Read Countdown Online

Authors: Iris Johansen

Tags: #Thrillers, #Suspense


BOOK: Countdown
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Aberdeen, Scotland

ind the key.

The hotel room was dark but he didn’t dare turn on a light. Leonard had told him that Trevor and Bartlett were usually in the restaurant for an hour, but he couldn’t count on it. Grozak had experience with that son of a bitch over the years and he knew Trevor’s instincts were still as keen as they had been when he was a mercenary in Colombia.

So he’d give himself ten minutes tops and get out of here.

His penlight flashed around the room. As sterile and impersonal as most hotel rooms. Take the bureau drawers first.

He moved quickly across to the bureau and started going through them.


He went to the closet and dragged out the duffel and searched through it hurriedly.


Five minutes to go.

He went to the bedside table and opened the drawer. A notepad and pen.

Find the key, the Achilles’ heel. Everyone had one.

Try the bathroom.

Nothing in the drawers.

The grooming kit.

Pay dirt!


At the bottom of the kit was a small, worn leather folder.

Photos of a woman. Notes. Newspaper clippings with photos of the same woman. Disappointment surged through him. Nothing about MacDuff’s Run. Nothing about the gold. Nothing here to really help him. Hell, he’d hoped it was—

Wait. The woman’s face was damn familiar. . . .

No time to read them.

He pulled out his digital camera and began to take the pictures. Send the prints to Reilly and show him that he might have the ammunition that he needed to control Trevor.

But this might not be enough for him. One more search of the bedroom and that duffel . . .

The worn, dog-eared sketchbook was under the protective board at the bottom of the duffel.

Probably nothing of value. He quickly flipped through the pages. Faces. Nothing but faces. He shouldn’t have taken the extra time. Trevor would be here any minute. Nothing but a bunch of sketches of kids and old people and that bastard—

My God.


He tucked the sketchbook under his arm and headed for the door, filled with heady exultation. He almost wished that he’d run into Trevor in the hall so that he’d have the chance to kill the son of a bitch. No, that would spoil everything.

you, Trevor.


he alarm in Trevor’s pocket was vibrating.

Trevor tensed. “Son of a bitch.”

“What’s wrong?” Bartlett asked.

“Maybe nothing. There’s someone in my hotel room.” He threw some money down on the table and stood up. “It could be the maid turning down my bed.”

“But you don’t think so.” Bartlett followed him from the room to the elevator. “Grozak?”

“We’ll see.”

“A trap?”

“Not likely. He wants me dead but he wants the gold more. He’s probably trying to find a map or any other info he can get his hands on.”

“But you’d never leave anything of value there.”

“He can’t be sure of that.” He stopped outside the door and drew his gun. “Stay here.”

“No problem. If you get killed, someone has to yell for the police, and I’ll accept that duty. But if it is the maid, we may be asked to leave this domicile.”

“It’s not the maid. The room’s dark.”

“Then perhaps I should—”

Trevor kicked the door open, darted to one side, and hit the floor.

No shot. No movement.

He crawled behind the couch and waited for his eyes to become accustomed to the darkness.


He reached up and turned on the lamp on the end table by the couch.

The room was empty.

“May I join you?” Bartlett called from the hall. “I’m a bit lonely out here.”

“Stay there for a minute. I want to make sure . . .” He checked the closet and then the bathroom. “Come in.”

“Good. It was interesting watching you tear through that door like Clint Eastwood in a Dirty Harry movie.” Bartlett cautiously entered the room. “But I really don’t know why I risk my valuable neck with you when I could be safe in London.” He looked around. “Everything looks fine to me. Are you becoming paranoid, Trevor? Perhaps that gadget you carry has a short circuit.”

“Perhaps.” He glanced through the drawers. “No, some of the clothes have been moved.”

“How can you tell? It looks neat to me.”

“I can tell.” He moved toward the bathroom. The grooming kit was in almost the same position as he’d left it.



He unzipped the kit. The leather case was still there. It was the same black as the bottom of the kit and might not have been noticed.


“I’ll be with you in a minute.” He slowly opened the case and looked down at the articles and then the photo. She was looking up at him from the photo with the challenging stare he knew so well. Perhaps Grozak hadn’t seen it. Perhaps he wouldn’t think it important even if he had.

But could he afford to risk her life on that chance?

He moved quickly to the closet and jerked out the duffel and tore up the support board.

It was gone.


Harvard University

ey, I thought you were going to study for that final.”

Jane glanced up from her sketchbook to see her roommate, Pat Hershey, bounding into the room. “I had to take a break. I was getting too intense to keep a clear head. Sketching relaxes me.”

“So would sleep.” Pat smiled. “And you wouldn’t have had to study so hard if you hadn’t been out half of last night playing nursemaid.”

“Mike needed someone to talk to.” Jane made a face. “He’s scared to death that he’s going to flunk out and disappoint everyone.”

“Then he should be studying instead of crying on your shoulder.”

Jane knew Pat was right, and she’d had moments of exasperation and impatience last night. “He’s used to coming to me with problems. We’ve known each other since we were kids.”

“And you’re too soft to send him away now.”

“I’m not soft.”

“Except about people you care about. Look at me. You’ve gotten me out of quite a few jams since we started to room together.”

“Nothing serious.”

“They were serious to me.” She strolled over and glanced at the sketch. “Good God, you’re drawing him again.”

Jane ignored the comment. “Did you have a good run?”

“Upped my distance a mile.” Pat flopped down in the chair and began untying her running shoes. “You should have come with me. It’s no fun for me running alone. I wanted the satisfaction of leaving you in the dust.”

“No time.” Jane finished the sketch in three bold strokes. “I told you, I had to study for my chemistry final.”

“Yeah, that’s what you told me.” Pat grinned as she kicked off her shoes. “But here you are drawing Mr. Wonderful again.”

“Believe me, he’s not wonderful.” She snapped the sketchbook shut. “And he’s definitely not the type of man you’d take home to meet your mom and dad.”

“A black sheep? Exciting.”

“Only on soap operas. In real life they’re big trouble.”

Pat made a face. “You sound like a jaded woman of the world. You’re twenty-one, for God’s sake.”

“I’m not jaded. Jaded is for people who don’t have enough imagination to keep life interesting. But I’ve learned to tell the difference between intriguing and troublesome.”

“I could learn to live with that kind of trouble when it’s packaged so nicely. He’s gorgeous. Sort of a cross between Brad Pitt and Russell Crowe. You must think so too or you wouldn’t keep drawing his face.”

Jane shrugged. “He’s interesting. I find something new in his face every time I draw it. That’s why I use him as a distraction.”

“You know, I really like those sketches. I don’t know why you haven’t done a full portrait of him. It would be much better than the one you did of the old lady that won that prize.”

Jane smiled. “I don’t believe the judges would have agreed with you.”

“Oh, I’m not knocking you. The other portrait was brilliant. But then, you’re always brilliant. You’ll be famous someday.”

Jane made a rude sound. “Maybe if I live to be as old as Grandma Moses. I’m far too practical. I have no artistic temperament.”

“You always make fun of yourself, but I’ve seen you when you’re working. You get lost. . . .” She tilted her head. “I’ve been wondering why you won’t admit you have a fantastic future in store for you. It took me a while but I finally figured it out.”

“Indeed? I can’t wait to hear your take on this.”

“Don’t be sarcastic. I can be perceptive on occasion. I’ve decided for some reason you’re afraid to reach out and grab the brass ring. Maybe you don’t think you deserve it.”


“I’m not saying you’re not confident. I just think you’re not as sure of your talent as you should be. Good God, you won one of the most prestigious competitions in the country. That should tell you something.”

“It told me the judges liked my style. Art is subjective. If there had been another set of judges, I might not have fared so well.” She shrugged. “And that would have been okay. I paint what and who I want. It gives me pleasure. I don’t have to be first with anyone else.”

“Don’t you?”

“No, I don’t, Miss Freud. So back off.”

“Whatever you say.” Pat was still staring at the sketch. “You said he was an old friend?”

Friend? No way. Their relationship had been too volatile to involve friendship. “No, I said I knew him years ago. Hadn’t you better take your shower?”

Pat chuckled. “Am I treading on private ground again? Sorry, it’s my busybody nature. It comes from living in a small town all my life.” She got to her feet and stretched. “You have to admit I restrain myself most of the time.”

Jane smiled as she shook her head. “When you’re sleeping.”

“Well, you must not mind too much. You’ve roomed with me for two years and you’ve never put arsenic in my coffee.”

“It could still happen.”

“Nah, you’re used to me now. Actually, we complement each other. You’re guarded, hardworking, responsible, and intense. I’m open, lazy, spoiled, and a social butterfly.”

“That’s why you have a 4.0 average.”

“Well, I’m also competitive and you spur me on. That’s why I don’t find a roommate who’s a party girl like me.” She pulled her T-shirt over her head. “Besides, I’m hoping Mr. Wonderful is going to show up so that I can seduce him.”

“You’ll be disappointed. He’s not going to show up. He probably doesn’t remember I’m alive, and now he’s just an interesting face to me.”

“I’d make sure he remembered me. What did you say his name was?”

Jane smiled teasingly. “Mr. Wonderful. What else?”

“No, really. I know you told me but I—”

“Trevor. Mark Trevor.”

“That’s right.” Pat headed for the bathroom. “Trevor . . .”

Jane glanced down at the sketch pad. It was curious that Pat had suddenly zeroed in on Trevor again. In spite of what she’d said, she generally respected Jane’s privacy, and she’d backed off before when she’d seen Jane withdraw after she’d questioned her about him.

“Stop analyzing.” Pat stuck her head out of the bathroom. “I can hear the wheels turning even over the sound of the shower. I’ve just decided I need to take you in hand and find a hunk to screw you and release all that pent-up tension you’re storing. You’ve been living like a nun lately. This Trevor seems a good candidate.”

Jane shook her head.

Pat made a face. “Stubborn. Well, then I’ll skip him and go on to the local talent.” She disappeared back into the bathroom.

Skip Trevor? Not likely, Jane thought. She’d been trying to ignore him for the past four years, and succeeded at times. Yet he was always in the background, waiting to push into her consciousness. That was the reason she’d started sketching his face three years ago. Once the sketch was finished she could forget him again for a while and get on with her life.

And it was a good life, full and busy and definitely not empty. She didn’t need him. She was accomplishing her goals, and the only reason his memory still lingered was that their time together had taken place under such dramatic circumstances. Black sheep might be intriguing to Pat, but she’d led a sheltered life and didn’t realize how much—

Her cell phone rang.


he was being followed.

Jane glanced over her shoulder.

No one.

At least, no one suspicious. A couple college guys out for a good time were strolling across the street and eyeing a girl who had just gotten off the bus. No one else. No one interested in her. She must be getting paranoid.

The hell she was. She still had her street kid’s instincts and she trusted them. Someone had been following her.

Okay, it could be anyone. This neighborhood had bars on every block catering to college kids who streamed in from the surrounding campuses. Maybe someone had noticed that she was alone, zeroed in on her for a few minutes as a prospective lay, and then lost interest and ducked into a bar.

As she was going to do.

She glanced up at the neon light on the building ahead. The Red Rooster? Oh, for God’s sake, Mike. If he was going to get soused, he could have at least picked a bar whose owner had a little originality.

That was too much to expect. Even when Mike wasn’t in a panic, he was neither selective nor critical. Tonight he evidently wouldn’t care if the place was called Dew Drop Inn if they’d serve him enough beer. Ordinarily, she would have opted to let him make his own mistakes and learn from them, but she’d promised Sandra she’d help him settle in.

And the kid was only eighteen, dammit. So get him out, get him back to his dorm, and get him sober enough to talk sense into him.

She opened the door and was immediately assaulted by noise, the smell of beer, and a crush of people. Her gaze searched the room and she finally spotted Mike and his roommate, Paul Donnell, at a table across the bar. She moved quickly toward them. From this distance Paul seemed sober, but Mike was obviously royally smashed. He could hardly sit up in his chair.

BOOK: Countdown
10.75Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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