Authors: Bob Mayer
Tags: #Military Fiction, #Thriller, #Men's Adventure, #Action Adventure, #suspense
Surprisingly, Riley laughed. “You’re buying time. You’ve got people coming.”
“And how do you know about spooks?” Riley asked. “You ran an off-shore gambling site. Not espionage.”
“Any time there’s considerable money involved,” Sarah said, “you can be sure the spooks come around like moths to the light. Whether it be tracing the money or wanting it.”
Riley took two steps and put the muzzle of his pistol in her face. “Tell us what you know about Chase’s son.”
“You won’t shoot me,” Sarah said with absolute confidence. “You’re not capable of doing that in cold blood.”
“Good point,” Riley said, lowering the muzzle of his weapon and putting it back in the holster. “You
have me pegged.” He stepped back. “But if I give the signal, Gator will put a fifty caliber round right through you. Probably a head shot. Blow it right off your shoulders. Isn’t pretty. You remember Gator, don’t you? You think he’ll hesitate to shoot you?”
Sarah stirred, enough of a realist to understand that was indeed a possibility given it was Gator who had his finger on the trigger. “Nothing more than what she told you. She got pregnant from Horace’s summer romp before he went off to West Point.” She shifted attention to Chase. “She made a feeble attempt to contact you. If it had been me, and it wouldn’t have been since I wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place, but if it was, I’d have shown up at West Point and put on quite the performance, maybe in the middle of that big parade field there, what do they call it?”
“The Plain,” Chase said.
“Smack dab in the middle of the Plain,” Sarah said. “Made you accountable. But Erin wigged out. She didn’t tell her father who was the planter of the seed producing the little bugger germinating inside her. Why, I have no idea. Did her father not like you, Horace? Did she know she couldn’t count on you? So her father banished her to Oklahoma to live with her mother. She gave birth. And then she was done with the kid, dumping him with her mother. She went to college somewhere in the Northeast. Got her vet degree. Worked a bunch of places, but when her father died a year ago, she ended back up on Hilton Head, living in his old house. She never knew what happened to the kid.”
“Bull,” Chase said.
“Gator shooting me won’t blow secret little parts of my brain onto the wall spelling out anything,” Sarah said. “She told me several times she’d wanted nothing to do with the kid and I believed her. She wanted nothing to do with her mother and her mother wanted nothing to do with her after she gave birth. Erin didn’t even try to see Horace Junior again. She told me her mother died two years ago. She didn’t go out there for the funeral and had no idea what happened to the boy. Probably ended up with her mother’s family out there in Oklahoma as far as she thought. Which wasn’t far. She certainly never checked on it.”
The earpieces both Riley and Chase wore crackled with a report from Gator. “Two SUVs inbound. About six or seven minutes out.”
“You’ve got company arriving,” Riley said to Sarah.
She nodded. “I know. I called them. I was remiss not having security on site, but I enjoy my privacy and hired muscle standing around ogling isn’t my thing. I have my kinks but that’s not one.” She shifted to Chase. “Horace, you and your friend did cost me a lot. Far, far more than all of you are worth combined. But only a fool would have all their assets in one place. I’ve got enough squirreled away here and there to live the rest of my life in reasonable comfort. And enough to pay the gentlemen coming down the road to kill you and your friends. And police up the body you so inconveniently left behind.”
“Not if we kill you first,” Chase said.
“You would have done that the first time you visited me here,” Sarah said.
“The people you stole from will catch up to you,” Riley said.
“But I won’t be here,” Sarah replied. “I got caught once. I won’t get caught again. And I doubt they’re coming tonight. I’ll have time to pack. Seriously, you should just email or text next time you want to talk or threaten. Tick, tock, gentlemen.”
Their earpieces came alive. “Three minutes out,” Gator reported. “Two SUVs, I count at least six inside.”
“Tick tock,” Sarah repeated.
Riley drew his pistol once more. “I’m tired of being dicked with. You think you know me, but you don’t. Chase won’t kill you. Not his nature. But me, I truly don’t give a rat’s ass about you. You caused a lot of men’s deaths. One more death doesn’t make a bit of difference at this point. I’ve killed over less; and by less I mean killing someone simply because he’s wearing a different uniform than I am or is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seems a personal killing is more legitimate.” He pressed the tip of the pistol against Sarah’s forehead. Her eyes swiveled up to meet Riley’s.
“Well, okay. Maybe I misjudged you there, Dave. Seriously, fellows, I’m telling you all I know. Erin wasn’t the talkative type. We only hooked up halfway through our little excursion and she spent most of her time here cooped up, moping about. Not fun company at all.”
“And?” Chase said.
Sarah smiled. She tilted her head back, turning slightly, sliding the muzzle down her cheek to her mouth, which she opened. Before Riley could react, she put her lips lightly around the end of the barrel.
Riley did the totally unnecessary movie move of pulling back the hammer on a double-action pistol.
But it sounded good. And he assumed Sarah had seen enough movies to know what it meant. He was just a finger twitch away from ending her, especially after this latest last stunt.
Sarah pulled her mouth back and blew Riley a kiss. “Okay, darling, okay. So that doesn’t do it for you. Every man is a little different, but in the end, they’re all the same. The only thing she said about Chase was that after you called and said you were coming, she checked out your mother’s place on Brams Point. She was surprised to learn your mother had died. And that the man she was living with, Doc Something-or-Other, had disappeared. Maybe she was looking for you?”
“Two minutes,” Gator warned. “Want me to delay them? Blow a tire or two out?”
“Hold on,” Riley said into the throat mike. “You’re still lying,” he directed at Sarah.
“His name is Horace Brannigan,” Sarah said. “That’s it. That’s all I know. I swear on—“ she faltered, trying to come up with something she could swear her life upon.
She couldn’t which told one all they needed to know about Sarah Briggs.
“Gator, shoot some tires,” Riley ordered.
The roar of the Barrett firing echoed through the night air. A second shot followed the first.
“Not only is their ride down,” Riley said, “but your friends are going to be hesitant to advance with a big gun out there having the advantage on them. So we have time. How much cash do you have here on site?”
Sarah was startled by the sudden change. She started to shake her head, but the pressure of the barrel on her forehead prevented that. “Not much.”
“I’m really growing tired of your lies,” Riley said. “You were boasting about it a minute ago. How much?”
“Two and hundred and fifty thousand,” Sarah said.
“So half a million,” Riley said. “Degenerates always half down in lies and double down in bets. And you’re degenerate, Sarah. Let’s get it.” He pulled the gun back slightly.
Sarah opened her mouth to protest, but there was something in Riley’s eyes that stopped her. She got up then walked into the master suite behind the balcony. She went to a painting, took it off the wall, revealing a safe with a keypad.
She quickly tapped on the pad. As it swung open she reached, but Riley was faster, shoving her back away from it.
He glanced in, then reached in and retrieved a pistol lying on top. “Nice try. I’d have killed you. You can thank me later.”
Chase had silently followed them, still trying to catch up to reality. Riley stuck an arm into the safe and swept the contents out onto the wood floor. Bundles of cash, jewelry, two more guns, several passports.
“Cover her,” Riley said to Chase.
Riley knelt and quickly looked at each passport, checking the names. Then he divided the money, expediently eyeballing two piles without counting. He reached in his combat vest and pulled out a lighter. He broke it in half, then poured the fluid onto one pile of money. He put the passports on top of that.
“That’s your take,” Riley said. “We’re taking the other.” He emphasized the point by quickly stuffing that pile into a bag he pulled out of one of the closets. It was a Gucci, but recognizing such wasn’t in Riley or Chase’s repertoire. “Now. Last chance. Everything about Horace Brannigan. or I burn your money and your passports. You won’t be going anywhere before some very bad people get here.”
The deep roar of the Barrett echoed.
“Keeping their heads down,” Gator reported over the radio.
Riley retrieved another lighter out of his combat vest.
“Little anal on the lighter thing, aren’t you?” Sarah said.
“They’re useful. It’s an old survival habit from my winter warfare Army days.” Riley flicked it. “What haven’t you told us? The other half, just like the money?”
Sarah eyed the passports. “That’s pretty much it. Seriously. Okay. I put out some queries, to see if I could find little Brannigan.”
Chase finally found his voice. “Why?”
“Leverage, Horace,” Sarah said. “One can never have enough leverage.”
“Against me?” Chase asked. “Or Erin?”
“Both.” Sarah sighed. “I didn’t think I’d ever see you again Horace. But Erin was here. I still needed to control her.” She shrugged. “And I was curious. You have to admit, there is a certain, hmm, shall we say, pathos to the tale.”
“Did you get anything back?” Riley asked.
“He’s definitely not with Erin’s family in Oklahoma,” Sarah said. “I had a very discreet agency out of Oklahoma City do the checking. They lost the trail about a month after Erin’s mother died. He disappeared from Oklahoma and never came back. And that, gentlemen, is it. I didn’t pursue it further.”
Riley stared at her. “I think you might be telling the truth. At least part of it.” Then he shook his head. “But you’re still lying, Sarah. There’s more to all this than you’re telling us.”
“I’ve told you everything,” Sarah said.
“Doubtful,” Riley replied. He nodded at Chase. “Grab the bag. Let’s go.”
As he turned, Riley tossed the lighter onto the pile. The money and passports roared into flame.
The last they saw was Sarah Briggs, arms folded, passively watching the small pyre that contained her cash and fake passports burn.
* * *
Sarah Briggs, at least that was the name she was currently using, watched the pile burn to ash, then walked to the balcony. There was no sign of Chase or Riley. Ghosts disappearing back into the darkness.
A phone rang and she went over to her nightstand and opened it. There were a half dozen ‘burners’ in there and she pulled out the one that was buzzing.
“Fix your damn tires,” she ordered the man calling her. “I have to be at the airport, ASAP.”
She hung it up, then reached under the bed and pulled out a black leather shoulder bag. She dumped it on the bed. Handcuffs, whips, dildos and various other devices tumbled out. Along with a leather binder. She picked up a particularly large dildo and unscrewed the base. She shook and a thick wad of hundred dollars bills fell out. Then she put her finger in and pulled out the passport that had been jammed in there, curved around the interior. She began flexing it, straightening it out.
She’d learned long ago that men, whether they be customs, police, or even criminals, would never search the device. They’d laugh, make comments, but never touch it.
Thus the perfect hiding space. She repacked the bag, then went to the closet.
There was work to be done.
“Three can keep a secret if two are dead,” one of the three said.
The other two responded: “Except for the Ring.”
They put their fists together, Institute rings shining on their left hands. It was a complicated move, but they managed to bump rings with each other. They were seated in a booth in the back of the High Cotton Bar on East Bay Street in Charleston. It was an upscale place, full of tourists and a scattering of locals. It was early afternoon but several empty glasses littered their table, a sign of nerves not as steady as their oath. For two of them, at least. The third had a half-full glass of water in front of him.
“I heard this Dillon guy was a bad ass on the football team,” one of the men said. He was the youngest of the three, having just graduated and not yet taking his ‘position’ at his daddy’s firm in Savannah.
was a bad ass on the football team,” the biggest man at the table said; he was seated on the same side as Jerrod. He was a former lineman for the Institute team, whose gut had not seen the inside of a gym since graduation. The mound of flesh pressed up against the table. His name was Chad Mongin Jr., a first name he hated, but his father had been a Chad, his father’s father had been a Chad and so on down the line until some fellow who’d stepped off a boat in Charleston harbor carrying the name Chad from whatever country he’d departed from. Thus he came from a long line of Chad’s. And the last name, Mongin, represented a family that had come to the Low Country in 1685.
Despite his size, it was obvious to any observer, and there was one, that Chad was not the dominant figure at the table. That honor fell to a young man sitting alone on the other side, dressed casually in expensive jeans, and a button-down shirt, layered under a sweater. He was a page in Esquire come to life with his brown hair, sculpted cheekbones, and overall model looks. Those pages where they showed other men how they were supposed to dress and look, although most could only do the dress since looks had something to do with genetics.
Preston Holland Gregory was the son of the senior Senator from South Carolina and chairman of the Select Committee on Intelligence. While Chad might fit in at a toga party chugging beer, and Jerrod in a library perusing literature, Preston would fit perfectly in the halls of power, which is what all twenty-two years of his life had been directed toward and his future portended.