Today I'm sharing the first chapter of my latest release, No Stranger to Danger, the sequel to Perfect Stranger in my military series Bound by Honor. Enjoy!
Wishing you all a happy (early) Valentines,
1200 hours, Sunday
The Dhuhr call to prayer echoed through the intercom, flowing throughout the city in somewhat of a fluid chant. Some might find the sound calming or even beautiful, but it only made Logan Cahil want to grit his teeth and pray for the end. He paused, straining to hear past the prayer. The footsteps of two people slowed at the top of the stairs, rounding into the corridor outside the apartment. The scuff and clip of their shoes became louder with each step.
They were closing in, their blur of conversation clearer than a moment ago. The Arabic dialect of Sha Amud's man mixed with the voice of a crisp, former American diplomat as the men's voices bounced off the passageway. And then, Logan detected Conyers's voice out of the two. It had been a long eleven months since Brazil, but he had found the bastard at last. There was no mistaking Conyers.
Logan checked his watch and scooped up the intel he had collected, jamming it into a pocket at his knee and then securing the Velcro. No more time. He expected them, but they were too close for comfort at this precise moment.
Damn it. He needed a few more minutes.
Logan paused as he glanced over the computer screen, the download bar creeping toward one-hundred percent. Seconds ticked by.
If he were Conyers, where would he hide a briefcase delivered by Russians, and more importantly, what was inside?
Logan drummed his fingers on the desktop once.
Two hours ago, he had watched as a tall man in a suit escorted by two others walked into this building with a briefcase. Thirty minutes later, they’d left without it, just before Nadir showed up. Logan’s bet was on Conyers having the case and whatever the hell was inside.
In his experience, something delivered in a briefcase cuffed to their wrist by posh, dicey-looking Russians with Uzis out in the open, was never a good sign.
Logan plucked the memory card from Conyers's computer, quickly dropped it into his leg pocket, and cursed under his breath as he rushed to remove the battery pack on the underside of the laptop. He slipped the small, new, transmitter into place on the computer.
If he were Conyers…
A brief memory flashed through Logan's mind, of Bucharest. Logan snapped the battery back into place and closed the top of the screen as it had been. He pulled the desk drawer open, and there, scattered amongst several packs of gum and staples were two magazines.
Logan jerked his head to the door as he heard a key in the top lock, and then quickly back to the magazine in hand. He slipped the bullets out. Nothing. He picked up the other one, and a tiny, black piece of plastic fell between his boots. Logan replaced the magazines and shut the drawer. He bent to pick up the little chip by his boot and held it out at the light coming through the windows.
"I hope you're what I'm looking for," he murmured and tucked the piece into a zipper pocket at his chest, securing the zipper as he headed around the desk.
He had no way of knowing if this was the piece the Russians had delivered earlier, but he didn’t have time to look for the case.
Logan quickly skirted around the desk in the direction on the tall, open, double windows. Elegant sheer-white curtains fluttered in the dry, late summer breeze, and Logan slipped between them as the key turned in the bottom lock at the door to his six. He stepped over the short lip out onto a thin ledge.
The heat of the noon sun crashed into him like a wave coming down on his head, plastering him to the white cement face of the three-story complex in the middle of the city. Bishkek was quite large, a good place for terrorists to hide. Logan glanced down and flattened himself against the building as he checked his earpiece. He ticked off the seconds, the footfalls, until Conyers would enter the room with his guest.
The door clicked as it opened and again when it shut.
"When will the shipment arrive?" Nadir Al Hammam asked. His voice buzzed against Logan's eardrum, loud and clear through the bug. "Sha Amud is not a patient man. He wants updates on your progress with your other contacts."
Nadir Al Hammam was the right-hand man to Sha Amud, a level one target wanted among the top terrorists in the world. Nadir was well within Sha's shadow on a similar list. From what Logan understood, not only was Nadir the right hand to Sha, so to speak, but he was also his brother-in-law.
Logan stuck his finger in his ear to move the earpiece around before he began edging toward the drainpipe a few yards to his left. Three stories up with a wide, crowded boulevard below there were not a lot of options. Logan's fingers skimmed the rough cement as he walked the edge.
"I don't know when," Conyers said. "They are in the process of obtaining the package still."
Nadir blew out a breath.
Logan reached out to shake the pipe. It rattled, but seemed anchored well enough. Logan reached to his back and unzipped a pocket on his right. He pulled the black rope from his pack and tied a quick Swiss Seatt, then tied his rappel line to the anchor in the cement and gave it a tug. He swung himself around, took a deep breath, and hoped for the best. Logan stepped over the ledge, his body dropping, gloved hands sliding down the rope. He kicked off the second story wall.
"And what of your promises to us?" Nadir asked.
Conyers cleared his throat. "It's coming."
"This is not good," Nadir said. The mic on the transmitter was close to the man, his voice crisp and angry. "I needed the shipment earlier if you expect results."
"You still have plenty damn weapons from the last shipment. If you apply pressure to these FOBs and COPs here and here you can supply your damn self," Conyers snapped. "I need your men. I need them in the US pronto."
A rustle of something, like the folding of a map, sounded through the earpiece loudly. Logan winced at the intense sound. He kicked off the middle of the first floor and closed the remaining three yards to the ground. His boots hit softly in the sandy dirt along the side of the building. Logan began unrigging himself.
Conyers's voice was less distinct as he garbled something.
"It is not our fault that Brazil went bad," Nadir replied.
Logan gave his rappel line a sharp yank, and the rope fell down the building's side. He coiled the rope around his arm and tossed it into a nearby trash bin. With little time left, he went straight for the bushes and pulled out his bike.
His bike meaning the one he'd bribed a kid for earlier that morning. It wasn’t spiffy, but the small motorbike would do as long as it ran. Someone in the apartment above sighed heavily as Logan threw his leg over the bike and straddled it.
"I do not know. Sha Amud is hesitant of you as it is. If I go back and tell him you've failed to meet the agreement again, he may pull back," Nadir said.
"I can’t control when these damn shipments arrive any more than I can control when and where they send their troops."
"If that is so, how do you ever expect us to believe you can aid our cause?"
"I'm not aiding your cause, you're aiding mine," Conyers thundered. "Go back and tell Sha that he'll get his shipment within a week, if I have to steal the damn thing myself." Even out of sorts, Conyers still held his self-entitled air of cockiness and importance. It leaked over into his tone thickly.
Logan listened, waiting. The pause was so long for a moment he thought the bug had been discovered or stopped working.
"Very well. I will tell him this, but he will not be pleased."
"Listen, I have a meet with Sierkoff this week. Tell Sha that Sierkoff can guarantee a shipment from his country that will double what I am offering. We can't do this without Sha Amud's support."
Logan sat back and raked a hand through his hair. Fuckin' Sierkoff. "Fuck me," he breathed. Though, he should have immediately suspected when he saw the Russians earlier.
Joseph Sierkoff was the Russian prime minister's lackey, well known for doing all the prime minister's dirty deeds. However, Sierkoff's name was not the one Logan needed. He needed to know who Conyers was working with back in the United States. He had to have someone, or maybe even several someones, working with him from within the government. People in high places.
"Sha Amud will be pleased to hear of Sierkoff's aid. Perhaps this news might shield the bad. I must take my leave," the man said. "I am expected back within the hour."
Logan could hear the shuffle of feet, and he pulled the earpiece from his ear. He wanted this over. From Brazil to Morocco to Syria. He had lost Conyers for a while in Syria, and it wasn’t until two weeks ago he'd caught wind that his former CIA handler was here in Bishkek. There had been nights he had lain awake, his M-9 in his hand, sweating over what he had done. He wanted to kill Conyers.
But he didn’t want to just kill him.
He wanted to take him out and leave not a trace of the man behind. Whatever Conyers was working on was big. If he killed him and Conyers's plan fell apart, it would all be traced back to Conyers and his name would be splayed across Fox News for days.
That wasn’t what Logan wanted.
He wanted him cold, dead, and forgotten.
He wanted to completely screw John Conyers over in the same way he had done him in Brazil. Everything Conyers had worked for—like all the many good things he had thrown away to get where he had been—Logan wanted to wipe it all away so completely, so suddenly Conyers wouldn’t know what hit him.
And then he would kill the man.
"We have orders to set up a phony compound near Sao Paulo. Weston wants to screen through some terrorists. We're supposed to draw them in with the promise of Brazilian identities and a free trip into the US. Every terrorist's wet dream, getting in easy to blow some shit up. Here's the man we're looking for… "
Logan flinched. He could still hear the gunfire. He could still see Maloney's face etched into his memory. The flash of the grenade had burned the image of the man's body into the back of his eyes.
They had gone through Ranger school together. God, his days in the infantry were an eternity ago.
Rolling Maloney off the exploded grenade had been his wakeup call.
A team of Special Forces had descended upon the compound.
He wasn’t there on a mission. He never had been.
Those Brazilian identities were real … and so was that free trip.
Because of Conyers, he had been the one to close his friend's eyes.
He would never forgive him for that.
It pissed him off more than anything that his former handler had stolen from him the one thing that had ever really mattered.
The one thing he had given up everything else for.
He had spent too many years passed from one relative to another, from one boys’ home to another, to make any kind of life in normal society. He had run into his fair share of trouble in his younger years before Staff Sergeant Mark Michuto, an Army recruiter, found him and pulled him up on his feet. He'd dusted him off and given him the one chance he had ever had.
Logan owed everything to that man.
The one place he had stuck was in the military. That had been his first real home, his family. He’d joined Special Forces, and then Delta Force had recruited him after Iraq. He'd been traded off more times than he could count, but at least in the military he had been traded because he'd been wanted and needed in another branch.
Then, along came the CIA.
Conyers … Conyers was the kind of handler who trained for one reason—because his trainees' skill reflected well on him and gained Conyers what he wanted. Conyers had always needed him to pull the trigger. He had killed for that man. He had done many things he was not proud of. Many things he could not take back and he would live with those things until his dying breath.
All for the sake of his country.
All for the sake of the men he had unknowingly betrayed.
All for the sake of avenging what Conyers had stolen from him.
In the past week, he had bided his time watching his former handler turned wanted fugitive and terrorist. Conyers had become a shadow of his former self: thinner, unshaven. The man had to be frustrated with the shift in power since he lost control of his compound in Brazil. He was a man in too deep for his own good. He only thought he held some control here, some form of power. Only because the enemy allowed him to believe it, and Conyers—even as lethal and wise as he had once been—fell hook, line, and sinker for their bait.
A sense of power. That was all it had taken to fell a good man.
Conyers wasn’t the first, and he wouldn’t be the last.
Logan watched as a man got out of a black sedan at the curb in front of the building, buttoning his jacket and circling the tail of the car to open the back passenger door. The driver scanned the area and touched an earpiece at his ear. Nadir stepped from the building, approaching the car. He wore a black man-dress and black-and-grey shemagh wrapped around his head, the ends wisping in the breeze over his shoulders. His beard was long, and, because of the black sunglasses he wore, most of his face was covered. Nadir slipped into the car and the driver hurried back to the front.
Logan kick-started the bike, and it roared, rattling between his legs. He sat back and pulled his helmet over his head, buckling it under his chin—not for protection, but so Nadir couldn't recognize him on the off chance Conyers had mentioned him.
As quickly as the black sedan started, Nadir's car was gone. Logan pulled out of the alley onto the main thoroughfare. There they were, one block ahead at the traffic light, which wasn’t good. He needed cover.
Logan swallowed hard at the memory of that phone call from Jericho Eden months before.
"I need a favor," he'd said.
Logan kept his eyes ahead on the tail of the black car. They turned right, and three cars back, Logan turned right, too.
"Get to Barbacena. There's a former CIA operative there by the name of Carvalho … I'll drop a preset DAGR in Valença. There's a Vale Verde-Texaco posto de gasolina on Rua Do Barroso when you come into town. You'll find it in a trashcan at the second pump … Don’t trust sources here…"
That's all he had been able to tell Jericho back in Brazil.
His brother in arms, and he hadn’t been able to do anything more.
Logan took a left behind Nadir's car. Other motorists fell off between them, lessening his cover, forcing Logan to pull over and park at the side of the street until the gap widened.
He waited. Nadir took another turn, and Logan pulled out, zipping ahead down the street to catch up.
Logan took the same turn at the corner, but a small yellowish hatchback cut him off, lessening the space between him and the black sedan.
"Fuck," he said between his teeth.
Logan came to a stop directly beside Nadir's car. His bike idled at the light. With his helmet closed, they couldn’t see him watching from the corner of his eye.
Logan didn’t sweat it.
Nadir had never seen him before.
Logan swallowed hard as the window rolled down and Nadir turned his head, just slightly, and narrowed his eyes on him. Logan glanced over at the dark-skinned man. Nadir cut his eyes even sharper, but didn’t say anything. He just looked at him hard, and just as quickly as he'd rolled the window down, he began to close it.
The light changed, and Logan shot off. He couldn’t take the risk. Nadir wasn’t far behind, and Logan watched him in the small mirror on his right as the gleaming black sedan caught a sharp stab of sunlight when it turned and pulled into a gated villa to the right. The gates opened and shut quickly.
What in the hell had that been about?
Logan clenched his jaw.
When a spook got chills down his back, there was usually a good reason. Logan chose to ignore those reasons and turned his bike around in the direction of his apartment.©2014 Kerri M. Patterson