Chapter Seventy-Five

Mustapha’s Daily Goods

Tehran, Iran

June 15, 7:36 p.m.

I sat on the edge of the tub and stared at the list. My father. My brother and his wife. My nephew. My best friend. Everyone I cared about.

Hugo Vox. The desire to find and kill him was unbearable.

If I were in Vox’s place I’d be hiding from Church. Vox seemed to be doing the opposite; he was on the offensive. But to what end? Pissing Church off even more than he already was would not seem to have a happy ending.

Vox loved chaos, but this seemed like something else. It was vindictive, it was needlessly cruel. What had happened to twist Vox into that kind of monster? Or was this another layer of the real Vox that we were only now seeing? If so, how deep did his corruption go? How deep could it go?

Those were questions I never wanted to get the answers to.

Fear crawled like ants under my skin. My hands were shaking so badly that I dropped the papers, which landed heavily on the corner with the chunky binder clip. It made an odd sound as it landed. Not the hollow metal sound you’d expect from a clip; this was a dull thud.

I snatched it up and peered at it. The clip was heavier than it needed to be to bind papers. I hadn’t paid enough attention to that at first; now I did. I opened the spring-metal jaws and studied the inside. There was a tiny bead of plastic inside, painted the same color as the clip’s body. I grabbed my scanner and ran it over the clip and the electronics detector pinged.

The little bead was a bug of some kind. But what kind?

Then I understood. It wasn’t a listening device or another booby trap. It was a backup in case the papers in the briefcase were stolen.

It was a tracking device.

“Oh, shit,” I said.

Two seconds later an explosion rocked the entire house.