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Catalyst (Breakthrough Book 3)

By´╝ÜMichael C. Grumley

Prologue

With a painful wince, Steve Caesare brushed back his shirt and slid a hand down over the handle of his gun. The hallway he stood in was richly decorated with white marble walls and thick beige carpeting, allowing him to approach the door with very little sound.

Caesare glanced up at one of the overhead chandeliers, scanning the ceiling and walls for cameras. Too well hidden. His hotel uniform was bulging at the seams, barely containing his broad frame beneath. Anyone taking a close look at a monitor would notice something wrong with his appearance.

The Tivioli Mofarrej was one of the most elegant hotels in São Paulo, and certainly the most expensive. Used by the wealthiest clientele, the hotel emanated a raw sense of power and prestige, towering among the cityscape of Brazil’s richest city.

It had taken him two weeks. Two weeks following the man he had now tracked to the room at the end of the hall. Miguel Blanco was living large off the money he had stolen from Mateus Alves, his previous employer and one of the richest men in South America. After killing his former boss, Blanco had successfully stolen nearly one hundred million Brazilian reales from Alves’ various accounts and trusts. It was only a fraction of the old man’s wealth, but it was more than enough –– enough to become one of the very elites Blanco had spent much of his life protecting.

And it had been no easy task. Gaining access to Alves’ accounts was one thing. Blanco already had help with that. The hard part was covering his tracks. For that he needed the help of several others, compadres who were discreet and also stood to gain handsomely from the disassembling of Alves’ vast fortune.

Caesare, however, didn’t care about the money. He was there for a very different reason. The old man had been as corrupt as his murderer and Caesare held no sympathy for either of them. He was there for one thing and one thing only: retribution.

He was there because if it had been up to Blanco, Caesare would have been just as dead, lying next to the old man on top of that mountain. But Blanco didn’t know he had survived. And after two weeks of searching, Caesare was about to pay him the mother of all surprise visits.

The absence of anyone guarding the door left Caesare a bit wary as he crept closer. Guests staying in a presidential suite usually had a security detail. Where was Blanco’s? The man had previously been an officer in the Brazilian Intelligence Agency, which typically left men overconfident or completely paranoid. But if he was paranoid, where was his detail?

Blanco was definitely in the room. At least he had been thirty minutes ago. They had zeroed in on the target’s cell phone signal, and pinpointed it to thirty meters from where Caesare was now standing before it was abruptly switched off. Now, ten feet from the door, he silently slid the .40 caliber Glock out from its concealed holster and laid his index finger along the side, just above the trigger guard. He turned his head slightly, using his peripheral vision to check the hall behind him one last time.

When he reached the door, Caesare kept to the side and brought the gun around his right hip. He raised it smoothly and leaned in closer, listening. There was no sound at all. No voices. No television. Nothing.

Blanco hadn’t left Rio de Janeiro with anyone except the one person Caesare knew would be with him: Alves’ young and longtime personal assistant, Carolina Sosa. She was the one person who had access to many of the old man’s accounts and other verifiable information. She was the gateway to Alves’ riches.

Caesare withdrew a small magnetic card, a used but very valuable card. It came from the hotel, which took only a few hours to find in São Paulo. From a person who could encode a master keycard for almost any hotel in the city.

He held it in his left hand and twisted his wrist to peer at his watch, waiting.

Anytime, Wil.

When Caesare heard the phone finally ring inside the room, he moved quickly, inserting the card into the door’s lock and pulling it back out. The loud click was masked by the telephone’s ring and Caesare immediately pushed the door ajar –– just enough to prevent the lock from reengaging. In the same motion, he brought the tip of his left shoe forward to prop the door open by half an inch.

The phone rang again, echoing through the room. The third ring was the last, immediately plunging the room back into silence. With another quick glance over his shoulder, Caesare pressed his ear close to the cracked door. No footsteps. No movement at all that he could hear.

He pushed the door in further and was met by a cool draft of air escaping past him. The door opened further without any noise, allowing Caesare a look inside. Down the entrance hallway, he spotted a dark polished table with chairs perfectly arranged.

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