Killing Eve Die for Me (Killing Eve #3) - Luke Jennings
As the light fades, an icy wind rises. A southeasterly, racing out of the Gulf of Riga across the Baltic Sea and meeting the ship broadside, so that the containers groan and strain against their lashing rods. Every day, as we voyage eastward toward Russia, the temperature falls.
The container that Villanelle and I have shared for the last five days is a corrugated steel box the size of a prison cell. It’s a little over two and a half meters tall, contains a part-load of clothing bales, and sits atop a five-container stack on the starboard side of the ship. Inside, it’s as cold as death. The two of us live like rats, huddling together for warmth, nibbling at our diminishing stock of stale bread, cheese and chocolate, sipping our rationed water, and urinating into a plastic bucket. I’ve been constipated since the ship left port on the northeast coast of England, and Villanelle shits into a series of plastic bags bought from a pet shop, which she then neatly knots and stores.
At the forward end of the container there’s an emergency hatch, perhaps thirty centimeters by thirty, which can be unbolted from the inside. This admits a thin shaft of light and a freezing blast of salt air. Standing on the clothing bales, my eyes streaming, I watch the steady rise and fall of the horizon and the slow-motion leap of the bow wave, white against gray, until my face loses all feeling. When the wind drops, I’ll pour the piss-bucket out of the hatch. It’ll freeze as it runs down the container. I’ve asked Villanelle to throw her shit bags out too, but she’s worried that one might land on deck.
She’s thought of everything. Thermal vests and leggings, underwear, toilet paper, washing stuff, tampons, neoprene gloves, red-light torches, a commando knife, plasticuffs, 9mm ammunition for her Sig Sauer and my Glock, and a hefty roll of used U.S. dollars. We have no phones, laptops or credit cards. No identifying documents. Nothing to leave a trail. No one except Villanelle knows for certain that I’m alive, and Villanelle is officially dead herself. Her grave, marked with a small metal plaque provided by the Russian state and inscribed Оксана Воронцова, is in the Industrialny cemetery in Perm.
Two years ago I didn’t know that Villanelle, or Oxana Vorontsova, existed.
I was in charge of a small inter-Service liaison department at Thames House, MI5’s London headquarters, and life was, on balance, fine. Work was on the dull side: I had an MA in criminology and forensic psychology, and had hoped for a more challenging deployment with the Security Service. On the positive side I had a steady if unspectacular income, and my husband Niko was a kind and decent man whom I loved, and with whom I was hoping to start a family. There were worse things, I told myself, than routine, and if I spent every spare moment at the office building up a file of unattributed political assassinations, it was just a private thing. Just me keeping my hand in. A hobby, really.
In the course of this unofficial research I became convinced that several of these killings had been carried out by a woman, and almost certainly by the same woman. Normally, I would have kept this theory to myself. My role at MI5 was administrative, not investigative, and there would have been raised eyebrows and condescending smiles if I’d brought the subject up with my superiors. I’d have been regarded as a slow-lane liaison officer getting above herself. Then a Russian far-right political activist named Viktor Kedrin was shot dead at a London hotel, along with his three bodyguards. I was accused of failing to organize adequate protection for Kedrin, and fired.
This was bitterly unjust and everyone involved knew it. But we also knew that when the department fouled up as royally as this, and it didn’t get much worse than the assassination of a high-profile principal like Kedrin, someone had to take the fall. Ideally, someone senior enough to count, but not so senior that they couldn’t easily be replaced. Someone expendable. Someone like me.
Shortly after I’d cleared my desk and handed in my pass at Thames House, I was discreetly contacted by a long-serving MI6 officer named Richard Edwards who, unlike his counterparts north of the river, was prepared to listen to my ideas. Seconded to his off-the-books team, and tasked with finding Kedrin’s killer, I pursued Villanelle around the world. She proved a spectral and elusive quarry, always