Read Near Dark: A Thriller Online
Authors: Brad Thor
Tags: #Fiction, #Policital Thriller, #Thriller/Action & Adventure
NE WEEK LATER
he slice across Harvath’s chest was nothing to laugh at. But it also wasn’t deep enough to have required a doctor. Sølvi had cleaned and dressed his wound, then waited with him until the Quick Reaction Force portion of his team arrived from Joint Base Andrews. Once they were there, she returned to Norway, her role in this assignment complete.
News of the shooting
at Mont-Saint-Michel had been all over TV, the internet, and newspapers, especially in France. When the team found Lieu Van Trang, he had been moving from relative to relative, staying in a different house or apartment each night. Though the name of the tour guide shot and killed had not yet been released, he knew in his bones that it had to be Aubertin—and that he would be next. He had been right—on
His wound still fresh, Harvath was not able to get too physical with Trang. His teammates Haney and Staelin, on the other hand, were more than happy to step in.
With time, the Vietnamese man broke. He gave up all the details, including how he and Aubertin intended to keep the bounty for themselves. Most important, he gave up the name of the man who had opened the assassination contract
on Harvath—Andre Weber.
With Morrison and Gage standing guard outside, and Barton warming up their SUV, Harvath asked Haney and Staelin to leave him alone with Trang.
Once they had exited the abandoned warehouse in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, Harvath spent a few more moments speaking with Trang before making sure the man would never run another drug ring, sex ring, or assassination
ring ever again.
It turned out that Andre Weber lived and worked in Basel, Switzerland, which was too bad for him because Harvath had a very good friend in the Swiss government who lived and worked just south of Basel in Bern.
When, as a Secret Service agent, he had been framed for the kidnapping of the U.S. President, Claudia Mueller had helped him get the President back and clear Harvath’s
name. They had been good together, and probably should have made a better go at carrying their relationship further. But things being what they were at the time, at least they had remained friends.
When he reached out to her, Claudia knew better than to ask too many questions. Trusting him, she quietly put a surveillance team on Weber, and arranged for a hangar and transport once The Carlton
Group jet touched down.
She appeared only long enough to say hello and hand Harvath an address. Anything that happened after that, she made clear, she didn’t want to know about. He was on his own in Switzerland.
As the Americans pulled up outside Weber’s residence, Claudia’s surveillance team drove away. The handoff was complete.
The home was located in one of the most exclusive areas of Basel:
St. Alban-Vorstadt. On an enormous lot, bordered by trees and green space, there was no reason for them to spirit Weber away as they had Trang. His interrogation could happen in the luxurious comfort of his own home.
Harvath decided to allow Morrison and Barton, the youngest guys on the op, to handle subduing Weber when he walked in.
Back in the home’s impressive kitchen, Gage brewed coffee
while Haney and Staelin iced their knuckles from Paris, and Harvath sent an encrypted update to Nicholas. Finally, just after midnight, Weber got home.
Being somewhat of a gourmand, in addition to the hams, sausages, and salamis the man had hanging in his walk-in refrigerator, he owned a large stainless steel meat and cheese slicer like you might see in a deli. Morrison and Barton had both wanted
to use it to “scare the fuck out of him.”
Harvath explained that the threat was only as good as their willingness to carry it out. Could they put his hands in there and start slicing off the tips of his fingers? Had they weighed what he had done? Did it warrant that kind of response? It was important to get the younger guys thinking.
As it turned out, none of it was necessary.
the moment Weber saw Harvath—he knew he was screwed. It was game over and the only hope he had of getting out of this alive was to cooperate.
Weber claimed not to know who had put up the money for the contract, but he had no problem revealing who had paid him to fly all the way to Vietnam and bring it to Trang.
The use of cutouts didn’t surprise Harvath. The name of this one, though, did. Harvath
not only knew him, but had also dealt with him before. Years ago, he had been a middleman, charged with hiring an assassin to go after Nicholas.
As he had done at the end of Trang’s interrogation, Harvath asked the team to wait for him outside.
He conversed with Weber for a few more minutes, told him a little about Carl Pedersen, and then, marching him back to the walk-in cooler, made him answer
for what he had done.
En route to the Nice Côte d’Azur airport, Harvath called Nicholas and shared with him the next name on their list—Gaston Leveque. A concierge at the famous Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc, Leveque’s considerably more lucrative job was as a fixer for wealthy Russians. Drugs, murder, children for sex, the more horrific it was, the deeper he trafficked in it. One of Harvath’s deepest
regrets was that he hadn’t killed the man years ago when he’d had the chance. At the time, though, letting Leveque live was the only thing that had gotten Harvath out of the situation alive.
Upon hearing the man’s name, Nicholas had gone ballistic—just like
he had with the Contessa. They went back and forth for several minutes before ending their call. Nicholas let it be known that he trusted
Harvath to do the right thing.
Though Leveque was a fixer for lots of wealthy Russians, there was one Harvath was particularly interested in—Nikolai Nekrasov, the billionaire owner of the Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc. Harvath had a history with him too.
When he had originally come for Leveque, he had done so at the hotel not knowing that all of the rooms were wired with microphones and hidden cameras.
He had only begun to interrogate Leveque when an armed security team had entered and Harvath had been forced to shoot several of them, though none fatally.
On the way out of the hotel, by necessity he had to temporarily take a woman hostage. That woman had been Nekrasov’s wife, Eva—and two things had immediately become apparent. One, she seriously disliked her husband, and two, she found Harvath
She had certainly
resisted during the fifteen-minute kidnapping as they raced into Cannes in a stolen $400,000 sports car, and she had actively assisted him in escaping her husband and his band of men who were in hot pursuit. It was the most fun and excitement, she admitted, that she had had in years.
Yet winging a few security guards and taking a quick joyride with the
man’s wife hardly seemed worthy of a one-hundred-million-dollar bounty. Which was why getting to Leveque was so critical. Only he could reveal who had hired him, and hopefully why.
On the west side of Antibes was the commune of Vallauris—best known for being home to Picasso from the late 1940s to the mid-1950s.
In its seaside town of Golfe-Juan, Gaston Leveque had a beautiful little bungalow.
When he returned home from his shift at the Cap-Eden-Roc, Harvath was sitting on his patio, a glass of wine on the table, and his best, most-expensive Chablis in the ice bucket next to him.
Gaston,” he said.
The man panicked and tried to run back into the house, but Haney and Staelin were waiting for him. Dragging him over to the table, they sat him down and flex-cuffed him to the
After complimenting him on the wine, Harvath gave him a brief rundown on what had taken place, and then began asking questions. He was reticent at first, but Gage—who was eager to contribute to the information-gathering portion of their mission—was very persuasive.
Harvath thought he had seen it all, but what the man could do with off-the-shelf items, like a nasal spray bottle and lighter
fluid, was quite inspired.
It wasn’t something any of them reveled in. Leveque was a very, very bad man. Not just by way of all the murders he had facilitated, but just as equally all the sexual exploitation of women and children. The discomfort the man was feeling now paled in comparison to the physical, emotional, and psychological trauma he had caused countless others. He had racked up a huge
bill and now karma, in the form of Harvath, had come to collect.
When Harvath left, his questions answered and the team out warming the car in the driveway, Harvath lingered only long enough to take a picture for Nicholas and grab the bottle of wine from the ice bucket. Not only was it one of the best he had ever tasted, he was going to be up late doing some serious thinking. There was one more
move he needed to make, and he wanted to execute it perfectly.
HE NEXT MORNING
s soon as Nekrasov’s driver, Valery, had put his boss into the elevator and the doors had closed, Staelin popped out from behind a parked car and hit him with the Taser.
“Coming up,” he said over his earbud, as the big Russian fell to the floor of the garage.
“Good copy,” Harvath replied.
Seconds later, on the building’s third
floor, the elevator chimed, its doors opened and Nekrasov stepped out.
He was in a foul mood. He didn’t like being dragged back for a second opinion on whether his wife’s implants should be removed. The only thing that made it worthwhile was that the facility had exceptionally attractive nurses. With what a headache Eva had been, he was tilting now, more than ever, toward taking a mistress. Maybe
he would find one here.
Even though he was late, again, he spent a few minutes chatting up the nurses at the front desk before being directed back to his wife’s room, where she was awaiting her exam.
When he entered the room, without knocking, a new doctor was already chatting with her. He stood in the doorway for a second, feeling the doctor was somehow familiar.
“Please close the door,” the
man in the white lab coat said, without fully turning around to face him.
Nekrasov did as he was asked.
Once he had closed the door, Harvath turned and pointed a suppressed Glock 43 pistol at him—just like the one the assassin sent to Key West had confronted him with.
“Hello, Nikolai,” said Harvath. “Take a seat. We’re going to have a chat.”
“You,” the Russian grumbled angrily. “You have the
nerve to accost me in front of my wife. You have no—”
“Shut up,” Eva interrupted her husband. “Do what he says. Sit down.”
Harvath pulled out his phone, activated a banking app, and held it an inch away from the man’s face. “Don’t blink,” he commanded. “Don’t even fucking move.”
There was a
and Harvath then swiped to another screen. Placing the suppressor against Nekrasov’s
forehead, he extended the phone again, this time saying, “Right thumbprint, in the red box. Do it now.”
Nekrasov did as Harvath demanded, stating, “That boy you killed wasn’t just President Peshkov’s son; Misha was my godson.”
“He was also a fucking psychopath,” said Harvath. “You should have stayed out of it.”
“I bet one hundred million dollars against you.”
“And you lost.”
“I never lose,”
said the Russian.
A moment later, Eva’s phone chimed.
Harvath looked at her. “Everything good?”
“Are we happy?”
“Very,” she replied.
Turning his attention back to Nekrasov, he stated, “You have no idea how lucky you are. Every single day when you wake up, you had better thank God for your wife and for your children. The day you stop thanking Him, is the day I’ll be back.”
that, he turned and disappeared.
On their way back to the airport, Haney, who was riding shotgun, turned around to face Harvath. Holding out his phone, he showed him a website and asked, “That place in Lithuania, where you wanted me to send the wooden crosses, is the total still five?”
“No,” Harvath replied. “For right now, it’s only going to be four. But bookmark that page, just in case we
ever have to come back.”
olidae Hayes lifted her glass of champagne and said, “To the new Deputy Director of the NIS’s Strategy Section.”
Sølvi looked around to make sure no one was listening and then clinked glasses. It wasn’t something they should be discussing out in public. “Thank you,” she said as they both took a sip.
“And,” Hayes continued, “I hear
that Landsbergis is going to be promoted from acting head to official Director of VSD in Lithuania.”
“We’re hearing the same thing. I need to send him a thank-you note.”
“Why? For helping you and Harvath?”
“I can’t go too far into it, but a couple of years ago I was in Lithuania and needed medical attention. Diplomatically speaking, it was a sensitive situation. Carl reached out to him and
Landsbergis provided a doctor, no questions asked.”
“It sounds to me like we’ve got the right man in Vilnius.”
Sølvi agreed and they clinked glasses again.
Hayes’s phone chimed and she looked down. “You’re going to hate me, but I’ve got to get going.”
“What are you talking about? Landsbergis may get a thank-you note, but
get an entire thank-you lunch.”
“I wish I could stay, I’m really
sorry, but we’ve got a huge VIP in town. You wouldn’t believe the list of things I have to tackle.”
Sølvi wasn’t happy. “Holidae, we just opened a wonderful bottle of champagne and the oysters haven’t even arrived yet. You can’t leave.”
“You’ll be fine,” her friend assured her, standing up and giving her kisses on both cheeks. “Let’s get together next week. Okay?”
The Norwegian smiled at her
CIA counterpart and nodded. “I’d like that. Good luck with your VIP.”
“Thank you,” Hayes replied as she gathered her things and began walking away. “I’m going to need it.”
Rearranging the cushions behind her, Sølvi turned to look out over the fjord. Kicking off her shoes, she put her feet on the bench and pulled her knees in close. She watched as the beautiful boats crossed back and forth. Taking
a sip of champagne, she wished that she were on one.
Taking another sip of champagne, she wished that she was out there with Scot. He was the first man, since her divorce, and outside of Carl, whom she trusted.
Leaving him in France had been remarkably hard and it had freaked the hell out of her. She had worked with plenty of male agents, within Norway and elsewhere. Never had she ended an op
feeling what she could only describe as being “heartsick.” Who the hell was this American to have such a hold on her?
In all fairness, she had been scared by how she felt, and as soon as Harvath’s team had arrived, she had run from France and Mont-Saint-Michel as fast as she could.
Now, she was back in her happy place—up on the roof of The Thief, wishing she was out on the water and trying not
to think too hard about what the future might hold.
That was when someone stepped into the sunlight and cast a shadow across her table. She had always thought they should teach servers to avoid that.
But looking up, she saw that it wasn’t a server.
Harvath was standing there in front of her with an empty champagne glass.
“May I join you?” he asked.
Sølvi smiled. “You two planned this, didn’t
Harvath smiled back and sat down. “All I know is that when a VIP like me comes to town, everything has got to be perfect.”
“You know life isn’t perfect, right?”
“For the moment,” he said, “let’s just pretend it is.”
God, she was so gorgeous
, he thought, as he helped himself to some champagne. She was wearing a simple sundress and she looked so beautiful.
Sølvi hated to ruin the moment.
Nevertheless, she had to ask, “I’m assuming you got to the bottom of who took out the contract on you. Was it the Russians?”
“No,” Harvath replied, “but someone very close to him. A friend from childhood, Nikolai Nekrasov.”
Her eyes widened. “The Russian mobster?”
Russian mobster,” he clarified. “He was also the godfather of Peshkov’s
“So this was about revenge.”
“And now it’s over.”
Sølvi had a thousand more questions that she wanted to ask, but it was obvious he didn’t want to discuss it. That was okay. Like he had said, it was over. And she was so glad to see him.
After a few moments, she noticed that his face had changed. It was softer somehow. “You’re thinking about something,” she said. “What is it?”
not to beat around the bush.
“I like you,” he replied. “And I’ve felt incredibly guilty about that. I didn’t want to stop liking you, though. So, I asked Lara for a sign. It’s crazy and I know it. I didn’t remember right away that today was the anniversary of my first date with her. Then, in the flight lounge in France, waiting for the plane to get fueled to come up here, I saw a magazine. Its
headline was about how Norway is the future. Under that, was an article about the immutable wisdom of Jean-Paul Sartre.
“I ended up reading the entire thing from cover to cover. But, as there was nothing about ninjas, I can’t really say if it was a
Sølvi turned the dazzle up to 11 and smiled once more. “Stop talking,” she said, as the waiter arrived. “We have oysters to eat.”
They were wonderful and she explained that they were from the south of Norway where she was from.
When they placed the order for their main course, Harvath asked the waiter to please prepare it to go—and also to bring another bottle of champagne.
“What’s going on?” Sølvi asked. “What are you up to?”
Once everything was boxed up and placed in shopping bags, Harvath nodded toward
the elevators and for Sølvi to lead the way.
After exiting on the lobby level, and pushing through The Thief’s giant revolving doors and out into the motor court, Sølvi turned to Harvath. “Now what?”
Harvath had her follow him over to the railing that looked down onto a narrow channel where two boats were berthed.
“How about we go out on the water for a picnic?” he asked.
Looking at the little
sailboat she was overjoyed. “I don’t know how much wind there is today, but yes. I’d love to sail with you.”
Harvath looked at the tiny sailboat she was looking at and smiled. Pulling a set of keys from his pocket, he pointed toward the splendid silver Riva she had talked about when they were on Lake Garda and said, “Someone heard I was going to take a cruise with a beautiful Norwegian girl.
Naturally, they gave me an upgrade.”
Sølvi could barely contain herself as they made their way down the steps. She had walked by this boat so many times, imagining the glamorous people who sailed on her. Now, she was one of those people.
“How were you able to afford this?” she asked. “The Carlton Group must have a hell of a per diem.”
“A friend and I in the South of France just came into a
little money. Call it a rich uncle. Welcome aboard.”
After stowing their food and wine, she helped cast off and they cruised into the fjord.
Out on the open water, she looked back toward The Thief. The view from this perspective was every bit as good as she had always imagined it would be. She wanted to hug Harvath for giving her such a wonderful
experience, but she also suspected that’s exactly
what he wanted her to do and so she held back.
They kept sailing, north from Oslo, as Harvath continued to consult the GPS system on his phone.
“Do we have a destination?” she asked.
“There are some houses I want to look at from the water,” he replied.
“I see. Back to your dream from Mont-Saint-Michel. A house and a boat.”
“Actually,” said Harvath, “there’s a little more to life than just
a house and a boat. I was thinking Norway might be a nice place to spend the summer with Marco. What do you think?”
Sølvi smiled and wrapped her arms around him. Giving him a kiss, she said, “I think if you’re serious about getting to know Norway, you’re going to need a very special Norwegian ninja to keep an eye on both of you.”