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BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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***

 


I know why you brought me
to Paris with you,” Winter said in an accusatory tone as they ate
lunch in the café on the first floor of their hotel.


For the sparkling
conversation of course,” Monroe said without looking up from his
salad.


I’m the bait, aren’t
I?”

Now Monroe put his fork
down, looked up and straight at Winter and said, “That’s one way of
putting it…but I won’t force you to do it.”


I won’t sleep with him,”
Winter said.


Don’t worry,” Monroe
assured her. “As long as you don’t play easy to get, as long as you
don’t decide you want to do that, I won’t let it go that
far.”


If you get me killed,
Richard Monroe,” she said with half a smirk and half a sneer, “I
swear I’ll come back and haunt you into chronic insomnia. Do you
have a particular plan in mind?”


Later,” Monroe said, “when
we have some privacy. Finish your lunch, Winter.”

 

***

 

With a little help from
Arnaud Lafleur, who still insisted on any gunplay not happening
with him or his men around, Monroe had things rolling by nine that
evening. Now he sat in a van with Lafleur, across the street from
one of Paris’s most prominent nightclubs. Lafleur had put a man in
front of the apartments where Garrett Khan was staying. The watcher
had eventually called in to report that Khan and two of his guards
had just left the building. The watcher followed and reported a
second time to inform Lafleur that Khan had stopped at the club in
question and gone inside. At that news, Lafleur had called Monroe
and the plan went into action.

Lafleur and Geoffrey had
picked up Monroe and Winter and driven them to the block upon which
the club was situated. Winter was as dressed up as one can be for a
nightclub, in a tight, quite short black dress and strappy heels
that took considerable skill to walk in. Her now brown hair was
wild and free and Monroe thought she was stunning, though he
refrained from saying so. Geoffrey was dressed much differently
too; gone was the policeman’s uniform or the standard DGSE suit.
Instead, he wore a bright red t-shirt under a black leather jacket
and jeans of a current style.

The van parked across the
street from the club, Winter got out and went in alone, making a
solo entrance and hoping to attract the eyes of all the men in the
place, but one in particular. Geoffrey followed, entering two
minutes later to appear unconnected to the stunning woman who had
preceded him.

Monroe remained in the van
with Lafleur. It was not the ordinary van they had used earlier;
this one was something else entirely. Arnaud Lafleur was a
surveillance expert, a master of the skill of listening, and he
knew the ups and downs of every listening device and system on the
open market, black market, or clandestine market. This van was a
big travelling ear, equipped with receivers, microphones, and
radios of all sorts. Winter was bugged, a small transmitter hidden
where almost no man, hopefully not even one as used to getting what
he wanted as Garrett Khan, would dare put his hands during a first
meeting. The transmitter was designed to send its signal to the
listening apparatus in the van, which would filter out all but the
voices closest to the origin of that signal. It would enable Monroe
and Lafleur to hear Winter and also to hear Khan, assuming contact
was made. Geoffrey’s purpose inside was simply to keep watch, from
a distance, just in case. He was to do nothing but appear to be
having a good time. He was to stay alert, stay sober, and his only
act, should it be necessary, was to be to inform Lafleur, via a
microphone in his collar, of any trouble.

Once Winter and Geoffrey
were inside, Lafleur sat back to relax as he listened. Monroe,
however, was more on edge, sitting up straight in his seat, able to
feel the Glock in its holster inside his jacket, part of him
wishing something unexpected might happen to give him an excuse to
end Garrett Khan’s existence then and there. But the rest of him
fought to stay calm; he hoped things would go off without a hitch,
for he truly wanted to minimize the danger to Winter Willows. She
had been a good sport about being dragged across the world on a
mission of vengeance, and he was grateful for that.

Then the sound from the club
began to come through the equipment in the van. It was noise: the
chaotic gibberish of the loud thumping music, the pounding of a
thousand feet on the dance floor, and hundreds of voices speaking
at the same time.

Monroe cringed at the sound.
“Damn it, Arnaud, can’t you clean that up?”


Relax, Richard, the
transmitter will filter out the background when Winter begins to
speak. It is programmed with a sample of her voice, if you recall
our preparations.”

And it worked. Winter’s
voice came through loud and clear when she ordered a drink. The
bartender’s French reply was quite audible too as the transmitter
picked up the voice closest to its wearer. Monroe felt better and
he waited for what would come next. All had been planned and Winter
had been given a specific phrase that she would only speak when she
encountered Khan. Monroe just hoped that whatever was happening in
there, with all those people crowded together and enjoying the
night, would not prevent Winter from getting close to the
target.

Ten minutes of incoherent
noise came through, and then twenty and then half an hour’s worth
of repetitious music and crowd babble. Monroe’s patience was
beginning to wear thin when Winter’s voice finally cut through the
confusion again.


Excuse me,” her American
accent came through to the listening ears of Monroe and Lafleur,
“can I ask you a question? It might be a little weird!”


Sure,” said a male voice,
English in accent. “Shoot!”


Can I ask where you’re
from? You have an interesting face and I can’t quite place
it.”


It is, I hope, interesting
in a good way.”


In the best way, yes,” said
Winter. Monroe could almost see her seductive smile despite the
lack of visual.


In that case,” said the
male, “perhaps we could dance while I reveal the secrets of my
origin.”


I’d rather not,” Winter
said. “Not yet. I need a break from all those people. These shoes
are starting to wear me out.”

That was it. Monroe had now
heard the confirmation phrase. The complaint about her shoes was
the indication that it was Garrett Khan who Winter was talking to.
Monroe listened even more intently now as Winter continued her game
of attraction.


In that case,” Khan said,
“we will sit down, have a drink, and talk.”

A minute of nothing but
grating, chaotic sound ensued as they, Monroe assumed, made their
way from the dance floor to a less crowded corner of the club.
Then:


To answer your question,
I’m a Briton by birth…but my ancestry is far more impressive I
think.”


Do tell.”


You have heard, I assume,
of the mighty conqueror Genghis Khan.”


Of course I
have.”


Then I must warn you that
you are in the presence of one of his descendants. I am Garrett
Khan!”


Fascinating!” Winter said.
“It seems you might run into anyone in the Paris night.”

Monroe, listening, noticed
that Khan was using his real name—supposedly real at least—instead
of his current alias of Conan Garrett. A sure sign of pompous
overconfidence.


And now you must tell me
your name and where you are from,” Khan continued.


April,” Winter said, using
the alias that she and Monroe had agreed upon, “Oakes.”


And you are American?” Khan
asked.


Is it that
obvious?”


Only to the most discerning
ears and eyes,” Khan said, “not that national origin has any
bearing on whether or not a woman is as stunning as you are. And
what brings you to Paris, Miss Oakes? It is
Miss
isn’t
it?”


Yes,” Winter said, “I’m
single, if that’s what you’re asking, and I’m just here to see a
city I’ve never seen before.”


And what do you think of
Paris so far?”


It’s beautiful, enchanting
even, and I’ve met some very interesting people here.”

Monroe wondered if she was
reaching out and touching Khan’s hand with the way she said that
last bit.


But,” she continued, “there
have been disappointments as well.”


And what parts of Paris,”
Khan asked, “have not risen to your expectations,
April?”


It’s not that they’ve
fallen short, but that they haven’t made themselves available. As
nice as this club is, it isn’t really my thing. I’d prefer
something a little more cultured.”


Give me an
example.”


Well,” Winter said with a
slight whine under her purr, and probably a pretty pout to go with
it, Monroe guessed, “I had hoped to go to the opera while I was
here…but every performance seems to be sold out. So I suppose I’ll
have to make other plans.”


Perhaps,” Khan said, “our
chance meeting here is a perfect opportunity for us
both.”


What do you
mean?”


As soon as you spoke to
me,” Khan said, “I began to hope that I might see more of you…and
it happens that I have some friends in the Paris Opera and I’m
quite sure I can get you in to see a performance despite the
apparent unavailability of seats.”


That would be amazing!”
Winter squealed, really pouring on her act now. Monroe thought he
heard the sound of a quick kiss, probably just to Khan’s
cheek.


You would like that then?”
Khan asked.


Yes, definitely!” Winter
said. “I’d be very grateful.”


Then tomorrow night, your
wish will come true. But we still have tonight ahead of us. Tell
me, would you care to go to a quieter place for the rest of the
evening? Perhaps we could become even better friends.”


Don’t do it, Winter,”
Monroe said, though he knew she could not hear him. “Just make him
wait.”


I’m sorry, Garrett,” Winter
said, causing relief to rain down on the listening Monroe’s head,
“but I just stopped in here tonight to dispose of a free hour. I
really do have to be elsewhere in a short while. But here, let me
give you my number and hotel and I really hope you mean it about
tomorrow night.”


I look forward to it very
much. You will be the most beautiful sight in the audience at the
opera. You may even distract everyone from watching the show. I’ll
come for you at seven.”


Goodnight then, Garrett,”
Winter said, and Monroe heard what might have been another kiss. A
few seconds later, the transmitter dropped the focus on her voice
and went back to sending an avalanche of noise into the
van.

Arnaud Lafleur shut the
receiver off, turned to Monroe and said, “This is where I end my
support of your little pet project, Richard. I am finished with
your game of death. I will not hinder you at all, but the deed
itself as well as your escape is up to you to accomplish. I will
not risk my career or the lives of any of my men, but I wish you
well.”


I know, Arnaud,” Monroe
said. “Thank you.”

Winter got into the van a
minute later, followed by Geoffrey who took the driver’s seat. The
van zoomed out of there and cruised through the Paris
streets.


How did I do?” Winter
asked.


Perfectly,” Monroe said.
“Things are set now, no turning back. What was it like talking to
him?”


If I didn’t know who he
was,” Winter said, “I’d be attracted to him.”


He seemed quite full of
himself,” Arnaud Lafleur remarked. “But still you liked
him?”


I said if I didn’t know who
he was,” Winter repeated. “I’ve been around my share of dangerous
men, and I might even include you guys in that category. But Khan
is something else, a snake among serpents. Knowing what he was
responsible for,” and she looked at Monroe pityingly, “I can’t like
him. He’s pure scum, despite his interesting face.”


Do you feel okay, Winter?”
Monroe asked.


Yes,” she said, “I do, but
I want to get back to the hotel. I feel like I need a
shower.”

 

Chapter 14: Or
Not to Be

 

 


It’s all set,” Monroe said
into his phone. It was early in the morning and he was updating the
chief. “I wanted to make sure I had the go-ahead to proceed. Say
the word and Garrett Khan will be on his way to Hell in just about
twelve hours from now.”


You have the word,” Mr.
Nine said, “but I hope you have this planned out carefully. I can’t
bail you out if you step on too many French toes,
Monroe.”


Everything’s
covered.”


Where will it
happen?”


Poetically enough,” Monroe
said, “outside the Paris Opera, right where the bastard stole
Genevieve from me. Winter will get him there and I’ll be across the
street. There’s an empty office building with just the right height
balcony outside one of the management suites. It’s the perfect
perch for a perfect shot, quick and easy. One bang and down he
goes…forever.”

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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