Proceed As You Will


Dec 23, 2002

“Here you go, Agent Bristow.” The mail clerk handed Jack a small manila envelope with his name handwritten on it and stamped in red, “EYES ONLY.”

“Thanks, Cal. Close the door on your way out, will you?”

As soon as Cal was gone, Jack locked the office door, sat back down at his desk, and slit open the envelope. The letter inside was brief and to the point.

DATE: October 10, 2004
TO: Senior Agent Jonathan Bristow
FROM: Director Hayden Chase
SUBJECT: The matter of Irina Derevko

The evidence you presented in our meeting of October 2, 2004, has been reviewed. Your request is granted. Proceed as you will.

Jack smiled grimly, picked up his phone, and asked for a secure line.

* * *
Irina had purchased the old dacha several years before. It was 80 kilometers outside Moscow and had once belonged to a prominent Communist Party member who was now living in Cranston, Rhode Island, of all places. An attorney had done an excellent job of concealing the true identity of its present owner; and no one else, not even Irina’s closest associates, knew about it.

She pulled her Range Rover into the drive and parked. Most people who knew her would have imagined her in a sports car of some sort, but such a vehicle would have been insanely impractical in Russia in winter.

She was just returning from a short trip to St. Petersburg. She loved the Hermitage, wandering through its halls and galleries, admiring the objects that existed only to be beautiful and thinking of the artist and artisans who had left them as a legacy. And what legacy was she leaving behind, she wondered – a huge bank account with no one to leave it to when she was gone?

Stop it, Irina, she scolded herself. It’s a little late in the game to be getting sentimental now. That is how mistakes are made.

She opened the door, set down her suitcase, and instantly realized that she had indeed slipped up somewhere along the line.

Jack was sitting on the living room sofa, a partly empty vodka bottle and a glass on the end table beside him. He regarded her dispassionately.

“Jack!” Irina ran a hand through her hair to hide her sudden nervousness. “What are you doing here?”

He shrugged as only he knew how. "I was just in the neighborhood and thought I’d drop by.”

“How did you find this place?”

“You’re not the only one with connections.”

“So it would appear.” Irina drew herself up to her full height. “But I don’t recall inviting you. I’ve just returned from a trip, and I’m tired. I’ll thank you to leave now.”

Jack rose and moved toward her, a cold glint in his eyes. In on hand he held a pair of handcuffs. Irina turned to flee, but before she could open the door, he grabbed her, shoved her against the wall, bound her wrists behind her, and spun her around to face him. The odor of vodka on his breath was not as strong as she had anticipated; he was only just drunk enough to be dangerous.

“Oh, come now, my dear – you don’t care to spend a romantic evening here with your erstwhile husband?”

“You’re not yourself, Jack.” Caught off guard as she was, she was stammering slightly, and his grip on her arm was so tight it made her gasp with pain.

“You mean I’m not the sap you married? Maybe I’m not.” He took hold of her hair with his free hand, dragged her over to the sofa, grabbed the vodka bottle, and poured a couple of ounces of it down her throat. “Have a drink, won’t you?” Irina coughed and sputtered as the liquid burned in her throat.

“You used to be able to handle your liquor better than that,” Jack chided. “Let’s see how you deal with this.” He threw her down on the sofa, and fell on top of her. “Remember that night in Cancun?” he whispered hoarsely as he nuzzled her neck.

“Yes it was lovely. Jack, what is wrong with you?”

“Oh, I don’t know. I get this way when I find out that my so-called wife has put out a contract on our – my – daughter.”

Irina’s stunned expression gave her away.

“You didn’t think I would find out? Were you careless – or just overconfident?”

“Jack, I . . .”

He slapped her hard across the face, leaving an angry red welt on her cheek and making her head swim. “Shut up. I know it was you. I don’t know why, and I don’t care. And I’m not going to ask whom you hired. You’d only lie anyway.”

His hands moved over her body, caressing her breasts roughly and pinching her nipples. Pinned down under his weight, she struggled and screamed, but couldn’t put up much of a fight.

“What’s the matter?” he hissed. “You used to like playing a little rough.”

“I’ll kill you for this, you bastard!”

Jack laughed mirthlessly. “You’re hardly in a position to do that.” Irina watched in disbelief as he pulled a large switchblade out of his pants pocket. “I have a better idea.”

Irina’s eyes filled with tears. “Jack, please . . .”

“How many times did your victims plead with you before you killed them? Do you even remember their faces? I warned you what would happen if you ever pulled anything like this. You didn’t believe me, is that it?”

He slipped the blade right in between the fourth and fifth ribs of Irina’s left side, just as he had been taught years before. Irina’s eyes widened, then began to glaze over. Her eyelids closed, and she was still. Jack straightened up and felt for a pulse: there was none. He got up from the sofa and stood over her for a moment, surveying his handiwork.

“I guess you believe me now, don’t you?”
The End
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