Carol hadn’t realized how bad her shooting had gotten until she was slamming her last magazine into her M4A1. She was still trying to make sense as to what the hell happened after she took her shot on the big hulk guy that showed up with Rose. Next thing she knew there were over a dozen guns going off. She covered Nick and the twins as they ran back behind the hanger. She killed one Chinese guy and shot at two black guys but missed. They in returned sprayed shots from their AK-47s sending her diving for cover. By the time she got back to her feet, they were gone, as was the hulking guy and the short guy.
An explosion from Morgan and Wade’s direction made her instinctively look that way and she saw a guy trying to flank her. She fired her gun and a short burst was sent into the guy’s direction before it clicked. Empty.
“Fuck,” Carol grumbled.
“I hate when that happens mate,” the guy said walking out from behind cover.
He had a dark goatee and was aiming a military green Steyr AUG A1 assault rifle at her.
“Or should I say love?” He finished when he saw Carol try to duck behind cover as she let go of her M4A1 and tried to pull out her side arm.
“Don’t even think about it love,” he said and fired above her head. “On ya feet and take off the balaclava. Let’s see the face to go with those pretty eyes.
Carol glared at him but did as instructed. She was really starting to hate men in general today. On your feet, on your knees. Stop telling me what to do she thought as she dropped her mask to the ground.
“Now drop your sidearm and kick it over to me.”
Carol did. The guy moved closer to her, his right hand on the trigger, his left hand caressing a necklace made of ivory. His tongue slowly licking out onto his lips.
“So what’s a pretty thing like you doing out here love?”
“You come any closer to me and you’ll find out!” Carol snapped.
“Feisty. I like that. I bet you’re really a redhead underneath all those golden locks. Am I right?”
“You’re a lot taller and whiter than I’m use to but what the hell, it would be my pleasure love,” he said and placed his Steyr AUG A1 on a shelf containing supplies used for the hanger. He kept his side arm on him as well as a long knife still in its sheath.
“Name’s Trevor by the way. I expect you to say it loud and clear at least three times,” he said as he circled toward her.
Carol made a break for her discarded side arm but Trevor managed to catch her by the hair, even at its new shorter length, and yanked her back. Carol turned her body halfway and sent out a punch as she went past him. She caught him on the chin with a glancing blow, making him move a step back.
“Feisty and a fighter. Is it too late for a proposal love?”
“Stop calling me that!” Carol yelled and connected cleanly with a sidekick to his stomach.
“Wasn’t expecting that,” he gasped.
Carol came in with an uppercut that knocked him on his ass. She moved in, about to bash his face with her fists but Trevor recovered quicker than she anticipated and pressing his foot on her stomach and grabbing her by her armor flipped her over him. Carol landed on her back but did a nip up right back to her feet. She spun around with a fist to the still rising Trevor. He blocked the punch to his face but barely and Carol front door kicked him in the chest knocking him back to the ground and several feet away.
Carol was moving toward him, slower this time when six bullets hit her in the chest, dropping her.
“What the hell mate?” Trevor yelled at Diego, who came in firing both his Glocks from the hanger door.
“We don’t have time for this shit! Stop fucking around with some bitch and meet me out back. They took off into the trees I think with the briefcase!”
Diego ducked back under the hanger door and took off running. Trevor got up and took his AUG A1 and Carol’s sidearm.
“Nice Beretta. I’m guessing this was custom made eh? Something to remember ya by love. Perhaps another day when we’ve more time to play.”
He gave her a bow then went after Diego, leaving Carol lying on the ground alone.
“Did you see that bro?” Shane bellowed as he shot a guy right into the blast radius of Wade’s grenade. He was the only one on the team who always wore his ballistic mask.
“Little busy here Shane,” Sean replied before hitting a third guy center mast. He fell but still moved about.
“These guys must be using Interceptor body armor.” Sean said before putting a bullet in the guys head.
“I don’t get why you use an M-4 anyway bro. Your 6’3 you should be using one of these,” he finished before firing off a burst from his M249 Squad Automatic Weapon or SAW. Another PLA fell to the ground dead. Shane continued to fire on overwatch.
“Who’s the heavy set guy barking orders?” Sean asked.
“Beats me bro.”
“Ron, you copy?”
There was no response.
“Ron this is Sean do you copy?”
“Snipers, who needs them,” Shane said before dropping his SAW and opened a case he brought into the hanger from his SUV. Without the constant barrage from the SAW, return fire from several AK-47’s picked up at them. Sean ducked after a shot clipped his shoulder.
“How about a heads up first before you decide to go off overwatch next time.”
“Relax bro I got this! I’m so glad Megan thought of me when she bought these,” Shane said as he took aim with his AT4 missile launcher. A bullet hit his arm but had no effect as the bulletproof arm protection Shane wore stopped it.
“I’m pretty sure Nick bought those.”
“Come on bro we all know Megan does the buying.”
“Yeah with his money.”
“Whatever bro. Where’s that fat dude hiding at?”
“The middle SUV,” Sean replied.
These guys had pulled their SUV’s into a semi-circle onto the grass cutting them off from Nick and the others.
There was whoosh sound as Shane fired. The warhead fired from the AT4 was capable of penetrating more than 17 inches of armor plate so even with the reinforced armor their SUVs had been given, they didn’t stand a chance. The SUV exploded and sent two more guys to the ground. Smoke filled the area and they couldn’t see the heavyset dude anymore and all gunfire in their direction momentarily ceased.
“Yeah! Now that’s what I’m fucking talking about!” Shane bellowed and dropped the now useless AT4.
Sean gave him a look.
“Oh come on bro. I don’t need you doing that PG bullshit too.”
Sean shook his head and wondered how Carol and Nick were holding up. That’s when he saw Morgan and Wade running towards them.
Morgan clicked off his mike then calmly loaded a fresh magazine into his M41A. Wade emptied his magazine from one of the windows into the front of one of the new SUV’s.
“Hey guess what.”
“Their vehicles are armored.”
“What did the Cutie Patootie say? Who we shooting at?”
“Would you believe the Peoples Liberation Army?”
Wade took aim at one guy and hit with a headshot, killing him.
“I guess that would explain why I’ve killed three Chinese looking people. So what else did doe eyes say?”
Morgan ducked as bullets from several AK-47’s ripped through the office.
“Doe eyes. You’ve never seen the way Megan looks up at the Youngin with those big brown eyes of hers and asks him for something. She’s like that cat from Shrek, what’s it’s name Puss- sonofabitch!” Wade yelled as he got shot in the chest and fell down.
“Wade!” Morgan yelled and fired out the window before low running to him.
“Did she say if Jean-Paul LeDuc was out there?” Wade asked.
“Yes how did you know?”
“Because that one hand motherfu-”
“Watch your mouth.”
“He shot me! I’m so cutting off his other hand.”
“I take it you’re okay?”
Wade checked himself. His vest stopped the bullet. “Yep. Remind me to thank the Youngin for buying the best body armor out there and not being cheap.”
“It’s different when it’s your money.”
“Uh huh. Megan said Trevor Fritz is out there and that Diego guy. Have you ever heard of the Machete Boys?”
“Are they Danny’s sons?”
Morgan stared at him and said, “They’re from South African.”
“Oh I was going to say north. Shucks,” Wade said snapping his finger.
More bullets sprayed into the office, glass shattered all around them.
“We can’t stay here,” Morgan said heading toward the back.
“I’ll cover you,” Wade said and fired out the window blindly. “Hey wait for me,” Wade yelled before tossing a grenade out the window.
He caught up to Morgan when an explosion came from outside. Morgan looked at him.
“I so thought that was a smoke grenade. My bad. Do you think Trevor remembers that I stole one of his masks?”
Morgan shook his head at him and said, “Let’s go find the Bradley’s.”
“Are you guys reading me at all?” Megan asked through her headset.
She was watching the scene unfold through her eye in the sky. It was an Orbiter Mini UAV equipped with an advanced camera and loaded with several of Megan’s programs. She had made Sean and Shane load it in one of the SUV’s before they left.
She was flying it from the war room and saw four SUVs pull up seconds ago and saw what could only be gunfire fill the area. She flew the drone closer to see who these new people were but not close enough to be considered a target, hopefully. One of her programs activated and started scanning faces before sending the data to one of the computer stations with the facial recognition program. She started getting hits within a minute.
“Morgan can you hear me, over?”
“Yeah, what have you got for me Megan?” Morgan replied. She could hear gunfire through his mike.
“That’s Trevor Fritz’s Corsairs team you’re fighting. I can confirm Trevor, that guy Diego, Jean-Paul LeDuc, and Kaheem and Raheem aka the Machete Boys.”
“That’s only five. Who are the other shooters?”
“Judging from their tactics and formation thus far, they’re Chinese PLA,” Mark said watching them on screen.
“You’re sure Mark?” Morgan asked.
“All right then. Keep us in the loop guys.”
“Yes sir,” they both said.
The first thing Rose Thornton thought when she saw Nick Summers bring Rebecca out was how good her sister looked. Her second thought was that bitch. Here she was worried about her and she looks like she came from a spa. Not to mention she gets a new outfit, which looked way more comfortable than the ones they have to wear for Grey Talon. Like the one she’d been stuck wearing for the last eighteen hours. She already missed her dresses. At least she still had her coat.
“Hey sis,” Rebecca said once Nick let go of her elbow.
“Don’t hey me. Do you have any idea how much shit we’re in because of you?”
“Looks like it’s about to get much worse,” Nick said and raised his gun. “Give me the briefcase Rose.”
“What are…” Rose looked over her shoulder to see a series of headlights heading their way.
“That would be me,” Mako said and withdrew his .45 and aimed it at Rose’s head.
“What the fuck are you doing you idiot?” Rose yelled.
“I got knew orders. Something about purifying you twins.”
Rose and Rebecca looked at each other in disbelief. Why would Adams do that?
“Nick get out of there,” Morgan said through his mike.
A single shot rang out through the cold night, echoing louder because of the valley they were in. Mako spun as Carol’s shot clipped his shoulder. Nick grabbed Rose by the wrist and pulled her and the briefcase toward him and Rebecca. He heard car doors open and slam shut. Then the night was filled with the sound of automatic gunfire.
Ross Chambers lowered his binoculars as the bright California sun reflected off one of the small boats his men were using. This was Bravo teams fourth time through the drill and they looked set to beat Alpha teams record. They were currently using a yacht and by Friday were moving onto a freighter.
The smell of Cool Ranch chips made Ross look to his right. Berzinski was standing next to him. His pale white skin, long greasy red hair, and general slothfulness, annoyed Ross. He never could bring himself to like the guy. Maybe because he knew what he really use to do before coming to work for Victor Adams and Grey Talon.
“Shouldn’t you be catching on fire?” Ross joked.
Berzinski avoided the sun and fresh air like it would kill him. The fact that he was even up during the daylight surprised him.
“That might not be such a bad thing right now,” he mumbled.
Ross took a second look at Berzinski. He looked worse than usual.
“I had to send a purification order out,” Berzinski replied.
A purification order was given when a Grey Talon operative had out lived their usefulness, or done something to compromise the company. Other agencies and companies did the same thing but with different names. Victor used purification because he liked the sound of it. Ross had never seen Berzinski upset by one before. The guy didn’t exactly have many friends.
“Who was on it?”
Berzinski dropped his bag of Doritos. “You don’t know?”
“I figured Victor would have talked to you about it.”
“Talk to me about what Berzinski?” Ross asked grabbing him by his t-shirt.
“Rose and Rebecca. Victor made me put out a purification order on the Thornton twins.”
Ross let go of him and took off running from the beach, up the cliff stairs, to the main house. Two minutes later, he was bursting into Victor’s office. This time he didn’t knock.
Victor was over by the large bay windows behind his desk, both were open. His cigar was lit but resting in the ashtray. A Grey Talon folder marked classified sat on his desk.
“You can’t be serious!”
“Please come in Ross.”
“Those girls have been nothing but loyal to us for the past two years and now because of one bad job you’re having them killed?”
“Purified,” Victor said.
“This is bullshit!”
Victor turned around. “This is why I didn’t tell you. You’ve become too involved with some of our operatives. It was the same with Miranda yesterday.”
“Too involved? We’re supposed to look out for one another. We’re family.”
“Family? I currently have two divisions worth of men under my command. When I give the order, those numbers will more than triple. Am I supposed to care about every one of them?” Victor asked, his tone indifferent.
“What has happen to you?”
“To me? You are at fault here. This operation has been under your supervision and went on for way too long. I should have never allowed its approval. And now it’s cost me two of my best spies.”
“I still don’t understand why you feel the need to do this?”
“Maybe you will after looking at this.” Victor picked up the folder on his desk and held it out for Ross.
“What is it?”
He opened it and saw several photos of the Thornton twins and a young looking guy shopping at a mall carrying shopping bags. The twins were smiling, even Rose.
“Those were taken last year after they requested a month off.”
“You had them followed because they took a vacation?”
“Of course I did. As their superior you should have been the one to order it. If Rose Thornton asking for time off isn’t a red flag I don’t know what is.”
“Who took these?”
Ross paused trying to think who that was.
“He’s dead right?”
Adams nodded and said, “Yes. One of those Chinese punks mugged him. By the time we got these photos, the Thornton’s were already back to work.”
“If I remember correctly, their performance and attitude were much better after their vacation. So if you’ve had these for this long why bring them out now?”
“Who do you think abducted Rebecca? Then after being told not to, Rose disobeys a direct order and proceeds to tell Trevor to get his new guy Diego to help her attack a dojo this guy works out of.”
“So who is he?”
“So far I’ve been told his name is Nick Summers and he couldn’t even make the cut for the US Army Rangers.”
Ross looked at Victor puzzled.
“Exactly. When these were first brought to my attention I didn’t think anything off it. The guys a looser and figured the twins were using him. Now I’m suppose to believe this same looser could compromise and possible flip two of my best covert operatives. I’m having Berzinski take a closer look at him.”
“Are you issuing a purification order for him too?”
“If he turns out to be a threat to our plans. The ships setting sail Ross. You and I both know this country isn’t going to survive much longer. My question for you is are you staying on board with me or do you want to be left behind?”
“Like the Thornton twins?”
Victor shrugged. “Rose was given her orders, she violated them. We have a witness confirming she’s going to give the bio-weapon back in exchange for her sister, which a separate witness claimed walked away with her abductor. That can’t happen. They need to be dealt with now, that’s how things are run around here.”
“That’s not how your father did things.”
Victor stared at Ross, a slow smile spreading across his face.
“My father doesn’t run things anymore Ross, I do. Please don’t forget that again.”
“Yes sir,” Ross replied and left, slamming the door shut behind him.
Trevor Fritz twisted off the cap to his Fosters beer and drank half the bottle in one long sip. He ran his tongue across his teeth while running his free hand through his chest hair. He had it shaved in the shape of a cross. He looked down at the twenty-one-year-old Asian on her knees in front of him and watched as she worked on him. A grin on his face signaled she was nearing the end.
A loud bang on the door made her stop.
“What?” Trevor asked.
“The men are ready to go,” Diego said through the door.
“Good. I’ll be there in a minute. Make sure everyone double checks their shit mate.”
Trevor finished his fosters. He was taking a dozen of the two dozen Chinese guys they had just got for the Eden job. Plus Jean-Paul LeDuc, a French Canadian mercenary who had been in the business for years and was Trevor’s unofficial third-in-command of their merry band of pirates. He had only a stump on his left hand, having lost it to rival mercenaries’ years back.
He was also bringing along two South African mercenaries, Kaheem and Raheem aka the Machete Boys. They were still a little green and could use the extra experience before the cruise job.
Trevor reached forward for his shirt and Bowie knife that were on the bed. The girl made a gagging noise when he did but he ignored her.
“Ready for my happy ending?” He asked holding up a crisp hundred-dollar bill.
She nodded her head up and down like she had been trained to do since being smuggled into the country several years ago. Trevor smiled. He couldn’t think of a better way to prepare for a mission, even if it was such a simple one.
Rebecca Thornton sat patiently on the bed in what had become her very own private suite. Despite the circumstances that put there, she had to admit to liking it. From the sheets on the bed, the décor of the room, even the towels for her shower had been awesome, as she pulled them out of a Conair extra-large towel warmer. Several thousand dollars had easily gone into furnishing the place alone and she wondered where exactly she was. She couldn’t see Nick affording a private cabin like this just to use as a cell for her. Although he did pick up the tab when he took her and Rose out shopping last year during their vacation, so the man was full of surprises. These last twelve hours were proof of that.
Rebecca glanced at the smoke detector and saw the red light was off.
“That can’t be good,” she said aloud to herself as she stood up.
While she was certainly the quieter twin, Rebecca never liked going long periods without talking, even if it was only to herself aloud.
She reached down, touching her toes and held it for twenty seconds then brought her arms up all the way, reaching for the ceiling. The black guy, Ron, had popped in earlier to make her put on new clothes. A black short sleeve shirt by Magnum RD and black Vertx Phantom lightweight tactical pants. They were similar to what Grey Talon operatives used but she actually preferred these as they both offered a better ventilation system to help keep you cool, and being specifically designed for women, fit better.
Rebecca hadn’t decided if she was flattered that Nick not only knew her size but had it on hand, or if she was creeped out by it. She was leaning to the former as her shirt was a big snug what with her recent weight gain.
She heard the outside door open and she hoped onto the bed just as Nick walked in carrying a black hood and blindfold.
“First handcuffs, now masks. Something you want to share with me Boston?” Rebecca said sweetly. Nick stood staring at her. While she didn’t know Nick as well as she’d like to, she could tell he wasn’t happy. For some reason that worried her and her stomach apparently as it let out a large growl.
She blushed a bit and said, “What’s the matter?”
Nick remained silent, still staring at her with this weird look in his eyes. She found herself glad he wasn’t armed. Finally it came to her.
“Whatever Rose did to piss you off doesn’t have to affect what you and I have.”
“And what is it we have Rebecca?” He asked coolly.
She chanced taking a step toward him and said, “I’m not sure. I know when I prayed for help to get me through a difficult time in my life, you showed up in a restaurant to save my sister and I. I know it was only three weeks but you have no idea what they did for me. For my sister. You helped us get back to the place we use to be when we first joined the CIA together.”
Nick remained silent as Rebecca continued. The space between them getting smaller.
“And now when I find myself questioning my own actions on this assignment, you show up again. I want to believe it’s to help me again but right now you look like you want to cut me up into little pieces and send me through the mail.” Her voice trembled slightly at the last part.
“Your sister and a team of hers attacked my dojo earlier today. Two people I care about were hurt, one of them seriously.”
Rebecca remained silent.
Nick continued, “Your sister got the briefcase back.”
Nick cut her off. “Now she wants to trade it for you.”
Rebecca stared at him hard. He had to be testing her. Rose would never willing do that. And why was she in Boston anyway. She was supposed to stay in Washington DC undercover.
“Why would Rose do that? We both know she’s not the most agreeable person in the world.”
“I told her I would kill you. That made her cry and she offered it in trade.”
Rebecca swallowed hard. This time she believed him when he said he’d kill her. She wondered what Rose did to turn Nick into this.
“So what’s the plan then?”
“I give you back to Rose, she gives me the bio-weapon you stole from Trilling Technologies.”
Rebecca crossed her arms at him. “Our boss won’t be happy,” she said defiantly.
“You mean Victor Adams?”
Rebecca dropped her arms and her eyes widened. “How did?”
“You told me.”
“I wouldn’t…” Rebecca tried to remember but couldn’t. All of a sudden, she had a headache. If Rose really went through with this, there was no telling what Adams would do to them as punishment. She looked back at Nick who was suddenly very close. He put his hands on her shoulders. Despite her best efforts, Rebecca found herself drawn to his big blue eyes once again. He seemed to know her concern.
“I’m still willing to help you, both of you if you want.”
“Why would you do that? Do you have any idea just how powerful Adams is?”
“No but I have a feeling I’ll know soon enough. As to why, you said I couldn’t help myself. That I have this need to help damsels in distress.”
“You do,” Rebecca replied as Nick put the blindfold on her.
“Maybe. Besides I can’t really collect on that threesome if you two are both dead can I?” Nick said before goosing her.
Rebecca couldn’t help but to smile as he put the hood over her next. Confident he was no longer contemplating killing her she said, “For what it’s worth, I prefer that Nick over pissed off serial killer Nick.”
“Most people do,” Nick replied softly as he led her outside into the cold.
Bobbi stared mindlessly at the TV. Reruns of old Storage Wars was way better than it should be. Empty wrappers of Rice Crispy treats, Brownie Bites, and Twinkies, lay at her feet or beside her. She couldn’t believe Carol really cut her hair off. No more long blonde hair, no more ponytails when she went jogging. Carol could have at least asked her opinion before chopping it off.
“What are you wearing?”
Bobbi looked to her left and saw Nick standing there. He seemed different.
“Hey Nick,” she said with a grin. She suddenly felt so fat.
“Go get dressed. I need you to do something for me.”
“I will later, okay?” Bobbi replied and stared at the TV again. Did any one really like Dave?
Nick walked over, taking the remote from her and shut the TV off.
“Hey, I wanted to see what he got for that.”
He looked at the dozen wrappers around her then reached down, placing his hands on her arms, and pulled her up to her feet. Bobbi’s face was a mix of shock and trepidation as he looked her in the eyes.
“I understand, but you need to pop some Advil, take a quick shower and put an outfit on.”
“If you understand then you know it’s not a good-”
“Not that kind of outfit Bobbi. We’re looking for a guy named Diego. Megan found a connection to a pirate named Trevor Fritz, who landed at Logan a few days ago. One of Julie’s dancers says he has a thing for Asian girls. I want you to go ask the Chenghu brothers what they know, and if you need to break a few bones and kick some asses to get answers then do it.”
“You want me to do that?” Bobbi asked a bit confused. She felt like she might cry again. Why did her hormones hate her so much?
“You are my number one ass kicker, well besides Wade but your ass is a million times better,” Nick replied, that twinkle in his blue eyes momentarily back as he kissed her forehead.
She smiled and said, “Thanks. I’ll get to it.”
Nick nodded then went to the war room. Bobbi looked down at herself and took a deep breath. She could do this.
Carol was drying her hair as she walked down the stairs when Nick came through the front door. She immediately knew something was wrong from the way he moved. Gone was the swagger, replaced by a precise movement. Had he already found out about what she did at Max’s? Was he mad at her?
“Hi Nick,” she said tensely.
“Where’s Bobbi? He said gruffly.
“She’s, um… living room. She’s in a mood,” Carol said not sure if Nick heard the last part as he had already walked off.
She stood there stunned. Did he find out about the money already? Was he going to kick her out? Nick’s footsteps stopped and she heard him coming back. She stood straight, preparing for the worst.
“Carol!” He barked.
“What are you doing?”
“Nothing?” She asked, not sure what answer he wanted.
“Good. Go see Sean and grab your gear. I want you with me on this one.”
She nodded, unsure if she should speak.
“Everything okay?” Nick asked.
“Yes,” she replied.
“Good. I like your hair by the way.”
“Thank you,” she said and found herself smiling at him before he took off for the living room again.
Before getting into the shower, Carol had cut off her long hair and now it ended just above her chin. She tossed the towel upstairs on the floor and wondered how bad it was if Nick was bringing her on the mission too.
“How did we beat Nick here?” Wade asked as they watched the Trailblazer drive through the gates to the Walker Compound.
They were all standing around outside in the driveway. Nick had ordered them all to meet at his place. They were going to swap Rebecca for the bio-weapon currently in Rose’s possession and he wanted to be ready in case it was a set up or double cross.
“He always takes the longer route, it’s such a pain riding with him.”
“You’re telling me,” Ron replied.
Morgan and Wade both looked at them and Morgan said, “He finally swears at you and now he’s Nick to you?”
“Did you see how he said it to me, like he really meant it? I was just teasing him.”
“Maybe you should keep that in mind during this briefing,” Mark said.
“Maybe you shouldn’t talk so much Kay Pop.”
Nick parked in front of them and Megan got out first, wiping her eyes. Nick stepped out and tossed the keys to Ron.
“Move all the cars out of the way, then get Rebecca ready to move Ron. I want three Explorers fueled and ready to go Mendoza. Sean and Shane get the equipment together. I want everyone in full assault gear, Dragonscale body armor for everyone. Morgan, Mark, meet me in the war room, we brief in five with Megan,” Nick said then went inside.
“Do I look like a valet?” Ron asked.
“What about me?” And did he just turn into you?” Wade asked Morgan who had the biggest smile on his face he’d ever seen.
“Well it’s about time,” Morgan said under his breath. That was the son of Tony Walker.
Morgan looked to see everyone staring at him even Megan.
“You heard the man! Let’s move it people!” Morgan bellowed.
“Yeah! It’s time to put boots to asses!” Wade yelled.
Morgan looked at him and he shrugged.
Megan put her tablet in her lap and looked at Nick.
“What?” She asked.
“It has to be something because you haven’t stopped staring at me since we left Boston. And you’ve almost rear ended someone four times.”
“Not true,” Nick replied before glancing at the road. They were in his Trailblazer on the way back to his house to get Rebecca.
“It is. Now tell me.”
“Are you okay?” He asked looking at her.
“My throat hurts but otherwise I’m fine.”
“For not being there. I’ve let this Nick Summers alias go on long enough. I’ve gotten sloppy and you could have been hurt or worse.”
Megan took hold of his right hand and said, “You can’t watch over me every second of the day Nick and you were there when it mattered. You saved me.”
“That’s not good enou-”
“I wasn’t finished. Could we use some improvement? Yes but we all knew the risks involved in this line of work. We have discussed the contingencies in the event of someone’s death, including mine,” Megan said the last part louder to stop Nick from talking.
He glared at her before focusing on the road.
“I brought that folder on the Russian ballerina for you to go over once we’ve dealt with the bio-weapon.”
“You can’t be serious,” Nick replied.
“Is there a problem?”
“What about Michelle for one?”
“It’s unfortunate what happened to her but we’ve spent too much time on her as it is and she wasn’t even a priority one target. It’s time to move on.”
“You really expect me to keep playing the male gigolo role after what just happened to you? I think it’s time we let Nick Summers disappear.”
“Just like that?” Megan asked.
“Just like that,” Nick repeated.
“And what, screw all the money and resources we’ve already put into him?” Megan asked, her voice rising.
“What good is it if he’s been compromised by… who’s Rebecca really working for again?”
“Victor Adams. His father, Vincent Adams started Grey Talon. In three years they’ve become one of the biggest private security firms in the world.”
“You think that guy shadowing the Thornton twins when they were with me worked for Grey Talon?” Nick asked referring back to last summer.
“Maybe,” Megan replied, now wishing she had Nick kill the guy and not the Chenghu brothers so she could have gone through his stuff.
“Well there you go. If Grey Talon already has me on their radar all the more reason to kill Summers and move on.”
“You mean hide. And we don’t know that for sure.”
“Call it what you want. And weren’t you the one having a baby when you found out Adams was Rebecca’s boss?”
“Baby,” Megan mumbled.
“Nothing. While I’ll admit to failing my saving throw to resist stun, it’s something we can work around for the time being.”
“I don’t understand you right now,” Nick said before taking the exit home.
“You don’t understand me? We just found out that the trigger words will work and now you want to back out.”
“Do you have any idea what that animal Mako could have done to you Megan? I’d never forgive myself if I let something like that happen to you!”
“Why are you yelling at me?”
“I’m not,” Nick said.
They drove in silence for several minutes before Nick said, “I don’t know if I can keep doing this. Nick Summers was your idea, not mine.”
“You know what’s heading our way, what’s going to happen to this country and the world. You’ve seen the evidence. Everything we’ve been doing serves a purpose. We’ll tell the rest of the team soon. Until then it’s gold, guns and allies.”
“I thought it was God.”
Megan nodded reluctantly and said, “When the time comes, we… you, have the ability to help. To be a force for good in this world Nick.”
“I’m no hero.”
Megan let go of his hand.
“Then what does it matter who has the bio-weapon?” She asked and sniffed.
Nick looked over at her to see her eyes watering. On top of everything that had already happened to her today, he was going to make her cry too.
“When they killed my dad…. You promised me,” she said softly while looking back at him, tears running down her cheeks.
Nick drove over the High Level Bridge connecting New Hampshire to Maine and placed his hand on top of hers.
“Does this Russian ballerina have a name or am I just calling her the Russian? Or maybe Natasha Romanoff,” Nick replied with grin, hoping to get Megan to smile.
Carol slowed her speed down when she saw the gate up ahead. She hadn’t realized she’d been driving that fast. She pulled into the driveway and parked by the front. She could move later and didn’t want to walk far in the cold.
In her rush to leave Max’s she forgot to grab her shirt and left her coat on the back of the chair at the poker table, which left her only in her sports tank top still.
She turned her jeep off and the heat stopped blasting. She never had a chance to shower this morning what with watching over Rebecca. And in her rush to get to Max’s, she forgot to put deodorant on before leaving. Combined with what she had to do at Max’s and the heat from her jeep, she smelled horrible. Hopefully she could get in the shower before anyone saw her.
Carol ran to the door, shivering as she punched in her code and quickly closed it behind her. She sprinted to the stairs and was halfway up them when she heard Bobbi.
“Oh hey Carol you’re back.”
She came walking out of the dinning room still wearing her black sweat pants outfit and using a large spoon to eat from the cake pan that had the remaining half of Nick’s marble cake with cream cheese frosting. The other half of the pan was filled with Hood patchwork ice cream, Oreo cookies and whip cream. Carol had to cover her mouth. She didn’t need vomit on her too.
“Hi Bobbi, kind of busy,” she said over her shoulder.
“Ahh, what is that smell?” Bobbi asked her nose crinkling as she took the spoon out of her mouth.
Carol ignored her and took a step up.
“Tell me that’s not you. Turn around.”
Carol cursed under her breath. She’d never hear the end of this. She turned to face Bobbi.
“Holy shit. Is that what I think it is all over you?”
“Maybe. I had a problem at Max’s and had to talk my way out.”
“Yeah, cause you look like you did a lot of talking. Why is there so much?”
“There were four of them.”
“Wow, that’s impressive. I doubt I could handle four at the same time. Were they all black?”
“What does that matter?”
“It doesn’t. You said you were at Max’s so I’m just trying to get a visual here.”
Carol ignored her and said, “I think I got some in my hair. It feels like it.”
Bobbi looked while keeping her distance, less Carol’s smell overcame her sensitive nose.
“Oh yeah, there's definitely some in your hair.”
“So why come all the way home and not just go to the dojo and shower?”
“I was going to but there was an ambulance and police and a crowd. I didn’t need anyone seeing me like this. And you better not tell Nick.”
“Don’t you think he will find out?"
Carol pulled a mini disk from her pant pocket.
“I took the security footage.”
“Shut up, you got that on film? I’m so watching that.”
“Why?” Carol asked, her face a bit red.
“I want to see just how well you handled yourself champ,” Bobbi said before taking a bite of ice cream.
She ran her tongue across the spoon, making sure she got it all. Of course she would have a conversation with Carol almost falling out of her tank top on the day she felt like shit. She couldn’t remember the last time her back hurt this bad.
“Any chance you’d do me a favor?” Carol asked.
“I suppose, since it’s for you.”
“I’m getting in the shower, will you bring me up a trash bag for these clothes?”
“You’re throwing them away? I’m sure you can get them clean…” Bobbi stopped. There really was a lot of it on Carol and she tended to threw clothes away with even the littlest sweat stain. “I’ll bring you one up,” Bobbi finished.
Carol jogged the remaining stairs and turned the water to as hot as she could stand. She stripped off her clothes, never wanting to get as clean as she did right then. She opened the medicine cabinet and swallowed four Advil with a scoop of cold water from the facet, before taking out a pair of scissors.
“What have we here?” Wade asked.
Thirty-two-year-old Luis Mendoza sat next to him praying that the car would slow down long enough for him to throw himself out of it. The ride from the airport wasn’t long by any stretch of the imagination and yet it felt like an eternity stuck in the car with Wade. The South America jungles weren’t looking all that bad after this car ride. He could feel the ‘stupid’ on his brain from having to listen to Wade’s never-ending, completely pointless babble. And if he mentioned his sister, Clarissa, or her butt one more time, he was going to throw Wade out the car.
Wade parked the car in a handicap spot across the street from the dojo and got out. Mendoza followed him across as an ambulance drove away.
“Hey boss what’s going on?” Wade asked when he saw Morgan on the sidewalk.
“A team led by Rose Thornton stole the briefcase back and one of them stabbed Michelle.”
“Michelle as in the Admiral’s daughter Michelle?”
“She okay?” Mendoza asked.
He remembered seeing her and Nick spending time together after Thanksgiving before he left for South America.
“We don’t know yet. She lost a lot of blood and may have been infected by that bio-weapon.”
“Brooks was right, World War Z is here. We’re at ground zero. Quick someone find Kirkman, he’ll know what to do,” Wade said looking around frantically.
“How did this happen?” Mendoza asked while staring at Wade.
Morgan quickly explained to them the story Nick and Megan told him as Nick worked on stabilizing Michelle until paramedics arrived.
“Where’s Nick now?” Mendoza asked.
Morgan pointed to his right. Nick was talking to a very hot chick with dark hair. Her attire screamed FBI but her body said Miss Hawaiian Tropic.
“Who is that?” Wade asked, resisting the urge to yell ‘shwing’.
“Special Agent Gina Ansari. She’s Nick’s contact in the Boston FBI field office. She’s making sure nothing is mentioned about any sightings of Rose Thornton. She is considered ‘wanted’ now thanks to that burn notice.”
“What about the police?” Mendoza asked.
“Julie is taking care of that. The story is a failed robbery by a group of drug addicts, with three of them getting away.”
“You said the one guy was named Diego?” Wade asked, his tone serious.
“Yeah. You heard of him?”
“Vaguely. I bet Simon knows him.”
“Great,” Morgan replied. Any friend of Simon’s always meant bad news.
Nick walked over to them while the FBI chick went in the opposite direction, after giving the Youngin a kiss on the check, Wade noted
“Hey guys,” Nick said. He seemed drained.
Wade took his eyes off the FBI chick’s ass and said, “Hey Youngin, how the hell did you let a tool like Eddie Finch get the drop on you? The way he smells he couldn’t sneak up on a corpse. You too busy trying to see Rose’s tattoo again?”
“Fuck you Wade,” Nick said then went inside the dojo.
For once Wade stood there speechless.
From the backseat of the Excursion, Brian ‘the Beast’ Mako received a text. He quickly replied. When a second one was sent back a minute later, he had to read it twice to make sure he read it correctly before deleting it.
Looks like he’d have a chance for a piece of ass after all. The question now was, who’s did he want more, the blonde or the brunette? Or maybe he’d just make Rose watch him do her sister first before he taught her a lesson in following orders.
He put his phone away. His brother could be released as early as next week. Then the two of them would go back and return the favor to this Summers punk before they tracked down that FBI bitch that put his big brother away.
Despite the pain in his groin, Mako couldn’t help but to leer as he watched Rose drive. He’d be seeing a lot more than just the back of her head soon enough. Things were certainly looking up for the Mako brothers, too bad he couldn’t say the same for the Thornton twins.
Rose Thornton couldn’t stop her hand from shaking, making it impossible for her to dial her cell one handed and steer the beast of an SUV that was the Excursion. She placed the phone between her legs and took the next exit she found. Once off the exit she drove down past the main street with a Walmart, Home Depot, and various other shops and turned onto the first side street she found. She had to drive halfway down it before there was room enough for her to pull off to the side without blocking the road. Stupid snow.
She put the Excursion in park but left the engine running. She glanced in the back at Mako. He lay groaning across the back seat, one hand holding his groin, the other his left ear. Rose picked the cell phone up again and tried dialing the number Boston had given her last spring. She hoped she still remembered it correctly and that it still worked. She pushed send and got “We’re sorry your call can not be completed. Please-”
“Damn it!” She screamed and cleared the number.
How the hell had this happened? Things could have gone smoothly. Boston was going to work with her, she had it all under control. It was because of that asshole Diego, this was all his fault! She pushed send. This time it dialed. She adjusted in the seat, her arm sore from the way he tossed her to the ground. And he did it so easily. Clearly there was far more to Boston than she had wanted to believe.
Her call was answered on the fifth ring.
“Boston, it’s Rose.”
“Are you kidding me? What the hell was that all about?” He yelled into the phone. It was the first time she had ever heard him raise his voice.
“I’m sorry. Can-”
“You’re sorry? You come into my place, attack my people and all you can say is you’re sorry! Say goodbye to your sister!”
For the first time in a very long time, Rose felt tears run down her face and her body shook, not in anger or rage but in terror. There was something in Nick’s voice that made her tremble, made her fear for her sisters life in a way she had never felt before. She thought back to when she saw him walk into the dojo, the look on his face when he saw Mako holding that girl in the air. The look in his eyes.
“Nick please!” She cried into her cell, she couldn’t help herself. “I’m sorry. Please just let Rebecca go. We can work something out. A trade perhaps? What do you want?”
“You know what I want.”
Rose looked down at the briefcase. She had already ruined her cover as Lucy Dash. Adams was going to be furious and she would most likely face serious disciple actions when she got back to California. At least she’d have Rebecca with her. They’d be okay as long as they were together.
“Okay. Where do you want to meet?”
“I’ll let you know. Can I reach you at this number?”
“Did you mean it before, when you said Rebecca was okay?”
“What do you think Rose?” He replied then hung up.
Rose put her phone back between her legs and wiped her eyes, then turned the Excursion around. She had to find a place they could lay low for awhile.
Diego loosened his grip on the steering wheel of the stolen Subaru. He checked in the mirror and saw nothing save a big rig. His mind was still trying to sort through what had happened. He knew going into that dojo, or whatever it really was, he couldn’t let Rose Thornton run point. She, like her sister, had some connection to that Summers guy. Everything was going just fine until that bitch lost her temper and came storming at them. That gave Summers an opening.
Diego blinked several times as he put his left turn signal and moved into the fast lane. The burning in his eyes from the smoke had stopped but they were still red. He recalled a fight with a police SWAT team where he had been hit with a flash bang, that had been much worse, but what the hell did Summers throw down? If it didn’t sound so absurd, he’d swear they were smoke bombs, like from those kung fu movies.
Diego put his blinker on again this time taking the exit on the right. He wanted to put some distance between him and Boston. Which was another thing, why did Rose keep calling Summers Boston? And who the hell is this guy? He moved way too fast with that skinny girl through the smoke, and his fighting. While Eddie Finch was a far cry from being a good fighter, the guy had seen plenty of combat and survived, so for him to go out that quick, not to mention how fast Mako was dropped. There was no way a punk like Summers could have done that, not with what Diego had read on him. There was something about him that merited further investigation because he had a feeling this wouldn’t be the last time he saw him.
Diego’s cell rang. He reached inside carefully, forgetting he dropped the glass vial in the same pocket. He was taking a chance using it he knew but in the heat of the moment it seemed like a good idea. He answered on the second ring.
“Hello mate, what’s the verdict?”
“The verdict is Rose Thornton is a bitch!”
“I tried to tell ya that mate. I take it you’re not with her?”
“No I’m not. I know I’m the new guy here but I would seriously consider looking into whose side these Thornton twins are really on.”
“Why’s that now?”
“Well let’s see. The first one went with this Summers guy without so much a fight. Then the bitch one goes and tells him my name in the middle of things. She has a nickname for the guy, manages to creates an opening for him to, I shit you not, throw some smoke balls down where he precedes to kill Eddie Finch and wiped his ass with Brian Mako.”
“No shit. I’ve been wondering when that smelly bastard would finally buy it. What’s this guys name again?”
“Okay, I’ll have someone look into it. How’s Rebecca holding up?”
“She wasn’t there. I’m assuming Summers still has her.”
“Okay, so where’s the briefcase then?”
“What?” Diego asked.
“The briefcase with the stuff.”
“Rose has it. She didn’t call you yet?”
Diego could hear Trevor let out a loud sigh before saying, “No she hasn’t mate. Where are you right now?”
“I don’t know, I’m just driving further away from the city.”
“Okay. I need to make a call to the boss. I’ll call you back.”
Diego shut off his phone and slowed down a bit. He didn’t need to be pulled over for speeding. He took the next exit again and looked for a place to ditch the Subaru.
Carol did her best to avoid smiling or grinning. Since she generally didn’t do either, it wasn’t too hard. She had a pair of queens in her hand and there were two on the table. There were two kings as well, so regardless of whatever the last card was she had four of a kind, which was hard to beat.
She looked across the table at JT. Chaz, the six foot six ‘brotha’, and GP had folded the previous round of betting. The same round Carol had used up all her chips. JT had suggested she bet her shirt and he would go all in. At first she gave him the finger but after looking at her cards again, she bet her shirt. The pot was big enough to cover the Super Bowl bet and some extra, plus she’d be putting her shirt on soon enough.
Carol rubbed her arm a little as she felt a sudden chill run through the place. Having never put much thought into it, Carol wasn’t conscious of what the sports tank top she wore under her shirt actually did for her chest. It was white with navy trim that matched the navy wind pants she wore. It was a bit snug since it had a bra built into it. The black men at the table had no problem with it since none of them had looked her in the face since she took off her shirt.
“Are you two ready?” Charlie asked, his voice tired.
Carol had made him continue to deal cards despite his objections. She had won only one hand and that was only good for winning the pot back. She wasn’t normally this bad at poker. She had already lost the ten thousand dollar check and stood to loose another five thousand if she lost this hand. But if she were to win, it’d be huge.
JT and Carol both nodded. Charlie flipped over the last card, it was the black eight of clubs. Carol finally smiled as she put down her two queens.
“Hey now, that’s pretty damn good shorty,” JT said as Carol started for the pot. “But not good enough,” he finished as he put down two kings.
“Four of a kind, kings over queens,” Charlie said.
“Are you fucking kidding me?” Carol snapped as she let go of the chips and sat back in the chair with her arms folded across her chest.
JT picked up her navy shirt and for a moment, she thought he might give it back but he didn’t. He put it in his lap before taking the whole pot.
“Better luck next time shorty,” JT said. “If you want I could spot you five thousand for those pants you got on.”
Before Carol could answer, Charlie’s cell buzzed with a text. He looked at it and said, “It’s Hammer, he wants you in his office now,” Charlie said to Carol.
Carol rolled her eyes and stood up from her chair. She walked down the hallway to Max’s office. Unlike the cage, the office was certainly nice, not to mention big. There were three high end black leather couches and a pool table. Hammer was sitting behind a huge oak desk. To his left were TV monitors that took up half of that wall. They showed various views of the club upstairs plus downstairs where all the fighting went on. There was even a monitor showing the office.
Carol went up to the desk not bothering to shut the door. Hammer looked up at her. He was Max’s second-in-command of the business and also happened to be in charge of making sure everyone who owned Max money paid it back. Hammer wasn’t his real name obviously, but a nickname in reference to the tattoos of various hammers on his body, including a large one depicting Thor’s hammer Mjolnir across his big stomach. He was a big guy, clocking in around 6’7 or so. For whatever reason girls clung to him. Carol couldn’t see why as his face looked like Shrek’s but with repeated shots to it from a frying pan. And unlike Max who had muscle, Hammer just had mass.
“I was watching your game and saw you lost, again.”
Carol said nothing and stared over at the monitor showing the poker table. The guys were still sitting there. JT was laughing and smelling her shirt.
“So would I be correct in saying you now owe Max fifteen thousand dollars?”
“I don’t suppose you have that money right now, in cash?”
“See now that’s a problem. I think I’m pretty fair with you Carol. I let you rack up a balance, you eventually pay it off only to rack up another one. Hell half the time I don’t even tell Max about it. Remember I was the one who said it was okay for you to place that Super Bowl bet, not Max. But fifteen thousand dollars Carol? That’s a lot, even for you. What are we going to do about that?”
“I don’t know, can’t we talk it over? Set up a payment plan of sorts?” She asked.
“Sure. I’d be willing to do that for you. But first I want you to do something for me.”
“Get on your knees.”
“I said get on your knees.”
“Do it now or we’re done talking!”
Carol tightened her fists but did. Hammer stood up and came around to the front of the desk. He smirked as he now towered over her. From behind Carol heard JT, Chaz, and GP walk into the office. Someone closed the door.
“Open your mouth,” Hammer said as he cracked his knuckles.
Carol glanced around as the other three were moving closer to her. She let out a sigh. There was no doubt in her mind that things were about to get messy.
The last time Nick had run this fast and hard was back in Japan when Silencer had to out run a trio of attack dogs. As was usually the case when it came to Silencer, things were always a bit hazy after meditation back to being Nick Walker but he was pretty sure he was moving even faster at this moment in time.
He saw the Excursion double park in front of the dojo when Michelle opened the case. At first he thought it was Julie’s until he saw three people get out in the middle of his kiss with Michelle. One of them he knew instantly was Brian Mako, a man known to sodomize women, then the only thing he could think of was that the front door was unlocked and Megan was still inside.
Nick moved between the cars, leaping over the snow bank and flung open the first door. When Megan first thought of using the laid-back, flirting with the ladies, Nick Summers alias two years ago it seemed like a good idea to him. Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’, said ‘When you are strong, make your enemies think you are weak’ after all what threat does a womanizing, D-list at best bodyguard pose? It never occurred to him that he might actually be getting sloppy. He opened the door to the office. Rose Thornton and a shorter man where standing nearby but all he could focus on was Mako holding Megan up in the air by her throat.
When Nick became Silencer there was meditation, focus, clarity, no emotion. But right now, he was feeling a rising rage he hadn’t felt since the night his parents were killed and he wasn’t sure if he could keep it in check. It wasn’t until the smell of BO over came his sense of smell and he heard the pump of a shotgun behind his head that he realized how unfocussed his rage was making him.
“Hold it right there,” a voice said behind him, his voice full of pride.
Nick put up his hands, trying to calm himself.
“Take it easy. What’s going on?”
“Hello Boston, I want my sister back now,” Rose said fairly nice, for her.
“What makes you think I have her?”
“Don’t jerk me around. I saw the video. You’re the only one my sister would submit to,” Rose said then clearly regretted her choice of words.
“Well when you put it like that,” Nick said, still trying to compose himself and wondering what video she was talking about. “Tell Mako to put the lady down and we can talk. You know I’m very reasonable.”
"Mako will hold on to her until you give us back the briefcase you took last night,” the short man said.
Rose shot the man a look.
“I’m sorry we haven’t met, Nick Summers.”
Diego ignored Nick’s out stretched out and said, “Your companion already informed us it was in the safe. For her sake I hope you have the combination.”
Nick looked at Megan, her face was turning red.
“Yeah, no problem.”
“Where’s Rebecca Boston?”
“She’s safe. Trust me. May I?”
The short man nodded at the guy with the odor and he pushed Nick toward the safe with the butt of the shotgun. Nick took the picture down and opened the safe. He pulled the briefcase out and held it for the short man in his right hand. Nick’s left hand remained closed. The guy had a nasty mark on the side of his face that looked like it was caused from an arrow. Maybe from Clive O’Conner perhaps? It still looked fresh.
“Now put her down.”
“In due time.”
“Diego!” Rose yelled.
“Shut up!” He snapped back.
“Diego huh. You didn’t happen to get shot last night did you?”
Diego ignored Nick’s question and checked the vials. Nick noticed Diego slid one into the black trench coat he wore.
“You have what you want. Let her go.”
“We will. But not right now. Mako here seems to have developed a bit of a thing for her.”
“Oh yeah,” Mako said as he cupped one of Megan’s small breasts, while his eyes looked at her tiny butt.
“Enough of this! I want my sister back!” Rose said and came storming at them.
Out of options, Nick opened his left hand and smashed four of Silencer’s smoke balls he took out of the black pouch hidden inside the safe. The area filled with a brief flash then tons of smoke. Nick moved quickly, grabbing Megan as she fell from the distracted Mako’s grip and they moved through the smoke and onto the street. He laid her down by a snow bank and checked on her. She was okay just out of breath.
Nick went back to the dojo, but Rose and the three men came running out. He sent Rose to the ground hard with a quick Aikido toss before the guy with the shotgun came at him next, trying to knock him out with the butt of the weapon. Nick ducked under it and launched into a series of two finger thrusts that hit half a dozen pressure points and a vital organ, which would result in his death within three minutes. That didn’t stop Nick from hitting him in the face with a vicious palm strike as he crumbled to the ground. Blood burst from his ruined nose and Nick moved forward, the whole thing taking less than seven seconds.
Mako came at him next and Nick hit him with a flying kick. He bounced off Mako’s huge chest like he knew he would and landed in a crouch. Mako came in over confident and Nick formed his hand into a strike he broke blocks of solid ice with. The last time he used it he had broke more than Carol when they competed against each other. He connected with a shot to Mako’s groin. He doubled over and Nick finished with a twin strike to Mako’s ears, rupturing one, if not both ear drums. An elbow to the jaw put Mako on the ground out cold.
He turned looking for Megan and was surprised to see Michelle. Diego had his arm around her throat, with a Glock in his left hand and a throwing dagger pressed against her side in his right hand. The dagger looked to be coated in something. Nick moved toward him. Diego’s eyes were red from the smoke bomb.
“What are you doing you asshole?” Rose said screaming. She had the briefcase in her hands. “You’ve ruined this operation!”
“We’ll see about that. Help the meathead up and get out of here. I’ll cover you.”
Rose glared at him but did as she was told. She opened the rear door for Mako, who stumbled into it. She got behind the wheel with the briefcase and took off. Diego moved into the street using Michelle as a shield. He pointed his gun at the next car going by and ordered the driver out of the green Subaru Outback. Michelle made a move for his gun, grabbing his wrist but Diego plunged the throwing dagger into her side, leaving it stuck inside her as he let her fall to the ground.
He got into the Subaru and sped off as Nick came running over to help just as a pool of blood formed around her. He heard a car stop behind him and then Morgan was beside him with a first aid kit. Neither of them spoke as Nick went to work on pulling the dagger out of Michelle while Morgan applied pressure to her wound. Nick was about to toss the dagger aside when he noticed slime still coated on it. It was green, the same color as the bio-weapon.
“So are you going to tell me what your surprise for me is?” Michelle asked Nick.
He had just taken his first bite from his turkey BLT club sandwich and Michelle was on her fourth bite of honey glazed ham and Swiss. They were sitting in the corner by the front window of a little shop she never knew existed. Nick’s dojo was barely in view from a diagonal angle.
When he called her earlier to move up their lunch date she decided to just skip breakfast. Michelle was regretting that and the dozen laps she swam before leaving, as she now found herself resisting the urge to wolf down the whole sub in front of Nick. She had no gag reflex, so it would have been easy enough to do, though Nick had never given her a chance to put that skill of hers to use.
“I will as soon as you tell me what’s wrong.”
Nick put his sandwich down. It looked tasty. He told her that the owner of the shop made the bread daily for the sandwiches and used only the freshest ingredients. It rivaled Au Bon Pain in terms of quality. She liked how Nick seemed to go out of his way to support local business in the area of his dojo.
“You’re sure?” Nick asked.
“I’m fine,” Michelle replied.
“So you’re freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional?” Nick joked.
Michelle stared at him. She really wanted to scream when she saw him standing there with Megan. She could understand if it had been Carol. She hated Carol but at least she had zero personality. No guy could ever like Carol. Megan though had always seemed like this nerdy girl who avoided people. Michelle hadn’t realized how pretty she was or what a nice body she actually had until she saw her next to Nick with her shirt up. She knew from the beginning the way Nick was with women. The laughing, the touching, the feeling, the flirting, but now she felt this urge to beat every girl she saw near him. What was wrong with her?
“Okay. So Friday morning I want you to meet me here and then we’re going to take a drive down to Cape Cod. I reserved a spot at this little bread and breakfast in Sandwich, MA for the two of us for the weekend.”
“You want me to pack with only a day to prepare?” Michelle said with a grin. He knew she had several different ‘bug out bags’ ready to go depending on the emergency.
“I don’t want you to pack anything. I figured we could do a little shopping when we got there and you let me pick up the tab. I did already buy you a dress though.”
“Oh really?” Michelle replied. She really liked where this was going so far.
“It’s for our evening out Friday night. We have reservations at this private restaurant for the affluent that live on the Cape. Best lobster on the East Coast, or so they claim. I think we should be the judge of that.”
Michelle stopped. The man was down right infuriating. Did he want to be with her as much as she wanted to be with him? Or was this a game to him? She’d lost count how many times they’d had sex, so he didn’t need to go to all this work to get into her panties. Hell, he still had several pairs of them at his place.
“There is one more thing.”
Nick pulled out a long rectangle velvet box and slid it over to her. Michelle stared hard at it.
“What is it?” She finally asked.
“A gift. I was going to wait until dinner Friday night when you had the dress on but what the heck. Open it.”
Michelle did and let out a loud gasp. Inside was the most gorgeous necklace she had ever laid eyes on. It was made of diamonds and had three dolphins made of platinum.
“Do you like it?”
“I love it.”
“I was hoping you would.”
“Where did you ever find something like this?” She asked while looking at the dolphins. She loved dolphins.
“I didn’t. I had it custom made for you.”
Michelle looked up from the dolphins at Nick.
“That must have cost a fort-”
Nick interrupted her with a kiss. Michelle closed her eyes, savoring the touch of his warm lips on hers. Her body heat started to rise and damn if she didn’t want to throw him onto the floor right here and mount him. She opened her eyes when she felt him stop kissing and that’s when she saw Nick run out of the shop as fast as he could.
“Slow the fuck down! Seriously, where did you learn to drive?” Rose Thornton snapped from the back of the Ford Excursion as Finch took a corner too fast.
“I’m sorry. These snow piles are taking up much of the road.”
“Shut up! I knew letting him drive was a mistake,” Rose said to Mako who was sitting next to her.
They had Diego park his stolen Bronco in the parking garage at Tufts Medical Center and then they loaded up in the Excursion. The plan was to keep Finch as the look out behind the wheel, while Rose took point going in with Diego and Mako behind her. Once they had what they needed they would make their way back out.
The problem with the plan became apparent less than a minute into the drive as Finch’s smell overpowered the vehicle and all the windows had to be lowered. The fact that the big, pepperoni eating, meathead sitting next to her was an improvement, said wonders.
“Okay here it is on the right. Make sure you three don’t fuck this up,” Rose snapped.
Finch pulled up in the middle of the right lane and left the emergency lights flashing as the others got out and moved toward a building with a sign that read ‘Summers Security’ on the outside.
“What’s up shorty? Can I help you?”
“Yeah, get a breath mint,” Carol replied.
She moved away from the black guy with a mouth full of gold teeth and horrible breath. He tried to follow her but that’s when Charlie showed up.
“Leave her alone JT.”
“Sure thing Charlie,” JT said with a hint of sarcasm in his voice.
He sat down at a table with two other black guys who were playing poker, all of them throwing looks her way. Carol sat down at the bar, amazed at how big the fighting area at Max’s was without people everywhere. Charlie waited for her to say something but she didn’t.
“I know it’s early but do you want a drink?”
Carol slid the check across the bar to him.
“The money to cover my Super Bowl bet.”
“Oh. Sorry about that. A check?” Charlie asked picking it up.
Carol nodded and said, “It’s good. There’s plenty of money in the account to cover it. It wont bounce I swear.”
Charlie stared at her briefly and nodded. A part of him felt sorry for her, while a more selfish part of him wanted to see her smile. Carol was so pretty but seemed stuck in this perpetual case of bitterness. He wished he had the means to help her. He tucked the check into his shirt pocket. At least he could keep Hammer off her case.
“Okay. Thanks Carol. See you this weekend?”
Carol got up and headed toward the stairs to leave.
“Leaving so soon shorty?” JT called.
She looked back at him. He had his hair cornrowed, a second guy sat next to him. He was physically the same size as JT except he had a shaved head. The third guy was largest, and looked to be about Shane’s size and build but had more of a buzz cut look. He also had all of his teeth, none of which were gold. All three of them wore baggy blue Tommy Hilfiger jeans, tan Timberland boots, and green Boston Celtic jerseys, though each wore a different player’s number.
“Why don’t you join us for a round? Charlie come over here and deal for us since shorty trusts you.”
“I’m not playing cards with you,” Carol said even as she took several steps toward the table.
“Who said anything about playing?”
JT pulled a wad of cash three inches thick from his baggy jean pocket and put it on the table. The other two guys did the same. The wads were made up of nothing but hundreds.
“Cash money right there.”
Charlie walked over just as Carol got to the table.
“It’s okay Carol, he’s joking. Just go home.”
She ignored him and said, “I don’t have any cash.”
“No but you got this,” JT said and reached into Charlie’s pocket and pulled out the check. “This will buy you a lot of chips. Unless you’re scared,” JT said while moving up to her.
Carol rolled her eyes and said, “Why would I be scared of you?”
“Cause you’re this pretty blonde who looks afraid to sit next to three brothas,” he said touching her hair.
“Don’t touch me,” she said moving back.
“Sure thing shorty. Here Charlie, I guess shorty here didn’t want to make any money today.”
JT held the check up for him but Carol took it.
“Stop calling me that and give me my chips.” She said as she took off her winter white parka then sat down at the table, away from the others.
“Carol please don’t do this,” Charlie said looking down at her. He knew what this would lead to. He’d seen JT and his crew do it to other girls before. Eventually Carol would run out of money and then that would lead to betting her shirt and then….
“Just deal the damn cards Charlie.”
He let out a sigh and sat down. Carol looked across the table at JT, who smiled. She didn’t smile back, instead she focused on the cash and the check on the table. Maybe her luck was about to take a turn for the better.
Nick tapped his brakes as a car ahead of him quickly crossed three lanes of traffic and cut him off so they could get off at an exit. Driving through the Boston tunnels was bad enough to begin with but mix in stupid drivers and it became that much worse. He was surprised there weren’t more accidents.
He took the next exit out of the tunnel and came out onto Pleasant Street. At least in February, there weren’t as many people out and about. The light turned red and Nick stopped, his Trailblazer at a slight upward angle due to the road.
Despite the cold, several people walked past him at the crosswalk, including a tall brunette, easily over six feet tall, with dark tan skin, tight dark blue Dolce&Gabbana jeans, the gold logo on the pink patch just visible under the brown leather coat she wore and the dark brown boots with raw hide laces that came up high on her long legs. She was giving off a Native America heritage vibe. She glanced at him and Nick flashed her a smile. She paused for a moment then gave him the finger before moving on.
Nick couldn’t help but to laugh as the light turned green. For as popular with the women as Nick Summers may appear to be, he still got plenty of rejections. It didn’t hurt that most of the women he made moves on he had already studied up on them to know what their likes and dislikes were. Very few of them were random hookups. He still disliked the word Megan had come up with, converted. It made it sound a lot creepier than it was.
Still there was something about the Native American chick, her stunning beauty aside, which was vaguely familiar. He’d have to have Megan pull her image from one of the street cameras later on, Nick thought as he pulled into his parking spot and went in through the back entrance with the briefcase and a folded note. He’d just stepped into the office when Megan came running out from behind her desk.
“Well? Did it work? Tell me!”
“Okay. Settle down. Let me put this away first.”
Megan let out a big sigh before moving out of his way. Nick put the folded note on Megan’s desk then the briefcase inside the safe, being careful not to disturb the black pouch he kept hidden inside for emergency. He replaced the picture of the island in the Caribbean they hoped to own one day then turned around. Megan was right there. She didn’t comprehend the notion of people’s personal bubble, not that Nick had one. But he did find some humor when Megan talked to Carol.
“What did you find out about this bio-weapon?” Nick asked with a grin.
“It’s dangerous and not yet fully functional and should be destroyed. Which we could have done ourselves if you would have let me purchase that equipment I wanted to buy last fall.”
“Oh well, if a guy can’t tell his best friend to not buy something that can destroy government bio-weapons what kind of friend is he?”
“At the moment he is the kind of friend who is becoming increasing annoying. Now stop stalling. Did the trigger word work?”
“Technically it was two words,” Nick replied.
Megan pinched his arm.
“Okay. Yes it worked. She still offered resistance-”
“Yes!” Megan shouted and jumped into Nick’s arms, her hair flying into his face. She had used a different shampoo this morning.
“Hi, how’s it going?” Nick asked holding her a foot off the ground.
Megan moved her face back and brought her hands to his face, pressing his cheeks together. Her body was radiating an intense amount of heat and she was positively glowing, even more so than the other night when he sat in on her game session.
“Do you know what this means?”
“You want me to eat out of a straw?” Nick mumbled through his lips.
Megan stared down at him as their eyes locked. Several seconds of silence went by before she told him to put her down.
“This is great news Nick. It means our plan might have a chance. I mean if you can flip someone like Rebecca Thornton who’s trained in this stuff.”
“It still took some coaxing. It wasn’t like flipping a switch and it was in a controlled environment, we don’t know how effective it will be under battlefield conditions.”
“You’ll finish with Michelle Trilling this weekend and we’ll move onto Olivia Fox next week. No sex though. I found something in her medical history that has me concerned and I don’t want to take the chance of you catching something from her. We’ll get what we need from her and move on. Oh and I just found another one you can start preparing for. She’s a Russian ballerina looking to open a dance school here in Boston. This is perfect.”
“Did you hear anything I just said Megan?” Nick asked.
“Yeah. Don’t worry. Now scratch my back,” Megan said turning it toward him.
Nick sighed and half-heartily clawed at the gray Firefly t-shirt she wore.
“Do it right,” she ordered.
Nick rolled his eyes then pulled the back of her shirt up and started scratching.
“Over to the right. A little more. By the hooks.”
Nick lift up the back strap to Megan’s satin navy bra. He knew without having to look that her panties would match as Megan always wore set pairs. She hated mismatched ones.
“Am I interrupting something?”
They turned to see Michelle standing in the doorway. Nick took his hand off Megan’s back and she pulled her shirt down.
“No. Nick was just scratching my back.”
Michelle looked over at Nick and said, “The door was unlocked.”
“Yeah, Shane is expecting some packages from UPS,” Megan said.
Nick nodded and asked, “Are you ready to go?”
“Are you?” Michelle asked, more snarky then she meant to be.
“You bet, let us be off to an early lunch,” Nick said and held the door open for her.
“Bye Michelle. Have fun,” Megan said after them before sitting down at her desk. Michelle didn’t respond back. Megan looked at the note from Nick and let out a gasp.
“It’s about time you got here! Who the hell is this looser?” Rose Thornton snapped as Diego got out of the Bronco with some guy who looked homeless.
“Hi I’m Eddie Finch,” the man said to her.
Rose stepped back in revulsion. The man’s body odor was atrocious.
“Keep him away from me,” Rose said to Mako.
He nodded and did his best to not gag from Finch’s BO, it was beyond overpowering.
“Well I see your reputation precedes you Ms. Thornton,” Diego said walking over to her.
They were in an empty parking lot surrounding by abandon buildings in the middle of nowhere. Old train tracks were in the distance.
“And that would be what?” She asked him.
“A first class bitch,” Diego replied.
“That really hurts coming from the asshole that got his ass kicked by a woman and a guy who uses a fucking bow and arrow. Not to mention dropped by one bullet. Apparently your reputation as being some super mercenary leaves a lot to be desired.”
Diego’s eyes widened in rage and without thinking, he grabbed Rose by the throat.
“Now you listen to me you bit-”
Rose thought back to a trick Boston had showed her during a training session and dug her nail into the pressure point by Diego’s thumb, forcing him to break the hold. She grabbed his wrist and bent it behind his back. Diego swung his other elbow behind him to crack her in the head but Rose ducked, then brought her right foot down on the back of Diego’s right knee making it buckle.
“Are you sure it was a guy who took my sister? Because you seem to keep getting your ass kicked by girls,” Rose said into Diego’s ear before pushing him away from her.
Diego spun around, his face a mask of anger. He took a step toward her but Mako moved in between them.
“That’s enough guys. We all want the same thing here,” Mako said.
“Next time you cross me you’ll be sorry,” Diego replied, his tone dead serious.
Rose looked at her nails unimpressed before going back to the Excursion. She waited for Mako to open the door for her.
Finch moved to follow them when Rose turned back and said, “Yeah that’s not happening. Get lost looser.”
Mako closed the door and got behind the wheel. Rose lowered her window and looked at Diego.
“I sent directions to your cell phone. My sister is the primary target. The briefcase is second. Try not to fuck up this time.”
Diego held his phone in a death grip as he watched Rose and her meathead bodyguard drive off. He took several deep breaths to help calm himself. He couldn’t remember the last time someone had so easily pissed him off. A foul odor reminded him of Finch’s presence.
“Well, she was unpleasant,” Finch said.
“Shut up and get in,” Diego replied.
Next time he wouldn’t hold back. Next time he’d teach her some respect.
Carol shut off her cell phone and banged her head against the wall in the hallway. The buttermilk pancakes Nick made for her suddenly not sitting well in her stomach. News of what the girls had done to those guys at the mall yesterday had already gotten back to Hammer. He left a message on her cell to bring him his money today or he was sending some of his boys over to the dojo. She’d ask Bobbi for help, that way Nick wouldn’t have to know.
The doorbell rang, making Carol look up. Bobbi stumbled down the stairs wearing a black sweatshirt and black sweatpants. Apparently someone had to do laundry, Carol thought as Bobbi answered the door.
“Oh. Hey Mark,” she said, her voice lackluster.
“Hey,” Mark replied and shuffled in.
“Let me guess. You’re here to watch the person in the cabin?” Bobbi asked.
“Yeah. It’s such a pain. Do you know how much snow I had to clean off my car this morning?”
Bobbi slammed the door shut.
“Really? We’ll randomly bring in Mark but I’m right here and can’t watch or be told anything about this mysterious person. Where’s Nick?” She asked looking at Carol down the hall.
“He already left to bring Joyce home then was heading to the dojo to meet Megan,” Carol replied.
“This wasn’t my idea. I would still be sleeping.”
Bobbi glared at Mark and mumbled, “Of course you would,” as she walked past Carol.
“You know where everything is right?” Carol asked.
“Good. I need to take care of something. You’re in charge,” Carol said then went to find Bobbi.
“Oh lucky me. This is such a pain.”
Carol found Bobbi in the kitchen by the sink.
“What was that all about?” Carol asked her.
Bobbi wiped her eyes before turning around. Her face was red.
“Are you crying?” Carol asked, a bit shocked.
“Gee I wonder. First I find out we’re hiring CJ and now you get to be doing all this stuff for Nick and he doesn’t even trust me enough to tell me what’s going on.”
“Nick trusts you.”
“Oh really? When’s the last time he asked me to go out on a job with the team?”
“You’re usually too hung over,” Carol said without thinking. “Sorry. What’s your problem with CJ? I thought you two have a lot in common?”
“We do. She’s like the taller, better version of me. You don’t think Nick’s replacing me, do you?”
“Well…” Carol teased.
Bobbi looked like she might start crying again.
“Wow. You’re a little sensitive today,” Carol said and gave her a paper towel.
Bobbi blew her nose very loudly into it and said, “Yeah, well I can’t really help it right now.”
Carol gave her a funny look and Bobbi glared back.
“Oh,” Carol finally said and tried not to roll her eyes. She might have to crash at her Boston apartment for the next few days.
“Not like it’s fun for me.”
“I didn’t say anything.”
“You didn’t need to.”
“Whatever. I’m going out for a few hours,” Carol said, grabbing her coat and keys.
“Well excuse me.”
Carol turned to say something back but thought better of it and left. There was no getting through to Bobbi when she was like this. Which also meant there was no way she could ask her for the money now. She unlocked her glove box and pulled out the checkbook that was used for Summers Security expenses and wrote a check for cash for ten thousand dollars and signed her name.
Rebecca Thornton opened her eyes. The room was insanely hot and so was she. She was handcuffed to a bed.
“Water,” she said or tried. Her mouth was so dry.
Carol walked over, opened a Poland Spring bottle of water, and gave her a drink.
“Thank you,” Rebecca replied.
She looked around the room, several heat lamps were going. No wonder it was so hot.
“Where am I?”
Rebecca looked over at Carol and said, “You’re the trainer from Boston’s dojo.”
“You specialize in Karate right?”
Carol didn’t answer, just stood there with her arms folded across her chest.
“I remember watching you break all those bricks. That was impressive.”
Carol remained silent.
“I always wish I knew how to do that but I didn’t think I’d have the strength for it.”
“It’s not about brute strength.”
“I know that now because of you.”
“How so?” Carol asked skeptically.
“Well look at you, you’re a tall, athletic, attractive woman who could easily be mistaken for a model and yet you can crush bricks and who knows what else with just your bare hands.”
“I find ice the hardest.”
“Because of the cold right?” Rebecca asked.
“Yeah. How’d you know?” Carol asked, unfolding her arms.
“Just a guess. Can I ask you something?”
“Any chance I can go pee?”
Carol moved toward her, hesitant.
“Please. I really don’t want to wet the bed. You can tie me right back up after if you want.”
Carol stopped and said, “Wow.”
“I told you,” Nick said walking into the room carrying a large tray with a covered plate and a Rite Aid bag filled with items. He set them down on the dresser.
“Told her what?” Rebecca asked, batting her eyes at Nick while trying to see what he put down.
“You can go Carol. I got this now,” Nick whispered to her before shutting off the heat lamps.
“You sure?” She whispered back.
Nick turned his back to Rebecca and whispered, “Yeah. I made you breakfast. It’s in the kitchen.”
“Would you mind checking on Joyce? She was still sleeping. I made extra for her.”
Carol nodded and Nick smiled then shut the door as she left. He left the Rite Aid bag on the dresser, brought the tray over to Rebecca, and sat on the bed beside her.
“What’s under there?” Rebecca asked a bit worried.
Nick pulled the cover off to show a stack of chocolate chip pancakes drizzled in chocolate syrup and whip cream, sliced green apples covered in peanut butter and a glass of cranberry juice. He cut into the stack and held the fork in front of her. Rebecca’s eyes narrowed at him briefly before she opened her mouth.
She finished chewing and asked, “Are those real chocolate chips?”
“Of course. I made them from scratch, just for you.”
Rebecca took another bite and said, “Well so far this is the best interrogation I’ve ever had Boston. What else do you have in mind for me?”
Nick watched as she licked her tongue across her lips to get a bit of whip cream. He set the tray down on the nightstand. Part of him admired how she never gave up.
“You seem awful cheerful for a prisoner.”
“Come on Boston, you’re not going to hurt me.”
Rebecca paused seeing a look in Nick’s blue eyes for the briefest of moments that sent a chill through her despite how hot it was.
“No. If you went to the trouble to fix me up why hurt me now?”
“I wasn’t going to leave you out there bleeding, especially given your condition.”
“And you know about that how?”
Nick only smiled in response.
“Whatever. Besides, I know people who would call that stupid. It wasn’t even a serious wound,” Rebecca said, though the last part came out shaky.
“Whatever helps you sleep at night.”
“You did, once,” Rebecca replied. Something had to work on him.
“You could have made me get out after,” Rebecca said, trying to keep him off guard.
Nick ignored her and said, “Besides I was hired to bring back a briefcase and that’s what I did.”
This time Rebecca ignored him and said “Or where you worried about leaving me out in the storm. Afraid a snowplow might hit me before I could get back to my car?”
“It has been known to happen in New England.”
“Know what I think?” Rebecca said while glancing at her cranberry juice. Nick gave her a sip of it.
“Thank you,” she said before continuing, “I think you lost someone close to you at one point. Someone who meant a lot to you. And now you have this compulsive need to help people. Particularly women. You saw me hurt and couldn’t help yourself.”
Nick suppressed a grin and said, “Seducing me wont work, so now you want to get inside my head?”
“I did major in psychology. Langley thought it would be good if I continued my schooling after joining.”
“I see,” Nick replied skeptically.
“Tell me I’m wrong.”
“You’re wrong. And trust me when I say you don’t want to go digging around in my head, it’s not pretty. I’m doing my best to keep it together most days.”
“Why? Do you have daddy and mommy issues?” Rebecca said jokingly and smirked. She stopped when she saw that flash of… something in his eyes again.
“Well I guess we should get this over with,” Nick replied as he stood up. Rebecca tensed then relaxed as he was only stretching his arms.
“This isn’t my first interrogation Boston. I can handle you.”
“Are you sure? I have ways of making you talk.”
Rebecca remained unimpressed.
“I know you’re not working for Langley anymore.”
“What’s that suppose to mean?” She asked puzzled.
“Oh that’s right. You’ve been stuck here all night. Apparently, someone put out a burn notice on the Thornton twins late last night. You and Rose are done with Langley for the time being. And it seems like someone is also trying to scrub you as we speak. So it’ll be like you girls never existed. I’ve been told that takes some skill with a computer. Any ideas who could or would do that?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Rebecca replied as her mind tried to figure out why Berzinski would do that. Only Adams could give that order but why would he? And why scrub Rose too? Boston had to be lying.
“Who were you giving that briefcase to?” Nick asked moving over her body.
“Who do you work for?” Nick asked, his face moving closer to hers. His cologne, as always, was faint but intoxicating as it filled her senses. Her palms were getting sweaty as he breathed across her neck.
“Please,” she said looking up at him and his damn blue eyes. She found her lips puckering on their own accord as his lips hovered slightly above hers.
It had been nine months since she’d last seen Boston and yet she found herself right back at that hotel room with him. He had given her total control. Nobody had let her do that before. Had it really been nine months? It seemed like only yesterday. Things had been so busy this past summer. Langley alone had her hoping but it was also one mission after another for Adams, who seemed to be preparing NOL for something big. So there hadn’t been time for her to worry about a real relationship. There had been other guys sure but they weren’t like Nick.
“Give me a name Rebecca,” he said into her ear, his breath warm and pleasant.
“I can’t Boston,” she replied as she tried to slip from the cuffs with no luck.
She tried to focus on something else. She knew the tricks, she wouldn’t loose at her own game. His hand went under the sweatshirt, two fingers trailing across her navel. She looked back at him. It took everything in her to not tell him to go lower.
“You put something in those pancakes right?” She asked trying to break his flow. She shouldn’t be acting like this.
“No. Just chocolate. You want to help me Rebecca,” Nick said and moved his fingers from her navel to her right cheekbone.
“Why? Because we knew each other for a month before you tossed me aside?” She snapped, or tried to at least. If only she could stay mad, that could work.
“Did I? You and your sister left on your own accord. You told me not to contact you. Not even for a Christmas card. I always send out unique ones, not those bulk kinds.”
“What?” Rebecca asked. He was trying to distract her.
Focus. She could outlast him.
His hand took hold of her chin and he stared into her eyes and said, “Absit invidia.”
“Nick….” She trailed off, her eyes closing.
He stroked the side of her face softly and said, “Rebecca.”
“Yes?” Her eyes remained closed.
“Who’s your boss?”
“I can’t tell you.”
“He’ll kill you if you get in his way. I don’t want something to happen to you. You’re nice to us.”
“Rose and I. We don’t have many friends. Just colleagues.”
“I’m your friend?”
“Then let me help you. I’m not as helpless as you might think.”
“I… can’t,” she mumbled, her eyes were watering a bit.
Nick flicked a tear away and breathed into her ear, “You can. Do it for me, please.”
“Victor Adams. I work for NOL.”
“Who was the briefcase going to?”
“Trevor Fritz, the mercenary pirate.”
“What was he going to do with it?”
“I don’t know.”
Nick kissed her forehead and said, “Absit invidia.”
Rebecca opened her eyes to find him on top of her unlocking the handcuffs, freeing her hands.
“See how easy that was,” he replied as he freed her feet.
Rebecca sat up. “What happened? What did you do to me?”
“Now that would be telling.”
Rebecca checked her arms and felt her neck for needle marks then her feet, her stomach… nothing.
“Boston what did you do?” Rebecca asked. Panic creeping into her voice. She didn’t tell him did she? She couldn’t have cracked that fast. It wasn’t possible not with her training.
“Nothing. You’re fine.”
“So what? You just letting me go like that?”
“Um, no. We’ll see how the day goes and maybe by tonight.”
Nick went back over to the dresser and brought her the Rite Aid bag.
“I believe I remembered your favorites. Still allergic to aloe right?”
Rebecca took the bag and saw aloe free body wash, shaving cream, and lotion. There was also a pink poof ball, peppermint toothpaste, a pink toothbrush, and a razor. She might as well have picked them up herself.
“Your bag is under the bed. The shower is right over there. You need one,” Nick said and pointed to a door in the corner.
“No thanks to you,” she replied and took her tray of food.
“I hope you enjoy your breakfast and please do not try to escape, it would be pointless.”
“If the foods always this good, you might have to force me to leave,” Rebecca said with a smile before taking a bite of an apple slice with peanut butter.
Odd thing was she was only half joking. Nick left and Rebecca finished eating. She reached for her bag and tossed everything on the bed. She had to find out if what he said about her and Rose being burned was true.
“Damn,” she mumbled.
Her backup burn phone was gone. She could see where Nick had cut it out from its hiding spot sewn into the bag. There was definitely a lot more to Nick Summers than she expected.
Rebecca looked at the bag of stuff again. She was about to take off the sweatshirt, damp from sweat, when she saw the red light on the smoke detector.
“Any chance for some privacy?” She said aloud.
Seconds later the light went out.
“Thank you,” she said then took off her clothes.
She took the bag of stuff Nick bought for her and walked naked to the bathroom. She closed the door to the bathroom just as the red light came back on.
Morgan Ramsey rubbed his eyes in the hopes that it would help him wake up. It didn’t, but the smell of coffee and something else coming from the kitchen was a promising alternative. He found Wade in the kitchen at the stove cooking one of the biggest omelets he’d ever seen.
“How in the world did you ever flip that?” He asked.
“What can I say, I’ve got skills. Coffee is on the table.”
Morgan sat down wondering when he told Wade he could keep crashing at his place. He took a sip of his black coffee. It was burning hot and strong, he could feel himself more alert with every sip. He was always amazed at how Wade could make coffee exactly the way one wanted it.
Morgan picked up his copy of the Wall Street Journal while Wade placed a plate in front of him that had half of the omelet on it. It was filled with diced ham, onions, red and green peppers, and three kinds of cheese. There was also toast with butter, cut diagonal.
“Thank you,” he said.
“You’re welcome,” Wade replied then took a sip of his beer.
“Little early to be drinking don’t you think Wade?” Morgan asked then took a bite of his omelet as he waited for an answer.
“It’s five o’clock somewhere in the world.”
Morgan finished chewing and said, “This is excellent.”
“I told you I got skills. I’m like a fusion of Guy Fiadi and Bobby Flay only with better hair.”
Morgan said nothing and continued to eat as he could sense another diarrhea of the mouth attack by Wade. Two bites later, it was on.
“You know who has the best job on earth?”
Morgan didn’t respond.
“Giada’s camera man. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to go to work everyday and film her? Italian food and cleavage shots, it doesn’t get much better than that. Maybe beef jerky too. I should give Greg a call on his direct line see what he thinks. And find out if he has that new house boy broken in for me yet, it’s been three months.”
Morgan looked up to see if the man was going to take a breath.
“What?” Wade asked before finishing his beer.
Morgan shook his head and said, “What are you doing today?”
“Nothing at all…”
Wade saw the look on Morgan’s face and knew he walked into it.
“Good. I need you to pick up Mendoza at the airport."
“Oh come on! Why do I have to pick up the Mexican?”
“Everyone else is busy. And it was a last minute thing. He’s-”
“Can’t he just sneak across the border like all the others?” Wade interrupted.
“No. He’s getting back from that South America job.”
“How did that go?”
“Horrible. From what little bit I’ve heard their employer was killed and all the mercenaries started bailing. Mendoza was part of the second wave leaving the country.”
“Mendoza,” Wade mumbled. “The only thing cool about him is his sister and she’s adopted.”
“Wade,” Morgan said.
Wade continued as though he hadn’t heard Morgan, which was a good possibly when his mind wandered.
“I wonder if the Youngin’s already tapped that?”
“Mendoza’s sister Clarissa. Good cushion for the pushing on that one. Seriously, how could there not be a God because it’s a flipping miracle that the Youngin’s not a walking STD. Maybe we should check him in Dr. Drew’s sex rehab clinic.”
“Just look at the trouble he’s gotten us into by bringing back one of those twins to the Walker compound and for what? Has he ever met a female he didn't knock boots with? And don't go his 'mom'. We all know that, not like this is a George R.R. Martin novel. Though the Youngin's life is a bit of a fantasy. But since we're already talking about his mom, I’ve seen the pictures. She was a babe plus ten. We’re talking a natural twenty on a d20 for charisma. Hell they came up with the word MILF after seeing the Youngin’s mom.”
Morgan stood up and Wade flinched, expecting Morgan to punch him in the face, which was a real possibility.
Instead, Morgan said, “I won’t be responsible for what Nick does to you if he hears you talking about Lisa that way again. You know how much he likes you bringing up Stephanie Weathersby, now times it by ten when it comes to Lisa.”
Wade brushed imaginary crumbs off his shirt. While he saw laid-back Nick Summers as a sloppy but decent fighter, he didn’t particular enjoy the thought of facing a pissed off and motivated Nick Walker.
“So what you’re saying is if I go pick up Mendoza, you’ll forget this whole conversation?”
“Yes,” Morgan replied wondering if anyone ever remembered what Wade said to begin with. “Pick up the kitchen before you go.”
“Sure thing boss. So all kidding aside, how screwed do you think we are because of the Youngin?”
Morgan poured himself a second cup of coffee and took a sip.
“I don’t know Wade. I really don’t know.”
The assassin known only as Diego pulled up to his motel door and shut off his Bronco. He grabbed the thick brown paper bag that rested on the passenger seat and got out. The snow had shown no signs of letting up so he decided to pull into the next motel he found.
The place wasn’t much. A tiny room with a double bed, a TV that had only basic channels and an even smaller bathroom, but for the price, including the extra hundred to the lady behind the counter, Diego would at least be guaranteed some privacy. It was also a lot better than sleeping outside like he had to do for a job he did over in China a few months back.
He took off his trench coat and laid it across the single chair that was so graciously provided in the corner. He turned the light on in the bathroom and looked at his face in the mirror. The cut wasn’t healing as fast as he was hoping it would. He turned the hot water on and let the tub fill up. He shut the water off once it was up high enough for him and stripped down before stepping into the tub and sat down.
The hot water greeted him up to the chin. He moved himself lower still allowing the water to come up and cover his face. He stayed that way for three minutes holding his breath, thinking back to the job he had done in Japan, when he had to swim ashore to a guy’s private beach house and kill him and his bodyguards.
The sound of his cell phone ringing brought him back up for air. He reached down for it and got it on the second ring.
“Hey buddy, it’s Finch. Long time no hear from you.”
“There’s a reason for that,” Diego replied.
Finch continued as if he didn’t hear him. “Well I got your message and you can count me in.”
“Good. I’ll meet you at five tomorrow morning. I’ll text you the meeting spot.”
“Sounds good buddy. Just don’t forget the cash.”
With that, the line went dead. Diego placed it back on the floor and finished his bath. Now he had to wait for a second, more important phone call.
Eddie Finch was his full name and he too was a mercenary. Diego had worked with him years back when they killed an arms dealer that use to work for the Quinn crime family but turned on them and sold them out to the FBI.
Finch had just returned from some failed mission down in South America and happened to be in the New England area at the moment. All the men on Trevor’s team were too busy to give him a hand, so Diego had to find his own backup.
Diego changed into the set of clothes Trevor had provide for him in the duffel bag then pulled out the several cartons of Chinese food from the thick brown paper bag. It was cold but still far superior to the food he had to eat during a job in North Korea.
His cell phone rang again. He answered on the third ring.
“Hello mate. Didn’t wake ya did I?”
“Good. So listen, first I want to apologize for how this shit has gone down. You should be drinking a couple of Fosters with me, not holed up in some crappy motel.”
“I’ve had worse.”
“Well it’s about to get a bit more unpleasant for ya mate.”
Diego finished chewing his shrimp lo mein and said “How so?”
“Rose Thornton and her bodyguard are driving up from Washington DC to come help you.”
“I fail to see how that is a bad thing.”
“Says the man who hasn’t worked with Rose Thornton before. And who happens to be the man who lost her sister and is also blaming her for this fuck up.”
“You saw the video from my phone. The guy didn’t even keep his gun on her. She’s up to something.”
“Well the jury is still out on that mate. I would keep it to yourself that you shot her sister. Might not go over so well.”
“I’m not afraid of some bitch in a skirt.”
“Suit yourself. Just make sure you get the briefcase back mate otherwise the deal we made is off.”
“You can’t be serious.”
“Sorry mate, orders from the top. I’m doing my best for ya but ya need to come back with a win tomorrow.”
“Don’t worry, I will.”
Diego switched off his phone before grabbing his coat. Some place around here had to sell liquor.
“What?” Nick asked Carol, his mouth filled with a bite of marble cake with cream cheese frosting.
“Do you think that’s appropriate right now?”
“I’m hungry. I haven’t eaten anything all day. Besides Wade made it for me.”
“Yeah and he used up most of the stuff in the kitchen doing it.”
“He did clean everything up afterwards though. Plus, this is really good. You want a bite?” Nick asked holding his fork up to Carol’s lips.
Carol eyed him suspiciously but opened her mouth. He moved his fork into it.
“It’s good isn’t it?”
Nick and Carol turned to look at Megan, Carol doing her best to not smirk.
“Do I need to remind you that we have a stolen bio-weapon sitting in the middle of our table?”
“Not only do we have a stolen bio-weapon in our possession,” Megan said talking over Nick. “It belongs to the father of the woman who you’ve been seen hanging around with for months now.”
“So what you’re saying is I kind of screwed us on this job?”
“That does seem to be your speciality Youngin, screwing.”
“I’m sorry who invited you to this meeting. Grown ups only,” Nick replied to Wade.
Carol, Megan and himself were in the war room with the briefcase while Morgan and Wade were on video conference displayed on the Smartboard. They were still at Morgan’s place. Bobbi and Curtis were upstairs in the living room while Joyce was asleep in the guest room next to Carol’s bedroom. Rebecca at last check was still knocked out and tied to the bed in the cabin.
“Keep talking and see if I bake you anything again young man.”
“Have you gotten a hold of Frost yet Morgan?” Nick asked ignoring Wade.
“I’ve tried three times already. It goes right to voice mail. He must be indisposed for the evening.”
“Do you think he knew what was in the briefcase all along and he set us up? That’s why he was willing to pay our price?”
“I don’t think so Nick. I’ve known Frost a long time now and there’s plenty other people he would have screwed over before us if that was his goal. I see no reason why he would do that to us. And if he really was after what ever this stuff is, I think he’d be returning calls.”
“So what are we going to do with this stuff?” Nick asked waving his hand at the open briefcase and the dozen vials of green liquid inside it.
“Bring it to the dojo tomorrow and I’ll take it off your hands,” Morgan said.
“Works for me,” Nick replied.
“Not to argue with you two, but wouldn’t it be safer here?” Carol asked.
“Most certainly,” Megan chimed in. “However until we know who it is we’re dealing with I would advise getting it as far away as our main base of operations as well. The dojo, while important to our team, is not as vital as the house and I would prefer not to jeopardize it any more then we already have,” she finished while looking at Nick.
“Speaking of that, anything from your prisoner Nick?”
“No. I plan on taking a go at her first thing in the morning.”
“Hey now Youngin, we just need information out of her, you don’t need to go knocking her up or anything.”
“Hmmm,” Megan said softly before picking up her tablet and starting typing something in.
“What’s up?” Nick asked looking at her.
“Oh nothing related to the subject at hand. I think we can conclude the conversation. It might behoove us all to get a good night sleep tonight.”
“I’ll second that Cutie Patootie,” Wade said then switched off his camera.
“See you in the morning boss.”
“Copy that. Good night guys,” Morgan said then switched off his camera.
“You sleeping in your room?” Nick asked Megan.
“As though you’d let me sleep anywhere else.”
“Right you are. You good for staying up a little longer to watch over our guest?” Nick asked Carol.
“Yeah. I’m actually not that tired,” Carol lied as she watched Megan shut everything down except an extra tablet that had the feed from the security camera she put in the cabin. She was amazed that Megan had been able to get a camera set up so fast inside the cabin unless… Carol shook her head before cracking her knuckles. That would be too creepy. Even Megan wasn’t that out of touch. Either way, she was glad she had moved into the house.
“Here you go,” Megan said and gave her the tablet.
“Thank you,” Carol said as nice as she could.
They left the war room and went back up top. She watched long-faced as Megan and Nick went upstairs to the second floor, Nick trying to tickle her as they did. Carol set the tablet on the dinning room table then went back to the kitchen to get a beer.
Rose Thornton sat in the backseat of a black Ford Excursion, dressed in typical NOL attire but wearing her black and white wool Valentino Romas jacket. It was a little long for her, ending slightly below her knees but she’d take it over a parka any time. Her hands rested in the jackets deep pockets as she slowly rocked herself.
She couldn’t remember the last time she had been this pissed off. And it wasn’t just one thing but a whole bunch. First Ross Chambers had called to let her know that cow Miranda had screwed up, big shock there, and he wanted an update on how everything was going. She told him they were fine, no problems.
Of course after telling him that do you think she could get a hold of her sister to confirm. Nope. She had to wait half an hour to hear back from Ross for him to tell her that not only had her sister lost the bio-weapon, she also looked to be a willing accomplice of the masked gunmen who took it. Even after watching the video Berzinski sent her, she told Ross what he could do with his source of the video, some asshole name Diego. She then told him she was getting on a flight to New Hampshire to find her sister and the briefcase.
It was at that point that her boss, Victor Adams, got on the line with her and told she would do no such thing. She was to maintain her cover and continue sending back intelligence on Senator Greenwell. She politely agreed with Adams.
Once off the phone, she ordered Mako to get them a new vehicle and they would drive through the night to New Hampshire. She called Trevor Fritz up on his cell and told him she would be coming to help recover the briefcase and find her sister. And that if he so much as breathed a word back to Adams about it before they were done, she would make sure he would regret ever crossing her. Fortunately for him, he had agreed.
Rose rested her head against the window. She hadn’t said a word to Mako since getting into the Excursion and at least the man had enough sense to not try and talk to her. She closed her eyes and replayed the video of her sister being taken back in her mind. She was bleeding, the trail of blood in the snow unmistakable even in the crappy cell phone video. Why did she seem so calm though? And for the guy to not keep his gun on her. It was as if Rebecca knew the gunman. But who did her sister know that would make her act like that?
Rose sat up. It couldn’t be him could it? It made no sense and perfect sense all at the same time. Why would he be involved in this? If it really was him then she knew where to go to get Rebecca back.
Rose leaned back against the seat. She was still pissed but at least she didn’t have to worry about her sister’s safety anymore. It’s not like he would ever hurt her.
Nick walked purposely to the kitchen. He hadn’t bothered to draw his gun as he was expecting it to be another one of Joyce’s games. As soon as he opened the kitchen door, he realized too late that it wasn’t.
As long of a day as it had been, Nick had had worse, so he was still plenty alert to see the two metal baseball bats coming at him from both sides. He dropped underneath them and they connected with a loud clang. The two football players who had stood in front of his Trailblazer outside Seven Eleven on Friday night both swore as the shockwaves went up into their hands and they dropped the bats. Nick swept both their feet out from under them. They landed hard on the tile floor.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
Nick stood back up, baseball bats in hand. He looked over at Kenny who was holding a knife under Joyce’s throat.
“I thought I told you to watch your mouth Kenny,” Nick said.
“Screw you! Get up you jackasses!”
Nick tossed the bats away and said, “Here let me help.
The teenager on his left was almost up when Nick brought his knee up into his face and sent him flopping back onto his ass with a broken nose. The one on his right grabbed Nick’s arm as he got up. Nick spun him around and lifting the football players arm up high, connected with a two-finger thrust shot on a pressure point in his armpit. He yelped in pain before Nick flipped him hard onto the floor. He remained on his back groaning.
Nick looked back at Kenny.
“You didn’t really think you guys could take me did you?”
“Why are you even here?” Kenny yelled.
“I could ask you the same thing?”
“I came to check on Joyce. Make sure she was okay what with this storm.”
“I’d be better if you didn’t have a knife to my throat you looser!” Joyce said.
Kenny looked down at her and said, “Now why do you have to talk to me like that? You should be thanking me for showing up so this guy can’t try something with you,” Kenny said pointing the knife at Nick.
“Maybe I want him to,” Joyce said and before Kenny could respond, she bit his hand as hard as she could.
He dropped the knife and tossed Joyce to the floor. He stood staring at the teeth marks in his hand. Nick moved toward him lighting quick, clamped his left hand onto Kenny’s throat, and pushed him up against the door. His fingertips dug into Kenny’s fatty tissue, cutting off his air.
“You bother Joyce again and next time, I break both your legs and you never play football again. Understand?”
Kenny said nothing. Nick slammed the back of his head against the door.
“Yes,” he gasped.
“How did you get in?”
“Give me it.”
Kenny reached into his pocket pulling out a key on a hot pink keychain and gave it to Nick. He let go of his throat.
“Now get out of here.”
Kenny and the other two moved slowly out the back door. The one with the broken nose was holding his shirt up to try and stop the blood pouring from his nose to no avail. Nick closed the door behind them and locked it. He turned to check on Joyce to make she hadn’t been cut or nicked by knife. She hadn’t.
“Are you okay?” He asked.
She said nothing. He could tell from the look in her eyes that the adrenaline was done and she was slowly realizing what had just transpired.
“I told you I’d keep you safe didn’t I?” Nick said moving closer.
He could see she was starting to shake a little.
“Joyce, it’s okay,” he said looking down at her face.
She looked up and without warning wrapped her arms around him. He didn’t stop her, just padded her on the head.
“Come on. Lets get you out of here.”
He scooped her up in his arms, her right arm still wrapped around the back of his neck. She said nothing as he carried her and her pink duffel bag to his Trailblazer. He buckled her in on the passenger side then went back to lock up the house.
He was in the middle of fishtailing out of the driveway when his cell phone rang. He corrected his Trailblazer then answered on the seventh ring.
“We’ve got a huge problem Nicholas,” Megan said. She sounded very exasperated, which was unusual for her. And she called him by his full name, which was never a good thing.
“What did I do?”
“Nothing. Well technically you did do something since you brought-”
“Spit it out Megan,” Nick said cutting her off.
“I opened the briefcase.”
“Megan, I asked you to wait for me.”
“I know, sorry.”
“So what was in it?”
“How fast can you get here?”
“I’m coming back now.”
Megan hung up and Nick increased his speed. He was beginning to think he shouldn’t have taken this job after all.
Nick Walker rubbed his eyes as he turned the radio on and drove toward Joyce’s house in Kittery Point or The Point as some people called it. It was technically part of the town but they had their own zip code, Post Office, and Fire Department. They also had the only town beaches, not to mention some of the nicest houses in York County. According to Joyce, the status of a teenager that lived in The Point wasn’t judged by their car but by what kind of boat they had, since the Maine coastline ran along most of The Point. Not that it helped them in the winter.
Nick slowed down, not realizing how fast he was going. He didn’t need a car crash on top of everything else. He drove over the small bridge that connected to the town. He passed the old cemetery and began looking through the heavy snow for the hidden driveway that led to Joyce’s house. It came up on his left and he drove down to the garage, increasing his speed to make it through since it hadn’t been plowed yet. Getting out should be fun he thought.
He took out his key and walked in, locking the door behind him. The house was a four bedroom and was a good size considering only Cristina and Joyce lived there. The Diaz sisters were the town celebrities and after Cristina’s performance at the Super Bowl, she was getting more attention then ever, which Nick found amusing. If people only knew the truth about Cristina Diaz.
Nick tried the light switch but nothing happened. For reasons he’d never understand, parts of the town were on completely separate grids, especially out in The Point. One road could be in complete darkness and the next road over, lights blazing. Nick was thankful for his generators so he didn’t have to ever worry. He could have sworn Cristina had one put in here.
He glanced around the ground floor quickly but saw nothing. He didn’t bother with the kitchen as its swinging door was closed. Nick went upstairs. Whenever Joyce got scared, which was a lot, she always hid in her room.
Nick paused at what he knew was Cristina’s bedroom, having spent a bit of time in there. He had helped her build a false wall to hide her secret. Of all the women so far, Cristina had been the easiest to convert. Promising to protect Joyce had gone a long way in helping.
Despite Joyce’s attitude about her big sister, Cristina loved her sister very much and had made sure Joyce would be taken care of the rest of her life if anything were to ever happen to Cristina, which was possible given her secret.
He knocked on Joyce’s door and waited. His thoughts going to tomorrow. While Cristina had been the easiest, Michelle was thus far proving to be the hardest to convert. Only his yoga instructor, Naava Hallevi had given him this much trouble before and she was a former Miss Israel and secretly a member of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.
He was hoping tomorrow’s lunch and then the weekend getaway he had planned for them would be enough to seal the deal otherwise he faced potential failure. While he knew going into this assignment there had been always been the chance of failure, he’d yet to have it happen. And after everything he’s done with Michelle he couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long with her. There had to be something besides her father holding her back. Something else she wanted from him but what?
Nick knocked again, louder this time.
“Joyce it’s Nick, open up.”
He could hear her unbolt the door and soft music. The door swung open and she wrapped her arms around him, her breath warm against his neck, her perfume smelled fresh and pleasant.
“Oh I’m soo glad you’re here. Did you see anyone?”
“I didn’t but I only glanced. I came to check on you first. Where is everyone?”
Besides Price as the Diaz’s driver, they had a full time cook, a housekeeper and in the spring a gardener.
“I told you Cristina’s flight was grounded due to snow, and everyone else had the night off, and Price left at ten.”
Nick wasn’t surprised at that. As much as Price tried to act as if he was this great bodyguard, he wouldn’t think twice about bailing once his shift ended if nothing was going on. The difference between what Price did and Nick did earlier at the mall was that Nick hadn’t left Joyce unprotected. She had Shane who was worth two dozen Prices.
“He left you alone on such a stormy night?” Nick asked his voice just a little sarcastic.
“Are you making fun of me?” She asked stepping back from him.
“Come in, I want to show you something,” she said taking hold of his hand and started to pull him along.
Nick took three steps before putting on the brakes.
“What are you doing? Follow me?”
“Oh I will when you change into some clothes,” he replied.
Joyce was wearing the same pink silk nightie that she had bought at the mall earlier that day.
“This is what I’m sleeping in.”
“It’s the beginning of February, don’t you think it’s a little too cold for that?”
Nick stared at her. Never mind that Bobbi(and occasionally Carol in one of her many sports bras if he was the only one home) walked around in roughly the equivalent of that at their place. It was because he let them keep the heat up so high. The house was like a constant seventy-five degrees or higher. It did explain why Bobbi hardly ever seemed to have pants on.
“Okay, let me put it this way. You as a seventeen-year-old will not be wearing that around your thirty-year-old bodyguard.”
She walked over to him and said, “If you want me to take it off, just ask.”
She leaned closer to him, her breathing becoming faster. “Come on Nick. I’ll do anything you want. Just say it and I’ll do it, no matter what it is.” she said, her hand brushing against his groin.
Nick took hold of both her arms and moved away from her.
“Go change or I leave.”
She frowned. Her plan wasn’t working.
“No buts child,” he said, his tone dead serious.
“You really know how to kill a mood,” she said going into her room.
She shut off her battery powered CD player. Nick turned his back to her as he noticed she didn’t bother to close her door before she started stripping.
“There is no mood Joyce, just like there isn’t, nor ever will be, an us.”
“I’ll be eighteen in a few months.”
Nick ignored her and cracked his knuckles. She mumbled something under her breath then walked back out into the hallway.
Nick turned around to see her now wearing an old New England Patriots Super Bowl Champions sweatshirt and white jeans, rather tight white jeans at that.
“I suppose. So did you even hear anyone or was that just an excuse to get me out here?”
“Well yes and no. I was trying to make something like that up but then the power really went out and I heard yelling outside.”
“What makes you think it was Kenny?”
“He sent me a text after the power went out asking if I wanted him to stop by. I replied no. He texted back that he was going to anyway. That’s when I told him you were here and would kick his ass if he showed up.”
“Great,” Nick replied rubbing his eyes. “Didn’t your sister have a generator installed for just this sort of thing?”
“Yeah, but I don’t know how it works.”
“Of course you don’t,” he mumbled. “Listen I’ve got stuff to do back at my place-”
“You just got here. You can’t leave me!”
“If you’d let me finish child. I’m going to bring you back to my place. You can stay there tonight, if you want,” Nick said.
He apparently didn’t need to add the last part as Joyce’s whole face had already lit up.
“You bet I do.”
“Do you need to take care of anything?” He asked as Joyce ran back into her room. She came out with a large pink Nike duffel bag.
“My overnight bag. Cristina said I always need to have a bag with three days worth of cloths and stuff ready to go no matter what.”
“You’ll be home in less than twelve hours.”
“Whatever. Let me grab my purse out of the kitchen.
“Fine,” Nick replied as they both went down the stairs, Joyce taking them two at a time.
He wasn’t surprised Cristina had Joyce pack a ‘bug out bag’ given her secret. Nick had just taken the last step when he heard Joyce scream from the kitchen.
“What is it?” Nick asked Curtis when he heard him chuckle.
He was still sitting in the back of the SUV with Rebecca, who remained out cold from the shot he gave her. The ride back had been quieter than the ride there. He was glad they were only minutes away from his house.
“When I got here today I wondered how you kept this road clean in the winter. Now I know.”
Nick watched as two Ford F-150 with snowplows attached to them drove past them. They were a father and son team who owned a small landscaping business in Kittery. Both were Maine National Guard reservists and had passed the background check Megan ran on them. They had an exclusive contract with just them and made sure the road and inside of the compound stayed cleaned during big storms. Nick wasn’t sure of the exact amount the contract paid them but knowing Megan she probably made it worth their wild.
The gate was open for them and Nick told Curtis to head down to the cabins. He shook his head still amazed at the size of this place. Summers clearly had access to some serious money.
“Right there,” Nick said when he saw Carol waiting by the cabin Megan had prepared. She was bundled up in her white winter parka, her blues jeans damp from the snow. Curtis put the SUV in park.
“You mind if I take off once you’re done? I still need to find a place to stay for the night.”
“You’re not staying here?” Nick asked.
“I didn’t want to assume…”
“I know you may find me unprofessional-”
“I never said that,” Curtis interrupted.
“You didn’t need to. Point is if you’re going to be part of this team you’ll need to get use to it. With that being said, I take care of the members of my team. So if you want to stay here tonight, you’re more than welcome to.”
Curtis remained silent for several moments then said, “Thank you Nick. I will.”
Carol opened the door sending snow into the SUV.
“Can you pick up the pace? It’s cold out here!”
“Sorry. Here take this,” Nick replied and gave her Rebecca’s bag.
Nick scooped Rebecca in his arms and carried her to the cabin, the blanket still wrapped around her. Megan was waiting inside the bedroom of the cabin, several heat lamps already running. The temperature of the bedroom was easily in the 90’s if not past a hundred degrees. Nick laid her down gently on the bed, removing the blanket. Rebecca still only had her cobalt blue bra and pants on.
“That’s not Rose,” Megan said and gave Nick a Boston Red Sox sweatshirt to put on Rebecca.
“No it’s not,” he replied while dressing her.
“What did you give her?” Carol asked.
Rebecca looked like a rag doll the way Nick was handling her.
“Just the standard needle shot.”
“I see. So this isn’t the bitchy one right?” Carol asked helping Nick handcuff her to the bed.
She remembered the twins being at the dojo only because they were twins. Individuality Carol didn’t see them as being pretty or anything special.
“Correct. According to the intelligence we were given, she wasn’t supposed to be there.”
“You said she had a briefcase with her?” Megan asked.
“Yeah. It’s still in the Explorer. The way she was acting about it, you’d think it contained swine flu,” Nick replied as he secured Rebecca’s left foot to the bed while Carol did her right.
“The correct term is H1N1 Nick.”
Nick rolled his eyes at Megan.
“You know Bobbi’s not happy being left out of this, right?” Carol said.
Nick glanced at Rebecca, tied spread eagle to the bed then at Carol.
“Fox in the hen house, I get it. I didn’t think she swung that way,” Carol said.
“She doesn’t. And it’s not that I doubt Bobbi’s self-control, it’s that I know how Rebecca operates. She’s very good at persuading people to do things they shouldn’t. Hell she tried offering up her and her sister for a future threesome with me if I let her and the briefcase go.”
“That’s disgusting,” Carol replied then opened up Rebecca’s bag.
Nick shrugged and said, “I copied her phone before tossing it. As well as the security detail. One of which was Rachel, your appointment for today Carol.”
She stared at him unimpressed.
“I didn’t kill her.”
“Okay,” she finally said with a shrug.
Nick turned to Megan.
“Did you come up with any ideas as to who the Thornton twins could be working for?”
“No. Morgan said not to worry about it just yet and you said I should go out to dinner.”
“Did you have fun?”
“Yes. We got Applebee’s to go because some guys-”
Carol coughed loudly and shot Megan a look. Nick glanced back at her and she forced a smiled.
“What happened?” He asked.
“Some guy at GameStop gave me his phone number. Carol and Bobbi found it amusing.”
Carol mouthed a thank you to her behind Nick’s back.
“I see. Why did a guy at Game-”
“I’ll start looking into the Thornton twins. Why don’t you go clean up and change,” Megan interrupted. Her brown eyes looking up at him.
“Okay,” he said slowly while looking at Carol.
He had just stepped outside when his cell phone started to ring. He answered on the second ring.
“What the fuck is this?” Carol asked not caring that she swore as she pulled an item out from Rebecca’s bag. Thankfully, it didn’t looked use.
Megan walked over and said, “I believe it’s called a ball gag. Perhaps tying her down to the bed will not have the desired effect after all.”
Carol dropped it and looked as if she was going to be sick. “I should have put gloves on,” she mumbled while being careful to not touch a syringe wrapped in a bag.
“May I ask why you did not want me to tell Nick about those guys we beat up?”
“He’s got enough to deal with right now. He doesn’t need to worry about my problem.”
“You have a problem? May I be of assistance?”
Carol frowned. She had already said too much. Before she could answer Nick walked back in with the briefcase.
“Slight change of plans. That was Joyce Diaz. Cristina’s flight was canceled because of the storm and she’s home alone with no power and hearing people or something. She thinks it might be Kenny, her ex. I’m going to go pick her up and bring her back here.”
“Is that wise?” Megan asked taking the briefcase from him.
Nick shrugged and said, “I can’t hang out at her place all night. And I did make a promise to her sister, remember.” He said the last part with his eyes locked onto Megan’s.
“Yes I do. Please be careful.”
“You know me.”
Nick looked at Carol.
“Yes,” she quickly replied.
“Would you ask Bobbi to help Curtis get settled into the downstairs guest room? I’ll let Joyce use the room next to yours.”
“Sure. Anything else?”
“No. Just keep this door locked. We’ll let her stew for the night and go at her in the morning. Um Megan?” Nick asked, his voice rising when he saw her tipping the briefcase upside down.
“Sorry. I don’t hear anything moving around.”
“That’s nice. How about you leave it alone until I get back? We don’t need an outbreak of swine-”
“H1N1,” Megan said and stuck her tongue out at him when she was certain Carol wasn’t paying attention.
Nick shook his head before going back outside. He sat on the passenger side as Curtis drove them over to the hanger. Before leaving, they both parked their vehicles inside it, which judging from the amount of snow that had fallen already had been the smart thing to do.
“I have to go take care of something. Bobbi is inside and will take care of you. I mean… never mind,” Nick said seeing the blank look on Curtis’s face.
“Sure. Thanks again Nick.”
Nick waved then got into his Blazer. He had a feeling his night was far from over.
Ryan Frost of the Defense Intelligence Agency reached into his pant pocket for his car keys. A sudden gust of wind sent a chill through him making him think again about getting a remote starter for his car. It was a good night for the heat to already be going. He pulled his black wool hat down a little more to cover his big ears and walked down to the section where he parked earlier in the morning.
He was too tired to go out to a restaurant and order a steak and he didn’t feel like another burger, even though they upset his stomach the least and he’d had one every night for the past week. A slice of pizza sounded good but cheese always upset his stomach the most and he had used the last of his Tums after lunch. Maybe a steak sub. He could pick that up on his way home and let that digest overnight.
Frost looked up toward his car and saw a figure standing in the shadows.
“Can I help you?” Frost asked.
He always carried a collapsible baton up his sleeve so that while he appeared unarmed, he never was.
Hudson stepped out of the shadows and said, “We have a problem.”
“Yeah we do. Why are you hiding by my car and not taking care of what I sent you to do?” Frost asked.
He moved past Hudson and unlocked his car.
“The Goat’s dead sir.”
Frost stopped and looked at him.
“That’s why he never showed. He was killed, assassinated to be more accurate.”
Frost’s mind started going crazy as it ran through questions, scenarios, liabilities, assets compromised. Before he could ask the first of a dozen questions, Hudson said, “Early reports suggest it may have been the work of Katar.”
Frosts eyes almost popped from his head.
“What the fuck Hudson?”
Katar was the name given to a man believed to be a Muslim assassin though no one knew for sure. Or for that matter if it really was just only one man and not a group of people working under the name. The katar was a type of bladed weapon that this person favored, hence the codename. Katar’s signature or calling card was a straight strike to a person’s throat with the weapon where they would then bleed to death.
“The Goat’s body is being flown back now. It should be here in an hour. I figured you’d want to see for yourself.”
“You’re damn right I do. How was his cover blown?”
“I don’t know sir. But I checked with a contact in SOG and he told me one of their teams missed their last check in. They were also operating in the same region as the Goat.”
SOG stood for Special Operations Group and was the paramilitary arm of the CIA and had some of the best covert operatives in the world.
“Fuck. Whose team was it?”
“The rumor is Steven Chambers was leading it.”
Frost gave Hudson a puzzled look. That made no sense. Chambers was largely a trainer and recruiter now. He hadn’t led a team in several years. He really did not need this right now. Not Katar, not again.
“Get in,” he said.
“Where are we going?”
“To grab a bite to eat. You can fill me in while we wait for his body.”
Frost started the car up and pulled out quickly. Looks like it’d be burgers after all.
“Are you sure it goes there?”
“I do know what hole to put it in. I’ve done this before.”
“Well move your hand so I can see it.”
Carol groaned as she crawled away from the TV. Bobbi looked to see a black screen.
“Should I go get Megan?”
“No,” Bobbi replied and switched the two cables. The screen remained black.
“What the hell!” Bobbi yelled.
“How many blondes does it take to hook up a PS3?”
“Don’t start,” Bobbi said, standing up just as the phone started to ring.
“You going to get that?” Carol asked.
“You’re standing,” Carol countered.
Bobbi rolled her eyes and picked up the cordless phone on the seventh ring. “Hello?”
“Yes, hello. I would like to buy some goats. Do you have any goats?” A man said with an India accent.
“What the hell do you want Wade?”
“I want to know why you’re so mean to me suga lips. Would you be nicer if I had a big pair of-”
“Do you want something or not?”
“Yeah. World peace. A castle. Bret Favre to stop coming out of retirement every ten minutes. Oh wait that’s a check, for now. Greg to admit griffins rule not unicorns. And most importantly, a swimsuit calendar featuring the women of the FOX News Channel. I mean seriously its way past due. And that’s another thing, they’re suppose to be ‘fair and balance’ but I contend that there’s way more blondes than brunettes on that channel. But who am I to argue with Rupert?”
“Okay wait. It doesn’t have to be a swimsuit calendar. How about mini skirts and blouses, just no pant suits.”
Bobbi choked the phone wishing it were Wade’s throat.
“Hello?” He echoed into the phone.
“What?” She said through gritted teeth.
“Is the Youngin there?”
“No, Nick is not here.”
“Really?” Wade said his tone actually serious.
Bobbi paused before asking, “Everything okay?”
“Yeah, Morgan just thought they’d be back by now. Oh well, knowing the Youngin I’m sure he took the new guy Snipes to Theo’s or is it Joey’s? You know the strip club they reopened by the middle bridge. Aren’t you banned from going there? Rumor is you stole a stripper’s pair of assless chaps.”
Bobbi hung up the phone.
“What’s wrong?” Carol asked seeing how pissed off Bobbi looked.
“I’m going to kill him one of these days. I swear to God. One day. Double tap to the head,” Bobbi said making a gun with her finger.
“What’s the problem now?”
“Same as always, Wade being an asshole. He was looking for Nick. I guess Morgan think’s he should be home by now.”
“You think something happened? It's really coming down now,” Carol said.
Bobbi shook her head and said “Nah, I’m sure he’s fine. This is Nick we’re talking about after all. A little snow isn't going to stop him.”
“Excuse me,” Megan said from behind Bobbi, who jumped.
“What the hell Megan! Are you trying to give me a heart attack?”
“My apologies. Nick just called me. We have a problem.”
Megan Cruise sat quietly in one of the black leather chairs in the war room, chewing a piece of Big Red gum. Her stomach was still full from eating dinner with Carol and Bobbi in the dinning room. Her sides still a little tender from laughing so much with the girls as they traded funny stories involving themselves and Nick. Even though it had only been two years, Megan hadn’t realized how much Nick had already affected Carol and Bobbi’s life. During dessert, they agreed they should do this more often. A prospect that Megan look forward to as she rarely talked to the girls outside of doing missions.
She glanced at the screen showing Bobbi’s room. Since Bobbi was more of a brute force kind of operator and would never think to sweep the room for devices, Megan had simply placed the camera in the smoke detector in her room.
After dinner, Carol and Bobbi went upstairs while Megan excused herself to take care of some work. She activated the camera out of curiousness. It was the first time she had done so since accidentally seeing Bobbi and Julie doing stuff together several weeks ago. She didn’t have to worry about that with Carol up there.
A ping came from her tablet indicating she had a new message. It was from Clarissa. She read it and quickly sent a reply then deleted the message.
Clarissa Mendoza was the adoptive sister to Louis Mendoza, the team’s mechanic. Most guys liked Clarissa for her butt. Megan liked her for her brain as she had a degree in engineering and was the only one on the team that could talk numbers with her without a glossed over look on their face.
Right now Clarissa was secretly up in Canada on Megan’s behalf securing a new weapons system that the two of them would install at the house to defend against air strikes.
Megan hadn’t told Nick about it because she wanted to surprise him with it and because of the arms dealer they had to use to get the system from. While she was a woman now, Nick had known this particular person since they were teenagers and to say their relationship was complicated would be putting it mildly. She was beginning to get on Megan’s nerves as she kept changing the terms of condition for the weapon system. And if she thought she was getting a face to face with Nick anytime soon she could think again.
Megan’s phone on the table started ringing. She picked up on the eighth ring.
“Hey it’s me. We have a situation,” Nick said.
Megan stood up.
“An uninvited guest showed up with the wrong present.”
“I see. Did you open the present?”
“Negative. I figured better to unwrap it after the party.”
“Understood. Anything else?”
“Yeah. I may have picked up a stray.”
There was a long pause before Nick answered Megan.
“It was hurt and might be able to help us figure out the present once better. Could you prep a table?”
Megan let out a sigh and said, “Yes. What kind of instruments do you want to use?”
“Nothing fabric. And I need a dog to watch over the stray and keep the cat sleeping.”
Megan found herself nodding as she understood what Nick was really saying.
“Understood. What’s your ETA?”
“With in half an hour. Maybe.”
“Understood. Stay safe.”
Megan clicked off her cell phone and shut off the camera in Bobbi’s room. She was going to need the girl’s help if she was going to be ready in time.
Rachel Cook shot up and promptly fell to her side. Her hands were cuffed. She tried again, slower this time and stayed up right. She shook her right foot and could still feel the weight of the knife she carried. A noise from above made her look up. The house was completely dark now but she could make out a figure as it stumbled down the stairs.
“Is that you Fuller?”
“We were attacked.”
“But why? I thought this was supposed to just be a training exercise.”
“Suppose to be. Here cut me free.”
Rachel held out her foot for Fuller to take her knife. He sliced the flex cuffs and Rachel stood up. She rubbed her wrists on instinct and realized they didn’t hurt. Whoever that guy was, he didn’t put them on very tight. Or for that matter take her knife and he saved her from getting shot. None of this was making any sense.
“How did ya get free?” She asked taking her knife back. Her accent always got worse when she was upset.
“I wasn’t tied up. Just knocked out with the butt of that guy’s gun. What about the others?” Fuller asked as they went to the kitchen.
He let out a gasp when he saw Tucker on the floor dead. Rachel ignored him and checked out the generator.
Power was still there it had just been turned off. She turned the camera for the front gate back on.
“Oh my God! Isn’t that Carter?” Fuller asked, his voice trembling as he looked over her shoulder.
Rachel wondered not for the first time where the hell her father had found this guy.
“Where’s ya cell?” Rachel asked.
Fuller checked his pockets and said, “It’s gone.”
“Mine to. All right lets go.”
“We need to report this. Find out what the hell is going on.”
Fuller remained still.
“Move ya ass now!”
Rebecca rubbed her neck before putting on her coat. Whatever that guy had hit her with hurt. She took her flashlight out of her pocket and went back upstairs to grab her shotgun. With any luck she’d be getting a rematch sooner rather than later.
Diego laid motionless in the snow, under the town car as his phone continued to record. His side was stinging something fierce and he was thankful for the bulletproof vest Trevor had put in that duffel bag.
Everything had happened so fast he never thought about there being a sniper on overwatch. He waited several more minutes then stood up. Everything was quiet. He walked up to the gate, the snow crunching under his boots. The driver of the town car was lying dead next to the gate. The sniper got him he noted judging from the pool of blood that had formed around the wound. He didn’t think the guy with the MP5 fired a single shot.
Diego looked around. If the damn Bronco hadn’t fishtailed when making the turn onto this road, he might have seen what had happened then he wouldn’t have rushed out like a fool. He checked his side for any blood but he was good. He could feel the slug of the bullet stuck in the Kevlar vest. He looked up toward the house. It was dark. If no one had come to help by now, no one was.
He went back to his Bronco and took off his vest, making it a bit easier to breath. Once behind the wheel, Diego put the Bronco in reverse and drove back the way he came. He needed to put some distance between himself and the Senator’s house.
He dialed the number Trevor gave him. His luck really needed to turn around. First the thing with Stephanie Weathersby last week and now this.
Trevor picked up on the eighth ring.
“Hello mate. All done?”
“Not even close. We’ve got a big problem.”
Rebecca Thornton stared back at the man she and her twin sister liked to call Boston. She didn't move in part because she wasn't sure if she had heard him right.
He pointed his gun back at her.
She let out a sigh. Clearly she had. Rebecca undid her buckle, and got out.
“Can I take my bag?”
“Do it slowly.”
Rebecca reached back in and took hold of her bag with her good arm. She made sure to put a bit of a wiggle in her ass when she did. She could always turn around swinging, get the drop on him, then take off running. Where would she go though? The gate was still shut and by the time she got up and over it she would have already caught a bullet in the back. And even if she somehow managed to get away, she needed to stop her arm from bleeding and quickly.
Besides Boston had already seen her naked, she doubt he’d be all that distracted at the moment. Best to see how this all played out.
“Do you really need to point that at me?” She asked turning back around.
“You tell me.”
“Good. Start walking,” Nick replied and lowered his gun.
They walked side-by-side back to his SUV. Blood continued to run down her arm to her hand and then to the snow, leaving a trail.
“You’re making a mistake.”
“Good to know. Now you can tell your friends I’m not perfect.”
“What the fuck are you doing?” Curtis asked him as he closed the back of the SUV.
“Taking her with us. You’re driving and watch your mouth,” Nick said and tossed him the keys.
“Get in the back and take off your coat and shirt,” Nick told her as he put the briefcase and his mask on the floor in the passenger seat, then opened the glove box to take out a first aid kit.
“Those the only things you want me take off boys?” Rebecca asked seductively, while trying to ignore the pain.
“No but Curtis is kind of shy and doesn’t like to tag team,” Nick replied without hesitation.
Rebecca frowned. She forgot Boston couldn’t be rattled so easily. He was the only one she had encountered that seemed immune to her tricks and charms. If anything, the last time she saw him, he had seduced her. Not that she had a problem with that, given the outcome. The one called Curtis got behind the wheel with a look of complete disgust on his face.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” He asked.
Nick ignored him and got in the back with Rebecca. Curtis turned the Explorer on and they drove off. Rebecca put her bloody coat on the floor, her Glock was still in its holster strapped to her.
“Someone forgot to pat me down. Or are you that trusting?”
“What can I say, it’s one of my flaws. Besides Rose is a much better shot than you. And neither of you are as quick as me,” Nick replied.
As if to prove his point, his hand reached out and snatched her Glock before she could even react.
“Impressive,” Rebecca replied and removed her blouse. She was suddenly conscious of the lacey cobalt blue bra she wore and how cold the SUV was. He didn’t say anything and took her arm.
“Ow!” she yelled.
“Hold still,” Nick said as he cleaned out her wound.
Rebecca watched silently as Boston opened up a QuikClot Combat Gauze dressing. It looked like surgical gauze but was impregnated with kaolin, an inert mineral that has been known for decades to clot blood. Kaolin does not contain animal or human proteins or botanicals. Instead, it initiates the body’s natural coagulation cascade to rapidly accelerate the clotting process. For anyone else, one would have been enough but because of Rebecca’s condition Nick opened a second one and wrapped it around the first. She tried to remember if she told him about her disease. She didn’t think she had but why else would he be so concerned about her arm.
“So the guy who did this, he on your side?”
“Who was he?”
“Don’t know. Never got the chance to meet him.”
“So who’s your boss? And don’t say Langley because they think you and Rose are in Pakistan.”
Rebecca couldn’t hide her surprise. How the hell did he know all this?
“Trust me Boston, you don’t want to know,” she finally said.
“If you say so.”
Rebecca glanced out the window. The Senator’s house was getting further away. She needed to act.
“It’s not too late for you to drop me off right here. I‘ll walk back, say I fought you off. I won’t even mention your name. Maybe Rose and I could tag team you next time we meet as a reward.”
Nick looked at her as he finished cleaning off the blood then said, “Somehow I don’t see Rose agreeing to that.”
“I could make her. Especially if you let her be on top.”
Nick laughed and said, “Sharing stories are we?”
“Maybe. Does that turn you on? Sisters sharing stories about your prowess in bed?” She asked, her good hand resting on his thigh.
“Prowess means good right?” Nick asked and flashed her a smile.
Rebecca turned away. Him and that damn smile. She should be able to resist something as simple as that and yet she couldn’t help but to be drawn to him. And his cologne, it was subtle and intoxicating all at once. It made no sense. How could someone as well trained as her in this very art be so helpless around him?
“All done,” he said.
Rebecca looked at her arm. It was one of the best patch up jobs she’d ever seen.
She leaned forward her face pressed against his. She was out of time. One last chance.
“Please… Nick. You’d be doing a service for your country.”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Don’t do this, it wont turn out good for you,” she breathed. Her lips hovered dangerously close to his. He could feel the heat her body was giving off even though she had goose bumps up and down her arms. He couldn’t be sure now if her nipples were erect from the cold or something else.
“I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that.”
Rebecca collapsed onto him, not seeing the needle he took out of the first aid kit.
“You mind telling me now what in the hell you’re doing back there? Who is this woman?” Curtis asked looking at him in the rearview mirror.
“Not who I expected it to be,” Nick replied pulling out his cell phone.
He brushed her brown hair away from her mouth before grabbing a blanket out from under the seat to cover her up. He hoped he made the right choice.
Rebecca Thornton looked out the back window of the Town Car that Carter had rented over the phone while they were still in the air. A generous tip had it waiting for them upon their arrival. The snow was coming down faster than ever and she could barely make out the headlights of the Bronco following them.
She had received a call from the driver ten minutes ago and as luck would have it, they were close to each other. He seemed kind of annoyed that he still had to follow her to the house but Rebecca wasn’t comfortable making an exchange this important on the side of the road in a snowstorm. Even with the delay from the storm, she still had an hour head start to prepare for any uninvited company. Both she and Carter had tried getting a hold of Rachel for the past forty minutes but with no luck. She was probably still pissed about having to do this job, Rebecca thought.
“Something wrong?” Carter asked after Rebecca had yet to turn back around.
“No, just checking on our friend,” she replied then adjusted in her seat.
She was thankful it wasn’t Trevor but was now curious as to who it was. He introduced himself as Diego but didn’t offer anything more. She tried calling Rose to see if she had ever heard of him but she hadn’t returned her call yet.
“Power must be out all over,” Carter commented as he turned the car onto Farmington Road.
“Yeah but he must have a generator.”
“I think so.”
“What do you mean you think?”
“I’ve only been here one other time with the Senator. He doesn’t go here often.”
“Lovely,” Rebecca replied.
She looked down at the briefcase by her feet. She wondered if she should give the antidote to this Diego guy. The sudden blaring of the car horn made her jump a bit.
“Come on guys!” Carter yelled.
The gate remained closed.
“This is ridicules!”
“Hey,” Rebecca said putting a hand on Carter’s leg and leaned over. “The quicker we take care of this, the quicker you can use that item on me.” Her voice was soft but firm.
A look of calmness came over Carter instantly.
“You’re right. I’ll go push it open.”
He put the car in park and got out, a cold rush of air momentarily over powering the car's heater. Carter had just put his hand on the gate when a burst of blood shot out from his head and stained the snow stuck to the gate red. Carter fell to the ground dead.
Rebecca sat still, blinking several times as she tried to process what had just happened. She hadn’t heard a thing.
“Shit,” she finally said then went to hit the button to undue her seatbelt when her door suddenly opened.
“Don’t move!” A man yelled.
He was dressed in black and dripping snow all over the place. He had an MP-5 submachine gun pointed at her face. Still strapped in, Rebecca had no space to move. She closed her eyes knowing this was all her fault and now she was going to die because of her arrogance and stupidity.
She opened her eyes.
“Boston is that you?”
“Yeah. Why are you here?”
“I could ask you the same question.”
“I’m looking for a briefcase your sister stole. Is that it?” Nick asked touching the metal briefcase.
“Be careful. That’s not what-”
The windows to the car shattered from gunfire sending glass everywhere. Instinctively Nick ducked, shielding Rebecca as he did.
“Curtis I got incoming fire.”
“Copy that,” Curtis replied in his mike. “There was a guy in the vehicle behind theirs. Two pistols.”
“Would you mind putting him down?” Nick replied as more bullets hit the car.
There was a long pause as more bullets hit the car and sent even more glass on top of them. Finally, Curtis said, “Copy.”
Another pause before Curtis said, “Target is down on other side your vehicle. No further movement. Packing up.”
Nick stood back up, his right hand now holding the briefcase.
“I have no idea as to why you of all people would be here Boston but trust me when I say you don’t want to get involved in this.”
“Involved in what Rebecca?”
“I can’t tell you. But my boss has put a lot of effort into this.”
“For a Senator’s briefcase?”
“That’s not what’s in there. Please be-” Rebecca stopped after glancing at her arm. Blood soaked through her coat and was running down her arm. A bullet had grazed her. Nick saw it to. He remembered back to last year when Megan gave him a copy of each of the twin’s medical records. Rebecca had been born with some kind of disease. It was… Von Willebrand disease(VWD). It was a form of coagulation abnormality. Those with it had a deficiency in Von Willebrand factor(VWF), a multimeric protein that is required for platelet adhesion. If her number of platelets were too low then excessive bleeding can occur. If she didn’t get it bandaged quickly she would be in bad shape. Nick ran through a list of options he could take. He took the risky one.
“Get out,” he said. "You're coming with me."
Curtis let out a sigh. His breath visible in the blowing snow. It reminded him of why he disliked the cold so much. He’d much rather be lying motionless in the hot desert sands than the cold snow but as he had been one of the top snipers to ever come out of Force Recon, he had trained in every environment and received high scores and kills in all of them.
He was lying in a prone position about two hundred yards away from the driveway in a small cluster of bushes across the street from the house and by the country club. Curtis, unlike Nick, who had dressed in all black, was dressed in arctic camouflage. Before they had set out Morgan had showed him the hanger’s bathroom and a small arsenal of gear to choose from inside the hanger, including a selection of various types of camouflage outfits in all sorts of sizes. There were even a few purple and white ones for someone named Bobbi. The absurdly of actually spending money on something that couldn’t reasonably be used amazed him and he was starting to wonder if he really wanted to work with Nick all the time especially after the way he ruined his shot to the woman.
While there had also been several weapons of choice from the hanger he could have taken, Curtis decided to use the weapon he had stored in the trunk of his Lexus. That weapon was the Mark 11.
The Mark 11 was a semi-automatic sniper rifle that looked like the classic M—16 but on steroids, as sixty percent of its parts are common to the M—16. Its chamber was capable of delivering its 7.62mm round well out to 1,000 yards. Thanks to its likeness to the M—16, the rifle was quick to assimilate, easy to maintain, and more seamless in transition then any other semi-automatic 7.62 rifle in the world. He also had a sound suppressor more commonly known as a silencer attached to it.
Curtis had the Mark 11 set up on its bipod and had already zeroed the rifle with Nick’s help. He had set up an ugly painting he found in the house as a target at a hundred yards out. Once that had been taken care of, Curtis consulted his logbook. He had notebooks full of every single shot he had ever taken, save the ones he’d taken during full on assaults. His logbook had data on all his most important shots and their results. With that in hand, he had been able to adjust for all the variable factors that would take place during his shots. Such as the wind speed, the snow, the slight upward angle of the trajectory since the driveway was on an incline compared to his position.
Nick had brought out a second painting and positioned it by the gate, which they had closed back up. Curtis had hit dead center as Nick reminded him yet again he didn’t want him taking any headshots. He didn’t see what the big deal was about killing them but he recorded the data into his logbook and was good to go no matter how many bodyguards this Lucy Dash had. He could stop them all.
He looked through his scope and could barely make out Nick who was positioned by the gate. He had covered himself up with snow and even without the aid of arctic camouflage he had done a decent job.
The plan was to wait for the driver to get out and open the gate since it had no power. Curtis would then take them out. If it wasn’t the driver, then Curtis would still take them out, but at that point Nick would assault the vehicle and prevent it from leaving. Curtis would continue to cover him until Nick secured the briefcase at which point he would collect his gear and shell casings and meet back at Nick’s SUV parked further down the road past the Senator’s house.
Curtis felt they should have parked it closer and before the Senator’s house but Nick pointed out that the target had to turn right off of South Main Street and onto Farmington Road and would spot their SUV. He didn’t want to spook them anymore than they would already be with the power out everywhere. Once on the move Nick and Curtis would use the cut through further down on Farmington Road to double back to South Main Street and take the Everett Turnpike to Tyngsborough, MA before swinging around to head north, back to Maine.
All things considered, Curtis liked the plan. He just hoped Nick wouldn’t hesitate if it meant killing someone. Worse case scenario, Curtis knew how to hotwire Nick’s SUV.
The roar of the shotgun was louder than Nick had expected. Especially since he wasn't expecting it go off at all when he knocked it to the side.
Nick was on the second floor of the Senator's house thanks to a cheap window that broke with the first elbow strike. The rookie guard he encountered went down way too easy and he was almost at a side staircase when he heard someone else approaching. It was a woman and she carried a shotgun like she knew how to use it. He doubt she would be screaming like the rookie.
His ears were still ringing but it didn’t stop him from disarming the woman and taking her feet out from under her with a standing trip. What happened next did surprise him. Instead of staying flat on her back, the woman did a backwards roll up and charged at him. She shooted on him before he could raise his gun, her arms locking around his hips and Nick felt his feet momentarily leave the ground as she started to pick him up. This chick was strong.
Nick sent a series of elbows down onto the top of her head and she slumped down, her grip weakening. A right knee to the chin made her lose the hold completely and she fell to her hands and knees dazed. Nick brought the stock of his gun back for a finishing blow but stopped halfway when she looked up at him, taunting him even to do it. She looked familiar. He had seen her face recently. Nick's hesitation cost him the opening he had.
She blinked rapidly trying to shake off the knee blow and came up with an uppercut that missed him by less than an inch. Still it made him move back and she connected with a left hook to his side. The Dragonscale body armor he wore absorbing the powerful blow and Nick worried he might have gone down if he hadn’t worn it. The punch easily on the same level as one of Carol's. He blocked an elbow to his head, grabbed her by her shirt collar, and pulled her forward into the wall behind him. She slammed into it, breaking a chunk of what looked to be expensive but was clearly cheap plaster.
Nick sidestepped around her and had another opening, this time to her back but waited. He slung his gun down with the safety off. She turned to face him, plaster dust covering her forehead. He remembered her now. He had seen her picture on Carol’s desk at the dojo. She was supposed to have been there today for a sparring session. Her name was… Rachel.
She shot a straight left punch at him. He caught it and locked it under his arm. She tried a right hook but he caught and locked that as well. She headbutted him in the nose.
“Ow,” he said.
Nick loosened his grip and Rachel was able to bring her right foot up and push him back towards the stairs. A straight right jab caught him in the nose and Nick could feel some blood under his mask as he moved back some more.
“What’s with all the nose shots?”
Rachel didn’t bother to hide her grin. This was the
most fun she’d had in a long time. She moved in for a final shot or so she thought. Nick caught her punch and Judo tossed her to the side, except the railing was now to the side of them and she promptly sailed over it and fell at least ten feet to the floor below. She lay motionless at the bottom.
Nick took off his mask, wiping the blood from his nose and checked it. Thankfully it wasn’t broken. He went down the stairs to check on her. A cold wind greeted him and he glanced down the hallway to see the kitchen door still open and a body on the floor, blood around him.
He knelt down next to her and Rachel shot up and locked in a guillotine choke around his neck.
“Seriou-” Nick stopped as he felt her grip choke off his air.
He relaxed his body, took hold of her elbow and pushed it up and off before landing an elbow to her temple. It turned red but didn’t bleed. He stood up and backed off, the cold wind at his back. Rachel got up slowly. A red dot appeared on her chest. Nick yelled and tackled her back down just as a bullet came close to clipping him.
“Hold your fire!” He said into his mike.
Nick looked at Rachel who was already trying to break away from him.
“Sorry. I owe you a drink next time.”
Rachel looked up at him a bit perplexed then in agony as he stabbed a nerve on her stomach with a three-finger thrust. She vomited up her chocolate milk then blacked out from the pressure point he hit on her neck.
Curtis walked into the house and down the hallway as Nick stood back up.
“She dead?” Curtis asked looking at Rachel.
Curtis aimed his gun at her temple. Nick grabbed the barrel.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“She saw your face. She’s a witness.”
“I don’t care. I know her.”
“Well sort of. Anyway, you’re not shooting her. Did you get the guys outside?”
“Yeah, they're dead.”
Nick looked at him in astonishment and said, “Did you have to kill them?”
“No but it makes things easier. What’s your problem anyway? You act like you’ve never killed anyone before.”
Nick took a breath to calm himself before he said something he couldn’t take back. He was positive that he had way more blood on his hands than Curtis could lay claim to. And much of it was up close and personal, not hiding far away with a rifle.
“Why don’t you go set up outside? I’ll take care of things in here.”
“And remember Curtis we’re here for the briefcase, not to kill everyone. No headshots when the target arrives.”
Curtis left mumbling something as he did.
Nick shook his head then pulled out some flex-cuffs from his vest and secured Rachel, taking her cell phone as he did. He moved her away from the vomit and quickly cleaned off the bit that had gotten on her. He needed to pick up his pace. He didn’t need Rose Thornton catching a bullet from Curtis before he had a chance to talk to her.
“If ya don’t sit down and stop tapping, I’m fixing to break both ya arms,” Rachel Cook said in a dead serious tone to the one name Fuller.
They were seated at a large round oak table in the kitchen of Senator Jerry Greenwell’s New Hampshire residence. The kitchen was the kind one would have if they planned on throwing many social parties. Everything was made of stainless steel but Rachel didn’t notice any pans or even knives or utensils on the counters when she did her sweep of the room. It appeared as though the house was more for show than actual living. It was a shame since it was such a nice place. The front reminded her of many of the houses she had seen growing up down south with a large open porch on the front of the house with large white pillars.
“We may have a problem ma’am,” Norton said looking up from the only working security monitor.
“I lost picture to the gate. Looks like snow fell on it.”
“So go clean it off!”
Norton glanced at Tucker then outside.
“Mind if I go for a smoke?” Tucker asked her.
“Make it quick.”
They stood up, grabbed their coats and went outside. Fuller quickly shut the door behind them.
“I hate snow,” he said.
She ignored him. She couldn’t wait to be done with this poor excuse for a training mission. Fuller and Norton were so fired when this was all over. She wasn’t even sure how they made it this far into Trident. When the company was original started, only Navy SEALs had been part of it and they had earned a fearsome reputation in the VIP protecting business out on the West Coast. When Trilling wanted to branch out to the East Coast, he hired her father, Henry Cook and let him take over Trident and the hiring of people other than SEALs. Clearly that had been a big mistake on Trilling’s part, the sudden resignations of many of the former SEALs serving as proof.
Fuller paced around the kitchen and Rachel tried to focus on her UFC magazine. She had already purchased her ticket to this summer’s big pay-per-view in July, near ringside even. While she didn’t hate the WFL, she felt they tried too hard to stand out from the UFC. Most WFL fighters were brawlers with no ground game whatsoever. Rachel knew she could make ninety-five percent of them tap in the first round and knockout the other five percent. Her endurance and stamina was also far superior to any of their fighters.
“You want a drink?” Fuller asked sitting back down at the table with her.
Rachel held up her glass bottle of chocolate milk. He smiled. She read. He tapped his fingers on the table. Then did it some more. Rachel grabbed his hand and squeezed his fingers together.
“Hey!” He cried.
“Ya think this hurts, keep it up and the next thing I squeeze are ya balls and not in a good way!”
“Okay. I got it, let go.”
“I’m going to go check around upstairs again.”
“You do that.”
Fuller got up, looking at his hand as he did. Rachel took a long drink of her chocolate milk and leaned back in her chair. This was the most pointless assignment ever.
Suddenly the backdoor came flying open and Tucker stepped in holding the side of his neck.
“Sniper,” he said before collapsing to the floor.
Rachel flew out of her chair grabbing her Masburg shotgun that had been resting beside her as she did.
Even with the few seconds that took, a pool of blood had already formed around Tucker, his hand unable to compress the bleeding. She checked for a pulse but there wasn’t one. He was dead. She looked at his wound and realized then whoever shot him was a pro. He had been shot in the carotid artery, the bullet hitting Tucker in such a way that he would make it back to the house to find help. It was a warning, she thought. Fuller suddenly screamed and she heard a loud thud above her. Someone was in the house.
“Hey there pretty lady. Where you off to in such a hurry?”
Carol rolled her eyes and continued on through the mall. The guy continued to walk beside her. His eyes staring into the side of her face.
“Oh I get it. You’re one of those hard to get girls right?”
Carol stopped and looked at him.
“No, I’m the kind of girl that’s going to shove my foot up your ass if you don’t leave me the fuck alone!” She snapped.
Not like there was anyone there to scold her language.
“Oh, a rough type, I like that and I’ll be happy to leave you alone and not tell Hammer that I happened to run into you spending the money you owe him.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
“Ten grand on the Super Bowl ringing any bells in that pretty little head of yours? I mean that is what you owe isn’t it? Ten thousand dollars? That’s a lot of money for one game don’t you think? So why don’t you just slip me say, a hundred and I’ll be on my way.”
“I don’t have any cash on me.”
The guy grinned.
“Then how about you put that pretty mouth of yours to work.”
“Fuck off asshole!”
“Or what? You gonna beat me up?”
“Stop, I wouldn’t want to see you break a nail or anything.”
Carol stared hard at the guy, who judging from his clothing and body, spent too much time at stores like GNC. Any spare time then probably went to combing the thick wad of hair on his head. How he knew a bunch of black guys from Boston, she didn’t know. Maybe he was one of the fighters.
“I wouldn’t want to waste my time on you.”
She turned and started to walk away only to hear him mumble, “Stupid bitch.”
Carol spun around and slammed her elbow into the back of the guys head, though she had been tempted to hit him in the neck but didn’t want to take the off chance of crippling the jerk. Being a former Karate champion, Carol was capable of breaking just about anything with her hands and elbows. From stacks of pine boards, to blocks of ice and cement slabs. She also punched very hard.
He fell to the mall floor with a yell. By the time he could look back up, Carol had already disappeared into the crowd of people as she made her way to finding Bobbi and Megan.
Carol paused briefly to look at a short white gown that was in the entrance of Victoria’s Secret. She loved almost anything in white and almost went inside to buy it before scolding herself for her momentary lapse in judgment. She continued on walking, trying not to gag from all the perfume smells coming from the next store. The whole concept of perfume and lingerie was just stupid. And it wasn’t like she had the money to spare. Unlike Bobbi, who she found at GameStop paying for her Playstation 3 and several Blu-ray movies in cash.
“Oh what great timing you have,” Bobbi said.
Carol smiled weakly as Bobbi handed her the bag with the movies and a separate bag with a new disposable phone.
“So you see anything?” Bobbi asked as they walked slowly to the food court entrance where they had parked.
“No,” Carol replied.
She knew that when Bobbi said ‘see’ she meant ‘buy’. She was a little jealous at times when she saw Bobbi pay for everything in cash while she was always juggling between her four credit cards. Then there was Nick who always paid for everybody when they went somewhere. Bobbi even found five hundred dollars tucked into her purse when she went to pay for all the Super Bowl food. One guess how that got in there. And now with the money she owed Hammer she didn’t see her financial situation getting any better.
Carol looked at Bobbi.
“Yeah, some guy was bothering me so I dropped him.”
“Again?” Bobbi said and started to laugh.
“It’s not funny,” Carol said, though she couldn’t help but to laugh herself.
“You really should step into the cage sometime Carol. I think you’d find it to be a good stress reliever plus you could earn a little something something on the side,” Bobbi said poking Carol in the side with her elbow.
“Where’s Megan?” Carol asked changing the subject. While she didn’t doubt her fighting skills, she wasn’t ready to make the leap to the cage and fight people for money. She still couldn’t shake one particular incident that had happened to Bobbi during one of her fights.
Last August Bobbi had competed in a small mixed kickboxing tournament in Vermont, where the women could fight the men. Carol thought the whole thing was stupid but Bobbi had signed the waver and wanted to make some money. Nick didn't even try to talk her out of it, he just insisted on going with her to it. Bobbi beat her first opponent easily but it was in the second round that her opponent cheated with a poke to the eyes then a sweep that took her down. He followed with a knee to her head that split the top of her eye open. This was after the referee had already called for a disqualification. And the guy only did it to prove he could take a woman. The bastard never saw Nick come up from behind him. Nick ended that asshole’s fighting days in just three fluid moves that Carol hadn’t recognized.
To this day Carol wasn’t sure if the guy was crying from pain or from seeing the emotionless look in Nick’s eyes after what he had so easily done to him. She knew Nick had demons from his past that he kept hidden from them but she hoped to never see that look in his eyes again. Not from a man she knew to be so caring.
“Hey guys wait up!” Megan called out.
They turned to see Megan running to catch up to them.
“Oh my bad. She was talking to some guy in GameStop.”
Carol shot Bobbi a look. That’s all they’d need if they left Megan behind at the mall.
“Hey,” Carol said. “You all set?”
“Yeah. That guy was just telling me about an area he found in Skyrim that I haven’t seen yet. He even gave me his number to call him if I needed help,” Megan said holding a piece of paper.
“Look at you picking up guys,” Bobbi said smiling.
“No. He weighted considerably more than me. That would not be logical for me to even attempt.”
Carol turned and went for the exit. This day couldn’t get any worse. Megan can get a guys number but… Carol let out a deep breath.
“So do you still feel like Applebee’s?” Bobbi asked as they left the mall.
It was still snowing and it looked like a good seven inches had already fallen.
“Only if we can get it to go.”
“Sure. Do you mind ordering though? My head is starting to hurt,” Bobbi said.
Even before the knee to her head, Bobbi had suffered from headaches and bad migraines, to the point where she had to take special prescriptions for it, which she hated to take since the medicine upset her stomach so bad.
“Oh sorry to hear that cutie.”
They turned to see the guy Carol had knocked down along with five of his buddies, all of who did indeed look like cage fighters.
“What do you want?” Bobbi asked putting her bags into the back seat of Carol’s Jeep Wrangler.
“An apology from your friend,” the guy replied.
He moved up to Carol’s face. She pulled back a bit, as she hadn’t realized just how bad his breath reeked of Subway, particularly onions.
“Well you’re not going to get one,” Carol said flatly.
“I figured as much from a girl like you. So why don’t we just try to be friends?” He said as he put a hand on Carol’s left hip.
Seconds later the guy was on his knees in pain as Carol had his hand twisted almost completely around while she brought her right leg up and kicked the guys friend in the face dropping him even as she applied more pressure to the guys hand.
Bobbi likewise took out two other friends. The first one with a high kick to the back of his head and the other with a kick to the stomach followed quickly with an uppercut.
“You bitches are crazy,” the guy stuttered out.
Carol kneeled down in front of him still holding on to his hand.
“Your point?” She asked then smashed her elbow into his nose. She let go as he fell to the ground, blood staining the snow under him.
They both turned, forgetting about Megan. By then it was too late. The remaining two friends were on the ground crying, both holding their groins.
“What did you do?” Bobbi asked.
“Krav Maga,” Megan said.
“Since when do you know Krav Maga?” Carol asked.
Krav Maga was a highly effective self-defense marital art that focused on real world threats. It was designed to end fights quickly so its attacks focused on hitting the face, neck, knee or groin. Originally used by the Israel Defense Force it had since spread to other Special Forces and police units around the world.
“Nick taught me.”
“Of course he did,” Carol mumbled.
“Curbside to go?” Bobbi asked.
“Yep,” Carol replied.
Bobbi was getting in on the passenger side and Megan in the back when they saw a mall security jeep heading in their direction. They were out of sight by the time the jeep got there and saw six men lying in the snow and getting covered with even more.
“Who did it?” Victor asked. He was on his feet now.
“I don’t know. They covered-”
“Go get him.”
“He said not to wake him until the sun went d-”
“Now!” Victor said.
“Yes sir,” Eliot said and quickly left.
Victor took out a radio from his desk.
“Ross get in here.”
“Sir if I may?” Miranda asked.
“I don’t want to hear it. If this operation goes south it’s because of your carelessness.”
“That’s not fair! I just finished completing an assignment and you turn around and give me not one but two more. I’m sorry I lost the phone but there’s no way someone connected me to the Thornton twins off of it. Maybe Lucy Dash but that would mean Rose Thornton’s cover was blown too and that’s not because of me,” Miranda said and let out a big sigh.
Before Victor could respond, there was a knock on the door and Ross Chambers walked in.
“You wanted to see me sir?” He asked closing the door behind him.
Miranda turned to look at Ross instead of Victor. He was dressed in a causal black suit with a white undershirt and looking good as usual.
Ross Chambers was a former Naval Intelligence Officer and had this rugged good look to him. His hair had a habit of being out of control sometimes but he was usually clean cut and good to go. Like all members of the Chambers family, he was born and raised in Texas. He had the gentleman part down with only a hint of a Texan drawl. While not a great fighter, Ross had quick reflexes and was a marksman when it came to revolvers. Miranda had never seen anyone draw faster than him. Despite this, Ross rarely led any teams out on missions, as he was the chief headhunter slash recruiter for NOL when it came to getting US military personnel to sign on with them instead of reuping with the Pentagon.
“Operation Phase One may have been compromised. I want you looking into it. Contact the twins and get an update. Were they ever tagged?” Adams asked referring to the GPS trackers they injected NOL operatives with when going on missions.
“No sir. Given their active status for Langley it was decided to not issue them one.”
“I recently spoke with Trevor and he told me you approved this Diego guy to join his team.”
“Yes I did. Is there a problem with that?”
“No sir. I just thought given Diego’s background as a freelancer he might not be the best fit for a team.”
“Trevor vouched for him and it’s his team.”
“Yes sir. You are aware of his encounter with Stephanie Weathersby last week right?”
“I read it in the briefing. Weathersby won’t bother us. And if all goes well, she’ll be dealt with on the cruise. Isn’t that right Miranda?”
“Yes sir. I meet with our friend the Admiral tomorrow night. I see no reason as to why he wouldn’t take me as his date for the event.”
“Do you think that it’s still wise keeping her that close to the Admiral? Once he finds out his virus was stolen he’s going to be even more cautious.”
“All the more reason for me to stay close to him. I’ve already gotten this far. You wouldn’t have even known about the virus if it wasn’t for me.”
“I just think it’s a risk.”
“I can take care of myself Ross.”
“I know that Miranda but-”
“But what?” Victor asked.
“Do you know what she has to do when she’s out with him?”
“Ross don’t,” Miranda said.
“It’s a complete waste of your talents for you to have to lower yourself to that.”
“Something you want to say Miranda?” Victor asked.
“No sir. This is my operation and I will complete it. I’ve done too much to not see it through,” Miranda said starring Ross in the face.
“Fine. Go take care of your meeting with the Chinese contact. Remind him we want two dozen men for the operation.”
Miranda continued starring at Ross and said, “Yes sir,” before leaving.
“What was that all about?” Victor asked.
“Nothing sir. I’ll go make contact with the twins.”
“You do that.”
Once alone Victor picked up his cigar. Something told him he was going to be lighting it before the day was over.
Twenty-nine-year-old Miranda Gomez stood staring at the two dresses she had laid out on her bed. One was a hunter green color and the other was a red one with golden designs. They were both from Olivia’s Garden, a company known mostly for their lingerie, but had recently started making other items. Particularly dresses that fit her good, considering her measurements.
What she was trying to remember was what color the Chinese guy she was meeting liked best. Miranda looked over at the blonde wig she would also be wearing and it came to her. The Chinese guy had a thing for blondes in red, just like the Admiral.
A loud knock on her door startled her. She tightened the towel she had wrapped around her body and went over to the door, opening it a little.
“Miranda, it’s Ross.”
Miranda opened the door up some more. Enough for him to see her face but not enough to see that she was only in a towel.
“What’s up?” She asked.
“Victor wants to see you,” he said.
“He didn’t say.”
“Not that I noticed. Should he be?” Ross asked.
“No, just wondering. I’ll be right there.”
“I’ll tell him.”
Ross walked off and Miranda closed the door. She went over to her bureau and found a pair of red lace panties and a matching bra. She left the dresses on her bed for the moment and instead put on a pair of military woodland fatigue shorts and a black tank top all by Lane Bryant. She wasn’t about to get all sweaty after taking her shower. She stepped into her sandals then opened her door.
Miranda stepped out onto her porch and headed down the steps onto the beach. She could see some of the guys out in the ocean on surfboards. There were some good waves out there.
Miranda passed Chad Bolton’s cabin as the warm California sun shined down on the back of her neck. It was so much nicer than DC.
“Hi Chad,” she said turning to look at him.
“Where you off to?” He asked.
“Victor wants to see me.”
“Oh. You in trouble?”
“Not that I know of. Why? What have you heard?” She asked, grabbing him by his shirt.
Chad Bolton was a former Army Paratrooper who served as a scout and a spotter to snipers when he wasn’t the one using the rifle. He was in great shape but being only 5'2 and that he weighted less than her didn’t help his skinny frame. She picked on him because she could. She liked him enough that she had let him spend the night at her cabin a few months back. Needless to say with his small body, Bolton wasn’t the one in charge that night. And while it had been fun, in a different sort of way, she hadn’t invited Bolton back since. Which made him even more timid around her.
“Nothing Miranda… I swear,” he said.
“You’d tell me though, right?” She said, bringing her face closer to his.
“Ye… yes of course.”
She kissed him on the forehead.
Miranda let go of him and continued walking to the main house where Victor’s office was.
She went up the long flight of steps to the balcony. A small table was there and two guys she didn’t recognize were smoking cigarettes and playing poker. They both nodded at her and continued playing their hand.
She opened the sliding glass door and was greeted by a blast of cool air. Someone had the air conditioning up a little too high for her liking.
“Hey Miranda, you want a beer?”
“No thanks Oliver,” she replied.
Oliver Watsen closed the refrigerator, three Samuel Adams in his hands. He made his way out of the kitchen and into the huge open living room. Two other men she didn’t know were each sitting on one of the half dozen couches that formed a half circle in front of the 72” flat screen TV. Oliver handed each guy a beer then opened his and took a long drink before sitting down in a recliner. There was a Fox News Alert flashing about a bomb going off in Iraq. Oliver leaned forward listening.
Oliver was the demolitions and explosives expert on the team. And while he had been working for Victor for nearly a year now, she still considered him one of the newer members of the team. That and she still missed their old explosives expert, Kinnon MacGregor aka Havoc. Kinnon had been the total package. He had the brains, the looks, the personality, and the size to please her. His only flaw was that she couldn’t manipulate him like she could other men. He had quit the team over a year ago and she briefly wondered what he was up to and how he was doing.
Miranda left the living room, no one saying anything else to her. She headed down a long hallway and stopped three doors down. Victor’s office.
Miranda walked in and closed the door behind her. Victor Adams was sitting behind his desk wearing the typical NOL gear, which was black Woolrich Elite Tactical Pants, and a light tan polo shirt with the red NOL logo on the left side. A former Delta Force Commander, Adams was the best of the best. He was one of those rare men who had it all. The charisma, the passion and the vision. Anything he set his mind to, he could do. Having the skills of the worlds best counter-terrorist unit didn't hurt either.
After taking out various Taliban commanders in Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002, Adams retired. He could have gone on to be anything, a Senator, a Governor, maybe even the President of the United States. Instead he took command of a small company started up by his father, Vincent Adams, who was the longest serving Deputy Director of Operations for the CIA up until the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
One of his CIA Special Operations Group, or SOG teams, was left behind during a mission in Russia. Victor was sent in by his father to get them out. Miranda was very thankful for him since she had been part of the team left behind.
“Hello Miranda. How are you today?”
“I’m fine,” she replied.
Which she was, more or less. She was a bit surprised to be back home so quickly. When she got off her flight yesterday as Anna Marie, someone from NOL had been waiting to fly her straight to California, her stay over in Georgia had been canceled. She had to write up her report on the private jet.
“I read your report.”
“It won’t happen again. I promise.”
“I know,” Victor replied.
He was starring at a large unlit cigar he had resting in a black onyx ashtray.
“Is something wrong sir?”
“Have you met Eliot yet?”
Miranda looked to her left to see a rather heavyset kid with curly black hair sitting in a chair off to the side. He was in NOL attire, size 2XL at least, and had a computer tablet clutched to his chest.
“Hii… hello,” he stuttered as he stood up.
He held his hand out. Miranda touched it. It was hot and sweaty and he reeked of Axe body spray. Of course it had to be the scent she hated most. For his part, Eliot focused as hard as he could on her face. Next to his mom, this was probably the closest the kid ever got to a woman.
“What’s with the kid?” She asked.
“Actually I’m nineteen.”
Miranda turned one eye toward him and he sat back down.
“Eliot is going to be one of our head computer guys.”
“And how does Berzinski feel about that?”
Willard Berzinski was NOL’s top computer genius and supposedly one of the best hackers in the world. Miranda saw him for what he really was though, a nerd. She was just getting to the point where she could talk to the pale, greasy red-haired, Red Bull chugging guy. This Eliot kid looked like he was going to be more of the same except fatter.
“Berzinski is the one who recruited Eliot for us. Isn’t that right Eliot?”
“Ye… yes sir.”
“No offense sir but I have a meeting with our Chinese contact to prepare for. Can I talk to the nerd later?”
Victor ignored her and said, “Among other things Eliot has developed a program to alert us if any of our names are brought up.”
“Last night a name you use was triggered,” Eliot said.
“Oh yeah. Which one?” Miranda said with a smirk.
“Your real one, Miranda Gomez,” Eliot replied.
“Someone pulled a photo of you.”
Miranda stopped smirking. “Berzinski said he deleted everything about me."
“Someone must have found a hard copy.”
“We don’t know. Someone who works at Langley.”
“Now do you appreciate my concern?” Victor asked.
“Yes sir. I’m sorry. It won’t happen again.”
“You bet it wont. I’m sending someone to Langley to fix the leak. You’re docked two weeks pay to cover the expense.”
She glanced at Eliot who was trying in vain not to look at her boobs, she was wearing a tank top after all. She turned to leave when a sound came from the tablet he held.
“What was that?” She asked.
“Oh no,” Eliot said looking at it.
“What’s wrong Eliot?” Victor asked.
He turned the tablet to face them.
“It took a lot longer for my program to calculate. Maybe I need to increase-”
“Spit it out already,” Miranda said, her voice rising.
“Someone hacked into the CIA earlier today.”
“So? China tries to do it all the time.”
“You don’t understand. They got through. I doubt Berzinski could have done it this fast and he set up some of the firewalls protecting NOL employees who are still active CIA operatives.”
Victor raised an eyebrow. Berzinski was supposed to be the best in the world. That was why he paid him so well and put up with his crap.
“What did they do?”
“They covered their tracks well. If not for my program I don’t think it would have been detected.”
“Eliot,” Victor said, now his voice was rising.
“They downloaded a file.”
“What was on it?”
Eliot pushed several screens on his tablet then showed them.
“It was the CIA personal file on the Thornton twins,” Eliot said.
Victor shot Miranda a look, giving her the feeling that her day was about to get a lot worse.
Twenty-nine-year-old Michelle Trilling burst up from her swimming pool to steal a breath. It was a short one as her head was already back under the water by the time her arms came out swinging forward over the surface of the water. She was doing a Butterfly stroke or as she once told her US Navy SEAL trainer when she was seven, Flipper. She thought it was funny because you used a dolphin kick when doing it. Her instructor for his part smiled every time when no one but her was looking. He was the first funeral Michelle remembered attending. He died in a helicopter crash during a training exercise when she was nine.
Michelle pushed the memory away and concentrated on her breathing as it was time to take another breath. The Butterfly stroke was considered the most difficult swimming style because of that reason. While she could have technically held her breath for the whole thing, she only wanted a light workout today. Which was why her fins and kickboard were on the side of the pool.
It was an inside Olympic size pool, 50 meters long, 25 meters width and 2 meters deep. Or to put it another way, it was 164 feet long, 84 feet in width and almost seven feet deep. It was the only nice thing her father had ever given her and it had served as her private retreat from things. There had been times in her life when she felt more at home in the water than anywhere else.
Michelle stopped at the opposite end to tread water while she squinted at one of the many clocks around the room. She rubbed her eyes and looked again. She had been putting off going to see the eye doctor for months and was starting to feel like she didn’t have a choice. She couldn’t wear glasses, especially around her father, who would see it as a sign of weakness, so it would have to be contacts for sure. Or maybe laser eye surgery. That would be the best option for her. Money wasn't the problem. Hiding the surgery from her father would be.
She started back toward her stuff using the Breast Stroke, it was considered the most difficult to perform properly after the Butterfly. Growing up she had trained to be in the Olympics. It had been her goal in life to get a gold medal. She would have gotten one too. No one was faster in the water than her. Able to swim 50m in 19 seconds she beat not only the current woman record holder but also her male counter-part by over two seconds. When it came to the 100m Butterfly, she had it down to 50 seconds, a whole 6 seconds less than the still unbroken record.
As usual when it came to stuff she wanted, her father always had to put his two cents in. He told her she wasn’t ready when the 2000 Olympic team called her for tryouts and she was literally on her way to the airport with her stuff to go join the US women’s 2008-swim team when a black SUV full of Trident agents pulled up and tossed her into the back. It was for her own safety her father later told her. He couldn’t keep her safe from his enemies if she joined the Olympic team. Michelle knew it was complete bullshit and when she called him out on it, he slapped her, twice. She was sent out to Hawaii for a while to work for one of his underwater salvage teams. Later she was promoted to Trident and was running security details on client’s yachts and a few freighters, protecting them from pirates and such.
Michelle grabbed the ladder and climbed out. The only person who had ever given her a run for her money in the water was her friend Stephanie Weathersby. There was something so normal about swimming together that could make Michelle forget that she was friends with the richest woman on earth.
On more than one occasion Stephanie had invited Michelle to come live and work with her. Now she was beginning to give that offer some serious thought because of the way her father had been acting these past few weeks.
She didn’t bother with a towel and took off her royal blue sleeveless Dakine rash guard then walked topless to the shower stalls in the room. While she wasn’t opposed to moving to London, she was hoping this thing she had going with Nick would work out and she could just stay here with him. She didn’t want to mention him to Stephanie yet until she was sure they were an item. Not that she viewed her with suspicion. Nick Summers just wasn’t in the same league as Stephanie Weathersby, than again, who was.
Michelle undid the Velcro holding her black Mooloolaba Kawana boardie shorts together and stepped out of them. After catching a glimpse of herself in one of the mirrors in the stall, she realized just how overdue she was for a waxing. She turned the water to hot and let the steam build up inside. She grabbed her razor off the shelf. She didn’t know what Nick’s surprise was going to be but there was nothing wrong with making sure she was in ideal condition especially if she didn’t have to worry about him using protection.
“What was that all about if you don’t mind my asking?”
“I had to confirm my plans for tomorrow.”
“With a girl?”
Nick glanced at Curtis wondering if he was serious.
“Now what do you think?” He replied.
“She got a name?”
Curtis looked at him.
“Any relation to Admiral Trilling?”
“Yeah, she’s his daughter. You heard of him?”
“I was once on his ship awaiting orders to head to China. He’s a tough sonofabitch.”
“So I‘ve heard. How was China?” Nick asked.
“Don’t know. The higher ups decided at the last minute to use the SEAL Team attached to the ship instead. So as if the trip there wasn’t bad enough, then we had to sit through it all over again on the way home. My personnel opinion is that the Admiral had something to do with the change in plans.”
“That wouldn’t surprise me at all. Unless you’re a sailor or a SEAL, he doesn’t give two craps about you. And if you’re a mercenary who hangs out with his only daughter, look out.”
“How did you two meet given his attitude?”
“Last year Morgan and Wade took me out to celebrate my birthday at a very nice, as in ten dollars for a glass of water, restaurant. And while I never go to places like that, Morgan had convinced me just this once. You know, my birthday and all.”
“Right,” Curtis replied.
“So Wade had just spilled something on me, I can’t remember exactly what, just that he was responsible for it, and I had gone to clean up. As I was coming out of the bathroom, Michelle was coming out of the ladies room. Neither of us was paying attention to where we were going and we bumped into each other. Both of us stared the other down, each thinking the other was trying something.”
Nick paused as he took the next exit. They came on to a long dark road. None of the street lights were working.
“Looks like powers gone out here. That could work in our favor if it affected the Senators house.”
“I agree. So what happened?”
“With Michelle? I straightened myself out, told her my name, and held out my hand. She continued to stare at me for several seconds or so, then relaxed herself. We joked about it afterwards. She gave me her number and if I wanted to get in touch with her to give her a call. The next day I did. Turns out the reason she was there was she was celebrating her father's birthday.”
“So she gave you her phone number just like that? You didn’t even ask for it?”
“No, she offered it to me and I most graciously accepted it. If you saw how fine she looked that night, and every night for that matter, you’d have done the same.”
Curtis remained silent. He’d only ever talked to a few girls since he got back from Iraq, so he didn’t have a lot of experience in the dating department but he didn’t believe that girls so easily handed out their phone numbers to men they just happen to bump into coming out of the bathroom.
“How much longer until we get there?” Curtis asked, changing the subject.
Even when he was on Recon, he couldn’t figure out why most of the men on his team were more concerned with talking about women and sports than trying to stay alive while moving through enemy territory.
Not that he thought Nick would be distracted during this job. They were suppose to secure the house they were heading to before their target, a young woman named Lucy Dash, showed up carrying an important briefcase. Morgan had informed them that the security at the house might be Trident. Now that he stopped to think about it, Curtis found it a little odd that they were going after a target protected by a security firm stared by Admiral Trilling especially since Nick just said he was seeing his daughter. Of course that phone call seemed to imply they were doing more than just having food together. It was a little late to bring it up now so he just filed it away to ask about later.
One thing Morgan didn’t clarify was whether they were allowed to use lethal force, though Nick had armed himself up as if he was planning to do just that. Curtis didn’t have a problem with that, as Morgan had made it clear to them that this briefcase needed to be recovered at all cost. The plan was for him to take out any sentries around the property, while Nick infiltrated the house. He would then get into a good position to await the arrival of Lucy Dash.
“We should be there in another thirty minutes or so. Then we’ll be heading home before you even know it.” Nick said.
“Have you ever been on a mission where everything went as simple as they made it sound during the briefing?”
“Yeah… me either.”