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Authors: Pro Se Press

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BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
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Sorry to disappoint you,
but I’m not her. Can you sit up?”

Monroe moaned and pushed
himself into a seated position, propped up with a pillow at his
back. He looked straight ahead. A former naval man, he knew
immediately where he was: shipboard infirmary. He concentrated for
a moment on his nerves and decided everything was where it should
be despite the aches and bruised flesh at too many points to count.
Then he remembered everything in one vivid flash.


Belgium!” he cried out.
“The bomb…it’s in Brussels! You have to…”


Relax, Monroe,” Mr. Nine
interrupted, “the bomb’s been found. It’s in our possession.
Brussels is safe thanks to what we found on that computer you had
under you after that store exploded. That’s the good
news.”


I suppose that means the
bad is coming next,” Monroe said.

Mr. Nine did not hesitate or
try to be gentle. “Lieutenant Leary is dead. He shielded you from
the blast and took most of the damage.”


Shit,” Monroe said. “He was
a good kid.”


That’s not the worst of
it,” Mr. Nine continued. “Garrett Khan has escaped.”

Monroe sat up straight now,
forgetting all about the supporting pillow. “What do you mean he
escaped? How the hell does anybody escape from a United States
aircraft carrier?”

Mr. Nine sat down on the
edge of the bed. “The chief medical officer on one of the other
ships, a destroyer, was a doctor named Lieutenant Commander Charles
Swift. He contacted the CMO of the Lincoln and asked if he could
come aboard and take a look at Khan’s implant, claimed he might
have some ideas about how to remove it safely. Apparently, Khan’s
reach even extended into the US military. Swift came aboard,
injected the guard at Khan’s cell with a tranquilizer, and snuck
Khan out of that part of the ship as if he’d memorized the layout
of the whole damn carrier. He somehow got him up on the flight
deck, probably in a stolen uniform, and the two of them stowed away
on the chopper we sent to get you and Leary’s body after the
explosion in London. We think Swift and Khan snuck off in England
and ran away.”


Damn it!” Monroe shouted,
pounding his fist on the mattress. “How long ago…”


You were unconscious for
almost a full day, Monroe,” Mr. Nine said. “Of course the British
and French are watching all airports, train stations, and ports,
but with Khan’s worldwide resources we can’t be sure we’ll find him
anytime soon.”


What about the Middle East
insurgency you needed info about?” Monroe asked.


That’s not so much of a
problem now,” Mr. Nine answered. “Between the two computers you
recovered, we’ve got some serious dirt on that business, so
everything wasn’t in vain. Now get some rest. You were badly
battered by that explosion, maybe concussed too, so just take it
easy.”

 

***

 

Richard Monroe remained
aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln for the next week, slowly recovering
from his injuries. He was given free rein to roam the ship mostly
as he pleased with only a few areas off limits. He ate with the
officers, enjoyed the recreational facilities, and spent a
considerable amount of time with Mr. Nine as they monitored the
world’s law enforcement agencies systematically dismantling Garrett
Khan’s criminal holdings due to the information contained in the
two laptop computers. Across the globe, the CIA, FBI, MI6, DGSE,
Interpol, and Mossad shut down Khan’s operations on several
continents, recovered fortunes worth of illicit cash and
merchandise, confiscated massive amounts of narcotics, and made
hundreds of arrests, but no sign was found of either Khan or his
accomplice, Charles Swift.

 

***

 

Monroe returned to Boston to
find his apartment as he had left it. He unpacked, sat down, and
reflected on his time in Paris and London and aboard the Abraham
Lincoln. Mixed feelings came to mind; on one hand, he had saved
lives and helped bring about the now almost total collapse of the
Garrett Khan criminal empire. But on the other, Khan still lived
and might now be even harder to find than before. Monroe still
wanted Khan dead, not only for the sake of Genevieve, but because
he knew that a man of Khan’s character would eventually rise like a
dark parody of a phoenix and take an active part in the world’s
criminal community again. But Khan had vanished in the wind like a
handful of scattered ashes and no agency in the world had any solid
leads about his current location. Monroe told himself to wait, have
patience, resume life and hope for a new assignment to keep him
occupied. Khan’s time would come, but sitting around thinking of
ways to force it would do nobody any good.

 

***

 

On Monroe’s third afternoon
back in Boston, Winter Willows called.


Richard, are you all
right?”


I’m fine. It’s good to hear
from you. When did you get back?”


I didn’t stay long in
Paris. It wasn’t the same alone. I flew back a day after you left
and got settled in here again. Fixed my hair, too—I hated being a
brunette.”


What are you doing now that
you’re back here? Will you keep working with Cyril
Benson?”


What else can I do? Why? Is
there something I should know? I know you’ve more or less crushed
everything Garrett Khan was doing, so will you be coming after
Benson next?”


You know I told Benson I
wouldn’t interfere with his business personally, not that I can
speak for what any agency does. But no, I won’t touch him. Still,
you’re smart, Winter—very smart. You could succeed at anything
else, anything legal. I wish you’d find a new line of
work.”


And you could easily
succeed at something safer, but you’ll keep risking your life for
your patriotism, won’t you?”


That’s different, and you
know it!”


Richard, I didn’t call you
to have an argument. I know we’re on opposite sides again, but I
thought maybe we could have dinner. I was hoping you’d cook for me
again…and I swear I won’t try to kill you this time. We can discuss
my future over two bowls of pasta if you want to keep pushing the
issue. What do you say?”


You’re lucky I’m bored,
Winter. How’s eight o’clock sound?”


I’ll be there.
Bye.”

 

***

 

Monroe cooked and he
welcomed the distraction. He tossed greens together into salad,
prepared pasta, chose wine. As he worked, he composed his speech.
He intended to talk Winter Willows out of her criminal ways and
into some sort of life that resembled decency, normality. He even
considered, assuming his argument proved successful, asking Mr.
Nine about getting Winter into Witness Protection, giving her a new
identity, a new start somewhere far from Boston where nobody knew
her. She had helped him and he did not want to see her continue
down a path that would inevitably lead to arrest, incarceration, or
death.

By seven thirty, dinner was
ready. He hung up his apron, put out utensils, and went to change
and shave. He came out of the bathroom at ten to eight and sat down
to wait, suddenly realizing just how much he looked forward to
Winter’s arrival. It had dawned on him that he had not really
spoken, in person, with another human being since coming back from
the Atlantic fleet, not counting the cashier when he had gone to
buy the components of dinner that afternoon.

Eight came and went, then
eight thirty. No Winter. Monroe did not think she would stand him
up. He called her, got her voicemail, and put the phone down to
wait longer. Nine arrived, then nine forty-five. Monroe was getting
worried.

He got up, his hunger taking
a back seat to his concern, grabbed his jacket, holstered the
Glock, and took the elevator down to the parking garage. Within
minutes, Monroe’s Lexus was on the streets of Boston. Monroe did
not need to look up Winter’s address. Memorizing locations and
routes was second nature to him after years of practice. He would
be at her apartment in fifteen minutes, he estimated as he weaved
through the evening traffic.

 

***

 

An unlocked door on an
apartment in any major city is always a bad sign. Monroe knew
something was terribly wrong when he arrived, turned the knob, and
Winter’s door opened. He drew his gun, slipped into the dark
apartment, stopped just inside the doorway and listened. He heard
nothing.

When certain he was alone,
he felt along the wall for a switch, flicked it up and the lights
came on. The well-furnished living room was unoccupied except for
Monroe and he could see that something had happened, something
violent. He went further in, looking around, taking in every detail
as it struck his eyes.

The coffee table was at a
slightly odd angle in relation to the couch as if pushed out of
place. The pillows that presumably belonged to the couch were on
the floor. He saw the half-open door that led to the kitchen and
the thin, smeared red line halfway up. He went closer, confirmed by
sight that it was blood, enough to know that someone had been hurt,
slightly cut or scratched. But not enough, he was relieved to see,
to be proof of a serious injury. Behind the door, in the kitchen, a
glass had shattered where it had been dropped to the
floor.

Monroe turned around, back
into the living room, then right into the bathroom. Nothing unusual
there; the shower was wet as if used in the past hour. That left
only the bedroom. He entered that last portion of Winter’s
apartment, knowing he would most likely find one of two things:
either she was dead or she had been taken.

One deep breath and Monroe
stepped in. The bed was empty, nobody was there, which meant no
body
was there. So she was, at least when she had left,
alive. He was glad for that, and enraged at the same time. Winter
was missing, but something was on the bed. He went to it and found
a small black leather bag propped against the pillows atop the
precisely smoothed sheets. He picked up the bag, turned it upside
down, dumping the contents onto the bed.

Two things fell out. A
handful of hair, long and pure white, fluttered down to the bed
like a feather. A baseball landed on the sheets and rolled an inch
or two. A baseball! Monroe had not expected to find
that.

The hair was an obvious
message, the ball was enigmatic. Monroe picked the ball up, looked
closely. There was a message written on the white leather with a
felt-tipped pen.


Ninth inning, Monroe.
Everybody wins eventually if the field stands long enough. You blew
the save last time. Come try again.”

An Englishman of Mongolian
ancestry using baseball analogies. Monroe shook his head and
clenched his fists. It was Garrett Khan. Of that, Monroe had no
doubt. He was taunting him over Genevieve’s death and challenging
him to keep Winter from the same fate. Monroe made up his mind then
and there that he would finally confront Garrett Khan face to face,
man to man, one on one, and end this stupid game permanently.
First, though, he had to find him. And he felt obligated to report
in before he did anything. In case he failed, others would have to
pick up the trail.

Mr. Nine answered on the
third ring.


What?”


They’ve snatched
her!”


The Willows woman, I
assume.”


Yes, sir, I’m at her place
now: signs of a struggle, open door, some broken glass, a bit of
blood but not enough for worst case scenarios yet, and a message
for me.”


From Khan?”


I’m ninety percent sure.
It’s on a baseball. Listen to this: ‘Ninth inning, Monroe.
Everybody wins eventually if the field stands long enough. You blew
the last save. Come try again.’ And that’s all it says.”


Any idea what it
means?”


I think he’s taken her to
Fenway Park. It took the Red Sox decades and decades to finally win
the World Series and their ballpark is one of the oldest still in
use in the Majors.”


Yes, I know my baseball
history. I’m even old enough to have seen Ted Williams hit there.
And you’re probably right about the message. I’ll alert the Boston
FBI branch.”


No, sir, please don’t. If
the ballpark is stormed by FBI or SWAT or anybody else, Winter
Willows is dead. This was a personal message, a challenge from
Garrett Khan to me. He intends for this chess game we’ve had going
on to end tonight.”


I’m not stupid, I know
exactly what Khan has in mind. He’ll blow you to Hell as soon as
you go near Fenway and then he’ll kill Willows anyway, probably
after he’s raped her too.”


No, sir, I think Khan’s so
fed up with my interfering in his businesses that his ego is
demanding he kill me personally. He doesn’t trust his lieutenants
to do the job anymore, not that he has many left after what’s been
done to his empire in recent days. Let me go in, sir. Let me do it
my way. If you don’t hear from me in a few hours, send in the damn
Marines if you want!”


Monroe, this is your last
chance to end this business. I want Garrett Khan dead, dead tonight
or…or you’re fired! Good luck. And I don’t care how much you
argue…the FBI and Boston PD
will
be on standby, but I’ll try
to give you enough time to do the job yourself. Now get
going.”

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
6.1Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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