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Kill Shot, Page 2

Vince Flynn

  Kennedy did not look at Lewis, but she nodded. They had all come to the same realization months ago. That was why they had turned him loose and allowed him to work on his own.

  “I’m here,” Lewis continued, “to observe and make sure we have the right people and that their minds can handle the unique stress of this job. I have stress, you have stress, but I doubt ours compares to the stress of operating alone, often behind enemy lines, and hunting down a man and killing him.”

  “So you’re worried that he’s going to snap on us.”

  “Not at the moment. In fact, I think he has coped extraordinarily well with the rigors of his new job. I’ve kept a close eye on him. When he’s back here, he sleeps like a baby. His head hits the pillow, sixty seconds later he’s out and he sleeps straight through the night.”

  Kennedy had wondered about this same thing. Not every operative handled the taking of another human being’s life with such ease. “So how does he deal with it . . . the blood on his hands?” she asked.

  “He is a linear creature, which means he doesn’t allow a lot of ancillary issues to muddy the waters of his conscience. These men . . . the ones we target . . . they all decided of their own volition to get involved in plots to kill innocent civilians. In Rapp’s mind—and this isn’t me guessing, he’s expressed this very clearly—these men need to be punished.”

  Kennedy shifted in her chair. “Simple revenge.”

  “He says retribution. The distinction is slight, but I see his point.”

  “Given the loss of his girlfriend, I don’t find that particularly troubling. After all, this is a job that requires a unique motivation.”

  “Yes it does, but his runs deep. He thinks if these men go unpunished, it will only embolden them to kill more people. To screw up more people’s lives,” Lewis answered.

  “You’ll get no argument from me. Nor from our boss, for that matter.”

  Lewis smiled. “There’s one more thing, something that adds a unique twist.”

  “What’s that?”

  “He wants them to know he’s coming after them.”

  “Theory or fact?”

  “A bit of both. He knows that he can make them jumpy. Keep them up at night worrying when he’s going to show up. He wants them to fear his existence.”

  “He told you this?” Kennedy asked, more than a bit surprised.

  “Parts of it. The rest I pieced together,” Lewis said with a nod.

  “And why didn’t you tell me?”

  “I’m telling you right now.”

  Kennedy moved to the edge of her chair. “I mean, why didn’t you tell me when you first learned about it?”

  “I told Thomas,” Lewis said, covering his bases.

  “And what did he say?”

  “He thought about it for a long moment and then said making these guys lose a little sleep might not be the worst thing.”

  “For Christ’s sake,” Kennedy pressed her palm against her forehead. “As his handler, don’t you think you should let me in on stuff like this?”

  “I’m not sure I understand your concern. I think he’s fine, and Thomas does as well.”

  Kennedy pinched the bridge of her nose in an effort to stifle the headache she felt coming. “This isn’t the NFL. We don’t trash-talk. We don’t taunt the other team in order to throw them off their game. My men need to be ghosts. They need to sneak into a country, quietly do their job, and then disappear.”

  “Irene, I think you are exaggerating your concerns. The enemy knows something is afoot. Bodies are piling up at an unusual clip, and if the fear Rapp is generating causes some of these men to be a bit jumpy”—Lewis shrugged—“well then, so be it.”

  “So what in the hell are you trying to tell me . . . that you’re okay with Rapp, but you’re worried about me?” Kennedy asked, the suspicion in her voice obvious.

  “I’m okay with both of you, but I do think you worry too much.”

  “I’m worried about him because he’s about to kill a high-ranking official in the capital of one of our closest allies and if he screws up, the blowback could be so bad every single last one of us will end up in front of a committee on Capitol Hill, be indicted, and then end up in jail.” Kennedy shook her head. “I don’t know what your shrink books have to say about all of this, but I think a fear of going to jail is a healthy thing.”

  “My point, Irene, is that Rapp is good. Maybe the best I’ve ever seen, and his target is a lazy, overfed bureaucrat. Tonight will go fine. That’s not what I’m worried about.”

  Kennedy was so focused on Paris that she almost missed the last part. “Then what are you worried about?”

  “Mr. Rapp is unique. He has already proven his penchant for autonomy. He bristles against control, and so far, Thomas has been willing to ignore all of these little transgressions because the man is so damn good at what he does.”


  “Our country, as well as our beloved employer, has a glorious history of throwing those men who are at the tip of the spear under the proverbial bus when things get difficult. If they do that to a man like Rapp . . .” Lewis winced at the thought.

  “Our country and our employer don’t even know he exists.”

  “I know that, Irene. I’m looking down the road, and I’m telling you there is a real danger that at some point we might lose control of him.”

  Kennedy scoffed at the idea. “I haven’t seen a single thing that could lead you to that conclusion.”

  “Irene,” Lewis said in a far more serious tone, “strip it all down and what we have is a man who has been taught to kill. Kill people who have harmed innocent civilians or threatened the national security of this country. Right now, his mission is clearly focused. He’s out killing bad guys who live in foreign countries. What happens if he wakes up one day and realizes some of the bad guys are right here? Living in America, working for the CIA, working on Capitol Hill.”

  “You can’t be serious?” Kennedy said, shocked by the theory.

  Lewis folded his hands under his chin and leaned back in his chair. “Justice is blind, and if you train a man to become judge, jury, and executioner . . . well, then you shouldn’t be surprised if he someday fails to see the distinction between a terrorist and a corrupt, self-serving bureaucrat.”

  Kennedy thought about it for a moment and then said, “I’m not sure I’m buying it.”

  Lewis shrugged. “Only time will tell, but I know one thing for certain. If there comes a time where you need to neutralize him, you’d better not screw up. Because if he survives, he’ll kill every last one of us.”



  RAPP secured the gray nylon rope to a cast-iron vent stack and walked to the edge of the roof. He glanced at the balcony two floors below and then looked out across the City of Light. Sunrise was a few hours off and the flow of late-night revelers had faded to a trickle. It was that rare moment of relative inactivity that even a city as vibrant as Paris fell under once each day. Every city had its own unique feel, and Rapp had learned to pay attention to the ebb and flow of their natural rhythms. They had their similarities just like people. For all of the hang-ups about individuality, few understood that for the most part, people’s actions were habitual. They slept, woke, ate, worked, ate some more, worked some more, ate again, watched TV, and then went to sleep again. It was the basic drumbeat of humanity the world over. The way people lived their lives and met their basic needs.

  All men also had their own unique attributes, and these often manifested themselves in habits—habits that Rapp had learned to exploit. As a rule, the best time to strike was this witching hour, between dusk and dawn, when the overwhelming majority of the human race was asleep, or trying to sleep. The physiological reasons were obvious. If it took world-class athletes hours to warm up before a major event, how would a man defend himself when yanked from deep sleep? However, Rapp could not always choose the appointed hour, and occasionally a target’s habits created an
opening that was so painfully obvious, he simply couldn’t ignore the opportunity.

  Three weeks earlier Rapp had been in Athens. His target walked the same bustling sidewalk every morning from his apartment to his office. Rapp had considered shooting him on the sidewalk, as there was plenty of cover and distraction. It wouldn’t have been difficult, but witnesses were always a concern, and a police officer could always stumble by at the wrong moment. As he studied his target, he noticed another habit. After arriving at work, the man had one more cup of coffee and then went down the hall with his newspaper and took a prolonged visit to the men’s room.

  Other than catching people asleep, the next best thing was catching them with their pants down. On the fourth day, Rapp waited in the middle stall of three and at the appointed hour his target sat down on his right. Rapp stood on the toilet seat, leaned over the divider, called out the man’s name, and then after their eyes met, he smiled and sent a single 9mm hollow-tipped round through the top of the man’s head. He fired one more kill shot into the man’s brainpan for good measure and calmly left the building. Thirty minutes later, he was on a ferry slicing through the warm morning air of the Aegean Sea, headed for the island of Crete.

  Most of the kills had been like that. Unsuspecting fools who thought themselves safe after years of the United States doing little or nothing to pursue them for their involvement in various terrorist attacks. Rapp’s singular goal was to take the fight to these men. Bleed them until they began to have doubts, until they lay awake at night wondering if they were next. It had become his mission in life. Inaction was what had emboldened these men to continue with their plots to attack innocent civilians. The belief that they were secure to continue to wage their war of terror had given them a smug confidence. Rapp was single-handedly replacing that confidence with fear.

  By now, they were aware that something was wrong. Too many men had been shot in the head in the last year for it to be a coincidence. Rapp’s handler had reported the rumors. Most suspected that the Israelis had resurrected one of their hit teams, and that was fine with Rapp—the more disinformation the better. He was not looking for credit. In spite of his hot streak, tonight would be it for a while. The powers that be in Virginia were getting nervous. Too many people were talking. Too many foreign intelligence agencies were allocating assets to look into this rash of deaths among the world’s most notorious terrorists and their network of financiers and arms dealers. Rapp was to return stateside for some rest and relaxation when he finished this one. At least that’s what Rapp’s handler had told him. Even after a quick year, however, he knew how things worked. Rest and relaxation meant that they wanted to observe him. Make sure some part of his psyche hadn’t wandered down a dark corridor never to return. The thought brought a smile to Rapp’s face. Killing these assholes was the most therapeutic thing he’d ever done in his life. It was more effective than a decade of psychotherapy.

  He placed his hand over his left ear and focused on the tiny transmitter that was relaying the sounds of the luxury hotel suite two floors below. Just like the night before, and the night before that, he could hear the portly Libyan wheezing and snoring. The man was a three-pack-a-day chain smoker. If Rapp could only chase him up a flight of stairs, he might be able to accomplish his task.

  Rapp followed a delivery van as it quietly passed beneath on the Quai Voltaire. Something was bothering him, but he couldn’t place it. He scanned the street for the slightest evidence that anything was out of place and then turned his attention to the tree-lined walking paths that bordered the Seine River. They too were empty. All was as it should be, but still something was gnawing at him. Maybe things had been too easy of late, one kill after another, city after city, and not so much as a single close call. The law of averages told him that sooner or later, something would go wrong, and he would end up in a jam that might land him in a foreign jail or possibly cost him his life. Those two thoughts were always in the back of his mind, and depending on what country he was in, he wasn’t sure which would be his preference.

  There was little room for fear and doubt in what he did. There should be caution and a keen eye to detail, but fear and doubt could incapacitate. He could stand up here all night thinking up excuses not to proceed. Stan Hurley, the tough SOB who had trained him, had warned him about the pitfalls of paralysis by analysis. Rapp thought about the stern warning that Hurley had given him and decided it was more than likely his handler’s anxiety. She had warned him that if the slightest thing didn’t seem right, he was to abort the mission. An American could not be caught doing this kind of dirty work in Paris. Not ever, and especially not now, given the current political climate.

  In the big picture, the target was a link. Another name to cross off his list, but to Rapp it was always more personal than the big picture. He wanted to make every last one of these men pay for what they’d done. Each kill would grow more difficult, more dangerous, and it didn’t bother Rapp in the least. He welcomed the challenge. In fact, he took sincere joy in the fact that these assholes were looking over their shoulder each day and going to sleep every night wondering who was hunting them.

  Rapp asked himself one more time if he should be concerned that the Libyan was traveling without security. There was a good chance that the man felt safe in his position as his country’s oil minister. As an important member of the diplomatic community, he probably thought himself above the dirty games of terrorists and assassins. Well, Rapp thought to himself, once a terrorist, always a terrorist. Dress him up in a suit and tie and put him up in a thousand-dollar-a-night suite in Paris, and he was still a terrorist.

  Rapp scanned the street and listened to the Libyan snoring like a pig. After half a minute, he made up his mind. The man would not see another sunrise. Rapp began to move in an efficient, almost robotic way as he went over his gear one last time. His silenced Beretta was secured in a shoulder holster under his right arm; two extra magazines were safely tucked away under his left arm; a double-edged four-inch combat knife was sheathed at the small of his back; and a smaller 9mm pistol was strapped to his right ankle. These were merely the offensive weapons he’d brought along. There was a small med kit, a radio that was tuned to the hotel’s security channel, flex cuffs, and a perfectly forged set of documents that said he was a Palestinian recently immigrated from Amman, Jordan. And then there was the bulletproof vest. Wearing it was one of several things that had been beaten into him during his seemingly never-ending training.

  Rapp flipped up the collar on his black jacket and pulled a thin black balaclava over his face. He hefted the coil of climbing rope, looked over the edge of the building, and said to himself, “Two shots to the head.” It was a bit redundant, but that was the point, and the essence of what this entire exercise was about.

  Rapp gently let the rope play its way out and then swung both legs over the lip of the roof. In one smooth move, he hopped off the ledge and spun 180 degrees. His gloved hands clamped onto the rope and slowed his descent until he had dropped fifteen feet and he could reach out and put one foot on the railing of the balcony. Holding firmly to the rope, he gently stepped down onto the small black iron grating. He was careful to keep himself off to one side despite the fact that the blackout drapes were pulled. Dropping to a knee, he took the rope and brought it around the railing so it would be available should he need to make a quick exit. He had disabled the lock on the balcony door when he’d planted the listening device two days earlier. If there was time, he would retrieve the device, but it was nothing special. Rapp always made sure to use devices that couldn’t be traced back to one of the high-end manufacturers that Langley used.

  He had the layout of the suite memorized. It was one big room with a sitting area on the left and king-sized platform bed on the other. Rapp listened to the noises on the other side of the doors. The prostitute was more than likely there, but Rapp couldn’t hear her over the obnoxious snoring and wheezing of the Libyan. Everything was as it should be. Rapp drew his Beretta and slow
ly began to place pressure on the brass door handle with his gloved hand. He moved it from the three o’clock position down to five, and then it released without so much as a click.

  Rapp pulled the door toward him and swung it flat against the side of the building. He placed his free hand on the seam of the blackout curtains and pushed through in a low crouch, his pistol up and sweeping from left to right. It was six steps from the balcony to where his target was sleeping. The bed was up so high that the platform had a step that wrapped around three sides. A massive, gaudy mirror served as the headboard. The elevation put the target at waist height for the six-foot-one Rapp. With the tip of the silencer only four feet from the Libyan’s head, Rapp stole a quick glance in hopes that he could locate the prostitute. The best he could do was get a sense that she was somewhere on the other side, buried under a jumble of pillows and blankets. He would never shoot her, but he might have to pistol-whip her in the event she woke up and started screaming.

  Rapp moved a half step closer and leveled his weapon. He placed the orange dot of his front sight on the bridge of the man’s nose and then brought the two rear dots into position. The pressure was already on the trigger, and without so much as the tiniest flash of hesitation, Rapp squeezed and sent a bullet into the man’s head. The suppressor jumped one inch, fell back in line, and Rapp fired the second shot.