One dead girl, one scared witness, and two men trained as Navy SEALS. Whether searching for justice or revenge, the final showdown between them is the same—explosive.
Dale MacIntyre, former Navy SEAL, works for Sanctuary. He’s the acting handler for a member of the Bullen family’s inner circle. He’s close to obtaining the evidence he needs to prove Elisabeth Costain's death was ordered by them… until someone gets in his way.
They both want the same thing but have different methods of accomplishing their goals. They both want the Bullen family brought to account, but one wants justice and the other wants revenge.
What happens between them, however, has nothing to do with either.
“Chief, locate for CAS.” The shout was passed down the line, barely audible over the gunfire, and into Chief Petty Officer Joseph Kinnon's ear. The lieutenant was situated higher up the steep incline, pinned in that position. He was held down by the whine and thud of AK47 bullets that ripped and spat through the rocks of the mountain, but his message was loud and clear. They were trapped, and only close air support was going to solve this clusterfuck.
Joseph was by far the closest to the onslaught of Taliban forces and crawled on his belly to the viewpoint, only inches below an outcrop of rock and far too exposed for his liking. Gauging distance, he scrambled back to pass the intel.
“Danger close, five hundred,” he reported succinctly, and slid sideways as some random shot snagged the rock to his left and gouged a path in the blackness.
Information passed upwards was fast, and the decision passed back just as quick. Despite the team locked down this close to the target, there wasn't another way out of this position. They had to call in close air support and chance getting decimated by friendly fire or killed by the large group of Taliban closing in. Joseph sent up a silent plea the pilot of the F-16 in this airspace was one hundred percent accurate. Bad timing had led a group of Taliban to the same path they traveled, and the small SEAL team was paying the price. No way back up the mountain, and no way forward, the journalist they were here to extract had pasted himself flat against the wall with horror across his face; they were stuck. One well-placed missile into the middle of the Taliban forces and it would be enough for the team of six and the journalist to make it the extraction point.
The terminal controller exchanged brief glances with Joseph. Dexter was his best friend, and their relationship went way back before SEAL training, commonly called BUD/s. Joseph nodded. He knew exactly what was going through his friend's mind as he called in the ten-digit grid reference to command. Joseph lip read as Dexter added detail to the “danger close”, forces-speak for telling the F-16 pilot there was the potential to kill the good guys too. Dexter ducked as the Taliban concentrated their fire on the cluster of rocks behind him. They couldn't know exactly where he was, but even random firing was sending bullets too close for comfort. Joseph rolled to his side and focused his fire on the flashes from the forces below them. He just hoped it was enough to give Dexter the space to complete the message on the UHF radio.
Finally Dexter passed a message up and down the team, the LT nodded and indicated heads down. The missile would be there in three. Joseph didn't let up on his targeted shooting, and for a few minutes until “missile on target”, he and the rest of the team would be ensuring focus was on them.
The reporter had been an easy extraction. Taken hostage by the Taliban, they'd been keeping him in a safe house in the mountains of Afghanistan. Intelligence had led the US to his location, and they had watched to establish a pattern for his captors. Pattern established, Joseph and his team were inserted three miles away, on the other side of a mountain ridge. It had been, in SEAL terms, an easy extraction, and the journalist had not only still been alive but was able to walk out fairly unhurt.
Then the shit hit the fan. With nothing more than bad timing, suddenly the team was pinned down by the sheer number of freaking Taliban coming at them with the barrage of small arms fire. They were fucked. Dexter signaled a “one” to Joseph and the others. This was it. This was win or fail spectacularly; what a way to go out. Fuentes sat on the journalist, their faces to the wall, hunkered down in a natural ditch formed by a crack in the earth between rocks. Dexter rolled and sheltered amongst the boulders strewn on the pathway. The LT and the rest of the team kept up fire until, one by one, they too took cover. There was no sense in letting the Taliban get any idea things were going down by giving out a ceasefire, and finally, it was only Joseph firing into the darkness in a random pattern. He glanced at Dexter, who held up a fist and then a five. Joseph counted down, and at one, he took final cover, curled in on himself with his head tucked low, every part of him sheltered by Afghan rock.
No noise indicated the targeting of a five-hundred-pound bomb, but when it hit the Taliban, it was deadly and quick. The pressure waves pressed Joseph's eardrums, and he involuntary closed his eyes. The air rent about them, and the sound of violent roaring thunder shook the earth. As it threw debris high into the air, the low-end noise of the pressure wave rolled over the SEAL team, but there was no time to sit and wait to see if the hit had found target. Joseph was first, closest to the insurgents, and weapon high, he slid down the crumbling mountainside. The missile had done its work, but Joseph didn't look for that. He wanted an all clear, and with only a few on target shots, he indicated back that the team could follow. There was still some small arms fire from the few remaining Taliban, but it was nothing the SEALs couldn't handle, dodging forces and jogging with the journalist at the center. Dexter called in final extraction, and when Joseph slumped into the CH-47 Chinook, he closed his eyes. It would be days before his ears were back to normal. The helicopter dipped then took a wide low path over the Afghanistan flatlands.
“So,” Dexter started on a shout that broke through his team's fractured hearing, “I'm thinking of asking Emily to marry me.”
And there it was. Normality after facing chaos and death. It was what SEALs did. They fought, they extracted, and they were the best. But, at the end of the day, they had survived and were alive. Listening as his best friend received advice from the team on how to propose, Joseph felt a twinge of something inside. The adrenaline inside him was trickling away and the reality of his life was replacing it in every single cell he had.
An empty apartment and a month of sleep. The sleep sounded good, but the empty part? That felt like shit.