See DISCLAIMERS. Expect out of sequence sections over the next few days.
CHOOSE YOUR SWORD
Katja took another sip of her scotch and crossed one leather clad leg over the other.
The bar had a great deal of “mood lighting” – tinted to suggest candle light, bright enough to see one’s glass, but not enough to see clearly across the room. She sat on a designer stool behind a long polished wooden bar that rested against the front window. Normally, it might be possible to see her from outside, but with the low lights inside the bar, the bright lights of the street outside, and the meter-tall neon letters mounted on the outside of the window, she was nearly invisible to people on the street.
That was the point.
Penelope had leaked a false location a mile from here to the mole, and Foster’s people had moved in over an hour ago. Katja had made a bet with herself that Lopez wouldn’t be on the street team and would be monitoring from their base of operations.
Which was right across the street from where Katja sat.
She didn’t know when Foster and his team would give up the ghost and come back here, but they would. She didn’t know when Lopez would leave the building, but that, too, would happen soon.
It was just a matter of time.
Across the street, the garage door in Foster’s building opened as a black van approached. The door closed as soon as the van cleared the threshold.
Katja was content to wait. This bar was open all night, and had plenty of scotch.
Two hours later, the door opened at the base of the stairs. Two figures walked out together, spoke briefly, and then went their separate ways. Katja recognized the taller one as Captain Yolanda Rayner, but she wasn’t sure the other one was Lopez. She just knew it wasn’t Ellis, or any of the men on the team.
Katja waited until Rayner turned the corner heading away from the street before she left the bar.
She followed hooded figure for a few blocks, always staying on the other side of the street. Katja had to smile to herself – the figure doubled back once and then traveled in a completely different direction, as if deliberately masking her path. It was admirable, and Katja was impressed. And then…
The woman stopped at a corner, and Katja moved into the shadows just in time as the woman looked behind her and then up and down the street.
This time, Katja got a better look at her face under the hood. It was Lopez.
She looked different from her photo – sleeker, edgier, and like she might hold her own in a fight. With one hand tucked into a pocket, she was also probably armed.
After a moment, she resumed her path.
Curious, Katja kept following.
Now, Lopez’s steps were more like a cat’s, and she kept to the shadows. Her path was even more random, zig zagging through this part of town. She turned down a dark street, and something warned Katja to keep her distance.
Lopez tossed back the hood and drew her weapon.
Her hair was darker than her photos, and the camera hadn’t done her beauty any favors. Here, on a dark Parisian street, Denna Lopez was beautiful and dangerous.
Not just another smart analyst, then, Katja surmised.
Lopez didn’t appear to see her, and after a moment, tucked away her weapon and continued on her way. She left her hood down.
Katja waited until Lopez was out of sight, then turned around and walked in the other direction.
She’d seen enough.
Several days later in Munich
Katja and Penelope had been in Munich for a little over a week when Foster and his team arrived. Penelope’s vast network of contacts helped her isolate their location down to a neighborhood, and a few days later, she had surveillance on their location.
Their individual haunts, however, were harder for Penelope to pin down. Or rather, one of them was.
“Is she really that good?” Katja asked a couple weeks later over lunch.
Penelope’s typing grew more [forceful]. “She never goes the same way twice. Her face is always covered, and I swear she’s found a way to game the gait analysis. Not only that, she’s probably hacking the same feeds I am, which means all she has to do is cover her tracks once, and my data extrapolation is ruined.”
Katja couldn’t help it – she was impressed. If this analyst weren’t working for Foster, she’d swear that Lopez was a criminal herself.
Still, there were more important things than cat and mouse.
“Then quit trying to find her,” Katja said. “Find out how she’s tracking our money and solve that problem so we can quit transferring funds every few days. I’m getting tired of the turnaround, and would like to stick with one ID for longer than two days at a time.”
Penelope sighed, displeased, but nodded.
Katja decided that Lopez had won this round. It didn’t upset her as much as she thought it might.
Weeks later in Munich
Katja parked her newly acquired car in the garage below her new building. She liked the way the sleek black German sports coupe looked, and it drove well enough, but it didn’t sound or feel right. Electric cars were too quiet for her tastes, and she loved to feel the power of a combustion engine.
It was another item in the long list of her sins.
The meeting with Renault had gone well. He wasn’t satisfied with her progress in tracking down the uninvited guests to the New York fiasco months, but he seemed to be in a good mood and had only chastised her.
There had certainly been times when he’d made threats. He’d never attempted to follow through on them, but that didn’t make them empty. He seemed to find more value in her as an ally.
Still, she wondered as she rode the elevator to the fifth floor what it was that had pleased him so much that he wasn’t bothered by her poor reporting on that front.
Katja opened the door to her flat to the sound of Penelope on the phone.
“Are you fucking sure?” Penelope sounded agitated.
Katja hung up her jacket in the hall closet and followed the voice to Penelope’s work area.
“How long ago did this happen?”
Whatever was happening, it didn’t sound good, and when Katja finally saw Penelope, she knew it wasn’t. Penelope was on her feet, pacing, while she worried at her lower lip with her teeth. She stopped when she saw Katja.
“Where he’s holding her?”
“What’s Renault going to do?” Penelope asked, fear in her tone. “Seriously? Roux? Shit. Who else knows about this?” She stared at Katja as she spoke to whomever was on the other end of the connection. After a moment, she ended the conversation and terminated the connection.
“Tell me.” Katja knew her voice sounded demanding and flat, but she could sense this was going to be bad. Worse than anything that had happened in the last couple of months, which was saying something, because there’d been times she thought they were finished. And Penelope had nerves of steel but her hands were trembling.
Penelope took a deep breath as if to fortify herself against Katja’s reaction.
“Roux’s team tried to nab two of Foster’s crew off the street.”
Katja cursed. That was stupid. It would only piss Foster off. He would retaliate and bring all of the authorities at his disposal down on their operations.
“Renault approved the operation. Evidently, the two agents had been having a tryst in a seedy motel over in [FIX: neighborhood}.” She exhaled, her breath coming out in forced gust. “One of them managed to escape, and shot two of his crew. Albert was dead on the scene, and Franco’s out of commission for awhile.”
“Okay. And?” That wasn’t enough to warrant Penelope’s hesitance. She hated everyone on Roux’s crew.
“The other operative is being held in one of the riverside warehouses. Roux is handling the interrogation.”
Katja knew who it was, and closed her eyes as if to ward off the truth, but it was unavoidable.
“It’s Lopez,” Penelope said.
Katja leaned her head back and tried not to scream.
This was why Renault had been so pleased with himself. She’d seen it, seen the arrogance in his eyes, the clear indication that he had something over on someone. She just hadn’t realized that it was Foster.
“Fuck! I should have seen this coming,” Katja said.
For weeks, he’d talked about what a thorn in his business Foster’s team was, and how it was affecting the flow of money from his networks to his more important contacts.
She hadn’t thought he would be foolhardy enough, brazen enough to attempt something this obvious to protect his interests. And without realizing it, Katja had helped him come to this conclusion.
She had told him about the new analyst. She had told given him the analyst’s name. She’d foolishly thought he’d let her handle it, but he hadn’t – or worse, Roux had jumped the gun and taken matters into his own hands. Roux never used to show this kind of initiative, content to be Renault’s menacing shadow, but he’d changed after New York.
Roux would be merciless in his interrogation. He would torture Lopez until he got every bit of information out of her that he could, and then he would find a cruel and excruciating way to kill her. He’d say that it was to set an example for their enemies, but the truth was that he was a sadistic women-hating son of a bitch, and Lopez would pay the ultimate price for his entertainment.
And by giving information to Renault, Katja had served Lopez to Roux on a platter.
Something in her stomach twisted.
“What are you going to do?” Penelope asked.
Katja looked up with a start, and wondered how much she had revealed to Penelope these last few weeks. “What makes you think I’m going to do anything?”
Penelope rolled her eyes. “Because I know there’s something about this agent, and I don’t think you want Roux to cut her into pieces.”
Once again, Katja had revealed too much.
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