He took a long breath, determined to not reveal any emotion.
“We’ve determined that she was seen going into the command center the day before yesterday.” He paused, waiting for the two younger women to look at him. They did. “You knew her as Jessica. She was working undercover.”
His heartbeat pounded in his ears as he hoped revealing Mercy’s cover wasn’t an enormous mistake. It was time. We weren’t getting results.
Ghattas might disagree.
Shock registered, and the two younger women looked at each other. Vera held fast, her attention focused beyond Truman.
“Vera,” said the woman with brown hair. “Did you know Jessica was a spy?”
She wouldn’t meet the two women’s gazes.
“I’d say Vera was well aware of that fact,” answered Truman, studying the silent woman. Finally. We’re getting somewhere. “She didn’t share that secret with the two of you?”
They emphatically shook their heads.
“I wonder why the two of you weren’t told.”
“Yesterday Pete ordered that no one was to ever mention Jessica again,” said the redhead. “We were to act as if she was never here.” She frowned, holding Truman’s gaze. “Did you know she was sleeping with Chad?”
No wonder Pete left them in the dark.
“The relationship was part of her cover,” he explained.
“I can’t believe they expected her to have sex with someone,” the brunette said in disgust. She sent Truman a pitying look.
Truman prayed for strength. “Where did she go from the command center?”
“Last time I saw her was at breakfast two days ago,” said the redhead.
“Same,” agreed the brunette. “I saw Pete speak with her during breakfast. Everything seemed fine. I didn’t see her go to the command center.”
Vera’s eyes blazed as she finally met Truman’s gaze. “We deal with spies as necessary. Your little whore got what she had coming.”
Truman was crouched before Vera in a flash. “Keep talking,” he ordered, trying to control the drumming in his chest. “Where is she?”
“You FBI think you can tell us what to do.” She spit near his boots. He didn’t flinch, his gaze boring into her. “You’ll find her inside the new garage. Check door four.” She smirked.
The storage unit with the dried blood.
“That unit is empty,” Truman said with a calm he didn’t feel. “We found a beaten dead man in the first one. No one in the rest.”
Vera’s brows came together. “Pete locked her up in there after he found out she was a spy.”
His lungs stopped. She truly believed Mercy should be in that unit.
But she’s not.
The other two women were shaking their heads, desperation in their eyes. “We didn’t know about any storage unit,” said the brunette. “Pete told us Jessica left and not to mention her name again.”
“Pete told me her name was Mercy,” Vera said, drawing the words out with a smug look on her face.
A primal fire raged through Truman’s veins. He stayed motionless, staring at the bitch, his vision tunneling until her face was all he could see.
Her cover was blown.
“She’s in that unit,” Vera asserted. “Pete locked her up after he confronted her and then beat the crap out of her.”
The fire inside him started to roar.
“As I said,” Vera stated with a sneer. “We don’t like spies.”
Where is she now?
She would freeze to death.
Mercy curled up in a ball on the icy concrete floor. Frigid air blew in under the back wall of the unit, so she huddled in a corner near the door, the least cold place she could find. She had no concept of time and didn’t know how long she’d been left alone. It could have been an hour; it could have been a day.
She wanted sleep. Lots and lots of sleep. When she slept, she was no longer cold. She no longer ached.
They say when you freeze to death, you simply fall asleep.
She was okay with that.
Truman would be there. If she couldn’t have him here, she’d settle for him there—where there was no cold. No pain in her gut. No throbbing in her knee. No dried blood in her nose and hair.
Pete had added more blows as they dumped her, taking pleasure from each kick and punch after he’d attacked her in his office.
She didn’t yell for help. There was no point. This was Pete’s domain, and these were his people. No one defied Pete.
And she was the lesson for the people who did.
No one outside the compound knew she was in trouble.
Chad was dead; she was positive. There was no other way Pete could have discovered her name.
Chad didn’t know my name.
Nothing made sense.
She touched her eyes to see if they were open. There was no adjusting of her vision in the sheer darkness of the tiny room. It was black. The absolute silence messed with her equilibrium. Or the imbalance was from the kicks to her head.
Truman would hate this small space.
Her fingers picked at the dried blood on her cheek, and it felt as if needles stabbed under her nails. Splinters had lodged under them as she sought to find a weakness in the storage room’s construction. She’d pulled them out the best she could with her teeth, but tiny ones still remained.
The construction was strong.
Images coursed through her thoughts. Kaylie. Her cabin. The mountains. Rose. Baby Henry. Her mother. Truman’s slow smile. Truman’s cat, Simon.
She snorted and painfully grinned in the dark. Simon’s meow would be a welcome sound at the moment. She sucked in a shuddering breath.
I won’t believe I’ve seen them for the last time.
Because if she did believe, it meant she’d given up.
As long as she could breathe, she wouldn’t give up.
She needed to be ready if someone opened the door. Fight. Scratch. Bite. Kick.
Tears leaked. There wasn’t a body part that didn’t hurt, and simply shifting to a different position took her breath away.
Sleep. I’ll feel better when I sleep.
Drowsiness overtook her, and she sank into blessed nothingness.
A clunking sound pulled her from sleep. She blinked hard, still unable to determine if her eyes were open.
The storage unit door swung open, and faint light outlined the silhouette of a very large man.
She coiled into herself.
“Can you get up?” rumbled a male voice.
Beckett. She ducked her head tighter. No one hated her more than the quartermaster.
“Come on. Get to your feet.”
Hands slipped under her armpits and lifted. Her legs stiffly uncurled, and her gut wrenched with agony as she straightened her back. She inhaled sharply as tiny explosions of pain radiated up her spine. But she was standing.
One foot was asleep, and she braced a hand on the wall, tentatively putting her weight on her throbbing knee. Beckett’s hands slid away, and he took a step back.
She swayed a bit but stayed upright.
I can do this.
His face came into focus, and he glared at her, evaluating her from head to toe. “You’re up, but can you walk?”
“Yes,” she croaked. She wasn’t going to fail in front of him.
“Show me.” Skepticism rang in his voice.
She held her breath and took a few steps, stopping in the doorway of the unit. He was alone.
Kick to the groin.
Wasn’t going to happen with her knee in pain.
He bent over and picked up a mug. “Here,” he said gruffly, holding it out. “Water—wait.”
He pulled a rag from his pocket and dipped it into the cup and then dabbed at the layers of blood under her nose. She saw stars.
“You do it.” He pushed the rag into her hand.
Mercy held it against her upper lip, softening the crustier bits of blood. She didn’t take the mug of water he held out, eyeing it with suspicion.
He noticed. “It’s just fucking water. Drink it.”
She took it. She drank and tasted blood. Swishing more water in her mouth, she spit to the side. He watched as she finished the water, which quenched a thirst she hadn’t known existed.
“Better?” he asked as he took the mug.
Surprisingly she felt much stronger.
“Yes. Are we going somewhere?” She continued to clean her nose and lip. If she had to meet Pete and his minions, she wanted a semiclean face.
“Yep. This way.” He turned and marched toward the door.
Mercy took a few hesitant steps, trusting her balance more each second and moving toward the open garage door. She wondered what or who was waiting for her outside. It was nighttime. The moon was bright, but clouds threatened.
“How long was I in there?” she asked.
“About seventeen or eighteen hours, I reckon.”
As usual. She followed him across the clearing. The snow was a few inches deep and luminous from the light of the moon, making their path visible. Her legs moved evenly. She had favored the battered knee at first but discovered it felt better if she used a full range of motion.
When they reached the trees, Beckett stopped and looked her over again. “Here.” He gave her a small drawstring bag.
“What is it?”
“Some food. A compass. Something for pain. It’s not much.”
Mercy stared at him. He’d only give me a compass if . . .