Shane is handing out night vision goggles as the Leukos van bumps down a dusty dirt road just outside of Madrid. “We’re going to be invading Armand Maxted’s villa. And by villa, I mean his fucking enormous mansion,” Shane says with a wry smile, and all of us laugh. “His property is heavily guarded, but we know he is at home. The objective is to take Maxted alive, as well as his personal computer with all his contacts and data about his operation. All the guards are expendable, Maxted is not. We’ll cut the power to the estate, and then go in on a dark approach. Tennant, Gerber, you’ll approach from the south, Dawkins and Bailey will secure the west, and Emme and I will attack from the east. The north is a cliff face, so try to avoid falling off of that.” More twitters from the assembled team, then Shane continues again. “Egress will be to the south, and we reconvene in the van, hopefully before any local authorities are alerted that there is a problem at the villa, since Maxted has them all in his back pocket. We’re going to try and do this as quietly as possible – hand to hand kills, if possible, but use your weapons if necessary for defense. Keep your eyes open for any contingencies, and report on your comm. unit. Any questions?”
We look at each other, everyone shaking their heads no. “Good,” Shane says. “Good luck out there.”
As the van glides to a halt, we all clamber out, armed with automatic weapons and with our goggles on, ready to approach the darkened villa. Maxted launders money, and is a go between for many ‘free agents’ in the terrorism and assassination community – bringing him in will be a huge boon for Leukos.
But we have to bring him in alive to extract information from him.
Tennant and Gerber slide noiselessly into the trees, and then Dawkins and Bailey disappear into the darkness a moment later, leaving Shane and I to approach alone.
Using hand signals, we coordinate our approach, and I see our first guard as we come out from the cover of the trees. I signal that he’s mine, and I stealthily crawl through the scrub grass, emerging twenty yards behind the guard’s back. I tighten the garrote in my hand, and then creep up behind him, completely focused on my target.
Reaching around before he can turn around at my sound, I wind the cord around his neck before he can let out a peep, and pull it as tightly as I can, cutting off his windpipe. The guard struggles hard, his feet kicking out, his arms flailing, trying to gain purchase on my arms, or my clothes, but I hold on, pulling tighter and tighter for what feels like hours until finally the guard slumps to the ground at my feet. I check his pulse – he’s dead.
One down, how many more guards to go?
Shane is by my side a moment later, and we creep around the edge of the villa, using the wall for cover, trying to sight our next guard to silently take down. The guard stands about fifteen feet away from the wall of the villa, and Shane signals that he will take him down. I nod, gripping the butt of my gun and plotting a way to get in the front door undetected, a way to get to Maxted before he is tipped off as to what is going on outside.
Shane soundlessly slinks away from the cover of the building, but I jump and grip my gun tighter as a hail of gunfire explodes overhead. Whirling around, I lift my gun even as I hear Gerber screaming into the comm. unit.
“Shots fired! Agent down! Sniper on the roof!”
I back up, my gun sighting on the roofline, but I see no one. More shots ring out, and I run around the building, looking for the source of the gunfire, but again seeing no one to sight on.
“Get down, get down,” Dawkins yells from the other side of the house. “We’re under fire!” A barrage of bullets plummet down, kicking up dust, pinging against the building, but it sounds like there is only one gun on the roof.
But one gun being held by one maniac can do a helluva lot of damage.
I finally see a figure on the roof, running with a gun raised, and I sight carefully before squeezing the trigger. The man stops in mid-run, collapsing to the ground.
I know I got a head shot. I know he’s dead. Problem solved.
Gerber’s frantic voice comes back over the comm. unit. “Tennant’s been hit. He’s… he’s…” her voice breaks with emotion. “He’s dead. Oh god, he’s dead.” I can hear her cries across the field, even without the comm. unit. Gerber and Tennant have been a couple for as long as I can remember, and in one instant, that whole future between them is shattered. I block out her keening cry, unable to bear the pain in it.
Instead, I spin back around, looking for Shane, waiting for orders to retreat or to carry on into the house to grab Maxted, but no one is talking, no one is giving orders.
I come back around the side of the villa, and that’s when I see him.
Shane is lying prone on the ground, a guard dead near his feet. I run at full speed to Shane, sliding onto the ground beside him, my eyes searching for wounds, as I rip the night vision goggles off of my head and drop my gun to my side.
“I’m… I’m hit,” Shane says, coughing slightly and wincing. “I didn’t even see it coming.” He winces as he moves his body slightly, his breaths short and heaving. “God, this hurts.”
“Where are you hit?” I scream out, my hands sliding over his black clothes, searching for blood.
“My gut,” Shane rasps out. “You have to leave me – get to the egress point and get the hell out of here.”
“I’m not leaving you,” I say furiously, finding his wound and trying to staunch the flow of blood with my fingers. “I need a medic – Shane’s been hit. I need help!” I scream into my comm. unit. “Retreat. NOW!” I order, not sure how many more guards are on the property. “Dawkins, I need help with Shane, everyone else retreat right now. RIGHT NOW!”
There’s so much blood.
“Em, leave me,” Shane insists, and I shake my head, angry tears sliding down my cheeks.
“Shut the fuck up, Shane,” I bark. “I’m not leaving without you.”
“Do me a favor,” Shane rasps, and I bend closer so I can hear him. “In case I don’t make it…”
“Don’t talk like that,” I insist, blinking back more tears as I press my hands harder into Shane’s stomach.
“Shut up and listen,” Shane barks. “If I don’t…” he coughs again. “…make it, tell Connor…”
“Tell Connor I’m sorry. And that… I don’t know. Tell him I love him or something, but nothing cheesy. And that I’m sorry I didn’t protect him better. And I’m sorry we weren’t closer. And tell him to forgive Dad. And, yeah, tell him I love him. I don’t care if it’s cheesy.”
“Shane,” I say, my voice icy calm even as his blood flows through my fingers. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Connor is my brother.”