S.J. Varengo

Author

Assignment: Istanbul Excerpt

Chapter One

There was really no reason to hate the city of Istanbul. Perry Hall had never disliked it before, but now he wanted to turn around and go back into the airport. As he stepped out of the terminal, he inhaled the slightly cinnamon-scented air and took in the stunning scenery. Lost in his foul mood, he jostled a fellow commuter who was also making his way to the bus stop and the man turned and smiled at him, reminding Perry of how friendly the inhabitants were. No, there really wasn’t any reason to dislike this city, but at the moment, Perry did.

Of course, his current opinion was likely influenced by the foul mood that had begun at de Gaulle and deepened during the flight. Somewhere in this city of almost fifteen million souls lurked his wife’s murderer, Raul Ramon Hernandez, aka Flick—so named for his trait of killing with a quick flick of his razor-sharp blade into the carotid artery of the neck. His presence in the city was all the reason Perry needed to consider it the vilest place on earth.

This was not Perry’s first visit to Istanbul, though his previous arrival had been very different. In fact, it had been much less an “arrival,” than an “insertion.” He and another SpyCo agent had been ferried in on a rubber raft from the Sea of Marmara under the cover of a moonless night. They spent a total of two hours and forty-seven minutes in Turkey before locating, questioning, and eliminating their target. His partner had been wounded by a lucky shot from a Scorpion operative on the beach as they sped back to open sea, but other than that the mission had been textbook perfect.

A public bus trundled toward him and Perry stepped forward. The already-full vehicle stopped and Perry climbed aboard, even as he felt his phone vibrate in the inside pocket of his jacket. He grabbed the leather hand strap to steady himself as the bus began moving once again, and used his other hand to take out his phone. The words “Le Gros Fromage” appeared on the screen—he hadn’t had time to change any of the names of his contacts back after he’d humorously updated them during the boring debriefing process in Paris. The call was J. Carlton Moore, “The Big Cheese.” Perry groaned. He also knew Moore was not going to be happy and for a moment, Perry’s finger hovered over the “Decline” button. But that would delay the inevitable. He tapped “Accept” and put the phone to his ear.

“Sir,” he said.

“Eagle, I have a question. Why the hell are you in Istanbul?” This wasn’t the first time Perry had heard Moore speak with that particular tone of voice, it wasn’t even the first time he’d heard it directed towards himself. But there was a quality of venom in it he did not recall, and he thought it best to tread lightly.

“Before heading to the airport in Paris I received some very fresh intel indicating Flick had landed here, sir.”

“I see.”

“I thought after the way Paris turned out I might have him a little off balance. I felt it was a good time to strike.”

“I see.”

Perry swallowed hard. “I have to find him, sir.”

“I see.”

A frown creased Perry’s forehead. “Is that all you’re going to say?”

“One more thing. Maybe two, depending upon your answer. First thing: turn around, go back to the airport, and get on the next plane to New York.”

With a suddenness that surprised even himself, the dark presence in Perry’s skull rose to its full stature. “I can’t do that, sir. I’ve been waiting two years for this opportunity. When we were in Paris, I had him right in my kill zone, and I let him walk away. I’m not letting him get away again.”

“Then you’ve left me only one option. I had hoped your success in Paris might begin to steer you back in a direction of greater control and, therefore, greater usefulness to me. Not every case calls for a suicidal loose cannon, Eagle. You have become a liability. And so I will now say the second thing: you’re fired.”

Perry was surprised by how little impact Moore’s words had on him. “I hope you don’t think that bothers me in the least. I’m a liability? I think you need to look in the mirror if you want to root out your liabilities. Your goddamn headshrinker almost killed Burke in Athens, and taking care of the little weasel has not taken care of the problem, because I was attacked even before I left the airport in New York. SpyCo has a gaping security hole, and you’re worried about me hunting down the filth who killed Trina? Fuck you. I quit.”

Generally, when talking with Moore on the phone, the call ended when the SpyCo chief disconnected without saying goodbye. This time it ended as Perry mashed the red button and crammed the phone back into his pocket. That didn’t satisfy the amount of anger he felt, however, and a moment later he pulled it back out and slammed it repeatedly into the metal pole to which his handgrip was attached, snapping it into two pieces. He suddenly realized everyone on the bus was staring at him, but he didn’t care. With a growl, he reached in front of the two women seated next to where he stood and hurled the shattered phone out the open bus window.

                                    *      *     *

The caller sat silently in his mahogany paneled office, warmly lit and decorated with rare artifacts from around the world. He still held the dead phone receiver in his hand, and he stared intently at the many buttons on the base. He had anticipated Eagle’s decision. A chance to exact revenge against the man who killed his wife would be irresistible. After a moment, he pushed the speed dial button marked “1” on the phone base, and listened as a single ring sounded, followed by a man’s voice.

“Burke”

“Tiger. Code Grey. Istanbul. Target… Eagle.”

-Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

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