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(LIMA, PERU -- JUNE 15, 6:00 A.M.)
State LY Plum P. Buck Mulligan." Hector handed me this message on the cliffs at Miraflores.
I set the binoculars on the wall, took the note, and put it in my pocket. Hector was watching my face to see if there was annoyance or even dread in my eyes, but I was giving nothing away.
The sun was rising over the Andes, turning the Pacific a pinkish blue. The sky to the east was a long golden gray and in the west the Southern Cross and the moon had set into the sea.
I thanked Hector with a nod and put my sunglasses on.
Wild lilacs were growing among the cacti and a warm breeze was blowing through the poplars. There was, as yet, no traffic and normally it would be peaceful up here. Just the cliffs and the beach and the whole of the sleeping city behind me. Fog burning off the headland and a few early-morning dog walkers demonstrating that Latin love for miniature poodles and Lhasas.
"Lovely, isn't it?" I said in English.
Hector shook his head uncomprehendingly.
I smiled, watched the usual dazzling collection of seabirds rising on the thermals off the cliffs. Occasionally you'd see an albatross or a peregrine falcon and rarer still sometimes a lost condor or two.
The smell of orange blossom and oleander.
"Lima has a bad rap, but I like it," I said in Spanish.
Especially this time of day before the two-stroke motors and the diesel engines and the coal fires really got going. Hector nodded, pleased with the remark and happy that he'd found me before I retired to bed. He knew that after the night shift I liked to come here with a cup of coffee. Last week I came to watch the first transit of Venus in living memory but mostly it was either to do some amateur ornithology or, he suspected, to stare through the binocs at the pretty surfer girls catching the big rolling breakers at the meeting of the continent and the ocean.
Today about a dozen early surfers, all of them in their teens, wearing full wet suits, booties, and gloves. Half of them female, a new feature of the scene in the city. None of them looked like Kit, the surfer girl I'd been forced to kill in Maine a long time ago, but they all reminded me of her -- I mean, that's the sort of thing you never get over.
I sipped the coffee, frowned at the sound of a power drill. This particular morning, much to my annoyance, it was not quiet up here. There were a score of grips and roadies building the set for a free concert by the Indian Chiefs. They were working with un-Peruvian noise and diligence and it didn't surprise me at all to see that their supervisor was an Australian.
Hector blinked at me in that obvious way of his, to prod me into action.
"Thanks for the note, Hector, you go on home," I said.
"Is everything ok, boss?" he asked.
"No, but I'll take care of it," I responded.
Hector nodded. He was still only a kid. I'd been training him for about three months and he didn't look at all uncomfortable in the suit and tie that I'd bought for him. I'd taught Hector to be polite, calm, well mannered and now he could be employed as a bouncer anywhere in the world. I'm sure the customers at the Lima Miraflores Hilton had no idea that Hector lived in a house he had built himself in the pueblos jóvenes slums to the east of here, where the walls were corrugated metal sheets, where water came from a stand pipe and sewage ran in the street. Displaced from his shanty, Hector appeared elegant, poised, and aristocratic. The marriage of a conquistador bloodline with Inca royalty. And he was smart and he had compassion. He was an ideal lieutenant. He couldn't be more than twenty-one or twenty-two; he'd go far, probably have my job in five or six years.
"It seems a bit early for this kind of nonsense," he said with a resigned shake of the head. He was talking about the contents of the note.
"It's either very early or very late," I agreed.
"Are you sure you don't want me to deal with it, I don't mind," Hector said with another look of sympathy.
He knew I'd had a rough night of it. A kid from Sweden had taken an overdose and I'd had to see him to the hospital, then I kicked some whores out of the lobby, and then we'd dealt with an elderly American couple who claimed they couldn't breathe in the polluted air and wanted an oxygen machine. Later today the Japanese ambassador to Peru was coming for an informal breakfast talk on the possibility of extraditing disgraced Peruvian ex-president Fujimori from his bolt hole in Tokyo. The talks wouldn't go anywhere but it was good for all parties to be seen looking for a solution. Good for the hotel especially. The ambassador had his own security people, but we didn't need a disturbance wrecking the tranquility of the visit.
"No, I'll fix it, Hector, you can go on home," I said.
Hector nodded, walked back across the street to change into his jeans and T-shirt for the scooter ride to the slums. He'd been on the night shift, too, and was bound to be tired.
The surfers were doing lazy cutbacks and the sun was inching over those high, dry mountains that someday I'd go and visit. A blind man had recently climbed Everest, so surely I, a man challenged merely with an artificial foot, could hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
I took a big swig of the coffee and set down the cup.
A few schoolgirls had come by to see if the roadies could give them backstage passes to the Chiefs; the roadies had none to give away but they chatted up the girls anyway.
"Get your backs into it, you dago bastards," the Australian foreman barked. Without the note drawing me away to business I might have gone over and smacked that bugger for spoiling my meditations.
I looked at the message. It was easy enough to decipher.
In stateroom LY (that is, the fiftieth floor, suite Y), a Plum (in other words, a drunk American) named Mr. P. Buck was creating a Mulligan (i.e., a disturbance). The codes had been established by the previous head of security at the Miraflores Hilton, an avid golfer. At some point I was going to drop the references to Mulligans, Eagles, Birdies, and the like. But I'd only been here for a few months and there were other, more pressing priorities.
I sighed, crumpled the note in disgust, and threw it in the nearest garbage can.
A drunk American, probably fighting with a prostitute.
P. Buck -- I wondered if R.E.M. were in town, the guitarist was called Peter Buck and had once been arrested and acquitted of being drunk and disorderly on a British Airways flight. I shook my head. If an American rock star had been staying at my hotel, I would have known about it before now. Still, Peter Buck was one of my heroes and I crossed the street with a heightened level of expectation.
The hotel was new, tall, gleaming with glass and curved stainless steel -- like something Frank Gehry might have come up with on a bad day.
Tinco, the nervous Ecuadorean night manager, grabbed me at the double doors.
"I heard," I said before he could open his mouth.
"Stateroom LY, hurry, please, we have the Japanese ambassador arriving this morning," he said, grasping his hands in front of him in a pleading gesture.
"I know," I said. "Don't worry, relax, I'll take care of it."
"One of the girls has complained," he said, looking sadly at the floor.
"Which girls? The hookers?"
"The maid. She's very young."
He wanted me to come up with a solution before I'd even assessed what the problem was.
"Ok, I'll send her away for a week and when she comes back you give her a raise and we'll keep an eye on her to see if she keeps her mouth shut. Got it?"
Tinco nodded. I yawned and headed for the bank of elevators.
Usually I showered and went to bed now and slept until two or three in the afternoon, when the older, tradition-bound Peruvians were getting up from their siestas. And like I say, it had been a tedious, tiring night and I was looking forward to some shut-eye.
Hopefully, this wouldn't take too long.
I pressed the P button and the lift sped me up to the penthouses on the fiftieth floor. It was a boast of the hotel that it was one of the tallest buildings in South America but even the express elevators seemed to take forever.
I took the time to adjust my appearance in the mirror.
My hair was in the crew cut of an Israeli commando, dirty blond, but recently I'd noticed a couple of gray strands around the ears. I hadn't had a chance to shave, and I looked a little rougher than usual, though the Peruvian sun had done much to erase the obvious Paddy pallor in my features. I'd do.
The elevator doors clicked.
I checked guns one and two, hitched down the bottom of my trousers, drank the rest of my coffee. I turned left and strolled toward room LY.
The sound of fighting coming down the hall. No, not fighting, someone smashing things up.
So he hadn't got himself exhausted just yet.
I hastened my pace.
Nice up here. Plush golden carpets, paintings of the Andes and Indian women in bowler hats. Fresh flowers, views up and down the foggy coast.
I turned the corner. There was a maid I didn't know and Tony, one of my boys, standing patiently at the stateroom's entrance. Tony smiled at me and jerked his thumb through the door.
"How bad is it?" I asked.
"Not bad, he's trashed the room, but he hasn't hurt himself yet," Tony said.
"He's alone and lonely. He tried to grab Angelika here," Tony said. "She doesn't speak Spanish so good; she didn't know what he wanted."
Angelika nodded. She was a flat-faced Indian girl, probably just in from the highlands. I pulled out my wallet and removed ten twenty-dollar bills. I gave them to Angelika and said to Tony, "Tell her she didn't see anything, nothing happened here."
Tony nodded and told her the same thing in Quechua, the Indian language of the mountains.
Angelika took the money, seemed very pleased, and curtsied to me.
"She can take the rest of the week off," I said. "Maybe have a little vacation." I gave her five more Andrew Jacksons.
"Muchas gracias, Señor Forsignyo," Angelika said.
"It's nothing, I'm sorry this had to happen to you," I said and Tony translated.
I gave her my empty coffee mug and said "Yusulipayki," the only word I knew in Quechua. She thanked me in return and shuffled off down the corridor. She'd be ok. The crashing continued from inside the room.
"He keeps saying that he's not happy," Tony said.
"Nobody's bloody happy."
"No. Except my dog," Tony said.
"Hey, it isn't Peter Buck, the rock star, is it?" I asked.
"Peter Buck? Which group is he a member of?"
"This one I am not very familiar with," Tony admitted. "But the gentleman is fifty or perhaps sixty years old, bald and fat, he does not look like a rock star to me."
"Maybe it's Van Morrison," I said, took a deep breath, and barged into the room.
I rode the elevator down to the seventh floor and walked along the corridor to my corner room. Here the carpets were less plush and the pictures on the wall were prints. But it was still nice.
The business hadn't taken long.
I'd forced Mr. Buck to sit down on the bed and we'd talked. Apparently, the maid had refused to have sex with him even though he'd offered her good money. While I sympathized, Tony slipped a Mickey into a gin and tonic that knocked the bastard out. The cleaning service would fix his room while he dozed. Probably wouldn't remember a thing about it until he got a five-thousand-dollar extra on his hotel bill.
Still, as incidents go, not one to write home about.
I found the key card and opened my door.
The room was dark. I yawned again. I wouldn't even turn the light on. Straight ahead past the sofa and the boom box, a left turn into the bedroom. Go to sleep, wake up, and have some eggs with steak.
"Señor Michael Forsythe?" a voice asked from the sofa.
"¿Que;?" I said.
The lights came on.
"Do not move."
There was a man behind me. I could see in the reflection of the mirrored dresser that he was pointing a 9mm at my head. Slightly redundant since the man sitting on the sofa held a pump-action shotgun. They were both dressed in shiny gangster-fabulous suits. They spoke Spanish with northern accents. Colombian, I would have guessed, but that just might be prejudice on my part.
"You are Michael Forsythe?" asked the one with the 9mm.
"No, amigo," I said. "Don't know who that is."
"You are Michael Forsythe," he said again, but this time it wasn't a question.
The one with the shotgun motioned for me to put my hands up and the other one frisked my upper body, removing my obvious gun, my binoculars and wallet. They looked at the photo on my ID.
"It's him," Shotgun said.
The two men backed away from me. I stood with my hands over my head for a moment.
"Ok, what do we do now?" I wondered.
One of the gunmen sat down on the sofa while the other motioned me into the center of the room.
"Kneel on the floor with your hands over your head," Shotgun said, flashing a crooked smile in my direction.
"Are you going to kill me?" I asked.
"Quite possibly," the one with the shotgun said, which, if nothing else, was an interesting answer. Not an imminent threat of death anyway.
"Well, I hate to spoil your little plans and I know you guys don't like surprises, so you should know that if I don't call the front desk and tell them I cleaned up that disturbance on the fiftieth floor they are going to send a couple of guys up here looking for me."
The two men glanced at one other and conferred in low tones. Nine-millimeter brought me the phone.
"Call them. Let them know you are going to bed and do not wish to be disturbed," he said.
I took the phone.
"Of course, if you say anything to warn them or anything we do not like we will kill you immediately. Those are our instructions," Shotgun added.
"Shoot first, eh?" I said.
I picked up the phone, dialed the front desk and got through to Tinco.
"Tinco. I took care of the problem on the fiftieth. Tell Hector that he can go home, I don't want to go bird-watching this morning, I already saw an eagle. Got that? Ok, I'm going to go to bed."
I hung up the phone and looked at the two men. They seemed satisfied. If Hector hadn't left, he'd be up here in five minutes. Eagle was the call sign for major security alert.
I stood for a moment and the men motioned me to kneel again. All the tiredness had left me now and I was ready to raise holy hell if I got the chance. But the men were cautious. Keeping themselves well away from a sudden spin kick or a roll and punch. By the time I was halfway through either of those moves, I'd be dead. I scanned them. Skinny, young, but not that young. Experienced looking. This was not their first hit. Both in their late twenties or early thirties. The one with the shotgun was slightly older, slightly yellower, his hair greased back over a bald spot. Both had an odd burn mark above their knuckles. Some kind of gangster tattoo. I'd seen similar ones before. They were representing. Unlikely they were freelance. Unlikely they were amateurs.
"How long do we wait?" I asked, but before either could answer, the younger one's cell phone rang. He flipped it open and put it to his ear.
"It's him," he said in English. "It's definitely him. What do you want us to do?"
The person on the phone said something. The two men stood, leveled their weapons. I closed my eyes expecting instant death, but then opened them again -- if death was coming I wanted to meet it head-on. And besides, I had a little ace in the hole that those two goons didn't know about. Maybe take one of the bastards with me. That arrogant son of a bitch with the shotgun, perhaps.
But they weren't killing me, they were adjusting themselves. The client wanted to speak to me first. The man with the 9mm gave me the phone. His eyes were expressionless. Cold.
"It's for you," he said with a sneer.
"Hola," I said.
"Michael," Bridget replied.
I recognized her voice immediately. I staggered a little and the man with the pistol had to steady me.
"You," I muttered, unable to articulate anything more.
"Michael, if you're taking this call it means that a man is pointing a gun at your head," Bridget said.
"He is," I agreed.
"He's been instructed to kill you," Bridget said.
"Aye, I gathered that."
"I mean business," Bridget said.
I knew she did. A year ago, in March 2003, when the U.S. Army was rolling into Baghdad and most people had other things on their minds, she'd sent a team of five assassins to get me at my hiding place in Los Angeles. A nasty little crew, but they'd screwed it up and I'd taken care of them. Still, I knew she'd come for me again. Honor demanded it. I had killed her fiance;, the mob boss Darkey White, and I had turned state's evidence against all my old pals. A killer and a traitor. Bridget wanted me dead, even if all that had taken place in 1992 -- twelve goddamn years ago. You had to admire her tenacity.
After LA I had skipped town, getting a job here in Lima as head of security at the Miraflores Hilton.
I had thought that I'd be safe for a while. I liked the place, I liked the people, I could have maybe established a wee home here permanently, settled down, a family. A nice local girl. A couple of cute kids. You could get a house overlooking the ocean for a pittance.
Now those plans were dead. Bridget was going to taunt me and her boys were going to pop me. And if Hector came running through the door, they'd have him too, poor bastard.
"I want you to listen to me, Michael," Bridget said.
"You better not try anything, these men are trained professionals."
"Oh, professionals, eh? Oh, my goodness. I am keeking my whips," I groaned, attempting bravado.
"Michael, you worthless shit, shut up and listen to me," Bridget said.
"If the nuns could hear you talk like that," I mocked.
"I am dead serious."
"I know, Bridget, but you should have come here yourself, I would have liked to have seen you one last time," I said.
"For a decade I've been trying to kill you, and, believe me, if something hadn't come up, I would have come there and I would have watched them torture you with arc-welding gear until you were begging me for death. But, like I say, something terrible has happened."
"Go on," I said.
"My daughter, Siobhan, she's gone missing," Bridget said.
I had no idea that Bridget had a daughter. It was a new one on me; she must have a boyfriend or maybe even a husband in her life now. Well, bully for her. I guess she wasn't holding a candle out for yours truly.
"Where are you, in New York?" I asked.
"Belfast, I'm in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She's been missing for three days. I am worried sick. She's only eleven years old, Michael."
"What? Eleven?" I said hesitantly.
"Eleven," Bridget confirmed.
"She's Darkey's kid?" I asked, making an intuitive leap.
This information was another shocker. Bloody hell. So she had been pregnant the night I'd smacked her and knocked her unconscious and then killed her old man. In mitigation she had been trying to shoot me, but still, I'd hit a pregnant woman and I'd murdered the little girl's da in cold blood. What a charmer I was and no mistake.
"Where do I come in?" I asked.
"I want you to find her, Michael. You know Belfast like nobody else, you have the contacts, you can ask around. I need you, Michael, and by God you owe me."
"Well, that's debatable, love," I said. "Darkey kind of got on my bad side. I'd say the score's pretty even."
"This isn't a request, Michael. If you don't tell my boys the stop command they are going to kill you."
Not just playing the tough nut, she was the tough nut. She'd changed a lot, but that side of her was always there if I'd been smart enough to see it. I smiled to myself. Hmmm. What would she look like after all these years?
"I do as you say, or I'm toast," I said.
"Either you are going to be dead or they are going to accompany you to the airport and then fly with you to Dublin to make sure you take the flight. And then I'm going to meet all three of you at the Europa Hotel in Belfast. And if you don't find Siobhan I'm going to shoot you myself," Bridget intoned with clinical, controlled malice.
"Just to be clear, certain death, or near certain death, are the two choices," I said.
Bridget sighed with impatience. And suddenly I saw her on the other end of the line. Older, yes, but still the curves, the red hair, the alabaster skin, those not quite human eyes. Always a bit of an unearthly quality about my Bridge, as if she'd come from that part of the west of Ireland where the people had supposedly descended from the union of elves and men.
"Michael, I could have had them kill you right now. I've known where you are for two weeks now. We were planning the hit, but then this came up."
"How did you find me this time, Bridget?"
"We heard you went to South America, we put the feelers out. Money opens a lot of doors."
I grimaced. I really was getting careless in my decrepitude. Should have dyed my hair or grown a mustache; just because I was on another continent I thought I was safe.
"Why should I trust you?" I asked.
"If you don't, you're dead. If you try anything, you're dead. If you mess with me in any way at all, you're dead. These are hundred-thousand-a-hit Colombian ice men. They're good at what they do, they're younger than you and better than you. I've told them to take no chances on the possibility of you escaping. I'd rather have you dead and useless, than alive and on the run."
"So I've no alternative," I said.
I stared at the two badass Colombians, shook my head, dismissed the possibility of a play -- any move would bring forth their bad side. And also, it looked now like Hector wasn't coming. So what choice did I have?
"What choice do I have? You win, Bridget, I'll do it," I said.
Bridget groaned with relief, which told me that the daughter thing maybe wasn't a scam. That maybe she wasn't acting. Meryl Streep would be hard pressed to convey that much information in a groan.
"What do I tell the goons?"
"You say this: 'The pussy begs you not to shoot him,'" Bridget said.
"You're not just making all this up to humiliate me before you kill me?" I asked.
"You'll know about that one second after you say it. Get on that plane. Meet me in Belfast. It pains me to say it but I need your help, you traitor, stool-pigeon piece of shit."
The line went dead.
"And I love you, too, sweetie," I said and placed the phone on the floor.
"She hung up," I explained.
"Ok, now we kill you," Shotgun said.
"Wait a minute, Pablo, me old mate. She said that I was to say 'The pussy begs you not to shoot him.'"
Shotgun considered for a second, fought back a look of frustration, put down his weapon.
"Shit. I was looking forward to doing you. The head of hotel security in his own hotel. That would have added to our prestige," he said.
The man with the 9mm looked at his boss.
"Now we're not going to do it?" he asked.
His partner shook his head. Reluctantly, he put the 9mm in a shoulder holster.
"We're all flying to Europe, no?" I said.
"Yes. You have five minutes to pack and then we're going to the airport, I have a car waiting."
Shotgun threw an airline ticket at me. I examined it. British Airways first class direct from Lima to New York, Aer Lingus first class from New York to Dublin.
Commercial jets, not private ones. Dear, oh, dear. Bridget's little cock-up. You can't railroad someone from Peru to Ireland using commercial flights. Who did she think she was dealing with? She should have coughed up the money for a Learjet.
"The plan is if I don't cooperate you'll kill me?" I asked Shotgun.
"That's right," he replied.
"The two of you and the one of me."
"Yeah. Hurry and get packed."
"You'll kill me?"
"If necessary. Yes."
"Like to see you attempt that on a plane that's going to JFK," I said.
I was just trying to test his limits, make him a bit eggy, but I saw immediately that I had blundered. This was a mistake. His brow furrowed. I'd really made him think about this whole rotten assignment. About the obvious flaw in the arrangements. Goddammit, I had to get him back on track.
"Not that I'll be a problem. I won't cause you any trouble, I want to leave this bloody town anyway. Yeah, we'll go to New York and then Ireland," I said hastily.
But the atmosphere in the room had changed. The seismic shift had happened and Shotgun was thinking along different lines now.
"No, no, you are right, Forsythe. We will have too much trouble with you. The pay is the same either way," he said. "Step back, Rique."
Rique saw that Shotgun was going to kill me.
"What are you going to tell her?" Rique asked.
"We had to kill him. He tried to escape. It was him or us," Shotgun said.
"Now wait a minute. This isn't what Bridget wants, this isn't what she's paying you for. She wants you to take me to Ireland," I said desperately.
Rique lifted the 9mm.
It was typical of me to let my big mouth get me into trouble. Bloody typical. And where was that eejit Hector? Halfway home? God save us, there was only one way out now.
I fell to my knees and started to beg for mercy in evangelical Spanish. I invoked the mother of Jesus and the Virgin of Guadalupe (who I think are the same person but I'm no expert).
"Please, please, please, don't kill me, you're not supposed to, you're not supposed to, in the name of the Father and the Son and the..."
And as I begged, I leaned forward, let my hand run down my trousers, and removed the tiny three-shot .22 pistol that I kept there for just such an emergency. My ace in the hole. In South America it was considered cowardly to strap a gun around your ankle. That was something a puta would do.
Better a live puta than a dead hero.
"You are going to die, Irish pig," Shotgun said.
"Yeah, you're right, tough guy, but not today," I said, tumbling from my kneeling posture into a forward roll that carried me over the hardwood floor, while at the same time grabbing the gun from my ankle holster and shooting the chatty bastard in the neck. He fell forward, frothy, arterial blood spewing from a mortal wound.
I scrambled to the side and Rique fired twice with the 9mm, hitting the piece of carpet where I'd been a tenth of a second ago. I dived behind the sofa and took two shots of my own, missing the dodgy bugger both times. Shit. That was the end of my little gun. Had to move fast now. I tossed the weapon and picked the boom box off the floor and threw it at him. It missed, exploded into the wall, spewing CDs, batteries, and sparks.
Rique shot again, sending a bullet into the ceiling above my head. I hurled a vase and then a small glass coffee table.
The door opened.
Hector came in.
"Thank God, over here, mate," I said.
Rique yelled at Hector: "He's unarmed. Shoot him."
Hector pulled out his revolver.
"You said I wouldn't be involved," Hector muttered.
Rique turned to lecture him.
"Do as you are told, and..." Rique began.
I picked up my favorite leather armchair and ran at Rique. It was studded leather with a metal back, so it might afford some protection.
I charged the bastard, hoping he wouldn't have sense enough to shoot me in the legs.
But Rique was flustered by all the things happening at once. He fired off the rest of his clip into the leather chair before I smashed into him, driving him backward into the tinted plate-glass window. My Irish was up and my momentum easily took out the thick safety glass.
Chair and assassin smashed through the window and tumbled through the early-morning air onto the car park below. I was lucky I didn't fall out after them. I scrambled to a dead stop, but I didn't even pause to admire my luck or watch Rique smash to pieces on the hood of the Japanese ambassador's limousine, which, rather inconveniently, had just pulled up outside. Instead I strode across the room and grabbed the gun out of Hector's hand. He was dazed and bleeding from a cut on his fingertip he'd somehow managed to acquire when he'd taken his pistol out.
I pistol-whipped him across the face and kicked his legs from under him. He collapsed to the floor.
"Hector, Hector, Hector," I said with disappointment.
"I'm sorry, so sorry," Hector said, his eyes filling with tears. I checked the revolver, saw that it was loaded, cleaned, ready.
"Hector, you realize this is going to have to go on your re;sume;," I told him.
"Oh, please don't hurt me, they said they would kill my family, they said -- "
I put the gun in his mouth and rattled it around his teeth.
"Save it, mate, they already told me, you came to them, you sought them out. What was the finder's fee?"
"I don't know what you're talking about, I love you, boss, I don't know what -- "
Clicking the hammer back is such a cliche; in these situations, but in my experience it is a shortcut to the truth.
I clicked the hammer back.
"Ten thousand dollars," he said.
"Damn it, Hector, if you needed the money I would have loaned it to you."
"I wanted to earn it."
"There are better ways," I muttered.
"You would know," Hector said petulantly, making a move for the knife he kept in his pocket. That wasn't going to happen twice in the same hotel room. I kicked his arms apart, so that he was spread-eagled on the floor. I took the gun out of his mouth and placed it a couple of inches from his forehead.
"You are one disloyal asshole," I told him without much passion.
He closed his sad brown eyes.
"No more disloyal than you," he said.
"There's a difference," I explained. "I did it to save my skin, you did it for the goddamn money."
"What are you going to do to me?"
"I'm going to salvage your honor, my friend," I said.
Hector understood. He blinked away the tears, flinched.
I pulled the trigger, blowing off the top part of his head, his blood and brains spraying over me.
I placed Hector's gun in the dead assassin's hand, I put the three-shot .22 in Hector's bloody paw.
I poured myself a whisky, picked up the phone, and called down to the front desk.
"Oh, my God, Hector saved my life, he's dying, he's dying, get help up here quick," I said and hung up.
It didn't take long for me to see flashing lights racing along the seafront. They'd send the paramilitary police for this one and I'm sure Bridget would have a plan B as per usual. Time to skip.
I stood, stretched, drank the whisky.
And as the stench of a slaughterhouse rose and the cold sea air blew in through the smashed window and the blood of both bodies pooled into the imitation Persian rugs, I washed my hands in the bathroom sink, grabbed my shoulder bag, packed, and got ready to run again.
Copyright © 2007 by A. G. McKinty