Hitman Damnation - By Raymond Benson


The important thing was to keep Agent 47 alive.

That’s what Diana Burnwood had told herself for years, even though it wasn’t the Agency’s prime directive for handlers. The unwritten law was that operators in the field had to be disavowed and abandoned if there was the slightest danger of the Agency being compromised. And yet Diana had always felt a connection to 47—as much as it was possible that anyone could bond with the man. She wanted him to succeed in his various missions, and she took great pains to watch his back. It was her job.

Well, it was her job.

Diana planned to disappear after the current hit was completed. She had no choice. Considering what she was intending to do, the Agency would stop at nothing to eliminate her. The escape route was in place and the travel plans were set in stone. She would vanish for a while and then make her move. Returning to the laboratory in Chicago would be terribly perilous, but it was absolutely essential for her to snatch the “package” and spirit it away from the Agency.

The trouble started when Benjamin Travis was appointed to be her superior. Diana was immediately at odds with the guy. Although not the ultimate boss of the International Contract Agency, Travis had proven himself to be a more than competent manager. He was tough, opinionated, intelligent, and ambitious. It was no wonder he had been promoted to his current position. Diana held no grudge against the man for that.

What she didn’t like about Travis was that he was an unethical and dangerous asshole.

When Diana had confronted him about his new classified pet project, noting that it would cost many innocent lives, Travis scoffed and said, “Really? This, coming from a handler of an assassin? Give me a break, Burnwood. You alone have caused collateral damage in the hundreds. Don’t go all high-and-mighty on me all of a sudden.”

Normally she would have let it go and moved on. This time, however, the implications of Travis’s venture were more than simply disturbing. In her opinion, the man was threatening the integrity of the Agency.

Diana was already working on the Himalayan assignment with 47 when she had decided to take action. Originally she wanted to wait until the mission was completed, but the situation had become too volatile. Something had to be done quickly, and she had decided to risk her life to take the package and run. But first she had to go off the grid for a while and carefully plan her next move.

Did they realize she had betrayed them? Most likely. She knew they would come for her at any moment. She should have left Paris hours ago, but she owed it to 47 to see him through the current operation.

Finish the job and then get out quickly.

She opened her laptop and switched it on. The encryption software was already in place; there was no way anyone could hack into her network. As she connected to the satellite over Nepal, Diana checked the small video monitors once again. The two miniature cameras she had installed in the hotel hallway outside her room were undetectable and state of the art. They each pointed in an opposite direction, so she could see anyone who happened to appear in the corridor. A third camera, mounted near the elevators and stairwell, would alert her to any newcomers on the floor. It wasn’t perfect by any means, but at least the three monitors on the desk would give her fair warning should she come under attack.

The comlink securely connected to the satellite’s signal. An image of a snowcapped mountain materialized on the laptop—Kangchenjunga, one of the most difficult climbs in the Himalayas. Diana checked her watch. Just after six in the morning. That meant it was close to one o’clock there. Nepal Standard Time was unusual in that it was offset by forty-five minutes from Coordinated Universal Time. If she was correct in her calculations, then 47 would be in place and waiting for her.

She zoomed in to the blinking beacon on the side of the peak. The homer 47 carried was undetectable to the naked eye but easily picked up by the satellite. Quite ingenious, actually, Diana thought. The Agency did indeed have cool toys.

Another marvel the satellite provided was the ability to analyze physical structures, whether they were man-made or natural. In this case, the program detected where the rock surface of the mountainside ended and the thick layers of snow began,