The backseat of the old yellow cab had seen its fair share of life. The ripped vinyl with its frayed cords of fabric and stray pen marks, the graffiti and the stains, all of it testified to a long and turbulent existence. From that royal throne, Arnold Moore surveyed the snow-covered streets of Washington as he slowly passed them by.

In a year of strange weather, another storm had reached the nation’s capital, the fourth in six weeks, but the least troublesome so far, as it had arrived on a Friday and would be gone by Sunday night.

On Saturday morning, however, the snow was still falling, covering the lawns and trees in a pristine blanket of white and leaving the streets awash in a layer of gray slush. It was enough to keep the masses at home and the District as vacant as Moore could remember.

The taxi brought him in from the Virginia side, rolling along the Jefferson Davis Parkway and then up onto the Arlington Memorial Bridge and across the Potomac. The Lincoln Memorial loomed in the distance, its great columned shape half-shrouded in the falling snow.

The city was a different place in weather like this, the monuments more grand and worthy in their isolation, the reflecting pools more majestic in their silence and emptiness, more dignified for the lack of tourists, vendors and vagrants.

Moore preferred the city in this dress on any occasion, but especially this one. He was on his way to a meeting, having finally been contacted by someone interested in the Brazil project. The city’s emptiness would make it easier to confer in the open, easier to spot trouble if it came.

The cab dropped Moore off in front of the monument and he took to the sidewalk, the snow crunching and squeaking underfoot.

Feeling the chill of the air, he pulled the lapels of his heavy wool coat tight and thrust his hands into its deep, warm pockets—the same pockets in which he’d found the note, just two days prior. At the door of his apartment, when reaching for his keys, his hand had made contact with a folded piece of paper bearing writing that was not his own. The text began simply “Call” and provided a number. Beneath the number were the words “we can help you.” Nothing else, no mention of the Brazil project or the NRI, but the connection was unmistakable.

Moore had gazed trancelike at the little scrap of paper for a good, long while. It bothered him that he hadn’t detected its placement; as he stood in line at the coffee shop perhaps, or on the crowded Metro platform itself. No one had bumped him, rushed by or lingered too long at his side, no clumsy pickpocket’s distraction had been attempted. After boarding the Metro, Moore had sat by himself and gotten off at his regular station with very few others. And yet, somehow the little slip of paper had come into his possession. It made him feel old and slow, as if his senses were dulling with age. Perhaps the calendar was right, perhaps it was time for retirement.

Back in the present, Moore noticed a car approaching and did his best to banish the thought. The tan vehicle slowed marginally, but rounded the curve and drove on, spitting a small wake of slush as it went.

Moore looked beyond the departing car to the white horizon. Somewhere out there Gibbs was listening. In addition, there were people watching him, at least three groups of backup. Two cars, and a third group on foot, though Moore did not know exactly who or where. It was entirely possible that the passing car contained one of Gibbs’ teams.

He tried not to think about that either. It was a distraction and his current task demanded his full attention. He was about to meet with one of the enemy, the same enemy who had attempted to kill Danielle. His job was to find out who they were. To do that he’d have to convince them that he was ready and willing to betray the NRI, not an easy task, considering his reputation. It was a trap laid for a party who must undoubtedly expect a trap; a hard sell in any book. But with Matt Blundin’s untimely death several days before, it was the only chance they had left.

Another car came down the road. A white Lexus with yellow fog lamps blazing in the grill. It pulled up next to him and stopped. An open window revealed a man seemingly in his midtwenties, with a neatly trimmed goatee.

“Arnold Moore?”

Moore nodded.

“Why don’t you get in,” the man suggested. “We can talk while we drive.”

Moore shook his head. “I don’t think so.” He pointed to the lot. “Go park down there. There’s plenty of space. Then come back here and we’ll take a walk through this glorious winter wonderland.”

The driver’s face wrinkled at the thought, but he hit the gas and did as Moore said. A moment later he returned on foot, making his way in a casual saunter.

Moore studied the man. He was young and good-looking, with blond highlights in his hair and a glowing tan in the middle of winter. He wore sharply creased slacks and a cashmere turtleneck. “Dear God,” Moore whispered, “they’ve sent me a ski instructor.”

As the man reached Moore, he said, “Which way?”

“Does it matter?” Moore asked gruffly. He took a quick look in both directions and began to walk away from the monument and out toward the bridge. He needed to stay in the open.

The blond man rolled his eyes and followed. For a minute they just walked—no words or gestures, just two men walking on the slope that led up to the bridge.

“What’s your name?” Moore asked, finally.

The blond man laughed.

“No names, then,” Moore said. “Fine. I’ll call you Sven. You look like a Sven to me.”

Sven didn’t seem to object and the two continued walking—Moore in his heavy boots, orange scarf and bulky layers of cotton and wool; Sven in his cashmere and expensive Italian shoes, now getting ruined in the snow.

“You’re the guy on the phone the other night,” Moore guessed.

“Very observant,” Sven replied.

“Are you also a dry cleaner?”


“I’m wondering how you got that note in my pocket,” Moore said. “I never felt it placed there, so I thought it might have come back from the dry cleaners like that.”

Sven kept walking.

Moore read his face. “Not your doing.”

“I just took the call.”

“Somehow it figures,” Moore said, the tone of a disgusted veteran in his voice.

With that, he picked up the pace, heading out onto the bridge deck, out over the river, where it would be colder and Sven’s thin clothes would be less adequate than they already appeared to be.

Sven seemed aware of that fact. “Where the hell are we going?” he whined.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Moore said, looking down at the Potomac, dark and ominous against the white snowbanks. “We’re just walking. Staying out in the open, out in public, where I’m less likely to perceive you as a threat and have to kill you because of it.”

Sven laughed. “Am I supposed to take that seriously?”

“Take it however you want,” Moore said, continuing the walk. “Not like they would miss you anyway.”

Sven seemed to clench his jaw, and Moore guessed the remark had hit the target.

“I don’t think you understand the situation,” Sven told him. “You’re the one who needs us. I’m just here to find out if you’re worth the time.”

“Really?” Moore said. “Important errand they’ve sent you on. You must be so proud.”

Moore turned away from him, but Sven grabbed his shoulder to spin him back around. “Listen to me, old man—”

Moore knocked the hand away and bore into Sven with fury in his eyes. “No, you listen to me, you worthless little fuck. I don’t deal with pawns or messengers. Forty years in this business—that’s what I’ve got. So if the people who sent you have anything to say, they’d better have the balls to come see me themselves. Or at least send someone who matters.”

Sven began to say something but Moore cut him off.

“You’re a fucking nobody and you don’t know jack shit about this operation. You don’t even know how your people contacted me.”

Sven’s face was red with anger.

Moore’s eyebrows went up in mockery of his opponent. “Come on, then. Let’s hear it. Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me how important you are and just what it is that you know.”

“I know enough,” Sven said finally. “I know they pulled you off an important job and you don’t like that. I know that your career is pretty much done and you don’t like that either. Forty years you’ve got. I say forty years they used you, now you’re getting kicked to the curb, and that must burn you up pretty bad or you wouldn’t be here in the first place, would you?”

Moore stared at Sven and the anger, both real and pretend, seeped away. When he spoke again his voice was like gravel. “As a matter of fact, it does,” he said truthfully. “But coming here was a mistake.”

He looked at Sven with a trace of pity in his eyes. “Go home,” he said. “Go home before you get yourself killed. You think this is going to happen? You really think so? If people switched sides every time they got pissed off, then where the hell would we be?”

Sven didn’t answer and Moore shook his head in disgust. “Go home and tell your people that I’m not interested. You tell them that money is not enough to get me. And the next time they want to offer me something, they better not send some punk kid who’s wet behind the ears and worried about his lips chafing in the cold.” Moore shook his head even more dejectedly than before. “I’ve got files older than you.”

With that he turned his back on Sven and looked out over the stone railing of the bridge. With a gloved hand, he brushed the snow from the section in front of him and rested his forearms on it, gazing out at the black water rippling gently beneath the gray-white sky. “Forty years,” he mumbled, “and this is how it ends. What a joke. What a fucking joke.”

In a heated room far from the bridge, Gibbs listened to every word, and for the first time he began to understand why Moore was held in such high regard. He’d played it masterfully. Sven was furious, angry enough to tell Moore volumes just to prove that he mattered, or to run back to his superiors and insist that Moore had balked and would need more prodding to come aboard. A sure sign that Moore was legit as opposed to being bait for a trap.

It was almost enough to make Gibbs wish the drama were real. But the situation was not as Moore had been led to believe, and despite his work, Moore was involved in a game he couldn’t win.

Back at the bridge Sven smiled for the first time. “Why don’t you come with me?” he said. “You can tell them yourself.”

Moore turned to face Sven, his back to the railing. He was tempted. He and Gibbs had planned for this eventuality. The two cars would be able to track him, follow him to whatever site Sven had in mind, but it felt rushed. Moore declined. “Not until I know who I’m dealing with.”

Sven shook his head and looked down the road. Moore realized it was vacant. “Wrong answer,” Sven said, pulling a slim pistol from his coat.

Before Moore could react, Sven fired twice into his chest. Moore fell back against the railing and then stumbled forward. Sven caught him as his knees buckled, holding him up and shoving him backward against the railing and then forcing him up and over the top.

Moore tumbled toward the river, his coat fluttering like a cape, until he plunged into the icy, black water and disappeared beneath the surface.

Back up on the bridge, Sven watched for several seconds. The foam of the impact receded, smoothed over by the flow of the river. Only Moore’s orange scarf reappeared, floating to the surface and twirling in the current before passing out of sight underneath the bridge.

Satisfied, Sven turned back to the street. A shiny black Audi pulled up and the rear door opened. He jumped in and the car sped off.

Farther away, Stuart Gibbs listened through headphones that issued nothing but static now. He turned to the control panel, found the switch for Moore’s wire and flicked it off.

Moore was gone. Blundin was gone. And within twenty-four hours the entire team in the Amazon would be gone. Vanishing with them would be the last evidence of the NRI’s Brazil project.

Black Rain