The telephone line was scratchy.

“Hello? This is the New York Yankee Sports Bar.”

“This is the Babe. I’ve got a few last-minute bets for the bartender to put down for me.”

Another voice appeared.

“Babe, how is the lineup looking?”

“I’m here with Gehrig and a Yankees fan from out of town at the dugout. We saw some of the Giants’ lineup and McGraw on the field. However, they didn’t seem to bring their baseball with them.”

“Where did you say Jim McGraw was?”

“He’s here with probably half of the team. The baseball is probably being sent to the stadium with some infielders in a mitt. McGraw is going to take the rest of them there soon. He’s just waiting for the train.”

“So what would you suggest for a bid?”

“McGraw is most likely going to gather his boys for a little inspirational talk. We’ll try to figure out where the baseball is. If the bets are being put down, then we will just find out where McGraw is taking them and find our own train to use.”

“So, the bet should be raised here?”

“That’d be my decision. I’ll call back later for which field they’re looking to play on.”

“Good luck.”


Standing outside of the wine cellar door, John pressed his ear up against its dark wooden frame. No noise. He was out of his dinner jacket, clad in his pea coat. Marlon and Christoph were on his right and left, inspecting the passageway for Malchev’s men. There were none. They didn’t anticipate any there. They would be inside of the wine cellar, keeping a close eye on their possession.

The lower section of the building was secure. No interference from hotel staff, no unsuspecting guests. The plain clothed police stood guard at the vital chokepoints. No one was to be admitted without their authorization.

“All clear?” John asked.

“Clear,” Marlon said.

“Alright. Let’s do this.”

Marlon placed a suitcase he had been carrying down at his feet, opening it up. They both reached into it and produced Colt pocket pistols, the standard service weapon for field operatives.

It was a suitable choice; compact, easy to conceal. The stopping power was minimal, but in close quarters, it would do the job suitably.

They slipped on suppressors, while Christoph produced a large revolver from his coat.

“Do we have a map for the wine cellar?” John asked him.

Christoph handed him the blueprints for the hotel. After a quick glance he concluded it would be similar to a specific training scenario. The only deviation was that he couldn’t predict whether the NPSU members protecting the explosive would detonate it, rather than let it fall into their hands.

“This is how it will be done,” he said to Marlon. “We are here, at the main door that takes us into the central corridor. Roughly 20 feet ahead will be two passageways going to the left and the right. Eventually, these two passageways rejoin as they go up north, approximately a hundred feet. I will take the right side. You’ll take the left. We meet up again in the center and proceed from there to the end room, which is where I expect the explosive is being kept.”

“Any estimate on the number of men we’ll encounter?”

“Can’t say for sure. The NPSU is projected to have over a hundred and fifty members. Half of them are believed to still be in Russia, but that could be incorrect. I’m thinking they’ll have four men in the corridor, three men in the end room with the explosive, seven in all.”

“That doesn’t sound like too many.”

“The problem isn’t numbers, it’s about not alerting them all at once.”

He gestured at Christoph. “You’ll stay back and watch our rear from the central corridor. We can’t afford anyone slipping past us. Don’t shoot if you can avoid it. But if you have to, don’t hesitate.”

“I won’t.”

John folded the map. “Good. Let’s not waste any more time.”

Marlon grabbed the metal handle on the door, pulling it back slowly. John entered and peered down the corridor; dim lights hung from the ceiling, rows of wine barrels stacked orderly on the sides. He proceeded forward while Marlon crept up behind him. When they came to the turns, they parted; John went right, Marlon went left.

John eventually came to an abrupt turn to the left. Pressing his body against a row of cold barrels, he looked around the corner and spotted two men speaking quietly with their backs turned to him. After analyzing them for a moment, John drew his handgun up and aimed.

Two brief snaps, two dimmed flashes, two ejected shells, two splashes of blood from the back of their heads; the two men dropped to the ground.

He waited for a response, then approached their bodies cautiously, still directing his gun at them. He’d seen fakers in the past. Another round to their heads ensured that wasn’t the case.

He collected all relevant information from the corpses, stuffing them in his jacket before shoving a full magazine of ammo into his Colt, then continued down the corridor. Marlon was there to greet him in the center of the passageway, smiling self-assuredly.

“Everything taken care of?” John whispered.

“Yeah. Got two. You?”

“Two as well.”

“More than halfway done.”

“We’re not finished yet.”

Walking parallel to each other, they quietly covered the distance to the end of the corridor. When they were within visibility of the door they stopped at the sight of a man standing in front of it, remaining out of the light.

“He has to be eliminated without firing a shot,” John said. “But he has the advantageous position.”

Marlon peeked around the corner, then looked up at the light fixture and the wires that ran onto the upper wall. He found the nearest fixture and smashed it, severing the current. The entire cellar fell darkness.

John rounded the corner as the guard hollered worriedly.

“What is happening?” he spoke with a husky voice.

John kept inching closer. Adjusting his vocal chords, he called out in Russian. “I saw a light blow out. I’m trying to fix it right now.”

“Hurry! We might be attacked any minute—”

His statement was cut short by a fingertip crossing through the darkness and touching his neck; it was a tremendous concentration of energy channeled with the velocity of a bullet. Among the many fighting techniques that they were taught, it was the most effective in STIGMA’s arsenal.

The man died instantly. John caught him and slowly lowered to the cold stone floor. He snatched his submachine gun, emptied it of its magazine, and then came to the door.

Another voice came from the other side of the thick door.

“Aleksei? Is that you?”

“Yes,” John answered.

“Where is the electricity?”

“Oleg is working on it.”

“Tell that lazy son of a bitch to not take his time!”

“Is everyone else still in there?”

“Yes,” spoke a new voice. “Isaak, Vasily, and Valentin are right here.”

Four of them, two apiece. They would have to work fast.

John whispered into Marlon’s ear. “Get the door handle.”

A few seconds later he got a second tap on his shoulder.


They readied themselves, prepared for the breach. John’s breathing became precise, exact; another part of his training.


Marlon threw the door back, ran in. John followed. They joined, then broke off. One of the men was holding a lit match. He dropped it in horror as John put a bullet in his head, then did the same to his comrade on the left.

“Are we clear?” John asked.

A feeble moan was uttered, followed by a suppressed gunshot.

“Now it is,” Marlon said.

“Get the lights on.”

The wire was briskly repaired. John approached the wooden table in the center of the room where a large crate sat on top. He snatched his lockpick from his jacket, tinkering with it anxiously. When he finally opened it up, he promptly kicked it on the ground.

“What is it?” Marlon asked. “What did you find?”

John snatched up his gun and reloaded it, shooting an infuriated expression at Marlon as he headed out of the room. “Nothing. Not a damn thing. It was a trick.”


Outside the hotel, John and Marlon stood awkwardly beside each other. John had a cigarette plugged into his mouth, smoking it with urgent puffs. It was well past midnight. He had a feeling he was going to consume his limit of five before the sun had a chance to show itself.

Christoph came through the doors; a handful of Geneva police officers gathered in the lobby. “Malchev’s very good. We checked the rooms they were staying in. They took everything. The hotel guestbook never recorded the time they departed. It could have been immediately after we saw them in the restaurant.”

“Have you set up perimeters around the city?” John asked.

“Yes. My captain has instructed the officers to search any cars they find that match the description I sent them. We’ve got men at every road that leads out of the city. They won’t be able to leave without passing by them first. I have also sent our detectives to the train stations with his photo. If he tries to flee, we’ll get him.”

A frown fell across John’s face. The procedure was too…predictable.

“Don’t bother,” he said.

“Why not?” Marlon inquired. “Do you want them to slip past us?”

“They won’t slip past us; they’ll fly over us.”

“What?” Christoph said.

“Where is the nearest airfield?”

“There is one less than five miles away. It’s small, though, and I don’t see why he would use a plane.”

“I can’t explain. We need to get there.”

“Here, then,” Christoph said, handing him a key. “Take my car.”

John grabbed it, lugging their equipment in a long bag. “Keep an eye out here, just in case. This might be another ruse on his part.” He hesitated. “And don’t tell anyone where we’re going.”

Christoph sighed, shaking his hand in farewell. “Very well. Good luck, my friends.”

Leaving their Swiss ally at the top of the steps, they both ran down them, crossing the street. Christoph’s car was parked by a lamppost. John jumped into the driver’s seat, while Marlon sat in the passenger seat. He turned on the engine and accelerated quickly.

“What makes you think he’s flying?” Marlon asked.

“Because it’s the best option. He must have spies in Geneva, probably contacts inside of the police force just like we do. He’ll know where they’re going to be setting up barriers. Every advantage lies in flying. He won’t use the airport, though. He’ll resort to a private aircraft.”

“What kind of resistance should we expect?”

“A lot. Malchev will be heavily guarded. Either we run into him, or we find the explosive. Regardless, they are going to try to stop us by any means available. It’s going to get ugly.”

“Maybe we should let them go,” Marlon suggested. “Find some way to track them and follow them out of the country.”

“We can’t afford a slip-up. We almost lost them back there. If we do so again, and they get to the coastline, they’re lost for good until something gets blown up.”

Marlon shrugged as he set his sidearm on the dashboard, unbuttoning the cuffs on his shirt sleeves. “Might as well be comfortable before going into these things.”

When they reached the airfield, a thick mist surrounded it. Yet, they could still see a large hanger stood in the upper section of the fenced area lit from the inside. Headlights off, they parked the car off the side of the road, exiting it with a rifle sheath and their large leather bag.

A large field encompassed the property. Wire cutters opened a small entryway for them through the fence surrounding it. Ignoring the mud on their suits, they slithered across the damp ground until they came across a small mound of dirt overlooking the hanger.

John hunkered down and pulled out a Springfield rifle from the sheath. Loading it, he set the telescopic sight on the top while Marlon opened the bag and removed a green-dyed wool blanket. Propping up the front with a thin stick, he created a small makeshift tent over them, camouflaging all but their heads.

Marlon scanned the hanger with a pair of binoculars.

“What do you see?” John said as he adjusted the sights on his scope to match the distance between them and the target.

“There’s a Junkers sticking out of the front doors,” Marlon replied. “It’ll get him 600 miles. He’s not leaving Europe in it.”

John rested his rifle on the mound, finding a comfortable position for his shoulder. “Anything else?”

“We’ve got several vehicles and about 20 men on the right side of the hanger. I think I see three trucks inside, but I can’t confirm that.”


John looked through his scope, straining to see through the mist. Spotting Malchev would be difficult, but hitting him would be equally challenging.

At the front of the opened hanger, a trio of men walked separately from the rest of the pack.

One of them held himself proudly, announcing his identify through his commanding posture.

“I see Malchev,” John said.

“You sure?”

“I know it’s him.”

“Don’t fire until it’s confirmed. You’re only going to get one shot at him.”


His scope’s crosshairs remained on the silhouetted figure. As time passed, he still couldn’t make out his identity. He relied on gut instinct.

It was now clear they were ready to leave. Instinct would have to do.

“I see him,” Marlon said. “Target confirmed. Take the shot.”

John held his breath, gently pulling the trigger. Just as he was doing so, a strong wind picked up. It was too late. The rifle kicked back hard. John cursed as the wind caused it to veer off. A ricochet splashed against the side of the hanger; the three men dropped to the ground. Fingers pointed at John and Marlon’s location. The rest of the group dispersed; some headed into the vehicles, others offered light gunfire as a deadly welcome.

“Get back to the car!” John said. He fired again, this time hitting one of the men standing in the light. “I’ll cover you!”

Marlon didn’t argue. He tore off the wool blanket and ran across the field as John fired three more times, achieving a solid kill and two wounded. He dodged the return fire as he rejoined his colleague at the car. John clutched the steering wheel with claw-like fingertips and drove the car through the field and onto the runway, swerving back and forth. Three vehicles roared out of the hanger, chasing them.

Marlon leaned out of the window and did his best to take out the drivers with his pistol. He went to shoot at Malchev as they passed him hiding near the hanger doors, but the elusive man had taken refuge inside of the hanger, flanked by the trucks and the remainder of his men.

His pistol empty, Marlon tossed it to the side and snatched his briefcase down underneath his seat. Opening it, he pulled out four grenades and pulled the pin out of one with his teeth, then lobbed it out of the window like a baseball. It landed directly under the first car, blowing it apart.

The other two cars separated and tried to flank them. Noticing their division, John turned to take advantage of the situation. There was one still doggedly on their tail.

“Take him out!” he said.

“I can’t!” Marlon replied. “I’m out of ammo!”

John yanked a spare P08 from inside of his jacket and handed it to Marlon. “It’s only got one spare magazine. Make the bullets count!”

Stiffening his shoulder, Marlon steadied his arm. He squeezed one eye shut, slowly pulling back on the trigger. The driver kept going. Marlon cursed softly, fired again. No effect.

Clenching his teeth, he muttered to himself, taking a third shot.

The driver’s head whipped back as a bright red splash of blood appeared on the windshield. The car swerved abruptly and crashed, while the third car it hurled down the uneven terrain in pursuit.

“We need to shake them off of us,” John said. “We’re running out of time. The runway doesn’t last forever.”

Marlon brought up two grenades. Pulling the pins out the same as before, he leaned out the window, tossing them toward opposite angles. As if expecting it, the driver was able to dodge them, swerving from one side to another. He then grabbed three more, giving a long delay with the fuse before tossing two of them out. As before, the car turned left and right to avoid them, as if on cue.

Waiting until the car was turning back to its original route, he dropped the last one. The driver saw grenade come towards his car but couldn’t stop in time. It disappeared in a large explosion.

John glanced at the rearview mirror. One of the men had managed to jump out with a rifle in hand. He took aim, but not at their car.

John then looked ahead, where a fuel truck was mere yards away.

“Hold on!” he cried as he to get off the runway long spires of grass.

The Russian fired.

Then the truck exploded.


For all installments from The Shadow Men, click here.

Previous installments:

  1. Part 1: Excerpt 1
  2. Part 1: Excerpt 2
  3. Part 1: Excerpt 3