It was three days until Christmas when they finally reached the bottom of the list. One by one they’d taken pleasure in marking through each name with thick black marker. A few had gotten away, slipped out into the night or just never showed up in the morgues. Alec knew a coroner who was keeping track for them.
Most of the list was blacked out, though.
The last name, Jameson Cordell, lived all the way up in fucking Harrow which was nearly a 50-minute ride on the Tube. All the way to the end of the Bakerloo line. The suburbs.
Dylan tolerated the Tube because it meant he didn’t have to drive but this was just stupid. “Do you really not have a car?”
Alec brought a book along for the trip. He turned the page and marked his spot. “Not one I’d like to have shot at.”
“You really think it would come to that?”
“Worst case scenario.”
They’d gotten rather good at showing up unannounced and fighting their way through one or more people. Mostly mid-level guns for hire or money movers. Some of them went down easy, some of them fought tooth and nail. Others begged, offered up some little nugget of information in exchange for their lives.
The ones that did talk all said the same thing. Angus Mette was dead. Richard Bailey was the head of the organization now.
It earned them nothing but a bullet.
Dylan wished he had something to fiddle with now, something to take apart and put back together with efficient little clicks and turns. Instead, he watched the people board and disembark their little car as it trudged northwest.
Families and businessmen and university students wrapped up in tattered scarves and knit hats, on and off and on and off they went. Dylan counted the stops and sighed.
They’d done their best to track Richard Bailey, pulled up all they could on his name but found very little they didn’t already know. Alec asked a few more of the contacts in his web but he was wary of putting the name out to too many people. If he was the leader of Mette’s organization now, there was no telling how far it reached. No telling who had been bought or turned in the time since Alec had left MI6.
Dylan seriously considered going back to Luther’s, offering him a thick envelope of Alec’s money in exchange for a full trace of Richard Bailey. Maybe he still would.
The train screeched to a halt, another stop and shuffle of people off and on. They were above ground now, passing through trees and brown brick houses all in a row. Dylan watched the scenery pass and remembered the snow-capped mountains of Germany. Claws of anxiety and fear splintered through his chest and into his stomach. The memory of being hunted flashed into his mind, clutched at him like the Frenchman in the bathroom.
“Dylan.” Alec said his name softly, his hand wrapped around Dylan’s wrist, squeezing.
He breathed and shook his hand free. “I’m fine.”
“We’re almost there.”
Dylan checked the map posted above the seats across from him as they came to another stop. South Kenton. Only two more to go. There was hardly anyone left on the train now.
“How’s your book,” he asked.
Alec flashed the cover at him. It wasn’t anything he recognized. “It’s awful, to be honest. Pompous writing style and boring plot. I’m not sure anything has happened in the forty pages I’ve read since we got on the train.”
“Are you going to finish it?”
The last stop before Harrow and Wealdstone came and went. Dylan was ready, felt like he could run a few miles and not be tired. He wanted out of this train car.
“The house is only a short walk from the station,” Alec said.
“Are we going to wait for nightfall?” The sky was already starting to dim and it was barely after 4 o’clock.
“Dusk will suit our needs just fine.”
The bitter cold barely bothered Dylan when they finally stepped onto the platform in Harrow. He’d gotten warm sitting there, halfway to overheated. He left his jacket unzipped.
“This way,” Alec directed, tossing his shit book in the nearest trash can.
Dylan tucked his hands into his pockets and followed him to the exit.
The house of Jameson Cordell was a simple two-story townhome that looked exactly like every other house on the street. It was lined in white Christmas lights with a wreath on the door and a tree glowing in the front window. It was domestic, almost shockingly so.
“Are you sure this is the place?” Dylan questioned.
“Bad people can have families.”
That’s when Dylan saw the toddler with curly red hair and a woman, tall and slender, lean down to pick him up. “I’m not shooting a guy with his child upstairs in bed.”
“He’s on Mette’s payroll,” Alec argued. “He’s a part of it.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Yes, we do. Don’t let sympathy cloud your judgement. These people made their beds and chose to lay with a terrorist. They deserve what’s coming to them.”
Dylan read over the numbers nailed to the front door. “What was the address?”
“You don’t trust me?”
“Not as far as I can throw you.”
“16 Ranmoor Gardens.”
That’s the house. But something just didn’t feel right, no matter how sure Alec was. Dylan walked to the next house on the other side of the neatly trimmed hedge, squinted at the number on the front of it. 20 Ranmoor Gardens. “The numbers skip,” he said.
“No they don’t.” Alec had his arms crossed over his chest, clearly annoyed.
“This is 20. Why would they put 16 and 20 next to each other?” He walked another house over. “This is 21.”
“I don’t know why someone numbered the houses strangely, it doesn’t matter. Are you finished? Can we do this?”
“Let me just…” He jogged the other direction, past number 16 and its neat hedge. He found number 18 and next to it, number 17. Relief washed over him. “It’s the wrong house.”
Alec huffed but walked over to where he stood.
“The nine is flipped over. The nail at the top of the number must have come out. There’s no fucking way someone just dropped sixteen between eighteen and twenty.”
The house on the other side of number 17 looked much more their cup of tea. It had no holiday lights on it or a tree in the window. It was almost entirely dark save for the motion-sensor porch light out front and the faint lamp light coming from the front room.
Dylan rounded on Alec, jabbed a finger into his shoulder and shoved him backward. “You almost walked into that house and slaughtered an innocent family.”
“Thank goodness you were here to stop me.”
The taste of his sarcasm sat bitter on Dylan’s tongue. “Would you have even cared?”
Alec’s face stayed frustratingly blank. “Caring doesn’t make mistakes go away. It doesn’t make the horrors we’ve committed any more palatable. Caring is a waste of energy.”
“You can’t possibly believe that.”
“What if I did?”
Dylan’s fingers curled up into a fist. A fist he wanted to slam into Alec’s cheekbone, see if he could slice it open. “MI6 really sucked out all of your humanity, didn’t it. Do they take out your heart when you join? I suppose that makes everything easier. All the horrors.”
Alec grabbed the collar of Dylan’s shirt and tugged him close. So close he could feel Alec’s breath on his skin, scalding in the frigid night air. “We all make sacrifices for our country. Surely the United States took something out of your chest as well.”
“Take your hands off me,” he spat. “Or I’ll break your wrist.”
Alec shoved him away, took a few steps back. He exhaled, the great puff of air turning to smoke in the cold. Like a fucking ice-cold dragon.
The average person would walk away. Just turn heel and walk all the way back to the train station, leave all this bullshit behind. Dylan’s apartment had heat, had a little fireplace he could stock with wood for the night and curl up under a blanket like a cat. He’d sleep like a fucking baby knowing he wouldn’t have to deal with the asshole standing in the street with him, wearing a full three-piece suit and not a hair out of place.
But the part of him he lost to the military years ago made him stubborn and sometimes, when pushed hard enough, stupid. “Are we just going to stand around like dicks or are we going to fucking do what we traipsed all the way out here for?”
Alec tipped his head ever so slightly to the right, his eyebrow arching in question.
“It’s the last name on the list. We do this and then we’re done. I’m done.”
“Fair enough,” Alec conceded, drawing his gun. “Shall we go in the front or around the back.”
Dylan checked his own gun was cocked. “Kind of feel like kicking a door in.”