Home > Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(4)

Kill and Tell (CIA Spies #1)(4)
Author: Linda Howard

As he had expected, the pigeon had reacted with fury. Far from being intimidated, he had called all his dogs and sicced them on Dexter. Most men would have been dead by now, but Dexter had spent a three-year lifetime crawling on his belly in Nam, learning patience and strategy and the ability to conceal himself so well that the unsuspecting dogs had several times walked right past him, just as Charlie and the North Vietnamese had done in Nam.

Dexter was having a hell of a time. He hadn't felt so blazingly alive since he had looked down his scope into that Russian's scope and known one of them had only a split second to live. The dog following him now was better than the others. Not as good as ol' Dex, he thought exuberantly, but good enough to give him a thrill. Hell, he even knew this one; unless he missed his guess, he was being dogged this time by no less than Rick Medina, one of the CIA's best wet men back in their old green hunting grounds, twenty-five years ago. Another time, another world, but here they were, the same old players playing the same old game of hide and seek.

Dexter blended into the shadows, hunkering down for a minute while he waited for his follower to make another move. A less cautious man would have shot first and checked his identity afterward, but this guy was smart. Assume Dexter didn't know he was being followed; a hasty killing of the wrong guy would send the real prey so far underground it might be weeks before they could pick him up again. And don't forget to factor in the unwanted attention of the cops. True, for the most part, the cops didn't worry much about the unexpected demise of a street bum, even when said demise was caused by a bullet in the brain.

But you could never tell; they might be having a slow day and want some excitement, or a TV news crew might happen on the scene, and the bright lights would prod the cops to reluctant activity—the random occurrence of feces, as one erudite patron of a soup kitchen in Chicago had put it. Dexter waited. Slowly, his movements ghostly, he smeared dirt on his face and hands to disguise their relative paleness. Then he ducked his head down and remained motionless, comfortable in the knowledge that he was virtually invisible to anyone peering into the deeply shadowed alley. After several minutes, he listened to the shuffle of footsteps as they moved closer. Maybe it was the hunter; maybe it was just another bum. Dexter didn't move.

The footsteps paused. Dexter pictured what anyone looking down this alley would see: scattered trash, broken bottles, a pile of malodorous refuse too small to conceal a man, except that it did. It had rained earlier; the street lights shimmered on puddles of water. Any empty cardboard boxes that had littered the alley a few hours ago had been taken to provide shelter from the rain. To the average hunting dog, the alley would look empty and unproductive, but Medina wasn't the average dog; he, too, had trained in Vietnam, so he knew how to be patient and wait for the prey to make a mistake. Well, in this case, Dexter thought happily, he would have a long wait. Dexter Whitlaw didn't make mistakes, not in this. He might have screwed up everything else in his life, but he'd been a first-class hunter. So he waited, long after the shuffling footsteps moved away, long after other sounds of other footsteps took their place. A rat sniffed around his shoes, and he waited, motionless. After a while, he was rewarded when those same shuffling footsteps made a return visit, once again pausing at the alley. The hunter was comparing the way the alley looked now to the way it had looked earlier. Nothing had changed. Satisfied now that his prey wasn't there, the hunter moved on, still using the shuffle because a good hunter never broke his disguise.

The deceptive gait might have worked, if Dexter hadn't once seen Medina use the same drunken shuffle to bait two bully boys in a Saigon dive, drawing them in with the false assurance that the Yankee was too shit-faced to put up much of a fight. The two specialized in drunk American soldiers and had fun beating the helpless boys to bloody pulps after stealing their money. The week before, one of the boys had died of internal injuries, and a certain American faction had begun a ruthless search for the two Vietnamese. As the man who had found and identified them, Rick Medina had the honor of taking them out. Two clean shots to the head would have done it, but Medina had wanted to play with them first. Medina was a neat, all-American type guy, good-looking and slim, with his brown hair cut in a short crew and his clothes pressed and creased even in the oppressive heat. He was intelligent and affable—for the most part. When he was pissed, or when he was working, the affability disappeared as if it had never existed, and in his blue eyes was the cold light of a killer. Medina had lured the two Vietnamese out into a dark alley; they hadn't even tried to conceal the fact that they were following him, so certain were they of his helplessness. They closed on him like hounds on a rabbit, but at the last second, the rabbit had whirled, all signs of drunkenness gone. The knife in his hand had a dull black blade, so it wouldn't reflect light. The two Vietnamese likely never even saw it. All they knew was that suddenly their bodies were licked with fire, Medina's hands darting and leaving behind slashes that never went quite deep enough to kill—not yet, at least. Medina had shredded the two, all the while whispering to them in their own language, so that they would have no doubts about what was happening and why.

They tried to get away but found the alley blocked by several blank-faced Americans, all holding pistols.

Trapped, hysterical, they reckoned Medina the least threat and turned to fight him. Big mistake. Rick Medina was a regular Veg-o-Matic that night. He sliced and diced with mechanical precision. He weaved and darted, and each flick of the knife relieved someone of a body part—an ear, a finger, a nose. The two were hoarsely screaming before he finished them, neatly slicing their throats and letting them drop. Stepping over the bodies, he rejoined the silent group at the head of the alley, his face set and expressionless.

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