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Chameleon (Stephanie Patrick Book 2) by Mark Burnell

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Chameleon (Stephanie Patrick Book 2) by Mark Burnell Read Online And Download

Overview: Lisbeth. Bourne. Eve. Stephanie.

What do you do when you finally see who you really are--what you really are--and it's everything society rejects? You tell yourself it can't be true. That's what you do, that's the first thing. And maybe it's what you continue to do. But not me. I'd already lied to myself for long enough. When the moment came, I stopped pretending I was someone else and chose to be the real me instead. I chose to be honest.

Brutally honest.

Stephanie Patrick was trained to infiltrate and to kill, but she thought she'd left that life behind. Now, the shadowy and powerful organization known as Magenta House has recalled her for what she thinks will be one last assignment--a job that may set her free, allowing her to pursue a new life.

Konstantin Komarov, who made his fortune through the turbulent years of the post-Soviet era, is a master dealmaker. He now sits at the heart of an international financial empire and is as comfortable in Manhattan as he is in Moscow or Magadan. Like Stephanie, he wants to leave his deeply scarred past behind, but will the connections that helped make him rich let him go?

Komarov is dangerous, Stephanie is lethal. They are both chameleons. Working in the shadows, they have survived by adapting, whatever the circumstances, in worlds so brutal, violent, and full of betrayal, that they have trusted nobody but themselves. Brought together by their intersecting objective---the mysterious cypher Koba--things soon become very personal. Will finding Koba force them together or pull them apart?

Chameleon (Stephanie Patrick Book 2) by Mark Burnell Read Online And Download Epub Digital Ebooks Buy Store Website Provide You.
Chameleon (Stephanie Patrick Book 2) by Mark Burnell

Chameleon (Stephanie Patrick Book 2) by Mark Burnell Read Online Chapter One

She’s eighteen months old. Two years ago, she was twenty-five years old.

They made love slowly but it was a hot afternoon and soon their bodies were slick. Laurent Masson was a tall man with no fat on his sinewy frame; dark-haired, dark-skinned, dark dirt beneath his fingernails. When she’d first seen him, Stephanie had thought he looked slightly seedy, which she liked. She, by contrast, had never looked more wholesome, which she also liked. Plump breasts, the curved suggestion of a belly, a dimple in the soft flesh above each buttock. She’d allowed her hair to grow; thick and dark, it fell between her shoulders down half her spine. Summer sun had tanned her normally pale skin, a healthy diet had improved her complexion.

The first-floor bedroom was small; a high ceiling, floorboards worn smooth, two tatty Yemeni rugs, a narrow double bed with a wrought-iron frame. On one wall, there was a mottled full-length mirror. On the opposite wall, there were six sepia photographs of Provence’s brutal beauty.

Masson was on his back, Stephanie above him, his body between her thighs. Slowly, she rocked back and forth, trailing her fingertips across his chest and stomach. Neither of them spoke and there was no hint of a breeze to cool them. When she came, she closed her eyes, dropped her head back and bit her fleshy lower lip.

Later, Masson smoked a cigarette, rolling his ash onto a dirty china saucer. Stephanie stood by the window, naked and damp. Her gaze followed the land, falling away from the farmhouse, across the vineyard and the dirt track that bisected it. The vines shimmered in the heat. Somewhere at the bottom of the valley, screened by emerald trees, there was the road. To the right, Entrecasteaux, to the left, Salernes. Beyond either, the real world.

‘Last night, the dogs were barking all down the valley.’

Behind her, Masson shifted, the bed-springs creaking. ‘They kept you awake?’

She nodded. ‘Some were howling.’

‘You should have spent the night with me.’

‘Actually, I liked it. It sounded … sad.’ She crossed her arms. ‘Sad but beautiful.’

‘Will I see you later?’

‘If you want to.’

‘Do you want to?’

‘What do you think?’

‘I don’t know. I never know what you think.’

‘Lucky you.’

Laurent leaves. From the yard, I watch his old Fiat lurch along the track, kicking up clouds of golden dirt. When the dust has settled, I go inside and make tea. The kitchen is cool and dark; a stone floor, terracotta walls, a heavy oak table flanked by benches. Bees murmur by the small square window over the sink. French windows open onto a terrace. A blanket of greenery laid over wooden beams provides dappled shade. Behind the house, olive trees are organized along terraces that climb the hill.

The farm belongs to a thirty-five-year-old German investment banker who was transferred from Frankfurt to Tokyo eighteen months ago. Initially, I rented it for six months through an agency in Munich. That was just over a year ago; I’m seven weeks into my third rental period. The roof leaks in places, some of the plasterwork is crumbling, the windows and doors are ill-fitting. But I don’t mind. In fact, I prefer it this way. It feels more like a home. Then again, how would I know? I’ve lived in too many places to count but not one of them has been a home.

When the tea is ready, I take it outside. The fragrance of summer is as strong as its colour; scents of citrus and lavender envelop me. I love days like this as much as the severer days of mid-December, when fierce winds scrape the harsh landscape, when rain explodes from pewter clouds that seem only just out of reach. Then, the dusty track turns to glycerine, cutting me off from the road. I always enjoy the artificial isolation that follows.

There is a large fireplace in the sitting room and a good supply of logs in the lean-to behind the outhouse. For me, there is a childish comfort in being warm and dry as I listen to the storm outside. I was raised in north Northumberland, close to the border with Scotland. Wild weather was a feature of my childhood. More than a mere memory, it’s a part of me.

That’s the thing about me, I suppose. I’m a collection of parts that never adds up to a whole. With me, two plus two comes to five. Or three. Or anything except four.

As far as the people around here are concerned, I am Stephanie Schneider, a Swiss with no parents, no siblings, no baggage. I live off a meagre inheritance. I spend my days reading, drawing, walking. I came from nowhere and one day I’ll return there. That’s what’s expected by those who gossip about me. Apparently, I’ve slept with a couple of men in the area—surprising choices, some say—and now I’m seeing Masson, the mechanic from Salernes. Another outsider, he’s from Marseille. The local word is, it’s a casual relationship.

This happens to be true. It’s because I can’t cope with commitment. Not yet—it’s too early for me—maybe not ever. But I am making progress.

I read my book for ten minutes—The Murdered House by Pierre Magnan—and then lay it to one side. From where I’m sitting, I can see my laptop on the fridge. There’s a fine layer of dust on the lid. It must be nearly a month since I last switched it on. In the beginning, it was two or three times a day. Slowly but surely, I’m severing my ties to the old world. With each passing day, I feel increasingly regenerated. But this process has not been without its setbacks.

The first man I had an affair with after moving here was a doctor from Draguignan named Olivier. I should have known better; he was very good-looking, always a danger sign. We met in Entrecasteaux during the firework display to commemorate Bastille Day. He was charming and amusing, so I started seeing him, which was when he changed. Sometimes, he would be jealous, at other times, indifferent. When I walked into a room, it was impossible to know whether he would say something wonderful or cruel. He was not interested in equilibrium; we had to be soaring or falling. And if we were falling, there would be reconciliation so that we could soar again. For someone of my age, I’ve had more than my fair share of highs and lows. The last thing I needed was Olivier’s amateur dramatics.

The night we separated, I drove to his house in Draguignan. The previous evening, he’d come out to the farmhouse. He’d arrived two hours late. The dinner I’d cooked had spoiled but he couldn’t bring himself to apologize. We had sex—it was coarse and uncaring—and in the morning, between waking and leaving, he managed to insult me four times without even realizing it. Not that I minded; I was already over him. I phoned him later that morning and said I would come to his house and cook for him again, and that I’d appreciate it if he was on time for once.

He was only an hour late. I put the plate before him—beef casserole in a red wine sauce—and filled our glasses.

‘You’re not eating?’

‘I ate when it was ready,’ I told him. ‘An hour ago…’

He shrugged and began to fork food into his mouth. I watched in silence as he finished the plate and took some more. When he finally laid his knife and fork together, I rose from my chair and dropped his spare keys onto the table.

‘I’ve taken my spare set back. Here are yours.’

He looked down at the keys, then up at me. ‘What is this?’

‘What do you think?’

‘Some kind of joke?’

I resisted a cutting retort and simply shook my head.

A frown darkened his face. ‘What are you saying, Stephanie?’

‘You drink with your friends but not with me. You fuck me but won’t kiss me.’

He sat back in his chair and sucked in a lungful of air. ‘So–’

‘So nothing.’ I didn’t want to hear a second-hand apology. ‘It’s over.’

‘Wait a minute…’



‘Yes. Why? Why wait? Why waste any more time?’

‘Can’t we at least talk about it?’

‘My mind is made up.’

‘What about me?’

I think I smiled at him. ‘Exactly.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘You know. And if you don’t … well, it makes no difference.’

I picked up my car keys, which were lying on the draining board beside the sink.


I turned round. Given an opportunity, he couldn’t think of anything to say, so I said, ‘One last thing, before I go.’


‘Did you enjoy your dinner?’

He looked confused. ‘What?’

‘It’s a simple question. Did you enjoy it? Yes or no?’

He shrugged. ‘Sure, I guess. It was fine…’

I walked over to the swing-bin beside the door, stuck my arm inside, found the empty can and tossed it to him. ‘You’re a spoilt child, Olivier. For someone with some intelligence, your behaviour is moronic.’

He glanced at the label. ‘Dog food?’

‘Not just any old dog food, darling. Premium quality dog food.’

‘You gave me dog food?’

‘I wanted to do something that would make you understand.’

‘Understand what?’

‘How you’ve made me feel over the last few weeks.’

Stranded for a reply, all he managed was: ‘You said it was beef casserole!’

‘It was. Made with dog food. Beef heart and something else, I think … it’s on the label.’

The colour drained from his face. I couldn’t tell whether it was rage or nausea.

‘You lost interest in me but you lacked the courage to tell me.’

‘That’s not true.’

‘Are you seeing someone else?’

He faltered. Then: ‘No.’

‘You are, aren’t you?’


I didn’t want an apology, just a slither of honesty. ‘Come on…’

His expression hardened. ‘Okay. If you have to know … yes.’

The change of heart was too abrupt. It left me more uncertain than before. I had the feeling his admission was a lie, designed to hurt me while he still could. Either way, I no longer cared. It was typical of Olivier not to see that.

‘Well,’ I said, unable to resist the cheap shot, ‘that would explain the drop-off in your sexual performance, I suppose. Recently, you’ve been dismal.’ Before he could respond, I went on. ‘The point is, you don’t feel anything for me and I no longer feel anything for you, so what’s the use?’

Outraged, he rose to his feet and jabbed a finger at me. ‘I can’t believe this! You … you’re…’

He frothed, spluttered and, eventually, found his insult. He called me frigid. A frigid Swiss bitch. It sounded so helpless and absurd—so castrated—that I should have felt a pinch of pity for him. But I didn’t. Instead, I laughed and Olivier, his anger now complete, threw a slap at me.

What happened next was automatic. I feinted to my left, ducking outside the arc cast by his arm. I intercepted his hand, crushed the fingers into a ball and twisted it. All in half a second. I heard his wrist crack, felt two fingers breaking. As he sank to his knees, I let go of him, took a step back, spun on one foot, lashed out with the other and broke three ribs.

The next thing I remember, I was standing over him. I was silent. The only sound in the room was Olivier’s breathing. He was gurgling like a baby. There was blood on his face, there were fragments of teeth on the floor.

In some ways, I think Olivier recovered quicker than I did. It certainly crushed my complacency. I had come to believe that I’d purged that part of my past. Now I know better and don’t take anything for granted. Violence is a part of me and probably always will be. I was manufactured to be that way.

After Olivier, there was Remy, a professor of economics from Toulouse who was taking a year-long sabbatical in order to write a book. That was nice. Older, wiser, more civilized, for a while the whole affair seemed more in keeping with my new frame of mind. But after three months, he started to talk about the future, about a life in Toulouse. The first hint of permanency was the beginning of the end.

Now, there is Laurent. I told him at the start not to expect any commitment.

‘I’ve only been divorced for three months,’ he replied. ‘The last thing I need right now is commitment. I just want an easy life. Some good times…’

Which is how it has been, so far. He’s bright, witty, kind. He’s wasted as a mechanic in Salernes. Then again, who am I to speak? After all that’s happened to me, I could live this way for years and not grow bored with it. I don’t know what the future holds and I don’t care. For the first time in my life, I’m happy with the present. Doing nothing and being nowhere seem perfect.

These days, when I think of 20 January 2000 and that tiny room on the second floor of that run-down hotel in Bilbao, I think to myself, was that really me?

She spent the afternoon at one end of the highest olive terrace, sketching the ruined shepherd’s hut at the farm’s edge. She made four drawings from two vantage points, ink and charcoal on paper. There was a constant hot breeze. By the time she returned to the house, she felt the sun and dust on her skin. She left the drawings on the slate worktop, drank a glass of water, refilled it and went upstairs.

The free-standing bath stood at the centre of the bathroom on heavy iron legs. The rusted taps coughed when turned. Stephanie pulled her linen dress over her head, dropped it onto the scrubbed wooden floor and lowered herself into the water. Through a circular window, she watched the vineyards turning blue in the evening light.

A steam shroud rose from the surface. She closed her eyes and the present made way for the past: an airless top floor flat in Valletta with a view of the fort; the crowded lobby of the Hotel Inter-Continental in Belgrade; Salman Rifat pouring olive oil onto her skin; a bout of dysentery contracted in Kinshasa; TV pictures of pieces of wreckage from flight NE027 floating on the North Atlantic; the message on the screen—I have work for you, if you’re interested; Bilbao.

Eighteen months ago, these memories would have provoked panic. Now, Stephanie felt calm in their company. She accepted they would never go away but the further she moved away from them, the easier it became. She was starting to feel disconnected from them. In time, she hoped she might almost believe that they belonged to someone else.

The door onto the street was open. Masson’s apartment was in a narrow side street off the main square in Entrecasteaux. A first floor with high ceilings, patches of damp and rotten shutters that opened onto a shallow balcony. The bedroom was at the back, overlooking an internal courtyard that reeked of damp in the winter. During the summer, it was a humid air-trap.

Masson was barefoot, his hair still wet from his shower. He wore faded jeans and a green cotton shirt, untucked and badly creased. Like his apartment, he was a mess. It suited him.

They ate chicken and salad, followed by locally produced apricots. The sweet juice stained Stephanie’s fingers. Later, they went to the bar on the square. Small, stuffy, starkly lit, it lacked charm, but Masson was friendly with the patron and Stephanie had grown to know the people who went there. There was a TV on a wall bracket in one corner, a European football tie on the screen, a partisan group gathered in front of it. Behind the bar, there were faded photographs of a dozen Olympique Marseille teams, all taken in the Stade Vélodrome. Children scuttled in and out of the bar, some dressed in the white and sky-blue football shirts of l’OM. It was quarter to midnight by the time Stephanie and Masson returned to his apartment. A little tired, a little drunk, they made clumsy love.

In the morning, Stephanie woke first and went out to collect fresh bread. When she returned, Masson was making coffee, smoking his first cigarette of the day.

‘Are you busy tonight?’


He turned to look at her. ‘Really?’

‘You seem surprised.’

He looked back at the ground coffee in the pot. ‘Not really. It’s just…’

‘Just what?’

‘I don’t know…’

‘It’s okay, Laurent. I’m not busy.’

Uncertainty made way for a lopsided grin. ‘No?’

‘I just don’t want you to take me for granted.’

‘How could I? I don’t even know you. You tell me that you have a temper but I’ve never seen it.’ Stephanie grinned too. Masson let it drop, as she knew he would. ‘You want to come here again?’

‘Why don’t you come out to me?’

‘Okay. I’ll be finished in the garage at about six thirty, seven.’

When Masson went to work, Stephanie climbed into her second-hand Peugeot 106 and drove back to the farmhouse. She parked beneath a tree and left the windows rolled down. Despite the cool dawn, it was already a hot morning, a firm wind among the leaves and branches. The lavender bushes were clouds of bright purple that whispered to her as she climbed up the stone steps to the rough gravel beside the terrace.

It wasn’t anything she saw or heard that made her stop. It was a feeling, a tightness in the chest. Just like her reaction to Olivier’s slap, it was an instinct she couldn’t rinse from her system. She stood still, held her breath and felt her pulse accelerate. There was no apparent reason for it; no door forced, no window broken, nothing out of place. She waited. Still nothing. She told herself she’d imagined it. But as she took a step forward, she heard a noise. A soft scrape, perhaps. One hard surface against another. The sound was barely audible over the wind. It could have been the gentle clatter of a branch on the clay tiles of the barn, or the creak of a rotten shutter on a rusty hinge.

The memory triggered the response. The mind functioned like a computer. Gathering information, analysing it, forming strategy, assessing risk. She felt herself begin to move, directed by a will that didn’t seem to be her own.

She hummed a tune to herself as she strolled round the farmhouse to the back. To look at, a girl without a care in the world. Behind the house, she shed her shoes and clutched the drainpipe which rose to the roof gutter. When she’d moved in, it had been loose. During her first week, she’d bolted it to the stone wall herself.

She began the climb, the surface abrasive against the soles of her feet, the paint flaking against her palms. She was out of practice, testing tissue that had softened or tightened, but her technique remained intact. She pulled back the shutter—always closed, never fastened—and made the swing to the window, grasping the wooden frame, hauling herself up and through, and into a tiny room that the leasing company had fraudulently described as a third bedroom.

She paused on the landing to check for sound but heard nothing. In the second bedroom, which overlooked the courtyard at the rear of the house, she opened the only cupboard in the room, emptied the floor-space of shoes, pulled out the patch of mat beneath and lifted the central floorboard. Attached to a nail, there was a piece of washing line. At the end of it, there was a sealed plastic pouch, coated in dust and cobwebs.

For all the serenity of the life she’d made for herself, it had never occurred to Stephanie to dispense with her insurance. She took it out of the pouch. A gleaming 9mm SIG-Sauer P226. In the past, her gun of choice. She checked the weapon, then left the bedroom.

The staircase was the worst part, a narrow trap. She eased the safety off the SIG and descended, her naked feet silent on the smooth stone. On the ground floor, she moved like a ghost; the sitting room, the cloakroom, the study.

The intruder was in the kitchen. She felt his presence at the foot of the stairs but only spied him when she peered through a crack in the kitchen door, which was half open. She saw a patch of cream jacket, some back, a little shoulder, half an arm, an elbow. She tiptoed inside. He was facing the terrace entrance, his back to her. He was standing, as if expecting her. Perhaps he’d heard the Peugeot park; he couldn’t have seen her approach from the steps, not from any of the kitchen windows, and yet he seemed to know that she most often entered the farmhouse via the terrace.

Stephanie managed to place the cold metal tip of the SIG’s barrel against the nape of his neck before he stirred. When he did, it was nothing more than a gentle flinch. He made no attempt to turn around or to cry out with surprise. That was when she recognized the clipped, snow-white hair.

‘Hello, Miss Schneider.’ And the clipped Scottish accent. ‘Or should I say, Miss Patrick?’

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