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Nobody Dies For Free

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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NOBODY
DIES FOR FREE

by Aaron Smith

 

 

Published by Pro Se Press at
Smashwords

 

This book is a work of fiction. All
of the characters in this publication are products of the author’s
imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual
persons, living or dead is purely coincidental. No part or whole of
this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by
any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, taping or by any information storage or
retrieval system, without the permission in writing of the
publisher.

 

Chapter 1: The
Cradle or the Grave

 

 

Richard Monroe had invested
his entire soul in one woman, and then she died. It was as simple
as that.

Her blood ran out through
his fingers, the last product of her slowing heartbeat, and Monroe
knew that it was too much red, far too fast, for his hand to
contain and save her. It spilled out and stained the street outside
the Paris Opera where, only seconds earlier, they had been joking
about the Phantom as they waited their turn to enter.

At that moment, Monroe did
not care where the bullet had come from, why it had struck, or what
the gathering crowd of policemen and gawkers were shouting. He
cared only that he was about to lose her, and five years suddenly
seemed shorter than the blink of an eye.

He whispered her name one
last time as her soft brown eyes closed.


Genevieve.”

And she was gone. Richard
Monroe held her until the police dragged him away from the body,
but already he was alone.

 

***

 

Six months later, the CIA
seemed a world away, a different lifetime for Monroe. The week
after the shooting had gone by in a mostly emotionless blur as
Monroe had gone through the necessary motions: identification of
the body, burial arrangements, and notification of Genevieve’s few
scattered relatives. Then he saw to the distribution of their
money, most of which had come from her inheritance, into various
accounts tied to various banks in various nations. Finally, he put
down onto paper his official resignation from the agency that had
stationed him in Paris five years earlier. When Genevieve was gone,
Richard Monroe severed all ties to his old life, abandoned
everything he had planned for the future, and erased himself from
the eyes of those who had known him in the years before the shot
outside the opera hall.

Genevieve had softened him;
he was fully aware of that. With her by his side, he had shifted
from a life of movement, change, upheaval, and violence to one of
tranquility, happiness, music, fine food and high style.

But she was gone and now the
softness of proper civilization had to go away, too. Monroe
sharpened himself again, let the cultured, educated façade slip
away into the night and hardened into something like what he had
been before her, but perhaps worse. He set into motion a
metamorphosis that would have made him unrecognizable to his
friends, if he had any left who might happen to see him in the dark
places he now travelled.

He stopped shaving and let
his hair grow until he took on a grizzled appearance and his hair
became a semi-hippie mop. He discarded his perfectly tailored suits
and took to wearing clothes that put him just one level above a
bum. He became the sort of man who nobody looked at twice, who
nobody would want to look at twice. Easier to blend in that way.
His face went from the younger side of thirty-nine to the ragged
wilderness of the far side of fifty. He made the changes in Paris
while crashing in a small rented room all the way across the city
from the spacious home he had shared with Genevieve. When he was
satisfied with his transformation, he put it to the
test.

Monroe shuffled into the
bank where he had been a frequent customer, his height disguised
with a slouch, his face peering out from the jungle of his beard,
his movements cautious and without his traditional smooth
confidence. He roamed into the bank and stood less than six feet
from the bank manager, who knew him very well, and stared the man
down, glad to see not a sliver of recognition cross the French
moneylender’s face.

Having satisfactorily melted
from the face of the Earth, Richard Monroe began the hunt. He had
no personal computer now, having abandoned it along with his house,
car, and suits. He went into an internet café in one of the rougher
corners of Paris and hacked his way into the United States Federal
computer system. The US government has over a dozen levels of
classified files and Monroe knew how to get into all but the
highest of them. He had five minutes in there and began to check
statuses and memorize the contents of the secret sites. In minutes
though, the intrusion was detected and the visit shut down. No
matter. He left the place.

He hit two more pay by the
hour computers in Paris and then moved on to Nice, travelling by
train and sometimes by bus. Lyon and Toulouse were next, and then
back to Paris, followed by a quick side trip to Marseille. He
avoided hitting the cities or their internet cafés in any sort of
logical pattern; his travels were now as random as his hair. He did
not confine his jumps to Paris either, but made it into Belgium
once or twice, then Portugal, and finally all the way over to
Sofia, Bulgaria. All the while, he memorized names and faces and
the details of those to whom the faces belonged. He knew that there
were a limited number of men in the world capable of setting up,
taking a shot like the one that had stolen Genevieve away from him,
and then fading into the night almost before their presence was
realized. What Monroe needed to do was figure out which one of
those men had been in the right place at the right time to have
been the one who destroyed his life.

He had lost count of how
many times he had hacked into those files for a minute here and ten
minutes there and sometimes as little as thirty seconds before
being detected and tossed like a drunk who just pissed off the
bouncer. But finally, late one night in Sofia, Richard Monroe
struck gold and his blood felt like ice as he saw the face of the
man who had indeed been in that place at that time. He would no
longer need to go to those classified sites. He would not need to
print any documents. That face, that name, that dossier were burned
into his memory as if branded with a white-hot iron.

His name was Baltasar
al-Hamsi. A former Syrian intelligence man now gone freelance,
al-Hamsi was a killer, and a good one. He would shoot anyone for
the right price and had never come close to being caught. It was
only due to a few small leaks in the chain of darkness that binds
together men in al-Hamsi’s profession that the CIA and DHS had any
idea who he was. In any case, they had never had sufficient
evidence or reason to go after him, to finish him. He was simply on
a handful of watch-lists. Those lists had failed to keep Genevieve
safe.

Monroe had no idea who might
have hired al-Hamsi, for he had spat in the faces of many nations
in his CIA career, but he knew who had pulled the trigger and, for
now, that was something. And what was more, the CIA, at that
moment, according to the information Monroe had just stolen, knew
where the son of a bitch was. Richard Monroe would have to go to
Istanbul.

 

***

 

Turkey was hot as Hell and
Monroe was sorely tempted to shave off the beard; it made him itch
terribly, but he resisted. He had to keep looking like a man who
nobody wanted to look at twice, had to blend in. It was no problem
locating Baltasar al-Hamsi. Monroe, despite his ragged appearance,
still had a nice chunk of money in his possession and buying
information was easier and easier the further east one went. The
Syrian sniper was apparently taking a break between jobs. He had
done one a month earlier, although the provider of the information
did not know who the target was and the CIA’s files had not made
mention of the job, either. But that was nothing new; it had not
made the connection between al-Hamsi’s sights and Genevieve. But
al-Hamsi had certainly been in Paris that evening and left on the
next flight available after Monroe had desperately tried to keep
his wife’s blood in her veins. That was proof enough.

After the information was in
Monroe’s mind—al-Hamsi’s address in Istanbul, his favorite café,
the brothel he frequented—Monroe spent a bit more of his vengeance
fund. He found a dealer of antiquities, medieval in specialty, and
he purchased a misericord. This was the instrument of the final
death-thrust for warriors of the Middle Ages, a long, thin blade
easily concealed—such as up a sleeve—with a narrow point that could
quickly and quietly be slipped right between the ribs to pierce the
heart and stop it cold with a minimum of noisy fuss. While Monroe
had often entertained the thought of taking al-Hamsi somewhere
secluded and giving him a lifetime’s worth of pain before putting
him down, it was not his style. Not after Genevieve any more than
it would have been before she had softened him. He was willing to
stoop to being a beast to end her killer’s life, but he would not
become a complete animal. He had to hang on to some part of Richard
Monroe. If he did not, he would be as dead as Genevieve, and she
would not have wanted that.

It was after midnight on
Monroe’s fifth day in Turkey when he caught al-Hamsi’s scent. The
Syrian had gone for a woman, spent almost three hours in his
preferred whorehouse, and finally wandered back onto the streets
looking exhausted but content. Good, Monroe thought, a tired target
goes down easier.

Al-Hamsi would take the
subway home and Monroe followed him into the tunnel, boarded the
same car, and sat five seats away from him. They were the only two
men in the car. They were alone, and yet al-Hamsi glanced only once
at the bearded, bedraggled stranger.

Monroe got up, shambled over
to al-Hamsi, doing his best to feign slight inebriation, and
finally swayed back and forth for a moment in front of the
assassin.

Al-Hamsi mumbled something
in Turkish. When the ragged man showed no clue, he tried Arabic but
still got nothing. French came out next and Monroe understood but
did not show it. Finally, the irritated Syrian let English fly
out.


Fuck off, you stupid
asshole! I have no money for beggars!”

At those words, Monroe
unfurled his hand and let something slip from his grasp and fall
like a leaf into the lap of Baltasar al-Hamsi. The seated Syrian
looked down and saw the photograph settle gently into his lap. It
was a picture of a woman, the head and shoulders of a stunning
brunette with a joyous twinkle in her eyes.

Recognition came to al-Hamsi
like sudden thunder, putting the fear of all gods into him as he
understood what was happening and what the ragged man wanted with
him. He went for his gun. It was too late.

The arm that tried to get
the gun from the belt left an open space, just a few inches,
between the elbow and the side of the body. Monroe leaned forward,
thrust the misericord in, felt the slight scrape against the bars
of the ribcage, and watched Baltasar al-Hamsi cease to
exist.

Monroe did not smile, did
not display any emotion whatsoever. He pulled the thin blade out of
the dead man’s body and wiped al-Hamsi’s blood onto the subway
seat. The misericord went back into Monroe’s sleeve where it would
stay until he let himself think normally again and could decide
whether to get rid of it, perhaps in some river somewhere, or keep
it as a souvenir of the mission that had meant the most to him of
all his assignments over his many years in and out of the business
of secret lives and secret death.

 

***

 

Monroe made it out of the
subway at the next stop. He walked out casually and roamed in
random circles around many streets before taking a room at a small,
cheap inn. He fell into bed at one-thirty in the morning and slept
better than he had in months, better than he had since the last
time he could feel the warmth of Genevieve’s body beside him in the
darkness.

He rolled out of bed when
the light of the sun came through the window. He stepped into his
shoes, having slept in the rest of his clothes, and sauntered out
onto the streets just as the imams were calling out for morning
prayers. Coffee was needed, the Turkish kind, strong and bitter and
all-powerful. He glanced around for a café and caught the scent of
one. At that moment, he thought of Genevieve and it hit him hard
that finally justice had been done and she was avenged. He allowed
himself to smile and, just for an instant, his automatic guard
dropped, his years of training lost to sentimentality and
satisfaction. That instant was all it took. He was grabbed, counted
four strong hands taking him all at the same time, smelled cheap
aftershave, and felt a heavy blow to the back of the head, and that
was all.

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