Authors: Kathryn Guare
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Mystery, #International Mystery & Crime, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Suspense, #Literary Fiction, #British & Irish, #Thrillers, #Espionage
Copyright © 2013 Kathryn Guare
PO Box 1175
Montpelier, VT 05601
All rights reserved.
“An intense adrenaline-pumping plot…Guare has masterfully crafted a plot-driven book with a deep character-study. In one word: Wow.”-
Compulsion Reads, Irresistible Collection
“A brilliantly written piece of storytelling…” -
“A well-written debut novel…full of action and suspense…a great read.” -
The Kindle Book Review
Books 2 and 3 in
The Virtuosic Spy Series
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For my parents
Claire and Paul Guare
Always with me, holding me up
Jammu/Kashmir, Indian Subcontinent
He woke with the words on his lips, his eyes searching the dim room, looking for someone to tell. It seemed important to tell someone.
Turning his head, he felt the fibers of a rough, homespun blanket catching at his unshaven jaw while a residue of acrid smoke scraped at the back of his throat. He gagged, struggling weakly as pain seared the interior of his chest. Sounds of tense, frenetic activity surrounded him followed by unfamiliar voices, hollow and distorted.
“He’s nearly out again. He’s in a lot of pain, and both lungs are bad. My guess is pleurisy along with pneumonia and— well, check out these pills I found in his pocket.”
“Oh, man. That makes it interesting. What about getting him away from this stove? He’ll die of smoke inhalation.”
“No time. He’s not inhaling anything right now. This guy is going down if we don’t trach him right now.”
“Using what, for instance?”
“Dammit, Craig, I don’t know. Give me your knife. Go look for something—drinking straw, garden hose, whatever.”
As he sank further into the shadows, he remembered where he was: a small, Kashmiri village called . . . what? Bunagam. It was called Bunagam. A Samaritan-souled resident had heaved him into an ox cart to bring him here and then summoned two American doctors from the next village.
He sensed their determination but resisted it, drifting further away, a weary guest trying to slip off unnoticed. The pain was already gone, and when the knife punctured the cartilage of his neck with a sharp, resolute slice, he barely felt it.
They didn’t understand, and he couldn’t tell them. He didn’t want their help. His mother was there. She’d waited for him, and it was time to go. He could see her now, standing near his elbow and then by the foot of the bed. Then she was moving away. He stared after her, and like a lost child running toward reunion, reached out, struggled to follow—and was too late. They had dragged him back.
He surfaced to renewed agony and a stupefied sense of loss. Again, he heard the fuzzy murmur of voices.
“Did the phone number work?”
“Yeah. I talked to three different people. They obviously know who he is but wouldn’t tell me. They’ve already got a medevac on the way. I think you’re right, Nick. He must be some kind of agent.”
“That would explain the gun.”
The muscles of his arms locked in spasm, and he opened his eyes. Two concerned faces stared at him, and the larger of the two crouched closer, his shaggy blond beard coming into sharper focus.
“You’ve been pretty sick, haven’t you? You’ve got pneumonia on top of everything else, but you’re going to be all right. We found a card in your wallet—a guy named Frank Murdoch? They’re sending a medevac up to get you.”
Frank won’t be happy.
The thought floated through his mind like an inscrutable riddle before he remembered who Frank was, and an instant later, he remembered everything else.
No, Frank wouldn’t be happy that the card was in his pocket long after it should have been memorized and destroyed, but that aggravation would pale by comparison if he ever discovered how far astray his amateur operative had drifted. According to Frank’s definition, the mission had failed, but he didn’t give a damn what Frank thought.
He was still moving among ghosts, hovering at the edge of a boundary he longed to step across. But she kept pushing him back, gentle but insistent, and he couldn’t find it without her. His mother had always known and walked in such places, like a goddess crossing over worlds.
She would go on without him. She knew the way.
Seven months earlier
Dingle Peninsula, Ireland
didn’t know what the hell it was; he didn’t recognize it. He’d only had the mobile phone for two weeks—the last man in the country to buy one, it seemed—and nobody had called, so it hadn’t rung.
On the second ring, he turned an inquisitive face to his friend and farm manager, Phillip Ryan. They were on the ground at the edge of the pasture, their legs hanging over the drainage ditch they had been digging at all morning. It was nearly noon and the August afternoon had grown warm but not too warm for the flask of tea they had just polished off before lighting up their cigarettes.
Phillip jerked his head at Conor’s jacket with a smirk of friendly derision. “It’s the mobile, you bleedin’ eejit.”
“Is that what it sounds like? I thought it was a cricket.” Frowning, Conor dove for the jacket and slapped at its pockets to locate the phone. It chirped out a fourth ring before he could answer it. “Is that you, Ma? What’s the matter, are you all right?”
He spoke in Irish, or
, as it was called in the ever-shrinking corners of Ireland that still kept it in daily use. It was the language his mother preferred, and it had to be his mother calling, because she was the only one who knew the number. He’d purchased the phone for the peace of mind and freedom of movement it brought him. Since her diagnosis, he had become nervous about how often she was left home by herself.
“Fine, fine. Sorry to frighten you, love.” Brigid McBride’s voice was calm and light. “It’s only there’s a gentleman from London come to see you, and he’s so dressed to the nines I hadn’t the heart to send him down to that muddy ditch.”
A vague anxiety carved a deeper wrinkle in his brow. In his experience, unexpected visitors often carried unwelcome news. “From London? Who is he? What’s he want?”
“Well, he wants to see you, doesn’t he? I didn’t quiz the man, Conor.”
He smiled at his mother’s tone of mild reproach. “All right, then. Tell him I’m coming.”
He snapped the phone shut and tossed it onto his jacket with a dispirited oath.
“Everything OK?” Phillip asked.
“I doubt it. There’s a man in a suit come to see me. From London.”
His friend whistled in mock sympathy. “Can’t be good. Still, it could be worse. At least it’s not the Garda.”
“Ah, shut up, ya fecker.”
He tossed the end of his cigarette into the ditch with a resigned sigh and started for the house, following a path worn thin from regular traffic, both human and animal. On his left, a long rock wall divided the field into parcels, and on his right, the pasture rolled into the distance, bisected by the main road before continuing on to the rocky shoreline. The weather was fine, but he could see clouds coming together over the ocean. Rain was on the way within the next hour, he estimated.