The Last Assassin by Barry Eisler Barry Eisler

Chapter 1

I’ve never liked doing a job in a new place. You don’t know how to get in and

out undetected, you don’t know what tools you’ll need to access the target, you don’t

know where you’ll stick out and where you’ll be able to fade into the background or

disappear in a crowd.

To compensate, I start by studying the area from afar, move in only when I’ve

learned as much as possible, and always arrive early enough to become familiar with the

local terrain before it’s time to act. Tactics like these have kept me alive, and even

reasonably prosperous, during more than a quarter century of doing the thing I’ve always

been best at.

But this time the preparation was reflex, not necessity. I wasn’t on a job, for one

thing; I was done with the life. Or almost done. There was one last thing, a big one, but I

didn’t want to face that just yet. Barcelona was supposed to be an interlude: pleasure,

not business, and it was disturbing that some part of my mind seemed not to understand

the difference.

Still, in alien circumstances, we tend to cling to habit, and so I found myself

defaulting to my usual approach. I should have known better. Barcelona was unfamiliar,

but the real territory I was trying to navigate isn’t marked on any map.

I flew JAL from Tokyo via Amsterdam and arrived at Barcelona El Prat on a mild

winter evening with nothing more than the plain carry-on bag in my hand and the cheap

business suit on my back. On my feet were a pair of brown leather loafers, purchased in

a mass market Aoyama men’s store; on my nose, nonprescription steel-framed

eyeglasses, calculated to obscure my features; in my pocket, a guidebook in Japanese.

For my first days in the city, I would be an anonymous salaryman, recently divorced, his

children grown and out of the house, seeking distraction through travel slightly more

intrepid than last year’s jaunt to Hawaii or Saipan. When Delilah arrived I would morph

into something else.

The staff at Le Meridien hotel on Las Ramblas spoke their delightfully Catalanaccented

English slowly, as my own halting, heavily Japanese-accented attempts

indicated I would need. I certainly looked the part. My face is courtesy mostly of my

Japanese father, and what vestiges my American mother contributed to the mix were

diminished by surgery many years ago. The act came easily, too. I’ve had a lifetime to

practice playing roles: no drama school training, true, but if you’ve lasted as long as I

have in a business as literally cutthroat as mine, you learn a thing or two.

I was tired. Jet lag had been a nonissue in my thirties, a nuisance in my forties,

and now it was more noticeable than ever. I went straight to my room, ate a room service

meal, took a hot bath, and slept fitfully through the night.

I got up at dawn. I’d never been to Barcelona before, and wanted to see the city at

first light, not yet on its feet, not yet wearing its makeup. I showered quickly and went

out just as the sun was cresting the horizon. I scanned the street as I moved past the

lobby windows, then checked ambush positions from in front of the hotel. Everything

looked fine.

I walked out to Las Ramblas, my breath fogging just slightly in the morningchilled

sea air, and paused. Ten meters down, three men in sanitation overalls and rubber

boots were rolling up a dripping hose; the cobblestones were still slick from their work. I

stood silently and didn’t let them notice me. They finished with the hose, got in a truck,

and drove off. When the sound of the engine had faded, it was followed only by silence,

and I smiled, pleased to have the city to myself for a while.

I strolled east into the Barri Gòtic, the gothic quarter. I sensed I had arrived

during a tenuous interlude between the departure of the night’s last revelers and the

morning’s first arrivals, and I paused, enjoying the feeling that I was privy to some secret

transition. I wandered for a long time, listening to my footfalls on the narrow stone

streets, enjoying the aroma of fresh bread and ground coffee, watching as the area’s

residents gradually emerged from behind the centuries-old facades of scarred but stalwart

dwellings to start another day.

After a breakfast of croissants and coffee cortado, I paid a visit to Ganiveteria

Roca, a famous cutlery store I’d read about while preparing for the trip. There, among

the pewter razors and steel scissors and related items, I selected a Benchmade folder with

a three-inch blade. I’d gotten used to carrying a knife in the last year or so, and no longer

felt comfortable without something sharp close at hand.

Now properly outfitted, I started my customary systematic exploration of the city.

I wouldn’t feel at ease here until I had learned how best to blend, or how to escape,

should my attempts at blending fail. So I went everywhere, that day and for the five days

and nights after, at all times, by all means of transit. I absorbed the layout of the streets

and alleys; the location of police stations and security cameras; the rhythms and rituals of

pedestrians and tourists and shopkeepers.

But there were so many distractions: the mingled smell of tapas and shawarma

among the winding alleyways of El Raval; the sounds of music and laughter echoing in

the public squares of Gràcia; the feel of the sea breeze on my face and in my hair on the

peaks of Montjuic and Tibidabo. I liked that the locals took for granted morning mass in

six-hundred-year-old cathedrals. I liked the contrasts: gothic and modernista; mountains

and sea; historical weight and exuberant esprit.

And the distractions weren’t limited to the city itself. I was also suddenly aware

of parents with infants. They were everywhere: walking their babies in strollers, holding

them in their arms, gazing at their small faces with crippling devotion. Tatsu, my

sometime nemesis and current friend in the Keisatsucho, the Japanese FBI, had warned

me this would be the case, and, as in so many other matters, he had been right.

What Tatsu hadn’t prepared me for, what he couldn’t, were the thousand other

ways his news about Midori had left me ambivalent, confused, almost in shock. I had

nearly canceled with Delilah, but then decided not to. I owed her an explanation, for one

thing. I still wanted to see her, wanted it a lot, for another.

I never could have predicted the affection I’d developed for Delilah, or that she

seemed to have developed for me. Certainly our initial encounters were inauspicious.

First there was Macau, where we learned we were working the same target. Then

Bangkok and Hong Kong, where she was supposed to be working me. And yet the

inherent mistrust born of working for competing intelligence organizations – Delilah, for

the Mossad, and I, freelance at the time for the CIA – had paradoxically provided a stable

foundation. Each of us recognized in the other a professional, an operator with an

agenda, someone for whom business imperatives would always trump personal desire.

All of that became the basis for respect, even mutual understanding, and ultimately

provided the context for the indulgence of undeniable personal chemistry. The sex

couldn’t lead anywhere, we both knew it. So why not enjoy what we had, whatever it

was, for as long as it lasted?

But it did last, and it deepened. We spent a month together in Rio, after which

Delilah had defied her paymasters when they ordered her to set me up. Defy, hell, she

had very nearly betrayed them. She had warned me what was coming, and then worked

with me to straighten things out. There must have been something between us,

something worthwhile, if we had managed to avoid so many potentially lethal obstacles,

and Barcelona was going to be the time and place to figure out what.

On the day Delilah was due to arrive, I checked out of Le Meridien and did some

shopping in preparation for my transition from anonymous salaryman to the more

cosmopolitan persona I think of as the real me. I bought pants, shirts, and a navy

cashmere blazer at Aramis in Eixample; underwear, socks, and a few accessories at

Furest on the Plaça de Catalunya; shoes at Casas in La Ribera; and a leather carrying bag

to put it all in at Loewe, on the ground floor of the magnificent Casa Lleó Morera

building on the Passeig de Gràcia. I paid cash for everything. When I was done, I found

a restroom and changed into some of the new clothes, then caught a cab to the Hotel La

Florida, where Delilah had made a reservation.

The ride from the city center took about twenty minutes, much of it up the

winding road to the top of Mount Tibidabo. I had already reconnoitered the hotel and

environs, of course, during my exploration of the city, but the approach was every bit as

impressive the second time around. In the late afternoon sunlight, as the cab zigged and

zagged its way up the steep mountain road, the city and all its possibilities appeared

below me, then disappeared, then came tantalizingly back. And then vanished once


When the cab reached the entrance to the hotel, seven stories of taupe-painted

plaster and balconied windows overlooking Barcelona and the Mediterranean beyond, a

bellhop opened the door and welcomed me. I paid the driver, looked around, and got out.

I had no particular reason to think Delilah or her people wanted me dead – if I had, I

never would have agreed to meet her here – but still, I stood for a moment as the cab

drove away, checking likely ambush positions. There weren’t many. Exclusive

properties like La Florida aren’t welcoming to people who seem to be waiting around

without a good reason. The hotels assume the lurker is a paparazzo waiting to shoot a

celebrity with a camera, not a killer possessed of rather more lethal means and intent, but

the result is the same: inhospitable terrain, which today would work in my favor.

The bellhop stood by, holding my bag with quiet professionalism. The grounds

were impressive, and he must have been accustomed to guests pausing to enjoy the

moment of their arrival. When I was satisfied, I nodded and followed him inside.

The lobby was bright yet intimate, all limestone and walnut and glass. There was

only one small sitting area, currently unoccupied. It seemed I had no company. My

alertness stayed high, but the tension I felt dropped a notch.

A pretty woman in a chic business suit came over with a glass of sparkling water

and inquired after my journey. I told her it had been fine.

“And your name, sir?” she asked, in lightly Catalan-accented English.

“Ken,” I replied, giving her the name I had told Delilah I would be traveling

under. “John Ken.”

“Of course, Mr. Ken, we’ve been expecting you. Your other party has already

checked in.” She nodded to a young man behind the counter, who came around and

handed her a key. “We have you in room three-oh-nine – my favorite in the hotel, if I

may say so, because of the views. I think you’ll enjoy it.”

“I’m sure I will.”

“May I have someone assist with your bag?”

“That’s all right. I’d like to wander around a little before going to the room. See

a bit of the hotel. It’s beautiful.”

“Thank you, sir. Please let us know if there’s anything else you need.”

I nodded my thanks and moved off. For a little while, I “wandered” around the

first floor, checking everything – eclectic gift shop, low-key bar, comfortable lounge,

spacious stairwells, abundant elevators – and found nothing out of place.

I took the stairs to the third floor, paused outside 309, and listened for a moment.

The room within was quiet. I placed my bag and empty glass on the ground, took off my

jacket, crouched, and loudly slipped the key into the lock. Nothing. I held the jacket in

front of the door and opened it a crack. Still nothing. If there were a shooter in there, he

was disciplined. I shot my head over and back. I saw only a short hallway and part of a

room beyond. I detected no movement.

I stood up, eased the Benchmade from my front pocket, and silently thumbed it

open. “Hello?” I called out, stepping inside.

No answer. No sound. I let the door close. It clacked audibly behind me.

“Hello?” I called out again.


“That’s weird… must be the wrong room,” I muttered, loudly enough to be heard.

I opened the door and let it close. To anyone hiding inside, it would sound as though I

had left.

Still nothing.

I padded down the hallway along the wall, toe-heel, pausing after each step to

listen. My newly purchased, soft-soled Camper shoes were silent on the polished wood


At the end of the hallway, I could see the entire room but for the bathroom. The

closet door was open. Probably that was Delilah, knowing I would approach tactically

and wanting to make it easier for me, but I wasn’t sure yet.

There was a note on the bed, conspicuous in the middle of the flawless white

quilt. I ignored it. If this had been my setup, I would have put the note on the bed and

then nailed the target from the balcony or bathroom while he went to read it.

The glass doors to the balcony were closed, the curtains open, and I could see no

one was out there. Probably Delilah again, lowering my blood pressure.

All that remained was the bathroom, and I started to relax a little. The worst part

about clearing a room, especially if you have only a knife and the other guy might have a

gun, is traversing the “fatal funnel,” where the enemy has the dominant position and a

clear field of fire. In this case, narrowing down the ambush points to just the bathroom

reduced my vulnerability considerably.

I walked to the side of the open bathroom door. I paused and listened. All quiet.

I waved the jacket in front of the door to see if it would draw fire – nothing – then burst

inside. The bathroom was empty.

I let out a long breath and walked past the glass-enclosed shower to the window.

The views, as promised, were stunning: the city and the sea to one side; the snow-capped

peaks of the Pyrenees to the other. I looked out for a few minutes, unwinding.

I went back to the door and looked through the peephole. All clear. I retrieved

my bag and the glass, brought them into the room, and picked up the note from the bed.

It said: I’m at the indoor pool. Come join me. – D

Hard to argue with that. I checked the room for weapons first, then paused for a

moment, just breathing, until I felt calmer. I pocketed the note, threw my jacket over a

chair, and headed out. A minute later, I entered an expansive glass-and-stone solarium

with vaulting ceilings and a sparkling, stainless steel bottomed swimming pool.

Delilah was on her back on one of the red upholstered lounge chairs surrounding

the pool. She had on a cobalt blue one-piece bathing suit that showed off her curves

perfectly. Her blond hair was tied back and oversized sunglasses concealed her features.

She looked every inch the movie star.

I glanced around. No one set off my radar. It troubled me for a moment that even

now, with all we had been through, all we had shared, I still felt I had to be careful. I

wondered whether I’d ever be able to completely relax with her, or with anyone. Maybe

I could hope for something like that with Midori. After all, isn’t that why medieval kings

married off their sons and daughters, to seal blood alliances and make murder

unthinkable? Wasn’t it the idea that children trump everything, even the most deepseated

resentments and rivalries, that they trump even hate?

I walked closer and paused, just a few feet behind her. I wanted to see whether

she might sense my presence. Delilah’s antennae were as sensitive as any I’ve known,

but on the other hand there aren’t many people who can move as quietly as I can.

I waited a few seconds. She didn’t notice me.

“Hey,” I said softly.

She sat up and turned toward me, then pulled off the sunglasses and broke into a

gorgeous smile.

“Hey,” she said.

“I’ve been standing here awhile. I thought you’d notice.”

Her smile lingered. “Maybe I was just indulging you. I know you like to feel


She stood up and gave me a long, tight hug. I caught a hint of the perfume she

wore, a scent I’ve encountered nowhere else and that I will always equate with her.

There were people around, but we were suddenly kissing passionately. It was

always like this when we’d been apart for a while, and sometimes even when we hadn’t

been. There was just something about the two of us that wouldn’t let us keep our hands

off each other. I don’t know what it was, but sometimes it was overpowering.

I had to sit down on the lounge chair before the condition she had caused attracted

further attention. She laughed, knowing exactly why I had broken the embrace, and sat

down next to me, her hand on my leg.

“How long have you been here?” she asked.

“I just arrived a few minutes ago.”

“Not the hotel. The city. Barcelona.”

I paused, then admitted, “ A few days.”

She shook her head. “What a waste. I could have gotten here earlier, you know.

But I knew you’d want to have a look around alone first.”

“Guess I’m getting predictable.”

“I understand. I’m just worried I’ll have nothing new to show you.”

I looked into her blue eyes. “I want you to show me everything.”

Her hand moved on my leg, playful, insistent. “All right. Shall we start with the


We hurried, but getting back to the room seemed to take a lot longer than my trip

to the pool a few minutes earlier. We made it, though, and I had her out of that bathing

suit before the door had closed behind us.

I kicked off my shoes and we moved into the room, kissing again, Delilah pulling

off my shirt and pants. I paused at the foot of the bed to get out of my boxers. Delilah

scrambled up and reached suddenly under one of the pillows. Even though I’d already

checked there already I tensed, but then saw it was only a condom. It was a measure of

her own abandon that she hadn’t reached more slowly – she knew my habits, and what

could set me off – but also of mine, that I hadn’t spotted the move in time to have done

anything about it.

She lay back and I moved up on top of her, advancing between her open legs.

She kissed me again and was rolling the condom onto me even as I moved inside her.

For a second I thought of Midori and was glad we were being smart this time. We hadn’t

been, in Phuket.

We made love hard and fast. We didn’t talk, talk was beside the point, it was just

moans and breathing and finally a pair of sharp groans that were probably heard in the

adjacent room.

As we lay side by side after, catching our breath, I realized that, for a few

minutes, my nearly constant security awareness had been temporarily eclipsed by blind

lust, and then by its afterglow. On the one hand, it was liberating, hell, it was life

affirming to realize I could have a moment like that. But at the same time, it was

worrisome. I hadn’t told Delilah yet what I’d learned about Midori. I didn’t know how

to tell her, or when. What I did know was that I had never needed my skills as much as I

would need them for what I planned to do next.



Chapter 2

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening dozing, making love again, then

dozing some more. I remember thinking at some point it was good Barceloneans eat so

late, or we would have missed our chance for dinner.

We finally managed to shower and get dressed, and then had a hotel car take us to

Torre d’alta Mar, a restaurant perched seventy-five meters above the sea atop the Torre

de Sant Sebastián, one of three towers that serve the city’s cable car system. Delilah had

made the reservation, and once again she had chosen well. The 360-degree views were

jaw-dropping; the food, even more so: partridge and lobster and filet mignon, all

flavored with Catalan specialties like Ganxet beans, Guijuelo ham, and Idiazábal cheese.

We killed two bottles of cava from a local winery called Rimarts. I’d never heard of the

place, but they knew what they were doing.

I didn’t bring up anything about Midori. It seemed too early. We’d only just

gotten together, and the meal and atmosphere were so perfect, I didn’t want to spoil any

of it. Also, after all those hours of lovemaking, I was just too confused, not only about

what I was going to do, but even about what I wanted.

So we stayed with familiar subjects instead, mostly work and travel. She told me

she was still on administrative leave, pending her organization’s completion of an inquiry

into what had happened on Hong Kong, where Delilah had defied orders and helped me.

They’d lost a good man there, and there were people who thought Delilah was to blame.

I knew better, of course, but it wasn’t as though she could call on me as a character


“I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m happy to have the time off.”

I nodded. “I was wondering how you managed to get away for this.”

She raised her glass. “I’d say it worked out well.”

We touched glasses and drank. I said, “How do you expect it’s going to turn


“I’m not even thinking about it.”

I knew her better than that and smiled sympathetically. Delilah didn’t like to take

shit from her supposed superiors, or from anyone.

After a moment, she shrugged. “I’m a little worried. Not so much about whether

I’m going to be reinstated or reprimanded or whatever. It’s more… I just hate the way

they use me and then judge me for doing the jobs they send me on. You’d think Al-Jib

dead would trump everything else, but no.”

Al-Jib had been a terrorist, part of the A.Q. Khan network, who’d been trying to

buy nuclear matériel so he could assemble a bomb. Delilah had killed him in Hong

Kong, a target of opportunity, and right now that victory was probably the only thing

holding the line against her organizational detractors.

“Well, they’ve got their priorities,” I said.

“Yeah, their little tsk tsk meetings, that’s the priority. I swear, sometimes I feel

like I should just tell them to go to hell.”

“I’ve dealt with that type, too,” I said, reaching over and taking her hand. “Don’t

let them get you down.”

She smiled and squeezed my hand. “I haven’t even thought about it since I saw

you. Not until we started talking about it, anyway.”

“Well, you’ll have to see me more often, then,” I said, before I could think better

of it.

She squeezed again and said, “I’d like that.”

I didn’t answer.

We finished after midnight and walked northwest into La Ribera. It was a

weeknight, but even so El Born, one of the most ancient streets in the city and the heart of

La Ribera, was hopping, with crowds spilling out from the bars lining the street and from

the surrounding clubs and restaurants. We managed to get a table at a bar called La

Palma. It was a beautiful old place, unpretentious, with wine barrels in the corners and

sausages hanging from the ceiling. I ordered us each a shot of a 1958 Highland Park, one

of the finest single malts on earth – ridiculous at 150 Euros the measure, but life is so


Afterward we strolled more. Delilah hooked an arm through mine and snuggled

close in the chill night air. It felt so natural it almost worried me. I wondered what it

would feel like to be this way all the time. Then I thought of Midori again.

We drifted south, into the Barri Gòtic, where the maze of stone streets narrowed

and the crowds thinned. Soon the echoes of our footfalls, the shadowed walls of dark

cathedrals and shuttered apartments, were our only companions.

A few blocks west of Via Laietana, I heard loud voices speaking in English, and

as we turned a corner I saw four young men coming in our direction. From the clothes

and accents, I guessed working-class British; probably football hooligans; from the

volume and aggressive tone, I guessed drunk. My immediate sense was that they had

struck out with the local girls in La Ribera, hadn’t found any prostitutes to their liking

along Las Ramblas, and were now heading back to La Ribera for another pass. My

alertness ticked up a notch. I felt Delilah’s hand on my arm stiffen just slightly. She was

telling me she had noted the potential problem, too.

The street was narrow, almost an alley, and there wasn’t much room to let them

go by. I steered us to the left so I would have the inside position.

They saw us and stopped shouting. Not a good sign. Then they slowed. That

was worse. And then one of them peeled off and started crowding our side of the street,

with the others drifting along with him. That was unwelcome indeed.

I eased out the Benchmade and held it hidden against my open palm with my

thumb. I didn’t want anyone to know there was a knife in play until I decided to formally

introduce them to it.

I had hoped simply to pass them, maybe absorbing a predictable shoulder check

en route. But they had fanned out widely enough so that going past wasn’t an option.

Well, I could go through just as easily. I envisioned dropping the nearest one with osotogari,

a basic but powerful judo throw, which I expected would provide an attitude

adjustment sufficient for the remaining three. And if Delilah had fallen in behind me, I

would have done just that. But she was close beside me, and therefore in my way. I felt

her slowing, and I had to slow, too.

A paranoid notion tried to grip me: Delilah could have set this up. But I knew

instantly it wasn’t that. The four of them were too young, for one thing. Their vibe was

too hot, too aggressive. For professionals, violence is a job. For these guys, it felt like an


Besides, Delilah hadn’t been leading me as we walked. I would have noted that,

as I had noted its absence.

We all stopped and faced one another. Here we go, I thought.

“Lovely evening, isn’t it, ladies?” said the one who had originally started drifting

onto our side of the street. He was looking at me, smirking.

“You must be the leader,” I responded, my voice low and calm.

“What’s that?” he said, his brow furrowing.

“You moved first, and your friends followed you. And now you’re talking first. I

figure that means you’re the leader. Am I wrong?” I glanced behind us just to ensure no

one was closing in from the other direction – all clear – then back at the other three. “Is it

one of you? Come on, who is it?”

The interview wasn’t going the way they had hoped. I wasn’t cringing. I wasn’t

blustering. If the idiots had any sense, they would have realized that now I was

interviewing them.

“Oh, it’s me, all right,” the first one said, trying to recover some initiative.

I nodded as though impressed. “That’s brave of you to say.”


I smiled at him. The smile was in no way pleasant.

“Because now I know to kill you first,” I said.

He glanced at his friends as though reassuring himself of their continued

presence, then back at me. I felt him starting to reconsider.

But one of his friends was too stupid or drunk or both to notice the position they

were in. He called out, “He’s calling you a wanker, man. You going to take that?”

Fuck. “I’m not calling anyone a wanker,” I said, my voice still calm and steady.

“I’m just saying neither of us wants to spoil the other’s evening. La Ribera’s like an

outdoor party right now. Isn’t that where you’re going?”

The last question was calculated: not a command, just a reminder, a mere

suggestion that could be taken with no loss of face. And I could tell from the guy’s eyes

that he wanted to take it. Good.

He glanced at his friends again. Unfortunately, they didn’t give him what he was

hoping for. He looked back at me, and I saw he had decided. Decided wrongly.

He started to move in, his arm coming up, probably for a finger jab to my chest or

some other classic and stupid next-step-on-the-road-to-violence. He didn’t know that I

don’t believe in steps. I like to get where I’m going by the shortest route possible.

But before I could move in and drop him, Delilah stepped between us. She had

been so quiet, and the guy had been so focused on me, that it took him a moment to

adjust. He paused and started to say something. But he never had a chance to get it out.

Delilah snapped a rising front kick directly into his balls. He made a halfgrunting,

half-retching sound and doubled over. Delilah moved close and stomped his

instep. He grunted again and tried to shuffle back. As his forward leg straightened,

Delilah swiveled and thrust a sidekick into the side of his knee. There was a sickening

snap and he spilled to the ground with a shriek. I saw her measuring the distance. Then

she stepped in and kicked him full-on soccer style, directly in the face. Blood shot from

his nose and he shrieked again, like a field mouse being torn apart by a falcon.

Delilah stopped and looked at the other three. There was no particular challenge

in her expression, just a question: Who wants to go next?

They all looked wide-eyed from her to their twisting, wailing compatriot, then

back again. Finally one of them stammered, “Why, why’d you have to do that?”

If I had been feeling more talkative or even just kindly inclined, I would have

explained that it was called a “finishing move.” The idea is that, when your attackers are

just bullies, not real operators, you do something so nasty, so gratuitously damaging, to

one of them that the collective mindset of the rest veers from Let’s kick some ass! to

something more like Thank God it wasn’t me! And while they’re thus momentarily

paralyzed with schadenfreude, you get to walk away unmolested.

All they needed now was a task to focus their scattered attention. “You’d better

get your friend to a hospital,” I suggested evenly, knowing that would help. I touched

Delilah’s elbow and we moved off.

We changed cabs twice on the way to the hotel. No sense making it easy for

anyone to inquire about who we were or where we might have been going. We just kept

our heads down and our mouths shut.

Back at La Florida, I let us into the room and locked the door behind us. The bed

had been neatly turned down, the lights lowered, and the serene atmosphere was slightly

surreal after what had just happened in the street. Delilah pulled off her shoes and

examined them. One of them must have had blood on it, because she took it into the

bathroom. I heard water running, then stop. A moment later she returned and put the

shoes down together by the window. Then she sat on the bed and looked at me, her

cheeks still hot and flushed.

“Sorry about that,” she said.

I shrugged. “Makes me glad that time in Phuket was at least half-consensual. I

guess I’d be limping right now if it hadn’t been.”

We both laughed at that, harder than the comment really warranted, and I realized

we were still giddy. The aftermath of violence is usually like that. I wondered if Delilah

recognized the signs, as I did.

When the laughter subsided, I said, “I wouldn’t have stopped to engage them,

though. I would have just gone right through them, before they had a chance to get

themselves worked up.”

She nodded. “I realized afterward that’s what you were thinking. But I don’t

have your upper-body strength. I have to play it differently. Plus, you have to admit, I

can bring a certain element of surprise to the equation that you can’t.”

“That’s true. I guess we’ll have to get used to each other.” I wasn’t sure about

the way that sounded, so I added, “To the way we do things.” No, that wasn’t right

either. “So we can… handle situations like that better.”

Her eyes softened and she smiled just slightly, and I felt she was seeing right

through me. “You think we should get used to each other?” she asked, ignoring my

stupid qualifications.

I looked at her. I didn’t know what to say.

“I don’t think it’s a bad idea,” she said, still smiling gently. “I’ve been thinking

about it myself.”

“You have?”

“Sure. Haven’t you?”

I sat down on the bed next to her. My heart started kicking harder.

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about it.”

She put her hand on my thigh and squeezed. “Good.”

I had to tell her. And if I didn’t tell her now, later it would seem like deceit.

“But just recently, right after the last time we talked, I got some… news.”

The pressure from her hand lessened. “Yes?”

“Remember when we were talking at the Peninsula in Hong Kong?” I asked. My

words were coming out fast but I couldn’t slow them down. “The night you told me

about Dov. I told you there was a woman, a civilian I’d screwed things up with.”

“I remember.”

“Well, it looks like, the last time I was with her, which was before I met you, we

didn’t… we weren’t that careful. So it seems…”

“Oh, merde…”

“So it seems there’s a child. A boy.”

There was a long pause. I sat there, my heart still kicking, wondering which way

this was going to go.

Delilah said, “She contacted you?”

I shook my head. “I have a friend in Japanese intelligence. He got hold of some

surveillance photos of the woman and the child, taken by my enemies. These people

don’t know how to find me, so they’re hoping I’ll reappear in the woman’s life. They’re

watching her for that.”

“Is she in danger?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“What’s her name?”

I paused, but I didn’t want it to seem I was holding anything back. “Midori.”

“Pretty name.”


“These people… they’re hoping you’ll hear about the child? And that hearing

will make you go to Midori?”

“It looks like that, yes.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know.”

“I think you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have brought it up.”

I rubbed my temples and thought. “I’m not even sure the child is mine. But I

have to know. You can understand that, can’t you?”

There was another long pause. Her hand was still on my thigh, but it felt like an

afterthought now.

After a moment, she said, “I can. But from what you’ve said, right now, Midori

and the boy aren’t in any danger. If you go to them, you might put them in danger, and

yourself, too.” She paused, then added, “But you know that.”


She took her hand off my leg. “Well, it’s not as though I was expecting us to

figure out our crazy situation in just a few days together. It was going to take time no

matter what. So you should do what you have to.”

I looked at her. “I’m sorry.”

She shook her head. “It’s not your fault.” Then she laughed. “Things are never

easy for us, are they?”

“Should I not have told you? We don’t have much time together, and I didn’t

want to ruin it.”

“You didn’t ruin anything. I’m glad you told me. It was respectful.”

“What do we do now?”

“We enjoy the time we have together. Like always.”

But I didn’t want it to be like always. I wanted it to be more than that, and so, I

was beginning to understand, did she.

I wanted to tell her all that. But I didn’t. I just said, “Thank you.”

She shook her head and smiled. “I’m going to take a bath. You want to join


I looked at her, still wanting to say more, still not knowing how.

“A bath would be good,” I said.

Later, Delilah lay next to Rain in the dark. Pale light from a half-moon shone

through one of the windows, and she watched him sleep in that almost spookily silent

way of his. Most people would be wired all night after a run-in like the one they’d had

earlier – she was – but Rain had dropped off almost immediately after they got in bed.

He could be so gentle with her when it was just the two of them that it was hard to

remember what he was capable of. But she’d seen his other side before, first on Macau,

then in Hong Kong, and she’d felt it surface again tonight in the Barri Gòtic. She

wouldn’t have told him, but she’d interceded with those drunken Brits in part because she

was afraid of what Rain might do if she didn’t. She’d noticed him palm something from

his front pocket during the confrontation, and assumed it was a knife. She’d hurt that guy

badly tonight, it was true. But she was pretty sure Rain would have killed him.

Before going to bed, they’d made love again in the bath. She was glad of that,

and took it as a good sign. They had a new situation to deal with, true, as it seemed they

always did, but it didn’t affect their fundamental chemistry. She hoped it wasn’t the

situations that were fueling the chemistry. She’d had affairs like that, where it was the

illicitness, or the danger, or some similar thrill that kept the thing going. She didn’t want

that with Rain. She wanted something more stable. Something…

She smiled. The word that had come to her, and that she didn’t want to say, was


She’d been aware of these feelings before meeting him here, but she hadn’t fully

acknowledged them. She’d been afraid to. But now that she was faced with the prospect

of losing him, of another woman who’d thrown a trump card down on the table, she

couldn’t hide from her hopes, either.

She realized she was thinking in Hebrew, and that was strange. French was her

default setting for matters of the heart. The one exception was Dov, and she realized with

a pang that somewhere along the line Rain must have come to occupy a similar place in

her consciousness, the place where she kept her first language, her first love, perhaps her

first self.

She watched him. It was good with this man lying next to her, it really was. It

wasn’t what she had with Dov, but how could it be? She had known Dov before she was

formed, when she was guileless, even defenseless. When she was just a girl, in fact.

That girl was long gone, so how could she expect a love like hers?

But there were elements of what she had with Rain that she hadn’t had with Dov,

or with anyone. She and Rain were of the same world. Each understood the other’s

habits and didn’t judge the other’s past. They recognized and accepted the weight they

each carried from the things they’d done. Both knew that weight irrevocably separated

them from civilian society, and at the same time brought them together like some secret


On top of all of which, she couldn’t deny, was some astonishing personal

chemistry, and the sex that went along with it.

But she didn’t think it was love, exactly. It was more like… the possibility of

love. She wondered for a moment what the difference was, or whether she would ever

even know the difference, but didn’t want to think about that now.

She doubted he was seeing things clearly, and that concerned her. His tradecraft

was superb, but as far as she knew he’d never had to use it before when he was this

emotionally involved. He could screw up. He could get killed. And for what?

He was taking a risk in going to see Midori and the child. He’d acknowledged as

much. And a man like Rain would never take a risk like that unless there was something

serious he was hoping to gain from it.

She considered for a moment. What do men do when they’re facing a hard

decision? They defer it by trying to collect more data. Maybe that’s all he was up to.

But it hurt to know there was even a decision to make.

She tried always to be realistic, to keep her hopes in check. She knew she had no

future in her organization. They used her for the things she was good at, but would never

trust her with real power. And she’d long ago accepted that, after the things she’d done,

she could never have a normal life. She could never have a family. She could never let

someone get that close.

Except… Rain had been getting that close. Which was why what he’d told her

tonight hurt. Worse than hurt. It ached in a place she couldn’t describe, a place she

hadn’t even known was part of her.

Their reservation was for a week, but she didn’t know now how long he was

going to stay. She realized this could be their last time together. Even their last night.

Maybe the child wasn’t his. That was possible; he’d said so. Or the woman

would otherwise reject him. Or something else would happen to make this turn out the

way she wanted it to.

She watched him sleep, and was surprised at how possessive she suddenly felt.

And threatened. And angry.

She wasn’t helpless, of course. There were things she could do to create the right


She’d gotten a little more information from Rain in the bath. Not much – just that

he was going to New York. But combined with the name he’d mentioned, and a few

other details she remembered from Hong Kong, it ought to be enough. She’d be looking

for a Japanese female, first name Midori, who emigrated to the U.S. from Japan in the

last three years, was currently residing in New York, and who gave birth to a boy,

probably in New York, in the last eighteen months. Her organization had found people

before with a lot less to go on than that.

She lay there for a long time, struggling with warring impulses, hope and fear,

sympathy and anger, temptation and guilt. Eventually, just before moonlight gave way to

sun, she slept.


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