Read Volcano Online

Authors: Gabby Grant

Volcano (9 page)

Ana waited until Hay Long was almost upon her,
harshly twisted the shower knob.

Water streamed out into the bathroom, as
recoiled against the shower wall.

Hay Long lunged, then lost his footing on the slick tile
floor. His head plummeted forward, striking the rim of the bathtub with a
stomach-wrenching crack.

Ana reached over and switched off the water just as its
temperature reached the boiling point, then scrambled, dripping wet, over Hay
Long’s body and bolted out the door.


Mark lifted his head from his notes to see Albert
re-entering the conference room.

Kane’s face was grim as he approached.

“Let’s get outta here,” Albert said, laying a hand on Mark’s
shoulder. “I’ve got news.”

The news that Albert had to share actually came in two
pieces, neither of them good. First, DOS Headquarters had received a telephone
communique making express demands. And second, some evidence had surfaced in
Orange County, Virginia.
Evidence that pointed to foul play.

“So this call,” Mark summarized, “was obviously too short to
trace. And, they said- what? Something specific about my resignation.”

“Yours and mine both,” Kane agreed. “Two birds with one
stone. The voice was mechanized, scrambled. But I’ve already got them working
on it downstairs, just to see if there’s any telling nuance they can pick up in

Mark was aware that all incoming calls and outgoing ones as
well were routinely taped at the DOS. Well, if they didn’t have a line trace,
at least a potential voice analysis was something, even if mechanized scrambler
codes were damn hard to break.

Mark balled his right hand into a fist, but kept it clenched
at his side. “And the coat?”

“We’re having it brought to our lab by a State Trooper.”

“But I thought-”

“No,” Albert said, shaking his head. “They’re backing off on
orders from Washington. Like it or not, this whole damn mess is in our laps.”

And on our head, Mark thought. Mark knew there
reasons for the secrecy, not the least of which was the
fact that organizations like the DOS did not theoretically exist. Much of the
areas targeted by the intelligence scare involved operatives from this
top-secret organization and their highly sensitive missions. All DOS needed was
for public word to get out about the Defense Operations Service’s factual
the efficacy of its growing global objective- to annihilate
international terrorism by infiltrating subversive units in its intelligence
gathering efforts.

Ana’s driver’s license and car registration had been found
in the pocket of the coat discovered drifting downstream in an Orange County
river. And a secondary piece of evidence that the state police had refused to
discuss on the phone had also been discovered.

Damn stupid to toss anything in a moving body of water.
Anything somebody didn’t want found, Mark thought, with a shake of his head. It
was an odd custom of Ana’s, Mark and Albert both knew, never to carry a purse.
Anything she ever took with her, even lipstick, had to fit in a pocket
somewhere or another.

“I’m sure it- the coat, sir, if it is Ana’s- is all a part
of the ploy to frighten us.”

Albert slowly shook his head. “Doing a damn good job of it,

Mark stood at an awkward arm’s length from his
father-in-law, unsure of what to do. More than anything, he wanted to make
Albert believe that the coat meant nothing.
Mainly, because
he needed to believe that himself.

“Chief,” Mark said, catching and holding Albert’s red-rimmed
gaze. “Look at this logically. Why just now make their demands, if they’d
But, try as he might,
Mark was unable to finish.

It was then Mark was surprised to find Albert’s two sturdy
arms around him, pulling him tight like a lost, fragile child.

“We’re going to get those bastards,” Albert said in a coarse
whisper, as Mark felt the tightness within his own throat welling to explosive

Mark set his jaw and pulled himself together, before soundly
patting Albert’s back. “Yes, sir,” he said, fighting the frog in his throat and
working his way out of the hug. “Damn straight, we are.”




Major Carolyn
Walker stood next to Captain Charlie Peterson at the DIPAC mainframe database,
and sadly shook her head. “That’s what I was afraid of.”

“No way Mr. Neal could have known this,” Peterson said.
“None of this was active six months ago when he had Maria investigated.”

“So, unless he’d been vigilantly rechecking his sitter’s
background, this is going to come as a very big surprise.”


Carolyn tried to shrug the tension from her shoulders but
failed miserably. There was a blackmail trail as hot as a red potato leading
straight to Maria and Pepe Gonzales’ door. The new post-haste investigation
ordered by Walker had turned up a black limousine, suspected payoffs, and a
whole block of nosy neighbors who were willing to speculate. And, Pepe
Gonzalez’s latest medical records indicated the fifty-eight-year-old man was in
need of expensive heart surgery.

In the middle of this whole god-forsaken
business, somebody had been paying Maria Gonzales off for information about her
Somebody who had targeted Mark Neal and kidnaped Ana
Somebody who was going to fucking pay if Major
Carolyn Walker had anything to do with it.

Carolyn Walker strode into the basement lounge where Maria
was watching her soap opera and grabbed the middle-aged woman by the elbow.
“Let’s go!” she ordered curtly.

“Go?” Maria stood in trepidation and tried to back away.

“But nothing, Mrs. Gonzales,” Carolyn said, clamping down on
the soft flesh of the woman’s arm. “You, lady, are a fork-tongued traitor, and
I and the US Army intend to find out why.”

Maria’s jaw dropped open, then her eyes watered as she
started to protest.

“Save your sorry excuses for the interrogation board.”

.? But I...”

Carolyn straightened her spine and dragged the subordinate
woman toward the door.

You can’t
just take me!
Not like this!
I need...” She fumbled in her pocket as
tears strained to break free from her clouded gaze. “Don’t I get a call?
A lawyer?”

Carolyn spewed a laugh.

“No, Mees Walker, you can’t do this!” Maria called, still
struggling in her grasp. “Dees much of the law I know!”

Carolyn cast a disdainful eye toward the glaring television.
“You watch too much TV.”

“No!” Maria shouted, slapping Carolyn’s wrist.

Carolyn whirled suddenly, gripped both of the woman’s arms
and twisted them behind her back. “Very poor etiquette, Ms. Gonzales. For an
organization, not to mention an employer, who’s shown you so much hospitality,
I demand more respect.”

“And, what,” Maria asked, her plump torso starting to
tremble, “are you planning to do to me?”

“Talk, Maria.
Pure and simple.
can make it easy on yourself or you can make it hard.”

“A lawyer?” Maria pleaded, helplessly imprisoned in
Carolyn’s arms.

“We make our own laws at the DOS,” Carolyn said, shoving the
woman forward and into the hall, “and you, sister, have just broken our golden


Mark stood at the edge of the bubbling river watching the
white and gray waters skirt over scattered rocks. To the east, the sun rose
over towering oaks that peppered a clear blue sky with lingering gold
medallions. Ana was
, he had to believe it. Had
to find a way to prove it, both to himself and to Albert, who had worked far
too hard toward a reconciliation to lose his daughter now. And Mark was not
about to lose his wife or the mother of his child. Despite their differences,
in spite of the troubles that had gone on between them these past few months,
there was no one Mark had ever loved more than Ana Kane. No, love was too
ineffective a word. What Mark felt for Ana went beyond love. It was
consumption, a passion that had seized him from that very first moment and
refused to let go. There was something about her,
, a melancholy longing, that only Mark understood. And
together, each of them was better, stronger, than they’d ever been apart.

Mark had hoped
had waited more
than forty years, to find a woman who fit his life. And Ana not only fit it,
she filled it- completely. But now that she was gone, Mark felt nothing but
burning empty. Empty and angry, he realized. Angry enough to detonate every
building and smash every sick bastard’s head this side of Richmond, if that’s
what was necessary to bring Ana back. But this wasn’t just a Virginia problem
and Mark knew it. This wasn’t just a US problem either. Yet, as US intelligence
appeared the target, America was certainly the bull’s eye on the board. All
Mark had to do was find out
was throwing the
goddamned darts.

Mark heard the car phone alert in the sedan parked behind
him. Albert popped open the passenger door and lifted the trilling receiver.

“I see... When... No, absolutely. You did the right thing in
letting me know...”

“And?” Mark asked, heading back up the boat launch that led to
the river.

“That was Mooney on the line.”

Mark’s stomach soured. It seemed nothing ever involving Tom
Mooney meant positive news. Former Ambassador Tom Mooney had been appointed to
Costa Negra at the time of Ana’s earlier kidnaping. He was now stationed back
stateside as head of the US State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and
Research. Mooney and Albert Kane went back a long way, Mark had learned.
Longer than anyone had originally suspected.

Mark waited.

“Seems all hell’s busting loose all over the place.” Albert
said, removing his glasses. “Joe McFadden’s gone AWOL on some top security
mission in the Middle East. Seems he’s got a five hundred “K” bounty on his

Mark whistled. Other than Albert’s friend, Mooney was also
Joe McFadden’s uncle. They were each the only family the other had left.

When Mark first met McFadden in Costa Negra, the tension
between them had been explosive enough to ignite the atom bomb. But afterward,
once they’d been forced to work together toward the common worthy objective of
freeing hostage Ana Kane, Mark and Joe had developed a grudging respect for one
another. Later on, that qualified admiration had developed into something more
akin to friendship. A friendship that appeared to go the way of the wind once
Ana’d broken off her relationship with Joe and taken up instead, more
indefinitely, with Mark.

Mark looked at Albert and noticed the older man seemed
unsteady, a condition rare for a seasoned professional like Kane. In fact, Mark
had only seen Albert with that expression on his face once before. And it had
been in the north of Spain, just over three years ago.

This have
anything to do with the
analyst scare?”

“I’m afraid damn not,” Albert said, repositioning his
glasses. “For once, McFadden’s disappearance and Ana’s abduction have nothing
whatsoever to do with one another.”

So why then did Mark have the kinetic sensation that somehow
they did? “Better check back with HQ and see what they’ve got on that coat,” he
said, heading back around the car to the driver’s door.

Mark was just pulling open his car door when a slight ping
whizzed by his right ear.

“Jesus Christ!” he said, diving onto the driver’s seat.
“Down, Albert!
Get down!”

The rapid ratatat of submachine fire sliced from the nearby
trees and shattered the sedan’s rear window.

“Holy shit,” Albert said, scrambling toward the floor, “set
it in gear!”

Mark righted himself as much as possible while still dipping
beneath the dash. He cranked the ignition, set the car in reverse and floored
the pedal.

The car lurched backwards as another round of gunfire tore
loose, this time splintering the windshield.

“Think they like us?” Albert asked, clutching onto the seat
and the side of his door, as Mark wheeled the car around and spun onto the
narrow dirt road.

Mark grimaced and punched the gas. “Think they’d like us
better dead,” he said, as tires squealed in rapid revolution. “Hang on, Chief,”
Mark said, as the accelerator zipped past sixty. “We’re going for a little

A new round of gunfire ripped through the back of the car,
pock-marking the two front-seat
head rests

“Sure as hell hope so,” Albert breathed, as Mark leaned into
the wheel and took off like a bat out of hell.


Major Walker sat at the sparse rectangular table with three
other people. DOS protocol officer Sergeant Steve Alexander, Maria Gonzales,
and John James, the best JAG lawyer DOS had. They had Maria purposely
surrounded. Though she was technically free to leave, they weren’t about to let
her know it. The ring-around effect was a part of the intimidation.

“So, Ms. Gonzales,” John said, speaking slowly and
deliberately, his clear eyes glinting above his aquiline nose. “Would you like
to tell us what this is all about?”

Would you like...? Man, oh man, was John good.
opening threats just a clear opportunity for Maria to come clean.
studied the woman directly across from her and picked up the twitch in those
dark brown eyes.

“Eees not like you think!
Not like you say...” Maria began,
shifting her eyes repeatedly between John’s steady gaze and the center of the

Other books

Pleasantville by Attica Locke
One of the Guys by Ashley Johnson
Wedding Bell Blues by Meg Benjamin
Dirty by Debra Webb
The Neon Bible by John Kennedy Toole
Digging the Vein by Tony O'Neill Copyright 2016 - 2024