Hard as Ice - Raven Scott

Chapter 1

“How’s your first assignment so far, Ice?”

The teasing question came through the video connection from one of the large-panel screen monitors set up around the room. It was from Lucas Johnson, his friend and business partner.

“Well, it’s been twenty hours and I haven’t been shot yet,” Evan replied. “But it’s still early.”

Lucas laughed.

“Looks like you’ll have to get used to the slower pace of civilian work. You might not be under fire for a few days in.”

Evan shifted his stance and felt the pull of tight scar tissue in his thigh. The bullet wound was a souvenir from his final CIA mission in Azerbaijan eight months ago. It had been a long road to recovery, including an early retirement from government service. Now, he was a managing partner with Fortis, a full-solution security firm, along with his best friend, Lucas Johnson, and their third partner, Sam Mackenzie. They had a team of twenty-two specialized field agents, technicians, and operations analysts with experience from all branches of elite government service.

As Lucas mentioned, this Boston assignment was Evan’s first with Fortis. He was leading a team of three agents on the ground to solve a multimillion-dollar jewelry heist, and recover the assets within a matter of weeks.

“I’ll do my best not to get bored,” Evan retorted with a hint of a smile.

“Looks like you guys are set up there?”

“Yeah. The additional surveillance is up and running through the building,” Evan confirmed. “Michael and Raymond are on-site since early this morning to start the investigation,” Evan replied, referring to two of the Fortis agents working on the ground for the mission.

Lucas nodded. His high-definition screen was so sharp, he could have been standing right next to Evan instead of over five hundred miles away in Virginia.

“Yup, we have the images from the Worthington building coming through here, now. When are you going in?” asked Lucas.

Evan checked the time. It was eleven forty-five in the morning. According to their client, Edward Worthington, the key subject usually took lunch at twelve-thirty each day, and had no appointments in her calendar for that afternoon.

“I’m headed to the auction house in a few minutes. I should make first contact before one o’clock,” he confirmed.

“Okay. I’ve assigned two of our analysts here to do the preliminary research on the other employees. I’ve sent you what we have so far on James,” Lucas explained.

“Got it. I’ll review on my cell phone, and give you an update later.”

They ended the video call. Evan did a final check on the surveillance equipment. He and his team were based in two hotel suites in downtown Boston, several blocks from their client’s offices. One suite served as Evan’s temporary residence while in the city as part of his cover, and his three agents were staying in the connected room. In there, two powerful six-core CPUs were connected to four forty-two inch LED flat-screen monitors set up around the living room, creating a control center. Evan looked around the various live feeds, all showing a different view of the Worthington business offices, the large art gallery in the front, and the warehouse in the back. It was a quiet day, with only four employees on the corporate floor, and three in the gallery and warehouse. His gaze landed on the image of Nia James, his target subject, as she sat behind her office desk reviewing several documents. He watched her for a few moments, until his cell phone rang.

“Yeah,” he answered briskly, noting it was his third agent, Tony Donellio, assigned to local reconnaissance.

“Hey, Ice, I’m at her apartment.” Evan clenched his jaw at the nickname. It was a remnant from his time in the CIA. Though he had left the agency, the Fortis team insisted on using it. That was mostly because Lucas chose to forget his real name.

“Good, do a full search and wire the place up so we have eyes throughout. Then, you’re searching the security guard’s place, right?” Evan asked.

“Yeah,” confirmed Tony. “His shift at Worthington doesn’t start until six tonight, but our intel says he’s usually at the gym by three o’clock in the afternoon. I’ll be there by about one-thirty to have a look around the area.”

“Good. He’s the weak link. With nothing of use captured on the Worthington surveillance videos, and no signs of forced entry, there’s no way he wasn’t involved in the heist. Raymond and Michael are interviewing him tomorrow, but we need to find something on him to use as leverage. I’ll meet you