Viking Bay, page 27
“We could approach the house from the back,” Morgan said, “and as long as whoever’s with Titov’s wife stays where he is, we can enter through the back door. The problem is, if the guy with Natalya is really hardcore, he might detonate the bomb as soon as he sees us.”
As Bowman was saying this, a UPS truck drove by.
“How good are you with that rifle, Bowman?” Kay asked.
“If somebody drives down the driveway, the guy with Natalya will pull back one of the curtains to take a look.”
“So?” Morgan says.
“So if Bowman’s as good as he thinks he is, Bowman can shoot him in the head. But he has to turn the guy’s lights off instantaneously. His brain can’t have time to send a signal to a finger with a button on a detonator. Can you do that, Bowman?”
“Yeah. The ammo I’m using will turn the guy’s brain to mush so fast he won’t even know he’s been shot.” Bowman paused. “I know this. I’ve been in a situation like this before.” Kay figured that before Bowman came to work for Callahan he was probably a military sniper or maybe a cop used in hostage situations. But there wasn’t time to review Bowman’s résumé.
“But how would we approach the front door without alarming the guy?” Morgan asked. “If he sees someone coming down the driveway, he might think he’s being attacked and detonate the bomb as soon as he sees someone coming.”
“That UPS truck that just drove by,” Kay said. “Let’s go get it. One of us will swap places with the driver and drive it down the driveway. The guy with Natalya will pull back the curtains, and relax when he sees the truck and the driver wearing his little UPS uniform. Then, while he’s thinking about what to do, whether he should open the door for the UPS guy or pretend no one’s home, Bowman shoots him. If Bowman misses, we’re fucked, of course.”
“I won’t miss,” Bowman said.
“Then let’s go kidnap a UPS driver,” Kay said. She couldn’t help it, but she was actually enjoying herself.
THEY ALL PUT ON ski masks and left Dotson watching the house with the thermal imaging camera. They caught up with the UPS truck two miles down the road. Morgan swerved in front of the truck and hit the brakes, forcing the UPS driver to stop. Bowman and Kay jumped out of the SUV and pointed their guns at the driver’s face. The driver, who turned out to be a woman, immediately screamed when she saw two masked people pointing weapons at her face.
Kay said, “Shut the hell up before I shoot you.”
Kay told the driver to get out of the truck and walked her around the side of the truck not visible from the road. They were lucky they were out in the sticks and traffic was sparse. “Take off your uniform,” Kay told the woman. Kay had assumed the UPS driver would be a man and that Morgan or one of the other guys would have to impersonate the driver. So much for assumptions.
The driver was about two inches shorter than Kay and thirty pounds heavier. She was wearing a standard UPS uniform: brown short-sleeved shirt, brown shorts that came down to her chunky knees, and a brown baseball cap with the UPS logo. She appeared to be about forty, had short dark hair and brown eyes that were currently about the size of hard-boiled eggs. She was so scared she was almost hyperventilating.
“Take a deep breath and calm down,” Kay said. “We’re not going to hurt you. We just want your truck and your uniform. We’re not even going to steal the packages from your truck. So get undressed.”
When the woman just stood there, Kay yelled, “Move!”
The woman started to unbutton her blouse. Kay was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and low-topped boots. She stripped off the jeans, wishing she’d chosen a pair of panties that morning that weren’t quite so revealing. Bowman was getting an eyeful. She put the UPS uniform shirt on over her T-shirt, and when the driver had her shorts off, Kay put on the shorts. To keep the shorts from falling off her hips, she had to cinch the UPS driver’s belt as tight as it would go. She plucked the driver’s ball cap off her head but didn’t put it on, because she was still wearing the ski mask.
The pudgy driver was now wearing only her bra, panties, and her boots. She looked embarrassed in addition to looking scared. “Please don’t hurt me,” she said. “I’ve got two kids.”
Kay said, “I told you, we’re not going to hurt you.”
“What do we do with her?” Bowman said.
“Where’s your ID, your driver’s license?” Kay said to the driver.
“In the back pocket of my shorts,” she said.
Sure enough, the woman’s wallet was in the back pocket of the shorts Kay was wearing. She took out the wallet and looked at the woman’s driver’s license. Her name was Carol Walker. In the wallet was also a picture of two plump teenage girls who looked just like their mother.
“Okay, Carol,” Kay said. “You’re going to walk down this road and not talk to anybody for two hours. Go find a place to sit or whatever. In two hours, you can find a pay phone and call somebody to pick you up. But don’t call the cops. I’m going to keep your driver’s license, since it’s got your address on it, and if the cops show up and interfere with what we’re doing, then somebody’s going to kill your kids. Do you understand?”
“Good. Start walking.”
“But I can’t go walking around like this,” she said, meaning wearing only a bra and panties.
“Give her your windbreaker,” Kay said to Bowman.
Bowman made a face, then shrugged out of his windbreaker and handed it to the driver. Bowman was so damn big that the windbreaker reached almost to her knees.
“Okay, Carol, start walking,” Kay said. “We’ll leave your truck someplace where it’ll be found. I promise. But I’m also promising that if you call anybody in less than two hours, you’ll regret it. Do you believe me?”
“Remember, we know who you are and where you live.”
Carol started walking down the road, and Kay got into the UPS truck. She made a U-turn and headed back to the house where Natalya Titov was being held captive. Morgan and Bowman followed in the SUV. When they arrived back at the house, Dotson confirmed that the two people in the house were still sitting in the room. Kay wondered if they could be watching television, Natalya still tied to a chair, wearing the bomb vest.
“Okay,” Morgan said. “Bowman, get into position next to Dotson. As soon as you say you’re ready, Hamilton will drive down the driveway in the UPS truck. When the guy shows his head in the window, take him out. Hamilton, you wait a minute before you go into the house after Bowman shoots the guy. You know, long enough in case the bomb goes off after he’s hit.”
Kay was thinking this was the real reason the CIA had involved the Callahan Group. No way would the FBI shoot a guy just because a GPS device showed he was in a room with Natalya, not knowing if Natalya was still there or who the guy even was. The FBI would have spent ten hours trying to talk Natalya’s captor out of the house, and while that was going on, Titov would have handed over the information to the Chechens.
Kay got into the UPS truck, took off her ski mask, and put on the UPS ball cap. Two minutes later, she heard Bowman in her earpiece: “I’m in position.”
You better not miss, Bowman.
Kay drove down the driveway and stopped thirty feet from the front door. She gunned the engine, hoping the guy inside the house would hear it. But he didn’t; nobody pulled back a curtain to look out the window. If Natalya and her captor were watching TV like Kay thought, maybe they couldn’t hear the truck. Shit.
Kay hesitated for a moment, then picked up a small package from the area behind the driver’s seat. She got out of the truck, walked up to the front door, and pushed the doorbell button. “UPS!” she called out. She was thinking that if the bomb strapped to Natalya was as big as the one in Afghanistan, she could be dead in the next couple of minutes.
A moment later, she saw a man’s hand pull aside a curtain and a man’s face appeared—a young guy with a beard—and then the man’s head exploded like a watermelon hit with a sledgehammer. Kay heard a woman scream inside the house but didn’t go in. She threw herself to the ground in case the guy still had the motor skills to detonate the bomb. After a moment, when the only thing she could hear was the woman inside the house still screaming, she got up. She turned the doorknob, which was locked, then stepped back and kicked the door as hard as she could and it flew open.
The first thing Kay looked for was the man Bowman had shot, to make sure he was dead and not holding anything that looked like a detonator in his hand. He was lying under the front window, dressed in jeans and a white T-shirt. He was holding a pistol in his dead right hand—but nothing that looked like a detonator.
Natalya Titov was standing in front of a couch wearing tight white jeans and a sleeveless blue blouse. She was barefoot. Kay’s mind registered that the television set was on, tuned to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Natalya’s face and blouse were splattered with blood; the guy’s head had just disintegrated and there was blood all over the room.
Natalya stopped screaming when she saw Kay and the Glock Kay was holding in her hand. She had her hands up to her mouth and was saying something over and over again in Russian, probably something like “Oh, my God. Oh, my God.” Kay could see a gold, heart-shaped pendant hanging from a chain around her neck. The medic alert device. Once again, Kay had a fleeting thought of Anna Mercer, but she pushed it away to focus on Natalya.
“You’re all right,” Kay said. “You’re safe.”
Natalya Titov was a dark-haired beauty, maybe twenty-five years old, and with the body she had, Kay could imagine that she’d probably been in demand as a hooker in St. Petersburg. She could also understand why Leonid Titov had fallen in love with her.
“Where’s the dynamite vest?” Kay asked. She could hear the vehicle containing Morgan, Bowman, and Dotson coming down the driveway and skidding to a stop in front of the house.
Natalya pointed to her left at a small dining room table, and Kay could see a canvas vest with what looked like sticks of dynamite attached to it. She took a breath and walked over to it—and saw the sticks weren’t dynamite. They were road flares wrapped in a reddish-brown paper. There were a bunch of red, blue, and white wires Scotch-taped to the road flairs, the wires going to nothing electronic. There was no cell phone or receiver or blasting cap attached to the wires. The bomb vest was a fake, but it had looked like the real thing in the e-mail picture that had been sent to Natalya’s husband.
Natalya was sobbing now, sitting on the couch. Kay sat down next to her and put an arm around her shoulder. “Hey, you’re okay,” she said. “And we’re going to get your husband out of this mess. But did they hurt you? We’re you raped?”
“No, I’m okay,” Natalya said in heavily accented English. She paused a beat, then added, “Thank you. How did you find me?”
“Your locket,” Kay said. “The medic alert device.”
Natalya closed her eyes when Kay said this, probably saying a silent prayer of thanks.
Morgan, Bowman, and Dotson rushed into the house. Morgan looked at Natalya and the dead man and called Callahan. “We got the wife. Get us Titov’s location.”
Morgan hung up and said to Kay, “Is she all right?”
“Yeah,” Kay said. “She’s just shook up from seeing that guy’s head blown apart.”
Morgan pointed at the corpse and asked Dotson, “See if he has ID on him. And get his cell phone.”
Dotson opened the dead man’s wallet and said, “His name’s Malik Zakayev. The guy the house is rented to.”
Morgan asked Natalya, “How many men were with Malik?”
Natalya didn’t answer, still in shock. Morgan repeated the question.
“I only saw one,” she said. “Him and another man who took me from my house.”
“Where is he?”
“I don’t know. He left an hour ago.”
“Did you hear the other man’s name?”
“What did he look like?” Morgan asked.
Natalya shrugged. “Like him,” she said, pointing at Malik. “Young, with a beard, but not so tall.”
Morgan’s cell phone rang. Kay heard him say, “How far is that from here?”
Morgan hung up and said, “Callahan talked to Titov. He’s . . . ”
“How was Callahan able to contact him?” Kay asked.
“I don’t know,” Morgan said. “Titov must have devised some method for communicating with him that wouldn’t reveal his location. Anyway, he’s in a motel called the Little River Inn, room 110, about fifteen miles from here; he knows his wife is safe. The kidnappers are supposed to call him in half an hour and tell him where to bring the information in exchange for his wife.”
Morgan thought for a moment and said, “The guy working with Malik will probably come back here. He’ll want to pick up Malik and Natalya for the exchange. I suppose there’s a possibility he won’t pick up Malik and will meet with Titov alone, but I doubt it.
“Hamilton, I want you to take Natalya to her husband. I want her out of here. Dotson, Bowman, and I will wait here. When the other Chechen comes back here, we’ll take him. If the guy doesn’t come back and arranges a place for Titov to meet him, we’ll go to the meeting place and take him there.”
Kay didn’t like being cut out of the action, but decided not to argue about it. Morgan was right that Natalya shouldn’t be exposed to any more danger, nor did Natalya need to see Morgan kill the other kidnapper if it came to that.
“You need to get the UPS truck out of sight,” Kay said.
“Yeah,” Morgan said. “We’ll take care of it. Just get her out of here.”
Kay took off the UPS uniform and put her jeans back on. She would take Natalya with her in the SUV Morgan had been driving. If Morgan and company needed transportation, they would have to use the UPS truck. When Kay had changed, she said to Natalya, who was still sitting on the couch, “Let’s go.”
“I need to wash the blood off my face,” Natalya said. “And I have to take this blouse off. It’s wet with his blood. I can feel it. It’s making me sick. Let me see if I can find a shirt or a jacket to put on.”
“Okay, do it quick,” Kay said.
Natalya was gone a couple minutes, longer than Kay would have liked. The other Chechen could come back at any moment. When Natalya returned, her face had been scrubbed clean and she was wearing a man’s long-sleeved plaid shirt, which had probably belonged to Malik. The tails of the shirt were not tucked in.
As they were leaving, Kay heard Morgan tell Bowman to move the UPS truck, then take a position outside the house. Morgan and Dotson would remain inside to wait for the other Chechen.
KAY FOCUSED ON driving, moving fast, to get to the motel where Titov was waiting. She wasn’t really paying any attention to Natalya—and was completely surprised when Natalya pulled a stubby .25 automatic out from under the tails of the long shirt she was wearing. They were only a couple miles from the house where Natalya had been held captive.
“Pull over to the side of the road and stop. Now!” Natalya said.
“I didn’t think about the damn locket,” Natalya said. “I’ve been wearing it for three years and . . . Give me your cell phone. If you try anything, I will shoot you in the face the way you shot Malik.”
“Okay,” Kay said. “Just relax. I gotta unbuckle my seat belt to reach my phone.” Kay unclipped the seat belt so she could reach into the back pocket of her jeans for her phone. She was thinking that when Natalya dialed whoever she was about to call, she’d be distracted long enough for Kay to smash a fist into her pretty face and take the .25 away from her. She held the phone out to Natalya—but Natalya wasn’t
“No,” she said. “Dial this number. 703-555-1492. Hurry!”
Kay dialed the number, and Natalya said, “Now give me the phone.” The gun was steady in Natalya’s hand, still pointed at Kay’s face. A moment later, Natalya said, “It’s me. Where are you?” A pause. “You can’t go back to the house. Some men killed Malik.” A pause. “Shut up! There’s no time for that. Listen to me. You can’t go back to the house. Three men are waiting there. They’ll kill you. Meet me at the Little River Inn. You remember where it is? Titov is there, waiting for me. He’ll have the money with him and the information.” A pause. “There’s no time right now. I’ll explain everything later. I’ll be at the motel in about fifteen minutes.”
Natalya disconnected the call and looked at Kay. The gun was still pointed at Kay’s face. Then Natalya’s eyes narrowed and her full lips compressed—and Kay thought: Oh, God.
Natalya pulled the trigger on the little .25—but the gun didn’t fire. In her rush to get a weapon from Malik’s house, she never checked to see if the safety was on. Kay screamed, “You cunt!” and lunged at her—thankful that her seat belt was undone—and then just beat the shit out of Natalya Titov. By the time Kay was finished, she was holding the .25 and Natalya had a broken nose.
Kay found her cell phone, which had fallen to the floor during the brief fight. She was still shaken from almost being killed—she felt like punching Natalya in the nose again—and had to take a couple deep breaths before she called Morgan. “The other Chechen’s not coming back to the house,” she said. “He’s headed toward the motel where Titov is. I don’t have time to explain, but Natalya was in on this thing. I’m just a couple miles down the road, east of the house. Drive the UPS truck east until you see me, then we’ll all go in the SUV to the motel, and on the way we’ll figure out a way to take the other guy—who I’m guessing is Natalya’s boyfriend.”