It’s called the Triple Frontier—the volatile border zone between Paraguay, Brazil, and Argentina, one of the most lawless and deadly regions in the world. It’s a corrupt sanctuary where drug lords, Middle Eastern terrorists, slave traders, and dozens of other violent gangs operate with little or no interference from the law. For special agent Jericho Quinn, it’s the crossroads of hell. Especially when his younger brother Bo gets caught in the fire. Enlisted to protect the son of an IT mogul on a South American trip, Bo and his crew disappear after being kidnapped by a ruthless cartel. Jericho amasses a cartel of his own to take on the most vicious criminals on earth—far from home, without U.S. government sanction, and without mercy.
Mess with the bull, you get the horns—Jericho Quinn style…
“A formidable warrior readers will want to see more of.”—Publishers Weekly
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Alexandria, Virginia Six minutes earlier
Heads down, shoulders heaving, Jericho Quinn and Jacques Thibodaux faced each other, circling for the fifth time in as many minutes. Quinn's dark eyes narrowed above a week's growth of dark beard. Thibodaux's high and tight haircut glistened with perspiration in the orange light that filtered through the spring foliage on the sycamore and oaks. Gravel crunched under their boots on the concrete driveway in front of Emiko Miyagi's colonial brick, a short jog from George Washington's Mount Vernon estate.
Copper skin and a dark beard left him with what his ex-wife called an ambiguous ethnicity. At an extremely fit thirty-seven, he could, and often did, pass for someone of Middle Eastern descent, a Native American like his maternal grandmother, or the deeply tanned son of an Irish fisherman that he was. His shaggy hair was just long enough to curl over the top of his ears.
At five feet-ten, Jericho had held the Alaska state Golden Gloves title in his weight classes through five of the eight years from sixth grade until he graduated high school, and had gone on to box for the United States Air Force Academy, winning the Wing Open his junior year. He'd trained in several martial arts, but leaned toward an ancient form of Japanese jujitsu — with plenty of striking mixed in with joint manipulation and throws. More than a series of techniques, it was a way of strategy. Beyond his years of training, he was an instinctive fighter, born with not only the physique and intelligence for close quarters battle, but the willingness to inflict maximum sudden violence on his fellow man when the need arose.
Officially a special agent with Air Force Office of Special Investigations, he'd been seconded, along with his partner, Marine Gunnery Sergeant Jacques Thibodaux to the office of the national security advisor to the president. When they weren't working, they were training — and according to their instructor, Emiko Miyagi, there was always something to learn.
Thibodaux had Quinn by six inches and sixty pounds. The man was massive — but his were no mere mirror muscles. He had plenty of experience in the octagon, where he fought amateur MMA bouts under the name Dauxboy. The Marine's black eyepatch and an impossibly square jaw added a severity to his already imposing look. Still, his broad face generally held a smile, even in the middle of a fight.
Both men were strategic thinkers, and both knew there were rarely any winners in an actual fight — only those who lived, and those who lost. Real fights were car-wreck quick, emergency-room gory, and brick-to-the-head final.
The problem with fighting someone who sparred with you weekly lay in the fact that you started to learn each other's rhythms, discovering each other's tricks. The benefit, as Miyagi explained, came from the need to constantly adapt in order to conceal one's strategy. If an opponent knew you favored a series of exploratory left jabs prior to bridging the gap of distance, he or she would be ready for the attack long before it came. As such, both Jericho and Jacques varied their movements in an attempt to throw the other off his game.
Neither man was a tentative fighter, though Quinn was a skosh more thoughtful. Thibodaux tended to use his tremendous size to crash in and overwhelm, but when sparring with Quinn the big Cajun often switched things up — as he was doing now — circling, waiting for just the right moment to make his move.
Jacques stutter-stepped, almost tripping on a patch of gravel and glancing for an instant down at his feet. Quinn seized the opportunity and moved in, catching a strike to the nose for his trouble, feeling the cartilage grind under Jacques Thibodaux's forearm.
Neither man was the sort to take it easy in a sparring match; training had to reflect life in order to be beneficial. So, the two men battled like bulls at eighty percent, taking care not to cause serious incapacitating injury. Unfortunately, reality came with a good deal of pain. Each man knew his abilities — and his limits. If a blow would have defined the fight at a hundred percent — the receiver would have no problem conceding that fact. Eighty percent from the mountainous Cajun would be enough to flatten anyone, but Quinn knew how to move, and a broken nose was nothing new to him.
Quinn let his head flow with the Cajun's forearm, following up with machine-gun strikes to Thibodaux's liver and neck as he turned sideways from the momentum of his arm-strike. The big Marine's neck was protected by thick muscles, but Quinn knew it was folly to hit the man in his iron jaw. The liver strikes were sickening, even at eighty percent.
The six-foot-four Cajun winced, both hands raised in surrender. "Fairly certain that one chopped me down to your size, Chair Force." Even in defeat, the Marine couldn't help the little jab at the Air Force. Blood trickled from a small cut Quinn had given him under his left eye.
"Sorry about that," Quinn said, dabbing at his bloody nose while he nodded to the gunny's swelling wound.
Thibodaux waved him off, chuckling. "I ain't no Cinderella, mi ami. Lucky enough I had a pretty face when I needed it to catch Camille."
A compact Asian woman with her hair pulled back in a ponytail stepped onto the concrete driveway from the lawn. Emiko Miyagi wore a white t-shirt and khaki 5.11 cargo pants. The scooping neckline and thin material of the shirt did little to hide the intricate and colorful Japanese tattoos that covered her torso. As the men's instructor, she insisted much of their training occur in street clothes — and most often on an actual street rather than the padded floor of a dojo. In this case, the concrete driveway in front of her brick home provided for the realistic backdrop — as well as plenty of bruises and raspberries for all three of the combatants.
Miyagi was forty-seven years old — but could have easily passed for a woman in her mid-thirties. Where the two men under her tutelage had years of experience in fighting, Miyagi had trained as a killer from her early teens. There was something other-worldly about the way she fought, as if she could anticipate her opponent's moves even before they knew they were about to make them.
Her training sessions always ended with a short bout between the instructor and each man. The fights were not short because she planned them that way, but because it did not take her long to win them. Jacques was good, and Jericho was very good, but Emiko Miyagi was better — a lot better.
* * *
"I truly hate this fighting friends shit," the monstrous Cajun said, four minutes later as he limped across the circular driveway toward a stainless steel water bottle in the shade of Miyagi's porch. He kept his arm tucked in tight against his side, wincing from Quinn's liver strike and the machine gun beating Miyagi had given him to his floating ribs.
Quinn stood at the edge of the driveway beside his gunmetal gray BMW GS Adventure motorcycle and pressed a wad of tissue to his bloody nose. "I'm with you there," he said, sounding like he had a bad cold. Jacques Thibodaux knew how to throw a forearm. That was an undeniable fact.
Miyagi took a long drink from her own water bottle, then shook her head. "Are you such an excellent judge of character, Jacqueskun?" she asked, using the more familiar form of the Japanese honorific san. "Sometimes, those we believe to be our friends turn out to be something else entirely."
"Yeah." Thibodaux rubbed his ribs again and nodded. "I'm gettin' that."
Miyagi canted her head to one side and shrugged at her disbelieving student. "On more than one occasion I have found myself engaged in battle with those who should have cared for me. Each year we read of men and women who believe themselves happily married — until their spouse tries to murder them." She gave a little nod to drive home the seriousness of her point. "Just last week an Alexandria police officer's wife was arrested for attempting to poison him by putting rat poison in his spaghetti."
Quinn sighed, but kept his thoughts to himself. He was sure there were times his ex-wife had been mad enough to feed him dCon.
The big Cajun gave an adamant shake of his head.
"I trust my Camille completely."
"I'm sure many of those involved believed that same thing about their own companion," Miyagi said.
Thibodaux set his jaw, glaring with his good eye. "I'm tellin' you, Camille wouldn't do such a thing."
"But suppose she did," Miyagi said. "What would you do then?"
"But if she did?"
Thibodaux shrugged, as if it were all so clear.
"Then I'd eat the spaghetti. No point in goin' on if the last fourteen years have been a sham."
Miyagi smiled softly, displaying uncharacteristic emotion. "We should all be so fortunate to have —"
The chime of a cellphone cut her off, and caused all three to look at the black leather jacket lying across Quinn's BMW.
Thibodaux shot his friend a quizzical look. "What the hell, Chair Force? Since when did you start using a ringtone?"
A chill ran up Quinn's back. He kept his phone set to vibrate at incoming calls from everyone but the company dispatching his brother's emergency locator beacon.
He dug the cellphone out of his jacket pocket and answered it by the second ring. A male voice that sounded like a college student advised him that an SOS signal had been triggered at 7:46 a.m. local time on a device registered to Boaz Quinn. So far, the company had been unable to make contact with the registered number. Authorities in Buenos Aires had been notified but were not yet on scene.
Quinn looked at the TAG Heuer Aquaracer on his wrist and noted the time. It was 6:54 a.m. Eastern, an hour earlier than Argentina, eight minutes gone from the time of Bo's SOS. He asked the dispatcher to call him back as soon as he had more information, then hung up and started the protocol he and his brother had already worked out. When an SOS went up, it was too late to start planning.
First, he called Bo's cell, getting nothing but voice mail.
He scrolled through the list of contacts Bo had given him while he explained the situation to Jacques and Emiko. Both knew Quinn's brother was on a protection job in South America and they listened intently, stone faced. Neither had to say anything for Quinn to know he had their complete support. At length, Quinn found the number he was looking for and called the personal cell number for the man who had employed Bo's services.
"Riley Grey," the voice said.
"My name is Jericho Quinn. I just received an SOS message from my brother. Has anyone been in contact with you?"
The line was silent for a long moment. Quinn could imagine the stricken look on the face of the father at the other end. He'd been there himself.
"Steven?" Riley Grey whispered. "What about my son?"
"I don't have any more information yet," Quinn said. "I'd hoped you might have heard something."
"I ... I haven't."
"Very well," Quinn said. "Bo's GPS puts them in Buenos Aires. Local authorities are en route to the coordinates where the SOS went up. I'll let you know when I get anything else."
"Any chance that this is a false alarm?"
Quinn took a deep breath. "It's possible," he said. "But unlikely. It takes two distinct movements to activate the SOS on his device — sliding a button sideways and then depressing it. Considering their location and your net worth, I'm afraid your son is a possible target ..."
"I appreciate your honesty," Grey said.
Quinn looked at his watch again, though only seconds had passed since he'd done it last. "I'll call you back."
"Ten minutes," Grey said. "Even if you don't hear anything."
"I'll try," Quinn said. "Until then, I need to get started on some things. It's best to move quickly in this kind of event."
"You have experience with kidnappings?"
"I have experience with bad men," Quinn said. "Now if you'll excuse me, I need to make some calls."
"Wait!" Grey said, clinging to the call like a lifeline. "What are you going to do?"
Quinn groaned. He couldn't help but feel for the father's helplessness, but every moment he spent on the phone was time he could be moving toward Bo.
"I'm going to get a ticket on the next available flight to Buenos Aires out of Dulles. If this turns out to be a false alarm, I'll cancel. In the meantime, I need to be moving forward."
"I can help with that," Grey said, giving an audible sigh at being able to do something tangible. "I'm in Baltimore for meetings. My Citation is sitting at BWI airport right now. Are you closer to Dulles or Reagan?" "I'm ten minutes from Reagan," Quinn said.
"Good," Grey said. "My plane will be waiting for you when you get there."
"And you?" Quinn asked, fearing the strings that always seemed to be attached to the goodwill of the rich and powerful.
"I broke my leg waterskiing in Tahoe three weeks ago," Grey said. "It kills me not to go down there myself, but I'll be more use to you working from here, providing resources."
"Okay then," Quinn said, relieved but anxious to end the call.
"Bo and I have been friends for a long time," Grey offered. "I don't know much about you, but I trust him completely, and I know he trusts you. He told me that you'd pulled his fat out of the fire on more than one occasion."
"And vice versa."
A tense chuckle came across the line. "Bo told me you'd say that."
Anchorage, Alaska 1998
Fourteen-year-old Boaz Quinn drifted the back tire of his street-legal Honda dirt bike, throwing up a rooster tail of gravel before coming to a stop in the alley behind the Lucky Wishbone restaurant. Four other motorcycles rolled in behind him. The other riders were all in high school, or at least they should have been.
Jace, a short kid with a wild look in his eye, slid to a stop on the cracked pavement and held up his hand in the dusky light.
"Kill it," Jace said, turning off his own bike. At eighteen, he was the oldest, and the mastermind of the would-be gang. Beef, a big Samoan who was about the same age, provided the smaller Jace with the muscle it took to be the leader. He looked ridiculous on his small dirt bike, but no one said anything about it. Chris was sixteen and already had a full beard. His mom also let him get a tattoo of a dagger on his arm, which Bo thought was pretty cool of her. Austin was a wiry kid with a long history of run-ins with the police. He'd been in and out of McLaughlin Youth Center dozens of times, which only added to his mystique among the gang. Bo was the youngest and the best rider of the group by far. He was maturing early, and looked older than he was. He could probably have given Chris a run for his money on a beard, but Bo's old man was having none of that.
Pete Quinn often said that if either of his sons didn't keep a decent haircut he'd take them out in the fishing boat and only he and the boat would be coming back. As big and tough as the elder Quinn was, it was an empty threat. He would, however, cut that shaggy hair himself, and the only thing he knew how to do was shear it down to the scalp. Bo wasn't about to let that happen. He was only fourteen, but old enough to taste the legal freedom of his new motorcycle license, and had recently discovered how much the girls in eighth grade loved his curly blond locks.
Fortunately for Bo, the Coho salmon fishery would keep his dad down on the Kenai for the next couple of weeks. He didn't have to worry about his hair or the strict curfew his old man enforced. Anchorage, Pete Quinn said, was a different town after midnight, when the meatheads came out in force. That was colorful as his old man's language ever got. Meatheads. Oh, he had a temper, and was known to have caved in a skull or two over the years, especially if anyone disrespected his wife or boys, but that temper manifested itself through his fists, not his words.
Bo's mother taught summer school, so she was always exhausted and gone to bed early. Bo's older brother wanted to get into the Air Force Academy and took his studies much too seriously. He'd been in his room reviewing his brains out when Bo slipped out the back door and rolled the motorcycle down the street nearly a full block before starting it. Bo had made a clean getaway and was free to stay out all night — which was exactly what he planned to do.
Jace said he knew about a poker game at an apartment near the Lucky Wishbone. Bo was pretty good at poker, winning more than he lost in hunting camp with his brother and old man. There'd be some beer at this game, and probably some weed, but Bo thought he'd stick with the beer. His old man drank a beer now and then, so he couldn't say much if his son decided to imbibe. Getting high, well, that would be a bridge too far in the mind of Pete Quinn.
"Quinn!" Jace snapped him out of his thoughts. "Pull your head out of your ass. You even hear what I said?"
Bo shook his head, flustered at having let the leader of his gang down. "Sorry. What?"
Excerpted from "Triple Frontier"
Copyright © 2018 Marc Cameron.
Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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