Jake Cogburn, code name Hondo, is the deadliest agent in the CIA's secret enhancement program. Designed to be the perfect killing machine, he's the program's greatest asset, and biggest secret, until the night he removes his tracker and disappears. Once he goes rogue, his handler and only friend, Mike Grant, has a big decision to make; hunt him down or delete all the information in his file, including his last known whereabouts.
Mike has always sensed there's something more to Jake than a mindless killer. He feels drawn to the secret assassin in a way he can't describe, and even though he's sworn an oath to his country, he feels his first loyalty is to his secret agent. Knowing there will be severe consequences, he does the best he can to assist Jake after he disappears, going rogue himself in order to help Jake get a head start.
But once he helps Jake, who will help him avoid the consequences of a rogue heart?
I looked out over the harbor, watching the sun sink slowly below the waterline for what could very well be the last time. I bought the house over two years ago during a wave of optimism about my future, and this was the first time I had a chance to live there. I liked being near the water. The regular sound of the waves lapping against my porch soothed me, and I spent hours watching the marine birds trying to catch fish, and watching the fish try to catch bugs. I remember thinking how suitable it would be to grow old here. Maybe even raise a family here. But now I knew there would be no family, no growing old, no future.
Now I knew I would die here.
I might have gotten away with my deception if I hadn't taken the extra step of deleting Jake's files. I feared if the files remained, they would only create another Agent Hondo. And as the handler with the most experience in the program, I would likely be handed the assignment. I couldn't stomach the thought of it. I couldn't stomach seeing another man with blank, dead eyes accepting order after order with no thought to his own needs. I couldn't stomach the idea of another man slowly regaining his memories and being tormented by dreams. Of course the higher-ups in the CIA would not agree with me and that was why I didn't speak to them about my concerns -- I just destroyed all of the evidence that Jake ever existed.
I sealed my own fate with that decision. At least I would die with a clear conscience.
What was Jake doing now? Did he still dream? Were those dreams becoming more intense, the colors more vibrant, the face clearer? Did those dreams lead him home? Where was Jake's home? The files I deleted gave absolutely no clue of who Jake was, where he came from, why he was chosen for the program, or even what his name was. Of course I scoured every file I could find but I learned nothing about the man who still haunted my dreams and my waking moments.
I liked to imagine meeting him under different circumstances. Perhaps if we had met at the academy or in a bar or even on an assignment the courses of our lives would have changed and we could have avoided this outcome altogether. On the other hand, maybe it was for the best I never met him in a more personal setting. I would have certainly developed an infatuation.
Would have? Shit, son, you already have.
My mentor's voice coming down through the years, once again pointing out my idiocy. Yeah, I already was infatuated with him. I already spent too much time thinking about his green eyes, the shape of his smile, the width of his shoulders. The way his voice sounded when he said, I trust you, Mike -- vulnerable yet firm.
"I hope you found what you were looking for," I said to the water, imagining the waves carrying my message to Jake. "I hope you found home."
I heard a sound from the trees behind me, and my instincts and training shouted at me to duck, to move, to fight. To do anything but stand there like a civilian target who just didn't know better. But to what end? So I could spend the rest of my short life fighting assassins and looking for enhanced agents around every corner? I didn't see any reason to prolong the inevitable. I'd been on the run for six months, leading them around in circles, hoping that every day I survived was another day Jake had to gain distance. I didn't think I had another six months in me. Or even another six days. I didn't want to live that way.
So I came home. Or rather, the house that would have been my home under better circumstances. I wanted to hear the water and see the sunset and watch the sailboats dart through the waves, like colorful butterflies floating in the blue expanse. I saw it all, but I barely paid attention to it. Jake was front and center in my mind's eye. Maybe due to guilt. Probably due to something else. Regardless of the reason, I couldn't imagine living like this for decades.
The waves at my feet turned orange with the sun's final light. The world became completely still and silent. No birdsong. No trees rustling. Not even the sounds of boats sounding their horns across the harbor. I braced myself for the bullet. The shot would be true and my suffering would be short.