“Pike closed his eyes, and filled his lungs, then pushed with his diaphragm. He breathed deep again. Pranayamic breathing from the hatha yoga. Pike lost himself in a cool forest glade, dappled by sunlight filtered through lime green leaves. When he breathed, he smelled moss and sumac. His pulse slowed. He grew calm. He centered. Pike”
“I came to do business, and you’re starting this shit?” Park touched his arm. “Come. We speak elsewhere.” “Fuck that. I’m not going anywhere.” He shook off Park’s hand, but Park gripped him again. “You are not here to die. I am not here to threaten. Walk here. Away from our men, so no one hear.” Park steered him across the lot to a sleeping flatbed. I followed along with them. Park’s men floated into new positions without being told, securing the area and isolating Ramos’s thugs to give us privacy. Telepathy. Or maybe they were good at their jobs. We were in the sun, and hot, but alone between the big trucks with their men out of earshot. Ramos shook off Park’s hand again, and squirmed like he thought someone might stab him. “What the fuck are you doing, bringing your guns? You think you can scare me into returning your money?” I said, “I can give you the Syrian.” Just like that. In his face. It caught him off guard, and took him a moment to catch up. He glanced at Park, then looked over both shoulders as if he expected federal agents to climb out of the trucks. “What”
“Jack met Kwan’s eyes, glanced away, then looked back. Jack nodded once, kind of like saying hi, but Kwan did not respond. His lean face was all planes and angles, and as warm as a granite mask. He also had a split lip and a heavy purple bruise on his cheek from the guards. Jack”
“Stone tried to sound noncommittal. He knew Koreatown well. Liked the women. Liked karaoke. The Koreans were big on noraebang. “I”
“You good with Arabic?” Bam! Out of left field, and now Stone was smiling. There were many Arabic dialects, from Moroccan Arabic with Berber words which often did not even sound Arabic, to the aristocratic Arabic spoken by the Saudi royal family, which was different from the Arabic spoken in the streets.”
“was gone when I arrived at Sanchez & Sons, but the man in the Subaru was parked a car-length away from a tiny white taqueria stand with an easy view of the tow yard on the opposite side of the street. He was slumped behind the wheel exactly as Pike described, wearing shades as if they made him invisible, and a stylish gray porkpie hat. Three scruffy, dusty men who looked like they worked hard were lined up for tacos. They ignored the hat man, and he ignored them. He watched the tow yard. Sanchez”
“You. Yeah, you, c’mon, get up.” He spoke perfect English, but Jack couldn’t tell if the Korean kid understood English or not. The guard motioned him to get up, so he slowly stood. The guard motioned him closer, so he went closer. He didn’t shuffle forward with downcast eyes like the others. He held himself erect and met the guard’s eyes.”
“The lock was removed, and the door rose with a ratcheting clatter, filling the truck with grim red shadows. Jack checked the time. 2:55 A.M. The people ahead of them started to move. Krista’s”
“Stone dropped farther back when the Explorer’s blinker came on. He had to be even more careful now in the confined residential streets. His eighty-thousand-dollar Rover stood out in the shabby area like a gleaming black diamond, not that this bothered him. It was another challenge, and Stone loved challenges. They made life interesting. He”
“Pike pulled the hose from the side of the house, filled the bucket with sudsy water, then rinsed the car. He began at the nose, rubbing the car with his hand to slough away the dirt. The cat came out to watch. The water splashed his fur with liquid shrapnel, but the cat did not move. Pike”
“Pike said, “The hat?” “Still there, in front of the taco stand like you said.” “Mm.” “I’m thinking I’ll go in alone, while you keep an eye on the hat.” “What about the brothers?” “I’ll feel them out. They may not even know what their father was doing.” Pike turned away without another word, slipped into his Jeep, and left. Mr. Small Talk. Sixty-five seconds later, I parked on the street across from the gate, and no one except the hat man paid attention as I walked to the little office. The young guy washing the wrecker kept washing while an older man I hadn’t seen before climbed aboard a light wheel-lifter, and backed past me toward the street. Off to help a stranded motorist. I couldn’t see Pike and didn’t know where he was, but neither did they. Especially the hat in the Subaru. Cold”
“Ramos nodded, then glanced back at me. His eyes were the hard, bright eyes of a feral desert dog smelling blood. “Harlan”
“He bent to take her arm, and I saw his shirt was spattered with blood. Streaks and drips of blood marked his shirt with slaughterhouse designs, and more blood speckled his face. I”
“Panel vans were working vans. There were no windows behind the front seats, and the rear bay was a dirty metal box smelling of pesticide and grease. Angelo Buono and Kenneth Bianchi had used an identical van as a place to torture and murder their victims, and record their screams. Wander”
“Pike did not move his eye from the sight picture. Cole, Ramos, Park. The Zeiss was fitted with a laser range finder displaying the range in tiny red numerals in the upper right quadrant of the sight picture. Elvis Cole was forty-two meters away. Overkill. Stone”
“It’s six. We’re closed. You need to leave, or I’ll call the police.” Eddie said, “Asshole fed.” They were glaring at me when Eddie suddenly focused on something behind me, and his face sagged. “Oh shit.” I turned as Rudy J reached behind his desk for a baseball bat, and then the door opened. A tough-looking Asian man in a nice suit and sunglasses swaggered in first. He had been born with a thick neck and large bones, but time in a gym gave him sharp cuts and rude angles. He grinned when he saw the baseball bat, then stepped aside as two more Asian men pushed the third brother inside ahead of them. He couldn’t have been more than nineteen. They were lean and hard with no-bullshit expressions, and something told me they weren’t police officers. The”
“cat came toward him, paced away, then returned. Its dark face was as fierce as a Maori. The fur on its spine was spiked like a Mohawk warrior. Pike”
“Ramos walked away. “Two.” “Got him.” Pike stayed with Cole and Park, letting Stone pick up Ramos. They had designated Park as Target One and Ramos as Target Two. Jon was on Two. If the meet went bad, Jon would drop Ramos and Pike would drop Park. They would then lay down suppressing fire so Cole could escape. If Cole was killed or wounded, they would terminate everyone in the tow yard. “What I’m saying is, I know time is of the essence an’ all that, but trusting these people to get him inside and keep their pieholes shut is what we in the trade call ‘dubious.’ Two and his boys mounting up. Hasta luego, shitbirds.” “Rog.”
“Stone touched the air with the tip of his chopstick as if he was dotting an i with a quill pen. “Your talker there, he’s Sang Ki Park. He doesn’t run the gang. That would be his uncle, Young Min Park. Sang is the second in command. They’re Ssang Yong Pa—the Double Dragon gang—straight out of the R-O-K. Hard-core and nasty.” ROK was the Republic of Korea. I”
“Stone’s voice came in Pike’s ear. “Movement.” They were on cell phones, each with a Bluetooth bud in his ear. They had satellite phones, but the regular cells were easier so long as they had a signal and military-grade GPS units. “No joy.” Meaning Pike didn’t see the vehicles. Stone had a better view, and was using binos. “Van’s backing out—” The dingy van crept into Pike’s sight line as Stone said it. Pike started the Jeep, and nosed toward the street. “Got’m. Cole on board?” “Affirm. Man, you gotta check the driver. This is one ugly fucker.” The”
“Jack called to his friend. “Mañana, dude. We’re gonna hang.” “We”
“I left through the front door just like the Koreans, nodded at the officers the way strangers do, and mumbled something about the heat. Spurlow nodded back and Lange ignored me, but the red-haired guy locked eyes with me and didn’t let go. I kept walking, just a man going to his car at the end of the day, only I wasn’t. Each step was careful and measured, and with each step I hoped they wouldn’t stop me. When I passed through the gate, Spurlow and Lange were inside, but the red-haired guy was in the door. He was watching me with eyes so narrow they looked like slits. Joe”
“He snuggled closer, spooning into her back, both of them staring at nothing. Jack wondered what she was seeing. Krista”
“Jon burst out laughing. Spy. Jesus. Nancie Stendahl said, “You always laugh at yourself?” “If you heard the crap in my head, you’d laugh, too.” Stendahl was leaning against Pike’s Jeep, which had been released along with everything else. The parking lot was near empty, though he saw the big white ATF van on the far side. Stone was pleased to see her. He sympathized with her personal involvement, and respected the all-in effort she was making to find her kid. Jon was big on all-in effort. He hoped she wouldn’t ruin the moment by lecturing him about the rule of law. If she started with that crap, he was going to recite Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment in the original Russian to freak her out. She”
“Pike said, “Coming your way.” Pike gunned his Jeep out of the Shell station, and turned onto the highway at the first intersection. He lost sight of the van when he slowed for oncoming cars, but slalomed between traffic and quickly caught up. “Eight lengths back. I’m by a yellow eighteen-wheeler.” “Looking.” Pike was still settling into a groove when the van’s right-turn indicator flashed. They had gone less than a mile. “Blinker.” “Shit, I don’t have you.” “Las Palmas. West side.” “I’m looking.” Pike slowed to put distance between himself and the van. A horn blew behind him, then another, but Pike braked even harder, hanging back as the van turned onto a street between large, undeveloped lots. It stopped in plain sight of the highway. Pike left the highway, but turned in the opposite direction, watching the van in his sideview mirror. A hundred yards later he turned into a parking lot surrounding a home furnishings outlet. “They stopped at an empty lot.” “I”
“Stone checked his watch. Tempus fugit. “Gotta”
“Jon Stone looked like a demented surfer with his spiky, bleached hair and pierced ear, but I knew his background with Delta. Sometimes you forget what that means. Most people think Delta, they’re thinking of Rambo, with the big gun and even bigger muscles. D-boys are deadly warriors, for sure, but you won’t find many who look like Rambo. This is because you can’t rescue hostages or snatch high-value targets from hostile villages unless you find them, so D-boys are also selected to gather intelligence. They are off-the-charts smart, look ordinary, and are trained to blend in anywhere with anyone. This is why D-boys are called operators. Jon Stone had worked the two drunk ex-ROK gangsters for no other reason than gathering intelligence was in his nature. As”
“I blinked at the black man. “Are you the Syrian?” “Boy, I’m from Compton. The man ain’t here. We gonna search you again, and get you back on the road.” “Why do you have to search me again?” “Coz that’s the way we do things. Get your ass out of there.” Wander gave me the ugly smile, which he probably took to be encouraging. “You checked out fine, bro. Everything’s copacetic.” The black guy stepped back so I could get out in the tight space between the van and a dark green Ford Explorer. They brought me into an empty house to search me, but Wander stayed with the van. It was the last time I saw him. A”
“A young Latin guy with thick shoulders and dull eyes came out when I stopped, as if he had been waiting. “You the magazine guy?” The magazine guy. “That’s right. Elvis Cole. I have a ten o’clock with Ms. Morales.” “I gotta unlock the gate. See the empty spot where it says Delivery? Park there. You might want to put up the top and lock it.” “Think it’ll be safe?” That would be me, flashing the ironic smile at their overkill battlestar security. “For sure. They only steal clean cars.” That would be him, putting me in my place. He shook his head sadly as I drove past. “I”
“Pike said, “What were they saying?” “Couldn’t hear, but it’s an easy guess. The nephew here just lost two hundred thousand and a boatload of workers. They probably weren’t talking about a promotion.” Their next stop was a large two-level strip mall on Vermont. The strip mall was in the final stages of being remodeled, with a club and a restaurant taking up most of the upper level and what looked like another bar and a karaoke lounge on the lower level. A large sign in Korean script and English hung across the front of the karaoke lounge: OPENING SOON. Stone”
“It’s, like, one of them drug dealer boats,” Vic says, looking through his magic sight. “Five guys on it. Headed our way.” He fires another round. “Correction. Four guys on it.” Boom. “Correction, they’re not headed our way anymore.” Boom. A fireball erupts from the ocean two hundred feet away. “Correction. No boat.”
“You took your meds today, right?" he whispered.
Then use this jar to save it."
Save . . . ?"
Your urine. If you give them some of today's tomorrow, it'll seem like you're still taking your meds."
You want me to . . . dole it out? Into specimen jars?"
Got a better idea?"
Um, no, but ..." I lifted the jar and stared into it.
Oh, for God's sake. Save your piss. Don't save your piss. It's all the same to me."
Simon peeked around the corner, brows lifted. "I was going to ask what you guys were doing, but hearing that, I think I'll pass.”
“Imagine what could be accomplished if only the human race would shed its humanity.”
“I don't think you realize who you're dealing with."
The man clicked his tongue, "If you were that good, you would be more than just Captain of the Guard."
Chaol let out a low, breathy laugh. "I wasn't talking about me."
"She's just one girl."
Though his guts were twisting at the thought of her in this place, with these people, though he was considering every possible way to get himself and Celaena out of here alive, he gave the man a grin.
"Then you're really in for a big surprise.”
“Doc still loved true things but he knew that it was not a general love and it could be a very dangerous mistress.”
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