Kreutzer was too damm old for this. It had been a mistake to go back to the orphanage, but he couldn’t bear the thought of those small faces going hungry one more night. The briefcase from the last job would keep the bills paid for at least another year. It was worth it, but they had been watching.
They hit he as he exited on the ground floor. He quickly dispatched the first two but a third managed to get a solid shot to his ribs before Kreutzer’s notorious right hook sent him crumbling to the ground. But there were more.
There were always more.
He had turned down so many alleys he was lost. It was dark and Bucharest had never been friendly to him. His breath was short because of the rib and it was dammed cold.
Two more behind him; he had heard the car tires and the angry shouts. They were sectoring the area; boxing him in. It was going to be a long night; he slipped into a deliberately narrow alley, in order to force them to enter single file. He could deal with them one at a time. Two figures silhouetted against the street light and he tensed for a fight when the first suddenly dropped. He saw a flash under the streetlights, the expanding baton crashing on the second thug’s collarbone, then again into his skull.
“Who wants to know?” He snarled.
“A friend.” That voice. He immediately relaxed; Mehta. They had not met, but he was a friend.
“How did you find me?”
“The Bob Jones Protocol. You are a hard one to keep up with. Come on, Jack is waiting.” He quickly touched his secure Bluetooth earpiece. “Murilee, I need transport.”
In a secure basement deep in a Denver hipster neighborhood, Murilee Martin studied the three large screens in front of him. One showed a view from a dashcam, the second was a satellite view of Sajeev. The third, unbeknownst to him, was Kreutzer’s implant tracker overlaid onto Google Maps. That happened after the Tokyo incident, at the request of Thomas’ wife. Thumbing another secure radio, he sent a series of directions to Baruth at the other location…
“That’s a one way,” Baruth retorted.
“And you care because?”
Baruth made the turn and screeched to a halt in front of a narrow staircase. Mehta and Kreutzer emerged from the darkness. Sajeev pulled the near-side door open and forced Kreutzer across the back seat into an obstacle of some sort before tumbling in himself. As Kreutzer grabbed the seatbelt, Jack dropped the clutch. The Camry SE launched forward, smoke pouring from the front tires, into the foggy European night.
Kreutzer leaned back and inhaled painfully; only then he realized Derek Kreindler was seated next to him.
“We have to stop meeting like this, Thomas.”
He hated it when Derek called him Thomas. It always came before bad news. The fact that Derek had come to oversee this extraction personally also did not bode well.
“This is your last field operation, Thomas. After Tokyo I was on the fence. But I am now certain that you are finished in the field.”
Baruth hammered down the small cobblestone roads at impossible speeds. Some upbeat free-form jazz that Kreutzer had never heard kept tempo on the stereo. He instinctively leaned slightly to the center, trying to read the name on the iPod. At least he was safe… but the kids. Christ.
“Derek, what about…”
“The orphanage has been taken care of.” Derek said, dismissively waving his hand. “But that doesn’t change the fact that…” A hail of gunfire commanded everyone’s attention. Behind them was a BMW 5 series and the passenger had indiscriminately opened fire at them. Baruth hit the Bluetooth button of the Camry’s SE’s steering wheel; a voice answered.
“Robert, I have a bogey.”
“Actually, it’s two.”
“Can you help?”
The Camry emerged onto the Calea Grivitei. Initially the plan was to head for the airport, but this wasn’t going to work, they needed to change to the backup plan. As the Toyota hit the carriageway and accelerated, Robert Farago tracked them from the roof of a building, nearly a half mile away. He targeted the first of the 5-series saloons through a highly specialized night scope, holding his breath and relaxing his shoulders before sending a .50 cal slug right through the gas tank. Contrary to popular belief, it did not explode, but the hole it ripped open deposited all of the unleaded on the freeway almost immediately. In a few seconds it simply shut down and coasted to the side. But before it did, another shot took out a portion of the second cars front wheel. It immediately disintegrated, dug into the asphalt and the car flipped and rolled in spectacular fashion. Jack caught the high speed crash in the rear view mirror and smirked.
“That’s two down. Thank you.”
“I’m out.” Farago’s voice crackled in the Camry’s stereo. Kreindler and Baruth were never completely aware of how Farago entered or left any area of operation. Even Murilee was a bit fuzzy on the details. But he was always available when you needed him.
“Where the hell did you get this car anyway?” Sajeev asked.
“Lang. Lease return at an auction. He paid $37.50 for it, even with the TRD body kit.” Sajeev nodded his approval.
The Camry sped into the dark Romanian night. Derek turned towards Kreutzer. There was a single trickle of blood from a bit of glass in his cheek.
“As I was saying, Thomas. the time has come for you to move into management…”
Kreutzer sighed. The broken rib really hurt.