Bullseye (Michael Bennett #9) - James Patterson

One

There were snowdrifts at the curbs and snow-buried benches in the parks and snowcaps on the street signs and fire hydrants and on the newel posts for the subway entrances. There were four inches so far, and they were thinking maybe ten when all was said and done.

Four inches was laughable somewhere like Maine, but in Manhattan on a dark early November evening, it cancels plans and sends people indoors.

The two black-clad figures on the BMW R 1200 RT sport motorcycle that rolled slowly north up Amsterdam Avenue near 135th Street not only knew that; they had planned on it. They’d been waiting on the cold snowy conditions for the last month.

The Beemer’s engine thrummed steadily as the City College of New York campus appeared on their right. First the big, ugly, modern, box store–like classroom buildings. Then the older, original, Harry Potter–like Gothic ones.

The driver did controlled swerves from time to time, careful not to get a pile of road salt under the motorcycle’s studded snow tires. An experienced winter biker, he knew that even with the studs, salt was slicker than ice.

He and the rider behind him were dressed identically in the latest in cold weather riding gear. Gore-Tex Tourmaster electric jackets and riding pants over EDZ thermals, Windstopper gloves and neck warmers. Black glossy Scorpion snow helmets with the tinted no-fog visors firmly down.

Every ounce of gear was specific to the mission. They had even specifically selected the heavy BMW for its low center of gravity, which aided in stability and traction.

Then finally there it was, two blocks ahead.

The corner of West 141st Street.

The driver had been over what was going to happen next so many times that he could have drawn the scene west down 141st Street with his eyes closed. The old, once-stately five- and six-story prewar apartment houses on either side of the narrow, descending, one-way side street. The ancient shoe repair place on the left, the Caribbean hair salon on the right. Both business entrances sunk down a flight of steps below the sloping sidewalk, as on a lot of Hamilton Heights’ quirky up and down streets.

They’d played it through time and time again, until it was boring. Over and over, slowly. Listing everything that could possibly go wrong. Because it wasn’t just surprise. It was surprise plus doing. Doing lots and lots of stuff you’d already preplanned while the other guy sat there going “Wait, what is this?” for that split second you needed to get the hammer down on him.

Suddenly the rider said in their two-way Bluetooth helmet radio, “Hold up! The car isn’t there. Shit! There must be something wrong. Maybe we should abort.”

They’d planted a remote camera in a car across from the 141st Street target; the rider was monitoring it via smartphone.

“Calm down. It’s okay. They’re just late because of the snow,” the driver said as he drifted the bike over and stopped at the left-hand curb half a block from 141st’s corner. “We’re not aborting. We just have to wait a second. This is going to happen. Right now. I can feel it. Keep watching and tell me the second you see it.”

As he waited, the BMW’s driver closed his eyes and ran through the scenario yet again. Amsterdam was the highest point in the neighborhood, and the path down 141st to the target was like going down steps: the first long slope off Amsterdam to the flat of Hamilton, and then another down slope to the flat of Broadway. The target building was on the final down slope of 141st between Broadway and Riverside Drive, midblock south side, on the left.

The abandoned apartment building had two wings, with the entrance between them way back off the street, through a canyonlike corridor. That was why it was so formidable. The target could see anything and anyone coming well before the front door could be reached. Two police raids had been tried over the past two years, and the place was always clean by the time they got inside.

The softest point, they’d discovered from their extensive recon, was right around now, when one of the grandmas usually brought the crew home cooking. The three guys on lobby duty would come out and give abuela lots of showy love on the sidewalk in exchange for aluminum pans of stewed pork and eggplant, as the fourth guy hung back by the propped-open front door.

One thing the driver liked was that they were above the target. That they would swoop down on