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Authors: Kelley Armstrong

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Wild Justice

BOOK: Wild Justice
4.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
Protect the innocent. If there is any one principle that drives hit man Nadia Stafford, it’s this. In her own mind, when she was thirteen, she failed to protect her older cousin Amy from being murdered. Now she fails again, disastrously, when she botches a hit. To help her find her equilibrium, her mentor, Jack, brings her a gift: the location and new identity of the predator who killed her cousin and disappeared after the case against him failed.
Vengeance, justice? With the predator in her sights, nothing seems more right, more straightforward, more easy. But finding justice is never as simple as it seems.
Wild Justice
Nadia Stafford - 3
Kelley Armstrong
For Jeff
Alan Wilde was supposed to die at 8 p.m. on October 17, 2007. It was right there, on my agenda, and I am nothing if not precise about my schedule, even if it only exists in my head.
I was lying on a cliff overlooking docks. The sign called it a marina. Having seen actual marinas, I’d disagree. It was a collection of battered and rotted wharfs mooring a collection of battered and rusted boats. The boats might not have been yachts, but they were all someone’s pride and joy, with names like
Buoys & Gulls
Seas the Day
. Owned by folks who’d dreamed of retiring “up north” and spending lazy days pretending to fish.
Wilde’s boat was not meant for fishing. Or relaxing. From what I’d seen in my two days of surveillance, it was meant for racing up and down the coastline, setting canoeists and kayakers cursing as they struggled against the boat’s wake. Tonight he was due to arrive at eight with his girlfriend, having told his wife he was going for a moonlight ride alone.
So at 7:50 I was settled in, lying on my stomach, sniper rifle at the ready. The docks were quiet. This was Michigan cottage country, and it was too late in the year for tourists, too late in the day for locals. When a car pulled in, I expected Wilde’s Mustang. Instead it was his winter beater—an ancient Corolla. The Mustang must have been out of commission. Not surprising given that I’d seen him fussing with it yesterday.
Then a second set of headlights turned into the tiny parking lot. Alan Wilde’s bright yellow Mustang. The Corolla driver’s door opened and out climbed Mrs. Wilde.
The Mustang paused at the edge of the lot. Mrs. Wilde didn’t notice the hesitation. She was pulling her seat forward to get their three-year-old daughter, Hannah, out of her booster.
Wilde had time for a getaway.
Whoops, I didn’t see you there, honey. I realized I’d left something at the shop and went back.
He wouldn’t even need to worry about his wife phoning and telling him she was there. Rose Wilde no longer had a cell phone. He’d taken it away after their last fight, when he’d dragged her out of the car, ten miles from town, and left her there. She had used her phone to call her father to come get her, which completely defeated the purpose of the lesson. So Wilde confiscated it.
That meant he could get away. But after a moment’s pause, he continued into the lot. Through my binoculars, I could see his girlfriend in the passenger seat. He knew his wife would, too. He just didn’t care. He roared up beside the Corolla and threw open the car door.
“What the hell are you doing here with the baby?” he shouted. I could hear him even without my earpiece amplifier. “Do you know what time it is?”
“Sh-she’s sick,” Rose said, still standing by her back door. “She’s running a fever, and I wanted to know if I can take her to the doctor.”
“Bullshit! You snuck out here—”
“She’s burning up, Alan. I don’t give a damn about you and your whores—”
The girlfriend got out. “Who you calling a whore, bitch?”
Rose ignored her and tried talking to her husband. The girl kept yelling at her. Wilde did, too.
I watched through the scope. Wilde hadn’t moved since he got out of the car. I had a perfect line on him. A clean shot, with no chance of hitting the girlfriend or Rose. Just a squeeze of the trigger and . . .
And I’d shoot a man in front of his wife and child.
I could argue that Rose would be happy to see her husband dead. It was her only way out of this marriage. She’d tried to leave twice. The first time, he kidnapped their daughter. The second time, she’d been pregnant and when he found her, he’d punched her in the stomach and she’d lost the baby. Going to the police hadn’t helped. When he was released from custody, he beat her so badly she needed painkillers for weeks, which he soon replaced with higher octane ones. He got her hooked, then convinced her that her addiction would mean she’d never get custody of Hannah.
Yes, when it came to abusive husbands, you couldn’t get much worse than Alan Wilde. Which is why I agreed to the job. Rose wasn’t the one who’d hired me—her father had—but I’d seen nothing to suggest that Alan’s death wouldn’t be the best thing that ever happened to her. That did not mean she’d actually want to witness it. And she sure as hell wouldn’t want their daughter to.
So I waited. Finally, Rose strapped Hannah back into her booster and got into the driver’s seat. “I’m taking her to the doctor,” she said.
“The hell you are!” Wilde stormed toward her car. “How the fuck are you going to pay for it? Call your daddy? If you do, I swear—”
The car leapt back, tires squealing. Wilde barely got out of the way in time.
“You bitch!” he yelled. “Don’t you dare . . .”
I didn’t catch the rest of the threat. I was busy lining up my shot, waiting for the moment when Rose’s car was out of sight. Just another few seconds . . .
The girlfriend walked over to Wilde, trying to calm him—and stepped right into my line of fire. Wilde pushed her aside and headed for the driver’s door. She followed, staying between me and him.
I could make the shot, but there was a chance I’d hit her instead. I remained in position, hoping she’d move. But she kept pace until he got to the driver’s door. He climbed inside and peeled away, leaving her in the parking lot.
I’d missed my hit. It happened. Not often, thankfully, but no amount of planning can cover every contingency. I’d need to stay in Michigan to finish the job, so as I walked the two miles to my rental car, I called home.
Home for me is a wilderness lodge northeast of Toronto. I’m the owner, operator, backcountry guide, shooting-range instructor, and entertainment director. Hell, some days I’m even the busboy and chambermaid. It’s that kind of business.
In October, we rarely have guests off-weekend, which is why I’d picked midweek for the job. Ostensibly, I’m taking a little personal R&R. Do my caretakers, the Waldens, believe that? They’ve been with me long enough to know I don’t do R&R, as much as they would like me to, but they just wish me a good trip and assure me everything will be fine in my absence.
Now I called to say that I’d be gone a little longer. Emma answered the phone. Her husband, Owen, never does—telephones require talking, and the only man I know who talks less is my mentor, Jack.
“I’m thinking of taking a couple of extra days,” I said. “How are the bookings?”
“Same as they were when you called last night, Nadia. Three rooms, seven guests. Not one has requested range access or shooting lessons or rock climbing or white-water canoeing, probably because they’re all over sixty and have learned common sense. It’s past Thanksgiving. Everyone who wanted a fall-colors getaway did it on the long weekend. Also, they’re forecasting snow.”
“I’m sure it’ll just be a sprinkling, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we have cancellations. You know what idiots drivers are in a first snow. Go enjoy your vacation.”
“I will. And don’t spoil Scout too much. Last time I came back, I thought she’d swallowed a beach ball.”
“That’s Owen,” she said. “Damned fool’s a sucker for sad puppy-dog eyes.”
“Maybe you should try it on him.”
She laughed, and we ran over a few business items, then I reached the car and signed off.
One call down. One to go. I took a different phone from the glove box. It was a toy from a hitman friend, Felix—the same guy who gave me the amplifier. The phone is a sweet piece of tech and probably damned expensive. It was untraceable, of course, but also came with built-in voice modulation, GPS blocking, interception alert, and a number randomizer. In short, it was perfect for calling to report a failed hit.
I wasn’t phoning the client. I had no contact with him. I work exclusively for Paul Tomassini, nephew to the don of a New York Mafia family. This wasn’t their job, but one that came to Paul himself, as a special request from a connected friend whom Rose Wilde’s father had contacted. Paul knew it was my kind of work, so he’d put me on it.
“It’s Dee,” I said when he answered.
That’s my professional name. Jack’s idea, proving that the guy has not an iota of imagination. His own nom de guerre? Jack.
Paul did know my real name. He’d been a regular at the lodge when he invited me into my side business, knowing I was good with a gun and, at the time, I’d really needed cash.
“It was a bust,” I said, phrasing it carefully. “His better half showed up, with the little one.”
“Shit.” A brief pause. “You trying again?”
“Of course.”
“Good. I’ll let him know.”
“Can you tell him he should check in on her, too? There was a bit of a scene.” I explained what had happened.
“What the fuck? Wife needs permission to take the kid to the doctor?”
“She needs permission for everything. She doesn’t have her own cell phone, car, credit cards, access to the bank account . . .”
He let out a string of profanity. “And he waved his side dish in her face? Fucking bastard.”
“You’ll let your friend know? If hubby is pissed off with her . . .”
“He might beat the shit outta her again. Yeah, I’ll call now. Make sure he knows what’s up.”
* * *
In any job, it’s nice to have colleagues you can call for a postmortem when things go wrong. A shoulder to whine on doesn’t hurt, either. That’s one thing I’d loved about my former career as a cop. There were always guys I could talk to.
There’s no support group for hitmen.
I was lucky. I had a network. Very small, of course—this is a career that caters to loners. There’s Jack, of course . . . who’d be the last person I’d call for a pick-me-up. In person, yes. On the phone, I might as well talk to myself.
Then there’s Jack’s mentor, Evelyn. I could imagine her response.
Why the hell didn’t you take the damned shot?
My reluctance to traumatize the wife and child would be silly sentimentality to her. I was paid to kill, so I should have killed.
There was only one person I could talk this out with. Quinn. A U.S. marshal who moonlights as a vigilante hitman. Quinn understands the ex-cop part of me that Jack doesn’t really get, just as Jack understands the part of me that isn’t like Quinn, the part still bleeding from my cousin’s murder twenty years ago.
If this happened a month ago Quinn would expect me to call. He’d be pissed if I didn’t. Now I’d probably get as far as “hello” before he hung up.
After a year of flirting and circling each other, Quinn and I started dating six months ago. It had been good. Better than good. It made me wonder why the hell I’d put him off so long. It was a long-distance relationship—he lived in Virginia—but we got together at least one weekend a month.
BOOK: Wild Justice
4.88Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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