I’m not quite halfway through writing the third instalment of the Nadia Laksheva series, called 88 North, but thought I’d give a sneak preview of some of the action to come. The following scene concerns someone mentioned several times in the second book, 37 Hours, who goes by the name Blue Fan. As you’ll see, she’s going to give Nadia a run for her money…
When trained killers enter a dark, smoke-filled room hunting their quarry, they don’t usually look up to the ceiling. Which was exactly where Blue Fan was, hands and feet wedged against the edges of a recess, as if crucified on an X-shaped cross. Like a sacrifice. What she’d have been if they’d tilted their necks upwards. But they didn’t. Muscles taut, not breathing, she counted the emerald rifle-sight laser beams criss-crossing the empty chamber. Three. Disappointing.
She was worth more.
As the door sealed behind them, shutting off all light, the night-goggled men stole forward. All she saw now were the lasers. Which told her where the men were, which way they were facing. She listened to their measured breathing, smelt the fresh Hoppes 9 gun oil smeared on their weapons. Directly below her. The one on the right stalked away from the others.
Two stilettos hung immobile from thin, breakable lanyards around her wrists. The two men below took a short pace forward. She took a silent breath, relaxed her elbows and kicked off with her feet, snatching the handle of each blade as she dropped.
One of them must have heard the brush of flesh against stone. He turned. Too late. Metal speared flesh. One blade syringed into the back of the neck of the closest soldier, transecting his spine at C5. Out of the game. The other blade – for the soldier who’d turned – ice-picked through the gap just above his breastbone. Mortal wound, not yet dead. She used his crumpling body to pivot, and landed in a crouch. Withdrawing the first blade, she sheltered behind her human shield as the third soldier whirled around and squeezed the trigger on his automatic rifle. The hail of bullets finished off his comrade.
‘Dang!’ she shouted.
The room flooded with light, blinding the third soldier. He ripped his goggles off, not letting go of the trigger, pummelling her body-shield while she waited for the magazine to empty. She heard him let go of the rifle to grab his handgun, but she’d already sprung upwards. His eyes locked onto her empty throwing hand as the blade pierced his throat. Two rounds blasted into the concrete floor. He choked, drowning in his own blood, then fell backwards onto the concrete, arms and legs splayed, as if crucified on an imaginary cross.
Blue Fan surveyed the scene. All dead. All clear. She retrieved her stilettos, wiping the blood off onto one of the soldier’s uniforms. The door opened. Two heavily-tattooed men strolled into the room – no weapons – as if this was business as usual. One of them kicked the third soldier. Just to be sure. Or maybe for the hell of it.
‘Weapons to Kai Tak,’ she said. She studied the three corpses for a moment, and their military insignia. British. SAS. Okay, that made up for it a little. Aside from the wounds, they were in good condition, at least their organs would be. “Bodies packed in ice, straight to Dr Lam.’
Another man entered. Not merely old. Ancient, his white beard knotted together by a pale blue opal ring, the same colour as his eyes. Like Death come for a visit.
‘You know what day it is?’ he croaked.
Of course she did. Her birthday. Which meant this had been nothing but a warm-up. These were professional soldiers. But today she would face something else. A triad assassin. Different triad. Someone like her. But not as good. Never as good.
‘You must prepare,’ he said.
As if he cared. He’d love to see her dead on the floor, sell her kidneys, her eyeballs, probably give them away for free. He was Old School, and she was a woman, and had risen higher than any other in a triad. She met his eyes. They seemed warm, soft, friendly. She knew better. He’d spent a lifetime perfecting how to lie with his eyes. Too many had gone to their graves trusting those eyes. Still, she knew how to rub his nose in it.
‘I am a woman. No man will cook for me. I have to buy food for dinner tonight,’ she lied, and quit the room.