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"Hey, Holly," Will Griffin said into his collar mike as he winked at his brother. "The gig's a wrap. This was the right location, after all. Send the recovery teams over here and sweep up. Matt's calling in his crew."
"Roger that, Will," she answered, her heavy sigh audible in his ear. "Big relief. See you in fifteen."
He cut contact and sucked in a deep, fortifying breath of night air. It stank of cordite mixed with the breeze from a nearby cabbage field.
"That girl's got a bad crush on you, bro," Matt teased. "When are you planning to give her a break?"
Will laughed, adrenaline pumping through his system. "Can't play where I work. Rule number one."
"Aw, man! You better leave her team then and come on back to work with me. Keep wasting time and you'll be too old to do anything about it." He chuckled. "We look enough alike. Think she'd go for me?"
"You lay off Holly."
"Strike the word off and it's a deal," Matt quipped.
Will ignored that and deliberately changed the subject. "Wonder why this guy Odin didn't show tonight. He's supposed to be a Cauc and all these guys are foreigners." He glanced at the bodies.
Matt shrugged. "No reason to get his hands dirty doing gruntwork, I guess."
Odin was the code name for a mysterious man who supposedly was outfitting a group of terrorists with weapons, in this case a cache of easily transportable missiles and also a crate of submachine guns confiscated off the streets by the local police.
Will looked at the little prop plane he had just exited after checking out the shipment. Surface-to-air Stinger missiles stolen from nearby Picatinny Arsenal filled the passenger section, where the seats had been removed.
Three of the gang lay dead on the runway, another was propped unconscious, cuffed hand and foot, against one of the wheels. There were two more near the delivery truck. They wouldn't be transporting any more SAMs or anything else unless the devil put them to work.
Will checked the nifty little MP5K Heckler and Koch submachine gun slung from the strap over his shoulder. "Barrel's still hot as a firecracker," he muttered as he reloaded.
Matt put down his weapon on the tarmac and started ripping off his Kevlar vest. "I'm sweating like a mule in harness. I hate wearing these damn things."
They were covered head to toe in black. It might be November, but even at 11:00 p.m. it was muggy as hell and felt like the moon was giving off heat. Will yanked his knit mask off and wiped his brow with it.
A movement near the hangar caught his eye. "Down!" he warned Matt just as the figure popped off three rounds. He saw the fire, heard the reports and the thunk as one shot pierced the metal fuselage of the plane. Nine-millimeter handgun, he guessed, whipping up his automatic to sweep the area.
Rapid fire erupted. "God, this is it!" Matt cried, and threw himself in front of Will, crashing into him, knocking him flat. Will's weapon spat rounds to one side, striking the aircraft.
This is it. His brother's words rang repeatedly, like thunder in his head, fading slowly to a whisper and then to absolute silence. Matt was hit.
Will tried but couldn't move. Didn't want to. Not apathy, exactly, just resignation. Warm blood oozed across his eyelids.
Matt lay across his chest, heart against heart. Same beat. It felt familiar. Like back in the womb maybe, when they'd been crowded together waiting to be born.
Me first again. The cocky words were Matt's and only in Will's mind, their connection a twin thing long accepted. Will desperately wanted to argue, but something distracted him. Someone was approaching. No sound. No sight. He just sensed it somehow.
He wished it were Holly and the team, but he knew better. There would be no goodbyes. Matt was right. This was it.
Saint Clare's Hospital, Dover, N.J. - November 18
Holly Amberson felt a pain in her chest, an ache of fear and frustration. It was a mere echo of what Will must be experiencing if he had any lucid thoughts at all.
She wished they would airlift him to Bethesda. Newton had been the nearest hospital and their trauma unit excellent, but Will obviously needed more expertise.
"Six days now," she whispered to Jack Mercier, who had just arrived for his turn at Will's bedside.
"Other than reflexive responses, nothing."
Jack tightly controlled his expression, but fury mixed with desperation shone in his eyes despite that. "Will's going to come out of this soon, Holly. There's plenty of brain activity."
She nodded and released a sigh. "And some rapid eye movement awhile ago. Dreaming, I guess."
At least he was breathing well on his own, and so far the doctors hadn't ordered a feeding tube. However, another day or so without his regaining consciousness and they would.
Jack nudged Holly's arm with the back of his hand. "Go home and grab a nap. You've got a case in progress and you can't run it with no sleep. Go on back to the motel."
It was standard procedure to have someone on duty whenever a government agent who dealt with special access compartmental classified information underwent medical treatment that required anesthesia, or lost temporary control of his faculties due to illness or injury. Any agent with the appropriate security clearance could be detailed to perform the task, but members of the Sextant team elected to take turns at sentinel duty with one of their own.
The Sextant team, based in McLean, Virgina, was made up of agents that the Director of Homeland Security had recruited from various government organizations expressly for the purpose of preventing or terminating terrorist activities. Holly had been with the FBI. After enlistment in the Marines, Will had worked for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, along with his twin. Jack Mercier, a National Security Agency alumnus, headed up the team.
Three other agents added to the Sextant pool, also drawing on their former resources.
Joe Corda came directly from the Drug Enforcement Agency and had spent three years before that as an Army Ranger. Clay Senate, CIA veteran, remained something of an enigma. Holly reminded herself that she needed to spend a little more time around Clay so she could figure him out. As a natural loner, he seemed to have the hardest time adjusting to teamwork. Eric Vinland, boy genius and resident psychic, hailed from Navy Intelligence.
Excerpted from Under The Gun by Lyn Stone Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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