SOMETIMES THE ONLY WAY TO LIVE...
Victor is the ultimate predator. He surfaces to kill, then disappears into thin air. But he’s a disposable commodity for the powerful people he works for—both the good guys and the bad. And no one has his back. Especially now that doing black bag jobs for the CIA has put a target on his head...
...IS TO DIE.
Antonio Alvarez, a high-ranking US intelligence official, is determined to clean house and find the legendary killer who slipped away from him during an operation in Paris. There’s only one person Victor can turn to for help: a lethal female assassin whose life he once saved. And now Victor wants her to return the favor—by killing him....
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***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected copy proof***
The priest was a short man who was stooped in posture, making him shorter still, but he carried himself with gravitas, especially when he spoke. His voice was deep and boomed without effort. He was often told he could not whisper. A useful trait when addressing his congrega- tion, but not so useful when hearing confession. He compensated by cupping his left hand over his mouth. It
helped keep the sins of his flock a little more private.
The confessor was already in the box, so quiet and still that the priest almost didn’t notice him. He decided not to comment on the confessor’s impatience. It was only right to wait outside until the priest was ready to hear the confession. No matter, but he would try to mention it at the end. Manners were a close third after godliness and cleanliness.
He knew he should not, but he couldn’t help speculating who might be so eager to confess. The priest knew almost everyone in the area by name and by voice. They were decent people, but ones who sinned in thought and deed like any others. As a young man he had served in towns and cities and heard confessions that had reddened his face in embarrassment or caught his breath with shock. Here, though, the sins were what he called “baby sins.” People lusted, but didn’t commit adultery; they envied, but didn’t steal; they could succumb to wrath, but only with their fists. They were simple people and now that he was old he enjoyed the simple life he had built with them. The priest was well liked because he relished his whisky as much as the villagers and didn’t give them more Hail Marys than they could handle.
The church was set atop a low hill overlooking a village. The village was located on the southwestern tip of Ireland, in county Cork. It was a small, isolated place, with a single bus service that made the trip to Cork and back once per day. A handsome village in the priest’s humble opinion, populated by those who loved the Lord and whisky in equal measure. There were just four shops in the entire village, but also four pubs. The church was built in the middle of the nineteenth century and was still standing tall and strong. Larger than the village needed, but a fine building nonetheless. The floor of the nave was composed of tiles—aquamarine, white, and pale green. The interior walls were white and the beams that sup- ported the roof overhead were stained dark. The pews were simple and in need of some sanding and polishing, but where was the money for such frivolity? It was dedi- cated to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and St. Patrick.
The confessor said, “Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been exactly one year since my last confession.”
The priest was intrigued by this exactitude. Most con- fessors spoke in general terms to ease their own guilt. A few days meant a week. A week meant ten days. A couple of weeks was a month. A year meant eighteen months. A long time meant several years. I don’t remember meant a lifetime ago. The priest was a precise man and respected others who were also precise.
The voice that spoke to him didn’t belong to an Irishman, which was rare. The confessor had almost no accent, if such a thing could be true. The words were well enunci- ated, perfect in pronunciation, but flat and monotone. An Englishman, he presumed, but a traveler who spoke sev- eral languages and had lost any quintessential Englishness from his speaking voice. The priest liked to hypothesize when dealing with new people. Uncommon now, but it was a habit that had served him well in his past life. The Englishman was no doubt here to explore rural Ireland— the Ireland of postcards and folk songs.
The screen that separated them offered privacy, but no secrecy. Through the lattice the priest could see the con- fessor, who was a dark-haired man in a gray suit.
The priest said, “Tell me about your sins, my child.” “I have killed many people.”
The priest was unfazed. “Is this some kind of joke? Because it’s neither funny nor original. It’s one thing to waste my time, but it’s another to waste the time of this church and squander that of those who are in need.”
“I assure you it is no joke.”
“I see,” the priest said, and settled himself for what would follow.
It hadn’t happened to him since he had moved out to the wilds, but when he had worked in areas of larger populations he had dealt with the occasional oddball. Some confessors were borderline insane or outright mad. They confessed outlandish crimes, looking for attention or even believing themselves responsible. He had listened to many a Hitler who had survived the war and had been in hiding ever since. He had heard the confessions of many a Satan.
“Okay,” the priest said. “We’ll start from the beginning. Why have you killed people?”
“I’m a professional assassin.”
“Yes, of course. And how many people have you killed?” “I’m not sure.”
Despite the ridiculousness of what he was hearing, the priest couldn’t help thinking about the fact that he had taken the confession of real killers before. Those who had fought in the Troubles. He was still disturbed by the things he had been told. “How can you not know how many people you killed?”
“I poisoned a woman recently,” the confessor answered. “I’m not sure if she died.”
“Why did you poison her? Were you paid to?”
“No,” he said. “We were enemies, then allies of convenience. After that alliance was no longer necessary, I considered her my enemy again.”
“I see.” He didn’t. “Why are you not sure whether she died?”
“I told her how to beat the poison. I gave her a chance at life if she was strong enough to take it. It’s not yet safe to check whether she was.”
“Why did you give her this . . . chance, as you put it?” “She convinced me I might need her help one day. She had already proven herself capable of fulfilling such a
It was a fantasy. It was a delusion. The confessor really believed what he was saying. Which was frightening in a different way. The priest hoped there was help out there for him. For now, the best the priest could do was humor the fantasist to keep him calm. The priest didn’t want to cause a scene that would upset those who were genuine in their need. “Do you care if she lives or dies?”
The English confessor was quiet for a moment, then said, “If she dies, then I have eliminated a dangerous threat. If she lives, then I have gained a useful associate.”
“In which case, if she does indeed survive, maybe you should send her flowers. But that’s not the answer I
“It’s the only one I’m able to provide.”
The priest rolled his eyes and said, “Are you sorry for what you have done? Is your conscience heavy with guilt?”
“No,” the confessor said. “Then why are you even here?”
The confessor was quiet for a time. The priest didn’t hurry the answer. Instead, he waited, curious.
“This is something I have to do. Habit, or perhaps addiction would be a more appropriate word.” “Explain.”
“This, here and now, is a remnant of the person I once was.”
There was a neutrality in the confessor’s voice that belied the sadness of the words. The priest was intrigued as to who might create such a broken delusion, and what life he sought to escape in doing so.
The priest said, “What do you hope to achieve with this confession?”
“What do you mean?” the confessor asked.
“You don’t seek absolution. If you don’t feel remorse for your sins, then this process is pointless. You have to accept your sins if you want forgiveness.”
“And God will forgive me, no matter what I’ve done, if I only ask for it?”
“Yes, that’s how it works,” the priest said to bring the conversation to a close. “Say nine Hail Marys and ten Our Fathers and you will be absolved of your sins.”
“Thank you, Father.”
He said, “Go to confession more than once a year.” “I’ll try.”
The priest smiled to himself. Never a dull moment. “And don’t kill any more people.”
The confessor said, “I can’t promise that.”
Dying didn’t hurt, but coming back to life sure did. Rehabilitation was agony. The central nervous system cannot be shut down and restarted without consequence, she would be told. It was a needless observation. She had begun her second life paralyzed. She could breathe. She could groan. But that was about it. Movement was slow to return. Feeling was slower. She could scratch herself before she could sense the nails on her skin. The pain was always there, though, but without focus, without a cause. Her limbs had a constant ache. Muscles in her back would go into spasm without warning. The faintest light could ignite her retina into spectral flames, yet darkness could do the same. A pneumatic drill hammered against the inside
of her skull at all times, wielded by a sadist.
You’ll have to get used to it, one physician would ex- plain, adding “I’m afraid” in some token sympathy. She had lots of doctors and specialists and consultants asking her questions and examining the notes on her. At first, this had reassured her, but it wasn’t long before she understood that she was but an interesting anomaly to them. None of them cared about her.
It took a day or so before she could talk, which meant no one knew what had happened to cause her heart to stop. She had been dead on arrival, then unconscious in intensive care once they had brought her back, then mute and immobile when she had woken. Because she hadn’t been able to talk, she couldn’t tell them what had hap- pened, and even if her lips and tongue worked again, she didn’t know the name of the poison she had ingested. It was a neurotoxin, her murderer had told her.
The doctors therefore had to hypothesize; they had to guess; they had to investigate. They loved that part. She could tell they were having fun with it, with her. She didn’t mind that, if it meant they brought her back to full strength more quickly. She hadn’t spent this long in bed since college, and then it hadn’t been to rest.
“Did you see that?” a disembodied voice said. “She smiled.”
“I didn’t see anything. You probably just imagined it.” “Don’t tell me what I saw or didn’t.”
“Is this about last night?”
When she could talk she told them nothing of sub- stance. Nothing useful. She said she didn’t remember. She said maybe someone had given her something to drink. That part was true, at least, and she figured they might have pumped her stomach and found in her blood traces of whatever it was that had poisoned her, or the remnants of it.
“You’re very lucky to be alive,” a young doctor told her. “I don’t feel lucky.”
“Your heart stopped for over two minutes.”
“If you’re strong enough, they’ll bring you back,” her murderer had told her.
“Thank you for not giving up on me.”
“You’re very welcome, but in truth the credit goes entirely to you.”
“I’m strong enough,” she had told him.
The doctors were happy to have her conscious and compos mentis, but she wanted to know more; she wanted to know when she would be well again, when she could leave. No one wanted to tell her, or didn’t know them- selves. Lying in bed, she found it hard to comprehend the full extent of her condition, but she knew it was beyond bad. She knew she couldn’t be any weaker. Her hands told her that. It was a struggle to make a fist. There was a ball of iron in her grip that she had to flatten just to make her fingertips meet her palm. Her arm shook under the strain. She started to perspire. She gasped for air upon giving up, as infuriated as she was disheartened.
There was some police involvement, which was ex- pected. Two local cops asked her some questions but grew bored of her telling them she didn’t remember, she couldn’t be sure, it was hard to recall.
“We’ll come back in a couple of weeks when you’re feeling better.”
She wasn’t trying to protect her murderer. She wanted to protect herself. There were a lot of people out there south of the border who would be keen to finish the job he had started. As a living Jane Doe in a Canadian hos- pital, she was pretty anonymous, but she had already been here too long. It was easier to stay alive when on the move, and if anyone came for her in her current state, she wouldn’t be able to run, let alone put up much of a fight.
After a few days she could sit up by herself, and once she could bend her knees it wasn’t long before she could push back the bedclothes and attempt to stand. She ac- quired a lot of bruises. Hospital floors were hard.
“You’re not ready to walk yet,” a different doctor told her.
“I need to get to the gym.”
The doctor laughed, figuring she had made a joke. “Look at me. I’m atrophying all over the place.” “You must let yourself recover properly. This is a slow
process. Physiotherapy will come eventually, when you are you ready.”
“Let’s not push you into anything you can’t handle.”
“I can handle it. I came back from the dead, didn’t I?”
She was doing push-ups the next day—only three, using her knees to assist her—but by the end of the week she was doing five unassisted. She exercised at night when the lights were off and she wasn’t checked on for hours, which gave her time to lie on the floor in an exhausted sprawl before she regained the energy to climb—and she had to climb—back into bed, tears wetting her face be- cause the pain of exertion was so bad. She used the pillow to muffle her cries.
She did grip-strength exercises in bed, every hour, squeezing the metal support bars until they were left with handprints of sweat. She made herself eat, always asking for another portion, another meal, snacks, leftovers, ig- noring the constricted feeling of airlessness in her weak- ened throat as she forced food down, ignoring the bloated nausea of fullness to make sure she consumed enough calories to stop herself from wasting away, using both hands to clamp shut her mouth and pinch her nostrils tight to trap the inevitable vomit and swallow it back down so no nutrients were wasted.
The clock on the wall showed her the day in that little plastic window next to the 3. “We’ll come back in a couple of weeks. . . .” She had to be gone by then. She couldn’t risk another conversation with the police. Each day she was better than the last and looked it. They wouldn’t relent so easily next time. There would be proper ques- tions. A proper statement required. That would put her on their system.
That was her fear. That was what she needed to avoid.
Those who wanted to find her would see that entry on their own systems, because their electronic tentacles reached everywhere. Their search algorithms would flag the telling details. Someone would notice. Messages would be sent. A decision would be made quickly and acted upon without delay because the mysterious woman without a name or memory bore an uncanny resemblance to one Constance Stone, aka Raven, former government
operative, rogue agent, assassin. . . .
Kill on sight.
Her client stood by the window. He kept the curtains closed, but peered out into the night through the thin gap between curtain and wall. He was dressed in his gray suit—he was always dressed so quickly—but had not showered. He never showered, and she had stopped of- fering him the shower’s use. It was strange, as he always seemed so clean, but he didn’t want to be undressed around her any longer than required. Ashamed of his nakedness, she had guessed, although he had no reason to be. She had never been with a man in better shape. His skin seemed shrink-wrapped over muscles so dense they hurt if he pressed himself against her with too much force. It was the scars he was ashamed of, she reasoned. He had so many scars—far more than she’d seen before on a single person—and some were horrible to look at, but she didn’t find them ugly. Quite the opposite, in fact. She saw them as a multitude of unknown stories—each scar the
page of a book she longed to read.
He was a Russian, tall and dark. He never said where he was from, but she recognized the accent. She had known many of his countrymen. She observed him at the window while she found a robe and collected up her own clothes from the foot of the bed. It took her longer to recover and get herself together again.
“She’s not out there,” she said.
The dark-haired Russian didn’t look at her. “Who isn’t?”
He had given her a name that she didn’t believe was his own—she was well used to being lied to by clients— but she didn’t let on. She always played the part she was paid to play.
“I’m not married,” he said.
“Sure,” she replied, “which is why you always have to check who’s outside, before and after. You think I don’t notice, but I do. You think your wife is going to catch you. That’s why you never really enjoy yourself.”
“I assure you I enjoy my time with you.”
“That’s not what I meant and you know it. If you didn’t have to worry about her catching you in the act, then you could truly relax more and make the most of our time together.”
“I don’t worry,” he felt the need to state.
It was a strange thing to say, or at least it would be, coming from another person. From him, who was more than a little strange, it was almost normal. She had spent enough time with men to understand how they worked; to know what made them tick; to interpret their actions and decipher their subtext. This one remained an enigma. She had worked out the window thing. That was easy enough. Men cheated on their wives, and their wives weren’t dumb. It didn’t take paranoia for a man to be concerned his wife might follow him to his hired mistress. On the other end of the scale was the bed. It had taken her a couple of his visits before she noticed he had dragged it a little way from the wall. She noticed the absence of the headboard thumping. Her home was a two-story house and the bed was positioned against an exterior wall, so she had never had to fear angry neighbors banging at her door. That was why it was set there, after all. And men, she had learned, liked to hear that thump. They liked to feel powerful. Not this one, though.
She yawned. It was getting late and she was sore. “Same time tomorrow?”
She dropped the clothes into a laundry basket and checked her hair in the vanity table mirror. She kept the room simple, but tasteful. It was her second bedroom. She didn’t entertain clients where she slept. She was okay with how she made her living, but she was not that okay. She wanted her own space. She wanted separation be- tween work and her personal life, and she wasn’t comfort- able being personal by choice with anyone in the same room where she was personal for money.
She was well educated, with two degrees and a master’s, had traveled and volunteered, but she made more money doing this than she could ever hope to in the real world. Her father was a drunk and her mother had died in childbirth. She’d had no advantages in life except her looks and the charm to go with them. The degrees were achieved through hard work and the desire to better her- self, but the world judged her on how she looked over what she thought, so it was only logical to play along. If she couldn’t be who she wanted, then she would do what- ever she could to exploit who she was expected to be.
The dark-haired man hadn’t answered her, but he didn’t talk a lot. He spoke only when spoken to. She wondered if there would be only silence otherwise, if he would be happy with no communication beyond the physical.
“What should I wear? The white dress again? You liked that one, didn’t you?”
She smiled to herself, remembering his reaction when she had first worn it.
He said, “I’m leaving Sofia first thing in the morning.” “Then you really should have had more sleep, shouldn’t you?” She winked at him. “When are you coming back to me, then?” “I won’t be.”
Her smile faltered. “What do you mean, you won’t be?”
He faced her. “I’m moving on. I’m not coming back.”
“You know you are. You’ve seen me every night this week.”
“It was a mistake to keep returning,” he said without a hint of emotion. “I don’t usually do that kind of thing. I know better. I should know better.”
“But I’m a special case, aren’t I?” she asked, knowing the answer. “I’m the one who makes you break the rules. I know you like me. You can’t help yourself. I have that effect on men. They can’t resist me. They always come back.”
“Not me. Not again.”
“Why?” she demanded rather than asked.
“I don’t stay in the same place for long. A few days, a week at the very most. This is the seventh night in the same town. I’ve been pushing it as it is.”
She couldn’t keep the confusion from her face, nor the rejection.
He said, “If I’ve somehow misled you, then I’ll pay you now for tomorrow night, but I won’t be back.”
She turned away. “No, I don’t want any more money from you. I could take a month off with what you’ve paid already.”
“Then what is the problem?”
“Who said it’s a problem that you can just end things without warning?”
“I didn’t know I needed to provide any forewarning. I thought we had established the terms of this transaction.” “I know; we did. But you said yourself you don’t usu-
ally do this.”
“Which is exactly why I can’t do it again.”
“I don’t understand,” he said, and it was infuriating that he didn’t. He was so naive, so simple. No, he was stupid. His stupidity was ridiculous.
“Of course you don’t get it, why would you?”
“I never said this would be a long-term arrangement. Maybe I was unclear about that. I can only apologize if I’ve inconvenienced you or if you were relying on my continued custom.”
She laughed; a hollow, ironic sound. “Are you trying to be an asshole? Look at me. Do you think I’m strug- gling for clients? I pick and choose. I thought I made that quite clear. Ten years from now I’ll still be able to pick and choose. And you dare to say relying . . . ? You couldn’t be any more insulting if you tried. Jesus.”
He frowned. “I really don’t like blasphemy.”
“Oh, do forgive me. I thought that, given you’ve been screwing the holy hell out of a call girl every night for a week, blasphemy would be pretty low on your list of moral concerns.”
He waited a moment—it seemed out of politeness only—and said, “I’m going to go now.”
He walked across the room and she let him, furious at him for going and more so at herself for letting him. She didn’t turn around until she heard the door click shut and she listened to his footsteps on the landing, then on the stairs, then gone for good. Then she noticed he had left another night’s payment on the dresser by the door. She grabbed the pile of crisp notes and tore them to shreds before her back slid down the bedroom door and she sat on the carpet with her knees to her chest and her hair over her face.
“The messages from your brain to your muscles are delayed,” yet another doctor told Raven. “The syn-
apses are firing. The messages are sent on time, but they’re not getting where they need to be. Your nervous system has so many routes, so many pathways, it’s like a maze. The messages your brain is sending have forgotten which way they’re supposed to go. They’re getting there eventu- ally, but they’re getting lost on the journey. They’re tak- ing the scenic route, if you like. It’s going to take time and patience to help them relearn the maze.”
“Time and patience are two things I don’t have.”
“It would really help if we knew what you had been poisoned with.”
“No traces at all?”
He shook his head. “Bizarre, isn’t it?”
Not really, she didn’t say. She was no stranger to toxins herself. Raven had killed many people with poisons that couldn’t be detected. Potassium chloride—one of her favorites—was a classic poison that induced heart failure.
It was so hard to detect because it broke down into its component elements after death, both of which were pres- ent in the body already. The neurotoxin that had para- lyzed her and stopped her heart could be long gone from her system or still present, but they didn’t know what to look for.
“Are you okay?”
She smiled through the agony. “Never better.”
The pain kept Raven awake at night. It kept her awake in the daytime. There was no escape from it. She hid the full extent of it whenever she could.
A consultant from the UK tried to explain it to Raven in her weird, posh accent: “You’re in constant pain be- cause your nervous system has been overstimulated and now it’s responding to stimulus that isn’t real. The nerves are sending messages to your brain, informing it of inju- ries that don’t exist.”
“You’re saying it’s all in my mind?”
“In a way, I suppose I am. The pain you’re experienc- ing is very real; I assure you of that. But your central nervous system is confused. It’s had a factory reset, only the firmware isn’t up-to-date.”
“Now I’m as confused as my nervous system.”
“Sorry,” she said. “I’m trying to explain it in the simplest way and I’m not doing a very good job. Basically, your CNS has gone arse over tit.”
“Never mind,” she said. “Just be patient.”
“I’m getting really tired of people telling me that.”
Raven was always tired, so tired. But she couldn’t sleep for long when the pain seemed to subside. Her muscles would cramp and she would wake up fighting back the screams, else she would dream of spreading paralysis and the madness of being trapped inside a body she could no longer control.
The specialists came and went. There was a revolving door of doctors and consultants, nurses and therapists. They had their own ideas. Contradictions were common.
“Hold on, are you saying my central nervous system needs to rebuild itself?”
“No, that’s not really what I’m saying. Relearn would be a better way of describing the process.”
Process. She heard that a lot. Such a clinical, soulless term for what she was going through. As if she was a project or an experiment for them—and in a way, she was.
Every day there was improvement, the pain easing as her mobility increased. After a week she could hide the cramps and spasms from the doctors, pretending to be better than she felt so they would speed up the process of rehabilitation. They weren’t taking any risks with her recovery, they kept telling her. They wanted their money’s worth, more like. They still didn’t know what had caused her complete neurological shutdown.
“You want to write a paper on me,” she couldn’t help retorting to some smug consultant who flew in every few days to check her progress and ask stupid questions. “You want to solve the mystery and then brag to your peers.”
“I assure you that’s not the case.”
“Then leave me the hell alone.”
When they believed her to be painless for forty-eight hours, she was allowed outside—supervised, of course. The afternoon sun felt so good on her face she almost felt free of pain for the first time she could remember.
The nurse who accompanied her said, “Let’s take a nice slow stroll around the garden.”
He was cute, with dimples and blond hair tucked behind his ears. He was pretty young too, but strong. There was an innocence in his smile. She couldn’t help liking him. Typical that she was holed up in a hospital, in an awful gown, pretty much the worst she’d ever looked. Not that it mattered. She didn’t remember the last time she had asked a guy for his number. There wasn’t much time for dating in her chosen career—ex-career— path.
“I want to go this way,” she said, trying to steer him.
“There’s nothing to see over there.”
There was. Windows and exits and cameras and vehi- cles. She analyzed the perimeter while the cute well- meaning nurse offered his arm for support.
“That’s probably enough for today,” he said.
“One more lap.”
He started to shake his head.
“Please,” she said.
She didn’t know the hospital, and it was too big and she too immobile to learn, even if they would let her explore on her own. So she did what she could. She made do. Raven could hobble from her room and around the ward without too much interference. She could ignore the shaking heads and dismiss the offers to help her back to her room with a smile. She had a nice smile and she made it work for her. Not on the women, though. They knew those tricks. To the women she acted brave, so she had their respect. To the men she acted vulnerable, so she had their veneration.
She received flowers. A beautiful bouquet of lilies ar- rived one afternoon. The cute nurse brought them into her room. She was drowsy, having just woken.
“Oh, Lionel, you shouldn’t have,” she said to the cute nurse.
He set them down on the bedside table. “Aren’t lilies what you give at funerals?”
“It’s a joke,” Raven said. “What does the card say?” “‘We’ll always have Coney Island,’” he read. “What does that mean?”
“It’s a play on what Humphrey Bogart said to Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca. It’s another joke.”
Lionel didn’t get it. “Who sent them?”
“A man who doesn’t make jokes,” she explained with- out explaining. “Are there any details on the card for the florist? Address? Logo?”
He checked the card. “Fast Flowers. There’s a local address.”
“Do me a favor and slip the card into a drawer? I don’t want to lose it.”
The hands on the clock kept up their relentless motion. The date continued to advance. Two weeks was not a long time to recover from dying, but she had to make it enough. She wasn’t prepared to live again only to be killed again. That would be the worst luck, even for her.
The next killer wouldn’t give her a lifeline. She wouldn’t be able to bargain a reprieve.
Raven found she had little malice for the man who was her murderer and now tormentor. He had acted in self- defense, if preempted self-defense. But she was alive be- cause he had changed his mind. She had convinced him she deserved a second chance. That second chance was proving an insurmountable challenge. This new life of hers was no life she wanted to live. It had to get better. It had to improve. She fought on because she wasn’t one to give up. If there was the slightest chance she could improve, she would endure any agony, any setback to see it happen.
“You’re pushing yourself too hard,” Lionel told her as he helped her back into bed.
“I don’t care. I’ll do whatever it takes.”
“You’re making the pain worse by trying to run before you can walk.”
“I can’t run, that’s the problem.”
The two weeks were almost up. Once the cops had questioned her a second time, once she was fed into a database, she figured she would have maybe a day’s head start. Her enemies would react fast and move faster. They wouldn’t want to waste this golden opportunity. They would never have a better chance to end the problem that was once one of their own.
A day’s head start. Not long. She had avoided her en- emies with half that time, but at full health. She wasn’t going to get far in her current state. Fatigued, weak, dis- tracted by pain . . . She had to mitigate those factors by making sure no one found her in the first place. So she had to get well enough to slip out of the hospital unno- ticed, before those questions were asked, before she could be fed into the system. She had to escape. She had three days before those two weeks were up.
She figured one day further for exercising and recovery. Plan and prepare on the second. Escape on the third.
It was going to be tight, but she could make it work.
She had to.
She was woken from her nap by a knock on her door, and the cute nurse appeared and said, “The police are here.”
Excerpted from "The Final Hour"
Copyright © 2017 Tom Wood.
Excerpted by permission of Penguin Publishing Group.
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