I hadn’t put my rifle down.  Tom grabbed his M1A that had been leaning in the corner as we both turned and ran out of the ops room.

Larry and Nick were already in Nick’s big diesel, and Tom and I hauled ourselves into the bed.  It wasn’t quite the leap that it might have been a few years before, but we got ourselves situated and braced in a few seconds, before I banged on the roof of the cab with my off hand.  Nick threw the truck in gear and we roared down the long driveway toward the gate.

It was more a road than a driveway; the gate was almost a mile from the ranch house.  Tom and I held on for dear life as the pickup raced over the unfinished gravel track, leaving a cloud of dust behind us.  I could hear the shooting even over the roar of the engine and the buffeting wind of our passage.  Those boys at the gate were getting some.

It took only a couple of minutes to get there, but by the time we skidded to a halt in a cloud of dust and bailed out, rifles in hand, it was all over but the screaming.

Three bullet-riddled cars sat at angles across the entrance, one only a few feet from the barred gate, which, while it looked like any other ranch gate at first glance, was actually reinforced enough to withstand the impact of a Level 7 armored vehicle without moving.  Several bodies lay unmoving in the dust below opened doors, and at least one bloodied head was lying on the dashboard below a shattered windshield.

I had a sudden flashback to the ambush in Arizona, just before we’d crossed into Mexico and into the shadowy world of El Duque.  The remains of the MS-13 ambush had looked very similar, especially after I’d shot three gangbangers over the hood of our Expedition with a shotgun.  I’d stared at the same mélange of blood and broken glass then, too.

I shook it off as I stepped toward the gate.  The kid who’d let me in only a few minutes before was coming out of the pillbox on the south side of the gate, his rifle in his shoulder.  There were moans coming from somewhere in the wreckage of the attacking vehicles; somebody back there was still alive.

The kid hesitated as he looked at us, as if unsure what to do next.  After all, he was new, and here were four of the company’s plank-owners, three of whom had been in the middle of some of the nastiest ops we’d ever run.  He looked slightly intimidated.

It was a strange feeling, realizing that I was now one of the old hardasses that the younger guys looked up to.  It didn’t seem like all that long ago I was still trying to make my own mark.

That was not the time or the place for such ruminations, though.  I just made brief eye contact with the kid, then nodded toward the gate.  “Don’t just stand there, son,” I said.  “Let’s go see what we’ve got.  We don’t own the objective until we’ve gone through it.”

The kid started a little, then stepped forward, unbarred the gate, and pulled it open before falling in behind us.  I led, with Larry and Nick on my flanks and Tom following a step behind, on Larry’s flank.  The kid fell in behind Nick.

“Let’s try to secure at least one alive,” Tom said.  “Raoul should be able to get something out of him.”

“We don’t always kill everybody, Tom,” Larry said, a note of unaccustomed asperity in his voice.  For all his intimidating size and great skill with a gun, Larry is ordinarily one of the nicest guys I’d ever met in this business.  But Tom’s comment had just pissed him off.

I held my peace.  That was another conversation for another time.

Keeping at least a yard away from the first car, I stepped carefully around the open door, my rifle up and trained on the cab, my eyes scanning the wreckage over the sights.  I had the rifle canted to use the offset irons; while I could—and had—used the scope at close ranges, I much preferred iron sights at that range.

The car had been hammered.  If I’d been counting bullet holes, I would have had to give up pretty quickly.  Those boys at the gate hadn’t fucked around.  The gangbanger lying half in the car, half on the ground had been turned to hamburger.  If my brain hadn’t gone cold and calm, as it usually does in a combat situation, I might have sneered at the Hi Point lying in the dirt under the nearly shredded car door.

The guy in the passenger seat hadn’t even made it as far as the driver.  He was slumped against the dash, blood and brains leaking out of what was left of his skull.

A quick glance at the back seat confirmed that neither of the two back there were going anywhere.  Both had managed to bail out, but had been cut down barely a step away from the car, and were lying in the road, their blood soaking into the dust.

Nick and Larry had fanned out as we passed through the gate, and were closing in on the other two vehicles.  One of them was smoking, sitting on two flat tires, just as bullet-riddled as the first.  I circled around the first car and closed in on the Ford sedan, Nick on my right.

The driver and the first guy in the back were obviously dead.  The driver had a gaping hole in his neck, and the guy in back was lying in the road, staring up at the sky, a fly alighting on his motionless eyeball.  I started to ease to my right, intending to circle around behind the car.  I didn’t want to get in between the vehicles until I knew that everyone in them was dead or secured.

There was some groaning and cussing in Spanish coming from the far side of the car.  I circled around, keeping my muzzle trained on the car, my eyes flicking back and forth between it and the far vehicle.  Larry, Tom, and the kid had stayed with us, rather than split up and cut off each other’s fields of fire.

There had only been three guys in the car.  The passenger door was open, and a youngish-looking man with long hair and a sallow face, wearing baggy shorts and a soccer jersey with a telltale “13” on the back, was trying to crawl away, toward the ditch on the far side of the road.  He looked like he’d been gut-shot.

As I came around the car, he turned and glared at me, sheer hate in his eyes.  It was the look of a wounded animal, not a man.  He rolled over and tried to point his cheap 9mm machine pistol at me.

Maybe I should have tried to warn him not to.  I didn’t.  Instead, I just smoothly lifted my rifle, put the front sight post on his forehead, and squeezed the trigger.  The rifle bucked smoothly, flame spat from the muzzle, and his head jerked backward with a spray of blood and bone fragments before flopping messily to the dirt.

His death hadn’t silenced the moaning.  So, there was at least one still alive.  Fortunately, Tom hadn’t said anything about me smoking the crawler.  He might have occasionally let his background as an officer get the better of him, but he wasn’t a second-guesser when it came to battlefield decisions.  I was pretty sure he’d seen the gun, too.  That had been a cut-and-dried shoot.

Together, we advanced on the last car.  Steam was coming from the radiator, and the engine was still running, though it was starting to sound pretty fucked up, grinding and rattling.  There had to be quite a few bullets interfering with its functionality.  It must still have been in gear, too, because it was nosed into the ditch, with the rear wheels still spinning.  I suspected the driver was dead, his foot still wedged on the accelerator.

My suspicions were confirmed a couple steps later.  Most of the driver’s brains were splashed across the headrest and the door column.  It looked like he’d taken a tight burst to the face.  There wasn’t a great deal left of the top of his skull.

The passenger and one in the back were similarly fucked.  The moaning was coming from the far side of the car.

I moved around the back again; it put me across from the northern pillbox, but I wasn’t climbing down into that ditch in front of a still-revving car.  We could worry about shutting the engine off once we were sure there weren’t any more gangbangers lurking around with guns.

The last thug was lying in the ditch, where he’d apparently crawled after the car got lit up.  His white t-shirt was mostly red; it looked like he’d taken a couple of bullets, though they weren’t immediately fatal hits.  As Larry, Nick, and I came around the trunk of the car, rifles up and trained on him, he shoved his Beretta weakly away from him and raised his shaking hands.  He must have heard the gunshot a few moments before, and realized what it meant.

Nick stepped forward, unslinging his rifle and handing it off to the kid.  “I’ve got him,” he said.  I moved up with him, keeping my rifle trained on the scared gangster’s face.

Nick didn’t waste time, but jumped down, stepping on the gangster’s extended hand before kicking the Beretta a good four feet away.  Then he reached down, grabbed the young man by the wrist, twisted it so that he had to either roll over or risk having his arm broken, and propelled him, screaming in pain, up out of the ditch and facedown onto the road.

He wasn’t gentle, but thoroughly, and rather invasively, searched our captive, turning up a knife, a couple spare mags, and two cell phones.  The gangster, a skinny, beak-nosed kid, was screaming and crying in pain, in between cussing us out and demanding that we had to take him to a doctor.

He wasn’t getting any sympathy from us.  You come to our house and try to shoot up the place, you get what’s coming to you.

Nick was just about finished when Tom’s phone rang.  He lowered his rifle and stepped back to answer it, while the rest of us watched Nick and the wounded gangbanger.  I couldn’t hear much of the following conversation, but Tom’s normally grim voice got even more grave than usual, and I felt that sickening feeling in my guts again, even as I was careful not to show anything in my expression.

He hung up and put his phone back in his pocket.  “Jeff,” he called.  His tone wasn’t encouraging.

I lowered my rifle and stepped over to him, Larry moving up to take my place covering the captive gunman.

Tom’s face was drawn, and he was searching in his pocket for a cigarette.  He was a habitual chain smoker, but I could tell that this was something more.  “That was Sheriff Eaton,” he said, his voice slightly hollow.  “He didn’t want to say much over the phone; he’s aware of our…difficulties today, and I think he’s figured out some of the implications.  But he did confirm that Robert is in the hospital, in critical condition.  And, he wants one of us to come into town to identify a body.”

That faint feeling of nausea became a heavy, leaden ball of dread in my stomach.  “I’ll go.”  I already knew what I was going to find, but it was my team, and I had to handle this myself.

Tom opened his mouth, then shut it tightly.  I looked him in the eye.  “What?”

He shook his head.  “Nothing,” he said ruefully.  “I was about to turn into a mother hen, and caught myself.”

I just nodded and headed for my truck.  Tom had been about to voice his concern that nobody go out alone, which was just common sense at that point.  He’d thought better of it because he knew that, as pissed as we all were, we were still professionals, and didn’t need the reminder.

Most of the rest of the team had pulled up to the gate by the time I got back to my truck.  “Bryan,” I called out to the tall, dark-haired, lanky man who had just gotten out of his Tacoma, his OBR in his hands and murder in his eyes.  I pointed to my truck.  “Get in.  We’ve got to go meet Brett Eaton.”

Something must have been in my voice, because Bryan’s expression changed as he searched my face.  “Oh, fuck,” he muttered, but he got in the cab without another word.  I shoved my SOCOM-16 next to my leg, slammed the door, and put the truck in gear, easing it through the narrow gap between two of the wrecked cars.

“Is it Jim or Little Bob?” he asked as we got on the road.

“Pretty sure it’s Jim,” I replied grimly, my eyes on the road and my knuckles white around the steering wheel.  “Little Bob’s in the hospital.”

“Fuck,” was all he said.

I’ve seen a lot of dead bodies over the years.  I’ve made quite a few of ‘em.  And I’ve seen more than a few teammates and brothers-in-arms go down.  Even been a pallbearer at a few of their funerals.

But looking down at Jim Morgan’s mutilated corpse, I thought it was probably one of the worst things I’ve ever seen.

The local cops had circled the scene with yellow police tape.  Both county sheriff and Powell PD cars were parked on the street, lights still flashing.  The corpse had been dropped in a parking lot, apparently before the lumberyard had opened.

Jim had been shot four times, before he’d been decapitated and his hands cut off.  His body had been stripped naked, and his head and hands had been placed in his lap.  His genitals had been cut off and stuffed in his mouth.

A copy of the same wetwork ad that we’d turned into death cards in Mexico had been stapled to his chest.

A couple of the cops standing nearby looked a little green.  They hadn’t seen this kind of violence before.  I pegged the couple of hard-eyed mothers who seemed relatively unfazed by the carnage in front of them as vets.  There might not have been much violence in Powell in a long time, but there was plenty in the world outside, and a lot of infantrymen found their way into law enforcement after getting out.

I was flanked by Sheriff Eaton and Chief Mays.  Ordinarily, this should have been entirely a Powell PD show, but I got the distinct impression that the crime was so horrific that Mays had called in everybody he could to deal with it.

A vaguely disturbing thought occurred to me.  As horrified, grieved, and monumentally, volcanically pissed as I was, this gruesome horror that was threatening to make a few of the cops lose their lunches—those who hadn’t already—was actually rather mild compared to some of the shit I’d witnessed over the last few years.

“When did he come into town, do you know?”  Sheriff Brett Eaton was trying to stay strictly professional, though I knew he was just as affected as the cops and deputies.  He’d spent a lot of hours on our ranges, and had become a friend more than a client.  It had been, initially, a purely pragmatic move on our part.  If you want to survive in the environments we routinely worked in overseas, you have to either go as completely unnoticed as possible, or make friends of the locals.  Since a six-hundred-acre ranch with a shoot house and 1000-yard ranges wasn’t exactly going to go unnoticed, we’d gone for making friends.

Working with the local sheriff’s department wasn’t like working with, say, Hussein Ali’s al Khazraji militia.  While enough of a bond had been built in Basra that pretty much the entirety of the crusty old commander’s extended family had insisted on joining up with the company, they were still Arabs, and we weren’t.  The sheriff and his deputies were a lot closer to us than the Arabs ever would be, regardless of how much blood we had shed together with Hussein Ali and his boys.  What had begun as a strategic move to secure our position in northern Wyoming had turned into a genuine friendship and partnership.

“I don’t know for sure when he left,” I replied, “but Jim was always an early riser, especially Stateside.  When was the body found?”

“When the manager showed up for work, about seven-thirty,” he answered.  “Sorry it took so long to get in touch with you.”

I shook my head, still staring down at my friend and assistant team lead’s corpse.  “We’ve been a little busy,” I said.  That got a look from him, and a frown.

“Are we going to find more bodies cropping up?” he asked.

“Not of ours,” I replied grimly.  “A few of theirs.  About a dozen out by the ranch gate.”

“Son of a…”  He ran a hand over his face.  “What the hell is going on?”

“Trust me, you don’t want the whole story,” I told him.  “But this is definitely coordinated, and I’m fairly certain that it’s connected to some of our past operations.”

“Terrorism?” he asked, a faint hush entering his voice.  That had become the magic word over the last couple of decades, the invocation of ultimate evil that presaged awful things to come, even though it had, ultimately, become routine in the brave new world since the ‘70s.

I grimaced.  “It’s a bit more complicated than that,” I told him.  “You’ll find most of the bodies are Hispanic.  Given the predominance of the number thirteen on their clothes, I’m pretty sure I know who they are.  I’m just not sure yet who sent them.”

Eaton gave me a hard look.  He was getting older and going to fat, and his hard look wasn’t nearly as intimidating to me as he might have liked.  “I might not want to hear the whole story,” he said, when I appeared completely unfazed by his glare, “but I think I need to.  If we’re looking at a shooting war in northern Wyoming, my people and I need to know what we’re in for.”

I looked him in the eye for a moment, then let out a breath and nodded.  He had a fair point.  I could hope that this attack was the only one coming, at least for the moment, but as has been said by many, “Hope is not a plan.”  That death card stapled to Jim’s chest was a clear enough message that these shitheads hadn’t planned and executed this operation by themselves, or in a vacuum.  We might have a little breathing room while whoever had sent them reset and adjusted their plans and tactics, but this was far from over, and Brett and his people were going to have to deal with the consequences just as much as we were.

“Let’s get Jim’s body taken care of, then I’ll tell you what you need to know on the way to the hospital,” I said.  He stared at me for a second, his eyes narrowed.  I knew he’d picked up on the phrase “need to know,” even though I hadn’t meant it precisely that way.  But he kept his thoughts to himself, and just nodded his assent.

Bryan and I lifted Jim’s body into the body bag and then onto the gurney for the trip to the morgue.  He was our guy, and Brett and Mays had enough respect for us to allow us that courtesy, though a couple of the paramedics looked like they wanted to object.

I tossed Bryan the keys to my truck.  “I’ll ride with Brett,” I told him.  He just caught the keys and nodded.  There wasn’t much to say.

Brett got into his car, and I slid into the back seat.  Brett might have made a crack about riding in the back seat of a sheriff’s car, but refrained.  Even as grim as the day already was, I was sure that Bryan wouldn’t have, and would probably have something cooked up in his twisted mind by the time we got back to The Ranch.  He’d have time to perfect it by then.

As Brett hit the lights and put the car in gear, I started in on the story.  I was as brief as possible, leaving out a lot of the gory details that he didn’t need to know, but I outlined the initial op in Kurdistan, which had led us to Basra in search of the Qods Force command cell.  I told him how we’d found out about the Project, a rogue group of American special operations contractors who had embarked on aiding Salafist jihadis in Iraq to act as a counter to the Iranians, and how that had led us into contact with the Network, or the Cicero Group.  I told him what our contact with the Network, Renton, had told me about the backroom factionalism and manipulation of national and international politics to personal and group ends that had nothing whatsoever to do with patriotism or ideology, and everything to do with money, power, and influence.

That contact had led to our operations in Mexico and Central America, where the hunt for an elusive HVT known only as El Duque had led us further down the rabbit hole into the tangled web that was the true face of the new international order.  He listened carefully as I briefly ran down the blurred lines between politics, espionage, terrorism, and organized crime, and some of the backstabbing we’d endured as we had hunted for a ghost in Latin America, leaving a bloody swathe of corpses and upset political and financial apple carts behind us.

“So,” he said, after mulling over my words for a few minutes, “you’re telling me that you guys have pissed off a lot of powerful and unscrupulous people here in the States, a lot of Islamic terrorists, just about every cartel south of the border, and the Chinese on top of it?  Is that about right?”

“Pretty fair assessment, yeah,” I replied.

“Holy shit.”

“No kidding.”

He didn’t say anything more until we got to the hospital, apparently digesting the horror story I’d just told him.  When we got there, he parked right in front of the Emergency Room and got out.  He looked at me over the cab.

“What are you going to do?” he asked quietly.  “If this is only the first move?”

I looked him in the eye.  “We’re going to do what we’ve been doing for years now, Brett,” I told him.  “We’re going to find them and we’re going to fucking bury them.”

He looked down for a moment, his lips pursed.  When he looked up again, I could see the conflict in his eyes.  “You know, given the oath I swore, and given what I suspect you’re actually saying, I should try to stop you.  I’m an officer of the law.  I can’t just stand aside and let you guys run around like vigilantes with machine guns.”

I smiled coldly.  “I didn’t say we were going to be vigilantes, Brett,” I pointed out.  “I only said we were going to bury them.  I never mentioned how.”

He searched my face for a moment, reading what I wasn’t saying.  I was giving him an out, a way to say that he hadn’t know what was coming.  Finally, tight-lipped, he just nodded fractionally and jerked his head toward the ER doors.  “We’ll have to discuss this in greater detail later.”

“No,” I answered as I walked past him.  “We won’t.”

A flicker of irritation crossed his face, but he composed himself.  I hoped he was reminding himself that I was trying to keep him out of trouble.  Brett was a friend, and one I would regret losing.

The Powell Hospital ER wasn’t big, and it was easy to pick out Little Bob’s room by the pair of uniformed Powell cops sitting outside.  They both looked up as Brett and I walked past the nurse’s station.  Technically, I was supposed to have left my gun in the car, but since Brett was with me, and still armed, I wasn’t worried about it.  There was no way in hell I was going anywhere in the near future without being within arm’s reach of a weapon.

Little Bob was unconscious under the sheets, with both IV and oxygen lines going into him, along with all kinds of monitors and electrodes.  They’d cleaned him up, but there was a bandage alongside his head, and his chest was partially exposed, to reveal the bandages over at least three wounds.

“He was shot four times and stabbed at least once,” Brett explained as I went to the bedside.  “He gave as good as he got; we found his pistol with the slide locked back, and enough bloodstains on the ground to suggest that he got at least three of them.”

I looked down at him.  Bob Sampson had joined the team just before Kurdistan, and had gotten the nickname “Little Bob” because the team had two Bobs, with Bob Fagin having been one of the original Praetorians, and because unlike Bob Fagin, Little Bob was a giant of a man.  Bob Fagin had been dead for years, but Little Bob was still Little Bob.  He tended to surprise people when he talked, since his voice was soft and high; he wasn’t feminine, but he could have been a schoolteacher, just to hear him talk.  It had made his callsign of “Sasquatch,” given his size and hairiness, that much funnier.

I shook my head.  “Dammit, Little Bob,” I muttered.  “Still getting your ass shot off.  I thought you’d learned to duck since Iraq.”  Little Bob had caught a round in the side during our final confrontation with the survivors of the Project.

I turned to Brett, and nodded toward the two cops outside.  “I’m sure he’s in good hands here, though I’d suggest getting some more firepower out front.  These assholes aren’t fucking around, and if they make another try for him, they’ll bring the hate.”

He nodded, his expression hooded.  “We’ll have two deputies out in the parking lot twenty-four hours a day,” he promised, “with patrol rifles and shotguns.”  He squinted at me for a second.  “I’m tempted to ask you guys for some backup, knowing what kind of hardware you’ve got on that ranch, but somehow I suspect you’re going to be busy.”

“Ask me no questions, Brett, and I’ll tell you no lies,” I told him.  “Trust me, it’s better this way.”

He sighed.  “Dammit, Jeff, my job’s to enforce the law.  And you’re not exactly setting my mind at ease that I’m going to be doing that properly if I leave you guys be.”

I looked back at Little Bob for a second.  “I’ll make you a deal, Brett,” I said.  “If the FBI and half a dozen organized crime and terrorism task forces descend on this place in the next twenty-four hours, and go after the bad guys instead of trying to lock us up for shooting a bunch of poor, oppressed brown guys with automatic weapons, then we’ll hold our peace and let the justice system do its thing.  If not, then we’ll handle things the best way we know how.”

He looked pained at that.  The truth was, I think he knew that no such thing was going to happen.  The Mountain States had been left nearly autonomous for several years now, especially as several of the major cities had descended into near-anarchy following the dollar’s collapse and the subsequent disintegration of the welfare system.  Even assuming that none of the string-pullers Stateside were involved, Federal law enforcement just didn’t have the manpower to deal with everything on its plate.

I could feel the rift opening as Brett composed himself.  He was caught between a rock and a hard place.  We were friends, and one of us had been murdered, another at death’s door.  But his duty was to the law, not to his friends.  Conversely, he didn’t have nearly the manpower or the firepower to keep us from doing much of anything, and he knew it.  It had to stick in his craw.

Unfortunately, as much as we really wanted to maintain the relationship we had built with local law enforcement, we knew enough about the reality of the situation to know that going through the system was no longer an option.  The war had just come home, and we were going to have to fight it or lie down and die.

I clapped him on the shoulder as I left the room.  “Thanks for keeping an eye on Little Bob, Brett,” I said.  “I promise we’ll do what we can to keep as much of the trouble away from here.”  He just nodded stiffly, probably thinking that it was a little too late for that.

I felt my shoulders start to slump as I stepped out into the parking lot, where Bryan was waiting with my truck.  Dammit.  I had hoped that Brett would be on our side, and losing that support hurt on a personal level, not just because of the strategic pragmatism involved in befriending the department.

That thought was all that the horror needed to start getting past my otherwise ironclad self-control that had kept me from being overwhelmed by what had happened.  I was shaking a little, my eyes stinging, as I climbed behind the wheel.  For a second, I just sat there, my hands on the wheel, staring at nothing.  Bryan glanced at me once, then looked out the window, giving me some space, at least for a moment.

Jim was dead.  That cantankerous old bastard had become a fixture of life since before I’d taken over the team from Alek, several years before.  He’d been an older, retired Special Forces NCO, who had joined up ostensibly because there weren’t any other jobs for a guy who’d been in the gun club for twenty-two years, though I’d gotten to know him well enough to know that most of the claim was bluster.  Jim could have done just about anything he put his mind to.  He could even have been in Brett’s place, easily.  He’d wanted to stay in the game, and he’d been damned good at it.  He’d been a stolid, quiet professional, who had a way of tempering my own hot-headed violent streak without ever saying very much.

And now he was gone, murdered in the night by a bunch of vicious little fuckstains for standing against some very, very bad people.  I felt the familiar spark of rage start to glitter through the roaring blackness of grief and despair, and fed it.  It was the only way I knew how to cope, to keep my head above water.

My phone buzzed in my pocket, yanking me out of my reverie.  I hauled it out and stared at the screen for a moment before the number registered.

I almost didn’t answer it.  But I finally hit the “Accept” button and lifted it to my ear.


“Oh, thank God,” Mia said.  “Are you all right?”

Mia had been the intel specialist that Renton had found for us in Mexico.  She was a pro.  She was also very pretty, knew it, and used it to her advantage at all times.  We’d shared a weekend at a high-end hotel in Veracruz on surveillance.  She’d done a good job of convincing everyone around that we were an item, which had made it a little awkward for me and the rest of the team.  I will admit, she made me a little nervous.  I was never entirely sure what her angle was.

“I am,” I replied after clearing my throat.  “Though not everybody else is.”  I paused a second.  “Wait a minute.  How do you know what happened?”

“I don’t,” she replied.  “Or, I didn’t until you just confirmed it.  I just avoided getting snatched by three gangbangers in a van.  I put two and two together.”

“We got hit this morning,” I confirmed, somewhat back on solid ground.  Hearing her voice and the note of stark relief in it when I’d answered the phone had thrown me a little.  “Most of us are secure, but Jim’s dead and Little Bob’s critical.”

“Oh, dammit,” she said.  She paused for a moment.  “I’m on my way to you.  I’ve got some territory to cover, so it’s probably going to be a day or two, but I think we’ve got a better chance staying close.”  I couldn’t object.  “I’ll see you soon.  And Jeff?  Stay safe?  Please?”

“I will,” I replied, somewhat by rote.  I had no intention of “safe” having much to do with our actions over the next days or weeks.  “I might not be here by the time you get in, but Tom will know to expect you.”

She didn’t reply right away.  I could almost see the look on her face as she once again put two and two together.  “Make sure you let him know where you’re going,” she said finally.  “I’ll see you soon.”  She hung up.

I looked down at the phone and sighed.  I was pretty sure that meant she intended to link up as soon as possible, and even lend a hand.  Trouble was, I still didn’t know if she was being sincere, or still running whatever agenda the Network had laid out for her.  We were all pretty sure she’d been put with us in Mexico as a watchdog, and we still couldn’t be sure that that role wasn’t continuing.

I started the truck up and put it in gear.  There was a gangbanger back at the ranch who had some questions to answer.

Lex Talionis Chapter 2

Peter Nealen

Peter Nealen is a former Reconnaissance Marine and veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan. He deployed to Iraq in 2005-2006, and again in 2007, with 1st Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Recon Bn. After two years of schools and workups, including Scout/Sniper Basic and Team Leader's Courses, he deployed to Afghanistan with 4th Platoon, Force Reconnaissance Company, I MEF. Since he got out, he's been writing, authoring many articles and 24 books, mostly Action/Adventure and Military Thrillers, with some excursions into Paranormal Fantasy and Science Fiction.

2 thoughts on “Lex Talionis Chapter 2

  • December 13, 2016 at 9:27 am

    “Sheriff Brett Eaton was trying to stay strictly professional, though I knew he was just as effected as the cops and deputies.”

    Recommend change to “affected” vice “effected.”

    Good, visceral chapter.


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