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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Kava Alex
 

«A Necessary Evil», Alex Kava

CHAPTER 1

Friday, July 2

Eppley Airport

Omaha, Nebraska

Monsignor William O'Sullivan was certain no one had recognized him. So why was his forehead damp? He hadn't gone through the security checkpoint yet. Instead, he had decided to wait until it got closer to his flight time. Just in case someone did recognize him. On this side, he could still pretend to be picking up a colleague rather than admit he was leaving.

He fidgeted in the plastic chair, clutching the leather portfolio closer to his chest. So close, so tight it seemed to crush his lungs, causing that pain again, a pain he may have dismissed too quickly as heartburn. But of course, it was only heartburn. He simply wasn't used to eating such a large meal for lunch, but he knew the flight to New York and the later one to Rome would include cardboard renditions of food, causing much more damage to his overly sensitive stomach than Sophia's leftover meat loaf and mashed potatoes did.

Yes, surely the leftovers were responsible for his discomfort, he told himself, and yet his eyes darted around the busy airport terminal, looking for a bathroom. He remained seated, not wanting to move until he examined and found an acceptable path. He shoved a thumb and index finger up under his wire-rim glasses to dig the fatigue out of his eyes, and then he began his search again.

He'd avoid the shortest route, not wanting to pass the exotic black woman handing out "reading material" _ as she called it __ to anyone too polite to say no. She wore colorful beads in her hair, what looked like her Sunday best dress with splashes of purple that made her hips even larger, but sensible shoes. Her smooth, deep voice almost made it a song when she asked, "Can I offer you some reading material?" And to everyone __ including those who huffed their responses and rushed by __ she greeted them with yet another melodic, polite stanza, "You have a most pleasant day."

Monsignor O'Sullivan knew what her reading material was without seeing it. He supposed she was a sort of present-day missionary, in her own right. If he passed her, would she sense their connection? Both of them ministers, distributors of God's word. One in sensible shoes, another with a portfolio stuffed with secrets.

Better to avoid her.

He checked the Krispy Kreme counter. A long line of zombies waited patiently for their afternoon dose of energy, like drug addicts getting one more shot before their flight. To his right he watched the bookstore entrance, quickly glancing away when a young man in a baseball cap looked in his direction. Had the youth recognized him, despite his street clothes? His stomach churned while his eyes studied his shoes. His cotton-knit polo __ a gift from his sister __ was now sticking to his wet back. Over the loudspeakers came the repetitive message, warning travelers not to leave their luggage unattended. He clutched the portfolio, only now discovering that his palms were also slick with sweat. How in the world had he believed he could just leave without being noticed? That he could just get on a plane and be free, be absolved of all his indiscretions.

But when Monsignor O'Sullivan dared to look again, the young man was gone. Passengers rushed by without a glance. Even the black woman greeting and passing out her reading material seemed totally unaware of his presence.

Paranoid. He was just being paranoid. Thirty-seven years of dedication to the church and what did he get for it? Accusations and finger-pointing when he deserved accolades of respect and gratitude. When he tried to explain his predicament to his sister, the anger had overwhelmed him, and all he had managed to tell her in their brief conversation was to have the title of the family's estate changed to her name only. "I won't let those bastards take our home."

He wished he were there now. It was nothing extravagant __ a two-story split-timber on three acres in the middle of Connecticut, with walking trails surrounded by trees and mountains and sky. It was the only place he felt closest to God, and the irony made him smile. The irony that beautiful cathedrals and huge congregations had led him further and further away from God.

A squawk coming from near the escalator startled him back to reality. It sounded like a tropical bird, but was instead a toddler in full temper tantrum, his mother pulling: him along, unfazed, as if she couldn't hear the screech. It ' grated on Monsignor O'Sullivan's nerves, scratching them raw and resetting the tension so tight in his jaw that he feared he'd start grinding his teeth. It was enough to get him (to his feet. He no longer cared about accessible paths, and he made his way to the restroom.

Thankfully, it was empty, yet he glanced under every stall to make certain. He set the portfolio at his feet, leaning it against his left leg, as if needing to maintain some contact. He removed his glasses and placed them on the corner of the sink. Then, avoiding his own blurred reflection, he waved his hands under the faucet, his frustration fueled by the lack of response. He swiped his hands back and forth, finally eliciting a short burst of water, barely wetting his fingertips. He swiped again. Another short burst. This time he closed his eyes and splashed as much as he could on his face, the cool dampness beginning to calm his nausea, beginning to quiet the sudden throbbing in his temples.

His hands groped for the paper-towel dispenser, ripping off more than he needed and gently dabbing, disgusted by the smell and harsh feel of the recycled paper. He hadn't even heard the bathroom door open. When he glanced in the mirror, Monsignor O' Sullivan was startled to see a blurred figure standing behind him.

'I'm almost finished," he said, thinking he might be in the way, though there were other sinks. Why did he need to use this one? He noticed a faint metallic odor. Perhaps it was a member of the cleaning crew. An impatient one at that. He reached for his glasses, accidentally knocking them to the floor. Before he could bend down to retrieve them, an arm came around his waist. All he saw was a glint of silver. Then he felt the burn, the streak of pain, shooting up through his chest.

At the same time there was a whisper in his right ear __ soft and gentle. "You're already finished, Monsignor O'Sullivan."

CHAPTER 2

Washington, D.C.

There was no easy way to pick up a human head.


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