Read Covert Operations Online

Authors: Sara Schoen

Covert Operations

Covert Operations

 

Guarded Secrets, Book Two

 

 

Sara Schoen

 

Covert Operations

 

Copyright © 2015 by Sara Schoen.

All rights reserved.

First Print Edition: November 2015

 

 

Limitless Publishing, LLC

Kailua, HI 96734

www.limitlesspublishing.com

 

Formatting: Limitless Publishing

 

ISBN-13: 978-1-68058-342-7

ISBN-10: 1-68058-342-5

 

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to locales, events, business establishments, or actual persons—living or dead—is entirely coincidental.

 

Dedication

 

“There are no constraints on the human mind, no walls around the human spirit, no barriers to our progress except those we ourselves erect.”

~ Ronald Reagan

 

We are what holds ourselves back, there is nothing preventing us from living our lives except us. We let fear and uncertainty take over our lives. We back out of opportunities when we should be pushing through and making the most of what we have. It's the ones who push those barriers and constraints aside, fight through them, who are able to make their dreams come true. Don't hold yourself back, take a leap of faith and become who you've dreamed of.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prologue

 

 

When I agreed to take this job, I never thought I would be doing anything like this. I had been in dangerous places during my training with CIRA, but being part of a cartel was by far the most nerve racking. I lied about my identity every day, hoping no one figured it out, even though I lived steps away from my home in Albany, Georgia. This meant I kept to myself and concealed my true appearance to make sure no one sounded the alarm that Jackson Reeves was alive and well. No one would understand why I had disappeared and then returned for a cartel job.

Even now, as I stood in front of a no-name worker for the cartel, in which I had been operating undercover for the last four years, I couldn’t let my guard down. It had taken a lot of work to win their trust, to make them believe I was the man I claimed to be, and it also involved a lot of senseless deaths at my hands, just like now. I had been ordered to kill this man, and while I had no trouble killing cartel members, I had a problem when it came to killing innocent civilians who had joined under false pretenses.

Many joined the cartel to make ends meet one way or another, and few had been tricked into taking the job. The Cardoza Cartel had a way of knowing who was in trouble and just how desperate they were to make money. Most took the job eagerly, and the few who declined never had to worry about having their lives threatened. Those who agreed lived with that fear every day.

This man, cowering in his seat with his eyes covered by a blindfold, had outlived his usefulness, which meant he had to go. He knew too much, and we couldn’t risk letting him live. Too bad that didn’t ease my mind when it came to killing him, but if I wanted to maintain the trust of the cartel and my cover as Marco Rykov, I would have to do it.

If I failed, they could investigate me further and see my entire story was a lie. When I first gained the interest of the Cardoza Cartel, I had taken the place of Marco, someone the Cardozas were meeting overseas for a weapons trade. I had taken over the trade easily, convincing the Cardozas that I was Marco. It helped that he and I both had a similar build, but I had a more muscled physique thanks to my time in the Army. No one seemed to notice, and they didn’t have a reason to believe I wasn’t Marco. Apparently, the Russians spoke highly of him. They were sad to see him go, but pleased that it made a permanent link between the two groups. Little did they know the man I impersonated, Marco, had been killed during the short exchange we shared. At least he had died for a better cause than drugs and weapon trading.

If Marco had gone quietly, there wouldn’t have been a problem. I had told him that if he turned around and never spoke a word to anyone, he could live, but he’d refused. I needed to take his place for the exchange and he hadn’t made it easy when he tried calling for help. After that, the training just kicked in and there was no stopping it. I had spent seven years in the military, after enlisting straight out of high school, and now at the age of twenty-five the training was second nature, a natural and deadly reaction. After three years in the Army working alongside other men who had become brothers to me, and four years being bounced around to different Special Forces for a variety of training and disciplines, I joined CIRA permanently. I had the ability to take Marco down swiftly and as silently as possible so that I could take over his life and win my way into the cartel. Other than opening his mouth to call for help, he never got out a word before I killed him.

If I hadn’t been in CIRA, he may not have died. I wouldn’t have had to kill him, but I didn’t realize I was working for them until I was already in the agency. I went where they told me to go, and did what they instructed, just as I had been trained to do. I had never heard of CIRA before Demon approached me about it. Well, approached may be too loose of a word. He’d kidnapped me and forced into it. He had taken me in a fight when his attempt to sneak up behind me had failed. He should have realized that with the training came an overwhelming sense of paranoia, and rather well developed listening skills, and reaction time. There were punches thrown, knives cutting into skin and clothing, and, at times, teeth cutting into flesh at the stray hit to the jaw.

“Marco,” one man called out, using the name I had adopted, pulling me back to the present. I shook my head to tell him I wasn’t going to let the man live. He had to die, but we needed to ensure we’d gotten as much information out of him as possible. They went back to work interrogating him.

“Please,” the man begged. “I won’t tell anyone what I know. I’ve worked here for years. Please don’t do this to me. I can still be of use!” He was grasping at straws. He knew what would happen. I waved my hand to tell some of the men to continue interrogating, which in this case included torture.

I shook my head lightly as I thought back to that day. Luckily, it coincided with the man’s pleas. I hated when they begged, but I hated their screams more.

He screamed as they beat him into submission, and the sound reverberated off the metal warehouse walls around us. I saw the glint of a knife, which vanished when it pierced his skin. I cringed, but didn’t turn away. Blood dripped down his face from his crushed nose, and I heard his bones breaking. When they ripped the knife out of his leg, I turned away. I tried not to look away, but I couldn’t watch them anymore. Suddenly I wished I wasn’t needed for these moments.

“Please, I won’t tell anyone else,” the man pleaded. I wasn’t sure what information he had given up, but I knew it was important, and they were waiting for me to finish him.

“You know we can’t let you leave,” I said, faking a heavy Russian accent similar to Marco’s. I had picked it up during my time in Russia, following Marco around so I could take his place, and used it to maintain my cover. I glanced at the men Camden had sent with me to keep the members under control. When faced with certain death, some people react violently, so I needed backup. They were there to make sure nothing went wrong, but also to ensure I truly killed them. I would just have to prove myself and gain their trust.

“Please,” he begged as I raised the gun to his head.

I took a deep breath, and relaxed my shoulders. This was the part of the job I hated, but it had to be done. There was no way of knowing how long I would be undercover, so I had to start off strong and end it now. My finger squeezed the trigger and the gun rang out, ending the man’s sobs, letting the sound echo off the walls, and solidifying my spot in the cartel.

I had been forced to give up my life as Jackson Reeves for a mission, and that is how I became Marco Rykov.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

I had dedicated five years of my life to this cartel. Since CIRA had kept me in the dark on my military assignments, I had only been actively undercover for a year, and I had nothing to show for the time served. There’d been a couple of ruined shipments, and more trades under my belt than most of the members, yet I was still nowhere near ending this mission. In the beginning, I’d hoped to be out in a couple of months, but nothing had been uncovered that could effectively shut down the cartel. A year had passed quickly.

They were too clean, and because of that, it didn’t warrant a search from local police, nor the entry of other CIRA agents. I didn’t know how long I would be able to maintain this identity. I hoped not for much longer as I thought back to my first meeting with Demon.

 

He had tried to sneak up on me, and failed. Our brawl only lasted a few moments before he said something that made me stop. “I know what happened to your parents, and it wasn’t an accident.”

Upon hearing the words, I had stopped fighting. My parents had died in a car accident just before my eighteenth birthday, leaving my sister and me alone, but I knew it wasn’t an accident. I knew they had been targeted, and so was I. Whoever tried to kill me had failed. Since then I had been searching for answers, but found nothing. I wanted to know what happened to them, why it happened, and then track down whoever did it, and make them pay. If Demon had the answers, I wanted to know, but I should have known Demon showing up meant trouble, and that the answers wouldn’t come easily for me.

Demon had explained that he was a representative sent from CIRA—Combat Intelligence and Reconnaissance Agency—to bring me to my next team, or in his words, “Your final team.” After that, the bad news just kept coming.

I wasn’t allowed to go back home.

I wouldn’t be able to contact my sister again.

There was no going back to my old life. What would I have to go back to, anyway? Everyone from my old life believed I had vanished after my last team had been attacked. They used it to let me disappear, to make others believe I was dead, even though I remained alive and well.

“We need you to go back in,” Demon stated. “You’ve been assigned by the Russians and the head of the Cardoza Cartel to act as a bodyguard for the heir, Camden Cardoza.”

“I’m not a bodyguard, and neither was the man I impersonated. Marco was a trader, nothing more. The cartel doesn’t know me, so why would they trust me with their heir?”

“The Russians speak highly of Marco’s services. Excellent marksmen, trained with their military, and ours. They need an ally with them, and you’re the man for the job,” Demon explained, waiting for me to say I would go, but I didn’t want to.

“What about my sister?” I asked. “She’s alone. I didn’t agree to this, yet you’re treating me as if I have.”

“Because you did, four years ago. Before we put you in the first mission, three years after your parents were taken out by a hit man. You were taught Russian, then sent to work with their military to observe them since they wouldn’t willingly work with us. You’ve been undercover for four years, and accepted that. You knew enough, and you agreed to it before you went.”

“I didn’t know I was signing up for
this
,” I claimed. I hadn’t, and for a moment Demon looked sympathetic, but in the end he told me I had a job to do. I had no choice.

 

He had persuaded me with promises that he knew the man who killed my parents, Ash Crest, the reason my sister and I were alone now, and the reason I fought against men like him. Demon said I would be able to find the man responsible and get the revenge I wanted if I finished this mission. Then, if I decided to leave CIRA, I could.

I agreed reluctantly and took up the bodyguard position for the cartel. Camden had taken a shine to me when we met and allowed me to get closer to him than he should have so early on. Whether it was the fake Russian accent I used, or that he actually admired my skill set, I wasn’t sure, but we were both talented in this line of work.

Before sending me in, and in the countless meetings we’d had since I went undercover, Demon explained we were in search of something big enough to finally put an end to the cartel. The cartel had overpowered other cartels, won wars, and killed innocent people in the crossfire. All they cared about was the land gained, but CIRA fought for the lives of those people around them. We wanted to save them before another war broke out.

In order to reach our goal, and disband the members of the cartel, we needed to get rid of them at the source. The headquarters was in my home state of Georgia. Where better to start a drug cartel but in the middle of nowhere outside of any major town? Few people were around to find out what they were up to. That also meant it would be harder to expose them.

Over the last few years, I did whatever I needed to in order to gain the trust of cartel members, even if it meant killing someone who didn’t have to die. Marco’s death was on my hands, and it haunted me, but I did what I had to for the mission, and that meant
borrowing
his identity. If I failed to stand by my actions, the guilt would have eaten me alive by now. I had to kill to prove myself.

While here, I was no longer able to be the southern gentleman who was raised on the morals and ideals of family, nor the teen who’d spent weekends with friends without a single care in the world. Here, I had to live up to Marco’s reputation and make it believable that I was him. I had managed to slowly lose the thick Russian accent over time and speak in a more “Americanized” way as Camden called it. I still used it to keep my cover, but now I didn’t have to repeat myself to those who couldn’t understand the accent. Camden got a laugh out of it, and it worked in my favor. I became like any other transplanted foreigner who’d begun to adjust to the language, and Camden gave me more responsibility, along with some freedom from watchful eyes.

This freedom allowed me to discover where they kept their files, and I even found one on hit men they’d hired repeatedly. The records went back to when Camden’s dad, Miguel, took over fifteen years ago, and I had discovered one hit man who used car accidents as his signature, Ash Crest. From the looks of his file, he had gotten rid of multiple families, but there was no record of the families in the folder. Without it, there wasn’t a way to know if anyone had survived the crashes like my sister and I had, or if he was even the man who really killed my parents.

I felt sorry for whoever survived the accidents. Living through that much death could drive a person to do unspeakable things, and they would suffer as I had. It was hard to talk about it with those who weren’t there. If my sister hadn’t survived as well, I wasn’t sure I would be here now. I touched my shoulder in memory of where the bullet had passed through me. When the car accident didn’t kill me, the man responsible shot me, but someone who saw the accident had called the paramedics and I survived. I had barely made it, but I had taken solace in knowing that one day he would suffer like I had.

“Marco,” a voice called, taking me out of my mental reverie.

“What is it, Wes?” I asked, looking over at his panicked expression. His face was red, and there was sweat beading on his forehead. Something had gone wrong. Normally he was calm and composed during a firefight. For him to be spooked it had to be something bad.

“I need to get in and talk to Camden,” he said, looking over his shoulder as if he was being followed. “It’s really important. Something has happened to the base in Sandtown.”

“What?” I asked, knocking on Camden’s door. He told me to come in and Wes immediately explained the situation. He must have already told Camden’s father, because Wes said that some survivors were on their way to talk about what had happened.

“Survivors?” Camden questioned in disbelief. “Did we lose many people?”

“We lost Jax to a gunshot wound. Many others were killed in a panicked shooting caused by other members, and a few have gone missing,” Wes stated. “There’s only a vague description of those who infiltrated the base. The attacker could be anyone on the street based on the survivors’ descriptions. A girl with dark blonde hair who seemed to find a way out of every trap they put her in, and a tall man with black hair they saw leaving the base.”

That could have been Demon, but I couldn’t be sure. I wasn’t even aware they were going back into Sandtown. We only had brief meetings so we could exchange information, but he rarely said anything about CIRA movements. He purposefully kept me in the dark on the details so my reactions would look sincere when I learned the news.

“What about the base?” Camden asked. “Did we only lose people? Do we know what they were after?”

“It’s not clear what they were after,” Wes said. “They found the girl in one of the offices, which were packed up to get ready for the move to the new compound. We don’t have clear reports, but a few saw the girl holding a few files. They weren’t clear on what she was taking because she scattered most of the papers in the room when she escaped.”

“They let her escape?” Camden snapped, the anger prevalent in his features. His fists were clenched so tightly his knuckles were turning white. His dark stare had fixated on Wes, waiting for his answer.

Wes cleared his throat before he attempted to appease Camden. “They got her, sir. They chased her into one of the storage warehouses. That’s how the other two men survived.” Wes’s gazed fell to the floor. “Jax had ordered one of them to guard the door, and the other to gather more members so that they could finish her off if she escaped again.”

“How did they know she had entered if they caught her so late in the act?”

“One member, Tessa, according to other members’ reports, said she saw someone go in and got Jax to look. We don’t know what happened to her during the fight or what else she knew. One of the men Jax had sent said she was dead, but we don’t know for sure. The reports aren’t clear. None of them agree with each other.” Wes glanced at me, possibly to see how I had handled the news, but I gave away nothing.

Personally, I was pleased that the raid on Sandtown had finally gone according to plan. They’d found whatever they were looking for, and the girl had escaped. It had all gone smoothly for once, and maybe if they found what they wanted, I would be out of here sooner rather than later.

“There’s more news coming in as well,” Wes stated hesitantly. “The survivors went after the loose ends as instructed and one got away. There was a witness who saw him with the girl from the compound, but no idea where they were going.”

Camden sighed. “It’s not like she can go into hiding forever. Find out who she is and put out a hit on her. I want to know if she’s working for the same people we dealt with last time.”

My teeth clenched and my body went rigid at the mention of the last CIRA attempt to take down the Sandtown compound. It had ended up with five agents dead, just after I took the position and told them where the base was. Since then, Demon had made his meetings rare. I knew it was because he had taken the loss of the agents hard, and then he had to start looking for people to take over the missing spots in the team. Last I heard, they hadn’t found anyone to fill the positions yet, but they had pulled in a few people from other teams. A reconnaissance agent, taken from the team that usually handled sensitive missions for the CIA and FBI, and a girl who is known for her fighting skills and being a skilled tactician. They were a mash up of a few other teams, but if they had successfully completed this mission, they must have managed to pull together. I only hoped there would be a spot for me once I was done with this mission. I needed the flexibility they had so that I could search for Ash Crest, and finish him.

“If it was, then it wasn’t the same agents,” Wes said. “They didn’t recognize them, and they said there were fewer numbers. They only found the girl, and saw one other person. It could be someone else. We may need to move the compound earlier than planned, and your father wants to talk to you to discuss what to do, Camden.”

Camden hesitated, trying to figure out the correct response. His father had been pressuring him because he was next to take over, but with every decision, Camden suffered the consequences. It was tough love, but it worked as he slowly learned from his mistakes. “I want to talk to the survivors first. Send them in when they get here. Do not go back to my father until I’ve had a chance to talk with them.”

“I won’t,” Wes promised. “But what do I do in the meantime? They won’t be here for another few hours.”

“Find me everything you can on the base in Sandtown, and see if you can find out who this girl is. I want to know everything about her, and then I want her hunted down and killed,” Camden ordered without hesitation. It was obvious he wanted revenge for what she’d done to the Sandtown base because he would be taking full responsibility for the disaster from his father. He made sure to get rid of anyone who caused him trouble or embarrassed him for his leadership choices, even if it meant hunting someone down to kill them. I hoped whoever the girl was, she would be ready to run for her life. Camden wouldn’t let her live long once he discovered her identity. As for the people who helped her, they’d be dead as soon as they were located.

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