He sat next to a small table, wearing shorts and a lightweight shirt, feet bare and his trademark hat perched jauntily on his bald head. An open laptop was across his thighs. It was as if he sensed my arrival, because he suddenly looked up, eyes hidden behind reflective blue shades, and smiled. “Took you long enough.”
“Connecting flight was late.” I took the seat next to him and gazed at the beach, cluttered with tourists sunbathing and playing in the water.
“No matter.” He tapped on his keyboard, then turned the laptop so I could see the screen. I was looking at the picture of a man known all over the world. He was worshipped by some but hated—and feared—by many more. “My next target?”
“Quick and dirty. This one should be public and look like what it is: a hit.” He pulled an envelope from under his scrawny ass and handed it to me.
I didn’t bother looking inside. I already knew it contained the itinerary of the victim. Half of the $10 million dollar fee would be sent to my Swiss bank account tonight, and the rest would follow when the job was complete. Z and I had worked together for many years. He’d never stiffed me, and I didn’t expect him to start now.
I shoved the envelope in the inner pocket of my jacket and zipped it securely. This last assignment, and I was out. A villa on the Italian Riviera was waiting for me. “Any preference on weapon?”
“Your choice.” His grin was shark-like. “However, the bloodier, the better. The effect will be similar to ‘the shot heard ’round the world.’ He’s giving a speech tomorrow afternoon. That is the preferred location, but I leave it in your capable hands.”
I remembered enough history to know that phrase referred to the Battle of Concord, which had begun the Revolutionary War. If I succeeded, and I hadn’t failed yet, this death would have a similar effect. I stood and held out a hand. Z looked at it in surprise, then shook. “We won’t be seeing each other again.”
“No.” He mimed tipping his hat. “Viva la révolution.”
I started to walk away, then paused and looked back. He was typing again, and I guessed he was in the process of reformatting the hard drive before destroying it. “Why ‘Z’? I mean instead of Irving or Smith or Johnson.”
He lifted his fingers off the keyboard and glanced at me. “Last letter of the alphabet. Last, final, the end. After you complete this job, everything changes.”
I nodded and strode away. About fucking time.