Don't Look Down Read online

  Shit. A man, head covered just like his was. Nash? Pepper's ghost? Whoever it was, he was much closer to the damn Irishman than Wilder was. He pressed forward as his mind churned. Was Nash making his own move on Finnegan? Or was it the CIA? Had Crawford lied and the Agency was going to bring in Finnegan and squeeze him?

  That didn't make sense. Fuck, nothing had made sense since that first night on the bridge except for the all-too-brief interludes with Lucy. That and Pepper; she made sense, too, in her own way, more than all the adults around her.

  Mission focus. Or else there wouldn't be another interlude with Lucy or conversation with Pepper.

  The fucking gator was still keeping pace. Wilder knew he wouldn't make it to Finnegan before the other person did. Hell, it was going to be a close race beating the gator there.

  He almost felt sorry for Finnegan. But he never slowed for a moment.

  Tyler glanced to his left rear. Gator. He smiled, wondering if it was his one-eyed buddy. He could feed the fat Irishman to her. There'd be enough food there for all her babies.

  The glow of the cigar was like a beacon. Dumb fuck. The ground was sloping up now and Tyler could move faster. He wasn't worried about the old man spotting him-without night-vision goggles there was no chance.

  Tyler reached the embankment, less than five feet from the Irishman, and paused. He drew the High Standard.22 pistol and quietly drew back the slide, chambering a round.

  Then he paused and looked back to the north. He could see the V in the water from the gator's wake, coming this way. But beyond it was something else. Someone else. Close to the gator and closing. Which meant he had less than two minutes.

  Tyler sprinted up the embankment, weapon at the ready, and drew a bead on the Irishman, who must have heard something because he spun about, sliding his fat ass off the hood of the car.

  "Who goes there? That you, Connor? I don't know why you needed to meet-"

  Tyler fired, the small round hitting the old man in the kneecap. The Irishman made a surprised sound and the leg went out, sending him sprawling to the ground.

  "Johnnie-boy!" the Irishman screamed. "Peter!"

  This was not a time for subtlety. Smash and grab.

  Tyler ran up to the writhing figure and aimed. He put a round through the man's other kneecap and the Irishman screamed again.

  "Who the fuck are you?" he gasped through clenched teeth.

  "Your security's dead. Scream all you want. No one's coming."

  Tyler realized that wasn't quite true, but he figured whoever else was coming through the water wasn't there to help the Irishman, either.

  Tyler holstered the pistol and drew his knife. He put his knee on the Irishman's chest. He placed the tip of the knife against the man's left eyeball. "Lie and lose it. And that's just the start, old man, so make it easy." With his right hand, he reached into the old man's coat and retrieved his cell phone.

  "Listen," the Irishman gasped. Tyler noted that there was no longer a hint of brogue. Just a heavy dose of fear. "Listen, we can deal. We can-"

  "Two things. The container number and the coordinates where you're supposed to meet Letsky."

  "I'll cut you in." The Irishman's face was gray with pain and terror. "I'll make you a partner-"

  "You want to be my partner?" Tyler asked with a chuckle. "You want to cut me in, but you and that bitch pilot are cutting everybody out. How's that gonna work?"

  "You need me," the Irishman argued desperately. "Without me, the deal doesn't-"

  "There's been a change," Tyler said and slapped him on the side of the face with the flat side of the knife, getting his attention, as he put the point less than a quarter inch from the old man's eye. "Coordinates and container number."

  "Fuck you."

  "Wrong answer," Tyler said and pressed down with the knife.

  Wilder stopped when he heard the second scream. Every damn thing in the swamp for a long way around had to have heard that scream. There was no brogue to it, but he had no doubt from whose throat it had emanated. And he knew the other stalker knew he was coming. He'd seen that pause at the base of the embankment. He'd also heard the cry for Johnnie-boy and Peter. With no response.

  And the fucking gator was moving even faster, enticed by the scream.

  Wilder knew it was too late for Finnegan, but he pressed forward anyway. Another scream. Wilder could have moved faster, but there was no way he was taking the MP-5 out of the ready position. Because someone was causing those screams and someone who could do that was not someone to be underestimated. Wilder was pretty sure old Rogers would be with him on this one, even though being in a swamp with a screaming Irishman and a gator had not been covered in the Rangering Rules.

  Another scream. Wilder was close to the road.


  Wilder froze. His eyes swept back and forth, searching through the goggles, the muzzle of the submachine gun following his gaze. Nothing moving. But whatever had happened was over. And now it was time to watch one's own ass.

  Because whoever had made Finnegan scream was close. Damn close. Waiting for him to do something stupid. And the silence from Johnnie-boy and Peter meant they, too, were probably not among the living.

  It was the hardest lesson he had learned in combat: Do nothing.

  He stood perfectly still, chest-deep in the swamp. Finger on the trigger. Listening. Watching. Sniffing.

  A body came tumbling down the berm and splashed into the water and Wilder swung the muzzle to the left as it was met by the alligator, which snatched it up in its massive jaws.

  Wilder knew the 9-mm bullets in the submachine gun would only piss off such a large alligator, and besides, he really had nothing against the critter. It was just doing what came naturally to it. Wilder dropped the MP-5 into the water where it came to rest on its sling and reached to his back where the Glock with the hot loads was holstered. He knew those rounds could punch through most body armor, so he hoped it would penetrate the gator's hide if need be. Shooting gators had not been taught at Bragg during Special Forces training, a serious oversight, Wilder was beginning to believe. If Pepper had had any say, it would have been.

  Wilder drew the pistol out, water pouring out of the barrel, and fired a warning shot. The gator began to thrash, but he shifted up and fired several rounds toward the berm, trying to ensure that whoever had thrown the man in would have to take cover. If he went up there in chase, there was a very good chance he'd take a round right between the eyes, if the other person had also learned the same hard lesson of being able to wait. Wilder was willing to wager good money that the other person had indeed.

  Wilder shifted back to the thrashing in the water. Then suddenly there was silence. He took an involuntary step backward, realizing the gator had gone under with its prey. He remained still, cognizant of predators all about. Finally, after five minutes, he waded forward toward the berm.

  That's when he saw the flicker of movement to his left, along the road, flitting between the trees. A ghostly figure moving away at a sprint. Nash? Wilder aimed the Glock but he couldn't get a solid sight picture. It was gone as quickly as it had appeared and for a moment Wilder wondered if he'd been mistaken.


  Wilder considered pursuit, then decided he'd really like to see Lucy again before he died-which he was now hoping would happen when he was very old and in bed with her-and deep-sixed that idea.

  There was something floating in the water. A piece of cloth. Wilder scooped it up. Part of a Hawaiian shirt soaked with blood and swamp water.

  Finnegan was sleeping with the gators.

  Chapter 18

  Lucy had taken Pepper back to Daisy, listening with half an ear to Pepper's enthusiastic recount of her time spent with Major LaFavre.

  "He is a very good person," she told Lucy.

  "I'm sure he is," she said and knocked on Daisy's door.

  Daisy opened it, looking bleary-eyed. "Hey, pumpkin," she said to Pepper. Then she looked at Lucy and her smile faded. "What?"