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The Silenced


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Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

With immeasurable thanks

to Mr. Kubik and Mrs. Bernhardi,

two of the best teachers I ever had

Chapter 1

Petra glanced at her watch.

4:15 p.m.

Her lips tightened as she held in the curse she so desperately wanted to mutter.

The Cathay Pacific flight to New York was only fifteen minutes from boarding, and there was still no sign of Kolya.

If it had been Mikhail who had not yet arrived, she wouldn’t have been so worried. But it wasn’t Mikhail. He’d already been sitting in the waiting area when she walked up.

No, of course it was Kolya. She had known from the beginning that he was too young, too inexperienced to take with them. But what choice did she have?

Maybe an officer at Passport Control had scrutinized his documents. They were expertly done, but fake, so there was always a chance something had been missed. Maybe Kolya had begun to sweat and look nervous. Maybe Hong Kong security had him in a back room right that very moment, questioning him about his identity and trying to find out whom he might be traveling with.

Maybe the police were even now heading toward the gate where Petra and Mikhail waited, intending to take them into custody.

Petra looked down the concourse toward the main part of the terminal. But there were no uniformed men marching in her direction, only other passengers toting carry-ons and wasting time until their flights departed.

There was also no Kolya.

She glanced over at Mikhail two rows away. Though she couldn’t see his face, she knew he had to be as tense as she was. Their operation could afford zero complications, especially after having experienced another setback, this time right there in Hong Kong, the former British colony where it had all begun so long ago.

Another possibility hit her. What if Kolya hadn’t even arrived at the airport yet? They had each traveled separately. Mikhail had taken the Airport Express train, while Kolya and Petra had each hailed taxis. What if Kolya’s cab had broken down? What if the driver had misunderstood Kolya’s destination? Doubtful, she knew. Airport was airport. Even with Kolya’s limited English, he should have been able to communicate where he needed to go.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice blared over the public address system, “at this time we will begin preboarding Cathay Pacific flight 840 to New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport. Passengers traveling with small children or those who need additional assistance may board the aircraft now. Once we are done preboarding, we will start boarding all our first-class and business-class passengers, Marco Polo Club members, and …”

Petra pushed herself up, unable to sit still any longer. Where was he?

Her hand slipped into her shoulder bag as she scanned the terminal, her fingertips quickly searching through its contents. They found what they were looking for. Touching it made her relax, if only just a little.

At the far end of the terminal, dozens of people wearing identical blue sweatshirts moved almost as one toward a gate. Elsewhere, individuals and couples, some using the automated sidewalks, some walking beside them, moved between shops and waiting areas and restrooms. But none of them, none of them, was Kolya.

“Excuse me,” a voice said into her ear. “Did you drop this?”

Petra turned quickly, surprised to find Mikhail standing right behind her, holding a pen out. She hadn’t even heard him walk up.

“What are you doing?” he whispered through his smile.

“You shouldn’t be talking to me,” she whispered back. They were each supposed to be solo travelers with no knowledge of the others. It was another safety precaution. One they had used since they started on the mission. In a louder voice, she said, “Yes, I did. Thank you.”

As he handed her the pen, he said, “You need to get control of yourself.”

She glanced at him. “What are you talking about?”

He held her eyes for a moment, then looked down. As she followed his gaze, her breath suddenly caught in her throat. In her other hand was the photograph. She had actually pulled it out of her purse and was holding it in front of her.

Anyone who glanced at it probably wouldn’t have given it a second thought. But to have it out in the open was tempting fate. This was their map, the only reason they were in Hong Kong and the only reason they were heading to the East Coast of the United States. If someone was tailing them and figured out what the photograph was, all could be lost.

“Thank you for waiting, ladies and gentlemen,” the voice on the overhead speaker announced. “At this time we will begin boarding our first-class …”

“Put it away,” Mikhail whispered.

Petra slipped the photo back in her bag, then hunted around for her ticket. “Kolya?” she whispered.

Mikhail glanced past her for a moment. “Have a nice flight,” he said, then dipped his head and walked away.

Once he was gone, Petra stretched, then readjusted herself so that she was facing the direction Mikhail had been looking. Sure enough, standing on one of the moving sidewalks was Kolya. He was letting the system do all the work while he leaned against the handrail and sipped at a can of soda.

“At this time we will begin boarding seats in rows thirty-one through forty-four. Rows thirty-one through forty-four.”

Petra watched their young companion a moment longer. Then, with a final mental pull of an imaginary trigger, she retrieved her boarding pass and got into line.

Chapter 2

Late September

“At this time, Harold’s son, Jake Oliver, would like to say a few words.”

The old wooden pews creaked as people used the break between speakers to reposition themselves. When no one immediately stood, necks craned and heads turned, looking toward the first row of the chapel.

Jonathan Quinn felt something poke him in his side. But he continued to stare forward, lost in his own thoughts. When it happened again, this time harder than the first, he pulled himself out of his head and looked over. Orlando was staring at him. Before he could ask what she wanted, she motioned toward the front of the room with her eyes.

He looked over and saw Reverend Hollis gazing at him, smiling.

“Jake, whenever you’re ready.”

Quinn closed his eyes for a second. Oh, God. He’d been hoping this moment would somehow never come.

Despite the dead bodies he dealt with on a regular basis, attending funerals was something he’d been able to avoid for the most part. His reason was simple. It was the grieving. Death marked the living more than it marked the dead, and Quinn was never sure how to deal with those who mourned. Plus, seeing that grief made him think too much about what he did for a living. And that was something that was becoming more difficult to do.

Slowly, he rose. This funeral was different. The man lying in the open casket at the front of the room wasn’t some casual acquaintance, and the grieving weren’t friends of the deceased he had never met.

The mourners here in the Lakeside Mortuary Chapel in Warroad, Minnesota, were people he’d known for a long time. And the man in the box? He was the person Quinn had called his father.

He took a step away from the pew and glanced back at his mother. Her red-rimmed eyes were firmly fixed on the casket several feet away, her face not quite accepting, but resigned now.

Two days before, as they’d sat in the mortuary office, her face had been covered in shock and disbelief. Because of this, Quinn had ended up answering many of the questions the funeral director had asked. After a while he had put a hand over hers. “Mom, would you rather we finish this later?”

Nothing for several seconds, then she looked at him. “I’m okay,” she said, failing at an attempted smile. “I don’t want to come back and do this again. Let’s finish it now.”

Quinn held her eyes for a moment, still unsure.

“Sweetheart, I’m fine. I’m just glad you’re here to help me.”

They had talked caskets and hymns and Bible passages and who would deliver a eulogy.

“I’d like both you and Liz to say something,” she’d told him.

He had been caught off guard by the request. Speak at his father’s funeral? What would he say that didn’t sound insincere or made up? It would be much better if his sister was the only speaker. He started to say as much, but the look in his mother’s eyes stopped him.

“Of course. If that’s what you want.”

And now here he was, slowly making his way to the podium, a piece of paper with some random scribbled notes in his pocket, but really having no idea what he was going to say.

“Just think of your mother,” Orlando had told him a few hours earlier as they were getting ready.

“I’ve been doing nothing but thinking of her.”

“You’ve been doing nothing but worrying about her, and, even more than that, worrying about screwing up in front of her.”

“Exactly.”

“You’re thinking too much,” she’d said, then kissed him on the cheek. “You’ll know what to say when the time comes.”

He’d pulled her into his arms and held on tight, needing the energy she was feeding him. So naturally, just as some of his tension was starting to ease, his phone had rung.

“Who is it?” Orlando had asked.

“David Wills.”

“Don’t answer it.”

3

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