The Kiss of Virgins
Hazard wasn't surprised by this development. No sooner had he discovered the identities of the men who occupied this estate than he began to wonder about the security arrangements. He had seen no surveillance cameras, and no access control panels that would have indicated the presence of intruder alarms. From force of habit he had kept an eye open for sensors, but had not seen any. That didn't mean they didn't exist; Hazard kept himself up-to-speed on the latest advancements in security equipment, and he knew that infrared sensors could be quite small and inconspicuous these days. In addition, remote control devices could be used in lieu of wall-mounted access panels. He could only assume that he had tripped a sensor-produced infrared beam upon entering the house. So the crew in charge of protecting Nick Saccomando knew they had an uninvited guest. They just didn't know his exact location.
"Christos, you and Giorgio check every inch of this house," snapped Burcham. "Start on this level."
Christos, the bearer of bad tidings, headed for the archway, while Giorgio, the Greek who had accompanied Burcham into Biathos that afternoon, went out through the door Saccomando had come through only a moment earlier. Burcham, it seemed, was sticking close to Saccomando himself.
As Christos passed through the archway, pulling a 9mm automatic from the waistband of his jeans, Hazard struck. Reaching around the marble nude, he grabbed the Greek's arm with one hand and the automatic with the other, slipping a finger behind the trigger to prevent firing. He yanked Christos off balance, and the Greek's skull was violently introduced to the statue's perfect but unyielding breast. Christos slumped to the floor. Hazard wrenched the gun out of his grasp as he went down. Groggy, the Greek lurched to his feet and Hazard wrapped an arm around his neck and entered the room with the half-conscious man serving as a human shield.
The men in the room reacted in different ways. Nick Saccomando cringed in his chair, the color bleeding from his face. Russell didn't move or change expression. Burcham raised his big Colt revolver. And Giorgio -- who had just reached the door across the room -- whirled and aimed his weapon, a Heckler & Koch MP5KA4. Hazard realized that this compact 9mm submachinegun was probably the weapon Jack Christian had mistakenly identified as an Uzi. Weighing four pounds, and only thirteen inches long, the H&K was easy to conceal -- in fact, Giorgio had kept it under his windbreaker on a shoulder sling.
"Shoot 'em both," growled Burcham.
Christos started to struggle, and Hazard tightened his hold, until the Greek began to make gargling sounds as the pressure on his windpipe approached the breakpoint.
"No!" snapped Russell. "Don't do it, Giorgio."
"Better listen to him, Giorgio," said Hazard calmly. "Pull that trigger and you're out of a job -- because Mr. Saccomando will be dead."
Burcham looked at the 9mm in Hazard's hand -- and realized it was pointed quite steadily at Nick Saccomando's head.
"How did you get in here, Hazard," said Russell.
"Burcham gave me a lift."
"What the hell . . . ." Burcham was bewildered. "That's a damn lie."
"It's hard to get good help these days, isn't it, Russell?" asked Hazard.
"Hazard," muttered Saccomando, and as he made the connection he looked sick to his stomach. "Jesus Christ! Derek Hazard?"
"The one and only," sighed Russell. "Thank God."
"Hello, Nick," said Hazard as pleasantly as if he were greeting an old school chum. "I heard you were dead. A hoax, apparently perpetrated by the Justice Department. I guess I celebrated a little prematurely."
"Why are you here?" asked Russell.
"You know why. A friend of mine is dead. Now tell your colleagues to drop the hardware."
"Do it," said Russell.
"The hell you say," growled Burcham. "He'll kill Mr. Saccomando if we do."
"I'll kill him if you don't," promised Hazard. "A bullet in the brain. A small target, I admit, but I'm a very good shot."
"Drop the guns," snapped Russell. "That's an order."
Hazard was pleasantly surprised when Burcham complied, tossing his Colt on the sofa. Giorgio unslung the H&K and put it on the floor, then stepped away, his hands raised.
"You're in over your head," Russell told Hazard. "You've bought into more trouble than you can pay for in a lifetime."
"Didn't your mother ever tell you not to make a man with a gun nervous? This is a disgusting sight. U.S. officials catering to -- and killing for -- a crime boss, who's trying to save his hide by turning on his own. That's what's going on here, isn't it, Russell."
Russell nodded. "Mr. Saccomando is the most important organized crime witness we've ever had. So important that we faked his death. But the Mafia found out he was still alive. We don't know how, yet. But we had to get him out of the States. We're still vetting him, Hazard. We've already gotten over a thousand pages of deposition. We can do serious damage to the Five Families with the information he's given us."
"The only serious damage I've seen was done to Jack Christian."
Russell glared at Burcham. "That was a mistake. But Christian brought it on himself. He came in by boat last night, trespassed this estate, was shot to death. I regret that it happened, but technically we were within our rights. And there's nothing we can do about it now."
"Speak for yourself," said Hazard. He looked at Burcham, his gaze as steady and unequivocal as the 9mm in his hand.
"An eye for an eye, is that it, then?" asked Russell. "I know you're a thief, Hazard. But I didn't know you were a murderer."
"You'd call it murder. I'd call it justice."
"Burcham's actions will be fully investigated."
"Well that makes me feel a whole lot better," said Hazard drily.
He immediately felt a whole lot worse -- as from the archway behind him came the unmistakable snicker of an automatic weapon's slide action.
"I think it's your turn to drop the gun," Russell told him.
They put him in a small upstairs room. The window had bars bolted to the outside wall -- a very ornate grill, and very solid, too. One guard was posted on the ground below the window, another outside the door. The furnishings consisted of a plain wooden table, a chair and a narrow bunk.
An hour into his incarceration, Hazard got a visit from John Russell.
"So what's the verdict?" asked Hazard, stretched out on the bunk, smoking a special blend. He still had his silver cigarette case, which meant he had his set of B&E tools -- but he'd made up his mind to wait for further developments. He didn't bother getting up when Russell came in.
"Burcham wants to 'off' you, as he puts it," replied Russell. "I nixed that idea. I hope you'll be comfortable here. I'll be taking Delphi -- Saccomando -- out late this afternoon. After that you'll be free to go."
Hazard knew sufficient Greek mythology to recall that Delphi had been a temple of Apollo containing the Omphalos, a sacred stone marking the center of the earth. It had been the oracle of Homer and Herodotus where, supposedly, one could ask for and sometimes get insights into the future. It was said that Zeus had started two eagles from opposite ends of the earth and they had met at Delphi.
"That's a cute codename for Saccomando," he said. "But I can think of a few that are more appropriate, if less flattering."
"Look," said Russell, exasperated. "I don't like him any better than you do. But I've got a job to do. With Saccomando's help we can cripple the Mafia."
"You lie down with dogs, et cetera."
"I know all about you, Hazard. You've made the Mafia miserable on occasion yourself. You won't find any mob figure with anything nice to say about the Wolf. In a sense, we're on the same side, though I don't approve of your methods."
"I'm not too fond of yours."
"I mean it when I say I'm sorry about Christian. But, to a degree, he brought it on himself."
Hazard nodded. "You keep saying that, and maybe it's true, to an extent. But Burcham didn't have to kill him."
"Burcham isn't on my Christmas card list, but he is a government agent, so I'd advise you to forget it. What's your stake in this anyway? A vendetta isn't your style. There's no profit in it. Unless you're interested in that million dollar contract on Saccomando. And I don't think you are. You might steal a cool million from the Mob, but you wouldn't take their money to assassinate someone."
Hazard had earlier opened the window, and now he heard a car coming up the drive. Swinging his long legs off the bed, he crossed the room to have a look. Russell joined him. The black Volvo Hazard had followed that afternoon pulled to a stop in front of the villa. Burcham and the girl named Roxanne Wilson got out.
"'How men blame the gods,'" said Hazard. "'But, through their own perversity, and more than is their due, they meet with sorrow.'"
"Homer. The Odyssey. So you pimp for the bastard, too."
"Our orders are to get Saccomando what he wants, within reason," said Russell, on the defensive. "As long as he cooperates. The man happens to have a thing for blondes, the younger the better. Getting them is Burcham's territory. He finds them, checks them out, brings them in. But only if they're willing. And they are. . . recompensed."
"I'm sure the taxpayers would love to know they paid so that Nick Saccomando could get laid."
"What do you care? You don't pay taxes." Russell went to the door. "I'm not going to lock this. They say there isn't a lock made that can stop you. But a bullet can. And Christos -- the man you almost strangled -- is the guard in the hall. He has orders to shoot to kill if you stick your head out of this room. Believe me, he hopes you will. So don't try anything stupid, Hazard."
Caitlin Belleau emerged from the frothy surf of Homer's "wine-dark sea" clad in a black wetsuit, cinnamon strands of wet hair plastered to her neck and rubber-encased shoulders.
Clouds scudded across the moonlit sky, creating a diorama of constantly moving silver light and indigo night-shadow. The villa stood high above her, with terraced steps leading up from the narrow beach. She moved swiftly to the base of a stone wall, unzipping her wetsuit so that she could reach inside and extract the air pistol. The tide was high, and as she crouched there the surf washed around her feet.
Waiting with nerveless patience, she listened for the sentry she knew would come past this point as he patrolled the villa's perimeter. He arrived a few minutes later, right on schedule, pausing directly above her and looking out to sea. Caitlin wasn't worried that he would spot the Cigarette speedboat she had used to get here -- it was anchored beyond the point of land a few hundred yards along the coast.
The sentry cupped his hands in front of his face to light a Xanthi. That put enough distance between his trigger finger and the H&K MP5KA4 dangling from a shoulder strap at his side to suit Caitlin. She stepped away from the wall and just as the sentry spotted her drew a quick bead and fired the air pistol. The trank dart hit him in the throat. The sentry swayed back on his heels -- then pitched headfirst over the stone balustrade to land in the sand at her feet.
Caitlin knew he'd be out for two or three hours, and she put him in a sitting position against the wall, so that anyone looking down from above would be less likely to see him. She confiscated the H&K, a hand radio and a remote access device for the alarm system. Then she took a slim brass cylinder dangling from a chain around her neck and blew on it sharply, several times. She knew that the sentry's fall over the balustrade had set off a perimeter intruder alarm that automatically released the caged attack dogs. The sound produced by the dog whistle, inaudible to human ears, brought the canines running. Using the air pistol, she brought both of them down with a fine display of marksmanship, considering the unreliable moonlight and the accuracy of the air pistol at anything but short range. This done, she headed up the steps.
The upper terrace on this side of the villa contained a swimming pool, and she waited until clouds obscured the moon before crossing this open space. Trellises laden with star jasmine covered the stone arches supporting a sundeck which adjoined the villa's second story, and she climbed with the agility of a mountaineer. No sentry here, and she moved swiftly to a door leading to an upstairs hall. She had studied the villa's layout, knew it by heart. The door was locked, and the sentry she'd tranked hadn't been carrying a set of keys. Taking a small black leather case from a waterproof belt pouch, she crouched to attack the lock with a set of burglar's tools. She knew she didn't have much time -- though al lseemed quiet the perimeter alarm had alerted the occupants of the villa.
Nonetheless, she didn't hear Burcham stealing up behind her.
"Move an inch," he hissed, planting the business end of his .38 Colt Diamondback against the base of her skull, "and I'll blow your head off."
Caitlin froze. Her voice was steady as she said, "Oh dear, I must have the wrong house. Isn't this the Moustafa residence?"
Burcham grinned crookedly. "You're a cool customer."
"Would hysteria make a difference? If so, I'll scream."
"You can scream all you want," he sneered, while his arm curled round her and his big hand began mauling her neoprene-encased breast.
And he went down, falling like fresh-cut timber. Caitlin whirled, put her back to the wall -- and stared at Derek Hazard.
"Hello," he said, smiling. "What's a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?"
Copyright 1992, 2015 by Jason Manning. All Rights Reserved. No unauthorized reproduction for any purpose whatsoever is allowed without permission of copyright holder. This copyright notice to cover all text found in this post except that attributed to others. Copyright is not claimed on any images included in this post.