Night Strike

By Michael W. Sherer

Thriller, Action & adventure

Paperback, eBook

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4 mins

Chapter 1


July 25—Seattle
He stood in the shadows under a small grove of trees and watched the figure on the far side of the freeway advance on foot across the overpass. At this hour of the night, light traffic made it easier to tell if the man had been followed. He himself had worked his way around an area of the city, first in his car and then on foot and by bus to be absolutely certain no one followed. Years had passed since they’d taught him how to evade surveillance, but after several hours he felt sure he was black. He’d seen no familiar faces, no face more than once, had caught no one ducking into doorways when he’d doubled back on his route. Unless they had an army—highly unlikely given their command structure—they had no clue to his whereabouts.
What worried him, though, was that he had no idea where they were, either. On one of the few occasions he’d had to endure face-to-face time with them—in a too-small, older model car that reeked of stale, greasy fast food remains, cheap cologne, fear and intimidation—he’d planted a tiny bug on the side of the front passenger seat down near the floor. The transmitter had a range of a quarter-mile at most, so their silence could mean they were farther away. But he hadn’t heard a peep all night, only static from his earpiece, and he worried that the bug’s battery may have run out of juice.
Clear skies had allowed daytime temperatures to rise into the mid-70s, but now, without a blanket of clouds, the heat dissipated rapidly. He was grateful for the black windbreaker to insulate him from the relative chill. For a moment he let his focus soften, let his mental gaze pull back to take in the wider portrait. The white noise of tires on the freeway below couldn’t block out the gentle lap of water on boat hulls moored in the yacht club marina a few hundred yards away. The view of pavement, some trees and little else couldn’t blot out his mental vision of Lake Union’s sparkling blue water, the Space Needle blasting off into a turquoise summer sky, the snow-capped peak of Mt. Rainier rising above Seattle’s hills in the distance. He loved this place. It was his home.
He opened his eyes. The overpass in front of him was six lanes wide with a sidewalk on either side, an empty concrete and asphalt desert that seemed to stretch forever before more trees sprouted from the median and parkways far on the other side of the freeway. On the closest end, stairs led down from both sidewalks to an express bus stop lane on the freeway below. He waited until the approaching figure started down the stairs on his side of the overpass before he stepped out from under the trees and crossed the intersection. Craning his neck to see if his appearance attracted anyone’s attention, he hurried across the open expanse of pavement and down the long flight of stairs. His knees groaned accusingly, reminding him again that he was too old to be playing this young man’s game. Those who had survived to an age where they enjoyed grandchildren and a slower pace in life were the ones who sat behind desks and pushed them around like chess pieces.
Nearly forty years since he’d come to this country. Forty years he’d answered to the name “Tony D’Amato” instead of “Anton Kuznetzov.” Since before the dissolution of the union. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Before glasnost. He’d been in Amyerika since the days the Cold War was as frigid as Yakutsk in January. And they’d waited all those years, biding their time until he’d thought they must have forgotten. They’d waited until he’d almost forgotten what it was like to live in a country without the freedoms he’d now enjoyed for close to half a century. And at an age when he, too, should be enjoying a few vnooki playing games at his feet as he sat by the fire with his newspaper, they had activated him.
The man far down the bus platform at the bottom of the stairs could be his ticket out of this life of spying. A strike hound that had been loosed on his tail, the man had sniffed Tony out with every intention of marking him to ground until the rest of the pack could come in for the kill. But Tony had thrown the man off the scent by proposing a deal—he’d give the man exactly what he wanted in exchange for protection, a new identity and a new life.
The man raised his head and looked in Tony’s direction. He appeared relaxed, unconcerned, which worried Tony as much as if he’d seemed too nervous. Tony took a last look around as he stepped down onto the platform. No turning back now. He strode forward with purpose, ready to start a new life. He’d been an American too long to continue helping those svinyey, those pigs. The man watched him come, and Tony could see he missed nothing despite his casual air. His windbreaker had a roomy cut, so Tony knew he was armed, but his hands remained at his sides.
Twenty yards away now, and the man’s head bobbed almost imperceptibly in greeting. D’Amato opened his mouth to begin the dance, but the crackle in his earpiece prevented any words from escaping.
“Von tam!” a voice yelled in his ear. “I see him! Over there!”
D’Amato jerked his head around, looking for the car in which he’d planted the bug.
A different voice came through the earpiece. “Where? I don’t see anyone.”
“Down there, fool!”
D’Amato dropped to one knee and swiveled around. From the corner of his eye he saw the man at the end of the platform reach inside his jacket. The sound of a car engine revving took his focus to the overpass above them and then to the sweep of headlights as a car rounded the cloverleaf onto the ramp down to the freeway. D’Amato ran in a low crouch toward the man on the platform now, yelling to be heard over the screeching tires and whining engine.
“Get down!”
The man ignored him, focused instead on the car racing down the ramp toward them on the other side of the platform. He had a semiautomatic out now and planted his feet like a gunslinger from the Old West, gun hand extended as he fished in his pocket with the other. The car flashed past D’Amato and pulled even with the cowboy in a cloud of blue smoke, tires shrieking. The man got off one shot before a Jack-in-the-box popped out of the passenger side window and returned fire over the roof—pop-pop-POP! The man on the platform flailed as the first bullet ripped into his chest, his gun flying from his hand and skittering down the platform. The second and third bullets thunked into the man’s chest and head and he crumpled to the platform before his pistol stopped at D’Amato’s feet.
D’Amato snatched up the gun and backpedaled, feet scrabbling on the cement for a purchase as the driver threw the car into reverse, tires burning rubber as the engine redlined. They won’t shoot, he told himself. You’re too valuable to them. But his body had already reacted, turning him toward the stairs at a dead run. He couldn’t let them capture him, either. Another set of headlights swept down the freeway on-ramp, and D’Amato’s heart leaped in his chest. A delivery truck rumbled toward him, the driver quickly preoccupied by the sight of a car reversing up the ramp at full speed. As the trucker laid on his horn, D’Amato willed his aging muscles to put on more speed. The truck lumbered by, horn blaring, but D’Amato didn’t turn to look at the impending crash. He rushed headlong toward the stairs and raced up two at a time, heart pounding so loudly in his ears he barely heard another pop-pop behind him.
But no whump or sounds of rending metal and breaking glass split the night, just the squeal of brakes and irate bleat of horns. Through his earpiece, D’Amato heard a scream of obscenities in a language he wished he’d never known. The truck wouldn’t stop them for long, only slow them down. And they’d be on him again. Now he had no choice. His life here was over. He had only one option.



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