The PursuitBy: Janet Evanovich
Nicolas Fox, infamous con artist and thief, woke up in a coffin. His ability to stay calm was partially due to the lingering effects of the tranquilizer shot he’d been given eighteen hours earlier, in Honolulu. It was also due to his belief that if his abductors had really wanted him dead, he would already be dead instead of napping in a high-end casket. Especially after he had thrown one of the kidnappers through a glass coffee table and tried to choke another with a kukui nut lei. So despite the dire nature of his present situation, Nick was optimistic about his future.
He lifted the heavy lid of his coffin and sat up to find himself in a bank vault. Concrete walls were lined with hundreds of safe-deposit boxes. The ceiling was low, outfitted with strips of fluorescent lights. The floor was white tile. A twelve-inch-thick steel door was ajar, as was an iron-barred gate that opened into the vault.
It took Nick only a second to realize that it was all fake. The iron bars of the gate were PVC pipes that had been painted black. The wall of safe-deposit boxes was a large photograph. The floor was linoleum, the steel door made of painted Styrofoam. It was the equivalent of a movie set. Someone was training for a heist and Nick had a good idea which vault they were planning to hit—the basement diamond vault located in the Executive Merchants Building in Antwerp, Belgium.
A man walked onto the set. He was dressed like a fashion-conscious Angel of Death in a black turtleneck sweater, black jeans, and black loafers. He was in his fifties, but had the athletic build of someone thirty years younger. It was his strikingly angular face, and the thinning, pockmarked skin glued like yellowing wallpaper to his sharp cheekbones, that betrayed his age.
Nick had never formally met the man, but he remembered him from Hawaii. He had led the abduction team. He spoke excellent English with a slight accent. Nick knew he was Balkan.
The man tossed Nick a cold bottle of mineral water. Nick caught the bottle and noted that it was Valvert, a Belgian brand. Nick was pretty certain he wasn’t in Hawaii anymore.
“How are you feeling?” the man asked.
Nick took a long drink before he replied. “I suppose traveling to Belgium in a coffin is better than flying coach these days. At least I was able to lie flat.”
“And sleep like the dead.”
“The afterlife looks surprisingly like the diamond vault in the Executive Merchants Building in Antwerp,” Nick said.
“You’re very good.”
“I’m assuming that’s why I’m here and not buried in this coffin.”
“For the time being,” the man said.
FBI Special Agent Kate O’Hare closed and locked the door on the high-end Oahu beach house. Her maverick partner Nick Fox had rented the house, and last night he’d disappeared. His red Ferrari was still parked in the driveway. His blood was also left behind. Okay, maybe it wasn’t his blood, but it was someone’s blood. And the blood trail led to the front door. Not such a shocker since a lot of people probably wanted to kill Fox. He was a world-class thief, con man, and an international fugitive. For the past couple years he’d been secretly working with Kate to take down bad guys that the FBI couldn’t touch. Not that he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart. It was either help the feds or go to jail for a very long time.
And lucky me, Kate thought. I got stuck with him. Not only was she stuck with him, but she was also sort of hot for him. Could it possibly get any worse?
The beach house was at the end of a cul-de-sac. Houses to either side were hidden behind gates and tropical hedges. The sound of the surf was a constant murmur in the distance.
Kate walked down the driveway and cut across to one of the neighboring houses. She rang the bell and pulled the FBI badge case from her pocket. She flipped it open beside her head for the benefit of whoever looked through the peephole. The homeowner would see a blue-eyed woman in the vicinity of thirty with a slim, athletic build, her brown hair currently cut in a rakish, chin-length bob that not only met FBI requirements but also was practical. Her hair didn’t require much care and didn’t give an assailant a lot to grab in a fight. She wore a white permanent press polyester shirt, skinny jeans, a holstered Glock clipped to her belt, and a thin-bladed knife in a sheath just above her ankle.