• Chapter 1 •
Alan Beaumont stepped through the automatic door of his office building and down the broad steps to the pavement. The sky above DC was a monochrome of gray cloud. A light rain fell, but a few drops of water were not going to bother him. Damp clothes? Whatever. Messed-up hair? He had no hair to ruin. That was long gone. Nothing had helped retain those once-magnificent curls. Not pills. Not potions. Nada.
He used a thumb and middle finger to snap open his Zippo lighter and lit the cigarette perched between his lips. Smoking was perhaps the only real pleasure he had.
He watched the downtown traffic and the pedestrians pass by, all miserable. Good. He didn’t like anyone to be happy but himself. It wasn’t pure selfishness. Joy was a zero sum game. There just wasn’t enough to go around.
He sucked in a big lungful of smoke and held it in as he closed his eyes and tilted his face to the sky, exhaling as the sporadic raindrops exploded on his cheeks, forehead, and eyelids.
“You look like you’re enjoying that.”
He opened his eyes and looked at the speaker. A young woman stood nearby, dressed in a long cream raincoat, hat, and brown leather gloves. She was pale and tall—almost as tall as Beaumont, with wavy blond hair. Her lipstick was bright red. A bit too much for the office. A bit too suggestive. She must be new then. One of the many drones who serviced the company, he assumed. He had no doubt walked past her a hundred times or more by now. She would know his name, his job, and maybe even how he liked his coffee, but to Beaumont she was no one.
He shrugged and turned away. He was in no mood to chitchat, least of all with someone whose face he didn’t need to recognize. She was a looker, sure; lots of real estate in the bust and hips, but he wanted to savor his damn cigarette alone, as God intended.
“I used to smoke myself,” the woman said, not taking the hint. It sounded like she was from the South. Probably some state Beaumont had been lucky enough never to soil his soles on.
“That right?” Beaumont felt obliged to say.
He edged away from her. It wasn’t rude, he told himself. The young woman had intruded on his solitary time.
She did so again, stepping around Beaumont until they were face-to-face.
“I smoked for maybe ten years,” the young woman continued, undeterred. “Two packs of Marlboro’s a day. I had a cigarette in my hand all day long. I started young, you see. I managed to kick it, though. Now I’ll allow myself the occasional cigar. Better than nothing, right? But oh, how I miss a real cigarette.”
She was smiling, but in a sad way, and Beaumont began to feel sorry for her. She reminded him of his daughter.
“You’re new, aren’t you?” he asked.
She nodded. “Is it that obvious?”
She smiled in a manner that said the office coven had not welcomed her with open arms. He saw her loneliness and had a strange flash of the future, when he was an old man a couple of decades from now, fat and divorced with a daughter and a son who didn’t bother to call him because he had never bothered to take them to the park. Would he be so in need of human contact that he would ignore a stranger’s efforts to cold-shoulder him, because any interaction was better than none?
“How are you settling in?”
She wrinkled her nose and shrugged.
“That bad, eh?”
She didn’t answer.
“Say,” Beaumont began, “would you like a smoke? For old times’ sake. It’ll make you feel better.”
He forced himself to smile.
The young woman’s face lit up as if she’d won the lottery and Beaumont felt even sadder for her. He rooted for the packet.
“No,” the woman said, holding up a palm. “I’d better not have one. I’ll only start again. One’s never enough, is it? But I wouldn’t say no to a single drag, if you don’t mind.”
She gestured at Beaumont’s precious cigarette. Beaumont looked at it too. He wasn’t a sharing kind of guy, even if there was a hot chick half his age involved. He glanced up at the tall young woman. He looked at her bright red lips. She didn’t appear to be sick. She didn’t look like she was carrying some flesh-eating retrovirus. The hope in the woman’s eyes tore down any resistance Beaumont had, and reminded him that he wasn’t quite as soulless as he’d thought.
There was no reason not to, but if a man was asking to share his cigarette, he would tell the fool to take a hike. But it wasn’t a man asking.
Maybe if he let her put his cigarette between her lips, she would let him . . .
He offered the cigarette and the young woman took it between two fingers of her left hand. She brought it up and set it between her red lips with surgical precision, puckering around the filter and tensing them, but she did not inhale. Beaumont watched, entranced.
“That was close,” the young woman said, taking the cigarette away, but this time with her right hand. “I almost caved.”
Before handing the cigarette back, she rolled the filter between her gloved fingertips for a moment.
“Holding it was enough,” the woman continued, as Beaumont watched.
“Your choice,” he said, taking the precious cigarette back.
A trace of lipstick was smeared on the filter. He took a drag.
The young woman watched him, something in her eyes. She removed the gloves and placed them into a pocket of her raincoat. She held out a palm to catch raindrops and when her fingers were wet wiped them across her lips several times. She took a handkerchief from a pocket and used it to wipe her lips clean.
“Washing away the taste?” Beaumont asked, a little aroused.
The woman smiled at him, but said nothing. She looked pleased with herself. Smug, even.
“So,” Beaumont began. “What’s your name?”
She didn’t answer. She just stared.
“Hello? Anyone home?” Beaumont waved a hand before her face and laughed.
No response. No wonder she was having a hard time fitting in when she was bat-shit crazy.
“Right,” he said with a big exhale, erection retreating, and regretting allowing this weirdo to intrude into his private time. He felt the annoyance building inside him, anger making him feel hot despite the cool rain pattering on his scalp.
“All right, honey. I’ve humored you long enough. You can stop eyeballing me and be on your way. There’s a good girl.”
“Soon,” the woman said, staring.
Beaumont turned away, loosening his tie. Damn it, he was really fucking wound up now. His heart was hammering. He reminded himself never to feel sorry for anyone again. Ever. People were scum, always looking to take advantage.
He tried to swallow but his throat felt like sandpaper. This pissed him off even more. The smoke made him cough. Face red, he tossed the cigarette away. Was it sweat he felt on his forehead amongst the raindrops?
He turned to head back into the office, only to see the young woman still standing there.
“Haven’t you fucked off yet?”
“Soon,” the woman said again.
“Listen, you’ve ruined my ‘me time,’ so why don’t you—”
Beaumont felt faint and reached out a hand to brace against the woman’s shoulder.
“Are you all right?” the woman asked, without sympathy. “You’ve gone terribly pale.”
“I . . .”
Beaumont had no strength in his legs. If he wasn’t standing straight up with his hand on the woman’s shoulder, he wouldn’t have been able to stay on his feet. His mouth filled with water.
“Oh,” the young woman said. “That can sometimes happen if one’s constitution is weak. I think we can probably blame the cigarettes for that.”
She stepped away from Beaumont and eased him down to his knees. Beaumont threw up. He watched vomit and blood sluice away in the rain.
“What . . . did you do to me?”
“I can’t claim all the credit, much as I would like to. My chemist is quite the genius, no?”
Beaumont didn’t answer. He toppled forward, face-first, into the pool of vomit and blood. His breathing was shallow, his pulse weak and irregular.
“I’ll be on my way then,” the young woman said. “Adieu.”
The last thing Beaumont saw was his extinguished cigarette, lying on the pavement, soaking up the rain.
• • •
The tall woman walked away while Beaumont was taking his final breaths on the pavement. When she had passed beyond the wide-angle lens of the security camera overlooking the entranceway’s exterior, she removed her cream overcoat, turned it inside out in a practiced move that took five seconds to complete, and slipped her arms into the fire-engine red coat it had become.
Half a block away her patent leather handbag was dumped into a rubbish bin. She dropped the blond wig into another bin at the end of the street.
Five efficient wipes with a solvent-soaked cotton pad removed the pale makeup from her face. The blue contacts came out next. The clip-on earrings followed. Pads from her bra joined them. As did ones from her hips. She stopped and lifted one foot to her ass. She reached down and twisted off the detachable four-inch heel from her shoe. She did the same with her other foot.
Less than a minute after Beaumont’s heart had stopped, she boarded the 1115 bus to Arlington looking like a different person.
• Chapter 2 •
The sky above Prague was a patchwork of blue and white. Thin clouds paled the late-morning sun, but enough light fought through to shine from polished cars that lined the road and puddles that nestled along the curbs. The twisting, cobbled side street was crammed with boutiques and cafés and town houses. Passersby were rare and traffic rarer still at this time of day.
A man sat alone at a small round metal table outside an artisan coffee shop. He was tall and wore a charcoal suit beneath a woolen overcoat, black, and black Oxford shoes. His dress shirt was white and his plain tie was burgundy. His black hair was longer than he often had it, at a few inches in length that brushed his ears and reached almost to his eyebrows if he did not push it back from his face. Two weeks without shaving had given him a dense beard that softened his jawline and disguised his cheekbones. The nonprescription glasses were plain and functional and further broke up the lines of his face to a shapeless, nondescript visage. His scarf was brown lamb’s wool that was draped, but not tied, over his shoulders and tucked into the thigh-length overcoat, which was undone. He sipped a black Americano from a fine china cup that was as delicate as it was decorative. He made a conscious effort not to crush the little handle between thumb and forefinger.
His table was the central one of a line of three that lay on the pavement before the coffee shop, all painted white and chipped. The table to the left was occupied by two blond women in fine clothing and jewelry, probably mother and daughter, discussing the weather and where to have lunch after they finished their morning shopping trip. Large bags surrounded their chairs. To the man’s right, two older men with lined faces and gray hair talked about how best to ingratiate themselves to their new younger, hipper clients.
The man in the suit would have preferred to sit on one of the flanking tables so as not to be boxed in with no obstacle-laden exit, but the two men and two women had been there before his arrival and both pairs seemed as if they would be staying long after he left. He pretended not to notice that the blonde mother kept glancing his way.
His hands and ears were red and his breath misted before him, but he kept the buttons of his overcoat unfastened and his scarf untied and elected not to wear gloves or a hat, as was common for him.
He wore no hat because, when removed, it meant a greater chance of casting DNA-rich hair follicles into the air to be left behind in his wake. He wore nothing on his hands as even the highest quality gloves reduced dexterity, which he valued above all else. It was more effective to grip with bare fingers, as it was to gouge eyes and tear out throats. His coat was unfastened so a weapon hidden beneath it or within an inside pocket could be drawn without interruption. He was unarmed, as was typical; carrying a weapon was only useful when he had no choice but to employ it, and was a threat to his liberty the rest of the time. But he was a man of habit: an unfastened coat had the added benefits of being easy to discard if required; the scarf was untied so as not to provide an enemy with a ready-made noose, but could be whipped away fast so as to be employed as such by himself against assailants.
He had many enemies, acquired over a professional life that ensured for every foe he managed to remove, a new one would be standing by to take their place. He had learned that survival depended on attention to detail, no matter how small or trivial it might seem before it proved decisive. He had learned to never lower his guard, no matter how safe he might be. Those lessons had been carved into his flesh, ensuring he never forgot them.
He was waiting. Waiting accounted for more than half his work. He was patient and focused. He had to be. He was a man who took his time and valued perfection over speed. He only rushed when necessary, which was rare. There was a certain artistry to his work that he found, if not enjoyable, then satisfying.
He sipped from the little cup. The quality of the coffee was excellent, but not in proportion to the effort it took to hold the delicate cup without breaking it. A shame, but the coffee provided a reasonable excuse for his presence.
On the far side of the road, a narrow-fronted hotel sat between town houses. A protruding awning and doorman were the only obvious signs of the hotel’s existence. There were no fluttering flags or ostentatious trappings on display. The guests liked discretion and they liked privacy and were happy to pay the hotel’s exaggerated rates to enjoy both.
The man in the suit was interested in one guest in particular. He was a member of the House of Sa’ad, the extended royal family of Saudi Arabia. He was one of the many princes, a decadent thirty-year-old who spent his family’s wealth almost as fast as it could be created. If he were not limited by his father, the prince would no doubt bankrupt them within eighteen months.
Al-Waleed bin Saud toured the world on a permanent holiday, moving from city to city with his humble retinue of sixteen individuals. That retinue included two personal assistants, an accountant, a chef, a security detail of nine and three young women who were listed as interns but did nothing except shop and spend time alone with the prince. He stayed in the most expensive hotels, and only ones that could accommodate his particular requirements. Though he lived an extravagant, hedonistic lifestyle he tried to maintain the image of a respectable, devout, and proud Saudi. To maintain the illusion and to ensure no word of his habits reached his homeland, he shied away from hotels that were too large or too rigid in rules and regulations. He elected to stay where he could bribe staff and hire out a whole floor at a time, whether he needed the rooms or not, f...Présentation de l'éditeur :
World-class assassin Victor finds himself under fire in the new thriller from bestselling author Tom Wood
HIT THE TARGET…
While carrying out a hit on a terrorist financier, Victor finds himself the target of an assassin who proves to be just as deadly as he is. Never one to let such a thing go, Victor sets about hunting down his attacker and those who sent her. She is Raven—a freelance assassin with a dark past and hidden agenda. If Victor wants to stay alive he must find out who Raven really is and what she is truly after.
…OR BECOME THE TARGET.
Does she really want him dead, or does someone else want them to kill each other? With the stakes growing higher by the minute—as a city-wide blackout plunges Manhattan into darkness—Victor and Raven must decide who is friend and who is foe before a deadly terrorist plot threatens to consume the city and them along with it.
Les informations fournies dans la section « A propos du livre » peuvent faire référence à une autre édition de ce titre.
Description du livre Penguin Random House. État : New. Brand New. N° de réf. du libraire 0451473981
Description du livre Penguin Group USA, 2015. PAP. État : New. New Book. Shipped from US within 10 to 14 business days. Established seller since 2000. N° de réf. du libraire KB-9780451473981
Description du livre Signet. PAPERBACK. État : New. 0451473981 *BRAND NEW* Ships Same Day or Next!. N° de réf. du libraire SWATI2121962974
Description du livre Signet Book, United States, 2015. Paperback. État : New. 190 x 108 mm. Language: English . Brand New Book. World-class assassin Victor finds himself under fire in the new thriller from bestselling author Tom Wood HIT THE TARGET While carrying out a hit on a terrorist financier, Victor finds himself the target of an assassin who proves to be just as deadly as he is. Never one to let such a thing go, Victor sets about hunting down his attacker and those who sent her. She is Raven a freelance assassin with a dark past and hidden agenda. If Victor wants to stay alive he must find out who Raven really is and what she is truly after. OR BECOME THE TARGET. Does she really want him dead, or does someone else want them to kill each other? With the stakes growing higher by the minute as a city-wide blackout plunges Manhattan into darkness Victor and Raven must decide who is friend and who is foe before a deadly terrorist plot threatens to consume the city and them along with it. N° de réf. du libraire AAS9780451473981
Description du livre Signet Book 2015-09-01|NU-BNT-01574679, 2015. PAPERBACK. État : New. 9780451473981. N° de réf. du libraire NU-BNT-01574679
Description du livre Signet, 2015. État : New. Brand New, Unread Copy in Perfect Condition. A+ Customer Service!. N° de réf. du libraire ABE_book_new_0451473981
Description du livre Signet Book, 2015. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire TB9780451473981
Description du livre Signet, 2015. Paperback. État : New. N° de réf. du libraire INGM9780451473981
Description du livre Signet. PAPERBACK. État : New. 0451473981 Special order direct from the distributor. N° de réf. du libraire ING9780451473981
Description du livre Signet, 2015. Paperback. État : Brand New. 512 pages. 7.40x4.20x1.10 inches. In Stock. N° de réf. du libraire z-0451473981