What doesn’t kill you . . . could kill you.

Sometimes, killing, or the methodology of death can be the death of us. His name was Evan Pacheco and like me, he was an officer with the CIA, and his primary task was delivering death. Several years prior to going rogue, Pacheco did the same. He went on a six-month spree of damaging operations for the Company. That damage included compromising over twenty missions and killing over thirty Company officers and allies.

The Company did what the Company does.

Several officers were sent on training missions, with the specified intent of eliminating the threat—the rogue officer who fell out of favor with his employer. Those officers failed in their mission.

By design, officers on different missions, most times, have no idea what’s going on with another officer’s mission. Plus, there is no newsletter that provides information on all current missions, or the particulars of a certain successful mission, or what failed in other missions. You just didn’t hear any scuttlebutt on other missions.

Occasionally, you would hear something in a pre-brief of a mission . . . and every blue moon, maybe a little here and there during a hot wash, which was a debriefing of a current mission.

I heard about the workings of Evan Pacheco during the pre-brief of my next mission during that time period—the CIA’s operation to kill an asset, Evan Pacheco.

The man was smart. Manipulative. He had a team of six mercenaries working for him. They all were held up in an office building in Karlsruhe, in southwest Germany, not far from the border that separated France from Germany. The city was located in the province of Württemberg, about sixty miles from Patch Barracks, an Army Base in the city of Stuttgart. Karlsruhe was famous for being one of the cities the nation’s capital was fashioned after. Rumors had it Thomas Jefferson traveled to Karlsruhe and was so enthralled with the city, he made a sketch of the city and provided that sketch to Pierre Charles L’Enfant, the French architect who was designing the layout of Washington, D.C.

The office building was a three-story, small red brick building that sat not far from the market square, which ironically was within a couple miles of the Federal Court of Justice and Federal Constitutional Court, the two highest courts in Germany.

I spent three days surveying the office building. I checked out the comings and goings of Pacheco’s six mercenaries. I had a layout, architecture drawings of the whole building. I hacked the two backup alarm systems, then the main alarm system, snuck in and planted cameras throughout the building. I hacked Pacheco’s computer server. It wasn’t easy.

I was shocked.

Pacheco was a traitor. For money. He was also the smartest officer I had ever met. He was disgruntled. Vengeful. His mind had betrayed him. Why? Because he allowed his mind to think. Then, he wanted to correct wrongs. Too many wrongs for one man to correct by his lonesome. Hence, a team.

His team of six . . . was actually a team of nine, which included three sets of identical twins. Of course it was easier to damage over twenty missions with a team of nine versus a team of six. Pacheco was the tenth member, and probably one of the smartest killers who ever graced the walls of Langley. I was sure he had used the identified twins to his advantage. How? I didn’t know . . . and honestly, I didn’t care.

I had placed small, directive explosives in each of the six rooms on the third floor. The simultaneous explosions killed five of the mercenaries, while dispersing a concentrated poison from the sprinkler system on the second floor, instantly killing three other mercenaries. The ninth member of Evan Pacheco’s team was the only female, and she and her boss were fucking like rabbits, in the bedroom of his three-room flat on the north side of the building.

Being on top, the blonde woman with the red and blue streaks, was the first to jump up. The first thing I saw was the Glock 30. How could I not see it? It was a dull chrome red with a dark burgundy wood handle. It looked sleek. Hell, it even looked sexy.

But so was she. The. Woman. Was. Deadly.

So. Was. I.

One shot from my Sig Sauer P226 got her in the middle of her forehead. My second shot was at the pillow, an inch from the head of Evan Pacheco.

The bedroom was big. Hell, it was actually the size of two oversized master bedrooms. I’d hidden in one of three closets, the closest to the bed. I was less than ten feet from the infamous Evan Pacheco, maybe the most prolific killer in CIA history at that moment.

“Who do I have the honor of killing?” he me asked in perfect German. The smile was deceiving. The man was afraid. When I made my entrance and blew the directed bombs on the third floor, which automatically set off the sprinklers on the second, I saw the killer’s hands on the nice sized breasts of his mercenary.

“Elijah McCrane,” I returned in perfect Spanish.

The man had a hearty laugh. “One, Mr. McCrane was white, a little shit to be truthful.” His Russian wasn’t as good as his German, but it was still pretty good. “Plus, he really wasn’t as good as you and I. Hell, he was lucky if he knew twenty ways to kill someone.”

“I only have one question,” I stated.

The man didn’t pay attention to me. I knew why. He was waiting on reinforcement from the Karlsruhe police force.

“No, you are the one and only Hunt Collins,” he said in English. “I have heard stories. I thought I was the best. But I always hear the same thing from my handler and probably every officer who heard or know the stories of Hunt Collins.”

“One question, Evan,” I responded also in English.

“One question? Only one?”

“Why?”

“Everything is not what it seems Hunt.” The man’s eyes were looking at me, but his mind was elsewhere. Actually, he was looking through me. I could see the pain in those eyes . . . as well as the fear. The confusion. The sadness. The disappointment.

“I killed Elijah. He told me to watch my back and the Company isn’t what I thought it was. He was right. I came for Elijah. You came for me. Someone will come for you.

“I hope you survive.

“You centralized, single point the bombs. No noise outside the building, contained within. Pretty good. Smart.”

My shot hit him between the eyes.

I didn’t have to say anything. He had allowed his left hand to shyly slide to the side of his bed. I knew the trick. He had a holster attached to the side of his bed with a Glock 37, also dull chrome red, with a burgundy wood handle.