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Jack Weaver stood naked on the terrace staring out into the glorious Colombian sunset. He tossed his Gerber Trident combat knife from hand to hand. He had been in tight spots before but the situation he found himself in now left him with one hell of a decision to make.
"Raul?" A sultry voice came from the bedroom behind him.
Jack responded to his undercover name. "Si?"
"What are you doing, lover? Come back to bed." She whined in Spanish and patted the silken sheets on the monstrous king size bed. "We have hours yet before the dinner party."
Jack walked back into the bedroom continuing to toss the wicked looking blade as he glanced at the luscious dark haired beauty stretched catlike on the satin maroon comforter. She was the most beautiful woman Carlos had sent him to date. They had just completed a kick ass round of hot sex and he wished he could go one more round, but he wouldn't be able to concentrate. He could leave now and wreck six months of excellent undercover work trying to bring down the largest and most dangerous drug cartel in Colombia, or he could stay and ignore a planned assassination attempt on the life of the new President-Elect on Inauguration Day.
He placed the knife on a walnut dresser, which matched the four-poster bed. The beauty of the hand carved richness of the wood and intricacy of the design was not lost on him. He appreciated fine things, including the woman watching him now. Jack approached the bed, much like a panther approaching its prey. He crawled onto the bed beside her and patted her beautifully rounded derrière. God, she was gorgeous.
"You have to go Angelina. I need to get ready for the party andI can't do that with you lying there looking good enough to eat."
She stretched and reached for him. "Just one more kiss, Raul. Then I'll be a good girl and go." Jack leaned in and kissed her on the mouth. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her soft breasts against his rock hard chest. "That's more like it," she purred.
Jack, known only as Raul Ramirez to Angelina, broke off the kiss and unwound her arms from his neck. "You really do need to go. If all goes well tonight, I will send for you and we will pick up where we left off. I'm going to take a shower and I want you gone when I get back." Jack stood abruptly and crossed the thick Persian carpet to the bathroom. He felt her eyes watch him as he went, but he heard her slither off the bed. He left the bathroom door open so he could hear her when she left.
When he heard the door to his suite close, he turned on the shower. Steam began to rise as the hot water streamed onto the shiny black tile. This is a hell of a mess, Jack thought, soaping his nearly perfect body. His long black hair streamed past his shoulders as the shampoo was rinsed away. The muscles he scrubbed were well defined and solid, signs of a disciplined mind. His role as the chief of security for one of the most powerful drug cartels in Colombia gave him many privileges, some of which he would miss if he chose to go, but instinctively, he knew what he had to do. He stepped out of the shower and wrapped a fluffy black towel around his waist. He stared into the mirror.
The reflection revealed a tall man finely proportioned and well toned. He slicked back his wavy hair into a ponytail and tied it with a leather thong. He took a moment to study his reflection. It was a face he'd begun to accept as his own with premature creases lining his thirty-two year old forehead. The high cheekbones, the slightly pointed nose, and the square jaw belonged to him, but the black goatee and the jagged scar that ran from his right temple to the bottom of his ear did not.
Brilliant green eyes filled with worry stared back at Jack from the mirror. Those eyes reminded him of the ocean in Fort Lauderdale, where he grew up. These eyes, like the rest of him, lied. Their color today wasn't even close to the natural chocolate brown he'd been born with, courtesy of his Cuban mother. Jack placed both hands palms down on the smooth marble surface. Why did these things always happen to him?
Jack Weaver, a.k.a., Raul Ramirez had been in a lot of uncomfortable places, and done a lot of uncomfortable things. First a Navy SEAL and then working for the CIA, Jack saw more than any man should see, but no matter where he was, from an Iraqi desert to a drug lord's palace on a Colombian mountain top, Jack got the job done. Currently, a CIA operative working on special assignment for the DCI Crime and Narcotics Center, Jack was gathering evidence in order to shut down one of the most active drug cartels in Northern Colombia. Posing as Cortez's chief of security, Jack knew all there was to know about the operation and had enough criminal evidence to lock Cortez up for many lifetimes. He only wished he had more time. He might be missing the one piece that would lock the case up tight and prevent some slick lawyer from flushing a year's worth of work down the toilet.
Jack was used to tough decisions. He made them every day. Why then was this one so hard? He knew why. Normally he only had one mission. That made the decision easy to make. This time he had two options, both of which were equally important. He was going to be forced to choose. Jack paused mid-step on his way back into the bedroom. Or would he?
Jack went to his laptop on the nightstand. Because he was head of security, it only took a few key strokes to disable the cell phone monitoring device at the mansion. Pulling his overnight bag from beneath the bed, he took his cell phone out of a side pocket in the bag, the untraceable one he only used for true emergencies. He punched in a number and waited for her to pick it up.
"Yeah Lucy, it's me. Listen, I don't have much time to talk but I need you to do something for me. I mailed some discs containing vital information to my P.O. Box in D.C. I need you to go pick them up and copy them. Put one set in a very safe place. I will call you in a day or two and tell you what to do with the other set. You got that?"
"Yes, I've got it, but what's going on Jack, you sound really troubled. I can hear it in your voice"
"That's because I am." Jack began to take clothes out of his dresser and toss them on the bed. He pulled out two pair of jeans, some green and brown camouflage pants and four t-shirts. He stuffed them into the overnight bag. "Lucy, I uncovered some really bad shit down here. I can't talk about it on an unsecured line. I also have to ask you for your complete confidence. Don't tell anyone I've called you or that I said there was trouble with the assignment. I will hook up with you later because I am coming back to the States tonight. Just do what I told you with those discs. It's very important. I've got a feeling all hell is going to break loose where I am now." He sat down on the soft comforter.
"Okay, Jack. I'll copy the discs and keep them safe. You just take care of yourself. I love you. Call me when you get back."
"I will, Lucy. Thanks for everything. Talk to you later." Jack hung up. He reached over to the laptop and with a few more keystrokes reactivated the satellite monitoring device. Becoming chief of security for a drug lord was not without sacrifice but Jack was the best and sacrifice was no stranger to him. The kills he'd performed for this scum bag would keep most people up at night but not Jack. In life there was law and there was justice. Doing what he could to prevent drugs being sold in his home country was his primary mission and bringing down the largest cartel in Colombia would put a serious dent in the trade. It probably wouldn't stop it but Cortez supplied thousands of dealers and Jack could save thousands of lives. He just hoped what was on those discs would get the job done.
He glanced over at the overnight bag. Leaning over it, he sighed deeply. He would miss the luxury, and he would miss the women. Jack groaned. Oh God, how he would miss the women. How many jobs do you get that come with free sex just by asking? Being Chief of Security came with more danger than Jack liked to think about, but the perks sure made it worth it. He smiled as he thought about Angelina's hot body. Yes, definitely worth it, but Jack was nothing if not committed to his job and his country. With the information he possessed, it was likely he would be arrested if he did not act upon it. He had a great deal of data to de-code and analyze in a short window of time. The inauguration was in January and it was already November. To save the President-Elects life he must go home now. He just hoped Lucy would do as he'd asked and copy the information on the cartel that he was sending to her. If he could complete his assignment here and save the future President's life, he would consider that a job well done.
Jack looked into the half packed bag and took inventory. He laid the knife he retrieved from the dresser gently on the burgundy comforter and picked up the small digital camera and two discs that were lying next to the bag. He unzipped the hidden liner at the bottom of the bag and slipped his treasures inside. If Carlos Cortez's men discovered these discs he was a dead man.
Jack shook his head. It didn't matter now any way. After he'd discovered the secret files that described the sketchy details of what a man calling himself the Emperor planned to do to President-Elect Michael Hardy, Jack could not trust this information to anyone until he got to Washington. He would just turn in what he had on the cartel and pray it would be enough.
His impromptu plan was to leave tonight after this swanky party Carlos had cooked up. Word was there was some hot shot American looking to make a deal with Cortez; a really big deal. Jack wished he could stay around and grab that information from the computer in Carlos's inner sanctum tomorrow, but there was no time. He planned on using one of his many other aliases to get out of the country, and by this time tomorrow night he would be back in his own apartment in Washington D.C.
Jack tossed in some underwear and a few toiletries. He zipped the bag closed and slipped it beneath the bed. No sense having a maid poking around in here and raising questions. He knew Carlos had no plans to travel for the next few weeks. If she saw his suitcase packed and ready to go she would alert the rest of the staff and he would be questioned. He used his foot to kick the bag further under the bed, definitely not a good idea for this to be seen.
Jack looked at his Rolex. Ten minutes until show time. He put on some underwear, his tuxedo pants and the freshly starched shirt. He reached for the black bow tie. He struggled with it in the mirror. Damn it, he hated these things. He always struggled with getting them straight. After three attempts and a mouthful of curses, he finally succeeded. Strapping on the shoulder holster, he inserted his beloved SIG P-226. Raising his pant leg he picked up the knife from where it lay on the goose down comforter and slipped it into its custom made sheath. Lowering his pant leg he patted the leather sheath for good luck. That knife and the SIG were the only partners he'd ever needed or wanted.
Straightening, Jack picked up his jacket from the chaise lounge. He stood for a moment near the double French doors, which led out onto the stone balcony where he'd watched the sunset earlier. It was the most beautiful view Jack had ever seen. He looked through the beveled glass onto the mountains beyond. From just beyond the manicured gardens he could see the peaks and valleys of the mountainous terrain. On calm nights you could hear the calls of the wild life from that balcony. He liked the solitude of the dark and the sounds of the night. It settled him. He would miss that.
It was on that very balcony, working on his laptop in the middle of the night, he found The Emperor file. In addition to being a highly trained killer, Jack excelled with technology. He frequently used his laptop to hack into Carlos's computer in the inner sanctum, a name Jack gave to Carlos's private office. He discovered the plot quite by accident. Being the curious sort, he tried to access the file. It was naturally encrypted with several layers of protection, but no match for Jack's extraordinary skill. He out shined the tech people Carlos had working for him by a long shot. He quickly worked his way through, peeling away layer after layer, until he had access. What he found made his patriotic blood run cold.
Walking away from the window, he slipped the jacket on and buttoned it. He sighed again. It fit him like a glove. Yes, he was going to miss all the well-designed clothes, gourmet food, and the gorgeous women, but he had a duty to serve and protect his country. If he didn't figure out the identity of this Emperor character and resolve this plot to kill the President-Elect, then everything he stood for would be for nothing. He had not been trained by the best and become the best at what he did by sitting back and ignoring trouble. Now that he knew Michael Hardy was in danger, it was his duty to protect him.
Lucky for Jack, Carlos kept some records of transactions with The Emperor, but there were pieces missing. Within a few hours, Jack read enough about the elaborate plot to kill the President of the United States on his Inauguration Day, but he lacked vital information on who was involved and where the hit would occur. It could be during the ceremony or one of the many elaborate balls that followed. One additional piece of information Jack uncovered shocked him. Another name was listed in the transaction records, Senator Warren Walters. He had a code name as well, Asno, jackass in Spanish. Jack had smiled at that. He agreed with Carlos's assessment of the Senator. Warren currently served on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and was a former SEAL teammate of Jack's. Jack snorted, thinking of Warren; yes, he had to agree with Carlos's pet name, Asno. Jack wondered why Warren's name appeared in the file. Being the current Vice President elect, he would step in if the President died. Coincidence? No, Jack didn't believe in coincidences.
When Jack finished that night, he had just enough information to feel confident that the hit was planned and being carried out. Now, the trick was to return safely to the states and try to link everything he found together in order to bring down Carlos Cortez, his drug cartel, Warren, and the Emperor.
First though, he had to get through tonight. Jack had spent all day prepping his staff. They were going to run metal detectors at the door, keep armed guards patrolling the perimeter closer to the house, and keep another team of armed guards at the gate. Something big was going down in Carlos's study tonight and afterward there was to be a celebration. Jack hated these "celebrations" because it usually meant a long night and he had a flight to catch.
A sharp knock on the door snapped Jack to attention. Old military habits died hard. "Carlos is ready for you, Raul."
Jack replied in flawless Spanish. "Be right down, Miguel." Jack took a last look in the mirror, wishing he could shake the sense of foreboding that plagued him since he'd uncovered the file. Maybe it was the information he had on this Emperor, and the fact that it bugged him not knowing what role Carlos himself was playing in this little dance with the devil. He just couldn't put his finger on it, but something wasn't right. He just felt it.
Softly closing the door to his room, Jack proceeded down the elaborately decorated hallway to the back elevator. He still marveled at the artwork that lined the walls. Carlos had a fondness for American painters, particularly Jackson Pollock. A few paintings by Pollock hung on the walls along with some other famous American artists. Jack couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Looked like spilled paint on canvas to him, but what did he know?
He silently made his way down the carpeted hallway. He waited patiently for the elevator that would take him down to the first floor and directly into Carlos's personal office; a totally secure room and the only place in the compound not covered with security cameras. There could be no visual or auditory record of what went down in the inner sanctum. Jack had seen money exchanged in that office that would make Warren Buffet wince.
The elevator doors slid silently open and Jack stepped into the study. He entered the room from the back and began his scan. His training taught him to complete this task in seconds. He saw Carlos seated at his desk leaning back, smiling and relaxed. The man accross the desk turned to face Jack. His eyes widened in shock. Nothing could have prepared him for this.
"Hello, Jack," the man said, in English.
Jack saw Carlos' head whip around at the use of his given name. "No, you must be mistaken," Carlos, said to the man, his eyes suddenly wary. "This is Raul Ramirez, my number one man. He is the one I've been telling you about."
The man in the wing back chair stood and reached his hand into his jacket. "No, Carlos, he's MY one man. This is Jack Weaver; he works for me in the CIA."
It all happened so fast. Anger flooded Carlos's expression as he began to reach under the desk. Jack knew what was under that desk and without thinking he reacted. He whipped his SIG out of his shoulder holster and fired. Carlos's head snapped back and then fell forward, brain matter spattering all over the expensive mahogany desk and the window behind it. A soft thud sounded as the gun Carlos grabbed from under the desk hit the thick carpet.
The man across from the desk turned gun in hand. "Nice shot, Jack. You've taken care of one problem, but I'm afraid you've created another." The man rose and started to reach into his jacket. In a split second Jack fired again. The bullet caught the man square in the chest and exploded out his back. The force of the shot tumbled him backward over the chair.
Jack had to act fast. Within seconds his men would be through that door. They didn't have keys and were told only to break the door down if they heard something unusual. Gun shots, would be unusual.
Jack ran to the fallen man and grabbed his gun. He aimed at Carlos's messy brain and fired again. Placing the gun back in the man's hand he stood for a few seconds. Think Jack, think. Acting quickly, Jack reached into the leather sheath at his ankle and withdrew his knife. He already heard the banging on the study door. He only had a few seconds. Somehow he had to make his men think he'd been attacked. Rushing back around the desk he turned Carlos' body to face the direction of the man on the chair. Coming back around the desk he knew what had to come next. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Jack plunged the six-inch knife into his thigh just above his knee, skillfully avoiding the artery. He swallowed the cry that threatened to escape and nearly fainted from the searing pain. Bile rose into his throat and he let it come. He vomited all over the expensive carpet. That should make it more believable, he thought grimly.
Falling to his knees, he had barely seconds to look into the man's cold dead eyes before the study door crashed open and Carlos's entourage of security burst into the room. Jack stared at the man who had taught him everything he knew, the honorable, Kent Larson, Deputy Director of the CIA.