The End Game

The End Game

The End Game 28

  “So yes, when Matthew Spenser finds out this betraying bitch somehow survived, he will certainly consider it’s a trap, but it won’t matter, he’ll have to come, he’ll have to see her alive with his own eyes, then he’ll try his best to get up close and personal and kill her.”

  Savich nodded. “Agreed. Whatever Spenser felt for her, it morphed into instant killing hate the moment he found out what and who she really was.”

  Nicholas said to the vice president, “You’ve seen a great many killers like this?”

  Callan burst out laughing. “Killers? Well, yes, we all have, but you know what? I was actually thinking of politicians. Like Spenser, politicians want complete and ultimate control, they want destiny in their hands, and no one better get in their way. The TV series House of Cards? More right-on than not, only they’re not, thankfully, as brilliant as Kevin Spacey’s scriptwriters for Frank Underwood.”

  She stood. They all did as well.

  “Spenser’s history shows he isn’t known for collateral damage, but after Bayway, we have to assume Spenser and Damari are more alike now than they ever were, and you know as well as I do that Damari is one of the most dangerous assassins in history. Remember, he didn’t hesitate to murder three FBI agents in Bayonne; oh, yes, I’m sure it was him. It fits his profile, despite the fact there was no good reason to kill anyone in that house.

  “The three of you are going to face one of the monsters. I want all of you to be extraordinarily careful.”

  Savich shook her hand. “Believe me, ma’am, we’re hardwired to be careful. We’ll coordinate with your people. And be in touch.”

  “Excellent.” Callan handed each of them a card. “This is my personal cell phone. If you need anything, call me directly. Please, be careful.”

  And they were dismissed.

  • • •

  As they drove away, Tony came to stand by Callan’s side, both of them staring after the Volvo.

  “Think they can bring down Spenser?”


  “And Zahir Damari?”

  Callan watched the car disappear around the circular drive, then turned. “I wish I knew, Tony. How to find him? I don’t know if Spenser even knows what Zahir is up to or where he’s at. But I do know one thing for sure: Damari is the most dangerous individual on the planet.”

  She laid her hand on his arm. “Let’s brief the president about Damari and about those bombs.”



  George Washington University Hospital

  Matthew wasn’t stupid. He knew the TV report on Vanessa had been leaked on purpose. The whole place had to be crawling with Feds, he could practically feel them, waiting, guns ready.

  But it didn’t matter. If she was alive, he wanted to finish the job, he had to finish it. She’d betrayed him, she didn’t deserve to live, and this time he would make sure her eyes were vacant and her heart didn’t beat. He laughed, thought maybe he’d burn down the freaking hospital while he was at it, give a final salute to Andy.

  He’d found a good vantage point in the garage across from the back entrance to the hospital. He’d sat in the darkness, waiting for three hours now, getting a sense of the ebb and flow of the area.

  Hospital staff parked here. The right person would come, sooner or later. He was patient, something he’d had to learn during his years with Ian.

  Hospital employees walked in and out of the garage, wearing scrubs and clogs, some in white coats, carrying messenger bags and backpacks. A few biked to work, then changed their shoes. Some left, more came.

  There was a shift change at six in the morning. Nurses began flooding the garage. He stepped from the car, into the meager sunrise, watched for someone his size and hair color. It didn’t take long.

  There he was. He rode a bike; it was chained up twenty feet from where Matthew silently waited. He took off his white coat—a doctor, then, or an intern, not a nurse—folded it carefully, and put it in his messenger bag. Matthew waited for him to get on his bike and start down the ramp. He got back in the car and drove, careful not to be seen by the cameras, turning his head away at the right moments. The plates would be visible; no matter, he intended to ditch the car the moment he had the ID anyway.

  The doctor took a right out of the garage, began pedaling down New Hampshire Avenue toward the Potomac. Matthew followed, slowly now, making sure he kept him in sight. A bike meant he lived close by.

  Within minutes, they were at the entrance of the Watergate Apartments. The doctor stopped at the Watergate Café. Matthew followed him in, watched him standing in line. He got coffee and a roll, tucked in right there like he was starved.

  When he came out of the café, a second coffee in his hand, he walked his bike toward the Watergate garage.

  Matthew took him from behind, jerked him back into the bushes, slapping his hand over his mouth. It was risky since there were a couple of people not twenty feet away, but he found, oddly, that he didn’t care. It didn’t take him more than a moment to decide—he slipped his knife into the doctor’s heart, and the man dropped like a stone.

  Matthew stripped him of his badge and the white jacket he’d stashed in his messenger bag, plus his wallet, in case they needed two forms of ID. His name was—had been—Aaron Tasker. He left him there in the bushes and didn’t look back. He realized he didn’t feel a thing. Not a single bit of fear or remorse, nothing. He was a man on a mission, and he knew he had to win this time. But what if he didn’t win? Focus, he thought, it’s time to focus.

  Matthew took the bike and rode back to the hospital.

  As he pedaled, he found himself remembering how he’d felt the moment he’d heard he was a Rhodes scholar and was on his way to Oxford. He remembered how he’d been acknowledged as a genius in the scientific field, remembered the stark happiness, the pride his parents felt, and how he’d basked in the honors flowing over him.

  And then the bombings happened, his family blown apart simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. And he remembered clearly that day he’d become a different man with a different future.

  In a blink of an eye, he’d lost everything, and his rage festered and grew. And he’d met Ian McGuire in that pub in Italy, and they’d hooked up. He remembered Ian praising him endlessly, calling him a genius, so proud of him as he developed his new bomb, one smaller than the usual, and he’d figured out how to make it light and portable, and best of all, undetectable. His invention, his genius, and the rest of the world was still working with DIME bombs, Semtex, C4. He’d created something new. Powerful. And useful.

  Matthew had discovered all he had to do was attach a nanotrigger to a small piece of his new metal, and boom. He felt like a god, gloried in what he’d created. Then he saw his mother’s face and knew she wouldn’t be praising his genius. Revenge, Mom, really, all revenge, for you and Dad and my sister, but I’m not going to murder, not like they do. I’m going to cut them off at the knees, let them drown in their oil. And he’d believed it, believed it to his soul. Then.

  When Ian had brought Vanessa into his life, and she’d wanted to join him, he was convinced she shared in his beliefs, his goals. But now, in hindsight, he realized she hadn’t shared a thing with him. All she’d wanted was his new bomb.

  But he’d been smart, careful; he’d never told her all of it. And then Darius had tested it at Bayway without telling him and he’d been furious until he realized how amazing it had been.

  And now Ian was dead, burned to a cinder, and the lying bitch was still breathing his air, but not for long.

  • • •

  Matthew rode the bike into the garage, chained it to the rack, and walked across the pedestrian bridge into the building, swiped Aaron’s card through the reader, and walked right in the door. No one gave him a second glance. He belonged.

  Now he needed to find Vanessa.

  GW had multiple ICUs, multiple floors. He couldn’t afford to waste time wandering the halls looking for agents in their dark suits guarding a hospital door. He needed to access the computer system and look her up. He felt the bloody knife move in his pocket as he walked.



  Mike stood behind the door where she couldn’t be seen from either the hallway or the windows. Nicholas was in the bathroom, sitting on the counter. There was so much glass in the place, so many open lines of sight to help the nurses keep eyes on their patients, they’d had a hard time finding the perfect places to lie in wait.

  Agent Carrie Munson, CIA, was a good ten years older than Vanessa and Mike, a seasoned agent who looked hard as nails. “I’m into krav maga,” she’d told Mike and Nicholas. “Don’t worry about me, I can handle myself. Plus I have this.” She showed them a tidy Glock 17, stashed under her pillow. Mike didn’t doubt Carrie could handle herself, but if Matthew came in gun first, words later, who knew what could happen?

  They decided it was better to let Spenser get close, move all the way into Vanessa’s room before they brought him down.

  Agents dressed as nurses and orderlies worked alongside the regular staff. They all had photos of Matthew Spenser, not the face you’d think looked like a murderer or a terrorist, maybe a madman, rather the face of a handsome man, serious and thoughtful, one of the first photos of him Vanessa had sent to her uncle.

  After an hour on high alert, they all began to tire, to lose focus. Mike was tense. Her shoulders started to ache.

  After two hours, Nicholas and Mike switched places.

  Nicholas said, “I might consider giving up trying to talk to you if I could have a cup of coffee.”

  “Even if there was something to talk about, which there isn’t and never will be, you still couldn’t have any coffee. We need to keep hands free to handle weapons.” As if he didn’t know that.

  “I guess tea is out, too?”

  Both their earpiece comms units suddenly came to life.

  A voice she didn’t recognize, CIA, she assumed, said, “We have him. He’s gotten off the west elevator, moving toward the room. He’s dressed as a doctor, looks like he belongs. He’s not hesitating and that’s smart, so you guys need to be ready.”

  A doctor, Mike thought, adrenaline spiking, and wondered what had happened to the man whose white coat he’d stolen.

  “He’s reaching into his back pocket, wait, I saw a flash, not sure if it’s a blade or a gun.”

  The bathroom door was cracked. Nicholas looked at Mike through the small gap. She nodded. He signaled to Carrie, who rolled a bit onto her side, away from the door, making sure her red hair was showing. He looked back at Mike, saw her hands on her Glock, double grip, loose and ready.

  Nicholas hoped Spenser was carrying a gun. No one liked close quarters and a knife.

  “He’s twenty feet away now. Ten. Five.”

  Come on, come on, come on, you bugger.

  “He’s stopped. He’s turning. Oh, crap!”

  Nicholas’s earpiece exploded into a cacophony of curses. He heard shoving, a thud against the wall, shouts. “What the bloody hell has happened?” he whispered into his wrist unit.

  “He’s taken a nurse. He has a knife to her throat. It’s already bloody, but not from her. If you get a clear shot, take it.”

  “No, we can’t shoot him. We need him alive.”

  Another man’s voice in his ear: “Why don’t you come out and see what’s happening for yourself, Special Agent? I know you’re in there.”

  • • •

  Mike heard Spenser loud and clear, telling Nicholas to come out of the room. He’d gotten onto their comms channel. He was here, less than ten feet away, and here she was stuck in the bathroom. Unless Spenser came into the room, all she could do was wait, and be ready. She kept looking through the crack in the bathroom door into the hospital room. Nicholas motioned to her. He had a pen out and was writing on his hand. He held up his palm toward her.

  I’m going out. He thinks there’s only one of us in here.

  She shook her head, pointing to Carrie, to the door, then swiping her hand in front of her throat in a cutting motion.

  Matthew’s voice came over the comms again. “Come out, Agent, don’t be afraid of what I’ll do. I only want to talk to her. I only want to say I’m sorry.”

  Nicholas wrote Plan B on his hand.

  What was Plan B?

  But she knew, of course. Nicholas was going cowboy.

  Spenser’s voice was soft and persuasive over the comms: “If you don’t let me come in and talk to Vanessa, I’ll cut this lady’s lovely throat.”

  Mike watched, helpless, as Nicholas disappeared from view. If he survived this, she fully intended to kill him.

  • • •

  Nicholas took it all in in a millisecond—Cindy Carlisle was a pretty nurse with short, spiky blond hair and a wonderful smile she’d given him when they’d stepped onto the floor to set up the op. Spenser was holding her tight against him, his arm around her throat, a bloody knife against her flesh. She was the perfect shield.

  Nicholas had supposed if he ever saw Spenser up close, he’d see madness in his eyes, but it wasn’t true. Hate had twisted Spenser, but it didn’t show on the outside. He was handsome, his face smooth, his eyes intelligent, clear, focused on Nicholas’s face. He looked calm, as if he were in a college seminar, not in a death dance. With the doctor’s white coat, he fit right in, except for the bloody knife at Cindy’s throat, digging in slightly, drawing a drop of blood, to show he was serious. Cindy wasn’t moving, was barely breathing.

  Four agents stood around him, weapons drawn. One false twitch, and Spenser would be dead, the nurse, too. They couldn’t risk it.

  Nicholas held his gun in his palm, finger off the trigger, nose pointing skyward, his other hand up, too. Open. Vulnerable.

  “Drop the knife, Mr. Spenser. You can come in and talk to Vanessa, but I’m covering you every second. You try anything and I will shoot you, understand?”

  “You’re Drummond. It’s nice to meet you. I’m the Bishop.”

  “No, you’re Matthew Spenser. The other name, it’s nonsense and you know it.”

  Matthew stared at the big man, heard the Brit accent and wondered at it. “I’m telling you the truth. I want to speak to Vanessa, tell her I’m sorry. Will she live? The hospital records said she was critical. She survived two surgeries?”

  Matthew took a step toward him, shoving Cindy in front of him. Cindy didn’t make a sound, but Nicholas knew she was petrified. She was staring at him, her eyes wide, pupils dilated.

  Nicholas said, “She’s going to make it. Amazing for a woman who’d been shot in the chest and left for dead in a burning building, don’t you think? Did you or Andy Tate set the fire?”

  “Andy wanted to, but as I told him, I didn’t want to burn down the whole block.”

  “Like I said, you can speak to her out here, not in the room.”

  “Is Vanessa really in there or is it one of your agents?”

  “You let Cindy go and you can come over here and see her. Red hair and all. You’re in luck, she’s awake right now.”

  “Have her call out to me to prove it’s really Vanessa and this isn’t a trick.”

  On cue, they all heard Vanessa’s voice come from the room—weak, sounding a bit blurred with drugs, and angry. “It’s me, Matthew. I didn’t believe them when they said you’d come back to try to kill me again. I didn’t think you were such an idiot. But here you are. Well, what are you waiting for?”

  Spenser went white. His hand holding the knife at Cindy’s throat began to tremble. Not good. He began shaking his head back and forth. What did he think? Vanessa’s voice was coming from the grave?

  Nicholas studied Spenser’s face. He watched him lose more control
with each passing second. His arm began to fall. Cindy, smart girl, dove to the floor and rolled against the nurses’ station into the fetal position, covering her head with her arms. She didn’t move.

  Spenser exploded into action. He ran toward the door, shoving Nicholas out of his way, screaming, “You bitch! You should be dead! You deserve to be dead—look what you did to me!”

  Nicholas shouted, “Mike, now!”

  Spenser came racing through the door as Mike stepped out of the bathroom and shouted, “Stop!”

  But he didn’t.

  Carrie rose up, her Glock in her hand, as he sprang toward the bed, arm in a wide arc, the blade flashing red as it slashed down. He screamed, “You’re not Vanessa!”

  And the knife kept coming.

  Mike pulled the trigger three times, quick succession. Spenser spun around to face her, eyes wild, jaw working. She’d clipped him twice in the hand and once in his arm. He hugged his arm to his body, and moaned with the pain, but somehow he still clutched the knife. He stared at her, then turned slowly to look at Carrie. “I don’t understand. You’re not Vanessa, I know you’re not, but I heard her voice.”

  Carrie turned on the recorder. Vanessa’s voice sounded. “Hello, Matthew. Won’t you come in and talk to me?”

  He stood quietly, holding his arm, staring at Mike, then Carrie, and the pain was making him weave where he stood.

  “That was really smart. A recording,” and he hugged his arm tighter against him, then, amazingly, he began to laugh.

  “You tricked me good, didn’t you? She really is dead, isn’t she? What, this is her dying message?”

  “Oh no,” Nicholas said from behind him. “She was happy to record this for us. She only wished she could be here to speak to you in person.”

  Mike said, “She recorded more for you, Spenser, if you would like to hear it.” And she pressed the button.