Fatal Truth: Shadow Force International (34 page)

He grinned, saying nothing.

Okay then.

“Get the car, Henley. We’re going for a ride.”

“Where to, love?”

The ‘love’ moniker was going to get on her nerves. Fast. “Rock Star Headquarters.”

Henley didn’t seem surprised. He spoke into his watch, alerting the crew outside. Three black SUVs pulled up at the covered side entrance a few minutes later, and for a moment, Savanna wondered if Trace were in one of them. The dark windows didn’t allow her to see in. She didn’t honestly believe he would leave her,
really
leave her.

But then again, she didn’t know him. All she knew was what he’d wanted her to see. A fake. A fraud.

That was what gutted her the most. Not the facts about his past; the fact that he’d deliberately misled her. Lied to her. That she’d confessed her deepest, darkest secret to him and he’d still felt compelled to keep his identity and his intentions from her.

As the SUVs slipped quickly through the night, Savanna sat in the backseat of one and opened the laptop. The blue file was still waiting for her.

She clicked it open and started reading.

Rock Star Security Headquarters

“Y
OU LIED TO
me and put me in danger.”

Savanna sat across from Beatrice in her office, the coffee Connor had brought her untouched. The heavenly smell clouded the air but Savanna’s stomach churned. From Trace’s admission and his subsequent disappearance. From the file’s contents that made her angry and sad all at the same time.

Beatrice seemed unconcerned. For such an early morning, the pregnant woman appeared completely polished. As if she’d been expecting a call. Her vivid purple pantsuit made her blond hair and green eyes pop. “I withheld Coldplay’s identity as I do with all the security specialists on my team. You were advised that would be the case. You signed the contract.”

“He wasn’t a stranger whose identity you were protecting. You knew our past…interaction.”

“How did I put you in danger?”

“I ruined his life and helped put him in prison. You didn’t think revenge might be on his list?”

“Revenge is spurred by emotions. His personality tests all suggest he has no desire for revenge because he’s a High Logic. He doesn’t run on emotion. He seeks justice. Need I remind you he saved your life multiple times in the past week?”

Beatrice had an answer for everything. Every little thing. It was infuriating, yet Savanna admired her. Once upon a time, on her show, she’d been the same way. Always in control.

Now she was anything but. The past week had broken her down. “You broke him out of prison. Why?”

A beat went by.
Hesitation?
“I received a rather cryptic message suggesting Coldplay was innocent of the charges brought against him. The message stated you needed him to find your sister. I dug into his past, uncovered a few things that made me suspect the message was accurate. The group he formerly worked for is familiar to me. I understand what they’re capable of.”

“Message? What message?”

“It came to me from ON16. I now believe it was from your sister.”

“You think Parker is ON16?”

“No. I know who ON16 is. In this case, he was simply a third party relaying information. At the time, I didn’t know who the sender was, and as you’ve probably figured out by now, I don’t like not knowing things. As our interactions with you proceeded, I figured out it was Parker. She sent you to ON16. She made an attempt to reach out to Coldplay while he was in Witcher, probably to confirm her suspicions about his innocence or to seek his help. When that failed, she had no choice but to stay underground and keep sending us bread crumbs to uncover the president’s plan.”

“So who
is
ON16?”

“Sorry, I’m not at liberty to divulge that information.”

Savanna sat for a moment. The coffee had cooled, much like her anger at confronting Beatrice. “Where is Trace?”

“If you’re unhappy with Henley, I can find someone else.”

She was unhappy with Henley, all right, but there was no one else who could fill Trace’s spot. It wasn’t Henley’s fault, it was hers. Sweat broke out along her hairline. Her stomach continued to churn.

Damn Trace Hunter for causing her so much turmoil. For keeping her emotions bouncing all over the place. She wanted to hate him for his lies, for his deception, but she couldn’t.

Rising, she tucked her laptop under her arm. “I should fire the lot of you.”

“Your emotional side demands that, yet your logical side has you here in my office looking for answers. Rock Star Security isn’t simply bodyguards. We’re problem solvers. We’re fixers. There’s no one else in Washington DC who can help you with your problem and provide a successful outcome. You know that.”

“You’re awfully smug.”

“The truth, stated openly, often appears as overconfidence or conceit. I assure you, in this case, it is neither.”

“I need to use the restroom.”

“Of course.” Beatrice rose and walked her to the door. Henley waited outside, those green eyes watching her like a cat before glancing at Beatrice. The slight nod from his boss seemed to tell him to stand down. He slouched once more against the wall, waiting.

Beatrice pointed at Savanna’s laptop. “We should talk about Parker’s file and what you plan to do with it.”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Savanna said, marching past both of them.

It was a lie. She knew exactly what she was going to do with the information.

The restroom was down the hall and around the corner. She didn’t need Connor to show her the way but knew Rory or someone was probably watching her on a hidden camera.

Ducking into the ladies room, she prayed they didn’t have cameras in there.

She’d left her coat on to talk to Beatrice. As she shrugged it off and hung it up in order to use the toilet, her phone rang from inside the pocket.

Private caller
. Savanna swallowed hard. What did Linc Norman want now? Should she ignore it? Her thumb hesitated over the green button. There was no one there for support this time. She was on her own.

She hit the button. “What?”

“I have your sister in custody,” Norman said. “I think it’s time we make a deal.”

For the first time, she was right. The call was about Parker.

Savanna didn’t know whether to be relieved or pissed. Maybe a bit of both. Parker had figured out the truth about Project 24 and had recommended shutting down the program. She noted the president’s refusal in her files, had started adding more personal notes to each of the participants.

Patient 13—Trace Hunter—had been her favorite; his outcomes had been exactly what she’d been shooting for. She’d wanted to redefine the program’s parameters, stop the drugs and try a fresh approach with cognitive intensive learning techniques.

But the president rejected her ideas, and soon, Parker discovered her star patient was being ordered to kill off the other participants who didn’t work out. She must have confronted Norman, threatened him, and that’s why she was now on the run.

Had been
on the run, if Norman was to be believed. “What kind of deal?” Savanna asked.

“You give me the file. I’ll give you your sister.”

Right. And she was born yesterday. “I want proof of life.”

He chuckled, sounding slightly inebriated. “She’s deep in the bowels of Langley, being interrogated. Every minute you waste, she’s in pain, Van. She’s not up for talking right now.”

Savanna’s already queasy stomach revolted, sending hot, bitter acid up her throat. Was he bluffing? Could she take the chance that he wasn’t? “This discussion is over until I hear from her.”

She hung up, bending at the waist and praying for forgiveness.
I’m so sorry, Parker
.

But she had to know if the president was bluffing.

And there was no way she was giving him the file.

He wouldn’t risk that she’d blab the information down the road. He wouldn’t risk that she hadn’t made backup copies. He would scrub her apartment, destroy any and all computers. He would go after her parents, wipe out her bank accounts, whatever it took to make sure he’d covered his ass.

Including killing her.

Parker, too, if she was still alive.

Hell, he’d come after Rock Star Security and wipe them out too. Desperate men did desperate things.

She’d pay good money to see Beatrice take on Linc Norman.

The thought almost made her smile.

Unfortunately, she couldn’t put a group of innocent men and women in the line of fire. No matter how good, how canny, how intelligent Beatrice and her cohorts were, they couldn’t take on the president of the United States and win.

The image of Trace aiming his weapon at a pregnant woman flashed into her mind.

She’d be doing a similar thing if she took Beatrice and RSS down with her.

So like Trace, she had to refuse the order.

Straightening, she dampened a paper towel with cool water and wiped her forehead and the back of her neck. Her reflection in the mirror showed strain, sleeplessness, fear that she couldn’t save her sister.

I can’t save anyone
.

She needed Trace. He would know what to do.

He’s not here. You have to do this on your own
.

Her eyes fell to her laptop. She had to get the information in the blue folder out into the world.

Picking up her cell, she dialed a number she hadn’t used in a long, long time.

The man on the other end answered before the third ring. “The goddamn zombie apocalypse better be happening if you’re calling this early in the morning.”

“Your alarm is set for fifteen minutes from now, Zeb. Consider this an early wakeup call.”

“You coming back to work for me? If not, hang up,” he growled. “I’m busy.”

“I need ten minutes of air time.”

“Local high school football reruns are scheduled until five. We don’t go on air until then.”

“I need you to meet me at the station. It’ll take me fifteen or twenty minutes to get there. The football replays will have to be interrupted.”

She heard him shift in his bed, sit up, the smell of a scoop getting to him. “You got something big or are you getting an old newsman excited for nothing?”

“This is going to make your coverage of Ollie North’s trial look like child’s play.”

“Don’t dis a man’s crowning glory, girlie.”

“You’ll meet me at the station?”

“Couldn’t sleep anyway,” he grumbled. “You gonna need hair and makeup and all that fancy cable network crap? This is public access. I don’t have staff.”

“All I need is a single camera and a computer hookup.”

“Boss man will have my hide for this.”

Zeb
was
the boss. “Do you need some cheese with that whine?”

It was a line he’d used on her many times when they were both at the public television station and she was a new reporter, digging up stories and hitting brick walls.

“What do I get out of this, missy?”

“Your ratings are going to go through the roof.”

“Throw in a box of cigars and it’s a deal.”

He loved a scoop more than cigars, but in typical Zeb fashion, he was determined to be a curmudgeon. “Deal.”
If I’m still alive and not in jail.

Her phone buzzed, display showing she had a call coming in. Shit, was it the president again?

“See you in fifteen,” Zeb said over the squeak of mattress springs.

Savanna clicked off and accepted the incoming call. “Hello?”

“Savanna?” It was Parker’s voice. “Gosh, I’ve missed you.”

Savanna’s knees went weak. “Parker! Where are you?”

But it wasn’t Parker who answered her. “Satisfied?” Linc Norman cut in. “Your sister is alive. If you want her to stay that way, you’ll pony up that file, Van.”

Damn it
. Her arms and legs buzzed with adrenaline. Her chest felt like static electricity was zapping her heart. “Don’t hurt her. I’ll bring you the file.”

“Good.” He rattled off an address in the low rent district, not far from the public television station. “I’ll meet you there in an hour. Don’t do anything stupid.”

She couldn’t keep the snark out of her voice. “Isn’t this where you tell me not to contact the police and to come alone?”

“Nah.” Linc Norman chuckled. “Bring your bodyguard. Hunter and I have plenty of catching up to do.”

The line went dead.

Savanna removed the studs from her ears and the GPS tracker from her bra. She laid the gold bracelet on the sink.

Pocketing her phone, she donned her coat and grabbed the laptop. She’d removed the tracking device inside the phone on the way over, sliding it into her pocket. Now, she took it out and tossed it in the sink.

Unlocking and opening the restroom window, she crawled out into the cold, dark night.

Chapter Twenty-four

_____________________

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