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Daniel was rubbing his wrist and looking confused. “Dog?”

“If he’s not one hundred percent —” Kevin threatened.

“Your dog will be fine. Now, I need to ask you a few questions.”

Daniel looked up at her, wild-eyed. “What?”

She glanced at him and shook her head. “Not like that. Just a normal exchange of information.” She turned back to Kevin. “Can we talk calmly for just a few minutes, please? Then I’ll get out of your hair.”

“In your dreams, psycho. We’ve got unfinished business.”

She raised her eyebrows over her blooming black eyes. “Can we talk for a few minutes before I put you into a medically induced coma, then?”

“Why would I do anything for you?”

“Because your brother’s safety is involved, and I can tell that’s something that matters to you.”

“You’re the one who pulled Danny into this —”

“That’s not entirely accurate. This is as much about you as it is about me, Kevin Beach.”

He glowered at her. “I already don’t like you, lady. You really don’t want to make that feeling stronger.”

“Relax, black ops. Hear me out.”

Daniel’s eyes were flashing back and forth like he was a spectator at a tennis match.

Kevin glared.

“The CIA thinks you’re dead?” she asked.

He grunted.

“I’ll take that as a yes.”

“Yeah, that’s a yes, you —”

Daniel backhanded the top of Kevin’s head and then scooted out of the way as Kevin made a grab for him. Then Kevin refocused on her.

“And I’m going to keep it that way. I’m retired.”

She nodded, considering. She opened a blank document on her computer and typed a line of random medical terms.

“What are you typing?”

“Notes. Typing helps me think.” Actually, she was sure he would notice if she kept “accidentally” touching the computer to keep it awake, and she might need that trap again today.

“So what does it matter? I died. Danny shouldn’t be a target anymore.”

“I was a target?” Daniel asked.

Kevin propped himself up on his right elbow and leaned toward his brother. “I worked deep undercover, kid. Anyone who connected me to you would have used you as leverage. It’s one of the downsides of the job. That’s why I went through the whole prison charade. As long as on paper Kevin Beach was away, the bad guys wouldn’t know about you. I haven’t been Kevin in a long time.”

“But when I visited —”

“The Agency hooked me up with the warden. When you were on your way, if I could, I’d fly in and do the meeting. If I was unavailable —”

“That’s why you were in isolation. Or they said you were. Not for fighting.”


“I can’t believe you lied to my face for so many years.”

“It was the only thing I could do to keep you safe.”

“What about maybe picking a different job?”

She broke in when the vessels in Kevin’s head started to swell again. “Um, could we put the reunion drama on hold for the moment? I think I’ve got it pieced together. Listen, please. And you’ll tell me if I’m wrong, I’m sure.”

Two nearly identical faces regarded her with nearly opposite expressions.

“Okay,” she continued. “So, Kevin, you faked your death – after the de la Fuentes job, right?” Kevin didn’t respond in any way, so she went on. “That was six months ago, you said. I can only conclude that the Agency was concerned about the lack of a body —”

“Oh, there was a body.”

“Then they were concerned about the inconsistencies with that body,” she snapped. “And they thought of a plan to draw you out, just in case.”

He frowned. He knew his former bosses, just like she knew hers.

“Daniel’s your weak spot – like you said, their leverage against you. They know this. They decide to take him, see what happens. But they know what you’re capable of, and no one wants to be the one left holding the bag if you do turn up alive.”

“But —” Kevin started to say. He stopped himself, probably realizing whatever argument he’d been about to make wouldn’t hold up.

“You’re a problem for the CIA. I’m a problem for my department. At the top, the people involved in both our former workplaces are pretty tight. So they offer me a deal: ‘Do a job for us, and we’ll call off the hunt.’ They must have had it worked out pretty solidly before they contacted me. Fixed the files, got ready to feed me the crisis story I can’t turn my back on. None of them make a move on me because they’ve already sacrificed three assets trying and they don’t want any more losses. They knew I’d come in prepared for anything like that. But, if you were really good, maybe I wouldn’t be prepared enough for you.”

Kevin’s face had changed while she was working it out. “And either way,” he concluded, “one problem gets solved.”

“It’s elaborate. Sounds more like your agency than mine, if I had to guess.”

“Yeah, it does sound like them, actually,” he agreed grudgingly.

“So they put us together like two scorpions in a jar and shake it up,” she said. “One way or another, they get a win on the books. Maybe, if they’re really, really lucky, we take each other out. Or at least weaken the winner. No chance of any losses on their side.”