Killing Eve Die for Me (Killing Eve #3) - Luke Jennings Page 0,1

one flawless step ahead. All I could do was follow the blood trail. And, unwillingly, admire her grim artistry. She was bold, free from guilt or fear, and probably a little bored by the ease with which she evaded detection. Flattered to discover that I was pursuing her, Villanelle began to do the same to me. One night in Shanghai, she climbed up the outside of my hotel into my room and stole my bracelet as a trophy. To make amends, and for the sheer effrontery of it, she broke into my house in London in broad daylight, to leave me a different (and much more expensive) bracelet that she’d bought for me in Venice. These intrusions were as flirtatious as they were terrifying. Whispered reminders that she liked me, but could kill me at any time she chose.

Although I refused to admit it at the time, even to myself, this twisted courtship had its effect. Obsession is not immediate. It stalks you. It creeps up on you until it’s too late to escape it. When I first saw Villanelle in person it was by chance, and again it was in Shanghai. I was on a scooter, caught in traffic, and she was walking down the pavement toward me, dressed entirely in black, with her blond hair slicked back from her face. Our eyes met, and I knew it was her. Villanelle can be sweetness itself when she chooses, but that evening her gaze was as flat as a snake’s. She claims that she recognized me on that occasion, just as I recognized her, but I don’t believe her. She lies. She lies compulsively, all the time. Later that night she lured my colleague Simon Mortimer into an alleyway and hacked him to death with a meat cleaver. The savagery of the attack shocked seasoned investigators of the Shanghai homicide squad, who had seen their share of Triad killings and other horrors.

Our second meeting, on the hard shoulder of a motorway in England, was orchestrated with chilling brilliance. I was driving back to London from a Security Services interrogation center in Hampshire. My passenger was Dennis Cradle, a senior MI5 officer who, earlier that morning, had admitted to me that he was in the pay of the Twelve, the organization that employed Villanelle to do their killing. I’d tried to turn Cradle, to get him to inform on the Twelve in return for immunity, and he’d responded by trying to recruit me, which was pretty fucking cheeky, all things considered.

Twenty minutes into the journey, we were flagged down by a female police officer on a motorcycle. It was Villanelle, of course, but by the time I’d figured that out, it was too late. Villanelle told me that she’d missed me. Touched my hair, and talked about my “pretty eyes.” It was all rather romantic, in its way. Then she disabled my car and abducted Cradle, leaving me stranded beside the motorway. Cradle probably thought he was being rescued. In fact, Villanelle drove him to a secluded spot outside Weybridge, smashed the back of his skull with a blunt instrument—I’m guessing a police-issue baton—and dumped him in the River Wey.

Villanelle wasn’t ideal girlfriend material, but then I wasn’t looking for a girlfriend. I was married, for heaven’s sake. Happily married, to a man. And if sex with Niko had never been transcendent—no flaring comet-trails or exploding supernovae, no werewolf howls—I had no complaints. He was that rarest of beings, a genuinely good guy. He loved me when no one else gave me a second glance. He praised my hopeless cooking, was enchanted by my fashion-blindness, and regularly assured me, in the teeth of evidence to the contrary, that I was beautiful. In return, I treated him appallingly. I knew exactly how much I was going to hurt him, and I did it anyway.

It was the way Villanelle made me feel. For all my frozen horror at what she had done, I was awestruck. Her focus, her meticulousness, her ruthless purity of purpose. I’d been sleepwalking through life and suddenly there she was, my perfect adversary.

I would learn later that Villanelle had felt the same way. That while working as the Twelve’s star assassin had its professional and material rewards, she had begun to crave an excitement that routine political murders didn’t deliver. She had developed an appetite for danger. She wanted to lure a pursuer onto her trail, someone worthy of her mettle. She wanted to dance on the razor’s edge.