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Yes,” Angela admitted. “He
told me not to leave it written down anywhere, but I did. It’s in
my apartment on a slip of paper hidden inside a book.”


Excellent,” Monroe said.
“Although the bastard’s probably ditched that number by now, it’s a
start, perhaps. What book is it hidden in? Do you
remember?”


The Complete Works of
Shakespeare,” Angela said. “It’s between the pages of
Titus
Andronicus
.”


Thank you,” Monroe said.
“I’m going to take you back now, Angela, and drop you off at the
rehab center. This may be the last time you see me, but I need you
to do one last thing for me.”


What?”


If you were to call your
roommate and ask her to come and visit you this evening, do you
think she would?”


Yes, I think so. We’re not
very close, but I feel like we’ve started to become friends since
we moved in together.”


Good,” Monroe said. “I need
her out of your apartment tonight so I can sneak in and get that
number. Call me after you’ve spoken to her and I’ll do what I have
to do once she’s left the place. I’ll text you when I’ve got what
I’m looking for so you can let her leave if she wants to. Can you
do that for me?”


Of course,” Angela said.
“Despite the lie that began our relationship, you’ve been good to
me, Rick, and I think I’ll miss you. Be careful going after this
man, please.”


I will,” Monroe said,
reaching over to put a hand on Angela’s knee for a moment. “Now
smoke your last cigarette before I take you back to your temporary
prison. Tomorrow, your real physical therapist will show up and
your life of leisurely strolls, drives, and chats will be at its
end.”

 

***

 

To a man with Richard
Monroe’s experience, breaking and entering was elementary. He
acquired the address from Angela, parked his car across the street,
waited for the signal, via text message, from Angela, which luckily
came just after the night’s darkness had completed its arrival, and
hurried across the avenue dressed in dark clothes with nothing but
a piece of wire, bent in a certain manner, and a small flat-head
screwdriver to assist with his task.

Angela’s apartment was a
third story set of rooms. Monroe waited for one of the building’s
other residents to enter the front door with a key and hurried in
before the door had shut entirely. Bypassing the elevator to avoid
being seen by anyone, even though statistically he knew they would
likely think him just a visitor or a resident they did not know, he
took the stairs up to Level Three. The hallway was empty except for
three teenagers hurrying out of an apartment. Monroe strolled past
them at a relaxed gait, waited the few seconds until they were out
of sight, and took the bent wire and screwdriver from his
pocket.

Most people have no idea how
cheaply made and easily manipulated most commercial locks are.
Burglars get in all the time and they lack anything resembling the
training of a proper espionage agent. The wire was slipped in,
twisted a few times by Monroe’s expert hands, and the mechanism
clicked, welcoming the wire as politely as it would the familiar
key. He pushed the tip of the screwdriver into the lock beside the
wire, turned it, and the lock surrendered to his manipulations.
Monroe was in.

The place looked just like
what it was, a chamber shared by two young women with too much to
do and too little time to properly organize their belongings.
Papers sat in untidy piles on desks. Shoes waited in odd places,
some missing their partners. The TV remote stuck its end out from
between two couch cushions like the Loch Ness Monster teasing a
tourist. Monroe found the bookcase, saw that there was no specific
arrangement to its contents, with no alphabetical order or proper
categorization, but the desired volume was easy enough to locate: a
big, fat Complete Shakespeare. He took it down from its berth,
checked the table of contents, found the right play, and flipped to
its page.
Titus Andronicus
! The Bard’s early and bloody mess
of a play did indeed hold the secret Monroe sought. The little slip
of paper, torn from a post-it note, minus the sticky part, with its
ten little digits of destiny, was soon safely tucked inside
Monroe’s wallet. He put Shakespeare back where he belonged, got out
of the apartment, and was back in the Lexus in minutes, no trouble
at all.

He sent Angela MacIntyre a
brief text, giving the all-clear and a goodbye, and drove away into
the New Haven evening, already considering the next step in the
investigation into the identity of the killer called Simon
Scythe.

Chapter 6: The
Hook

 

 

Before he could try to call
that number, Monroe would have to change cities. Simon Scythe would
immediately grow suspicious if two potential clients contacted him
from New Haven in such a short space of time. Monroe’s plan was to
move first and then try to call. But he had already decided he
would be surprised if the number led anywhere at all. A
professional hitman would be likely to change numbers often to
avoid leaving behind incriminating bread crumbs. The most-likely
scenario would be that Monroe would find the number either no
longer in use or now connected to some innocent citizen. If that
turned out to be the case, Monroe would have to enlist assistance
from some sort of technical expert in trying to track down traces
of previous usage of the number. But first things first: selection
of a city.

As he drove out of New Haven
in the night, Monroe considered his options. In the event, unlikely
as it seemed, that a human being actually answered the call when he
made it, he needed a story. He intended to bring Simon Scythe out
into the open by hiring him, by being one of his suicidal clients.
The game could go either of two ways: he could set up shop in a
strange city and concoct an elaborate cover story, a new identity,
a fake profession, a false reason for wishing death upon himself;
or he could simply put reality out there to bait the fish. He
weighed the two plans against each other. If he faked a life, he
would have to make certain that the entire scam was impenetrable to
examination. If Scythe then discovered that Monroe was a former CIA
man, the assassin would be sure to run. But on the other hand, what
if Monroe simply announced his past to the killer-for-hire? CIA, in
mourning, not wanting to go on, but lacking the nerve to end it by
his own hand; that might be believable enough, Monroe decided. If
he simply let all the details hang out in the open, eschewing masks
and charades, the predator just might fall into his hands and
become the prey.

So he decided on a city: his
own city of Boston would do, as would his own name, and even the
details of his past. Having made up his mind, Monroe pushed the
Lexus harder and sped along the dark highway, heading home and
ready to set the trap.

 

***

 

Monroe waited a week after
arriving home. He took the time to refresh his mind and his body,
worked out, ate well, thoroughly rested. About to invite a killer
into his life, using himself as the bait, he needed to be at the
top of his game. Mr. Nine did not call to check on Monroe’s
progress, which Monroe took as a sign of his new supervisor’s
confidence in him. He did not try to call Nine either and would do
so only if he truly needed advice or assistance.

When the week was over,
Monroe prepared to make the call. He would not use the same phone
he used to communicate with Mr. Nine. He went out and bought a
cheap second cell phone, a pay-as-you-use throwaway phone. He
returned to his apartment, fished the little slip of torn paper out
of his wallet, and dialed.

Three rings and then, to
Monroe’s amazement, an answer came.


Hello.”

The voice was as Angela
MacIntyre had described it: cold, flat, robotic. Monroe got the
same impression Angela had reported, that some mechanical means was
being used to obscure the true voice.


I hope I haven’t called at
a bad time,” Monroe said, “but I’m very interested in the services
I’ve heard you offer.”


And what services would
those be?” the voice asked, a drop of sarcasm sliding around in
those words.


This is the Reaper, is it
not?” Monroe said, deciding to go the confident, mind-made-up route
rather than feign the nervousness that some of the suicide-hitman’s
employers probably had on display when making similar
calls.


Where did you get this
number?”


I have sufficient resources
at my disposal to get whatever I want,” Monroe said, “and I hope
that includes an ending to a story that seems to have gone on far
too long.”


May I ask where you’re
located?” the voice said.

Despite the means used to
disguise the voice’s true qualities, Monroe was sure it was male
and not very young, though not old, either. He tried to listen for
any hint of regional origin in the voice, but came up
empty.


I’m in Boston,
Massachusetts,” Monroe said.


My fees are quite steep,”
the voice said. “Can you afford what you want?”


I have nobody left,” Monroe
said. “Everyone is dead…except for me. I’m perfectly willing to
spend it all: several hundred thousand dollars.”


Perhaps we are on the same
page,” the voice agreed. Monroe could almost hear the anticipation
through the phone. The voice then shifted gears. “Of course, there
always is the possibility that I’m speaking to someone who truly
does not have my best interests in mind: police, perhaps, or the
government. What assurance can you offer me to contradict that
idea?”


I can offer you the truth,”
Monroe said. “I used to be one of those things…but those days are
gone now. Today I’m just a man, and I don’t even want to be that
anymore.”


Will you tell me your
name?”


My name is Richard, Richard
Monroe. And what shall I call you?”


It doesn’t really matter
what you call me.”


Do you know what
they
call you?”


What?”


Simon Scythe.”


Ha! Thank you for that
information, Mr. Monroe. I like it! And they have no idea who I am
or where I’m to be found?”


Not a clue.”


And which part of their
game did you play in former days, Monroe?”


Naval intelligence, then
CIA, and now I sit on my ass all day and read books and feel the
loneliness closing in faster and faster.”


Most unfortunate,” Scythe
said. “And a man with your background can’t finish the game
yourself?”


No,” Monroe said. “My guts
seem to have shriveled down to nothing, one of the nasty
after-effects of personal tragedy, I suppose. I’ve reached the
point where I can sit here and drink myself to death slowly and
miserably…or I can get somebody to walk me over to the cliff and
give me a good shove.”


I need some time,
Monroe.”


Why?”


Because I’m not in Boston
or anywhere near it and I don’t entirely trust you either, not yet.
You must understand that a man in my profession has to be
absolutely certain before he accepts a commission. I’m the best
there is at what I do. I may be the only man in history who does
exactly what I do. I intend to stay in that position for as long as
I can. And so I must be sure that you’re not playing some game of
subterfuge with me. I do not walk into traps. Is that
understood?”


Clear as day,” Monroe said.
“But hurry up, please. It’s money for you, peace for
me.”


Do not call me again,”
Simon Scythe said. “I will contact you when—if—we are to proceed in
this matter. Good day, Mr. Monroe.”

Click.

 

***

 

Monroe tried to put himself
in Scythe’s shoes. What would he do in a similar situation, offered
a big contract by a man who admittedly had a past that sparked
suspicion? Monroe was sure he had interested Scythe. The killer
would investigate further. He would probably travel to Boston and
do some spying.

Monroe had to make it look
real. He had hinted at a drinking habit and also at intense grief
and loneliness. He went to the liquor store, bought several dozen
bottles of scotch, whiskey, and other strong stuff. He would empty
those bottles a few at a time and make sure they went out with his
garbage, as any spy worth his weight in surveillance tapes knows
that the golden path to understanding a target’s life is through
his trash. He bought picture frames too, filled them with
photographs of Genevieve, placed them in prominent places around
the apartment, even breaking one of the frames and leaving the
picture in its shattered house.

He stopped shaving too,
tried to look tired, kept rings of exhaustion around his eyes,
added a bit of gray to his temples. He slept later than was his
habit in the mornings, stayed up late at night, visited bars and
went for long walks at all hours.

This went on for a week and
Monroe began to feel like he was being watched. There were no
certain signs of surveillance, just a gut instinct, but a feeling
that he had learned to trust over long years of experience. He was
tempted to try to catch the watcher in the act, turn the tables now
rather than let the game go on and be dragged further into it.
Shouldn’t he minimize the risk?

BOOK: Nobody Dies For Free
2.65Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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