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Authors: James P. Sumner

hunters games

 

 

HUNTER’S GAMES

BOOK 2 IN THE ADRIAN HELL SERIES

 

 

by

 

JAMES P. SUMNER

 

HUNTER’S GAMES

Copyright © James P. Sumner 2014. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior permission of the copyright owner. This novel is a work of fiction. All characters, locations, situations and events are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to any person, place or event is purely coincidental.
This eBook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This eBook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this eBook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this eBook and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your use only, then please return to your favorite eBook retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

Visit the author’s website:

http://www.jamespsumner.com

 

Cover design by:

Jimmy Gibbs

 

Editing by:

Rae Z. Ryans

 

3rd Edition

Published March 2015

 

The first short story in the Adrian Hell: Origins series is available now! Visit
www.jamespsumner.com/ahow
to get your copy, and see how Adrian got started!

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

 

 

Hunter’s Games (An Adrian Hell Thriller, Book 2)

About the Author

More Books by the Author

A Sneak Preview of One Last Bullet (An Adrian Hell Thriller, Book 3)

 

HUNTER’S GAMES

1.

 

 

 

September 22nd, 2014

 

16:47

I STEP OFF the Greyhound bus and take a deep breath. It’s a refreshing sixty-eight degrees and the light breeze is cool against my face. I look around the crowded, temporary Transit Center in downtown San Francisco. It’s a little chaotic, but bearable. The original Transbay Bus Terminal closed back in 2010, and their new Transit Center isn’t due for completion for another couple of years. In the meantime, this temporary terminal acts as the hub for all bus travel both in and out of the city.

It’s been a long ride, so I read up on it to pass the time…

I’ve been on the Greyhound for just shy of nine hours, coming from Oregon and heading straight down the West Coast on Route 101. I rest my trusty shoulder bag by my feet and stretch, feeling parts of my back crack as it celebrates no longer being cramped up on a bus. I sling my bag over my shoulder once more and fight my way through the masses of commuters, heading right down Beale Street.

It feels good to walk again. My legs are stiff from the journey down here, so I’m relishing the chance to get some exercise. It’s a nice, bright September afternoon. I look around as I walk, soaking up the surroundings. San Francisco is a nice enough place. People are friendly, the streets are clean—even the air smells fresh compared to some places I’ve been.

I’m in town on business. And yes, by ‘business’, I mean, ‘to kill someone’. For the past twelve years or so, I’ve worked as a freelance contract killer. I can safely say, with no ego whatsoever, that I’m one of—if not
the
best assassin operating in the United States. Maybe even the world, who knows. For a variety of reasons, my reputation borders on legendary in certain, shall we say, unsavory circles. To everyone else, I simply don’t exist, which is exactly the way I like it.

A local gangster called Nathan Tam has hired me to take out a government official by the name of Richard Blake, who’s apparently bought a sizeable amount of cocaine from Tam and proceeded to mouth off to anyone and everyone about it. Given the company he keeps, Mr. Tam has subsequently attracted some unwanted attention from law enforcement, and wants his client silenced so he can go back to running his business unhindered.

From my point of view, someone who buys and uses drugs shouldn’t be in any kind of position of responsibility anyway, so I’m more than happy to do everyone a favor and kill the bastard.

After walking for close to twenty minutes, I come across a nice bar advertising an afternoon special of a meal and a drink for seven dollars. A quick glance at the menu on the wall outside tells me they have steak and they have beer. They’re pretty much my only two criteria when choosing a place to eat, so I walk inside and find a table at the back.

I sit facing the room with my back against the wall. It’s one of many old habits instilled in me at an early age. It allows me to see if anyone is approaching me that I might otherwise want to avoid. The place looks a lot smaller from the outside. Inside, there are plenty of tables and chairs—many of which have people occupying them. The décor’s simple and clean, with plain colors and small indoor plants strategically placed throughout. There’s no theme to the place. It’s just somewhere nice to go and eat.

A TV is mounted on the wall in the corner—a news reporter is somewhere in the city, talking into their microphone. It’s muted, but the caption across the bottom of the screen says something about an explosion, and the reporter’s standing in the street with crime scene tape behind them. It looks like some kind of restaurant, but whatever has happened has destroyed most of the exterior.

I only have to wait a few moments before a waitress come over and offers me a menu. I tell her there’s no need and order a medium steak, beer, and onion rings on the side.

While I’m waiting, I take out my phone and call Josh.

Josh Winters is my handler and all-round superhero office boy. He finds me work and gathers information so I can carry out the contracts to my usual high standard. The guy’s like my brother, and joking aside, he’s far more than an office boy—I’d be nothing without him, and I have no problem admitting that. We’ve been through a helluva lot together in our time. I just call him my office boy because it gets on his nerves, which keeps me entertained.

He picks up after the second ring.

“Hey, Boss,” he says, in his familiar, happy, British accent. “You made it to 'Frisco safe and sound then?”

“Yeah, got here about half an hour ago,” I reply. “Just getting something to eat now.”

“Let me guess, steak and a beer?”

“You know me so well.”

“Yeah, I also know you’ve probably found a meal deal that includes both, and you’ve sprung for a serving of onion rings on the side.”

“Whatever,” I say, laughing.

“So are you all set for this job?” he asks. “Are you sure you know what you’re doing?”

“Well, you could argue that I never truly know what I’m doing...”

“You said it, Boss.”

We both laugh again.

He means no harm, but I know he has very little faith in me to remember the finer points of any plan we make. In my defense, plans very rarely work and more often than not, you have to improvise anyway. Consequently, I see no point in worrying too much about the plan itself. If you focus on it, you risk losing sight of the immediate situation around you, which can get you killed.

“I’ve got everything covered,” I say. “Don’t worry.”

“Adrian, I always worry!” he replies.

“Oh, ye of little faith! So, just to make sure
you
know the details, remind me—what does this Blake guy actually do again?”

Josh sighs, and I can picture him shaking his head at me.

“Tricky Dicky’s the Senior Administrator in the Department of Public Works. That’s like sanitation and restoration and such things,” he explains.

“That sounds… really boring. What do you make of our employer?”

“Tam? He’s as you’d expect, really. He considers himself a businessman who’s simply looking after his interests. He’s got a lot of attention since Blake’s been running his mouth. He prefers discretion in his line of work, as you can appreciate.”

“Blake doesn’t sound like the type to blab about his personal habits. Sounds more like a working stiff in a dead-end nine to five job to me.”

“Well, it’s always the quiet ones.”

“So they say…”

“So, I’ve gone ahead and made you an appointment to see Blake tomorrow morning at eleven a.m. You’re going in as a reporter for a local magazine who’s writing an article on the upcoming plans the city has for recycling.”

“That sounds phenomenally dull, Josh.”

“Sure does. Better take him out quickly before you die of boredom.”

“Y’know, you don’t have to sound like you’re enjoying this so much.”

“You have to admit, it’s a little funny…”

“It’s not—it’s possibly the dullest contract I’ve ever taken. Remind me again why I’m doing this?”

“Because Nathan Tam is paying you a hundred and fifty grand.”

“Oh yeah… that’ll do it.”

“Oh, and you’ve remembered the ‘no guns’ rule for this one?”

“Yeah, it’s fine. Going into a municipal building with a gun is pretty much impossible these days, even for me. But I’ve got it all worked out, don’t worry.”

“Great stuff. Will leave you to eat your steak and drink your beer then.”

“Thanks. I’ll give you a call tomorrow when it’s all said and done.”

I hang up just as the waitress returns with my food. I cut into the steak and take a bite—which is succulent and cooked to perfection—and sink back into my chair, relaxing and mentally preparing for the task ahead.

 

21:56

After I finished my steak and beer, I went off in search of a place to stay for the night. Usually, Josh would arrange something prior to me arriving, but I said to him I’d like to have a look around the city, so I’d sort it myself.

As always, my idea of tourism only got me as far as the nearest bar... I found a place that served Bud and had a baseball game on the TV, so I sat down for an hour or so, relaxed, and had a drink. Or two…

For a brief moment, I decided to get my ass in gear and find somewhere to stay, so I left some money on the table, went outside, and jumped on the first cable car that passed by. I traveled through another part of the city, up a steep hill and eventually got off near the Chinatown district.

The first building I saw was another bar…

And here I am. I’m just finishing my sixth beer. This place I’m in is nice—the décor’s warm and relaxing. Not my usual scene, but it’s quiet and I’m actually enjoying soaking up the culture around here. The waitress comes over to collect my empty bottles and I pay my tab with her, leaving her a ten percent tip.

I really should find somewhere to stay tonight. I need to be in top form for the job tomorrow, and getting drunk and not sleeping well isn’t the way forward. I take out my phone. I’ll call Josh and ask him to find me somewhere…

Actually, wait... No—he’ll shout at me for getting drunk without him.

No, I’ll sort it.

I finish my drink, pick up my bag and leave the bar, stepping outside and taking in a deep breath of the cool, night air. It’s dark but the streetlights are doing their job. I head left, which I’m hoping will lead me toward the main street in the district, where I’m more likely to find somewhere to stay.

I walk on for five minutes or so and start to notice the buildings seem to be getting smaller and more run down. Every other store seems to be a Chinese supermarket or a pawn shop…

Hmmm, maybe should’ve gone right out of the bar…

I approach a particular pawn shop and consider going inside to ask directions. There are two guys standing outside, whispering to each other conspicuously. I walk past and look through the window. There’s an old Chinese guy behind a counter, reading a newspaper. He’s wearing a vest that I imagine at one time in the distant past used to be white.

No, I can’t see him being all that helpful. I’m sure I’ll find somewhere soon.

I walk on, but one of the two guys at the door steps in front of me. He’s tall and thin, wearing a jacket three sizes too big for him. I see part of a tattoo crawling up the side of his neck that I guess covers part of his chest too. His baseball cap is on backward.

“Yo… help you?” he asks.

Assholes are assholes, wherever you may be…

“I’m good, thanks,” I say.

I’m not in the mood for a confrontation. I know, I know—that’s not like me at all. But I’m a little tired and a bit drunk and just want to find a bed for the night.

“You sure?” asks his friend, stepping out and standing just behind my left shoulder.

I glance back at him. He’s dressed in similarly over-sized clothes, but without a hat. He has a tattoo on the side of his shaved head that looks like a flame.

“Pretty sure,” I reply, nodding.

“You look lost, man…”

I shrug. “Is being lost the same as not knowing where you’re going?”

The two guys exchange slightly confused looks.

“Whatever, man,” continues the first guy. “What you got in that bag of yours?”

I sigh.

Well, we all know where
this
is going…

Fine, have it your way.

“What bag?” I reply.

“The one on your shoulder,” says the second guy.

I look back at him, taking a small side step to my right so the two of them are in front of me.

“What shoulder?” I say to him.

They look at each other again and puff their chests out. They frown and glare at me angrily, preparing for violence.

“Yo, are you stupid, old man?” asks the first guy.

I frown.

Me? Old?

“Since when is forty-two old, dickwad?” I ask, slightly offended.

The second guy taps his friend on the shoulder. “Let’s fuck him up, bro. I’m getting tired of this bullshit.”

“Fellas,” I say. “Trust me. You don’t want to do this.”

“Oh yeah? And why’s that,
old man
?”

I drop my bag on the floor. As expected, they both momentarily glance at it. Which means, for a split second, they’re not looking at me.

Idiots…

I whip my right leg forward, kicking the guy on my left hard in the gut. As he doubles over, I spin around counter-clockwise, coming round and slamming my left elbow into his temple, aiming it perfectly and dropping him to the floor.

I come to a stop facing the first guy, who’s frozen to the spot with shock. With my left, I throw a stiff jab, hitting him flush on the nose. It doesn’t break, but it hurts him and makes his eyes water. As he clutches his face, I launch the same right kick to
his
gut as well. He sinks to his knees from the impact, wincing in pain and unsure where to put his hands. I step forward, slamming my right knee into his nose. This time, it breaks. He falls to the side, out cold.

I take a few deep breaths to compose myself and retrieve my bag. As I stand up, the door to the shop opens and the old Chinese guy comes out. He’s short, maybe five feet tall, if that. He’s bald on top with long gray hair on the sides. In addition to his vest, he has brown trousers on that are too short, finishing just above his ankles.

He looks at the two guys on the floor, then at me. He seems pissed.

“What the fuck you doing?” he yells. I can barely understand him.

I shrug. “They tried to rob me,” I say.

“You any idea who they work for?” he rants.

I shake my head.

“Oh, you fucking dead man!”

He turns and walks back into his shop, slamming the door behind him and leaving me standing on the street, a little unsure as to what just happened. I glance through the window and see him talking animatedly on the phone to someone.

Well,
that
was weird.

I set off walking to the end of the street. I look left and right, seeing the sign for a hotel a little further along, on the right.

Finally…

 

2.

 

 

 

September 23
rd
, 2014

 

10:39

I’M SITTING ON the edge of the fountain in the center of Fulton Street, facing the Civic Center Plaza. It’s mid-morning, and the hustle and bustle of the rush hour crush is dying down. It’s another bright day, complimented by another cool breeze. I’ve been sitting here about quarter of an hour, composing myself before my meeting with Blake.

I look around, taking in the sights that the city has to offer. I’ve never actually been to San Francisco, so it’s nice to be a tourist as well as an assassin. To my left is the Public Library, on my right, the Asian Art Museum. Both are large, picturesque buildings that flank the street on both sides.

Directly ahead of me, across the Plaza, is City Hall—which is where I’m heading for my meeting. It’s a huge, lavish building made of brilliant white brick, which must be a pain to keep as clean as it is. It sports a decorative dome on the roof, which is a gray silver color with golden decorations all the way around and up to the top. Because it’s such a sunny day, the light is reflecting off the building making it all the more impressive to look at.

I set off walking, crossing over Polk Street, and stroll through the Plaza. Trees adorn either side, forming a walkway of sorts toward the front doors of City Hall. I've dressed for the part. I’m wearing beige trousers and a plain light-blue shirt, with brown shoes and a matching brown, leather laptop bag. To finish off the look of a career journalist, I’ve opted for an unfastened navy blue jacket.

Yes, I hate myself right now…

This is the part of the job I openly despise—the acting. Having to dress up and pretend I’m someone I’m not to work my way into a position where I can take out my target… It takes away from the job. I like things simple and straightforward. I’m not a deceptive person by nature, and I find this whole thing very comfortable. I’d much prefer to just walk up to people and shoot them in the face.

I tell you, if I was in charge...

I make my way up the steps and through the center of the three doors on the front of the building. The lobby is enormous. It’s a large, circular space with a distinctive dark marble floor and light marble pillars, which are there seemingly for effect rather than necessity. Around the edges are various doorways, leading off to all the different departments housed within these walls. There’s a huge, carpeted staircase leading to the first floor at the far end.

Just inside the main doors, a rope barrier directs me toward a security checkpoint off to the right. There’s a guard sitting behind a desk and another standing just in front of a metal detector. It’s a gateway scanner, like the kind you see in airports.

I watch the guards processing the people in front of me. They approach the desk and give their name. The first guard checks his list and, assuming they’re on it, sends them to the scanner. The second guard waves them through the machine. Presumably he’ll check them if the scanner beeps. Once through, a third guard issues them with a security badge, which is to be displayed at all times while on the premises.

There was no way into the building without going past these guards and through the scanner.

As I approach the front of the queue, I tick everything off in my head that I need to do, making sure I have things in my bag and that my story and credentials are fresh in my mind for when I’m inevitably asked to present them.

It’s like I’m an actor learning my words. Have I mentioned how much I hate this?

I reach the front of the line and step forward when I’m called over. I smile at the first guard.

“Good morning,” I say, in my most upbeat voice.

I actually asked Josh’s advice on how to sound happy. Is that bad?

“Brian Johnson, from Life and Times magazine,” I continue. “I've got an appointment to see Richard Blake at eleven.”

The guard scans down his list and I see him nod to himself as he finds my name on there.

“Mr. Johnson,” he confirms. “Thank you. Step forward to the metal detector please.”

He gestures with his right hand and I walk over.

The second security guard is standing on the other side of the scanner, pleasantly smiling at me. He’s a tall, slightly overweight man with a thick moustache. His hair is going gray at the sides and his body language tells me he’s probably been doing this job a long time. He moves like someone who has accepted their own monotony years before.

“Step through the scanner please, sir,” he says, waving me through.

I place my bag on the table at the side and step confidently through. It’s not like I have anything to hide, is it?

The machine beeps.

Uh-oh…

I’m just kidding—I expected it to happen. Don’t worry, I’m in complete control!

“Just step to the side please, sir,” he apologizes.

I do and he takes out one of those electronic wands from his back pocket and gives me the once over with it. It beeps when he moves it over my jacket pocket. He looks at me and smiles again, in that "this happens all the time, don’t worry" kind of way.

“Can you empty your pockets please?” he asks.

“Oh, of course—my apologies,” I say, showing I’m happy to comply.

I empty the contents out on the desk. My phone, billfold, and some loose change from my trousers. I reach inside my jacket and pull out a small, black, metallic case. The guard looks at me, then at the case, as I place it carefully on the desk.

“Can you open that up, too, please, sir?” he asks, in a tone now slightly more formal than before.

“No problem,” I say, as I unfasten it and lift the lid.

I turn it toward him, displaying the contents. There’s a sponge padding lining the inside of it, protecting a hypodermic needle, and two small vials of yellowish liquid.

The guard looks at me, and I can see the growing concern on his face.

“Oh, my God, I’m sorry,” I say, laughing and shaking my head as if something’s just occurred to me. “I have Type-1 diabetes. This is my insulin shot. I have to take it everywhere with me.”

The guard is visibly relieved, and smiles.

“That’s fine, sir, I apologize for the formalities. You can never be too careful.”

“Oh, I know,” I say, making small talk as I pack away my things. “Especially nowadays. It’s reassuring that people like you do these types of checks.”

He stands to his full height and sucks in his gut a bit, puffing out his chest and brimming with pride at the fine service he’s providing.

“Just doing my job,” he says. “Go and see my colleague to get your pass.”

“I will, thank you,” I say, walking over to the smaller desk on the other side. The third security guard hands me a temporary security pass attached to a lanyard, which I place around my neck.

“Could you tell me the way to Mr. Blake’s office, please?” I ask him.

“It’s just up the stairs and to the right. Follow the signs for Public Works and you’ll find his office down the corridor,” he replies.

“Many thanks.”

Following the directions he’s given me, I head over to the staircase, looking around me as I walk. It’s an impressive building inside, and the artwork hanging on the walls looks very expensive, and makes the place look more like an art gallery.

I climb the steps and head right along the corridor, following the signs for the Public Works department. I come out at the other end in a waiting room, of sorts. It’s a small, open plan area, with corridors stretching off to the left and right. A couple of nice looking chairs sit on either side as well, against the walls.

A young woman is sitting behind a desk, just to the left of a large door. She looks up at me and smiles as I approach. Her designer glasses highlight her friendly, brown eyes, and her dark blonde hair is tied in a ponytail. From what I can see, she’s wearing a navy blue dress suit and white blouse.

“Can I help you?” she asks.

“Yes, I’m here to see Richard Blake,” I say.

She looks quickly down at her desk, presumably checking a schedule, before looking back up at me.

“Mr. Johnson?”

I nod and smile. “That’s me.”

“Please go right in, he’s expecting you.”

“Thank you,” I say, walking past the desk.

I knock once on the door as a courtesy and enter Richard Blake’s office, closing the door behind me.

I quickly look around. A large window faces me and offers a beautiful, panoramic view of the city outside. The roads and buildings spill out below us in every direction, all the way to the horizon.

There’s a desk in front of me, with a leather chair behind it. To the right of the chair is a flat screen computer monitor standing on a base unit, with a keyboard and mouse set out in front. To the left is a stack of four trays, each one overflowing with paper, and a telephone. In front of it are two plain black leather chairs.

Against the right hand wall are two filing cabinets, each standing around five feet high and each with four large drawers in them. The left hand wall is clear, apart from the piece of artwork hanging in the center of it. It’s a black and white photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge, which I admit is a nice picture.

There’s a slightly worn, brown leather sofa against the wall next to me as I enter. In front of it is a small coffee table with a couple of magazines scattered across it.

Richard Blake is sitting behind his desk, but he stands up to greet me as I enter. He’s clean-shaven with a slightly weathered complexion. With his thin frame and deep-set eyes, he gives off a certain vibe, but I can’t put my finger on it right now.

He flashes me a wannabe-politician’s smile and extends his hand as he walks around his desk toward me. He’s wearing in an expensive charcoal gray suit and black shoes.

“Richard Blake. You must be Brian?” he says, his voice sounding older than he looks, even though he’s probably the same age as me. But the look suits him, as do the streaks of gray in his thick, dark brown hair.

I shake his hand and smile back, playing my part beautifully. “That’s right—Brian Johnson, nice to meet you,” I say. “I really appreciate you giving me some time today.”

He gestures to one of the seats in front of his desk before sitting back down in his chair.

“It’s my pleasure,” he begins. “We’re working on some exciting new projects to tidy up this city over the next twelve months. Any opportunity to talk about them and get people involved is beneficial to us. We’ve had some really positive reactions to our “Bin and Win” recycling initiative—which was my personal idea, by the way.”

Oh my God… I can feel myself glazing over already. This guy’s duller than a knitting convention. I’ve just figured out what that vibe is that he gives off… He’s a fully-fledged nerd. Y’know, the kind of guy who had his lunch money stolen every day in high school.

Jesus… Josh was right—this guy’s going to bore the shit out of me, I can feel it. I’m going to have to get this job over and done with quickly; otherwise, I’ll end up killing
myself
first.

I smile at him as we sit down and I reach into my bag. I take out a notepad and pen and rest them on his desk. Then I pull out my diabetes kit. He looks at it and frowns at me with polite confusion, most likely wondering what it is.

“I’m sorry,” I explain. “I’m diabetic and forgot to take my shot on the way here. I just need to get my insulin before we begin, if that’s alright?”

Blake smiles.

“Of course,” he says, waiving his hand like it’s no big deal. “We’re in no hurry, take your time.”

Now, obviously I’m not
actually
diabetic. The two vials contain a lethal dose of highly concentrated Indian Cobra venom, which is a rare and deadly poison. One bite from the snake will induce full-body paralysis and cardiac arrest in under two hours. There’s the equivalent of, roughly, fifteen bites in one of these vials, so the effects will occur in seconds, rather than hours.

I stand and move over to the window as I load the hypodermic needle with the venom. I smile apologetically and act like I can’t see properly, using the light from the window to see what I’m doing. When the needle’s full, I start to un-tuck my shirt, as if to inject myself in the stomach like any normal diabetic would. As expected, Blake respectfully turns away.

Straight away, I rush behind him and place my left hand over his mouth, holding his head firmly against the back of his chair. In an accurate, practiced motion, I inject the poison into the side of his neck with my right, pressing the plunger slowly down and watching the liquid within gradually disappear. I drop the needle and clasp both hands over his nose and mouth, keeping him silent while the venom works its vicious magic.

He struggles feebly as the venom attacks his muscles and respiratory system, making it harder for him to breathe. It takes just over thirty seconds for him to stop struggling, and another twenty to stop breathing altogether. I hold on for another ten seconds, just to be sure. Finally, I let go of Blake’s head and guide him forward, resting him gently on his desk so as not to make too much noise. I retrieve the needle and put it back in my bag. Quickly, I pack everything else away and give the room a quick once over, making sure there’s no trace of me ever having been here. I haven’t touched anything in the room, so there are no fingerprints to worry about. As a precaution, using my jacket sleeve, I wipe his right hand where I’d shaken it.

Finally, covering my hand in my sleeve again, I pick up the handset of his desk phone and lift it off the hook, resting it on his desk next to him.

Picking up my bag, I walk over to the door and leave Blake’s office. The receptionist looks at me, puzzled, as I come out and close the door.

“Oh, he’s had to take an important call,” I say to her. “He said he’d be a while.”

She looks at her own desk phone, seeing that his line is busy.

“Oh, okay. I’m sorry your meeting’s been cut short,” she says, smiling at me again. “Would you like to re-schedule?”

“No, it’s fine,” I reply, smiling. “I’ll have my office ring up another time.”

She hesitates a moment.

“Maybe…
I
could help?” she offers. “I work closely with Mr. Blake on a number of things. You could interview me, if you’d like? I break for lunch at twelve. Maybe we could get a coffee?” She smiles at me and takes her glasses off.

I’m no expert, but I’m pretty sure she’s flirting with me.

I mean, did she just ask me for a drink?

Oh, man… I am
terrible
at this sort of thing. I don’t want to hurt her feelings or anything.

“Ah… that’s, erm, really kind of you to offer, Miss…?” I say.

“Jenny,” she says. “Call me Jenny.”

I smile nervously. “That’s kind of you to offer, Jenny,” I continue. “But… my… editor only commissioned me to interview Mr. Blake, you see. I’m not sure they’ll be too happy if I come back having interviewed somebody else…”

She looks a little dejected and I feel bad.

“I’m sure you’d be really helpful,” I continue, feeling obliged to make her feel better. “I just can’t use you for this particular interview, that’s all.”

She nods and stands, looking away momentarily to untie her hair, letting it flow down to her shoulders. She whips round to look at me again, like a shampoo commercial.

Are you kidding me?

“Well, it doesn’t have to be a business meeting,” she says. “Maybe we could just… grab a coffee?”

I take a small step back and smile. “I’ve got… erm… deadlines to hit,” I say, struggling for words and feeling more awkward by the second. “Maybe some other time?”

Jenny smiles through a deep breath, accepting her advances haven’t worked. She composes herself, putting her glasses back on and returning to her seat.

“I’ll let Mr. Blake know you’ll be in touch,” she says, resuming her professional manner. “Have a nice day, Mr. Johnson.”

“You too,” I say.

I’ve never been more desperate to leave somewhere in my life!

I’m just glad Josh wasn’t here to witness that. It’s the only time I lose my cool—talking to women. I feel like I’m cheating just talking to someone who seems to like me. I know that might sound crazy, but it’s just me—I’m not ready to do that kind of thing. I’ll always love my wife, and my daughter… I’ve not forgiven myself for what happened to them, so I can’t allow myself to carry on living my life without them. Not yet.

I hastily walk back down the corridor the way I’d come in—past the expensive works of art, down the carpeted grand staircase and across the entrance hall. I walk over to the desk with the third security guard behind it and hand back my lanyard. I nod a polite goodbye to the other two guards, who return the gesture, and walk through the front doors and back out into the sunshine.

It’s bright and I have to squint while my eyes adjust. I stroll down the steps and set off back across the Plaza.

Well, that’s a job well done. No resistance at all from the target, which is always nice. Ignoring the embarrassing run-in with his not-unattractive secretary, it all went smooth and according to plan.

There’s a first time for everything, I guess.

I take out my phone and call Josh.

“Hey, it’s me,” I say as he answers. “The target’s been taken care of.”

“Excellent,” he replies. “I’ll let our employer know. In record time, too. Was he
that
boring?”

I laugh. “You have no idea.”

“So, no issues at all?”

I think back to the secretary. Should I tell him? Would he ever let me live it down if I did?

Yeah, you’re right.

“No, everything went smoothly,” I say, smiling to myself.

I’m halfway across the Plaza, approaching the crossing at Polk Street, when I hear shouting behind me. I turn around and see FBI agents appearing from seemingly nowhere and everywhere, swarming toward me.

What the…?

They converge in front of me, falling into a trained formation and completely surrounding me. There are nine agents in total, all armed with either a Remington 870 shotgun or a Heckler and Koch MP5 submachine gun. One agent appears in the middle of them, approaching me and holding his badge out in front of me.

“Freeze! FBI!” he yells.

 

3.

 

 

 

 

11:22

“DON’T MOVE!” SHOUTS another.

What the fuck is going on?

I’m completely stunned and probably look like idiot. I’m standing still, staring at an FBI SWAT team with my mouth open and my eyes wide, holding a phone to my ear.

“Adrian? Adrian? What’s going on?” asks Josh, waking me from my trance.

“I’m not entirely sure,” I say, distantly. “But I think I’m about to get arrested by the FBI. I might have to call you back.”

I hang up as the agent at the front with the badge steps forward.

“Adrian? I’m Special Agent Green. I’ve been instructed to detain you and bring you in for questioning.”

I regain my composure, and my brain kicks into gear, processing every possible reason that could’ve led to this moment, as well as every likely outcome. I stare at Agent Green in front of me, trying to ignore all the others who have their guns trained on me.

“You not gonna read me my rights?” I ask.

“You’re not under arrest,” he replies, with a slight shrug. “We just want to talk to you.”

I look around and gesture to all the agents he’s brought with him. “Then why the show of strength? You could’ve just asked if you wanted to talk to me.”

“Fair enough,” he says, nodding. “Adrian, can you please come with me so we can ask you some questions?”

He walks toward me, putting his hand on my arm as if to lead me away.

I don’t move. I look down at his hand, and then back up at him.

“I might. But then again, I might not. You said yourself I’m not under arrest, so you can’t make me.”

He smiles and tries again to lead me away, but I hold my ground. When that doesn’t work, he looks at me with something akin to an apology in his eyes. Like he really doesn’t want to have to do it, but he’s going to anyway.

“Adrian, don’t make this any harder than it already is.”

“I’m not. On the contrary—I’ll make this as easy as I can for you. Move your hand, or I’ll give you a reason to arrest me.”

The circle of agents in front of me is getting twitchy and Agent Green is getting increasingly nervous. He’s quickly losing control of the situation and losing face in front of his SWAT team. I don’t think he wasn’t expecting any resistance, under the circumstances. I mean, who in their right mind would argue with an armed FBI SWAT team sent to detain them…