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Chapter Seven

Holstering his P226, Don Brawn quickly slipped his two new guns into the pockets of his jacket. He didn’t look around as he walked, quickly, from the scene – there was no-one directly ahead of him, and if some civilian witness was observing it was best not to provide them with more than his, hopefully distant, profile.

He took the nearer vehicle exit from the graveyard, following the road round until he found himself approaching the Tesla from the other direction. He quickly entered, tossing the guns into the foot well on the passenger’s side and triggering the ignition. The Tesla was capable of removing him from the vicinity in only a matter of seconds, but it was noticeable enough already without leaving tracks of smoking rubber in its wake as well. He pulled away gently; what the Tesla sacrificed with its stand-out looks it made up for with low engine noise. Soon he was cruising south on the I-295 towards the Naval Research Laboratories. He peeled off the interstate and headed for them; a few minutes later he was parked at the top of a dead-end road near a small sports ground.

Brawn locked the doors and, flicking a switch, dimmed the windows – electrical current response polarised the shock-resistant glass to – from the outside at least – an impenetrable black. Safe from prying eyes, he recovered the guns from the floor and quickly surveyed them.

He’d got lucky – the USP Compact used .357 Sig ammo, just like his, which meant his load had just increased from twenty-six – correction, twenty-four – rounds to sixty. The H&K wasn’t a gun he liked, but he stowed it in the drawer hidden above the glove box along with the spare rounds – you don’t leave hardware just lying around where anyone can find it. Not like he’d had to leave the body – but there was not much Brawn could do about that right now.

The gunman’s backup weapon was a Baretta 9000 D40 – a sleek little gun carrying eight S&W .40 rounds, no spares. A dinky gun with a full-sized punch, it could be useful. Brawn checked its action, then ejected the cartridge, stripped it down and reassembled it on his lap in under a minute. It was in perfect condition – had never been fired – and all identifying marks had been filed away completely. In other words, it was a gift. This Brawn slid it into a concealed pocket in the padding of the passenger seat, before hiding his P226 in a matching compartment of his own.

Brawn paused for a moment to think, looking towards the laboratory complex nearby. He hadn’t done so intentionally, but in coming here some part of his brain was clearly telling him to get help – and Brawn tended to go with his instincts. There was one thing to do first, though.

Brawn retrieved the package from his jacket. Most of the soil had come away inside. He quickly unwrapped the wax paper cover, revealing a short length of grey plastic tubing like a narrow drainpipe, melted and flattened at one end and sealed with a rubber plug at the other. It had been waiting for him blade end down; probably whoever had left it simply stepped on to drive it into the earth then placed the flowers on top, drawing as little attention to their actions as possible.

He paused. An air-tight seal, and he was in close quarters – it wouldn’t take much explosives to turn the car into a crater, and a toxic payload could fill the space inside the Tesla – and his lungs – in seconds; but in either case, stepping outside would make little difference, and he knew he was going to open the damn thing anyway – he’d come this far, and there were simpler ways of killing a man than an elaborate paper chase. There was a full work box in the trunk, but a set of precision screwdrivers were also attached to the upper surface of the glove box. Brawn took the largest of them and, ruefully holding his breath, he prised the plug from the top of the tube.

Nothing. Not even a hiss of air. The seal was only to keep moisture out, not keep anything dangerous in – at least, nothing immediately so. However, the contents would prove deadly enough in time.

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Chapter Six xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx Chapter Eight

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