The lobby was enclosed by expansive glass panels that ran from floor to ceiling. The visual effect was intentional. A local architect had designed the building, paying particular attention to the entrance, and giving the structure a certain symbolism. It was a nod to the newspaper’s mission—providing transparency to life—but the metaphor was lost on most city-dwellers.

Viktoriya Gavrilenko checked her image in the glass, heels clattering as she exited the offices of the Odesa Sivodnya. Her outerwear did little to deflect attention, but that was never her goal. The coat she wore was a double-breasted trench, made of white leather, with wide lapels on either side of the cowl-neck sweater crowning her shoulders. An ivory belt was cinched around her narrow waist, with black denim jeans and matching shoes for contrast.

The young journalist took to the sidewalk and began moving east on Balkovskaya Street. Her appearance earned a few admiring glances, but Viktoriya paid no attention. Navigating through pedestrians, her head was tilted down as she checked her phone.

“She just came out.” The man in the car had a wireless headset.
His accomplice was across the street, leaning against a kiosk and pretending to read the morning edition. A receiver was stuck in his ear.
“Right on time.”

She checked her email first. Viktoriya’s in-box contained only a few messages—which was both a relief and a disappointment. A trending story on a news site caught her eye next. Archaeologists in neighboring Poland were poking around a riverbed near Warsaw. The report looked interesting; she scanned the highlights and then filed it away for later.

There was a chill in the air, not uncommon for Odessa on an October afternoon. Viktoriya clutched her collar just a bit closer and kept walking. A tram stop was one street over on Rozumovskaya. The aging conveyance was always on time, and if she caught the 5:05, she could be home in less than twenty minutes.

From half a block away, Sergei Holcek matched the woman’s pace and kept his distance. He allowed himself a smug grin. She was making his job easy. With the way she was dressed, it would be hard to lose her now.

A head taller than those around him, he was a stocky man, in his mid-forties with graying temples. He had been watching Viktoriya’s movements for the past two days. She didn’t own a car, and the towering Russian knew she’d hop on the trolley approaching from the far side of town.

“Get into position,” Sergei ordered.
“On my way.”
The driver revved the engine. The Mercedes crept past Viktoriya slowly, allowing him one last eyeful. The woman had more curves than—
“Focus on your driving, tavarisch,” the Russian snapped.
The man in the car turned away.
“Such a waste.”
He left Viktoriya and Sergei behind, and then turned on the next street, headed north.

Holcek stared ahead, scouting the terrain. The intersection was crowded with Ladas and other Eastern European models. The congestion didn’t concern him; in fact, he was silently thankful for it. A glance to the north gave him a fix on his escape route, an alley between the main thoroughfare and Kolinsky Street. The Russian breathed deeply, measuring his steps and gauging the arrival of the tram.

Sergei resumed his surveillance. His mark was right where she should be, so the Russian began assessing obstacles. There were no militia cars in sight, and no officers walking a beat.
All the better, he thought.

Small groups began milling toward the corner, waiting for the trolley. Holcek glanced at those closest to Viktoriya and moved a little faster. She arrived at the stop just as he crossed Rozumovskaya.
It was time for one last check.
The receiver crackled in Holcek’s ear. “Waiting for you.”
“Keep the motor running.”
The driver could hear the anxiety in Sergei’s voice. “I’ll do my job. You do yours.”

She was still alone. A loose-knit throng of commuters stood nearby. Sergei gave them a studied look. Most were simple office workers who wanted to go home. A few tourists had wandered up from the port, and students from the Institute huddled together, portfolios clutched under their arms. Close to the corner, an old babushka sold flowers, a display of nested matryoshka dolls on her cart.

The tourists and students weren’t a concern. Holcek was more interested in picking out individuals. Beneath the stop’s canopy, a transient weaved from side to side, his posture stooped. He wore a dirty, hooded sweatshirt; Holcek gave him a passing glance and then dismissed his presence. Another man was now standing to Viktoriya’s left, stealing glances as she waited. A third—very tall—ignored everything else except his hand-held mobile device.

Truly a shame, Holcek reflected. Throughout his life he had been a connoisseur of beautiful women. Under different circumstances, he would have liked to enjoy this one; but business was business, and his handlers were paying him well. It was just too bad that Viktoriya Gavrilenko had to die.

The Russian stood patiently as the tram slowed. The students moved toward the street, and would be the first to board. Holcek got into position next to the man with the roaming eyes, while Viktoriya fell in behind the tourists.

Astarozheneh,” Attention; a metallic voice squeaked from a speaker. “Dveri atkraviyetseh,”—doors opening. No one disembarked at this stop, and the small group began crowding forward.

Holcek reached into his jacket. A 9 millimeter Beretta rested in a holster on his left side. The weapon was heavier than usual, equipped with a noise suppressor. The Russian had also chosen subsonic ammunition, not terribly effective over great distances—but certainly lethal at close range.

The plan was simple enough, and bold. Sergei would wait until Viktoriya took her first step into the tram. He would press in from the rear, raise the weapon to the base of her skull and fire two rounds.
Things would happen quickly from that point.

As the young woman fell forward, Holcek intended to make a hasty retreat, capitalizing on confusion and shock. Street traffic would slow anyone who might try to follow him. The Russian would then race into the alley, and the driver would take over, carrying the assassin on a pre-determined path out of town.

Holcek filled his lungs again. The tourists had taken their time—had he imagined their sloth, or was he just nervous?—but had finally entered the idling streetcar. Viktoriya paused as the last one ascended the steps, and then edged to the open door.

Time to move...

Red Sky at Morning by Steve Wilson
Tempest of Fire by Steve Wilson
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Published on February 28, 2014 19:58 • 116 views • Tags: excerpt, trinity-icon, viktoriya-gavrilenko
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message 1: by Susan F (new)

Susan F Way to build tension Author Wilson!! Wow, I can not wait for the book.

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