Even the best intentions have a blind side.
In Richmond, Virginia, Deputy Mayor Dobson is brutally murdered. The FBI investigation reveals that this case isn’t the only one in which an abusive husband died of unnatural causes. Special Agent Nicolas Hayes and his team begin the investigation but soon reach a dead end. There is no evidence and no suspect. When an old enemy appears on the scene, the investigation comes to a standstill, and Nicolas finds himself in mortal danger.
The cover behind bushes and rock formations was excellent, the view on the country road unobstructed. The roadblock was a classic combat maneuver, one that Herb Sanders understood without a detailed explanation. During his three-hour wait, the weather conditions had improved from lashing rainfall to a slight drizzle that wasn’t hampering his vision. Herb looked through the telescopic sight of his HK MSG90 A1 to make any last adjustments. He liked the rifle more every day. It was reliable, dead on target, and lightweight to carry without tiring. Leroy Jennings, one of his two partners in crime, had joked that the weapons were more reliable than any woman he’d ever met. Of course, Leroy wouldn’t know about such things, with his tragic track record of one-night stands.
Herb’s headphone crackled.
“Transporter’s on its way. ETA in two minutes.”
Herb smiled. Leroy’s voice sounded like he was making an announcement at a train station. Obviously, Herb’s tension wasn’t the same as that of Leroy in his elevated position.
“It’s arriving exactly on time. Your redhead knows the moves. I still wonder—how did she get the information? Were nocturnal activities involved?”
“What does it matter now, Leroy?” Dwight Mueller asked, voice strained. “Shut up.”
Leroy chuckled quietly. Herb imagined his friend’s face splitting with suppressed laughter.
“We’re here because she’s paying us the big bucks,” Dwight went on in his east coast drawl. “Shut your hatch and do your work.”
Herb remembered the final mission briefing in their hideout. While Dwight, at forty-six and the oldest member of the team, had stuck to the facts like any good soldier, Leroy had fantasized aloud about the mysterious woman and her intentions, spiced with insinuations about sex in various positions. The more his descriptions turned specific, the more Dwight’s composure dissipated. Eventually, Dwight shouted at Leroy, close to using his fists instead of reason. Herb had laughed at first, but as the scene progressed, he had seen no other choice but to interfere. He didn’t want to lose Dwight’s participation over such a stupid quarrel. Leroy had apologized later, but after a string of similar incidents, Herb had begun to doubt the young man’s honesty.
“They’re coming around the corner. Don’t wet your pants, guys, it’s showtime.”
Herb hunkered down to look through the rifle sight once more. A police car rounded the elongated bend. The bus with the prisoners followed, displaying the logo of the Maryland Department of Corrections.
“There’s a second black-and-white behind the bus,” Leroy said, all humor gone from his voice. “Proceed or abort the attack?”
Herb curled his finger around the trigger. “Proceed. Everybody stays put.”
“This wasn’t the plan.” Dwight sounded agitated even though he tried for a controlled voice. “There are at least two more guards than you calculated. We must abort and get away.”
Herb knew his partner was an outstanding sniper as long as his nerves lasted. That was one of the reasons why the army had prematurely taken him out of service. It was also the reason why Dwight had chosen to supplement his income illegally. “Don’t lose your cool, Dwight. We can do this. Stay where you are.”
The police car was in range. The dark brown bus kept a steady distance from its fender. Dwight shot both the front and back tire of the police car and the front one of the bus in quick succession. Both vehicles swerved to the right, and Herb bet the drivers had a hard time keeping control until the brakes caught and the vehicles slowed to an inelegant stop. Herb moved the muzzle to the left, but Dwight shot at the same moment, as planned. Three bullets tore through the tires of the last car, one shattered the windshield. The black-and-white swiveled on its front axle, rammed the back end of the bus with its driver-side fender, and came to a skidding halt on the right shoulder. Smoke rose above the tires.
According to the plan, Herb and Dwight were to run toward the transport and free the quarry the client had paid for, but as Herb rose to get up, three uniformed men with pump shotguns emerged from the bus, took cover, and opened fire toward the hill. It was obvious they didn’t see their enemies, but that didn’t keep them from shooting. Herb took cover behind a large rock and aimed his rifle again. Further up the hill, Leroy shot at the uniforms, wounding one and forcing the others to retreat. Meanwhile, the police officers had exited their cars and hidden behind the vehicles’ bulky front ends. As far as Herb could see, they were discussing their approach. One of them spoke into the microphone of his headset. Dwight sounded tense as a bowstring. “We can’t make it. Sands, we must retreat, or we’ll get killed.”
“Not yet. Leroy?”
“Already on target.” Leroy fired at the men huddled behind the first car. One of them fell backward with a cry. “Two down, five to go.”
Herb was pleased to find that Leroy didn’t lose his cool even though things weren’t going to plan. “We must keep them from calling assistance.”
“They’re in constant contact with HQ.” Dwight fired at the officers hiding behind the second patrol car but didn’t hit his mark. “We’ve got about ten minutes to pull this off or retreat. I’d prefer the latter.”
“We can do this.” Herb shot and knocked out another policeman. “Keep firing.”
Dwight cursed. “Nine minutes and counting.”
Herb watched a third officer collapse but suspected Dwight would lose the meager grip he had on his composure sooner than the nine minutes in his countdown. Dwight’s breathing was audible through the headset, and Herb feared his associate was about to get up and make a run for it.