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Authors: Tara Janzen

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BOOK: Loose Ends
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Yeah, yeah, Dylan thought, he’d had a lifetime of making these kinds of mistakes and gotten paid damn well to do it.

“I’m the guy who owns you now.” Motivation, he guessed. Kid and Quinn had been damned motivated, and his guys were not without a fair amount of skill. Jet jockeys weren’t normally known for their hand-to-hand combat expertise, but Quinn was a street fighter from way back, and then there was that stretch Kid had done with the Marines in Recon. Yeah, that was usually enough to put a guy ahead of the pack—way ahead.

“Bullshit,” the man sneered. “Assaulting a federal officer will get you life, boy.”

That was new. Not many people called Dylan “boy.”

“Federal officer of what?” he asked. “Who do you work for, Sam? What agency?”

The basement was warm, maybe even too warm, especially for an extended stay, which Dylan could see in Sam Walls’s immediate future.

“One that can take this place apart at the seams, asshole.”

Dylan nodded, even though that wasn’t the answer he’d wanted.

He was standing at one end of the pool deck, in front of where the securely bound Walls was strapped into the metal chair placed directly under a bright light hanging from the ceiling. Quinn and Kid were both standing behind Sam, far enough away to be out of the light and yet
close enough to make the man nervous—but probably not nearly as nervous as he should be.

“Who was in the Mercedes with you?” Dylan asked his next question.

“Fuck you.”

“Randolph Lancaster?”

“Fuck you.”

“How many men did Lancaster bring to Denver?”

The only answer he got was another sneer.

Fine. The guy could have it his way.

Dylan signaled Quinn and Kid, and his two operators stepped forward and picked up Sam and his chair. Without a word, they moved him to the deep end of the pool and set the back legs of the chair precisely on the edge of the deck so that the man was facing Dylan with the water behind him.

There were a lot of reasons to push a captive taped to a chair into six feet of water, none of them good.

Dylan reached up and angled the ceiling light to hit Sam squarely in the face, blinding him to the rest of the room.

“I don’t think you’re a federal officer, Sam,” he said. “I think you’re a traitor to your country, and I think you’re here in Denver on a terrorist mission. What the hell happened to your leg?” The deep, gouged scar running the length of his thigh was a real butcher job. The shriveled mess of the rest of it, Dylan could only guess at, but it was a pretty damn good guess.

“Combat, sweetheart.”

“Where were you born?”

“In a cross-fire hurricane.”

Two brilliant answers in a row. One more brilliant answer would get the guy tipped bass-ackward into the pool.

With luck, Dylan would have him pulled back out, but deep down in his heart, where the truth mattered, he
didn’t really think this was one of Sam Walls’s lucky days.

“How many missions have you been on for Lancaster?”

“Fuck you.” Succinct, but not brilliant.

“How long can you hold your breath?”

“Longer than you think.”

“Have you ever been to Coveñas, Colombia?”

“You don’t know shit about where I’ve been.”

Torture was an ugly word and even uglier in practice. Dylan knew. He’d been tortured. In some ways, it made him more sympathetic to Walls’s situation, but in most ways, it didn’t, especially when he needed real answers and not misplaced bravado and insults.

“You may turn out to be a lucky guy, after all, Sam,” he said. “I’m going to give you one more chance before I get serious.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small stainless steel case. The sequence of impending events was very clear in his mind. Yes, he remembered exactly how Souk had tortured him: first by injecting the drugs, an agonizing procedure, and second by half drowning him. The combination had been specifically calibrated to intensify the primordial terror of the hallucinations associated with Souk’s chemical concoctions. It was as close to death, or praying for death, as Dylan had ever been.

Sam Walls didn’t look impressed with the small stainless steel case.

But Dylan hadn’t opened it yet.

“After I show you what’s in here, I’m going to ask my questions again, and if I don’t get your best answers, your very best, Sam, I’m going to … well, you’ll understand everything in a minute.”

“You have no idea what you’re dealing with,” Walls said.

“Maybe not,” Dylan agreed. “But then again, maybe I do.”

He opened the case and showed Sam Walls the beautiful array of colorful Syrettes inside, each one safely nested in a square of foam rubber. He literally had a rainbow of the drugs, the whole spectrum compliments of Dr. William F. Brandt’s research lab at Walter Reed Medical Center.

“Have you ever heard of a Thai syringe?” he asked.

And by the blood-draining look of horror on Sam’s face, Dylan knew that he had.

Poor bastard.


“I really should stay with the car,” Jane said, because “stay with the car” was a helluva lot easier for her to say than “stay with you.”

He let his gaze drift over her, shaking his head, like he couldn’t believe what she’d decided, then went back to watching the street.

She let out a short breath and tried to look like she knew what she was doing.

“Your name isn’t Con,” she said, because, by God, she did know that.

“That’s not exactly a news flash, honey.” He slanted her a long gaze from over on his side of the car.

“So you know you have amnesia?”

A short laugh escaped him. “Yeah, I figured it out pretty quick the day I woke up strapped to a gurney and couldn’t remember my own name.”

Oh, God, she’d been right about the amnesia, and that meant the odds were good she was right about the torture.

Oh, geezus
. He’d woken up strapped to a gurney.
Oh, God

“We should … I mean, I need to … no. No, what you need to know is that these guys chasing us are your friends.” That’s what she meant to say. “The best friends
you’ll ever have. They can help you. We should go back to the garage right now. You’ll be safe there.”

“I’m safe now,” he said, his voice so cool and steady.

Of course he was. What was she thinking?

“These boys are going to try to run me to ground,” he continued. “And I’m not going to let them do that, whatever it takes. Do you understand?”

She nodded. “Whatever it takes.” Whatever the hell that meant. “Maybe you should let me drive.”

The grin he flashed her was brief and devastating, a crooked curve of boyish dimples and white teeth that erased the years and the scars and made him what he once had been.

He shrugged out of his jacket, and her gaze dropped lower, to his chest. He was wearing a black Jimi Hendrix T-shirt with the words “Voodoo Child” across the middle, below the drawing of Hendrix.

Voodoo child for sure, she thought, witchy and wild, popping his pills and Corinna’s clutch, dark and dangerous and beautiful, and lost to himself. So lost.

“You got your seat belt cinched real tight?” He finished pulling off the jacket and laid it next to him on the console.

Yeah, tight
. She gave the belt another tug and wondered if it was time to start with the Hail Marys:
Hail, Mary, full of grace …

Oh, sweet Jesus
—she glanced over at him.

Talk about tight. The Jimi Hendrix T-shirt defined the word, and the word defined everything about his arms from the breadth of his shoulders, to the hard, sculpted fullness of his biceps and the confluence of veins running under his skin down the inside of his forearms. He had no tattoos, only the fine, incised tracks of his scars.

With her gaze riveted to him, to the hard line of his jaw and the straight line of his nose, to the softness of
his cotton T-shirt and the even softer worn denim of his jeans, she tightened her hold on her zebra purse.

Touching him was not a good idea. She’d remembered it too many times for her own good, what it was like to wrap her arms around him, to be held by him, how he’d tasted when they’d kissed, how he’d felt inside her, the aching loss of it all when he’d left—and then he’d up and died, and she’d been forced to put her childish dreams away.

But here they were, despite death and everything, sitting in a car.

If this was fate, she was buying.

Yes, she was starting to see the bright side to the day. Her ears had stopped ringing, her nerves had calmed, and two of the greatest guys in the world were ready to do God only knew what to them the instant they moved off this corner at 30th and Vallejo.

What were Creed and Hawkins thinking? she wondered.

Then she knew. The sound of another set of perfectly tuned headers rumbled into earshot before Coralie made her appearance at the intersection with the rest of them. Now the board was set, but for what?

“Okay, time to get out of here,” J.T. said, looking over at her with his oh-so-calm gaze. “Last chance, Jane. You in or out?”

“In,” she said without hesitation, whatever “in” turned out to be.

He stretched his hand out to grasp the back of her seat and shifted around so he could look over his shoulder, out the rear windshield.

“The, uh, next run is going to be in reverse?” Maybe she needed to rethink her decision.

“Only the first stretch. Then we’re sliding off the map, and these guys can spend the rest of the night chasing each other.”

He seemed awfully sure of himself for somebody who didn’t know Denver was his hometown, and what the hell did “sliding off the map” mean? It sounded like something she should know about—like something she was going to find out about the hard way, unless she bailed on him, and she wasn’t bailing. She couldn’t bear the thought of watching him disappear and wondering if she’d ever see him again—because, baby, that seemed like a real damn long shot.

“Still in?” he asked, slanting his gaze back to her and gunning the motor.

Oh, geezus

She gave a short, quick nod, and he pressed down hard on the gas. The engine roared. The tires smoked, and when he checked through the rear window and released the clutch, Corinna took off like a shot, wheels rolling, headers growling. It was all flash. It was shock and awe, a rocket launch backward, crossing lines of traffic. It was a neighborhood in reverse. Some people honked, most slammed on their brakes, snarling the traffic and turning it into a maze for the Steele Street crew to navigate—and through it all she held on.

He made his first turn while still in reverse, with an instant 180-degree pivot of the car’s front end around the brake-locked rear wheels, swinging them into forward motion and pressing her back into her seat with pure heart-pounding g-forces. Then he started up through the gears. The second turn was into a frighteningly narrow alley. She gripped the armrest on the door, her knuckles growing whiter with each passing second.

They weren’t sliding off anything. Oh, hell, no. They were flying, nearly airborne on the turns.

They whipped past trash cans, dumpsters, and through a section where lines full of clothes flapped and billowed in the breeze behind chain-link fences, where people were out in their backyards, watching in consternation
and flashes of horror as Corinna flew down the small, rutted road.

This was a car crash waiting to happen. She knew it down to her belly.

The next turn had her pressed up against the door, a hard, chassis-rocking left back onto pavement. Fifty yards later, he downshifted, double-clutching into a hard right, and they tore down another alley just like the last one. He might not know who he was, but he sure as hell knew this part of town, and he sure as hell knew how to drive.

Up ahead, she could see the parking lot of an industrial site, a conglomeration of big, rattletrap-looking, multistory metal buildings all crammed together, and she knew, if they could just get to the parking lot without hitting a dumpster, or somebody’s garbage can, or, heaven forbid, somebody, they’d be okay.

She was wrong.

Corinna caught some air launching off the slightly higher dirt alley onto the asphalt of the parking lot, and while Jane was literally absorbing that bit of automotive rock and roll, Con accelerated around the corner of the first abandoned building and cut a sharp left, then a sharp right into a U-shape recess. A dark, empty space in the far wall loomed up in front of them, and he headed straight for it, double-clutching his downshifts again, smoothly and quickly easing back on the speed, but not nearly enough.

Oh, no, not even close.

The building came rushing at them, the empty space in the wall looming closer. They roared past the words
painted in large, fading letters above the loading docks. Ahead of them, on either side of the opening, large, metal sliding doors were hanging off their tracks, looking like the open maw of a car-crushing, street rat–eating shark monster.

Holy cripes. Holy, holy …
She sucked in a breath and held it.
Holy, oh, hail, Mary, full of grace. Holy, oh, holy, holy…

They passed through the door into darkness.

Mary, Mary, Mary, Mother of God, O Mary, pray for us sinners

He finally hit the brakes,
hit the brakes, and Corinna’s front end slanted down steep-steeper-steepest with Jane backpedaling like crazy, virtually crawling backward over the top of her seat, until a strong arm came across the interior of the car and held her in place.

“You’re fine” were the last words she heard before she and the amnesiac and the rocket-hot GTO fell into an inky black abyss.


“Alpha One, come in,” Jack said, trying to raise Con for about the tenth time, and failing again.
. “Alpha One, come in. We’ve got a bearcat on the loose.”

This was no good. He and Scout were parked in a restaurant parking lot not too far from Coors Field, Denver’s baseball stadium, and not too far from Steele Street, still in lower downtown.

BOOK: Loose Ends
7.02Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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