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“This is all hypothetical. What would happen if you had more proof?”

“Okay, hypothetically, what kind of proof are we talking about?”

“Money laundering, drug running and assisting illegal paramilitaries in every way possible. Including kidnapping American tourists for ransom.” Assisting any illegal paramilitary basically amounted to treason. The first two things he’d listed were simply icing on the cake compared to Davis’s real crimes. Crimes against one’s country were unforgivable. It was something even the most hardened agent had a hard time dealing with. And if regular American citizens got wind of any of this, the agencies would be crucified.

“Which paramilitaries?” His mouth pulled into a thin line.

“FARC, Black Eagles, Black Devils, AUC, you name it.” He’d never understood how these groups considered themselves freedom-fighting revolutionaries when they were little more than terrorists.

Connor tapped his finger on the table. “And you have proof of Davis’s involvement?”

Hunter nodded and decided to lay more of his cards on the table. “Calero was holding a lot of stuff over him. Got dirt on Davis before he killed his uncle and took over the cartel. I don’t think Davis ever truly thought of Calero as a threat. He was someone Davis could use for monetary gain. But Calero played him well right up until the day he took over everything. A CIA agent helping a drug lord and illegal paramilitaries for money is about as bad as it gets.” And Davis couldn’t pay off anyone in the United States if word of his treachery leaked. He’d be hunted forever.

When Connor didn’t say anything, Hunter continued, “Davis wanted—needed proof of his involvement back if he ever wanted to retire or walk away or anything. He couldn’t get the stuff himself so he blackmailed me into doing it for him and…” His eyes narrowed when he spied a man standing in the underbrush about thirty yards behind them. “Call your dog off before he gets a bullet in his head.”

Connor turned around and waved the man away. “Okay, before I go ahead and start a full-scale shakedown, I need to know that you have this proof.”

Hunter weighed his options. Too many things needed to be decided before he handed everything over. Like if he even trusted Carl Connor. “For now I can give you a couple offshore bank account numbers.”


“And Marcus Foster’s.”

“That’s not going to be enough.”

“For now it’ll have to be. I need to think about my options and I’m going to need complete protection for—”

“Alexis Baptiste and her son. Yes, I figured you would. It won’t be a problem.”

One thing was still on his mind so he decided to plunge ahead. “Davis gave me a letter from the president clearing that operation in Nicaragua. How would he get that if the mission wasn’t sanctioned like you say it was?”

“I’m already looking into that. When Alan forwarded that paperwork, I got a team on it right away.”

“So what if the president is in on this?”

Connor shook his head. “I don’t think he is, but I also don’t care if he is. No one is above the law.”

His last statement gave Hunter pause. “Someone took a few shots at me about an hour ago when I was out with Alexis and our son.” He only told him to get his reaction.

Connor jerked back in genuine shock. “What?”

Maybe he could trust him. It didn’t matter, though. He’d left Alexis alone for too long. He stood and sheathed his gun. “I’ll be in touch.”

The other man started to protest, but Hunter cut him off. “I’m not skipping town, but I’m not making this decision alone.”

“Fair enough, but Hunter…if someone is taking shots at you, you need to be under our protection.”

Hunter nodded but didn’t respond. He walked with Connor to the parking lot, but kept his distance. And only when Connor was out of sight did he check under his hood, the bumper and the dome light for tracking devices or any sort of bombs. When he pulled out of the parking lot, he dialed his PI friend, Rick. The only other two cars in the parking lot didn’t move, so he knew he wasn’t being followed.

“Yeah?” Rick picked up on the second ring.

“It’s me.” He didn’t bother identifying himself.

“How’s it hanging, man?”

“Fine. Listen, would it be possible for someone to hack into the DEA’s computer system?”

“No way. Whatever you’ve gotten yourself into, I don’t want any part of it.”

“Damn it, Rick, I didn’t say I wanted you to hack into anything. I only wanted to know if it was possible.”

Silence. “You there?”

“Yeah, I’m here.” Rick sighed.

“So, can it be done?” he pushed.

“Now? Possibly. Years ago? Definitely.”

“What do you mean?”

“A few years ago some German kids hacked into the FBI’s system. Since then all agencies have tightened up. Don’t get me wrong, a smart enough hacker could do it, but they’d have to have a serious reason. It’s not something you do as a prank. The likelihood of getting caught soon afterward deters most hackers.”

“But it is possible?” Hunter pushed.

“Anything’s possible. Why?”

For a moment he considered discussing what had happened, but he kept his mouth shut. No need to bring anyone else down with him. And if Rick somehow got dragged into this, he’d have plausible deniability. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Is that the only reason you called?”

“No, can you run a detailed check on Alan Saltz and Carl Connor? Specifically, I want to see if either have offshore bank accounts.”

“Sure. Anything special about them?”

“They both work for the DEA…and Connor’s the deputy director.”

“Is this gonna get me killed?”

Hunter chuckled. “Not if you cover your tracks right.”

Rick grunted something unintelligible then said, “I’ll get back to you soon.”

“Wait, can you do me one more favor?”


“Can you look up unoccupied rental homes in the Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, area?” It was winter so there should be more than a few places available. All the snow birds would have gone south for the next couple of months. He desperately wanted to get Alexis and Jonathan out of that hole of a motel room.

“Uh, sure, what are you looking for?”

“Look for upscale condos and houses that are furnished but unoccupied, and won’t be rented for at least a couple of weeks. Places that will keep the power on year round during the lag times. And if you can, look for places with privacy. I’d prefer a house over a condo.”

“You want security codes for these places too?”

“You serious?”

“I’m going to pretend you didn’t ask that. Stay on the line. This won’t take long.”

Hunter heard the clacking sound of the keyboard in the background.

Finally the noises stopped. “I think I got what you’re looking for. There’s a house right on the beach unoccupied for the next two weeks. Looks like some renters just left so you’ve got a little time. Security code is 3547.”

“How the hell can you possibly know that?”

“Hacked into a real estate agent’s email and private calendar. You’d be surprised by what people save in their email.” Rick rattled off the address before they disconnected.

The house was only a few miles from where they were staying now so at least they wouldn’t have far to go. As soon as he hung up, Hunter dialed the motel room. After the tenth ring, his whole body had turned numb.

Alexis didn’t have a car so she couldn’t have left. And there was no reason for her to ignore the phone unless something had happened. Gunning the engine, he battled to keep a level head. Unfortunately he’d never had a level head where Alexis was concerned.

Chapter 8

Alexis jumped when she heard the door in the adjoining room slam shut. Hunter had told them to stay in this room and if they heard anything out of the ordinary, to climb out the back window.

She looked at Jonathan sitting across the small wooden table by the kitchenette. His eyebrows were knitted together as he fit two pieces of his puzzle together. She reached across and gently placed her hands on his, signaling to stay quiet.

He froze and looked up wide-eyed. Before she could move, the adjoining door flew open. Her hand flew to her throat.

It was Hunter. “I’ve been calling the room.” His voice was almost accusing.

She frowned at him. “We haven’t gone anywhere.”

Wordlessly he strode to the phone and picked it up. He tried the dial a couple of times, then placed it back in the cradle. When his dark eyes locked on hers, she saw fear.

A rare emotion for Hunter. At least in her experience. Even with everything going on, he always seemed so sure of himself.

Years ago, her leg had cramped up when they’d been swimming at the beach. If it hadn’t been for him, she might have drowned. The expression she’d witnessed from him remained etched in her brain because she hadn’t known it was possible for anything to worry him.

“Mommy.” Jonathan’s voice dragged her attention away.

“What is it, sweetie?”

“I have to go to the bathroom.”

“Okay.” He didn’t need her help so she wasn’t sure why he was telling her. He’d been very clingy since what happened at the beach. And she didn’t blame him.

As the door shut behind her son, suddenly Hunter gripped her shoulders from behind. When she swiveled to face him, he pulled her against his chest so tight she had to give him a little push back so she could breathe.

“I thought something had happened to you,” he muttered.

“I’m fine. I promise.”