Byron L. Dorgan and David Hagberg

Forge Books

MINNEAPOLIS WAS COLD, snow still on the ground, the trees bare. Like Moscow, no spring buds here yet. Former Spetsnaz Captain Yuri Makarov, a nephew of Nikolai Makarov who designed the 9mm pistol that had been universally used in the Soviet military, got off the Delta flight from New York’s LaGuardia a few minutes before eleven in the morning, nodding to the two first-class attendants, and headed down the Jetway into the Lindbergh Terminal. A man in no apparent hurry.
Traveling under a British passport with the work name Thomas Parks, he’d brought only a small leather carry-on bag which he slung over his shoulder and turned left at the gate and headed to the main terminal. It was a weekday and the airport was busy mostly with business travelers, and no one paid any particular attention to him.
He was fairly short, under six feet, slender, with dark hair, wide dark eyes, glasses, a pleasant demeanor, and an easy almost shy smile, and at thirty-five he’d often been mistaken for a soccer player, or former soccer player for some British team. His accent was as impeccable as was his grooming and dress—lightweight tailored blue blazer, open collar shirt, and gray slacks. He carried a Burberry over his arm, and wore Italian handmade half boots.
Parks appeared to be a gentleman, perhaps in banking, probably old family credentials. In fact he was a contract killer, whose real name and actual background were known to only a few people inside Russia, and even they had no idea where he had disappeared to almost eight years ago. But he could be reached by the right people, mostly people working at fairly high levels for some government intelligence service, who had need of skills such as his. And who had access to a great deal of money. Makarov never failed and that expertise came at a hefty price.
He followed the signs to the car rental desks on the second level and stopped at the Hertz counter, the line fairly short. When it was his turn he presented his British driving license and American Express platinum card. “Thomas Parks.”
“Good morning, Mr. Parks,” the attractive young clerk said, smiling. “Good flight?”
She brought up his reservation on her computer screen. “I have you for a Chevrolet Impala, but I can upgrade you—”
“The Chevy will be just fine.”
She nodded, ran his credit card and driver’s license through the system, which spit out a rental agreement, which Makarov signed and five minutes later he was in the car and heading away from the airport.
For this assignment, which was almost ridiculously simple by his standards, he’d been contacted the usual way through a secure e-mail account that was routed through several remailers, ending with a large but discrete service in New Delhi. He’d met with his client at a booth in the back of a small pub just off Trafalgar Square at noon fifteen days ago. Both of them carried the day’s edition of Le Figaro. And twenty-four hours earlier Makarov had gone around to the back of the building to make sure that it had a rear door in case something went wrong.
“Good afternoon,” he said, laying his newspaper on the table and sitting down.
The man across from him was older, perhaps in his mid to late fifties, with steel-gray short cropped hair, a square almost Teutonic face, and broad shoulders and thick chest that strained against the light jacket he was wearing. He was not smiling, and Makarov got the impression that he never smiled.
“What do I call you?”
“For the moment, Mr. Schmidt will do,” Makarov said, a slight German accent to his voice. “You contacted me and I’m here. What do you want?”
“Do you want to know who I am?”
“You’re Colonel Luis Delgado, SEBIN. What does Venezuelan intelligence want with me?”
Delgado’s left eyebrow rose. “A small job of work at first.”
Makarov said nothing.
“In western North Dakota, it’s in the upper Midwest of the United States.”
Delgado told him what the job involved. “We’ll book your air, hotel, and car reservations, as well as provide you the proper equipment—“
Makarov raised a hand to stop the man. “I’ll make my own arrangements. But there must be a better way of striking back after Balboa.” The operation shortly after Christmas had been a U.S. strike on five of Venezuela’s forward air force bases—the most important to Chavez. And the remark got to the colonel, because he was suddenly curt.
“Do you want the job or not?”
Makarov handed him a business card that contained only two series of numbers, one with nine digits which was a bank router and the second of ten which was his account number. “Five hundred thousand euros now and an additional five hundred thousand when the job is completed to your satisfaction.”
The colonel nodded. “Time is of the essence,” he said, but Makarov had already gotten to his feet and was heading for the door.
The half million had shown up in his Channel Islands’ account twenty-four hours later and he’d spent the last eight days arranging with the Russian Mafia in New York for his equipment to be purchased and put in place, his British documents and credit card secured, and the first-class flight reservations from Heathrow to New York and from there to Minneapolis arranged. He would fly to Paris under a different set of documents when he was finished here.
He picked up Interstate 494 west which was part of the ring highway system around the Twin Cities and seven miles later turned off at one of the exits for the suburb of Bloomington, where he pulled in at an E-Z Self Storage facility. He entered the four-digit code and the gate swung inward so he could drive back to a small unit in the last row.
No one was around at this hour, and Makarov unlocked the roll-up door with the key that had been left for him at LaGuardia taped under seat 2A aboard his Delta flight. Inside, a duffle bag was propped up against the rear wall of the unit. Making sure that no one was coming, he opened the bag and expertly checked the partially disassembled American-made model 90 Barrett sniper rifle, making certain that the firing pin was intact. Also included as per his orders were the Leupold & Stevens x10 scope, and one eleven-round detachable box magazine loaded with .50 in Browning ammunition. The 1,000-grain big-caliber bullet was 100 percent deadly from nearly a mile out, and could even penetrate the engine blocks of military vehicles, and aircraft.
Something blocked the sun and Makarov turned as one of the largest men he’d ever encountered stepped inside. At nearly seven feet the man had to weigh more than three hundred pounds and yet with tree trunk legs, an impossibly broad chest, huge neck, and massive shoulders, his baby face was disproportionately small. He was grinning like an idiot.
“Who are you?” Makarov asked mildly.
“Don Toivo. I own this place.”
“Well, you scared the hell out of me, mate. Do you always go around sneaking up on people?”
“Only when I find something interesting in the units they rent from me,” Toivo said and he glanced at the duffle bag. “And what’s in there is definitely very interesting. Illegal.”
“It’s for sport. Target practice. I’m in a competition the day after tomorrow.”
“Not with full-grain hollow points. That is a weapon for killing people.”
“How would you know something like that?” Makarov asked, measuring distances and angles. The big man had been injured sometime in the past because he favored his left leg.
“I make it my business.”
“Very well. What comes next?”
“You have two choices: leave the rifle, drive away, and never come back, or pay me what I think I can get for it on the open market. I know some guys.”
Makarov smiled. “You weren’t a footballer, too big. I suspect that you could never move fast enough. Weight lifter, shot putter?”
“WWF,” Toivo said.
Makarov shook his head.
“World Wrestling Federation. Television.”
“I see,” Makarov said. “Actually neither choice will work. I can’t leave my things here, nor am I willing to pay you anything.”
Toivo’s grin broadened. “I hoped you’d say something like that, because there is a third choice.”
“Which is?”
“I fucking break you in two and take the gun anyway. How about that choice?”

Copyright © 2013 by Byron L. Dorgan and David Hagberg