See DISCLAIMERS. Tying up a few loose ends.
It was a rare night when Penelope and Katja went out. Since Katja’s face had become public information, they’d kept a low profile, but once in a while, they both felt the need to get out of the damned apartment and do something that didn’t have anything to do with work.
Once upon a time, they’d gone club-hopping and danced until the crazed energy was spent. Now that they were older, getting blinded by intoxicants didn’t seem like the safer choice, so they usually treated themselves to an elaborate dinner and whatever interesting nightspot Penelope had heard about from any of her millions of contacts.
Tonight, it was an out of the way Lebanese place with a dozen tables and low light, a perfect place to relax and lay low.
Katja thought about that, about when she was last able to relax. She changed her line of thought when she realized that it was the last time she’d been holding Denna.
“Saw Gabe today,” Penelope said as she dipped a piece of pita in babaghanooj.
“What do you see in that guy?” Katja muttered over her lamb shawarma. “He talks too damned much.”
“Yeah, but he’s great in the sack.” Penelope mumbled around her food. “And today he told me something interesting.”
“Mm?” Katja swallowed the bite in her mouth. “And how do you know it isn’t bullshit?”
“Could be, but I’m telling you anyway.”
Katja waved her fork to beckon Penelope to continue.
“Seems Gabe knows a guy, Piotr, who fancies himself a benevolent loan shark. Piotr went to collect an old debt from some dude that ended up in the hospital about a year back. Seems the hospital guy, named Kendall or Cambridge or some shit, had been layed up in a coma and just came out of it a couple of weeks ago. Tried to tell Piotr the loan shark to give him more time to pay his debt, that he was owed a bunch of money from a job in New York that went bad.”
Penelope dipped her pita bread in and out of the dip, but didn’t take another bite. “Said the botched job was how he ended up in the hospital. This Kendall or whatever was part of a crew that’d been hired to take out some French crime boss, but they’d been made and got shot up.”
Katja set her fork down and stopped chewing.
Penelope kept talking.“He said the guy that hired him was some scar-faced second mate who was itching to take over the business.”
Katja took a bracing sip of her cocktail. “How much of this do you think is true and how much is bullshit to frame Scar?” They never used Roux or Renault’s names in public, even in old restaurants like this one that seemed safe from surveillance.
“I don’t know, Kat, but nobody knows I’ve been looking into that job. I know there was a crew, I know where they got the van, and I know where the job started, but I’ve got nothing on who was actually in that crew. Everybody bailed out of there before the cops showed up, and I thought everyone died.
[BACKREV: crosscheck this against Day 1, and make sure to pepper Penelope’s search throughout the story.]
Katja thought quickly, considering all the angles. “Why did Gabe tell you?”
Penelope shrugged. “He was prattling on about a whole mess of street gossip. Seems Piotr actually killed this guy for not paying him, and that’s that. Gabe thought it was stupid to throw good money away, said he would have waited to see if the guy got paid since he’d been out cold for a year. Piotr wanted to set an example.”
“So we can’t go talk to him ourselves?”
“You sure you’d want to? That’s pretty out in the open, and if Scar or the old man found out we were asking questions…”
“Guess it’s moot now.” Katja resumed eating her meal.
“Anyway, it was just one more story in Gabe’s endless litany of stories until I found a way to shut him up.”
“I bet you did.”
Katja thought some more while appreciating the tenderness of the lamb. This place was worth the jacked up prices. “If Gabe told you, then he’ll probably tell someone else. Sooner or later, it’ll get back to the old man.”
Penelope frowned. “You think Gabe’s in danger?”
Katja shook her head. “No more than usual, but my point is that if the old man starts distrusting Scar, that might be a useful thing.”
Penelope considered it.
They ate the rest of the main course in silence.
Her hands didn’t tremble, her heart didn’t race, and her breath was surprisingly even as Katja walked the cobblestone back streets on her way to kill Jean-Marc Renault.
She wondered about that. Katja had planned for nearly a decade to kill him, and now that the time was here, she was so calm, she wondered if she was dreaming.
The time had finally come. Renault’s ruthlessness grew more troublesome [FIX] every day, and she was tired of working for him.
Penelope had arranged the meeting and insisted that no one know about the time or place. She’d convinced Renault that there were untrustworthy people within the organization who were plotting to kill him – so close to the truth, Katja thought it was a dead giveaway – and that he and Katja couldn’t discuss it over open lines.
Now that they knew for certain that Roux was behind the attempted assassination back in New York, Katja and Penelope had decided this was the perfect opportunity to get rid of Renault once and for all. Katja could kill him, and pin the murder on Roux, since it was what he was planning anyway.
Once, Katja had felt nothing but contempt and rage for Renault. It had taken her a long time to separate her [disgust] of the man from the plan to kill him. The only way that she would survive his death was if she wasn’t linked to his murder at all, and that was a tall order. Unless he was alone, someone was bound to see her. If she killed any of his associates, someone might link her to the crime, but this…this was pure plausible deniability. [FIX]
The plan was to approach the designated location prior to his arrival, make sure he was alone and felt secure, tell him about Roux, and then kill him during his inevitable temperamental outburst at the news. She’d leave his body, and would get away free and clear. Penelope would cover every possible audio and video feed in the area, and get rid of any evidence of the murder. Katja herself would leave no trace. She was using a gun that wasn’t her normal caliber, had picked a high traffic area that would be flooded with pedestrians in the next few hours thanks to the show that would end in a nearby concert venue, and by the time anyone found his body, all trace of would be indistinguishable from the hundreds of people who would travel down this street.
Katja heard an odd sound and drew her weapon when she turned the last corner. She finally felt the calm dissipate when she saw Renault lying on his back on the cobble, blood bubbling from his mouth as he coughed, trying to catch a breath.
She rushed forward, and leaned close to see if there was a chance that he might survive.
He looked at her, eyes widening in recognition.
Katja assessed him. He’d been shot three times – once in the throat, once in the guts, and once in the chest. He tried to speak, and she leaned over him.
She looked around, but no one was nearby. From the looks of it, he hadn’t been lying here long. She was surprised that she hadn’t heard the shots.
Renault rasped for air, but after the third attempt, seized and twitched before he finally died, expelling fluids all over the cobblestone.
Blinding white rage filled her whole body. Somehow, Roux had found about the meet, and had done the thing that Katja planned to do. He’d mortally wounded Renault, knowing somehow that Katja would show up and take the blame.
He’d denied her a kill she’d plotted for nearly a decade, yet managed to make sure she was with Renault when he finally died.
“What’s happening with the feeds?” Foster only looked at her directly when he was seriously displeased, and right now he glare was boring holes in Denna’s head.
She shook her head. “Someone or something is randomizing their attacks on all of the cameras in the area.”
Every time she got one of the sectors secured, another would be attacked until her connection was booted. There were five different sectors of cameras and sensors, and while she’d had them all secured and streaming two hours ago, now that the meet was scheduled to begin, the feeds had been under constant attack.
Denna had a strong suspicion that she was going head to head against Augusta King. Nothing else made sense. This wasn’t a random series of attacks. It was the same five sectors – and the attacks were increasing in frequency.
“I’m recording everything we get.”
“I don’t care about what you’re recording. I want to see what’s going on.”
Denna dropped out of the fight to build several scripts on the fly based on her own algorithms. Now the fight intensified – she’d just invented her own counter-measures in real time. If the situation weren’t so tense, she’d take the time to brag about it.
For a short time, it worked. They saw Renault approach the meet. Then they saw who was approaching from the other end of the meet corridor.
Denna felt her heart stop, then thud heavily in her chest whens he saw Katja Mannis on her screens.
“It’s the Falcon,” Sato said, a completely unnecessary observation since they all knew who she was.
The feeds dropped and resumed. Renault got to the meet point, then the video dropped. Audio picked up three gunshots. The video resumed, and Denna bit her lip to keep from crying out loud.
Katja knelt down over Renault’s dying body, with a gun in her hand. There was no one else in the frame.
The Falcon had just killed Jean-Marc Renault.
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