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The Mercenaries: Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Freedom Star Aviation
Near Sacramento, California
0905 Hours Local Time
After spending a restful week of wine tasting in Napa Valley, Michael "Mad Dog" Hertzog was ready for some work. All those years spent in the Marine Corps had taken their toll: He wasn't able to play for much longer than a week at a time. He just got antsy, didn't know what to do with himself, and felt as though his life were slipping away because he wasn't doing something productive.
His recent bout with colon cancer, now in remission, had made him even more restless. Though only in his forties, his life clock ticked louder now, and retirement, it seemed, would be a living hell.
Thank God for Kat, who had talked him out of closing up shop. They would continue working as mercs and see what happened. More important, she was now teaching him how to relax. Ms. Katharina Kugelkerl had reminded him that he was on vacation, that he should slow down, that they both needed time to mend their hearts and minds. The gunshot wound she'd sustained back in Uzbekistan was healing nicely, although her shoulder was still very sore.
The men he had lost during that same job still whispered in his ears, and they weren't going away. Part of him didn't want them to; he deserved to be miserable. He had hauled them across the globe, not realizing they were set up by the Russians to take the fall for the president of Uzbekistan's assassination.
Mad Dog thought they were doing the CIA a favor, thought they were helping out the American military, thought they would kill a terrorist, collect theirmoney, and go home. He had never been more wrong about anything in his life, and now he saw that he had to pay for his sins with ulcers, alcoholism, and insomnia, something . . .
Yet every time he looked at Kat, he knew he should forgive himself. She made him feel grateful to be alive.
A glance in her direction confirmed that. She had pulled her beautiful blond locks into a bun and wrestled herself into an eye-catching pair of jeans and tight blouse. With her Chanel sunglasses impaling her thick hair, she squinted and did another walk around the helicopter, an MD520N with NOTAR (no tail rotor) technology identical to the one they'd lost back in Uzbekistan.
They were standing on the tarmac in the cool morning air, waiting for the assistant sales manager to come out and take them into his office to close the deal. They would have the chopper shipped back to the Philippines and use it as part of a new training contract they'd signed with the Philippine army.
The job was aboveboard and involved teaching commandoes a few of the more unconventional skills he and his mercs had picked up over the years.
Of course, Kat had talked him into the deal, and it was a small one, to be sure, but it was a start. Tommy Wolfgang and the still recuperating Billy Pope were back home, already coordinating with the C.O.'s, Pope doing his part from a wheelchair, God bless him.
Mr. Bibby had returned to England to spend a few weeks with his friends from MI6, but just before he left, he shook Mad Dog's hand and said, "Mr. Hertzog, working for you has been quite interesting. I won't soon forget Angola, Uzbekistan, and all the other shitholes we've visited over the years. I trust you won't, either."
"No, I won't."
The Brit had nodded and climbed into the taxi, bound for the airport.
"He's always been an odd bird," Kat had said. "Sounded like he was saying good-bye for good."
"Who knows, maybe he was. After what we've just been through, I wouldn't blame him. He's threatened to quit before."
"But he always comes back, huh?"
"Glutton for punishment, maybe. I think he just takes pity on me, and he gets off on being the brains behind this operation."
"He's a smart man. But he does have one fatal flaw."
"Oh, yeah? What's that?"
"He keeps too many secrets. And when there's a lot to hide, you become too occupied keeping inventory because there's a lot to risk."
Mad Dog shuddered off the memory and drifted behind Kat. He wrapped his arms around her torso and let his cheek brush against hers. She smelled like that jasmine bath soap, intoxicating. "You like your new toy?"
"Yeah, but I wish he'd shave."
He chuckled. "Is that all I am?"
"Of course not. Otherwise I'd replace you with a zucchini." She pulled out of his grip, gestured to the chopper. "So, what do you think?" She tugged open the pilot's door. "Is this a bargain, or is this a bargain?"
"We should've gone to Wal-Mart. I saw in the ad that they got Chinese-made helicopters at half price. This week only."
"Yeah, but they get you on the weapons package. It's way overpriced. And you know, beggars can't be choosers."
"Yeah, now we're beggars." Mad Dog glanced up, spotted the pudgy sales guy tottering toward them. "Well, let's go spend some money."
They turned back toward the salesman, whose expression had grown very long. "Mr. Hertzog, I'm afraid we have a problem."
Mad Dog looked at Kat, who frowned.
Yaroslavsky Railway Station
2010 Hours Local Time
Every other day the Rossiya—Russia—Train Number 2 left Yaroslavsky Station in Moscow on its seven day journey east to Vladivostok. The ride covered 9,258 kilometers, or over six thousand miles, and was one of the longest and most famous train excursions in the world. The train had second-class four-berth compartments and first-class two-berth compartments, a restaurant car, and several cargo carriages.
Sergei Svetlanov, twenty-nine, as "new" a Russian as they came, would never travel with the peasants and tourists jammed into a kupe, and risk having one of his silk suits soiled, let alone his reputation. That would be barbaric, to say the least.The Mercenaries: Mad Dogs and Englishmen. Copyright © by P. Storm. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.