Russell Blake: Jet

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Russell Blake Jet
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Jet: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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Russell Blake



The rainy gray of the morning had grudgingly relented to a patchwork of blue peeking between the clouds. Moisture dripped from the dense vegetation onto the encroachment of asphalt, evaporating within seconds of contact. Humidity was a constant this far inland — the nation’s seat had been relocated to this position of relative safety following the hurricane that destroyed the seafront capital forty-something years before.

The bus station at the main junction was a sad affair, as were most of the nearby structures, surrendering to entropy even before the paint had dried on their shabby walls. The terminal was surrounded by a group of ramshackle booths fashioned from tarps and cast-off wood, a squalid tent city that housed vendors hawking tacky artifacts and articles of second-hand clothing.

A retired Greyhound coach creaked as it entered the muddy lot, carrying a handful of intrepid tourists and commuters from the coastal suburbs. The tired air brakes hissed their protest as it pulled to a stop and disgorged its cargo, the rusting, graffiti-covered sides shuddering in time with the idle of the engine.

In the near distance, hulking concrete bunkers, ugly and indifferent, held back the jungle’s creep. Lethargic bureaucrats in shirtsleeves seeped steadily across the expansive open plaza, mopping their brows with hand towels as they shuffled to their offices for another long day of doing nothing.

Three men emerged from the largest building and stood on the steps by the heavy glass entry doors, shielding their faces from the fierce shafts of sun piercing the overcast. After a few parting words, they shook hands, and two of them headed to the parking lot. The third man watched their departure, his coal-black skin glistening with sweat that already threatened to ruin his lightweight navy-blue suit. He glanced at his watch then walked towards a multi-story edifice across the common. The fountain in the middle of the square, thick calcium deposits crusting the pitted centerpiece, hosted a squabble of sparrows intent on bathing in the rainwater accumulated in its base. Drawn by their raucous chirping, he slowed to watch them enjoy their brief reprieve from the oppressive heat.

A sharp crack startled the birds, causing them to take noisy flight as the lone man’s skull exploded in a bloody splatter. His body crumpled to the concrete, dead before what was left of his head hit the ground with a melon-like thud. The few witnesses nearby froze in their tracks, eyes darting around in alarm.

On the top floor of an abandoned motel three hundred yards away, the shooter edged from his vantage point, cradling his rifle as he padded down the deserted stairs that led to the waiting Ford Expedition.

The driver put the vehicle into gear as the rear door opened, scrutinizing the chaos at the government buildings in his rearview mirror. The shooter slid the rifle into a compartment under the cargo mat then gave the vacant parking area a quick scan before climbing into the passenger seat. After fastening his seatbelt, he fumbled a cigarette from a pack in the glove compartment and lit it, adjusting the air vents to direct cold air on his sweating face as the driver pulled onto the road leading out of town. He exhaled in satisfaction, then lowered the window a few inches, and made a hurried call on his cell phone, speaking in a harsh, heavily-accented whisper before hanging up.

With a practiced motion, he flipped the phone’s case back off and tossed the single-use sim chip and the battery through the open window, into the tangle of brushwood. The driver eyed him without comment then returned his attention to the wheel.

The shooter took another drag and cracked a feral grin.

“One down.”

Chapter 1

Turquoise water lapped at the powdery sand on the leeward side of Trinidad, caressing the shore with a tranquil surge. Decrepit fishing skiffs with single outboard engines floated a dozen yards from the beach, tugging gently at their moorings as their captains lazed in the shade, passing rum bottles and familiar stories back and forth.

Music and the heady aroma of exotic food drifted on the evening air as the annual Carnival festival lurched into full roar. Excited groups of young children tore up and down the waterfront, peals of glee and laughter battling with the din of adult celebration. From far and wide, revelers packed the streets, beers hoisted high to the setting sun, welcoming the untamed night that was to follow. Flashes of coffee-colored skin, strong white teeth and long, smooth legs hinted at the weekend’s delights as a tremble of simmering promise pervaded the atmosphere, of possibility and inebriated hope. Drums pounded hypnotic tattoos as the flamboyant costumes and masks paraded, the natives and visitors alike bubbling with a giddy sense of abandon.

The chime of the little internet cafe’s front door sounded, jolting Maya’s focus from the computer screen at her desk in the rear office. She pushed her long, black hair from her face with a listless hand and clicked the mouse with a sigh, noting the onscreen time. There had been no visitors for at least an hour, and she was getting ready to close. Her assistant had taken off at five, eager to join the bash, leaving her to clean up at the end of the day. Now, four hours later, there was little hope of any more revenue with the town in party mode. Anyone on the streets would have a more tangible kind of entertainment in mind than the sort found in cyberspace.

As she shouldered through the hanging beads that separated the back from the storefront, a garrote looped over her head, and she barely got her left hand up in time to keep it from closing around her throat. She sensed the raw strength of her assailant as the wire bit into her hand and instinctively stomped on the top of his foot, trying to break his hold. Had Maya been wearing her boots, she would have broken metatarsal bones, but with tennis shoes, all her effort bought was a grunt and a momentary relaxation of the deadly pressure.

Blood ran down her wrist as she threw herself back, driving her attacker against a granite counter supporting a bank of monitors. A screen tumbled to the floor and shattered as she groped along the edge of the computers for anything she could use as a weapon.

Her fingers found the neck of a Fanta bottle, and she swung it back to where his head would be. It connected with a satisfying thunk, and she swung it again, this time feeling it break against his skull. Ignoring the pain from the garrote, she stabbed behind her head with the jagged edge of the broken bottle, again and again, then heard a muted exclamation as a warm gush sprayed against her upper back. The grip on her loosened, and she swung around, bringing her knee up in a fluid motion as she flung the garrote away. She felt her leg connect with the soft flesh of his groin and caught a brief impression of a hardened middle-aged face with blood streaming from the man’s lacerated cheek and right eye. He swung at her with a fist, but she ducked to the right, and the punch went wide. She slashed at him with the bottle again, then feinted with it as she kicked him in the abdomen with all her might.

The attacker’s legs buckled, and he stumbled, hitting his brutalized head against the counter as he dropped to one knee. Stunned, he reached into his pocket and extracted a switchblade. The blade snapped open — he lunged — she dodged the knife and kicked him again. This time he was ready for it; she felt the stiff muscles of his stomach tighten for the blow. As he crashed against the counter again, she flung the bottle at him then grabbed a flat screen monitor and swung it against his head, connecting with his cheekbone. The screen splintered as she continued to beat him with it, savaging what was left of his face.

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