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The Cleanerby Brett Battles
Synopses & Reviews
DENVER WAS NOT HAWAII. THERE WERE NO BEACHES, NO palm trees, no bikinis, no mai tais sipped slowly on the deck of the Lava Shack on Maui. Instead there were people dressed like they were expecting the next ice age, directing planes down taxiways lined with mounds of freshly plowed snow. There wasn't anyone wearing a bikini within five hundred miles. Worse yet, while it was only 3:00 p.m. local time on Thursday afternoon when Jonathan Quinn's flight began disembarking, a layer of gunmetal-gray clouds made it seem like it was almost night.
It was definitely vacation over, back to work.
After he exited the plane, Quinn made his way toward the front of the terminal, pulling his only piece of luggage, a carry-on suitcase, behind him. Not far beyond his arrival gate was a small kiosk. He stopped and bought an overpriced cup of coffee.
As he took a sip he glanced around. There seemed to be an equal amount of people walking to and from the gates. A typical busy afternoon in a typical busy international airport.
But it wasn't typical people he was looking for. He did a lot of traveling and knew from experience that you could never be sure who you might run into. In his business, that wasn't necessarily a good thing. But his arrival appeared to have been unobserved. He took another sip of his coffee and moved on.
Instead of following the crowd and proceeding to the passenger pickup area, Quinn found a seat next to a set of arrival and departure screens near the ticketing and check-in counters. He pulled out the book he'd been reading on the plane, South of the Border, West of the Sun by Haruki Murakami, and started in where he'd left off. When he finished the book an hour later, two dozen additional flights had arrived. He closed the novel and returned it to his bag. Time to call in.
"I thought you said you'd arrive first thing this morning," the voice on the other end of Quinn's phone said, irritated.
"Selective memory, Peter," Quinn replied. "Those were your words. Is my ride here?"
"It's been there since eight a.m.," Peter fumed. He told Quinn where to find the car, then hung up.
The ride turned out to be a blue Ford Explorer. The vehicle came equipped with leather seats, an AM/FM radio, a CD player, and two men, neither of whom felt it necessary to give Quinn their names. He designated them the Driver and the Other One.
As Quinn climbed into the back seat, the Other One tossed him a nine-by-twelve-inch padded manila envelope. It was about an inch thick and weighed maybe a pound. Quinn started to open it.
"Don't," the Driver said. He was glancing at Quinn in the rearview mirror.
"Why not?" Quinn asked.
The Other One turned toward him. "Not until we're gone. Instructions."
Quinn rolled his eyes and set the envelope on the seat beside him. "I wouldn't want you to get in trouble."
They drove in silence for the next hour, through Denver and into the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It was dark now and Quinn was getting hungry. The last meal he'd had was on the plane somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, if you could call the less-than-inviting beef Stroganoff he'd been served a meal. But he kept his hunger to himself. He knew if he didn't, his two new companions might decide that t
Jonathan Quinn, a freelance, professional "cleaner" who specializes in disposing of bodies and tying up loose ends, suddenly finds himself the target of an unknown enemy and races against time and around the world trying to uncover why someone wants him dead, a quest that brings him face to face with a woman from his own past. A first novel.
Brett Battles lives and writes in Los Angeles. The Cleaner is his debut novel, and he is currently at work on the next book featuring Jonathan Quinn.
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