not practical.”
“I know – I’m just messing around,” she said. She looked at him, hard. “Are you okay, Uncle Duncan? I’ve never seen you like this…so tense.”
He looked back at his niece. He remembered when she was an innocent little girl, before the same fate that had befallen him – losing his parents as a child – had befallen her. She was still innocent, in that she hadn’t yet taken a life. It broke his heart that it might very well happen in the near future. He didn’t want her to be like him. But if she was going to be a part of this he’d rather she kill somebody else than be killed.
“Simone, everything I’ve taught you, you need to be ready to apply today, and until this is over,” he said. “People are going to die. I know you understand that that was part of my life once. But it’s not a part of your life. People are going to die, and I don’t want one of them to be you.”
Simone came to him and hugged him. “I love you Uncle Duncan,” she said. “I’ve got your back just like I know you have my back. Nothing comes between blood. So I’ll be ready for whatever. I promise.”
“Then I need you to be sharp; focused. I’m getting ready to call Nikira and set up this meeting, for today.”
“Cool. Where are we going to meet?”
“Right here,” he said, “in my house.”
“Are you serious?”
“It’s not like we’re trying to hide from her. And she knows this is my house. She’s been here before. She attacked a Federal agent right upstairs.”
Simone went back to the spot in the basement at which she’d been practicing. She picked up two magazines and slapped them into the receivers of her pistols. She said, “Well then, I guess play time is over.”
Oceanport, New Jersey
Late Thursday Morning
“She’s here,” Duncan said.
They were in the foyer, watching through the window when the Mustang pulled into his driveway. Nikira got out of her car wearing jeans and sneakers and a snug fitting tee-shirt. Duncan figured she was likely trying to show that she was unarmed by not wearing anything bulky. That didn’t mean shit.
“I don’t want you close to her,” he said to Simone. “If she tries something, let her try me. You just shoot.”
Simone didn’t reply. Instead she opened the front door, stepped back to the far side of the foyer and drew both .9 millimeters. She aimed them at the door.
Good, Duncan thought. Be ready. He moved away from the window.
He didn’t hear her footsteps on the porch but suddenly she was there, standing in his doorway.
Nikira looked at him, and then at Simone. To his niece she said, “I don’t think you’d recognize me if I wasn’t at the end of your gun barrel.”
“I need to search you,” he said.
Nikira looked back at him. She smiled and said, “Do you want me naked again? I don’t mind, really.”
“I’m glad you’ve got jokes,” he said.
“I’ll do it,” Simone said. “I’ll search her.”
Nikira smiled at Simone. She said, “I just decided that I don’t like you.”
Duncan had an image of Nikira striking out at Simone as she frisked her. All it would take is one quick blow from Nikira and his niece would be dead. “Just cover her,” he said to Simone.
Nikira smiled at him as he ran his hands over her tee-shirt, checking for blades, razors and wires. He tried not to think about her body, tried to ignore that she wasn’t wearing a bra under the thin cotton.
“Duncan, I’m sorry my nipples are so hard,” Nikira said. “It’s really cold out. Or, maybe it’s your hands. You were always so good with your hands. Yes, it’s definitely your hands.”
He heard Simone mutter, “Jesus.”
He glared into Nikira’s eyes so he wouldn’t look at her chest. She glared back, trying to look mean, but couldn’t hold it. A wide grin broke out on her face. Her smile was genuine. In her smile he saw the nineteen year-old girl he’d once known. The girl he’d made love with.
“Take your sneakers off and turn around,” he said. Nikira complied, and he checked the back of her shirt. It would have been easier if she were naked. Then he wouldn’t have to get close to her, to feel her up. But then, she’d be naked. He’d had enough of that last night. He pushed the memory of her pale-gold skin under starlight out of his head.
His gut told him that this body search wasn’t necessary, that Nikira was being straight. But he couldn’t afford to take chances, not where she was concerned. No matter how she seemed now, he couldn’t forget that woman he’d fought with two years ago.
He squatted behind her and ran his hands quickly along her legs, trying to ignore the way she pushed her bottom back at him in subtle invitation. A sudden memory of her ass, naked and glowing with sweat, and her voice whispering in fevered urgency what she wanted him to do to it invaded his mind. In his mind’s eye he saw again their little apartment in Fussa City. He remembered the twin-sized bed that they shared for a year. For a time they’d been so close that sometimes it felt that they were one person in two bodies.
Duncan forced the memory away. He thought about the shrieking killer with madness in her black eyes charging at him in the rain.
He ran his hand up the inside of her thigh. Her jeans were tight. It was unlikely that she had anything hidden in their crotch. Rather than grasp her there he let his hand brush quickly over the denim between her legs and then took it away.
“Ooh yes, baby, please don’t stop,” Nikira cooed, and then threw her head back and laughed.
“I swear I’m gonna shoot this bitch,” Simone said.
Duncan stood up and said, “Okay, let’s go work this thing out.”
She briefed them that the mansion in Northwestern New Jersey was a brothel operated by the Solntsevskaya. The job was to take out the targets while they were all in the house, in one attack.
They were in his dining room. Nikira brought 8×10-inch floor plan images with her, and they had them spread out on the large table.
“The targets meet here on Sunday morning,” Nikira explained, indicating a room in the floor plan. “That’s the office of Viktor Mogilevich. They’ll be dividing the week’s proceeds. The money has to stay. It belongs to higher ups in the organization, and they want it. That’s part of the deal. But all the men in the room have to die.”
“What about the call girls and customers?” Simone asked.
Duncan was proud that Simone voiced the question he was about to ask.
“Only three girls work on Sunday morning,” Nikira said. “My contact will make sure that the night’s customers are gone, and she’ll get the girls out of the house. We’ll approach through the woods at the rear of the property. My contact will have the walk-out basement door open. But then we have to move quickly. Some of these assholes like to close out their party by jumping the girls.”
“Are there security cameras?” Duncan asked.
“Yes, but my contact will deactivate them.”
“How reliable is your contact?” Duncan asked.
Nikira looked at him. “If these men don’t die, especially Viktor Mogilevich, then she will.” She slid a photograph out from under the images. “This is Mogilevich,” she said. “Don’t sacrifice efficiency, but if at all possible, leave him to me. I want him.”
Looking into her eyes now, Duncan saw it, for just a moment – that cold glint of cruelty.
Or was it a glint of madness?
“What are we dealing with target-wise?” Duncan asked.
“There’s Viktor,” Nikira said, “and he always keeps four bodyguards in the house. Two are always with him when anyone visits. When I’ve been there, the other two were nearby, if they aren’t also in his office. There’ll be a money handler – an accountant of some sort – to document the amounts of the transactions. The other six are couriers who transport the money to various operations in New York and New Jersey, places that are fronts for laundering the money. They don’t all always come. But they might. These are all Viktor’s men, part of his crew.”
“The two bodyguards outside the office will be the first problem,” Duncan said. “We’ll need to take them out quietly.”
“What do you like for firepower?” Nikira asked.
Duncan looked at Simone. “Ten targets in a fifteen by thirty foot office,” he said.
Simone said, “In close quarters with that many people, automatics – machine pistols are best. But you know you need a shoulder stock or a forward grip for any kind of accuracy. Those are illegal in the U.S.”
Duncan shot a glance at Nikira at the same time that she looked at him.
Simone caught and understood their silent exchange. “Okay, I guess legality isn’t really pertinent to this discussion,” she said. “If we’re traveling light I recommend Beretta 93s, if you can find them. It has a flip down forward grip so you can holster it. It fires in three-round bursts so you can’t sweep, but with three of us that shouldn’t be a problem. But it’s out of production and will be hard to find in only a couple of days –“
“I’ll have them tomorrow, day after at the latest,” Nikira said.
Simone glared her dislike at Nikira. “Fine,” she said, not trying to hide the ice in her tone.
Duncan noticed the way Simone looked at Nikira as she spoke. He could tell that Simone wasn’t feeling Nikira, and it wasn’t just because she represented a potential danger to them. Simone and Maisha were close, and Nikira’s bold flirting with him rubbed his niece the wrong way. He figured that if Simone knew the details of his intimate history with Nikira she’d like her even less. What bothered him more was that Nikira didn’t seem too wild about Simone, either. If these two bumped heads, it wouldn’t be just some harmless catfight.
Simone’s eyes warmed when she looked at him. “Uncle Duncan, I can take out anybody outside the office from a distance with silencer-equipped gear,” she said. “The most noise those suckers will make is when they hit the floor.”
Nikira straightened up from the table and looked at him, frowning. “Duncan, this is your niece?”
“The little girl you used to tell me about?”
“This is her,” Duncan answered.
“Has she worked with you before?”
“Hey, I’m standing right here,” Simone said to Nikira. “You have a question about me, you can ask me.”
Nikira stared at his niece, coldly. Duncan tensed.
“All right,” Nikira said. “Have you ever killed anyone before…Simone?”
Simone straightened up. She still wore her double shoulder holsters. Duncan could almost see her whipping the .9 millimeters out and blasting away.
A man named Bob Munden held the world record for the fastest recorded time in a quick draw: .0175 hundredths of a second, from a hip holster. Simone’s fastest time was clocked at .0209, from a shoulder holster. That was still so fast that you could be looking at her, blink, and be dead before you opened your eyes. But that was for normal people. Nikira Horikoshi wasn’t normal people. So the question was, where would Nikira be by the time Simone pulled the trigger?
Returning Nikira’s evil stare, Simone said, “I’ve never killed anyone. But I have no problem starting today…with you.”
“Both of you cut this shit out,” Duncan said. “We’ve got work to do. If we’re going to war, we can’t be fighting each other.” To Nikira he said, “Simone isn’t in the business. And speaking of business, let’s get back to it.”
He moved the schematic for the interior to the side. The next diagram was an aerial photo of the mansion and the surrounding countryside.
“This is a service road, about a quarter mile from the estate,” Nikira said. “We can drive that far and approach the house on foot through the woods. That’ll give us plenty of cover, right up to within about one hundred feet of the rear of the house. We enter through the walk-out basement door and go up to the first floor. You saw on the floor plan that the basement stairs lead up to a hall near the kitchen, mud room and garage entry on the north end of the manor. Viktor’s office is on the south end, so we’ll need to keep our eye out for the bodyguards on our way down.”
Duncan pointed to a small structure on the property just south of the main house. “What’s this?”
“It’s a storage and work shed,” Nikira said.
Nikki was looking at him now, studying him closely. Duncan couldn’t read her expression.
“There’s an underground tunnel leading from Viktor’s first floor office to this shed,” she said. “He had it constructed for a situation just like this. So that’s a potential problem. If we don’t get him immediately when things go down, he’ll run. We can’t let him or anyone else get away.”
As she talked, Nikki stared at him, hard.
Duncan looked at Nikira, thinking for a moment, and then said, “Okay, got it.” And then to his niece, “Simone, I need you posted here. He pointed to a spot in the woods beyond the shed. “Use the M107 to pick off anybody who comes running out.”
“You sure you don’t need me inside?” Simone asked. “No offense, but I’m a better shot than either of you.”
“No doubt, but that’s why I need somebody who won’t miss from a distance outside.”
“You sure you’re okay going in alone with her?” Simone asked.
“I’m good,” he said. “I’ll be keeping my eyes open for everything.”
Simone glared hate at Nikira again. “Just so you know, Nikira? If you come out of that house without my uncle, I’m busting many caps in your ass.”
Looking at Simone, Nikira yawned as if she were incredibly bored. Then she looked at Duncan and said, “Do you have anything to eat? I skipped breakfast and I’m starving.”
(To be continued…)