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“I’ll need you to cover me,” she explained, “and the Humvee is the best place for that. You can’t watch my back if someone shoots you. Okay. This is going to get ugly. Can you handle that?”

“I’ve handled ugly.”

“Not like this.” She paused for a second. “My best guess is that these guys think they’re here for Kevin and you. There’s a chance I’m already dead, as far as the people who matter are concerned. That means I have to do things differently than I usually would. I can do only those things that Kevin could do. It’s going to be old school, and we won’t be able to leave any survivors.”

He swallowed, but nodded once more.

“All right, take the night-vision goggles, you’re driving.”

She truly wished he didn’t have to see what was coming – to see her the way she was going to have to be – but there was no help for it now.

As they drove carefully through the barn door, the dogs silent in the back of the Humvee except for some heavy breathing, she could feel herself changing, getting ready. It was going to be both ugly and very, very messy. That was, if they didn’t get her first.

She pulled a small syringe from a bag in her pack. Her last, but then, if she didn’t use it now, she might not live to need it another night.

“Do you trust me?” she asked him.

“Yes.” The way he said it gave unusual weight to the simple affirmative.

“I’ve got only this one dose left, so we’re going to have to share a needle, like junkies. My blood’s clean, I promise.”

She stabbed herself in the leg and depressed the plunger a little less than halfway. Daniel was bigger than she was.

“What is it?” he asked nervously.

She’d forgotten. He didn’t like needles. “A synthesis of dextroamphetamine and an opioid – kind of like… adrenaline and painkillers. It will help you keep going if you get shot.” Anywhere but the head or heart, she didn’t add.

He nodded, and then very carefully kept his eyes forward as she stabbed him through his jeans and into his thigh. He didn’t wince. She pushed the rest of the solution into his body. It was enough to last for thirty minutes at most.

“How well can you see?”

“Surprisingly well.”

“Can we go faster?”

He stepped on the gas as his answer.

“When you’re in place,” she instructed, “get in the backseat and crack open these little side windows. Shoot anything human that isn’t me. I shouldn’t be hard to pick out – I’ll be a lot smaller than anyone else you’ll see.”

His lips tightened again.

“You stay in here no matter what, you got that?”

He nodded.

“Are you going to have a problem shooting these people?”

“No.” He said it forcefully, then clenched his teeth.

“Good. Anything goes wrong – your gun jams, someone gets into the Humvee somehow, whatever, you throw a grenade out the window. That’s the signal that you need help. Do you know how to use a grenade?”

“What’s your signal?”


“If you need my help, what’s your signal?”

“My signal is stay in the car, Daniel. The grenade?”

“I think so,” he grumbled.

“This might take a little while, so don’t get antsy. I won’t start an interrogation until I have everything secured. Oh, pull the goggles off before you throw a grenade, or close your eyes. Look out for flares – they’ll blind you.”

“Got it.”

Suddenly, a phone rang.

Daniel jumped a foot, hitting his head on the low ceiling.

“The hell?” Alex shouted.

“It’s Kevin’s phone,” Daniel said, patting his vest frantically with his right hand. He dug the phone out of a snap pocket meant for ammo. She took it from him as he fumbled with it.

An unfamiliar number glowed on the display. She jabbed the answer button.

“Danny?” Kevin barked in her ear.

“Rotten timing, Beach! He’ll call you back!”

“Put him on, you —”

She hung up and powered the phone off.

“Stay focused. You can call him back when we’re finished.”

“No problem.”

Well, Kevin was alive. She supposed that was good news. Except someone was going to have to tell him his retirement arrangements were gone and his friend was dead.

“What are you going to do?” Daniel asked. “Tell me the plan so I know what to watch for.”

“You’re going to ram through the gate, if they closed it. That will get their attention. We’ll tweak the plan if there are more than four waiting. You accelerate up to the house, then turn right so that your side of the vehicle is exposed. Four or less, you slow down, but don’t stop. I’ll slide out. Hopefully, they’ll stay focused on you. Keep going a few yards, then stop driving and start shooting. I’ll hit them from the side. You shoot to kill. I will try to get someone down that I can still talk to. I’m hoping that somebody is passed out in my room upstairs, too. I’ll take Einstein to keep the other dogs off me. Khan stays with you. If they hole up in the house, I’ll get back in and we’ll come in through the wall.”

“I can see the gate. It’s open.”

“Punch it up to the house.”

He accelerated.