“Whoa, man, no wonder you ran.” Alan’s voice brought him back to the present.
Alan passed the papers to Alexis.
“It’s not true, though. I’d bet my left nut those papers are bogus,” Alan said.
Alexis’s head lifted momentarily at the crude expression, but she simply rolled her eyes before she returned to reading.
“Did you ever question Connor about this?” Alan stood and Hunter immediately tensed, ready to raise his weapon as the other man walked to the refrigerator. “Chill, man, I’m getting a glass of water.”
Hunter answered his original question. “Do I look like I have a target on my back? These memos came directly from his private email, which I don’t need to tell you is only accessible from his office. And those time and coding stamps are real. As far as the other papers…” He shrugged because the answer should be obvious why he’d run. He wasn’t going to spell it out.
Alexis threw the stack of papers on the table. “I don’t understand any of this.”
“That basically says that a certain operation I worked on for two years wasn’t sanctioned by the United States government.” He pounded his fist on the table, then winced when Alexis jumped. He’d given his blood for that job and to find out it had all been for nothing. His fists clenched involuntarily. The pain of his nails digging into his palms wasn’t enough to banish the memories. What he wouldn’t give to choke Carl Connor right now.
“So?” Her dark brows slanted down. Obviously, she didn’t understand or she’d be freaking out.
He sighed and tried to think of the right words to explain it. “That job,” he pointed to the papers, “took up two years of my life. Everyone I bought drugs from as an undercover agent, everyone I ki— Everyone I eliminated while I thought I was working for the government, everything I did was crap. Pointless. None of those operations were legal. I was working directly for Connor. He was my sole contact. There had been a problem with leaks and we’d both agreed it would be better that way.” Hunter rubbed a hand over his face. “I thought I could trust him.”
He might hate Tom Davis, but at least he’d been up front about his treachery. And Davis had given him his life back. Sure, he’d taken it from him when he blackmailed him into working for him and now was trying to kill him, but at least Hunter had an official letter of authority from the CIA and the president that the mission in Nicaragua was on the books and legal. It wasn’t much, but it was something he needed for his conscience and if he ever wanted to live a life not looking over his shoulder.
“I still don’t understand. Why didn’t this Davis guy arrest you and your boss then?”
“He doesn’t care about what’s legal and what’s not. Everything is a game to him. He needed me to get him something from Calero. It was only supposed to be a brief assignment. I wasn’t supposed to be gone so long. Two years tops. Infiltrating Calero’s organization took a lot longer than I’d originally expected. Two years turned into six and now here I am.” He shrugged. There was a lot more to it than that, but he’d give her the details later when Alan wasn’t around.
Alan grunted, but Hunter ignored him and kept his eyes on Alexis.
“Why did you say yes? Surely there was a way to handle this without working for that monster. Isn’t there someone you could have gone to and tried to prove your innocence?” Alexis asked.
He didn’t respond. Looking back, there had been a hundred different ways he could have handled things. But he hadn’t. Doing exactly what Davis had asked had been his only choice. If he’d fought him or confronted his old boss, he might have been tossed in jail or killed and Alexis would have been a target. If he’d crossed Davis, the other man would have killed Alexis out of spite. Now he might have done things differently, but back then he had finally understood what loving someone meant. For the first time in his life. And he hadn’t been willing to risk her life. Not for a second.
Alan lifted a dark eyebrow as he stared at Alexis, and his voice was incredulous. “Are you blind? Davis obviously threatened you. And knowing him, he was probably very graphic in his threats.”
Hunter watched her face pale. He couldn’t hide it from her. He’d alluded to it back at her house but hadn’t actually spelled it out.
“Is that true?” she whispered.
He nodded, hating to admit this to her. He was tired of seeing hurt every time she looked at him, but if he lied she’d know. “Yes.”
“I’m sending this to Deputy Director Connor.” Alan placed his glass in the sink.
“Over my dead body,” Hunter growled.
“If he wanted you dead, you would be. He knew where you were a year ago.” Alan held up the papers. “He obviously didn’t know about this, yet he still didn’t go after you. Now your disappearance actually makes sense,” Alan muttered.
Under the table, Alexis placed a light hand on his knee. “He’s right. What if he can help us? This might be our best option.”
He looked into her eyes and hated himself for what he saw there. For the pain he’d caused her. On one level what Alan said made sense. If Connor had wanted him dead, a trained sniper could have killed him a year ago, but it seemed he’d kept Hunter’s whereabouts a secret. He didn’t trust Connor, but if Alan thought he was giving up his information out of trust, Hunter could work that to his advantage. If he could set up a meeting with Connor he could finally get the answers he wanted.
“I need to talk this over with Alexis.”
His expression deadpan, Alan walked around the counter. He handed the bundle of papers to Hunter. “I’m starving anyway. I’ll be back in two hours… You can keep those pictures by the way.” He nodded toward the table and left through the back door.
Hunter juggled thoughts in his head. They could run again, but chances were they’d be found again. And he couldn’t subject Alexis to that. He had the proof he needed to clear his name, but it meant nothing with people trying to kill them. Until he took care of Connor and Davis, they’d never be safe.
“What are you thinking?” Alexis asked.
“If Connor is on the up-and-up—and I’m not saying he is. But if he is, I might be able to give him enough information to build a case against Tom Davis. Hell, against Marcus Foster too.”
“What exactly do you have?”
“Davis blackmailed me into infiltrating Calero’s organization for a reason. Calero had photos, recordings and bank accounts incriminating Davis and Foster in all sorts of illegal dealings.” And Davis had been desperate to get that information and had no problem using Hunter to get it. Calero had been old school. He’d kept hard copies of everything, and all his blackmail of Davis and Foster had been under a tight lock and key.
Her frown deepened. “Couldn’t they just say they were working undercover?”
Hunter snorted. “No. Years ago, they dealt directly with Juan Calero off the books. Back then Calero didn’t have as much protection, and since he wasn’t head of the cartel at that time, he wasn’t a big threat to them.”
“So what happened?”
“Calero killed his uncle and took over the territory in Northern Colombia and all of Panama. When that happened, everything changed. He stopped dealing with anyone working for the CIA because he figured he didn’t need their contacts anymore. And he was right.”
“I still don’t understand.”
“Calero wasn’t stupid. Killing his uncle wasn’t something he decided to do overnight. He knew when he took power that his list of enemies would triple. So back when he was just a lackey for his uncle, he collected anything and everything on all the dirty agents he’d secretly worked with.” Hunter had to give it to the guy—he’d been savvy. The few dirty CIA agents had given Calero overseas contacts and private intel on dealings of other cartels. In exchange, Calero had lined their pockets with cold, hard cash. It had been a brilliant move on Calero’s part. When he hadn’t needed them anymore, he’d cut them loose, and as security, he’d made sure he had all the blackmail he’d ever need on the dirty agents. His uncle and everyone else had underestimated him until the day he’d taken control of the cartel.
Alexis’s expression was thoughtful as she digested his words. “Davis and Foster can’t be the only two agents, though, right?”
He half-smiled and nodded. “You’re right about that. There were a total of five men he blackmailed, but the other three are dead.”
She bit her bottom lip, obviously wanting to say something else.
“What is it?” he pushed.
“Did you kill them?”
His eyes narrowed a fraction but he couldn’t blame her for asking. “No. All their deaths were work-related.”
“Okay, how exactly did you get the information Davis needed from Calero then? You said Davis blackmailed you into working for him, so how’d you get it?”
He’d been expecting this question. Actually answering was harder than he imagined. “I took it.”
“Care to be a little clearer?”
“Are you sure you want to hear this, Alexis?”
He schooled his features and prepared himself for her reaction. “I saw an opportunity and knew if I didn’t take it, I might never have another chance.”
“Are you being intentionally difficult? What happened?” She gritted her teeth.
“It took six years to gain access to Calero’s very private estate, and once I had it, I didn’t waste the opportunity. Once inside, breaching his security was easy enough but getting out was almost impossible. I had to kill him during my escape, Alexis.” Hell, he’d had to kill a lot of Calero’s men during that escape. “And even if I hadn’t had to, I’d have done it anyway. You don’t steal from Calero and live. I would have been hunted the rest of my life.”