Chapter 1 of 7 Grams of Lead presents a textbook case…
Midazolam, a short-acting sedative, is usually administered orally or by hypodermic needle. Canning liked to use a remote-controlled robotic housefly.
On this mild August night, hiding behind the hedges between Lake Michigan and the Sokolovs’ heavily guarded house, his iPhone served as a remote control, sending the robofly darting through a partially open window and into a second floor bedroom. Canning had learned that when Leonid Sokolov was home alone, he favored the breeze off the lake to air conditioning. All this week, Sokolov’s wife Bella and their daughters were vacationing at the Blue Harbor Resort, fifty miles up the coast.
An infrared camera within one of the fly’s bulbous eyes relayed real-time video to Canning’s iPhone. Sokolov lay beneath a comforter, eyes shut, mouth agape, his crown of white hair unmoving against a pillow. The fly would deliver enough midazolam to ensure that he would remain asleep for ten minutes. In half that time Canning would climb to the second story and implant a subminiature device beneath the scientist’s scalp.
Canning guided the robofly to a hover over Sokolov’s upper lip. With a tap on the phone, the fly’s abdominal cavity opened and released a midazolam mist, the bulk of which Sokolov inhaled without disruption of his sleep. Canning preferred midazolam to more conventional sedatives because its subjects awoke without any memory of their procedures. He knew the drug occasionally caused abnormally slow respiration, but the risk was remote.
Yet that’s exactly what appeared to be happening now.
The iPhone showed Sokolov’s rate plummeting from a normal twelve breaths per minute to just four. Then he ceased breathing altogether.
Forget implanting the eavesdropping device, Canning thought. Death was certain unless he resuscitated the Russian immediately and then turned him over to paramedics. But the American had gone to extreme lengths to avoid detection, from coming here in a stealth one-man submarine to dressing hood to boots in black neoprene whose surface was electronically cooled to prevent thermal sensors from registering his presence. Saving Sokolov was out of the question. The operational objective was now getting away with killing him.
Canning had learned long ago not just that anything that can go on an op wrong will, but that anything that cannot go wrong will too. It was now second nature for him to plan contingency upon contingency. From the pouch hanging from his belt, he produced a coil of lightweight climbing rope tipped by a miniature titanium grapnel with retractable flukes. He tossed the grapnel onto the roof as a wave crashed into the shore, obscuring the patter of the four flukes against slate tiles. A tug at the rope and three of the flukes grabbed hold of the far side of a brick chimney. After making sure that the rope would bear his weight, Canning began climbing, his split-toed boots gripping the knots tied every sixteen inches.
Seconds later, he pushed the window open and hoisted himself into the bedroom. He unholstered a Makarov Pistolet Besshumnyy—silent pistol—and its companion suppressor, then snapped the two together. The pistol was loaded with nine-millimeter bullets he’d cast by hand from soft lead. From the foot of the bed, he fired once into Sokolov’s forehead, the muted report no louder than the wind. Canning watched the Russian’s central nervous system fail. No drama, just a quick fade. Dead within seconds.
Canning hoped the lead bullet would turn the homicide investigation into a wild goose chase. Toward the same end, on his way out, he drew a small envelope from his pouch and littered the floor with its contents, hairs and bits of skin belonging to other men, including two convicted felons. Over his neoprene gloves, he pulled on a latex pair whose fingertips would replicate a third felon’s prints. He touched the footboard and nightstand, then climbed out the window, slid down the rope, and dislodged the grapnel.
Before returning to his sub, he planted a biodegradable battery-powered directional pin microphone in the grass.
Thus, the following morning, in a motel room two hundred miles north, he overheard one of Sokolov’s people knock on the bedroom door. No response, of course.