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And a well-thought-out one, too.

Brick’s SUVs started their engines and sped out to join them on the freeway . . . and then they were on the road, and accelerating; their convoy was two vehicles lighter, but going a whole lot faster. Harm got on the cell phone to his boss. “Don’t like this road, Brick, it’s too straight and not enough cover. Got any options?”

“Not much,” Brick’s voice came back over the speaker. “Got reinforcements rolling, but you’re right, this whole damn section is all grids. No way to get anywhere out of sight. Everybody good there?”

“McCallister’s down, but not out. Rest of ’em look fight-ready.”

“You keep ’em that way,” Brick said, “because I got the feeling this isn’t over yet.”

• • •

Brick was right, and if they hadn’t had qualified combat drivers, all four SUVs might have been junk on the side of the highway, because they hadn’t gotten more than a few miles before two eighteen-wheeler trucks tried to run them off the road. It was almost as hard to negotiate with semitrucks as it had been with the train, but the SUVs had the advantage of speed and maneuverability over momentum, and at least one of the men in Brick’s SUV was a crack shot, taking out one driver within thirty seconds, and putting the other truck out of commission with well-placed bullets to the engine block.

“Brick,” Harm said, as they sped away from the rapidly dwindling shape of the last attack truck, “we’re running on fumes, man. Give me some good news.”

“Refueling stop coming up,” Brick said. “Stay tight on my bumper. We’re about to test the off-road claims on these bastards.”

In half a mile, his driver took a drastic slide off the road and into the soft dirt, and then a sharp right . . . into a cornfield. “Well, shit,” Harm said, and braced himself on the dashboard. “Hope to hell he knows what he’s doing.”

Brick’s SUV was taking the brunt of mowing down the crops, so the rest of them were able to keep right with it, traveling through a newly plowed tunnel in the tall, summer-blown corn. It smelled like dirt and mashed plants—something like mown grass, which was funny when you looked at the size of the stalks being cut down.

It didn’t last long, because the lead truck burst through the corn and onto a narrow dirt path, thick with sun-dried ruts that the farmer and his employees must have used. They took it way too fast for the terrain, sending up a smoke signal that shimmered in the dry, hot air like the finger of God, pointing straight to them. So much for stealth.

“Where are we going?” Joe asked. “Because I’m not loving this plan if it involves some pissed corn farmers with sawed-offs.”

“Relax,” Brick said over the cell. “It’s a safe house.”

And it was.

The farmhouse—typically Kansan, with whitewashed board walls and neat russet trim—sat in a cleared square mile next to a big red barn and a shiny metal tower that could have been feed storage or water; Bryn was no specialist in that. It looked well cared for, and utterly normal.

At least, until the doors of the barn opened with hydraulic smoothness, and proved to be as thick as the doors of Manny’s Titan missile complex. Brick drove in and came to a fast stop, and the SUV Bryn was in veered around and parked with military precision next in line. In ten seconds, they were all in place, and the doors were cranking shut behind them.

“Hands up,” said an amplified male voice from somewhere outside their truck. “Everybody. We’re looking with thermal, and we’ll see if you’re not in compliance.”

Bryn raised her hands, and so did all the others, except Patrick, who was still cold unconscious. That took some explaining to the disembodied voice, but finally, they were all told to exit the vehicles and line up along the wall, hands still raised.

“I don’t like this,” Riley said, and Bryn caught that shine in her eyes—the unsettling gleam of savagery, the same hungry, ferocious burn she felt in her own stomach. “I thought it was a safe house.”

“He never said it was ours,” Harm said, and led the way out. He took his place at the wall, and Bryn joined him, reluctantly. She felt exposed and angry, and as Joe stood next to her, he sent her a concerned glance.

“Hold together,” he told her.

Do I look that bad? She must have. Bryn took a deep breath and concentrated on the wood pattern of the boards in front of her. At least, it looked like wood—but it probably wasn’t, given the reinforced front doors.

Brick didn’t join them at the wall. She glanced over her shoulder and saw him in hushed, urgent conversation with two people who’d emerged from what looked like a control room, from the angled view she had of the consoles and switches inside. She couldn’t hear the conversation from where she stood, but Riley frowned and half turned toward Harm.

“Are they speaking Russian?”

He shrugged. “It’s a multicultural world.”

“Is this a Russian agent safe house?”

“Why? You got a problem?”

“Besides the fact that I am an agent of the FBI, you mean?”

“We’re all friends now, last I heard,” he said, with a smile that was far from innocent. “Cold War’s over. Besides, what the holy hell would Russian spies be doing holed up in a farmhouse in Kansas?”

She glared at him hard enough that Bryn thought it might leave marks . . . but before she could answer, if she intended to do so, Brick came striding over. “Put your hands down,” he said. “But keep them in plain sight. They’re going to refuel the vehicles, and then we’ll be on our way.”

“Brick, what the hell is—”

Joe Fideli shook his head, stopping Riley midsentence. “Look, kiddo, I respect that you’ve got loyalty oaths and all, but me, Brick, and Harm all share a couple of things. First, we aren’t government employees. Second, we all used to be, and we haven’t forgotten that. So regardless what the hell all this is, it isn’t being used to hurt the government or people of the United States, and I suggest you let it slide, because without them, we’re dead on the side of the road.”

Riley didn’t like it, and neither did Bryn, but she had to acknowledge the wisdom of what he was saying. She trusted Joe, and she believed him when he said he wouldn’t have let it go himself if he thought it was a threat. She didn’t know Brick or Harm so well, but she thought that they had the same post-military sensibility that Joe did . . . and she did, for that matter.

So she nodded. Riley didn’t.

“I need to know what’s going on,” she said.

“Then ask Brick—he’s your friend.”

“I mean it, Joe. I can’t just shut my eyes to this—”

“You have to,” he said flatly. “Literally, close your eyes and pretend to be somewhere else if you have to, but if you screw this up, Riley, you’ll get us all killed. What happens if you get us in a firefight and they find out how well trained you and Bryn are? You think they won’t want to break off a piece of that knowledge?” He leaned significantly on the two words, and raised his eyebrows.

That gave Riley pause, and evidently shook her out of her role as FBI agent . . . and into her bigger, scarier role as a prized lab rat. She’d been caged before, Bryn thought. She wouldn’t want to be in a Russian lab, undergoing the same horrors.

Of course, the fact that Bryn’s clothes had bullet holes and blood, but no matching wounds, might be something of interest . . . but luckily, after the explosion and the ditch, her clothes were filthy enough that the blood and tears were nothing special to pick out.

Riley finally not so much agreed as just stopped disagreeing . . . which was good enough. They stood in tight silence as Brick and his men backed each of the vehicles to the gas pump located outside, and the Russians—if that’s what they really were, a man and woman who looked very much middle-American—waited as well. Their gazes were not fixed, they were active and mobile, observing everything, judging everyone.

When Patrick groaned and stirred a little, the strange woman exchanged a glance with her significant other and broke off to come to them. She crouched down next to him as his eyelids fluttered, and he groaned again. She probed his head injury carefully, then nodded.

“No fracture I can determine, but there could be swelling,” she said, “and almost certainly a major concussion. You should take him to a hospital as soon as possible to rule out any permanent damage. He has been unconscious for too long for it not to be serious.” Her American accent was, of course, flawless.

“Thanks, Doctor, but we’ve got this,” Bryn said. She was guessing, but the woman’s brisk, calm manner was something that seemed very familiar to her. Not that she had any fondness now for the medical professions. “He’ll be fine.”

The woman raised an eyebrow, shrugged, and went back to her cold-war spouse. It was good of her to have made the overture, though; she didn’t have to, by the letter of her verbal agreement with Brick.

Bryn knelt down next to Patrick as his eyelids fluttered again. He wasn’t quite out of it, and wasn’t quite in it, either. She checked his pupils. They were equal, which was good news, but the Russian doc had been right; he needed to be seen by someone qualified to check him over in detail. Field medicine could do only so much, and then it got its patient killed from the myriad of deeper complications that weren’t immediately obvious.

“Ready,” Brick said, and she glanced up to see that all the cars had been backed out of the barn and into the gravel yard. “Get him in—we’ll rendezvous with the med team in half an hour.”

“How exactly are we going to do that with Jane on our tail?” Joe asked.

“You let me worry about that,” Brick said. “Let’s roll.”

“A moment,” the Russian woman said, and stepped forward again, frowning. “You’ve been wounded.”