It’s a pleasure to welcome you all to my stop on the blog tour for Kill For Me by Tom Wood! My thanks to Millie Seaward for the invitation to join and for providing the excerpt I’ll be sharing with you today. First, here is what Kill For Me is all about.
Author : Tom Wood
Title : Kill For Me
Series : Victor the Assassin #8
Pages : 480
Publisher : Sphere
Publication date : July 26, 2018
Victor is the killer who always delivers…for the right price. And Heloise Espinosa, patron of Guatemala’s largest cartel, is ready and willing to pay him just that to eliminate the competition–her sister. Heloise has been battling Maria for control of the cartel in an endless and bloody war. Now Victor decides who survives. An easy job if it weren’t for the sudden target on his back.
Victor’s not the only one on the hunt. Someone else has Maria in their crosshairs and will do anything to get the kill. In the middle of cartel territory with enemies closing in from all sides, Victor must decide where to put the bullet before one is placed in his head. His only chance at survival is to team up with the one person who may be as deadly as he is…
The beach was white sand, stretched in a crescent around the bay. Dark waves lapped against the shore as feral dogs foraged along the water’s edge, searching for scraps left by backpackers. On the furthest spur of sand two wild horses ran back and forth in some ritual Victor couldn’t hope to comprehend.
The seller he was meeting called himself Jairo. He was old and tanned, short and hairy. He had a beard that rose to his cheekbones, pure white and bushy. His shirt was opened to his sternum, revealing a thatch of colourless chest hair. Gold neck chains gleamed from among the curls. His eyebrows were still black, and almost met in the middle. He smelled of rum, else local aguardiente – Victor hadn’t spent enough time in Guatemala to be able to differentiate between them by scent alone.
The last of the sun was disappearing over the horizon, but the heat of the day remained. Victor’s clothes were lightweight and loose, pushed taut against him by the breeze. It came from the east, from out across the Caribbean Sea, somehow cool and warm at the same time.
Jairo was from across the border in Honduras, and he dressed like a bum. His shirt was dotted with grease stains from a couple of days’ worth of messy eating. Threadbare denim shorts hung to his knees. The legs that protruded from the shorts were thin and weak. He wore rubber sandals that revealed the skin of his heels was cracked and split. He had tattoos on his forearms. They were too old and faded, and his skin too tan, for Victor to make out what they portrayed. He was no international arms trafficker. He was no Vladimir Kasakov. He was no Georg, even. He was just a small-time gun runner. He was just a man in possession of an expensive rifle. How he came across the weapon, Georg hadn’t passed on to Victor, and Jairo hadn’t offered its history. He hadn’t even wanted to show it to Victor without seeing the money
‘I check the weapon is in good condition,’ Victor had said. ‘Then you get to see the cash.’
Jairo shook his head. ‘That’s not how this works.’
They spoke in English, because Victor didn’t want Jairo to know he spoke Spanish as well as he did. Better, even.
‘It works how I say it works.’
Jairo was silent. He glanced at the wild horses.
‘Don’t forget that you want to sell the gun more than I want to buy it. I can walk away at any point and keep my money. You’ll still have a rifle you don’t want.’
Jairo thought for a while. He didn’t blink a lot, but he rubbed one palm with the other thumb.
He shrugged. ‘Okay, you can check it. Make sure it’s legit.’
He was nervous while Victor did. He couldn’t stop moving He couldn’t stop fidgeting. If he wasn’t shuffling his weight, he was rubbing his palms together. If he wasn’t rolling his shoulders, he was scratching the back of his neck. Victor took in all the tell-tale signs and acted as if he didn’t see them, as if he didn’t understand. He wanted to buy time. He wanted to assess the situation.
The Accuracy International AX50 was a big piece of engineering. It came in a case made from toughened military-grade polymer large enough to hide a person inside – dismembered, but doable. Victor had squeezed bodies into less. Inside the case, thick foam rubber encased the component parts, isolated and identifiable to Victor’s gaze. He checked each part in turn, acknowledging that every one was as it should be, as expected. Accessories came in a separate compartment, and were, like the weapon itself, all good. Too good.
He kept his thoughts to himself for the moment, still assessing. Jairo was growing even edgier, because in the dim light he couldn’t see Victor’s eyes in the shadow of the khaki cap and he couldn’t read the expression beneath.
‘What do you think?’ Jairo asked when he couldn’t stand the silence any longer. ‘You like it?’
‘It’s beautiful,’ Victor said.
Jairo was picking something from his teeth. ‘You gonna buy?’
Victor kept his gaze on the rifle. ‘How much do you want for it?’
‘A hundred thousand is the price agreed by the middleman. You have the cash? You buy?’
The rifle retailed for a fraction of that, even with all the accessories, but there was a heavy premium on black-market weapons. Jairo was adding a considerable premium to that premium, but for such a weapon it was a seller’s market. If Victor wasn’t prepared to overpay he was never going to be able to acquire what he needed. Whatever he had said, he wanted the gun more than Jairo wanted to sell it.
He rubbed the gun oil from his fingers. ‘Where did you get the weapon?’
Jairo shrugged and adjusted his footing. ‘What does it matter? I’m not gonna ask you where you got your money from. You brought it, yes? In your truck?’
He had his pickup parked where the sand dunes became prickled with long grass. Jairo’s own vehicle – another pickup – was parked on the beach itself, out in the open as agreed. Victor had arrived early, but Jairo had been earlier. He had been drinking. There was a sheen to his skin and a glaze to his eyes.
‘Let me see it.’
Victor shut the case and thumbed the catches. He dragged it from the load bed of Jairo’s pickup. Even for Victor’s strength, it was heavy. The rifle alone weighed almost twenty kilos. He carried it in his left hand. He led Jairo to his truck. Led, because Jairo didn’t move fast. He followed at a slow pace. In part because his stride was short like his height; in part because he had poor footwear for traversing sand; in part because of all the nerves.
‘A hundred grand is a lot of money,’ Victor said as they walked, ‘even for a weapon like this. Black-market rates are black-market rates, I get that, but this rifle is brand new. There’s still packing grease on the components. Someone tried to wipe it away, but you can’t do that. You have to use it. You have to get it dirty first. You have to put it together and fire rounds and strip it apart again and scrub and clean and oil it. Then you get rid of the packing grease. Good try all the same.’
Jairo acted confused. ‘What does it matter if it’s brand new? You’re getting a good deal.’
‘That’s my point. The price is too good, black-market rates and all, for a brand-new weapon. This has never been used. It’s mint in the box. So, where did you get it?’
Jairo shrugged. ‘I don’t own the gun,’ he explained. ‘I’m only the seller.’
The light was fading fast and the blue pickup Victor had bought for cash looked almost black. He set the heavy case down in the load bed and dragged forth a sports bag. He shoved it into Jairo’s waiting grip and ripped open a packet of beef jerky from a container of supplies.
‘Want some?’ He offered the packet to Jairo.
Jairo glanced up. ‘Looks disgusting.’
Victor shrugged as he chewed. More for him.
Jairo wasn’t hungry. He was wasting no time, unzipping the sports bag and peering inside, smiling when he saw the bundles of American dollars.
‘You know,’ Victor said after swallowing, ‘at first I wondered if you were part of a sting operation. A non-proliferation thing. That’s always the biggest risk when buying this kind of hardware. I figured there could be binoculars and cameras on me, officials and cops waiting out of sight behind the dunes, ready to rush in when I showed the money. Until then, I’d committed no crime. So, I was weighing up my odds, wondering if they had a clear shot of my features, wondering what repercussions I would face further down the line. Just because I had committed no crime didn’t mean there wouldn’t be fallout. A man like me can’t afford to be on someone’s radar.’
Jairo was half listening, because he had noticed something about the bag. He reached inside.
‘All those nerves you had,’ Victor continued. ‘I figured they had you over a barrel, and you’d get them off if you gave up your buyer. Me. But then I found the packing grease. No way an official sting operation would use brand-new weaponry like that. No way they could get hold of it, even to lure out an utterly deplorable person such as myself. They would use what they had, what they had confiscated. So, this has to be something else. I overthought it. The simplest explanation is usually the right one.’
Jairo pushed his hand deep into the bag, drawing out one of the thick bundles of cash. They appeared to be straps of hundred-dollar bills, a hundred bills per strap, secured with a rubber band. Jairo peeled back the first bill to see that the rest were nothing more than rectangular pieces of blank paper.
‘No, no, no,’ Jairo muttered.
‘You didn’t think I would bring a hundred grand in cash to make a deal in the middle of nowhere, did you? That’s how you get yourself killed.’
‘You’ve made a huge mistake.’
Victor said, ‘When I’ve already made so many, why stop now?’
‘You don’t know who you’re dealing with.’
Victor’s tone was wistful. ‘If only the reverse were true, Jairo, we could save ourselves an awful lot of inevitable unpleasantness.’
Uh, oh. I don’t know about you but me thinks Jairo may have landed himself into a spot of bother there. If you’d like to read more, Kill For Me will be published tomorrow!
Tom was born in Burton Upon Trent in Staffordshire, England, and now lives in London.
He is the author of THE HUNTER, BAD LUCK IN BERLIN and THE ENEMY.
Tom’s books are known by different titles in some countries so please be careful when purchasing.