Ms Vengeance Book Two
Beaten but not broken by her first encounter with Krystopher Kreadey, Madeline Graves is determined to penetrate the web of deceit surrounding her family’s killers.
Krystopher Kreadey is killing people again, this time in New York. If Maddie is going to get justice for her family, she has to find him and put a stop to his madness.
Out of her depth in the city that never sleeps, not knowing who to trust, or even who to fight, Maddie is unaware of the enemies closing in.
Last time they underestimated her. They won’t make that mistake again.
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One of the many perks of his job was that Mr Brown had access to most places he desired, and at any time of the day or night he wished to be there. Highgate Cemetery was no different, and arranging for it to be opened at five am had been a matter of a phone-call and nothing more.
Why they had wanted to meet here, though, was a mystery.
The rain pounded the paths and the gravestones. Even standing beneath the trees afforded no shelter from the downpour. Narrow rivers of rainwater threaded their way downhill, through the cemetery’s winding paths and around tombs to the dead.
Mr Brown spotted them waiting where they had agreed to meet in the West section of the cemetery. The man and the woman stood over a grave. Both wore identical raincoats. But any similarity ended there.
The man was small and bespectacled and looked like he might be an accountant or a librarian. In his clasped hands, he held a posy of red roses. The statuesque woman standing beside him also held a bunch of red roses. Her hair had been tied back in a severe ponytail and she did not blink at the cold raindrops hitting her face.
Despite the sound of the rain hitting the ground, the two figures both turned at the same moment to see Mr Brown, shoulders hunched against the foul weather, making his way up the path towards them. The little man nodded at the tall woman and they both placed their flowers on the grave.
‘Serafim Ilyin? Nikita Sokolova?’ Mr Brown wore no hat and water ran down over his face.
The little man, Ilyin, nodded but said nothing.
‘You can call me Mr Brown, that's as good a name as any. What on earth possessed you to suggest here for a meeting?’
Ilyin adjusted his glasses on his nose. ‘We came to pay our respects.’
Mr Brown peered at the grave, at the inscription. ‘Litvinenko? You surprise me, I thought you would have hated him.’
‘We pay our respects not to the man buried here, but to the system that placed him in the ground.’
Brown straightened up. ‘Ah, I see.’ He pointed up to the catacombs. ‘Let’s take shelter in there while we talk. Unless, of course, you haven’t finished paying your respects.’
‘We have finished,’ Ilyin said.
Sokolova took the lead, striding ahead on her long, powerful legs. The hard-packed path ran with water. Surrounded by monuments to the dead, the three visitors were the only sign of life in the cemetery. Mr Brown couldn’t help but think of all the dead buried beneath their feet. Karl Marx was in here somewhere, wasn’t he?
In the shelter of the catacombs’ entrance, Mr Brown shook rainwater off his coat and wiped a sleeve across his face. Not that it did any good. He was drenched through, and would remain so until he returned home where he could shower and dry off.
Sokolova stood with her back to Ilyin and Mr Brown, gazing at the wall and the Cedar of Lebanon. Mr Brown had been warned to not attempt to engage the woman in conversation. She had a short temper, apparently, and disagreements quickly escalated into physical fights.
And no one wanted to fight Nikita Sokolova.
Seemed like Ilyin wasn’t much of a conversationalist, either. But then Mr Brown hadn’t ventured out into a nasty downpour for small talk.
‘What’s the situation like in Georgia? Any signs of a resolution yet?’
Ilyin removed his glasses and wiped at them with a white handkerchief. Without the magnifying effect of the thick lenses, his eyes looked tiny and sunken.
‘Everything is under control. The money has been moved, and the account closed.’
‘Good.’ Mr Brown paused. ‘There has been a change of plan.’
Ilyin placed his glasses back on the bridge of his nose. Every movement he made was precise, adjusting the fit of his glasses in tiny increments until he was satisfied.
Mr Brown glanced at Sokolova, her broad back to them. ‘Kovalchuk has bolted. Left yesterday afternoon, caught a United Airlines flight to JFK.’ He rubbed at his chin. ‘We’re not entirely sure of his whereabouts from there.’
‘That is disappointing.’
Somewhere a drain was overflowing. Mr Brown could hear the splash of water on the ground.
‘He’s no longer alone. There is a woman with him, a Madeline Graves, she—’
‘We know.’ Sokolova turned to face Mr Brown.
He was over six feet, but he still had to look up at Sokolova. Under her intense stare, Mr Brown resisted the urge to step back and look away. Getting a good look at her for the first time, he noticed the slight protrusion of her lower jaw. A side-effect of steroids? Possibly.
‘Then you must realise how dangerous she is.’
‘She has been lucky, that is all.’
Mr Brown took a moment to consider whether he wanted to continue the conversation in this direction. If it came to a fight, well, Mr Brown had certain skills, but he doubted any number of specialist combat techniques would help him against this woman.
He plunged on anyway. ‘The Graves woman has extricated herself from three highly intense situations already.’
Sokolova’s eyes narrowed.
Mr Brown hurried on with the rest of his sentence. ‘So I expect her luck will be running out soon.’
‘The children,’ Ilyin said. ‘Are they acceptable collateral damage?’
‘Of course. Remember, though, your prime target is Kovalchuk.’
‘We do not work for you, Mr Brown,’ Sokolova cracked her knuckles, the sound like gunshots in the confined space.
‘But we appreciate your assistance in this matter,’ Ilyin said. ‘Our country’s values are aligned with the Council’s, and our dear leader is hopeful that we can continue working together.’
‘Thank you. I will pass your sentiments on.’ Mr Brown held out his hand to Ilyin. ‘I don’t expect our paths will cross again.’
Ilyin clasped his hand in Mr Brown’s and they shook. ‘I expect not.’
Mr Brown looked up at Sokolova. Instead of the offer of a handshake, he restricted his goodbye to a curt nod. Sokolova nodded back.
Ilyin and Sokolova ventured back out into the rain.
‘One last thing!’ Mr Brown called out.
They turned to look at him.
‘Our counterparts in the US can be… enthusiastic. We’ve asked them to hold off and let you take care of the situation, but I don’t expect they will listen.’
Without a word of acknowledgement, the two Russians turned their back on Mr Brown and walked away. Soon they were lost to view, and Mr Brown was left alone with the rain, and no one but the dead to keep him company.
A fantastic start to a new series from Ken Preston.
Reckoning takes you on a rollercoaster ride of emotions, from fear and despair to anger and vengeance, while masterfully maintaining a palpable tension throughout.
A top-notch thriller leaving you wanting more.
- Author of the Danny Pearson Thrillers -