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The Destroyed


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1

Доступ к книге ограничен фрагменом по требованию правообладателя.

CHAPTER 1

DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA

I shouldn’t have come, Lawrence Rosen thought as he stared out the window of the cab. I should have stayed home and pretended I’d never received it.

But he had received the email. And opened it.

And read it.

Mr. Rosen April 12th, 2006. A flight to Portugal. You were one of the prisoner’s escorts. I’m sure you haven’t forgotten about the trip. I’m willing to make sure your name isn’t included when the story is leaked, but only if you speak with me first.

One chance. Saturday. 8:30 p.m. Kilimanjaro Restaurant in the Majestic Hotel, Dar es Salaam.

There was no signature, and when he tried to send a reply, he received a message telling him the address didn’t exist.

For twenty-four hours he had done nothing, hoping he could just forget about the whole thing. But the sender had been right. He did remember the flight, and he certainly remembered the prisoner. It was a taint he could never wash off.

When Saturday came, he boarded an early morning flight headed southwest from his current home in Dubai to Tanzania.

“How much longer?” he asked his taxi driver.

“Soon, soon. Fifteen minutes, no more.”

Rosen looked at his watch. It was after eight already. Fifteen minutes would probably be more like twenty or thirty, meaning he’d barely arrive on time.

This is a mistake. I should’ve ignored the email.

Easy to say, but how could he have done that, really? If his name came out in association with what had happened, he had no doubt he’d be the one receiving a prisoner escort.

“Welcome to the Majestic,” the doorman said as Rosen approached the hotel entrance at exactly 8:28 p.m.

“Kilimanjaro’s?” Rosen asked.

“Twenty-third floor, sir. The elevator is past the reception desk.”

As hotel lobbies went, the Majestic’s was impressive-white marble floors adorned here and there with purple rugs, ultra-modern furniture upholstered in fabrics of green and pink and beige, and columns that rose to the ceiling two floors above, covered with purple and gold tiles. The reception desk was halfway back along the left wall, a black granite countertop manned by half a dozen smiling women.

Rosen walked quickly to the four elevator doors along the back wall. Only a few seconds passed before the one on the far right opened. He entered and pushed the button for the twenty-third floor. Just as the door started to close, a man and a woman rushed in.

“Ah, twenty-three. Perfect,” the man said.

Rosen smiled weakly as he moved into the back corner to give the others some space.

“Honey, do you mind if we stop at the room first?” the woman asked.

The man shrugged, and hit the button for the nineteenth floor. “Okay by me.”

Up they went, the new elevator barely making a sound as it shot past floor after floor. The car slowed on eighteen then stopped on the nineteenth floor. The doors slid open, and the woman stepped off. Rosen was too lost in thought to notice that the man with her did not leave also.

“Clear,” the woman said from the nineteenth-floor lobby.

The unexpected word jolted Rosen back into reality, but by then it was too late. The “husband” was already pointing a gun at Rosen, his other hand pressing the button that kept the elevator doors open.

He motioned with the gun out the door. “This is where you get off, Mr. Rosen.”

Mila Voss knew it would be dangerous before she even sent the email to Lawrence Rosen. She knew very little about his life now, how connected he might still be, how he might react to her not-so-subtle threat. As it was, finding an active email address for him had been pushing things. She had to be very careful to minimize her exposure in his world, a world that had at one time been hers, too.

But it was a chance she had to take, because he could either confirm or dispel what she already believed.

After that?

Get through this first, she told herself. Figure out the after later.

Her first concern had been whether he would come at all. But twenty-two hours earlier, a flight had been booked from where he currently lived in Dubai to Tanzania, using an alias he’d traveled under previously. When she checked that morning, the airline listed a “Mark Walker” as having boarded.

Still, she wanted to be positive, so she took another big risk by hacking into the Dubai International Airport video security system. She located the footage of the gate servicing the flight to Tanzania, and scanned through the faces as passengers handed over their tickets until she spotted the one she was looking for.

Lawrence Rosen was definitely on his way to her.

Her next concern was that he wouldn’t come to the hotel alone. To ensure her own safety, she had taken a room on the fifth floor two days earlier, then planted micro cameras outside the hotel, in the lobby, and outside the Kilimanjaro Restaurant. Her plan was to wait in her room until Rosen was seated in the restaurant. If everything seemed fine, she’d go up and join him. If not, she’d take the emergency stairwell down to the ground floor and get the hell out of there.

She began monitoring the feeds in earnest four hours before the appointed meeting time. If he’d arranged for anyone to act as backup, she was confident they would arrive sometime in that window.

At just after six p.m., she spotted two men and a woman in the main lobby who concerned her. They seemed a little too interested in their surroundings, too aware of what was going on. She labeled them as potential threats and continued looking for others.

As eight thirty drew closer, she became more and more anxious. Though Rosen’s plane had landed several hours earlier, there was still no sign of him. Had he decided at the last minute not to come? If that were the case, she’d have to write him off, and employ more aggressive tactics to find out whether she was right or not.

Just before eight thirty, a cab pulled up out front, and Rosen stepped out. Mila felt an odd mixture of relief and renewed tension. He was here. She was going to talk to him.

She watched as he walked across the lobby to the elevators, and stepped into one. She was just thinking that things would go as planned, when the three people who had concerned her earlier entered the frame. One of the men stopped and gave his companions a quick nod as they stepped into Rosen’s car just before the doors closed. The man who stayed in the lobby turned away from the elevators, and began casually scanning the room-looking for her, no doubt.

Dammit! Rosen isn’t alone.

She nearly shut her laptop and sprinted out of the room right then. The only thing that stopped her was a sense of unease. There had been something odd about Rosen’s reaction to the others’ arrival. The view from the camera had shown him move to the back corner when they joined him, like he didn’t know them. Faking it? Possibly, but she had worked in the secrets business for many years, and during that time had developed a strong ability to read others.

She replayed the last few moments before the doors closed.

No, she decided. He doesn’t know them. But if that’s true, who the hell are they?

She switched to the camera covering the Kilimanjaro waiting area outside the elevators on the twenty-third floor. Half a dozen people were hovering in front of a podium where two hostesses were standing. After a moment, a group of three diners was led inside, while the others continued to wait.

Mila focused on the elevators. Minus the fifteen seconds that had already passed, the car Rosen was riding in-the one she’d labeled number four-could reach the twenty-third floor as quickly as fifty-five seconds. If the other passengers got out on a lower floor, it could take as long as two minutes, maybe more.

Fifty-five seconds passed, sixty, then the door to car number one opened and a party of six exited.

Twenty more seconds and another ding, followed by the door to number two parting.

When the clock reached two minutes, she frowned. Number four still hadn’t arrived. That didn’t make sense. It should have Ding.

She tensed as the light next to number four lit up.

There was a pause, then the doors slid apart.

The nineteenth floor was only half finished. One wing of rooms looked ready to go, but the hallway leading through the other half was still in the process of being painted, and had yet to have the signature purple carpet laid down.

The man with the gun walked behind Rosen while the woman led the way down the unfinished corridor.

“Look,” Rosen said. “I don’t know what you want or who you might think I am, but you’ve made a mistake. I’m just here for a business meeting. You let me go, I won’t say a word.”

“No mistake,” the man said.

“Of course it’s a mistake!” Rosen argued, looking back over his shoulder.

If the man had been close enough, Rosen would have gone for the gun, but the guy was several feet back, out of range.

“Turn around,” the man said.

Son of a bitch. This was a trap from the beginning, Rosen thought.

As they neared the end of the hall, the woman opened a door and walked inside.

“Keep moving,” the gunman ordered Rosen.

This was his chance, Rosen realized. As he stepped across the threshold, he reached out, grabbed the handle, then jerked the door closed behind him and engaged the lock.

The only direction Rosen could go in the small area beyond was left. He raced down the short hallway, and entered a room lit only by the light of the city flowing in through the windows. He tensed to take on the woman.

3

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