Read Near Dark: A Thriller Online

Authors: Brad Thor

Tags: #Fiction, #Policital Thriller, #Thriller/Action & Adventure

Near Dark: A Thriller (28 page)

BOOK: Near Dark: A Thriller
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CHAPTER 48

S
he could have slammed the door, kicked the edge of the bed, or done any number of things to wake him up. They were both ex-military. The obnoxious possibilities were endless.

Instead, she had chosen to be kind. Sitting on the edge of the bed, she had gently drawn him from his slumber. Placing a soft hand on his shoulder, she had woken him up.

“Time to go to work,” she said, as he
opened his eyes.

“How long was I out?”

“Long enough. I made you a coffee and there’s a change of clothes hanging in the bathroom.”

“How much time do we have?” he asked, sitting up.

“We meet Dominique for drinks in half an hour.”

Harvath rubbed the sleep from his eyes and picked up his phone. There had been no updates from Nicholas.

“I had a dream about you,” he said.

Sølvi laughed. “You
were out so hard, you’re lucky to have even gotten oxygen to your brain.”

“Seriously,” Harvath teased, a faint smile on his lips. “I saw a nice house in Norway. On the water. And a boat.”

“Hmmm,” Sølvi replied, indulging him. “A house and a boat. You nailed it. That’s the whole package. Every Norwegian girl’s dream.”

He knew she was being facetious, but he was concerned that he had offended
her. “Did I miss something?”

“There’s a lot more to life than just a house and a boat,” she said, turning toward the open windows and looking out over the water.

He was certain that he had touched a nerve. What it was, though, he didn’t know, nor could he get to the bottom of it right now. Picking up his coffee, he headed into the bathroom.

There, he saw that Sølvi had not only brought his
personal items back from the Land Rover, but had also set them out on the counter.

For as cold-blooded as she had proven herself to be, there was also a thoughtful kindness to her.

Harvath didn’t need a shower, but he took one anyway. After rinsing off, he threw the temperature selector to cold and, as he had done countless times before, stood for as long as he could before turning off the water.

Toweling off, he got dressed, and joined Sølvi in the bedroom.

“You look like a new man,” she said.

“Thank you,” he replied, wondering if she was still upset.

“Gun up. I’ll be waiting in the lobby.”

And there, again, was her cold professionalism.

He thought he understood Nordic culture, or at the very least Scandinavian women, but she vexed the hell out of him.

All he had wanted to do was
to mourn Lara, drink himself into oblivion, and let everything else just melt away.

Then, the girl with the Sartre tattoo had shown up and it had all been turned upside down.

Now, every time he looked at her, he felt guilty. It wasn’t her fault. It was his. He felt like he was betraying Lara, and it hurt like hell.

Pulling himself together, he brushed his teeth, and tried to push all of it
from his mind.

Walking downstairs, he found her. She was standing in silhouette, lit by the fading light from outside. He could have stood there watching her for hours.

They didn’t have hours, but he did indulge himself in a few seconds. The spot Dominique had chosen for drinks wasn’t that far of a walk.

Sølvi must have sensed him. Turning her head, she looked over her shoulder and smiled.
He wished he’d had his phone out. It would have been a great photo.

At least she didn’t seem upset with him. Crossing the lobby, he opened the door and held it for her.

When they stepped onto the narrow cobblestone street, it was like they were salmon swimming up a packed stream. The throng of departing tourists was massive. Dominique hadn’t been kidding about Mont-Saint-Michel starting to empty
out at five o’clock.

Despite the exodus, it hadn’t turned into a medieval ghost town. There were still people around.

They met their guide at the Auberge Saint-Pierre, where she had secured an outdoor table in the tiny, courtyard garden.

Harvath opted for an espresso, while Sølvi had an Aperol Spritz, and Dominique—glad to be putting the workday behind her—ordered a Calvados.

She was even
more chatty than she had been at lunch. Harvath wondered if maybe she had stopped for a drink with her other clients before arriving here.

There was a benefit to it, though. She seemed more comfortable around them and, without coaxing, she brought up Aubertin.

It was brief. She didn’t know much about him. He spoke with an Irish accent and while polite, was exceedingly professional. So much so,
that he wasn’t known to socialize with any of the other guides. In fact, the only social situations Dominique had ever seen him in were when he was at a restaurant or a café with clients.

He was considered an excellent guide and had sent her some wonderful referrals over the years. “Present company very much included,” she added.

She didn’t know anything about his personal life and believed
that he lived somewhere along the coast.

And as quickly as the subject had come up, she moved on to discussing something else.

If nothing else, the fact that he spoke with an Irish accent confirmed Nicholas’s information. Aubertin was their assassin.

The piece about him living somewhere along the coast was interesting and might be helpful in their hunt for him.

After waiting a few minutes,
Harvath stood up and excused himself from the table, telling the ladies that he would be back momentarily.

He walked back to the men’s room, but it was occupied and so he stepped outside to compose a text to Nicholas.

Standing there, thumbing out the message, he shuddered. It was unlike any feeling he had ever experienced before. Immediately, he looked up, half expecting to see a tiger charging
at him, or a meteor falling out of the sky. The best way he could have described the feeling was with a saying his grandmother used to use.
It was as if someone had walked across his grave
.

But, of course, as he looked around there was no tiger, no meteor. There were only tourists, a group of whom had just entered a shop across the lane.

Shaking it off, he finished his text, hit Send, and returned
inside.

CHAPTER 49

W
hen the ladies had finished their drinks and Harvath his espresso, they left the Auberge Saint-Pierre and headed off for evensong, or as it was referred to at Mont-Saint-Michel, vespers.

As with every Point A to Point B excursion on the island, there were inclines and stone steps—lots and lots of steps.

Dominique had assured them that she knew a shortcut and was shaving considerable
difficulty off their walk. Harvath watched with interest as they passed a young couple, baby and stroller in tormented tow, arguing. Someone in that family—husband or wife—needed to get much better at pre-vacation reconnaissance. This was not a destination to which you brought babies or small children. It was physically strenuous, even for adults.

Its inaccessibility, though, was what had made
it such a formidable stronghold for well over a thousand years. The more time Harvath spent walking its streets and ramparts, the more he grew to appreciate it. It spoke to the warrior in him.

True to her word, Dominique had indeed found them a shortcut to the abbey, and was able to get them in through a side door. She had already purchased entrance tickets, which she handed over to a church
official standing just inside.

As she did, she directed Harvath’s attention to an offering box bolted
to a thick stone column and intimated that he might want to make an additional donation.

Seeing as how they had been allowed to use God’s VIP entrance, the least they could do was to show their appreciation.

Harvath didn’t have a problem with it at all. Even if they had been forced to queue
up at the main entrance, he still would have donated a little extra.

Wherever he traveled, he loved seeing older houses of worship. They were always works of art, with incredible attention to detail. Helping keep such beauty alive was an honor.

Directed to a special set of pews, they took their seats. After a few minutes of requisite history from Dominique, the service began. And it was amazing.

Six monks and six nuns, shrouded in white, stood at the front of the ancient church with its soaring ceiling. As they sang, their hallowed voices reverberated off the centuries-old walls, and was one of the most beautiful things Harvath had ever heard.

It didn’t even seem real. It sounded like a movie soundtrack. But considering the movie-set-like beauty of Mont-Saint-Michel, it was fitting.
Sometimes, if you stopped to appreciate it, real life was often more beautiful than fantasy.

At the tree line of civilization, though, evil was always poised, ready to rush in.

Maybe that was why he felt such a special kinship with houses of worship. If there was one thing religion understood, it was evil. The fact that some officiants referred to their faithful as their “flock,” also had a
special resonance with him. The whole sheep/sheepdog, wolf/wolf hunter thing seemed to be especially clear when he was sitting in a church.

It was also a sanctuary, the one place he should be able to let his guard down and reflect—to think about who he was, what his place was in this world, and if what he was doing was a noble, virtuous, even moral thing.

As he allowed himself to slip into a
contemplative frame of mind, dropping his guard just a fraction, lulled by the music, the shudder swept over him again.

Like someone had walked across his grave
. And just as it had outside the Auberge Saint-Pierre, it shook him.

Moving his hand to his concealed pistol, he turned his head and swept as much of the church as he could with his eyes. All he could see were tourists, though.
Nothing
but tourists
.

Yet if that was the case, why were his Spidey senses tingling off the charts? Was he getting jumpy again? Like he had when leaving the truck driver’s house or when Landsbergis had lingered in his driveway and not come directly inside? Or was this something else?

As if he needed something to complicate matters further, his phone began to vibrate. Pulling it out he saw it was a call
from Nicholas. He couldn’t take it. Not here. Not during vespers. He sent a text back.
Can’t talk now.
And slid the phone back into his pocket. As soon as he did, it started vibrating again.

Harvath pulled it out, silenced the call, and sent another text message.
I will call you ASAP.

Almost instantly, a message came back.
We got a lock on his phone. We’ve located Aubertin.

The people around
Harvath were getting angry that he was on his phone and not respecting the mass. He understood where they were coming from, but this couldn’t wait. It also would have been a hell of a lot more disruptive if he had stood up and walked out.

Where is he?
Harvath texted.

He’s there,
Nicholas texted back.
At Mont-Saint-Michel.

Where?
Harvath asked, stunned.
Specifically?

At the abbey. Where are
you?

Taking one very slow, very long look around, Harvath texted back,
Also at the abbey.

CHAPTER 50

T
he abbey was a collection of buildings and outdoor spaces—some of which were off-limits to the public. Aubertin could have been anywhere. Harvath, though, knew he wasn’t just
anywhere
. He was close. He was
here
.

The reason he had recommended Dominique was because he was already booked for the day. If, as Nicholas had texted, he was at the abbey, it was because he had brought clients.
And if they were on the premises at this time of the evening, it had to be because they were attending vespers in the church. The challenge for Harvath was to find him, without being seen.

As he took another look through the crowd, Sølvi leaned over and asked him what was going on. Handing her his phone, he let her read the texts.

The look on her face said it all. She couldn’t believe it either.

“What do we do?” she whispered.

Harvath didn’t have an answer—at least not a good one. They had been shoved down their pew to make room for a group of latecomers. It was going to be impossible to exit without crawling over people. And no matter how quiet or polite about it they were, it was going to draw attention.

While they had an excellent view of the service, when they were forced to slide
farther down the pew, the view behind them became partially obstructed by a column. As a result, Harvath was unable to see a
considerable slice of people. He was convinced that was why he hadn’t yet been able to spot Aubertin.

But even if he had, what was he going to do about it? Pull out his pistol and yell for the man not to move? There were too many civilians. He needed to come up with a better
plan.

With the tide coming in outside, there was only one way off the island—via the causeway. There were several ways, though, to exit the abbey and make it down to the main gate. He and Sølvi were going to have to split up. If he lost Aubertin up top, he would be counting on her to trap him at the bottom.

He emphasized the word
trap
, making sure to clearly distinguish it from the word
kill
. Aubertin was the next link in the chain. Without him, Harvath would be in the dark again, back at square one.

When the pair was done whispering, Sølvi leaned over to Dominique—who had been watching their exchange out of the corner of her eye—and gave her regrets. She explained that they had received bad news from Canada about a close friend and that she needed to return to the hotel.

Dominique
explained that the service was almost over. Sølvi, insisting that she had to leave, thanked her and said goodbye.

Harvath told her he’d join her there shortly and stared straight ahead. Aubertin, as far as he knew, had no clue who Sølvi was. Even if he saw her get up and leave, it wouldn’t have given him pause. Already, other tourists—prompted by their guides—were gathering their things and getting
ready to be the first ones out the church doors in order to beat the rush.

He wished the tracking system Nicholas was using was more precise, but despite not knowing where Aubertin was sitting, he still had the ultimate advantage—the assassin had no idea he was there.

As the final, haunting note of the service reverberated through the church and faded away, Dominique tapped Harvath on the arm
and said,
“C’est fini.”

“This is for you,” he replied, having pulled another generous tip from his pocket. “I need to join my wife. Thank you for everything.”

Before the guide could respond, he was headed off in the opposite
direction. Not toward the door by which they had entered, but rather deeper into the church.

Like a shark moving through the water, he slipped through the crowd. His senses
were fully heightened, keen, and on alert. He kept his head down and his eyes up, sweeping back and forth, searching for his quarry.

As he moved, he expected the shudder to hit him again—for Aubertin to walk across his grave once more and announce that he was there. But the shudder didn’t come.

Instead, a flash of something else caught his attention. Just off to his left—a polo shirt he had
seen earlier. As if it were a drop of blood in the water, he swam toward it.

Getting closer, he noticed a familiar skirt. Then a blazer, a sundress, and a pair of sandals. He knew these details, these people. He had seen them before—outside the Auberge Saint-Pierre.

This was the family that had been entering the shop across the road when he had first felt the shudder. They appeared wealthy enough
to hire a private guide. And if they had, he was willing to bet that he knew the guide’s identity.

So where the hell was he?

Harvath continued scanning the people around them. Then, suddenly, he saw him.
Aubertin
.

The apex predator part of his brain took over and he went for his pistol. That was when all hell broke loose.

It was so out of context that Aubertin didn’t immediately recognize
him. His expression, though, was unmistakable. It had changed in an instant—like someone had thrown a switch. Only when he pulled his weapon out did he realize who he was looking at—Scot Harvath.

Aubertin drew his weapon but, unlike Harvath—who must have been concerned about the crowd—he didn’t hesitate. He fired.

The bullet dropped a man who had inadvertently stepped in front of Harvath to
take a photo.

At the sound of the gunshot, there was instant panic, along with a stampede. Terrified families and tour groups were torn apart as they scattered in different directions. Numerous people, including children, were trampled. It was pandemonium.

And it provided Aubertin with an opportunity—concealment.

Surging with the crowd toward the nearest exit, he kept his pistol low and out
of sight. He had no idea how Harvath had found him, or how many men he might have brought with him. Right now, all that mattered was escape.

Outside, he snatched a baseball cap from a discarded backpack and kept on running. Wriggling out of his blazer, he wrapped the garment around his right hand to hide his weapon. His only hope was to get off the island before police locked down the causeway.

But, of course, that was exactly what they would be expecting him to do. That’s where Harvath and his people would be waiting for him. They had him trapped—or at least, that’s what they thought.

Aubertin, however, knew the island. And he had a different idea.

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