Book Title: Chameleon Assassin
Author Name: B.R. Kingsolver
Genre: Urban Fantasy, science fiction, post-apocalyptic dystopian
Hosted by: Ultimate Fantasy Book Tours
Libby is a mutant, one of the top burglars and assassins in the world. For a price, she caters to executives’ secret desires. Eliminate your corporate rival? Deliver a priceless art masterpiece or necklace? Hack into another corporation’s network? Libby’s your girl.
Climate change met nuclear war, and humanity lost. The corporations stepped in, stripping governments of power. Civilization didn’t end, but it became less civilized.
There are few rules as corporations jockey for position and control of assets and markets. The corporate elite live in their walled estates and skyscraper apartments while the majority of humanity supplies their luxuries. On the bottom level, the mutants, the poor, and the criminals scramble every day just to survive.
I made silver and turquoise jewelry for almost a decade, ended up in nursing school, then took a master’s in business. Along the way I worked in construction, as a newspaper editor, a teacher, and somehow found a career working with computers.
As to my other interests, I love the outdoors, especially the Rocky Mountains. I’ve skied since high school, with one broken leg and one torn ACL to show for it. I’ve hiked and camped all my life. I love to travel, though I haven’t done enough of it. I’ve seen a lot of Russia and Mexico, not enough of England. Amsterdam is amazing, and the Romanian Alps are breathtaking. Lake Tahoe is a favorite, and someday I’d like to see Banff.
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The band was rocking it at The Pinnacle when I heard, “Wanna dance?”
I glanced up, and then up a little more. He was tall, with nice shoulders, and a nice smile.
“Sure.” I stood, watching his face as I rose to my full six feet two inches, plus the heels I was wearing. A lot of men want women shorter than they are. My eyes passed his, and then his followed mine up. I figured if I had been barefoot, we would’ve been about the same height. His smile didn’t falter, and he reached for my hand. Okay! I smiled back.
We sized each other up as we danced. I liked what I saw. Broad shoulders, broad chest, muscular arms. Buzz haircut. A hint of tattoo peeking out from his sleeves and collar. Gold hoop in one ear.
We danced to a couple more songs, then he bought me a drink.
“I’m Ron,” he said as he handed me a glass with something orangish in it.
“Thanks.” I motioned toward the stage. “I’m going home with her tonight.”
He puckered his lips, then took a drink. “You always swing that way?”
“I swing all sorts of ways. Mostly I don’t swing at all. I’m kinda picky and I don’t get in a hurry.”
To my surprise, he smiled. “Nothing wrong with that.” He toasted me with his glass, then took another drink. “You come here a lot?”
“I’ll see ya again, then,” Ron said and wandered off into the crowd. A couple of minutes later I saw him dancing with another woman. Good to know I didn’t permanently crush his heart.
The orange thing tasted terrible, so I took it over to the bar and shoved it at Paul. “Give me a shot of whiskey. I need something to wash the taste of that out of my mouth.”
Paul laughed. “I tried to tell him you wouldn’t like it.” He poured me a shot. “My treat,” he said, leaning forward to hand me the drink. “See that guy down at the end of the bar? He asked if Elizabeth Nelson is here tonight.”
I craned my neck to see the man Paul was talking about. He looked like a corporate type, dressed in a business suit. Even my mother didn’t call me Elizabeth, but it was the name on my business card. “What did you tell him?”
“That I hadn’t seen you yet. Says his name is Sayd Agha.”
“Any hint as to what he wants?”
Paul shook his head.
I walked down the bar. “Mr. Agha? I’m Elizabeth Nelson. I understand you were asking for me.”
He slid off the bar stool and stood. “Ah, Miss Nelson. Yes, I would like to discuss some business with you.” He had to crane his neck up to talk to me and it seemed to bother him.
I handed him my business card. “Normally, people either send me an email or vmail. We can discuss your business tomorrow.” Rather than walk away, I hesitated, waiting to see what he would do. Expecting me at The Pinnacle was a curious choice since I had no official connection to the place. The idea that he had followed me there seeped through my alcohol-soaked brain.
“I hoped we might talk tonight,” he said, reaching out and taking my elbow. “Perhaps we could just go outside where it’s quieter.” I tried to shake him off, and he tightened his grip. “I think we need to talk now, Miss Nelson.”
“Perhaps we could go into the women’s washroom so I can torture you until you tell me what this is about,” I suggested. I stared in his eyes, but he wasn’t sufficiently shocked at what I’d said. A man who nonchalantly considered torture a standard topic of conversation? Not good.
“Look down,” I said. He glanced down at the knife I held against his abdomen. “Let go of me.” He did. “Very good. Now, turn around and face the bar. And if you think you might be faster than I am, consider if you’d bet your life on it.”
Agha made a good decision and turned around. I took a small electroshock box from my purse, put it against the back of his neck and gave him three million volts. His shaking-dance reaction attracted Paul’s attention, and he rushed around the end of the bar to catch my victim before he fell.
“Do you have a room where we can take him?” I asked. “Or do I have to drag him all the way to the basement?”
“Are you going to kill him?” Paul asked. Did I mention that Paul had known me for a very long time?
“Not until I find out how many friends he has outside. I have no idea what’s going on.”
Paul turned away and told another bartender to cover for him. He spoke into a mic clipped to his collar, then turned back to me.
“I called for a couple of bouncers to help us.”
We both scanned the room, trying to see if anyone was taking an interest in our activities. It didn’t appear anyone was paying attention. I pulled out my phone and called my dad.
“Hey, does the name Sayd Agha ring a bell?” I asked when Dad answered.
“Can’t say that it does. Why?”
“He just tried to lure me outside a club to talk business. I told him to call the office tomorrow, and he tried to get insistent.”
“Don’t go with him!”
I chuckled. “I didn’t. I can’t figure out why he’s interested in me, so I thought maybe you’d run over his pet frog or something.”
“Send me his picture.”
Two bouncers, Tom and Ramon, showed up and carried Agha down the stairs to the basement. I thought we were going to Paul’s apartment, but they surprised me. We ended up in a laundry room. Paul brought a chair, and one of the bouncers produced a rope. They were very efficient in tying my new friend to the chair.
“Looks like you boys have done this before,” I commented.
Tom winked at me.
“If he followed me here, his friends may know Nellie is a friend of mine,” I said.
Ramon’s grin turned into a scowl. “Anyone touch Nellie has a death wish.” I didn’t think he was speaking metaphorically. He nodded to Tom, who headed toward the stairs.
“Do you need me?” Paul asked. When I shook my head, he also left, but Ramon stayed.
“You here to protect me or him?” I asked.
“I don’t know him, and he ain’t near as pretty as you are. You’re Paul’s friend.” He stepped back and leaned against a washing machine.
My phone rang. “Dad?”
“His name is Adnan Erdowan,” Dad said. “He’s Turkish, but he’s been living here for about ten years. He works for a Russian electronics corporation.”
“That’s nice. By here, do you mean Toronto or North America?”
“North America. He’s based in Dallas, but airline records show he’s been shuttling back and forth from Dallas to Toronto monthly for the past year.”
“Any idea why he’s after me?”
“None. I’ve never dealt with that company, one way or the other.” Then he gave me his version of fatherly advice. “Libby, don’t take any chances and don’t leave any witnesses.”
I hung up and told the bouncer, “Maybe you should take a look outside and see if anyone’s waiting for him.”
“Already have people doing that.”
“Oh. Are you squeamish?”
I shoved the little box into the Turk’s groin and triggered it. He screamed—long, loud, and raw. The bouncer paled. I decided he lied when he said he wasn’t squeamish. Men are like that—always trying to put on a strong front.