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The Silenced


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6

Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

“Be careful,” she’d said. “If you need me, I can be there in a couple hours.”

“We won’t need you.”

“That warms my heart.”

“I need you, but not for this. Is that better?” he asked.

“It’s a start.”

Quinn and Nate waited quietly for five minutes to pass. The room they were in had served as an office at one time, but it had been years since it was last used. They had brought two folding chairs, a thermos of coffee, and a couple Styrofoam cups, but otherwise the room was empty.

“Time,” Quinn said without looking at his watch.

He tossed the walkie-talkie to Nate, who bagged it up with the thermos and cups. They then folded the chairs and set everything in the hallway to be picked up on their way out.

A wipe-down was unnecessary. They’d been wearing gloves since before they’d gotten out of the van. They’d also taken the additional steps of wearing hairnets and garments that covered everything except their faces. Unless their DNA could be pulled out of the air, no one would ever know they’d been there. Quinn was always careful, but the fact they were doing this job in the same city he and Nate called home made him want to cut the risks down even more.

The op room was on the other side of the building, one floor down. Nate walked past the door and continued on toward the nearest building exit to make sure that the others had left and no one else had shown up.

While Nate did that, Quinn approached the op room door and pushed it open. A mixed odor of gunpowder and blood wafted out. Both were familiar smells, so were no more than background noise to him. There, but easy to tune out.

The floor revealed what he expected to see. One body. Male.

The man was on his back, a bullet hole just a little off center in his forehead.

Quinn frowned. The shooter had used a 9mm by the looks of it. A.22 would have been better. It was a close-in job, so no need for more power than a.22 could provide, and, most important to Quinn, a.22 would have left less mess.

But being prepared was something he took very seriously. So, from the start, Quinn assumed the ops team wouldn’t care about what they left behind. That’s why he and Nate had draped the entire room in a double layer of plastic when they first arrived. Just in case. As expected, the sheeting had contained the blood splatter. Now all they had to do was wrap everything up, carry the package out to the van, account for the bullet, then do a final sweep to make sure they hadn’t missed anything.

Ten minutes tops.

Nate walked up behind Quinn. “Building’s secure.”

“Good.” Quinn motioned into the room. “After you.”

The dead man looked to be in his mid-sixties. He had a bit of a spread around the waist, but was otherwise in decent shape. His hair was more salt than pepper. Visually, there was nothing particularly remarkable about him. Whatever sins had necessitated his removal ran deeper than his appearance.

It wasn’t Quinn’s job to stand in judgment. He was only there to make the condemned disappear. It wasn’t that he was amoral, but he’d learned over the years that it was often hard to tell where the line between right and wrong was drawn, and sometimes there didn’t seem to be a line at all. The best Quinn could do was align himself with organizations he trusted, whose work was usually on the up-and-up.

That had become harder after an organization known as the Office had been dismantled. They’d been his de facto employer for years, and for the most part he had always been confident where they stood. He felt he could trust them, and not constantly question their motives. Up until the end, they had given Quinn a steady stream of work, which meant he seldom had to deal with other clients.

Now it was different. In a span of several weeks, he could work with multiple organizations whose motivations were often harder to discern. He did his best, doing what front-end investigation he could and trusting his gut when he had to. It kept things interesting, and made him realize just how easy he used to have it.

In less than five minutes, they had the body wrapped and ready to go. At Quinn’s direction, Nate was probing the small bullet hole in the exterior wall. “Went all the way through,” he said.

“We’ll make a quick sweep of the perimeter. If we can’t find it right away, we’ll forget it.”

Their van was parked in back next to an old loading dock. The dock itself was sealed off by a chain-link fence, but a few feet away was an unimpeded double door.

The first thing they did was load their equipment and the stuff they’d left upstairs into the vehicle. Once that was done, they only had the plastic-wrapped body left.

They expertly carried the package out of the room and down the hall. At the exit, Nate had to lean it against his chest as he opened the door so they could pass through.

“Hold on,” Quinn said, then moved his hands to get a better grip on the body. “All right.”

As they stepped outside, Quinn registered a quick, sudden movement in his peripheral vision. But when he turned to look, nothing was there.

They maneuvered the body into the back of the van, then Quinn leaned over to Nate and whispered, “I think we have company.”

Nate kept his focus on securing the body so it wouldn’t roll around. “Where?”

“At the end of the building. I’m going to slip back inside. If we do this right, he won’t see me. What I want you to do is get in the van and drive off. Take the body to Bernie’s like we planned. I want to keep on schedule.”

“And you?”

“I’ll meet you at home.”

“What about the bullet?”

“Don’t worry about it. Even if someone finds it, they won’t have anything to tie it to.”

“Got it.”

Quinn used the open doors of the van to cover his retreat back into the building. Without being told, Nate completed the ruse by closing the van’s doors from inside, and crawling through to the front instead of walking around and getting in through the driver’s side door. There was no way for anyone watching to know that Quinn hadn’t been with him. Quality, intuitive work that emphasized it wouldn’t be long before Quinn would have to either make Nate a full partner or set him free to pursue his own projects.

Another year, tops. Probably less.

The crunch of loose gravel as the van pulled away was soon replaced by an eerie silence cut only by the distant drone of the 101 freeway. Most people would have been surprised by the lack of activity so close to downtown. But the warehouse district was one of the most underpopulated parts of Los Angeles. After several quiet minutes passed, Quinn began to consider the possibility that the motion he’d seen had been nothing more than one of the homeless looking for a warm place to sleep.

More silence.

Then a sound — no more than a single pebble skipping over the ground.

There was no second pebble, no sound of footsteps on the gravel. Just that one moment of disturbance in an otherwise deathly still night.

Quinn eased down the hallway until he reached the doorway of the large open space that had once been the main storage area. He stood in the threshold looking back toward the rear entrance.

Click.

A sound that almost wasn’t a sound at all.

But he’d been waiting for it. The doorknob had been turned.

Quinn stepped all the way back into the storage room, then leaned forward just enough so he could still see the back door. Nothing happened for thirty seconds.

Cautious, Quinn thought. Definitely not a street person.

Then, almost in slow motion, the door began to swing open.

Quinn pulled completely back into the storage room, then took a quick look around. There was nothing he could hide behind except the door itself. But he knew he didn’t actually need to hide behind anything. If he went far enough in and kept near the wall, the darkness would be enough to conceal his presence. He began moving away from the door, careful not to step on any of the trash that was scattered around. As he did, he lowered the zipper on his coveralls enough to pull his gun from its shoulder holster. It was his standard SIG Sauer P226. From one of the pockets, he removed a suppressor, and attached it to the end of the barrel.

After he’d gone twenty feet, he stepped against the wall and stopped.

He could hear footsteps. Soft, with no pattern. Whoever was in the hallway was taking a step or two, stopping, then starting again. Cautious.

Quinn rested his gun against his thigh as he tried to picture what the other person was doing. Whoever it was had to have at least seen Quinn and Nate put the package into the back of the van. There was a good chance he had seen the operations team leave, too.

If this person was not here by chance, then the only way he could have found the warehouse was by following the ops team in. Quinn was the one who had secured the building, the one who had informed the operations team where it was after they were already en route. No one other than Nate knew about the location, and they had arrived together, without being followed.

But whatever the reason the intruder was here, he was only one thing to Quinn — a problem.

Quinn’s job was to cover up the crime scene, and make it so no one would know what had gone down. Sometimes that meant misdirecting someone who’d strayed dangerously close to the job site.

But this was different. Here was a person who obviously knew that something had happened. By now the still-potent smells emanating from the op room were acting as a guide, drawing the intruder forward. The question was, what should Quinn do about it? Killing was not a normal component of his job.

Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

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