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Vanquish the xander king.., p.18

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2), page 18

 

Vanquish (The Xander King Series Book 2)
 


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  Dragov replaced the cigar on the ashtray. His face stoic. “Helped him...”

  “Escape.”

  Dragov said nothing. His facial expression did not change. He simply raised the gun and shot the stammering man in the head. He sat the gun back down and once again picked up his cigar. He looked the second man in the eye. “Two things. You can handle two things?”

  “Yes, boss. No problem.” This man did not stammer. His nerves were solid. Dragov liked this.

  “One, find Xander King, and this woman. Two, bring me one of the hostages. Anyone but Sam. You know which one is Sam?”

  “Yes, boss. Find Xander King and bring hostage other than Sam. Anything else, boss?”

  “Yes. Can you handle more? Unlike your comrade?” Dragov nodded to the man he’d just shot lying on the floor, blood running from his half-missing face. The man didn’t even look down to acknowledge him.

  “Andre can handle anything needed, boss.”

  “Good, find out if we have intercepted CIA plane coming from America.”

  “Yes, boss.”

  The man turned and left the room. Dragov picked up the phone and dialed a number in Virginia. A man answered and started right in. “Dragov, have you killed them yet? This can’t get back to the U.S. government. People are already getting suspicious here.”

  “Hello to you, Manning.”

  “Cut the shit, Dragov. Are they dead?”

  “You only need worry about you. If I find out you are helping Americans, you, caput.”

  “You know I wouldn’t. I have too much to lose. Xander will find out about his father, if he hasn’t already. I made a mistake bringing Jack in. He was loyal to the wrong people.”

  “A mistake only you will pay for.”

  “Listen Dragov, your daughter—”

  “My daughter is dead to me.”

  “Well, that might be true, but she’s not dead. But that is what she wants you to be. I think she’s been helping Xander and his team.”

  Dragov sat forward in his chair. The words made his blood run cold. He could hear the words of the man he’d just shot echoing in his mind—we think, a woman, helped him—and a vision of Zhanna flashed in his mind. He hadn’t meant for her to see what he had done to her mother. He didn’t care, but it wasn’t meant for her to see. His mind remembered the coldness with which she greeted him with thereafter, until the day she turned on him. That was the last day he had ever seen her, the day she put the knife to his throat.

  “Dragov?” Manning interrupted the silence.

  “Impossible.”

  “Whatever you say, but consider yourself warned.”

  Dragov did not speak. The door once again opened and Andre brought in the hostage that he had requested. Dragov ended the call with Manning, picked up his gun and got to his feet. Someone had to pay with their life for all of the mess that was being made on Dragov’s own soil.

  The old cowboy that now stood in front of him would do just fine.

  Tunnel Vision

  Xander had been wrong, it wasn’t too late. The flashlights had not found them in time. As quietly as he could, he had moved the cover back over the hole, sealing them in. The three of them from some underground tunnel, could now faintly hear voices of men above them. Xander and Zhanna caught their breath as Viktor stood with his back to them, staring down a narrow, dimly lit tunnel that stretched out in front of them.

  Viktor turned toward them and looked up as he heard the voices overhead. He whispered, “Boss, it’s good thing you have big muscles,” Viktor made an ape like motion, “or those guys would have killed us. You and pretty lady make good team.”

  Zhanna glanced at Xander’s still bulging arms. Xander noticed, straightened up, and gave her a quick flex.

  Ever the showman.

  Zhanna couldn’t help but smile, then gathered herself and walked past Viktor. “Come, we have no time. Your friends were taken. They are in great danger. Father is not known for his mercy. And Xander...”

  Zhanna paused, her face as serious as he had ever seen it. Xander rolled his hands forward, motioning for her to come out with it already.

  “Xander, there is something you must know. Something I didn’t know until recently, but...you’re not going to like it.”

  “Are you going to tell me? Or are you just going to stand there until we are all dead?”

  “It’s your—”

  The oversized manhole-like cover shook above their heads, stopping Zhanna from relaying her secret.

  “Xander, we must go now.”

  “You can’t stop there. What were you going to say? Make it quick—”

  The massive cover rattled again.

  Time was up.

  “You’ll know soon. Let’s go, your friends are in danger!”

  That brought reality back to Xander and his stomach tightened at the thought of his friends under Dragov’s scrutiny. He glared past Zhanna, down the tunnel. He began to wonder if all bad guys had secret underground lairs. It seemed a little Scooby-Doo of them. He thought for a second that when he got hold of Dragov, that he might try and rip off his mask. Maybe he would find Manning’s face underneath.

  “Xander?” Zhanna broke his ridiculous train of thought. “We must go now!”

  Dragov spit out what was left of his chewing tobacco into a paper cup, washed his mouth out with scotch and motioned for one of his men to remove the gag from Jack Bronson’s mouth. Dragov eyed the man up and down, from his red leather cowboy boots to his bushy gray eyebrows that wired out from under his cognac colored cowboy hat.

  “You look like clown. Like should be in old western movie with John Wayne.”

  Jack cleared his throat and extra countrified his twang just for Dragov. “Yeah? Well, you look like forty pounds of shit in a ten pound sack, you fat sonovabitch.”

  If he hurt Dragov’s feelings, Dragov didn’t show it. Jack figured it wasn’t the first time someone had made a crack about the man’s girth. Though, he was certain that whoever had done so before him, surely didn’t say much else after that. Dragov stared into the wily old cowboy’s eyes as he fingered his pistol that lay on his desk.

  Jack couldn’t help himself. “You get the trigger guard on that pistol modified?”

  Dragov didn’t respond.

  “You know, so’s you could fit your fat finger in there? I’ll teach you how to shoot it if you untie these ropes.”

  “You have big mouth, Jack.”

  “Yep, and you have a big waistline.” Jack knew he was pushing the envelope, but he didn’t care. He wasn’t going to give Dragov the satisfaction of seeing him scared. He knew that that is exactly what men like Dragov lived for.

  “Where is this...Xander?” Dragov got straight to the point.

  “Who?” Jack played coy.

  Dragov wobbled over to Jack and struck him across the face with the butt of his pistol. Jack’s jaw lit up in pain and quite possibly cracked under the blow. Jack raised back up, spit a wad of blood onto Dragov’s crocodile leather shoe, and looked him in the eye.

  “Where is Xander?” Dragov asked again.

  “You want the truth?” Jack spoke as blood ran from his mouth, down his chin.

  “That would be good place to start.”

  “I really don’t know. But, I reckon after your bitch dog—Pavlovich—took him and Sam, he got away after murdering the incompetent son of a bitch. Probably just about here now to foil your plans of eatin’ another pastrami sandwich. Hell, knowin’ Xander, he might have even taken a minute to stick his pecker in your daughter’s mouth. She seemed to like him when she was tellin’ him all about her sicko daddy.”

  Dragov put a little extra oomph behind this pistol to the head. Jack dropped to his knees under the blow, but managed to keep his wit.

  “What? Somethin’ I said?”

  Dragov kicked Jack in the crotch and just as he put the pistol to his head, an alarm sounded, and an intense buzzing sound filled the room.

  Zhanna looked back at Xander as
soon as she opened the door. “Shit, father must have rigged this door since last time I am here.”

  “Gee, whatever gave you that impression?” Xander sarcastically remarked over the blaring buzz of the alarm.

  “I think because of the alarm, boss.” Viktor tried to help.

  “Thanks, Captain Obvious.”

  Viktor didn’t get it, he just stared back blankly.

  If they had an element of surprise, it was now gone. The alarm continued as Zhanna motioned Viktor and Xander to follow. They did so and she led them down a hospital-like hallway. White tile floors below their feet, white walls, and white ceiling tile above. Zhanna moved quickly in front of him.

  “Where are we going?” Xander called ahead.

  “I know a secret way up, but we have to hurry. Father’s men will be on us in seconds. Don’t bother with any of the other doors.”

  “Do you know where they are keeping Kyle and Sam?”

  “They will be one level up. There are holding cells there.” She said, as if holding cells in someone’s house were perfectly normal.

  Xander followed as she moved them down the hall. It was lit with a dim florescent light. Up in front of them was a door on the left wall. The only door in the middle portion of the hallway. Zhanna and Viktor moved right passed it without a glance, but as Xander did the same, he saw something out of the corner of his eye that made him stop dead in his tracks. Every muscle in his body seized. Zhanna looked back over her shoulder and noticed Xander not moving.

  “Xander! Xander, we must hurry!”

  Xander saw her lips moving, but heard nothing. Xander didn’t know it, but his body had temporarily gone into a state of shock. It had done so, because his mind couldn’t process what it had just seen. Or thought it had seen. The walls around Xander began to vibrate as a darkness crept up his spine and began to fill in the corners of his eyes. He was passing out.

  You would too if you’d just seen your long dead father sitting alone in a room.

  Alive.

  Back to Life, Back to Reality

  “Change of plan.” Dragov took the pistol from Jack’s head. With the sound of that alarm, Dragov knew his assumed impenetrable fortress had just been breached. And the way his men had been performing so far on this day, he wasn’t about to chance the fact that they would be able to keep Xander from getting to him. He had underestimated the American up until this point. Dragov wasn’t a man that made the same mistakes twice. Martin King was not going to be happy about this. If Zhanna really was with Xander, helping him, they would have come in through the tunnel. The tunnel that lead to the door that tripped the alarm, and the door that led to the hallway, that led to the room where Martin was trying to stay safe, and hidden from his own son. Xander may already have found him.

  “Melania!” Dragov croaked, the first bit of fear trembling his voice.

  “Yes, boss?”

  “You and Andre stay with me, we go to car. Send everyone else to bottom floor. Radio men outside to go in through tunnel opening. Xander will be trapped. Mr. King wants him alive, but if he must die, then he must die.”

  Melania radioed her instructions to her men. Then the three of them exited toward the car park, leaving Jack where he sat on his knees, on the floor. His mouth was agape, and his mind in shock at the words Dragov just spoke. Not only because his once thought, long dead friend was apparently alive, but from the way Dragov’s voice trembled when he mentioned Martin King, he was also afraid of him. That could only mean one thing.

  “Dad!” Xander pounded on the door with both fists. His mind was racing, his heart was pounding and his body ached with astonishment. “DAD!”

  His father, far more weathered, and far more gray than the last time he’d seen him, dead on the ground almost eleven years ago, was staring off into space, as if he couldn’t hear Xander pounding and screaming.

  “Xander! We must go! If we do not move now, we will be trapped! Your friends will be dead!” Zhanna shouted to him.

  This time, the mention of his friends in trouble didn’t snap Xander out of anything. No words could have. He continued to pound on the door in front of him, then a front kick, then more pounding. It was as if he were a little child pounding on his bedroom door. It wasn’t making a dent, and his father was now on his feet. From Xander’s adrenaline blurred vision, he didn’t even process that his father—his father!—didn’t look like a prisoner at all. The finely combed hair, the crisp navy blue suit, the cigar in his hand as he stood from the comfortable brown leather couch; none of it registered. What did register, just as his father turned and looked him in the eye, was the fact that someone from the end of the hall that they had entered from was shooting at him. And if it wasn’t for Viktor tackling Xander to the ground, and Zhanna returning fire behind him, Xander would have been shot.

  “Boss!” Viktor shouted as he shook Xander. “Boss!”

  Xander wasn’t responding so Viktor reared back and punched Xander in the face. Zhanna continued to shoot to keep men from flooding the hallway. Xander finally snapped to and his rage-filled eyes met Viktor’s.

  Viktor mistook Xander’s rage for being mad at him for hitting him, so he held up his hands as if to say sorry, then looked down the hall behind Xander. Xander pulled his pistol but didn’t look in the direction Viktor was peering. Instead, he shot the man that walked into the hallway behind Zhanna.

  They were trapped.

  Dad?

  Xander shucked Viktor aside and bounced to his feet. He grabbed the handle to the door once more, but this time when he looked in, his father was gone.

  Had he really seen him?

  He was sure that he had, but how could it be? As he processed, or tried to process his father being in that room alive, he shot the man again at the end of the hall as he raised his gun toward Zhanna from his spot on the ground. They could hear shouts of Russian from both ends of the hall. Xander pushed the thought of his father out of his mind, pulled Viktor to his feet, and motioned for Zhanna to join them. The air around them was thick with the smell of gunpowder and metal. The shouts from either end of the hall had ceased. Xander knew they were ready to strike. He pulled his second pistol, Viktor racked the slide on his shotgun, and Zhanna readied her nine-millimeter.

  “Anybody got any miracles?” Xander asked.

  Zhanna peered into her clip to check her bullet count before she shoved it back into her pistol. “Nyet, but have nine chances.”

  Just as she pulled back the slide, men came pouring into the hallway from both ends. There was no place to take cover, and nowhere to run. Just bullets. And as they rang out inside that hallway, it was deafening. Two men shot first from the secret tunnel entrance, they both missed. Viktor and Xander did not. The man on the left was taken off his feet by the blast of Viktor’s shotgun and the man on the right lost the top of his head to Xander’s bullet. Zhanna hit the two men that came in from the other side and as two more entered, Viktor turned and blasted them as well. Xander sprinted back toward the tunnel side hallway, leaving Zhanna and Viktor to defend the other side. As he approached the door, two more men filled the small space, and two more men lost their heads. Xander’s aim did not falter as he ran. When another man entered, he jump kicked him, knocked him onto his back, and slammed a bullet through his neck. Blood shot up like a geyser and Xander walked right through it, turned down the tunnel, shot the two men that were standing there waiting, and nailed one more man in the leg that was climbing down from the secret entrance they had come through only moments ago. The man pulled himself back up out of the hole and the next thing Xander heard was the distinct sound of bouncing metal on concrete.

  A grenade.

  Xander dove backward through the door into the main hallway and when he cleared the doorway, he kicked the door to the tunnel shut. Two bullets grazed his body from behind Zhanna and Viktor as they were sprinting toward him. He rolled toward them, shouted, “GET DOWN!”, and simultaneously the grenade blew and the door to the hallway flew off its hinges, foll
owed by a searing flame that ran up Xander’s back. He rolled, sure he was on fire, his ears hearing nothing but a loud ring. Everything moved into slow motion. He was lying in front of the blown off door to the hallway now. Two men jumped down from the manhole. His pistols lay on the floor of the tunnel in front of him, incinerated from the grenade blast, and when he looked to his left, Zhanna and Viktor lay weaponless on the floor. No doubt, they had run out of ammo. When he looked past them, a man in full army fatigues walked toward them with a pistol extended in front of him. Just like the two men that had just dropped into the tunnel, guns coming at them from both sides. All of their mouths were moving, but Xander could only hear the loud, high pitched ween that filled his ears. They could have been shouting at him. They could have been shouting at each other, Xander had no idea. He looked back at Zhanna and her face had gone pale. The realization of certain death had a way of doing that to you. The man walking toward them was almost upon them. Xander reached for Rambo, but didn’t pull him out of his sheath, in a last ditch attempt to not provoke them. The thought of bringing a knife to a gunfight inexplicably crossed Xander’s mind, and either that, or the madness of imminent death, actually brought a smirk to his face. He rolled mindlessly out of the open doorway as the two men were about to come to the end of the tunnel. He looked back over Zhanna and Viktor down the hallway at the man with the gun walking toward them. That wiped the smirk right off his face. And just as the thought that they were finished finally crossed his mind, the man’s face blew apart, bursting into a pink mist of brain and blood. A bullet had come through the small window in the door where he saw his father. Immediately following the gunshot there was a loud thud and the door itself flew inward and banged against the wall in the hallway. As the two men rounded the corner from the tunnel and pointed their guns at Xander’s head, Sarah Gilbright walked through the kicked-in doorway and shot both of them dead before they ever had time to notice she was there.

 
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