James Carol: The Quiet Man

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James Carol The Quiet Man
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    The Quiet Man
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The Quiet Man: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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For Finn,

The more I get to know you,

the more you amaze me.

Love you now and always.


The countdown started three hundred and sixty-four days ago. Back then there had been all the time in the world. Now it felt as though it was about to run out, and fast. Because that was the thing with time. It was fluid and it lied. Nine and half hours from now August 4 would turn into August 5 and they’d be on the final stretch. Jefferson Winter was aware of the clock ticking, the seconds dripping away like sand flowing through an hourglass. Whenever he shut his eyes all he could see was the bright hot flash of the explosion.

He stepped into Arrivals and made a quick scan of the waiting crowd. The woman holding the sign with his name on looked just like a cop. It was her eyes. They were constantly on the move, searching for danger and taking everything in. She wasn’t a cop, though. Not any more. Winter knew that for a fact. She recognised him in the same instant that he recognised her. It was easy to see why. He was average height, average weight, and had one of those faces that you wouldn’t look at twice. Where he moved away from the average was his hair. He was only in his mid-thirties but it had already gone completely white. It turned when he was twenty. He used to dye it during his FBI days. Since quitting, he hadn’t bothered. A lot of things fell by the wayside when he quit being a G-man. He walked over to where she was standing.

‘You must be Laura Anderton,’ he said.

‘And you must be Jefferson Winter. Welcome to Vancouver.’

She held out her hand and waited for him to shake it. Her grip was firm and purposeful. It was the handshake of someone who was confident about where they fit in the grand scheme of things. Anderton was fifty-three, with big brown eyes and shoulder-length brunette hair. She was wearing jeans and a plain white blouse. Her ankle-length boots had a sensible heel. She must have been stunning in her younger days. She was still attractive now.

‘Where, why, who,’ he said.

‘You say that like it means something.’

‘It does. All we’ve got to do is answer one of those questions and we can save a life. If we know where the next murder is taking place then we can ambush the killer. If we know who the intended victim is we can protect them. Why is a little less obvious, but I’m confident that if we can work that out, the information will lead us to the killer or the next victim. Either one is a win.’

‘Put like that, it sounds so simple,’ Anderton said.

‘I didn’t say it would be easy. I’m just saying that that’s what we need to do. Where, why, who. I’m telling you, it’s a no-brainer.’

‘Okay, here’s another question for you. How? As in how do we find answers to those questions.’

Winter shrugged. ‘I’m still working on that one.’

‘Well, work harder.’

He followed Anderton to the exit, his suitcase trundling in his wake. The crowds were parting before her in a way that was almost biblical. She didn’t say a word. She didn’t have to. Everyone just got the hell out of her way. She was five foot six and slim, so it wasn’t as though she was physically imposing. And it wasn’t like she was waving a gun around. A crowded airport, in the middle of the afternoon, that would definitely have got a reaction.

Outside, the sun was shining, the temperature in the mid-seventies. The day was about as perfect as it was possible to get. Winter checked his cell. There was no sign of the text he was waiting for. He put the phone away, found his sunglasses, then lit a cigarette. His last one had been in Detroit. Even without the four-hour delay that was too long.

The last couple of days it had been one thing after another. His original plan had been to fly here yesterday, but the Detroit case had dragged on. The arrest had gone bad, the killer ended up dead. Winter hadn’t fired the shot, but he’d witnessed the whole thing, which meant jumping through a load of administrative hoops before he could leave. Then there had been that damn plane delay. Time was tight enough without having that to deal with.

Anderton started walking, Winter following close behind. The impression he had got from their email exchanges was that she was professional and businesslike, and maybe a little distant. So far he had seen nothing to contradict these impressions. In the near distance, a Boeing 777 decorated with Air Canada’s livery lumbered into the sky, engines screaming as it fought against gravity, two hundred and fifty tons being thrust forward and upward at a hundred and fifty knots. The air stank of aviation fuel. According to the signs, they were heading away from the parking lots. Winter didn’t bother asking why. Wherever Anderton was headed, she was walking as though it was where they were meant to be going.

She had first contacted him last year, back when she was still running the police investigation. At the time he’d been tied up with a case in Europe and hadn’t been able to get away. He’d asked her to keep him in the loop, and she had. Most months he received an email updating him on the situation. Because of the nature of the case there was rarely anything new. That didn’t matter, though. By the third email he’d concluded that the real reason for the updates was that she wanted the case to stay on his radar.

Not that it was about to fall off any time soon. This one had got him curious. It was the sort of puzzle he lived for. To start with, most murders happened without warning. They came completely out of the blue. The first you knew about it was when the call came through informing you that another body had been found. That hadn’t happened here. The year-long gap between murders made these crimes unusual, but what made the series unique was the MO. Most serial killers wanted to be there at the moment of death. That was a big part of the thrill. They needed to see the lights go off in their victims’ eyes. It gave them a massive ego boost. In that moment they were more powerful than God.

This killer hadn’t been there at the end. In fact, he’d gone out of his way to make sure he wasn’t. He’d gained access to each victim’s house, overpowered them, and then bound them to a kitchen chair with duct tape. After attaching a homemade bomb to their chest and wiring it so that it would be triggered when the kitchen door opened, he had left. All three victims were female, killed when their husbands came home from work. Basically, he was using the husband as a murder weapon. Winter had come across killers who took a hands-off approach before, but never to this level.

‘I guess this is where I’m supposed to ask if you had a good flight,’ Anderton said. ‘But since your plane was four hours late I don’t think I’ll bother.’

‘There was a mechanical problem. One that needed to be fixed immediately.’

‘I’d hope so.’

‘You’d be surprised. Most aircraft have something wrong with them. If you insisted they were a hundred per cent operational a hundred per cent of the time they’d never fly anywhere, and that’s not good for business. The reason they don’t fall out of the sky is because there’s so much redundancy built into the systems.’

‘And you’re okay with that?’ Anderton said.

‘So far, so good. I haven’t been in a crash yet. And I fly a lot.’

‘Yeah, well, I’d prefer to think that everything’s in perfect working order.’

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