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“It’s an assassination, and you can make an effort to look nice. Besides, they’re supposed to believe we’re stewardesses and no stewardess would be caught dead with torn pantyhose.” Helen brandishes a familiar plastic egg. “I brought spares. Please go change while you still have time. I’ll start the coffee.”
Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book by Deanna Raybourn
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The run is so tiny only Helen would have noticed it. Billie opens her mouth to argue and closes it again when she sees the tightness around Helen’s lips. Helen is nervous and that means her eye for detail is hyperfocused, searching out things to worry about. Better for her to fuss about snagged pantyhose than any of the thousand other things that could go wrong on their first mission, Billie decides.
“Mary Alice is on coffee detail. You go check on Nat,” Billie says, plucking the egg from Helen’s hand. She pops into the lavatory just long enough to strip off her ruined hose and shimmy into a fresh pair, emerging to hear the conversation from the cockpit. Movies again—of course.
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When Gilchrist and Sweeney aren’t debating the odds of getting Goldie Hawn into bed, they are trying to stump each other with film quotes. “ ‘A deer has to be taken with one shot. I try to tell people that, but they don’t listen.’ ” The pilot waits while his copilot pauses the preflight check, screwing up his eyes in thought. “Monty Python and the Holy Grail?” he guesses.
“I hope you had a wonderful arrival dinner!” she enthused. “I have a special treat for you!” She beckoned us to follow her, and Mary Alice fell into step next to me. “Ten bucks says that child used to twirl a baton.” “Flaming,” I agreed. Heather took us up to the bridge, where she introduced us to the captain, a man who looked enough like Idris Elba that Natalie made a beeline for him as he gave us a tour of the ship.
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He took us up stairs and down ladders and around decks, pointing out all the luxurious features and safety measures. He was proudest of his engine room, keeping us standing for half an hour while he explained the intricacies of the NGL tanks—natural gas liquids, in case anyone ever asks you. He talked until my calves were cramping and all I wanted to do was curl up behind the nearest engine and take a nap.
But we all smiled and thanked him, and when we returned to the lounge area on our deck a bottle of champagne was waiting with his compliments. It had a tag on it—HAPPY RETIREMENT!—and four flutes. We toasted and immediately the mood turned nostalgic. “I don’t even think I’m ready to retire,” Nat said mournfully.
“I love my job.” “Me too,” I said. “I’m relieved,” Mary Alice commented. “It’s time to start a new chapter.” “I would have liked to finish the old one,” Helen said, knotting her fingers around her flute. “Properly, I mean. If I’d known the job in Qatar was my last, I would have paid more attention.” “I would have paid more attention to all of them,” I said. “It’s gone so fast.” Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book
“I’m going to miss the adrenaline,” Nat told us, her expression wistful. “I mean, how else am I going to find anything that makes me feel that alive?” “You could take up recreational drugs,” Mary Alice suggested. Natalie stuck her tongue out, then turned to me. “I know you get it, Billie,” she said. “I do. It’s like going from playing high-stakes poker to nickel slots for the rest of your life.”
Natalie threw out her hands in a dramatic gesture. “Thank you. It’s the kick, the constantly measuring yourself against the odds and figuring out how to zig when you expected to zag, balancing on that knife’s edge.” I knew exactly what she meant. No matter how well you planned, no matter how extensively you prepared, something always went differently than expected.
And every job was a chance to prove Darwin’s simple maxim: adapt or die. We adapted; they died. I turned to Mary Alice. “Are you going to miss it?” She thought it over for a minute. “Probably not. Akiko and I have a good life, you know? We have our softball league and Akiko will be starting pitcher next year. I’ll be able to join an amateur orchestra finally and dust off my viola. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book
We can travel without always wondering if a job is going to come up and derail everything. I’m down to my last few excuses. I think Akiko is afraid I’m having an affair.” Her voice was light, but I realized how hard it must be to keep that kind of secret from your partner. The job could make demands of you when you least expected it, assignments cropping up without warning.
When the notice came, you grabbed your go bag and left. Sometimes for a few days; sometimes for months. There was no way to know. Mary Alice went on. “Either I’m having an affair or I’m a spy, I’m pretty sure that’s what she thinks.” Natalie snorted. “Why would she think you’re a spy?” “Because I am shit at thinking up excuses as to where I’m going when I suddenly have to disappear.
The last time I told her I had an accounting emergency.” Under Miss Halliday’s tutelage, the four learn how to eat fish with two forks and sip from a soupspoon without making a noise. She teaches them how to exit a car without showing their underwear, to waltz like Viennese debutantes, and to hot-wire an automobile in under twenty seconds. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book
They build bombs, decipher codes, learn how to shake a tail and how to kill. They master suffocation and stabbing, the intricacies of poison and garrote. Constance Halliday does not like military-grade weapons, finding them unsubtle and flashy, but she ensures the foursome are thoroughly grounded in firearms although she makes no secret of her preference for bare hands and improvised weapons.
Ballpoint pens, jump ropes, sewing needles—they learn lethal uses for all of them. And each develops her specialty. Natalie loves anything that makes a noise, bombs and grenades and the biggest guns she can get her tiny hands around. Mary Alice discovers an affinity for poisons, slipping harmless substances into the food Miss Halliday serves in order to practice her sleight of hand.
Her spare time is spent mixing up enough toxic messes to immobilize an army. Helen, surprisingly, turns out to be a sharpshooter, her eye for detail serving her well as she marks changes in wind and estimated trajectories. She is so skilled, in fact, that Constance allows her to borrow her favorite weapon, a tidy little Colt. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Download
That has been fitted with a hammer shroud to keep it tucked neatly into a pocket. There are nicks on the handgrip, slash marks that they suspect are kill notches, but no one dares to ask. But Billie Webster is a struggle for Constance Halliday. She is fair with a grenade and can handle a gun almost as well as Helen, but she doesn’t like it.
Her attention wanders, and she takes to shooting wide of the targets just to see what else she can hit. When she takes out the eye of Constance Halliday’s favorite garden sculpture—an evil-looking iron rabbit—Miss Halliday raps her sharply on the shoulder with her stick. “My office, Miss Webster. If you please.”
Billie mutters under her breath but follows. She has not been in the office since the day of their arrival and she soon realizes this is not a social visit. Miss Halliday doesn’t invite her to sit down, so Billie keeps to her feet, gaze fixed on the painting behind Constance’s desk—a nymph of some sort with stars in her hands and a regretful expression. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Download
“You’re well past your fifteen seconds,” she said. I didn’t answer and she sighed. “I heard a rumor. Someone is on the take, arranging murders for pay. I don’t know who. But they’re determined to cover it up. If word gets out, the entire organization is in jeopardy.” “Bullshit. We didn’t know anything about that before they decided to come for us.”
“Billie,” she said patiently. “Think.” “The only reason to come for us—” I broke off. “Holy shit. They’re going to blame it on us and let whoever is actually responsible walk free.” “Well, it took you a minute, but you got there in the end,” she said. “You’re expendable to the board. Whoever is arranging the freelance hits isn’t, so the board has decided to protect them.”
“Why?” “They could be too highly placed to lose. They could be blackmailing the board. They could have cut the board in on the hits. Those are just the first possibilities that come to mind. I could think of about a dozen more.” “And none of it matters because we’re still under a termination order,” I finished. “Who is it? Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Download
Who is arranging the freelance hits?” “I already told you, I don’t know. It could be a member of the board.” “It could be someone from Provenance,” I said, my voice heavy with insinuation. I heard the sound of a spoon dropping into an empty bowl. “You want to accuse me of something, go right ahead. I’m done with this conversation.
Your time is up.” I related what she’d told me to the others. Mary Alice sat with her head in her hands while Helen covered her mouth and Natalie swore up a blue streak. “Those shit-licking bastards,” she finished. “What if some of the work we did was part of this freelance bullshit? Someone could have been using us to carry out their dirty little side jobs like we were common hit men.”
It was all too easy to see how it might have been done—money changing hands, dossiers prepared. The board would be briefed on the prospective targets and the field agent assigned. Once it was passed down to us, we’d have no way of knowing if the job was clean or not. We put our faith in Provenance and the board to identify the appropriate targets. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Download
Every piece of information, every decision, every action, was a link in the chain we forged together. Any corruption in that chain was unthinkable. Billie draws back in the cover of the banana trees and turns away, anticipation rising. The baroness will die tonight. Sometime after midnight, Thierry Carapaz, who has been gone since afternoon, returns with a van.
It is rusted and patched and bears the faded logo of a Tanzanian coffee brand. He has rented it with a small wad of used notes of three different currencies. His beard has grown in, thick and dark, and he could easily be mistaken for a local. There is a legend in Zanzibar that a Persian prince once married a Swahili princess and their union resulted in the Shirazi people.
Traders who inhabit the islands of the Indian Ocean. The beaches are creamy white sand, soft as talc under the feet, and the water is a brilliant turquoise. In a few months, when the news of what he is about to do has faded to a memory, he will return to snorkel along the eastern shore and spend his nights with tourist girls. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Free
The locals are prettier, but he has run afoul of too many outraged fathers and brothers. He will try his luck instead with the models who come to shoot catalogs on the beaches. They will untie their bikini strings and uncap their cocaine vials for him, and he will be very happy until they summon him to work again.
He is not like Vance Gilchrist or the four women. He doesn’t kill because he is good at it; he kills because it pays well and he has a plan, one that will enable him to rise within the organization and live in the kind of luxury his parents could only have dreamed of. He brakes the van near the stand of banana trees, making sure it is screened from the baroness’s house should anyone care to look out.
But the house is shrouded in darkness, and he imagines he can hear the fitful, restless sleep of the old people inside. He is standing outside the van, holding an unlit cigarette, when Billie walks up. He mimes a light, but Billie simply shrugs and he pockets the cigarette. She rests against the van, hands thrust into her pockets. Killers of a Certain Age PDF Book Free
“If you came for a shag, it’ll have to wait until the job is done.” His voice is a whisper, so low it does not carry beyond the banana trees. Her answering laugh could be mistaken for a bird, startled out of sleep. “God, you have a high opinion of yourself.” He rests next to her against the van. She is not entirely relaxed; she’s learned never to let her guard down completely, but he doesn’t make a move to touch her.