Chapter Fifty-Five

CIA Safe House #11

Tehran, Iran

June 15, 12:39 p.m.

I wasn’t nice about it, either.

With a bellow of pure rage, I kicked back with all my strength and caught Inigo in the crotch. He flew backward, arms whipping wide, and his left forearm smashed Nadja across the nose and mouth. She screamed and her finger jerked the trigger, firing a bullet that punched a hole in the wall a foot from Victor’s head. Nadja and Inigo fell together in a screeching tangle of arms and legs. The moment Inigo’s hand released my hair, I darted my mouth forward and bit down hard on Victor’s fingers. Bones crunched and he howled in agony. As he jerked his hand away, the spike cut me laterally across the underside of the chin, but then it clattered from his hand.

All of this took place inside one hot second.

I launched myself off the floor at Victor, but my foot slid in the coating of garlic powder they’d thrown at me. My reaching hands missed him by an inch as he backpedaled toward the entrance to the living room.

“ Monstrul! ” he bellowed as he scrabbled inside his coat. I thought he was going for a gun, but he produced a second spike and a second item, a rubber-headed mallet. And a detached part of my brain realized that it wasn’t an ordinary spike. It was a piece of polished hardwood that had been lathed down to a deadly point. He raised both items as he dropped into a crouch to meet my charge.

The son of a bitch was going to fight me with a hammer and wooden stake.

This would have been a great time for a flag on the play so we could all sit down and take a moment to find the thread of sanity we’d obviously lost. I mean, seriously-a fucking stake?

“ Monstrul! ” he cried again. “ Monstrul! ”

It was a Romanian word. It means pretty much what you think it means.

He chopped at my chest with the stake while raising the hammer high for a big downward strike.

I slap-parried the hand holding the stake and smashed his nose with a straight jab; the blow knocked his head back, chin high, to expose his throat. I sidestepped and smashed him hard across the Adam’s apple with the edge of my wrist. I could feel the cartilage collapse into rubble. Victor’s shouts imploded into a whistling wheeze as he tried to find breath that would never be his again.

As he sagged to his knees I tore the stake out of his hand. Now I had a weapon.

Inigo and Nadja were still disentangling themselves from each other in the cramped hallway. But suddenly I heard voices yelling from outside.

The kitchen door banged open and I heard the yelling of the names of my dancing partners.

The cavalry had arrived. Theirs, not mine.

Two men crowded into the doorway. One man-a big bruiser with a handlebar mustache-had another hammer and stake in his hairy fists; the other was an Irish-looking guy with no jacket and a shoulder holster over a black T-shirt. He was reaching for his nine millimeter.

I was out of time.

Screw this. If I was going to go down, then I was going down hard.

I still had the stake, so I kicked Mustache Pete in the nuts and drove the stake into Irish Bob’s chest. It punched through his pectorals but jammed to a stop on the ribs, so I hammered it deep with the flat of my palm. I wasn’t aiming for the heart-partly because that’s protected by the sternum and partly because I wasn’t as batshit crazy as these sons of bitches-but the spike sank to half its length in his left lung.

I let go of the stake and elbow-smashed him across the mouth which sent him sprawling into Mustache Pete, who seemed to be shaking off my kick too damn fast.

Incredibly the Irish guy wasn’t dead. He snaked out a desperate hand and grabbed my sleeve as he fell and that jerked me forward off balance so that we slammed into Mustache Pete and the three of us fell together in a twisted, spinning comedy of flailing limbs.

My body was under the pile, with Irish Bob on top of me. The impact crushed us together and drove the stake all the way into him. He died on impact, his body going immediately slack with a terminal exhalation. Unfortunately, his sudden dead weight pinned me to the floor with Mustache Pete half on top of us both. The combined weight of both men drove half the air out of my lungs. Irish Bob’s holstered pistol was pinned between us, with my right hand twisted into the press at a painful angle. To make it worse, Mustache Pete was trying to stab me with the stake. He had no clear angle, but he kept chopping at me, mostly hitting his dead friend. His face was a mask of confusion, insanity, and horror, and as he chopped he continually whimpered a word I didn’t know.

“Upier… Upier…”

I heard Inigo’s voice as he and Nadja tried to make sense of the melee on the floor.

“Mihai,” shouted Nadja. “Move… move! Let me get a shot.”

Mihai must have been Mustache Pete-and he ignored Nadja and kept stabbing at me with manic energy. It was a terrifying thing, and I had only one free hand to fend him off, but at the same time his body blocked Nadja’s aim.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw Inigo moving in at an angle. He bent and grabbed one of Irish Bob’s ankles and started pulling him off of me. My legs were the only part of me that was free, so I kicked Inigo in the kneecap. It wasn’t the best angle, but, on the other hand, at most angles the knee is a pretty good target-strong as hell when it’s bent and locked, fragile as a breadstick when it’s straight. I caught him flat on the kneecap and his leg snapped with a gunshot crack.

His scream was ear-splitting-and then he collapsed right onto my other leg, and lay there twisting and screaming.

Shit.

Mihai rolled off of me and decided on a new plan. He crouched and sprang at me, holding the stake in both hands and plunging it downward with all his strength. There was nowhere I could go, no way I could avoid that deadly attack.

But Nadja chose that exact second to try to shoot me in the face. The timing was absolutely perfect. For me. Totally sucked for Mihai. I think he realized it, but by then he was already in the air and there was nothing he could do about it. Nadja’s first bullet blew his jaw off, splashing my face and throat with hot blood.

Nadja screamed in panic, and, as many people inexperienced with guns often do, she kept pulling the trigger. Bullet after bullet chopped into Mihai and dug holes in the floor right next to my head. The impact warped the arc of Mihai’s lunge, and he twisted as he went down, his shoulders and ruined face hitting the floor a foot from my cheek, his body flopping over so that he landed in a heap and did not move.

Nadja was still screaming when the slide locked back on the small automatic.

“Reload! Reload!” yelled Inigo between shrieks of pain.

I heard a car screech to a stop in back. More people.

Inigo shouted toward the sounds. “Krystos!”

Goddamn it.

Nadja fished in her clothes for a new magazine, dropped it, picked it up with trembling fingers. All the time she babbled to herself. “Oh merciful God… oh sweet savior…”

Inigo was crawling toward me, or so I thought. Then I saw that Mihai’s hammer and stake were right there. I squirmed and fought to get the dead weight off of me. Something hard jabbed me in the ribs and I realized that Irish Bob’s pistol was there, caught between us.

As Nadja slapped the magazine into the pistol I gave a great heave and tore the nine millimeter from the clamshell holster. It was a hammerless Glock 17.

Beautiful.

I couldn’t clear the body, though, so I buried the barrel against Irish Bob’s love handle and fired. The bullet met no appreciable resistance as it punched a hole through the dead man and caught Nadja in the stomach. It stopped her as surely as if she’d hit a wall, but there were footsteps in the kitchen. I fired twice more, hitting her in the sternum and then in the chin as she sagged to her knees.

Inigo actually stopped trying to stab me and stared with uncomprehending horror at Nadja.

With a growl I kicked my way out from under the bodies and put two rounds into him. Then I rolled onto my stomach as three figures rushed down the hall toward me. Two of them had guns in their hands, but they were pointing chest high, expecting a stand-up fight. From my prone position I emptied the rest of the magazine into them. The Glock carried seventeen rounds. I’d used three on Nadja and two on Inigo. That gave me twelve bullets to cut these cocksuckers down.

They all went down.

One of them-the guy in front-died right there.

The other two took multiple hits. Arms and legs. I was dazed and hurt and my aim was screwed up, so they lived through it.

That was not going to be a lucky break for them.

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