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Authors: Jared Paul

Marked Man II - 02 (7 page)

BOOK: Marked Man II - 02
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It was almost three in the morning when the call came in. Her experience as a detective taught her that nothing good came at that hour, but Bollier welcomed the distraction. Anything to occupy her mind. She got up and left the bedroom as quietly as she could. Bollier pulled the door closed as she left and she snuck a peek at the bed. The waitress was stirring.

 

Clad in a thin nightgown, Bollier ambled through the shadows and stepped out onto the balcony. Twelve floors below, the city emitted a low, steady hum of activity like a beehive. She called the number from the page and a woman with an unmistakable Jersey accent picked up.

 

“Montville Police Department.”

 

“Yes, this is Detective Leslie Bollier with the NYPD. I got a page?”

 

“Okay, one moment. Let me connect you.”

 

A recording of Bruce Springsteen’s Blinded by the Light played while her call was transferred. As she listened to the song Bollier sensed movement in the apartment. The waitress was up and moving about. Wanting no interruption, Bollier reached out with her toes and slid the balcony door shut. The song was almost finished when a man’s voice came through.

 

“This is Irving.”

 

“Yes hello, Irving. This is Leslie Bollier. We met a few nights ago when you brought in the Prokorov brothers.”

 

“Ah. Uh huh. Yeah.”

 

Bollier was not encouraged by the tone of his response.

 

“You paged me. What’s going on?”

 

Sergeant Irving talked for a couple of minutes and told detective Bollier what had become of Alexei and Timur Prokorov. When he was through he apologized a dozen times. Bollier should have been angry, but she instead told him not to blame himself and then thanked him for taking the time to call and then hung up.

 

The waitress was lounging in the loveseat, wearing nothing but one of Bollier’s white collar shirts for work. Bollier left the balcony open as she came back into the apartment. A gentle summer breeze blew in from 8th Avenue, sending the detective’s nightgown into motion like a flag caught in a full gale of wind. For a moment Bollier let her eyes wander up the waitress’ legs, then the folds of the shirt until she met the girl’s expectant eyes.

 

“That was work,” she said. The waitress blinked.

 

“You should probably go.”

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Five

 

Agent Clemons had just returned from lunch when he found the Director in his office, sitting in his chair reading through a file on the recently deceased Prokorov brothers. The Director had never visited his corner of the building before and Agent Clemons wasn’t sure how to proceed, so he knocked on the door to his own office.

 

“Come in.”

 

“Yes sir.”

 

Agent Clemons obeyed but there were no other chairs in his office so he remained standing at attention, hands folded together behind his back.

 

The Director’s hand brushed at his moustache and his eyes narrowed at the page in front of him. It was the autopsy report for the younger brother, Timur. Without having to see Agent Clemons knew that the Director was reading the part about the six broken vertebrae at the top of Prokorov’s back and neck.

 

He took his time. Like all of the men of position that Agent Clemons had come across in his days, the Director seemed to relish in forcing other people to wait on them. They never hurried. Hurry was a habit of lesser men.

 

Once he finally reached the end of the page the Director closed the file and tossed it into the slush pile around Agent Clemons’ desk. Agent Clemons grimaced. It may not have looked like it, but the mess was ordered in its own way, and the delicate balanced had been upset. He desperately wanted to return the Prokorov brothers file to its rightful place, three inches to the left of where the Director had carelessly threw it, but he resisted this impulse. The Director affixed him with his infamous analytical gaze.

 

“Hell of a mess isn’t it, Clemons?”

 

It sounded like a question but the agent knew better. Of course it was a mess. The entire situation was a clusterfuck of cataclysmic proportions, or else the Director wouldn’t have said anything, and definitely wouldn’t be in his office while everyone else was out to lunch.

 

“Sir.”

 

“Do we know what happened?”

 

“We’re still working on that in conjunction with Newark, but I believe that one of Shirokov’s men got himself arrested on purpose in Montville. They put him in the same building as the Prokorovs. First time they were in the yard together, boom.”

 

“That would be Leonid Yenotin.”

 

Another statement disguised as a question. Part of the reason that the Director seemed to like Agent Clemons is that he was able to tell the difference, whereas so many agents jumped at them like fish to tackle, eager to please and prove how smart they were.

 

“Tell me about him.”

 

“Leonid is one of Shirokov’s main two bodyguards, along with Vitaly. They almost never leave his side. The fact that he used him I think shows that he’s growing desperate.”

 

“How so?”

 

“Well he had to know that once the deed was done Yenotin would never see the light of day as a free man again. Either he had no one else he could trust to get it done or…”

 

The Director waited for his protégé to finish the thought.

 

“... or he’s got a terminal case of irrational self-confidence.”

 

“So which is it?”

 

“I don’t know sir.”

 

This was not an answer that was likely to please the Director, but it was the correct one. Going off on half-baked theories was the sort of thing that got witnesses and innocent people killed, although there seemed to be plenty of that going on already. Agent Clemons felt a churning in his esophagus. His chicken burrito was winning the war against his gastric system but he managed to keep the belch down. Almost another full minute passed before the Director finally got around to the reason for his visit.

 

“Shirokov’s trial will resume tomorrow. Closing arguments won’t be long off. How do you think it will play out?”

 

Agent Clemons started to answer but then the Director suddenly decided he wasn’t interested in his protégé’s opinion and cut him off. He had reached his own conclusions.

 

“I’d give it fifty-fifty odds for a conviction myself. Although I’m not a gambling man. Are you a gambling man, Clemons?”

 

He wasn’t sure if the Director wanted him to actually answer or if he was just playing one of his games. Agent Clemons stammered.

 

“I uh. I play poker every other Saturday with my neighbors.”

 

“That’s good. I presume then that you’re familiar with the concept of pot odds.”

 

Poker was more of a hobby than anything to Agent Clemons. He had never taken the elaborate strategies or philosophies about it seriously. Some of Saturday night friends did, though. They were the ones who usually ended up winning. Pot odds sounded familiar but Agent Clemons thought it would be best not to open his mouth and prove himself wrong. The Director explained for him.

 

“The cards only matter so much, probably less than any other part of the equation. The position matters. The man matters, his habits, his instincts, his tells. But the pot odds are what should determine any real player’s decisions. Take a pot that’s ten dollars. There’s still one card to see. Guy to your right bets twelve dollars. You’ve got a pair of Aces and don’t know what he has. What do you do?”

 

Agent Clemons thought about it a moment before answering.

 

“Fold.”

 

“That’s right. Because who the hell wants to bet twelve dollars to win ten regardless of what you have? Now. Same play. Guy to your right bets three dollars.”

 

“Depends on the guy, but I’d probably call.”

 

“You get the idea. You don’t waste resources on little battles. Let the mouth breathers in the hats and sunglasses fight it out for the little pots. I’m interested in the big picture. How about yourself, Clemons?”

 

“Sir.”

 

“You’ve done well with this Shirokov thing. Despite recent… developments that can hardly be blamed on you.”

 

Even though that was probably true Agent Clemons felt responsible.

 

“It was my fault sir.”

 

“That’s the right thing to say but you’re wrong. You’ve done well, but this is a small pot. I don’t want one of my best minds wasting his career away chasing Russian gangsters with more gel in their hair than brains.”

 

“I’m not sure I follow.”

 

Clearly the Director’s patience had been exhausted. He stood up and soothed over his midnight blue jacket, then buttoned the top button.

 

“This trial, I sincerely hope we get a conviction tomorrow. Because if we don’t you’ve still got to run around and waste several more months, maybe a year, chasing loose ends.”

 

“And if we do?”

 

“I’m transferring you to our counter-terrorism unit in Manhattan. Big step up. A whole staff underneath you, a real staff. Then you can go after the real bad buys. Stop chasing around these useless Ruskies.”

 

Agent Clemons was taken completely off guard. He may have even let his mouth hang open for a second or two before he recovered his composure.

 

“Sir, I… I don’t think it’s that simple. As you know Shirokov is just one piece of the puzzle. The sex trafficking, the heroin, it’s all a lot more complic…”

 

“What’s the matter? You think you’re the only genius who can take care of it? You’re getting a promotion. Now stop acting like a mouth breather, smile, shake my hand and say thanks.”

 

Tiny dots of green light danced in Agent Clemon’s field of vision. The room was spinning. This had happened several times since he’d been shot on Riis Landing, but this was the first since he’d returned to work. The doctors had written it off as nothing more than a little post-traumatic stress disorder, purely psychosomatic. Nothing to worry about. It took some discipline but Agent Clemons took a step forward and shook the Director’s hand, but he could not force himself to smile.

 

“Don’t look so grim, Clemons. When you’re up and running I’ll have you over for dinner some time. Get you going in my poker game.”

 

“Ha. Yes of course. Thank you sir. Sir.”

 

The Director walked out of his office and Agent Clemons collapsed into his chair. He closed his eyes and breathed deeply until the dots faded.

 

News of his promotion should have been the happiest day of his life. Agent Clemons had no wife, no girlfriend, no dog, and no kids. Career advancement was the only thing that got him out of bed in the morning. Then why the panic? Why this sensation that his world had been turned completely upside down and spun around like a kid twirling his head on a baseball bat?

 

Agent Clemons nudged the Prokorov brothers file back into its proper place and looked around at the rest of his office. Everything appeared to be in its place.

 


 

Jordan Ross did not allow himself many comforts. Since Sarah and Emma had been killed he’d been living an ascetic existence. He got up in the morning, ate a healthy breakfast, and did an hour of intensive cardio exercise. He went for a walk around the block for groceries, drank a protein powder shake, and did weight training, legs or arms, depending on the day of the week. He took a short nap. He read the New York Times or the Village Voice for an hour, and then he ate a healthy dinner, followed by a six mile run around the neighborhood. He watched a movie and went to bed early. In the morning, he got up early and did the same.

 

The condo that Agent Clemons and the detective had set up for him was ideal of his purposes. He kept the furnishings spare. Since he was technically still dead he could have no day job, so they gave him an allowance for the necessities. Rent was paid through some automated system he had no knowledge of. He hadn’t even bothered to paint. Jordan thought it would be a waste, considering he would likely be killed for real in one shootout or another with the Russians sooner rather than later.

 

Jordan Ross had accepted this without much of a fuss. Most people when they become aware of their pending mortality have an existential crisis or a mental breakdown. Jordan was not particularly bothered by it, for a couple of reasons. During his decorated career in Special Forces he’d been trained to believe that he was already dead and taught to do his job anyway.

 

Losing Sarah and Emma just sealed the deal. There was nothing to live for except to kill as many Russians as possible before they brought him down. Sometimes he missed them, and he often dreamt of happier days when his wife and kid were still around, but on the whole Jordan functioned remarkably well in this new life. He had no expectations. He had no desires beyond the basic food, water, shelter, and revenge. Despite everything that had happened Jordan was happier than he ever would have guessed.

 

Maybe all the workouts just kept a constant flood of endorphins running through his system so it was impossible to get depressed. Maybe Jordan had secretly always pined for a simple, hippy-like existence. Whatever it was, Jordan was surprisingly content to eat, sleep, and kill Russians.

 

The only creature comfort that he allowed himself, aside from a daily allotment of two fingers of whiskey on ice, was Thursday night pizza.

 

Even if he had a healthy perspective on his life, after several months of kale smoothies and protein shakes, Jordan felt that something was missing. Socializing was out of the question. He could not go out to a bar and mingle with other people. He was supposed to be dead. The only interaction he got was when Agent Clemons or Detective Bollier came over to talk shop. On a whim one Thursday night when he was feeling particularly lonely Jordan ordered a large pie with sausage and extra cheese.

 

It was a risk of course. He was supposed to have minimal contact with the outside world, and the delivery boy was just one more variable. But the second that Jordan got a whiff of that first thin-crust New York pizza fresh in the box he decided that it was well worth the danger.

 

No amount of fresh-baked pizza could fill the hole in Jordan’s social life, but sometimes it came close.

 

The Thursday evening before the last day of Vladimir Shirokov’s trial, Jordan ordered from his usual preferred destination: Linelli’s on 123rd street, also a favorite of Columbia undergraduates. He felt like something slightly different, so he opted for pepperoni instead of sausage. Thirty-five minutes later the bell rang. Jordan rushed over to the intercom.

BOOK: Marked Man II - 02
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