Lucas Black lowered his gun as his target crumpled to the ground. Out on the street, the crush of city workers rushed past, scarcely noticing the fallen man. Those who did barely hesitated—helping him to complete another mission for The Order of Orion. Silencers made his job a damn sight easier too. The slight snap of the shot had been swallowed by the din of traffic and the wild rhythm of nearby street performers playing metal drums.
The Order had observed Fromberg’s miserable life for a fortnight. An investigative journalist, with no friends or family, he’d been a solitary figure. Easy to track. Cigarettes and his work at The Detroit News had dominated his life, but it was his obsession with his latest story that had catapulted him straight onto their hit list. Secrecy was vital. Chances couldn’t be taken.
“Sweet shot, Black.” Granger stood beside him watching the scene unfold. “But I wish you’d give me a chance. It’s been four months.”
“You’ll have plenty of opportunities to complete a mission. Give it time.”
“I’m ready now.”
“Nothing prepares you for a kill order. It never gets easier. Trust me.”
“I can handle it. You need to trust me.”
Lucas grunted his reply. Granger was a pain in the ass, but he reminded Lucas of himself years ago, when he too had craved retribution.
But the similarity ended there.
Granger hadn’t had his heart ripped out. Granger didn’t burn with grief and revenge. No, the rookie had signed up to become an assassin because he was an arrogant twenty-three-year-old chasing glory and female adulation within The Order.
Things Lucas had never sought or claimed. He was seven years older than Granger, but it might as well have been a lifetime.
As he stared across the street at his latest kill, there was nothing but emptiness inside him. A woman had finally stopped to help. She screamed and glanced around in panic. Gunshot wounds were hard to miss.
“Time to go.” He threw the semiautomatic pistol into a nearby dumpster and jumped into the passenger seat of the white hatchback they’d lifted a few hours ago. Revving the engine, Granger rocketed down the street, narrowly missing the corner of the dumpster.
“Easy. Don’t bring attention to us.” Lucas glanced over his shoulder. Meticulous planning and clandestine operation methods were the cornerstones of The Order, not gung ho gangster action.
“So, Tom Licari is gonna go down as the trigger man?” asked Granger.
He shrugged. “Fromberg’s been investigating Licari’s links to the motorcycle wars and it’s Licari’s gun.”
“Using our abilities to eliminate him would’ve been less messy.”
He gritted his teeth. “Eliminating targets is easy. But leaving a zero footprint isn’t. All kill orders need to be completed by ordinary human means. It’s our way.”
“Yeah, yeah. I hear you. Stealth is our friend.”
Lucas chose to look out the window instead of dropping a left hook into Granger’s face.
Driving through the seedier part of downtown Detroit, they passed liquor stores and shop fronts with barred windows. Granger eased the car to stop in front of their hotel. Run down and unwelcoming, it was in urgent need of a face-lift, just like the surrounding area.
Frequented by hookers and the desperate, the hotel had an air of furtiveness that suited their mission.
“Dump the car and don’t get noticed.” Lucas unfolded from the hatchback, pulled his black hoodie up and made his way into the hotel.
A female hotel attendant, safely encapsulated behind a glass barrier, sat a little straighter when she spied Lucas. “Hi, sugar. You need anything?”
Without a glance, he continued through the tired-looking lobby. Her not-so-subtle offer was of no interest to him. He scanned the corridor carefully before entering his room. It paid to be vigilant. Hovels like this one bred rodents—of the human kind.
Threadbare mismatched furniture greeted him, but thankfully the room was undisturbed. He moved to stand beside the window, which afforded a delightful view of a brick wall from the building next door. Scanning his palm over his tablet device, he logged in for orders. A photo of Fromberg flashed up under their current orders and he checked it off as completed.
Scrolling down, he found their next order. Capture two emerging Starborn from a psychiatric hospital, and eliminate their psychologist, a Doctor Willow Trilby.
He clicked on the related documents and perused the psychologist’s file; twenty-six years old, recently moved to Nova Scotia, lived alone. He followed the links to a web page with an article from the University of British Columbia, Canada.
A photo showed her accepting a PhD. A ridiculous feather cap sat on a mop of flame-red curls and bright blue eyes stared into the camera. Lucas sucked in his breath.
He rechecked the mission brief.
Four red letters. KILL.
There was no option for elimination through memory erasure. The Order of Orion had deemed her PhD research into the paranormal a high threat to their discovery. As with Fromberg, chances couldn’t be taken. Orders needed to be followed.
Sometimes this job was a complete bitch.