Sunday, November 23, 2008

Chapter Twenty-Six

Connor smiles as he steps into the emergency room, where I am idly flipping through a magazine from at least a year ago, waiting for him.

“Em,” he says happily, bending over to kiss my cheek. “What are you doing here?”

I smile up at him, my heart zinging to be near to him again. “I thought I’d surprise you and be here when you got off work, thought maybe we could grab a late dinner,” I say easily.

‘Also, I’m working surveillance, but I’m not telling you that part’, I think to myself.

“That’s a great idea. I should be done in about twenty minutes or so unless an emergency comes in, and then we’ll get out of here,” Connor says. “I’ll meet you back here in a little while?”

I nod, and he smiles widely even as he is being paged to radiology over the loudspeaker. He waves and takes off at a quick walk, and I toss the aged magazine back on the table, sighing heavily. I’ve been casing the hospital all afternoon, tailing Connor’s movements, watching for problems, and as yet, have discovered nothing.

But my gut tells me that the hit is close. I don’t know why – my spider sense is tingling or something. Stepanek isn’t going to wait to take out the hit – he’s going to be cold and efficient and get it done, just like he does with all his business transactions.

It’s been several days, so I know time is running out.

At least I’ve gotten to see Connor in action, I muse, watching the emergency room doors swing open again, admitting two men. He’s wonderful with the patients – kind and calming, and really takes his time with each one. I can see why he would be so popular with the patients, and with the staff, whom he treats with respect and admiration.

I wish I had his kind of calling, I think, my eyes watching the two men approach the nurses’ station. The taller one speaks, his voice accented, and every muscle in my body tenses at the sound of his voice.

“We are looking for Dr. Cross,” he says. “Can we see him, please?””

That’s a Czech accent. I pick up a magazine again to cover myself, looking at the pages but straining to hear the conversation.

“He’s on rounds right now,” the nurse says in a firm but friendly tone. “Is this a medical emergency?”

The man smiles greasily. “No, no, we are old friends of Dr. Cross and his family. We are very close, and were hoping to catch up for a few minutes. Is he here, please?”

The other man shifts from foot to foot, as though eager to get on with his kill orders so he can go grab a bite to eat.

I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my veins, the bitter taste flooding my mouth as the nurse tells the men to step into a nearby consulting room while she tries to find where Dr. Cross is in the hospital.

No way is Connor walking into this, I think, standing up and reaching a hand into my purse to check on my silenced pistol.

The two men step into the consulting room and close the door, and I see the nurse pick up a handset, so I intercept her. “Connor said he’d be back in just a minute, so I wouldn’t bother him. I know he’s on an important consult right now, so…”

The nurse nods sagely. “I’ll just let those nice men wait, then.”

I smile and nod, and then walk around the corner, doubling back and then taking a deep breath before I quietly turn the knob on the consulting room door.

Both men stand up quickly as I enter and close the door behind me, but my pistol is already trained on the shorter man, who was fumbling for his own sidearm.

“Put your weapon on the floor,” I instruct in Czech, and with a heavy sigh, the shorter man complies.

“You are the shooter?” I ask, still speaking in Czech. “And you…” I flick my gun to the taller man, “you are the proof that the job is done?”

The taller man raises an eyebrow but says nothing.

“I know you work for Stepanek, I know all about the hit, and I know that you are going to go home disappointed tonight,” I say, my voice calm and even, despite the quaking in my knees from the adrenaline rush.

“You think we won’t kill him?” The man asks smoothly, and I give him a shark-like grin.

“I know you won’t,” I say evenly. “Because I’m going to kill you first.”

The shorter man lunges towards me, and I fire my silenced weapon, hitting him square in the chest. He slides to the floor, his eyes open and unblinking.

I knew it was a perfect shot, and I knew he was dead before he hit the floor.

Lunging at me or not, I knew when I walked into this room that this man would never walk out.

“You’ll go home, and you’ll tell Stepanek that you followed orders and have killed Connor Cross, but that your…” I sneer slightly, “friend was killed in a crossfire. And so help me god, if you approach him again, I’ll kill you, too. And don’t think Cross is ever going to be unprotected, because he’s got a squadron of people monitoring his every move. You will never be able to get close to him, so rescind the order. Now.”

The man stares at me for a long moment, obviously trying to read my words before he nods curtly. “I will pass on your message.” He glances down at his dead colleague. “I never liked him anyway. Thank you.”

His voice is so calm and grateful, that I want to shoot him through the heart as well, but I don’t.

“Walk away from this hospital, right now,” I say, my gun still trained on him. In a coordinated ballet, we change places in the small room, and then he opens the door to walk out. I thrust my gun into my purse, and then follow him, tracking his movements out the emergency room doors and into the night, where he slides into a rental car moments later, the engine turning over and the car driving out of sight.

I just hope my threat got through his thick skull, I think, slumping against the concrete wall and taking several deep breaths of the cool night air.

Because I don’t think I can do this much longer.


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