Chuck and Carolyn, his wife, reclined leisurely in beach chairs in front of the Laguna Hotel. The crashing waves sniggled their feet. A large umbrella, shielded them from the sun. The surf was rising.
A small computer lay on Chuck’s lap. He was lost in thought, his body slack.
Carolyn reached over and kissed him, saying, “It’s nice to have you home, even if your mind is planning and plotting. Has Dr. Ash recovered from the loss of his family and his company?”
“No. It’s always beneath the surface. I convinced him that we can’t wait on the assassin. We need to go on the offensive.
“I don’t want you killed in a crossfire, Chuck, or a bomb attack. They had at least eight men when they attacked him near Laguna Beach.”
“Yes, dear. But there are five of us. Once we got there, they never had a chance. If we find the people behind that attack, and Dr. Ash lets us take the gloves off, we’ll obliterate them before they catch their second breath.” “You don’t need to tell me. You, Mao, Spanish, Geronimo, and Tank are all lethal. But I’m still a loving wife, and I worry sometimes. Anyway, Sherlock, while you’ve been napping, your wife has been using your binoculars.
“See the sailboat to the left of those fishing boats. The ladies on that boat would look great even with their bathing suits on. The man piloting the boat is more interested in your hairy legs than in those ladies.”
She handed Chuck the binoculars.
“Damn. We look all over California for this stalker, and my wife spots him on our day at the beach while I daydream. He went below decks, but the yacht and the ladies are definitely his modus operandi. And that beard and baseball hat. Just like before. He’s getting overconfident. I want that bastard.”
Pulling a cell phone from his bag, he hit speed-dial. “Mao. Dr. Ash’s stalker is back! Watching our hotel. I’m on the beach with Carolyn. She discovered him. His yacht is heading toward Newport Beach. It’s a blue yacht, mainsail and jib. Two topless beauties this time… You will? Thanks, buddy, and yes, I’ll relax.”
“Relax?” asked Carolyn. “Fat chance. What did Mao say?”
“He and Spanish will be in Newport to follow him. Congratulations, sweetheart. You may have helped us to identify that stalker.”
Below decks, through a small porthole, Nari Fahmouz focused his binoculars on Chuck. He saw him take a cell phone from his beach bag. It had to be one of Dr. Ash’s men. He’d been discovered. By bad luck and coincidence. No matter. He had accomplished his objective.
In his plan to attack the hotel, he had intended to shoot grappling hooks over the four-foot wall on the roof, and be at the door of Dr. Ash’s new rooftop residence within one minute. With two men. And weapons. But Dr. Ash’s men installed glass panels on the wall to divert the ocean winds. The panels would break from their weight as they climbed the ropes. They would crash to the ground before they got near the rooftop.
Also, he spotted barely visible mounds on the stucco walls, under the roofline, next to key exits and windows. His binoculars revealed that the mounds concealed video cameras, spotlights, and motion sensors.
His surveillance was successful. An attack now would be suicide. He would have to eliminate Dr. Ash at another location.
By accident, Dr. Ash had become a threat to his success in the United States. He would need to act soon. General Karazi, in an Abu Dhabi meeting, had almost forbidden any more assassinations.
Twenty-seven kills. No one had come close to him. He was “Ghostman,” the best. He could do one more.
But General Karazi didn’t want to risk blowing his cover as an American corporate executive. This transition from assassin to corporate executive was difficult. He missed the highs of hunting and killing.
But he loved the new types of strategies. Changing from being hidden, to being the exposed decision maker, was a new kind of adrenaline high. Perhaps his hit man, Otto, would be successful in Lone Pine. But Nari wouldn’t be surprised if Otto ended up dead.
When the yacht was a mile from Newport Harbor, and a mile offshore, Nari told the ladies he had hired, to put on their bathing suits and sail the yacht to Marina del Rey. They were to place it in an empty slip and catch a taxi home. Nari would tell the yacht rental manager in Newport to get the yacht.
Dr. Ash’s men could spend the day searching for him.
Tying his deck shoes around his neck, he slipped gently into the water, keeping the yacht between himself and the shore. He went underwater, swimming away from the boat until his lungs were about to burst.
His nose and mouth surfaced, and he gulped air. Then he went back to swimming underwater. Surfacing again, he was far from the yacht. He went under water three more times.