Revenge (David Shelley #1) - James Patterson



THE STREET IN Finsbury Park was much like any other residential London road: rows of terraced homes bunched up on either side, cars nudged into every available space, each house telling its own story. This one: home to a retired couple, well kept, tidy and house-proud, wheelie bins neatly arranged out front. This one: student digs, overgrown patch of yard out front, windows dirty, shabby curtains that never seemed to open. This one: stickers in the window, paper chains hanging off the frame, home to a noisy family of four.

There was one particular house, however, where things weren’t quite so easily delineated. Neighbors knew that a family of Eastern Europeans lived there—Bulgarians? Russians? Nobody was sure—and that they had a lot of visitors. The woman always had a smile, and the husband—if that’s what he was, no formal introductions had been made—was a big chap, no stranger to the tattooist, and maybe not the sort you’d want to meet in a dark alley on a foggy night. But always perfectly pleasant if you saw him in the street.

And that was it. If you passed and looked into the front room, often you’d see a much older man who whiled away the hours watching TV, and you’d probably think it was heart-warming that the older members of their family were being looked after in their dotage. Not like the British, who’re happy to let them rot in an old folks’ home.

One of the regular visitors to the house was Sergei Vinitsky, now walking along the pavement, hunched up against the chill of the pre-dawn, his hands thrust into the pockets of the hooded parka he wore, feeling dog-tired.

He opened the low gate and let himself into the yard. Raising his hand to knock, he noticed that he still had blood beneath his fingernails and he made a mental note to wash his hands thoroughly before he slept, which would, with any luck, be very soon indeed.

He knocked at the front door—one, two, pause, one, two, pause, one, two. As he was knocking, he glanced into the front window of the house. Sure enough, sitting in his favorite chair in the front room was the man they called Grandfather, glued to an episode of some TV program, cup of tea at hand. To look at him you’d never know that this particular old man had killed and killed again, and that his favored method of execution was to remove body parts one by one, literally to cut his victims to death.

The door was opened by Dmitry’s English wife, Karen. A welcoming smile dropped from her face like falling bricks as she closed the door behind Sergei and indicated for him to make his way along the hall.

He remembered himself, stopped and called to Grandfather in the front room, “Hello, Ded,” he said, Ded being the name reserved for those unrelated to Grandfather. Dmitry, his actual grandson, called him Dedushka. Karen too.

At the sound of the greeting the old man turned his head in Sergei’s direction and grinned toothlessly, his beady eyes gleaming. He inclined his head in reply, then switched his attention back to the TV.

“The Skinsman,” they called him. Just to say his name made men beg for mercy. But his ways were the old ways. Sergei and Dmitry were seeing to that.

Venturing into the bowels of the home, Sergei was struck afresh by the marked contrast between the front of the house and what lay further inside. Leading off the hall was an adequately furnished kitchen with the full complement of washing machine, dishwasher, fridge, and stove, but otherwise all semblance of domestic normality was absent, the pretense so carefully projected for the benefit of neighbors and passersby abandoned. There were no photographs on the wall, no lamps or light shades where a listening device might be concealed, ditto no carpet. Just a stretch of corridor—bare, as though awaiting refurbishment—which led to a door and the lair of the man who to the neighbors seemed a pleasant enough fellow.

This was Dmitry Kraviz, and he spent the bulk of his days peering through spectacles at a mosaic of computer screens arranged above his desk.

Sergei knocked, walked in, and stood close to the door, just as Dmitry preferred. He had called ahead to warn his boss that he had news of some importance, but of course the information itself had to be delivered in person.

“So, what do you have to tell me, Sergei?” asked Dmitry. He swiveled in his seat in