Jackson Kincaid, a mercenary or current-day Robin Hood, is
guest of honor at a black tie charity event in a Haiti
missionary school. A nun named Kate, who has ties to
Jackson's past, is paying tribute to Jackson for everything
he has done for the school. Suddenly chaos breaks out when
masked gunmen shoot and kill some of the guests and call
out his name. While Jackson, who's been shot, tries to
decide how to deal with the terrorists, they grab up men,
women and children and march them out of the school; Kate
is among the kidnapped.
Vowing that he will rescue Kate no matter the personal
cost, Jackson asks one of his men to contact someone to
help. His friend contacts the one person Jackson hates,
Garrett Wheeler. However, Garret, the director of a secret
international group called the Sentinels, has the power and
the means to bring in a team to assist Jackson with his
search for Kate.
Garrett sends one of his best operatives, Alexa Marlowe. He
knows Alexa and Jackson have an intimate past, but he also
knows he owes Jackson a great debt and hopes that somehow
Alexa will be the tool to bring Jackson around to the idea
of returning to his previous job. Alexa is given intel that
Jackson, now a mercenary to the highest bidder, is no
longer the man she knew before.
Alexa arrives in Haiti with her team and they start the
search, which takes them to the mountains of Cuba. Jackson
doesn't tell Alexa about his wound because he knows she
will leave him behind. When Jackson takes a fever, Alexa
drugs him to keep him safe. She will lead the team to the
hostages and find this mysterious Kate that Jackson is so
worked up over. Alexa has a hard time equating this kind
and dedicated man as a mercenary. She thinks Jackson may
finally be the person she wants in her life, but who is
Kate and what does she mean to him? And what will Jackson
think when he finds out Alexa's objective has changed? The
Sentinels have learned who the terrorist is and he must be
captured alive and interrogated to thwart rumored future
terrorist acts. The hostages are second priority. Jackson
wants to save Kate and wants the terrorist dead. Alexa and
Jackson find themselves at a crossroad again.
Jordan Dane's THE ECHO OF VIOLENCE is the third
installment in her Sweet Justice series and introduces us
to characters who intrigue and excite us. She weaves in
enough mystery about them that we must read the next story
to learn more about these "damaged" characters, people who
have baggage yet fight for justice for those who cannot.
Like the rest of Dane's books, THE ECHO OF VIOLENCE will
rest on my keeper bookshelf.
Terrorists attack a Haitian missionary school fundraiser to
abduct partygoers for ransom. But when the hostages are
brutally killed one by one-with videos of the senseless
murders posted online-time is running out. Sentinels' agent
Alexa Marlowe is forced into an unlikely alliance with a
relentless mercenary-but he's no stranger.
Jackson Kinkaid is the only witness to the raid who can
track the killers into their stronghold in the mountains of
communist Cuba, but he's not the same man Alexa once knew.
Guarding a dark secret, he's linked to drug cartels and
rumored to sell his services to the highest bidder. But
when Alexa must take the terrorist leader alive for
questioning-to thwart an atrocity on U.S. soil-will Kinkaid
sabotage her mission to save one life?
Kinkaid has good reason to question the motives of the
covert vigilantes Alexa works for. He knows all too well
innocent lives can become collateral damage when weighed
against a worse scenario. Can he trust Alexa to rescue his
good friend, a Catholic nun who got him through the worst
nightmare of his life?
Not even the mesmerizing beauty of the sea at night calmed
The moon dappled undulating waves with shimmer as his slow-
moving trawler navigated the Atlantic toward the Canal de
la Tortue. Haiti and Port de Paix lay dead ahead. The crew
of the Aquilina made ready for docking and had left Luc at
the helm, alone with his thoughts. As captain of the
commercial vessel, he normally took pleasure in the
solitary feeling at this hour and drew comfort from being
one with the sea. That feeling of serene isolation reminded
him of the old days when he was a younger man-but not
He had other things on his mind.
To settle his nerves, he had smoked far too many cigarettes
as he kept an alert eye on the horizon. He peered through
the dim glow of the wheelhouse and beyond the reflection of
the boat's running lights on the water, searching for
police on patrol in these waters.
Earning extra money for his family, he carried additional
cargo in a special compartment known only to him and the
men he worked for on the side. He played a small part in a
smuggling operation with a splinter faction of a drug
cartel and his crew had no idea. His men knew nothing about
any contraband onboard.
For that matter, he didn't know much more.
For the sake of his wife and children, he only cared about
the money and merely played his part as blind courier
between South America and Miami Florida. What had been
stowed below was none of his concern. And even though the
Dominicans had cut into his action and ramped up their role
by becoming wholesaler to many cities on the East Coast of
the United States, Luc wanted no part in that.
On most nights, the limits he'd set made him feel absolved
of the crime. A more palatable rationale.
When he first saw the city lights of Port de Paix-a distant
glow that had robbed the skyline of stars-he had called in
his position and estimated time of arrival using the
special cellular phone he'd been given. As an agreed upon
security measure, he avoided using the high frequency radio
transmission, the equipment he had in the wheelhouse. Luc
blew smoke from his nose and glanced at his watch one more
time. When he looked up, he spotted a search light on the
water dead ahead. The Haitian national police were about to
After speaking to his South American contact, he had
expected the marked patrol boat, but making it through an
inspection at sea always made him nervous these days.
Luc only hoped his part would be over soon.
He breathed a sigh of relief when he spotted the familiar
face of a Haitian inspector as the man boarded his vessel,
an official he'd seen before and knew by reputation. The
hulking man in uniform lumbered across the deck-Gerard
Heriveaux-a big man with a pronounced slouch. He and his
men knew how to look the other way. And knowing that
allowed Luc to relax until the man pulled him aside.
"We must break protocol," the inspector said in
French. "I'm here to intervene on behalf of our mutual
friends. Contact your man and confirm this. I will wait."
One of the inspector's men handed him a duffel bag. Luc had
no idea why Heriveaux would need it.
"I do not understand," he said. "What is happening?"
The Haitian officer looked over his shoulder and kept his
voice low. "We've received word that the counter narcotics
unit will raid your vessel when you dock. If you want to be
held harmless, you will contact your man to confirm and let
me do my part. Now is that clear enough?"
Luc stared at the older man, unable to control the
escalating beat of his heart. Nothing like this had ever
happened before. The threat of a raid would put him in the
middle, between dangerous drug smugglers and an unforgiving
Haitian government. Even the hint of an illegal operation
would mark him by local officials. He had not been so
foolish as to deny this possibility, but being faced with
it turned his stomach sour.
God help him.
"Yes, very clear," he nodded. "I will make the call."
Luc headed for the privacy of the wheelhouse to use his
cellular phone. When the man on the other end of the line
made it easy for him to explain-offering his take on the
raid-it made him more confident he would be doing the right
thing and reinforced that he'd not be held accountable. His
contact told him what to do.
When he returned to the Haitian inspector on the leeward
deck, Luc made sure his crew was distracted by the official
inspection and delegated the paperwork to one of his men
before he waved the officer forward, "Come. Follow me."
In privacy, he led Heriveaux to his personal cabin below.
Behind a large wooden panel on the back of his bunk, he
yanked at one side and opened a secret compartment. Bolted
down and welded, a large combination safe was secured
A safe he didn't know how to open.
"If you have the trust of my contact, you will know how to
access what's inside. I do not," Luc told the man. "And I
have no wish to be involved. I'll be outside my cabin until
you have secured... whatever is in that safe."
As he opened his duffel bag, Heriveaux acted surprised by
his reaction, but smiled. "You are a smart man, Captain.
Go. Do what you must. I will be with you shortly."
Luc shut the door behind him and stood outside his cabin,
waiting for the inspector. With the trawler adrift on the
sea, the Aquilina pitched in the rolling waves, forcing him
to widen his stance for balance. His stomach roiled with
the motion, the start of nausea more attributable to the
sudden change in plan. He wiped both hands over his face
Luc Toussaint prayed he'd done the right thing.
Once the Aquilina was moored to the pier at Port de Paix,
Luc's crew got to work unloading the documented cargo. But
a familiar face on the dock below caught the eye of the
captain. He quickly disembarked down the gangway and walked
toward Inspector Gerard Heriveaux. The man barely glanced
at him, as if nothing was the matter.
"Why are you here?" He shrugged as he stood before the
Haitian official. "Has something else happened?"
"What are you talking about?" the inspector
questioned. "I'm here to inspect your vessel and collect
your port fee."
Heriveaux scribbled on a document clipped to a board and
prepared another inspection form-a form Luc already had
signed and had in his possession, stuffed into his pocket.
He retrieved the executed document, unfolded it and pulled
the man aside.
Lowering his voice, Luc said, "But I already paid you. And
don't you think it's unwise to duplicate the paperwork?
Someone might notice."
With a confused look on his face, Inspector Heriveaux
knitted his brow, cocked his head and opened his mouth to
speak. But the ringing of the private cell phone clipped to
Luc's belt distracted him.
When he recognized the number, he raised a finger and
said, "Please ... I must take this. Excuse me."
Heriveaux grumbled and turned back to his paperwork with a
show of indignation as the harsh voice of his South
American contact stole Luc's attention.
"Why have I not heard from you? You were supposed to call
by now. What's your position?"
Luc's eyes grew wide and his jaw dropped. But as he stared
at the annoyed inspector standing in front of him on the
pier, it did not take long for him to realize.
He'd been pirated and put out of business by a slick
"I c-can ... " He choked on words he'd never believe
himself. " ... explain."
The Haitian patrol boat set course for Tortuga Island, the
historically infamous Pirate Island across from Port de
Paix. En route, every decal, flag and uniform that
designated the identity of the boat and its personnel would
be removed, bagged and thrown overboard with weights. No
evidence of their piracy would remain.
In his cabin below deck, Jackson Kinkaid stripped out of
his uniform to his skivvies and stared at the age-ravaged
face and thinning gray hair of Inspector Gerard Heriveaux
in the mirror one last time. Being a chameleon, he admired
his work. His best disguise to date.
What had taken him hours to create, would be gone in
Kinkaid removed his brown tinted contact lenses and dug his
fingernails into the skin at his cheek, tearing at the
latex until his own face emerged, dotted with adhesive. He
bent over a small sink to scrub off the last remnants of
the disguise and wet down his dark hair. When he looked
into the mirror again, familiar green eyes stared back. And
he straightened his spine and shoulders to regain his
youth ... and attitude.
"You won't have to worry about old age, Kinkaid," he
smirked at his reflection. "You won't live that long."
Before he dressed, he sat on his bunk with eyes closed and
listened to a digital recording on an iPod. He needed to
hear it like he was compelled to breathe and he'd made this
special time a ritual-a self-inflicted reminder of how much
he had changed. The recording also never let him forget
that his life hadn't always been empty.
While he took his personal downtime, his team headed for
Tortuga Island where his men would separate and a
helicopter awaited him. Not too long ago, the island had
served as the filming locale of a sequel to Pirates of the
Caribbean. Kinkaid appreciated the irony, especially
considering what he had just pulled off.
Forty-five Minutes Later
"Boss, we're here." The voice of his number one man, Joe
LaClaire, called to him from on deck.
Kinkaid knew from the plan that they would be docking in a
discreet cove on the island, away from curious eyes. For
security reasons, they randomly selected the location, but
this spot had a unique attribute. A helipad was nearby and
a Bell 210 helicopter awaited his arrival.
By the time he emerged topside, Kinkaid garnered his men's
attention when he came out wearing a navy Armani suit with
a light gray shirt and burgundy striped tie. The stark
contrast of dress attire onboard generated a flurry of
whistles and verbal abuse he found hard to ignore.
"Cut the crap, you bastards," he yelled. A rumble of good-
natured laughter from his men made Kinkaid smile. He
gripped the shoulder of the short dark-haired man standing
in front of him and lowered his voice. "Get the cash where
it needs to go, Joe. You're in charge now."
He trusted Joe with his life so relying on him to secure
what they had plundered wasn't an issue. The drug money
taken off the trawler had been easy pickings, especially
with an inside track to the drug cartel. Eavesdropping on
the international Maritime satellite communication network
helped determine what cargo to hit and the level of risk
involved-all part of their usual meticulous homework. And
the anxious trawler captain had given him plenty of time to
break into the safe when the man left him alone in his
But commandeering the trawler's private cell phone-
pretending to be the captain's smuggler contact-had been a
stroke of genius Joe had orchestrated. It had saved the
trawler crew from having to face Kinkaid's plan B if anyone
"I'll see you at the rendezvous point tomorrow morning.
Eight sharp," he said.
These days he had few friends. He'd severed ties and kept
moving to avoid dealing with the baggage. Friends expected
too much. And they knew when he was lying and called him on
his shit. LaClaire understood the way things were. He
rarely pushed and didn't take it personal when he drew the
line. And that was okay, most days.
"Just watch your ass." Joe narrowed his eyes. "I don't want
to dip into my hard-earned funds to bail you out." He
leaned in and whispered. "There was close to a half million
in that safe."
"Good haul." Kinkaid forced a smile. "I gotta go."
"I hate not leaving together after an operation. You sure
you won't need me to stick around?" Joe asked.
"No, I have obligations." Kinkaid adjusted his cufflinks,
thinking about the second half of his evening. He was
After his helicopter touched down, he had arranged for a
taxi to get him to his next stop. A taxi service in Port de
Paix was a high-risk sport. The vehicles were nothing more
than unmarked junk heaps without meters. But given his
timetable, he didn't want to risk not finding one.
The charity event he'd be attending was an affair put on by
a determined Catholic nun.
"People are waiting for me, Joe." He raised an
eyebrow. "Hell, I'm the damned guest of honor."
Port de Paix, Haiti
When Kinkaid arrived late to the party, the fundraiser for
the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy was in full swing, an
occasion that marked the tenth anniversary of the
missionary school. With its aqua stucco walls and red tiled
rooftop, Dumont Hall was a civic building on the fringe of
town and near the academy.
Not much more than an impoverished village with dirt
streets, Port de Paix had few buildings suitable for such
an event, but the organizers had done well and it looked as
if some of the expected supporters had traveled to attend.
Women in fancy dresses accompanied men in suits with
children playing dress up. Partygoers could be seen through
the windows and on the front steps of the building. And the
music of a small quartet wafted into the night air as
Kinkaid's taxi pulled to the curb.
He cringed at the thought of walking into an event he knew
he didn't belong. And if he believed in divine
intervention, the course that had led him to this fiasco
had a real hinky vibe to it, like an unavoidable
retribution for his sins.
Four years ago, he'd crossed paths with a very persistent
Catholic nun, Sister Mary Katherine, when her need for cash
outweighed her common sense. Their meeting had been a
surprise for both of them. It had not been their first.
After his arrival in Haiti-under the guise of an American
businessman traveling the islands-the woman had tracked him
down, looking for donations. How she'd found him, she never
said. And she'd followed his lead in not talking about the
past. She had left that up to him, which meant the topic
never came up.
The nun had no idea what he'd become. And he never told her
otherwise, but being with her was a constant reminder for
him. Deserved penance.
Standing on the curb with the taxi driving away, he stalled
making his entrance. He took a breath of fresh air to
dispel the smell of the taxi from his nostrils. Despite his
usual swagger-a product of the flamboyant public image he
had cultivated out of necessity over the years-he hated
being the center of attention. But tonight he'd have to put
up with it. If Sister Kate hadn't specifically asked him to
attend and made such a big deal about it, he would have
turned her down flat.
"Only for you, Kate."
Killing time, he avoided the main hall and headed for a
spot in the garden to the left of the entrance. Dirt and
gravel crunched under his shoes when he entered a
courtyard. The pungent aroma of flowers mixed with the
scent of the ocean off a warm breeze, but something more
lingered in the air. His eyes trailed to a far corner of
the garden where he searched the shadows for what he knew
he'd find. He had taken a gamble that he wouldn't be alone
and he was right.
In the dark, under the dim glow of moonlight, he saw Sister
Mary Katherine. Her dark silhouette stood out against the
stonework behind her. A faint yet ghostly twist hung low
around her head like an aura and he grinned at the faint
impression of a halo. Sister Kate was too grounded in the
reality of life to ever be mistaken for an ethereal saint,
despite the fact that he couldn't think of anyone more
The nun was sneaking a cigarette-her one true vice-and
billowing smoke like a flume. She smoked when she was
nervous. Socializing at the fundraiser had her on edge too.
When she saw him, she didn't bother to hide her smoking.
"Come here," She waved her free hand. "Let me get a good
look at you."
"Okay, you got me at this shindig. Now what?" With arms
crossed, Kinkaid slouched against the stone wall next to
the Catholic nun who was dressed in a traditional black
tunic and veil with starched white collar.
Sister Mary Katherine flicked her cigarette away to glance
at him, top to bottom.
"You clean up real nice, Jackson. You change the color of
your skin to suit the occasion."
"You have no idea, Kate." He crooked his lip into a smile
until he noticed Dumont Hall had uniformed guards with
weapons at key locations, not exactly low profile. "This
event is supposed to be about the kids. What's with all the
"Now that's where you're wrong," the nun argued, waggling a
finger. "What we do at the school is for the kids, yes. But
this event? It's about you, Jackson Kinkaid. I'm proud of
you. And people are curious about the wealthy American, my
dear." She cocked her head. "Curious enough to make a
donation if they like what they see. So play nice, will
you? Do it for the children."
Over the years, he'd gotten a bit of a reputation in
certain circles. Partly due to his involvement with Sister
Kate's pet project, the media had initially instigated the
spotlight on him, but when other more influential people
took notice, he had to invent a persona that people and the
police would buy. One thing led to another and things got
out of control fast. He'd been mistaken that the local
media would get tired of covering his story-and now he was
stuck with the aftermath. No good deed went unpunished.
He'd never told Kate that she'd brought trouble to his door
the day she'd found him in Haiti and brought the past
colliding into the present for him. She thought she had
done him a good turn-drawing attention to what she believed
to be his philanthropic nature-and the academy's kids had
benefited from it. The choices he'd made in his life were
not their problem.
Sister Kate walked with him toward the main building, but
not before she wiped stone dust from the back of his jacket
like a nervous mother hen. With her arm in his, the nun
explained how the local papers had circulated the news of
the charitable event for the St. Thomas Aquinas Academy and
that the local police thought it would be wise to add
security. She told him that she had little to say about it.
"In truth, the police are here for you, Jackson."
"That's not funny, Kate. Armed men in uniform aren't my
idea of a good time," he protested.
"But an armed man who is well-dressed in designer threads
is perfectly acceptable?" She reached over and tugged at
the lapel of his suit. "I noticed you were packing heat."
Under his jacket, he wore a .45-caliber Glock 30 in a
"Packing heat?" He laughed. "You've been watching too many
"And you're ignoring my question." She crossed her arms and
stood in front of him. "You're a man with secrets, Jackson
Kinkaid. You always have been. Don't bother to deny it."
"Wouldn't if I could," he agreed.
"You've always struck me as someone I can trust when it
really counts, but I have a feeling I'd never know you in a
lifetime. Why is that?"
"Why you trust me?" He smirked. "Good question."
"That's not what I meant and you know it." She poked his
"I could say the same about you." He shrugged. "I trust
you, but I haven't scratched the surface of understanding
who you really are. You're not exactly an open book."
"I'm a nun. What's to know?" She brushed off her
habit. "Being trustworthy comes with the uniform."
"Not in my world, Kate." Kinkaid grinned. "You're a
complicated and uncompromising woman who respects secrets.
And I like that." He looked away and broke the hold she had
on him. "Besides, you don't want to know who I really am.
Men like me are the reason you pray."
"You're not the only reason I pray, Jackson. Not by a long
"I remember the day we first met at the hospital. Sometimes
that day seems like a lifetime ago." He stared into the
night sky and sighed. "Other times, it feels like only
yesterday. Some wounds never heal."
"I'm surprised you remember that day at all. You weren't in
any condition to recall much of anything." She stroked his
arm. "I do pray for you, Jackson. And I have faith that one
day you'll find peace."
"Pray for someone who deserves it, Kate. Your odds would be
He caught the glint of her eyes in the moonlight and knew
she was staring at him. When she didn't say anything more,
he knew that she understood not to ask questions. If she
ever did, he would tell her the truth about the man he'd
become and that might change everything between them. She
had accepted him into her life and that was good enough for
him. And for a reason he didn't want to think about, it
mattered what she thought of him. But that didn't mean he
wanted to risk crossing the line-to tell her the truth
about his life.
"Come on. Let's get this over with ... for both our sakes."
She took his arm again and headed for Dumont Hall,
muttering under her breath, "Who invited the likes of you
and me anyway?"
"Someone with exceedingly low standards." He smiled. "But
remember. This is all for the children."
"That it is, my dear." She patted his arm and grinned at
him. "That it is."
New York City - Lower East Side - 9:30 p.m.
Alexa knocked on the apartment door and peeked through the
peephole. From the outside looking in, nothing was very
clear through the lens, but she spied a light on inside.
That was good enough for her that someone was home,
although that didn't insure her knock would get answered.
Straightening her blond hair, she took a step back into the
hall so she'd be visible through the peephole-and waited.
Jessie Beckett opened the door without a hint of whether
she was pleased to see her. And she didn't feel the need to
break the ice by talking either. Dressed in faded jeans and
a black Chicago Bulls tee, the former bounty hunter could
play poker with the best, yet she'd never make a good
politician since she spoke her mind, short and sweet-one of
the reasons the woman had grown on her. And the pronounced
scar over her eyebrow hinted at the darkness in her past.
"You don't call ... you don't write." Alexa leaned a
shoulder against the doorjamb with her arms crossed. "Can I
Jessie stared at her a moment, then backed away to let her
in. Alexa entered the small apartment before Jessie had a
chance to change her mind.
"I've been busy, that's all," she said. "You didn't tell me
what hard work it would be. Garrett's people have me
jumping, but it's all good ... I think."
"From what I hear, you're a star," Alexa replied,
unbuttoning her light tweed jacket and putting her hands
into the pockets of her khaki pants.
She glanced around the tiny living room, sparse with cheap
rental furniture and worn cardboard boxes stacked in a
corner. The mundane room was colored in varying degrees of
brown and looked like something anyone would scrape off
their shoe. And it smelled a little musty with the faint
scent of pine and ammonia.
Although it was clear that Jessie had made an attempt to
clean, she barely looked like she lived there. No personal
effects could be seen, only the essentials for her to eat
and sleep in the apartment that Garrett Wheeler-the liaison
to the Sentinels-had leased for her after she'd picked it.
The woman definitely gravitated toward the simpler life,
having no tolerance for the more upscale lifestyle he would
But that only made Garrett peeved that he hadn't gotten her
total buy in. Lavish gifts and posh living quarters were
more his style. Yet she had refused his usual ploys to make
her feel obligated to him-and insult to injury-the woman
could pick up and go in a heartbeat. Garrett didn't like
that. So knowing Jessie had worked late, Alexa had been
sent to check on her even at this hour, a task she would
have done on her own without his prompting.
She had something personal on her mind and she had to get
it off her chest.
Alexa turned to face her and get a closer look at her new
partner. Jessie looked tired and the spark of her usual
defiance had been dulled. Alexa knew about going stir crazy
until that first assignment came along. Living in luxury
had made the wait tolerable for her, but Jessie didn't have
such a distraction. Plus the Sentinels instruction program
for its operatives was consuming, a twenty-four seven
schedule that had kept them apart until this week when
she'd be officially assigned her new partner.
Jessie was ready and they both knew it.
"Rumor has it that you're the one to beat. You had top
honors," Jessie reminded her. "I'm just trying to make a
good first impression."
"Spoken like a true over achiever whose been smacked by the
humility stick." She chose a chair across from the small
sofa and sat.
"Can I get you a beer?" Jessie asked.
Beer was not Alexa's drink of choice, but for Jessie's sake
she said, "Sure, as long as you don't take me to a monster
truck rally after."
"And here I thought you were a Monster Jam groupie."
"Just hearing you say that scares the hell out of me."
Alexa had gotten various reports from Jessie's trainers as
her instruction progressed. Top marks on all levels except
when it came to a consistent concern. Her instructors had
agreed that Jessie was both physically and mentally tough
and would make a gifted operative, but she was a definite
loner. In the world of the Sentinels, this was not a bad
thing, but not everyone was convinced she'd make a good
partner until Alexa spoke up for her.
That helped Garrett make up his mind. He needed to test her
with the real deal. Soon they'd be assigned a case, another
reason for Alexa to make contact with Jessie.
"Garrett told me we'd get one of the next assignments. You
up for it?"
"Hell, yeah." Jessie handed her a beer without a
glass. "I'd take my urine test over just to feel I'm making
"I'll mention that to the HR department."
Jessie plopped onto a sofa across from Alexa and took a
long pull from her bottle before she spoke again, "I mean,
it's not that I'm ungrateful for all Garrett's done for me.
The training has been interesting. And I've never been in
such good shape physically. The first few weeks were
killer. But lately I've been pulling longer hours to
stay ... focused. Just hanging out like this is driving me
crazier than usual. Without a bail jumping scumbag in
sight, I'm going through arrest withdrawals."
"Yeah, I figured."
Alexa knew that Jessie hadn't been back to Chicago since
her training started nearly six months ago except to pack a
few personal belongings. Garrett was maintaining her
Chicago apartment in case she changed her mind. Plus he'd
given her the option of flying back on a few occasions-at
his expense-but she'd never taken him up on the offer. She
hadn't even gone back to see her cop friend, Sam Cooper.
Although Alexa didn't know her well, that behavior smacked
of avoidance and seemed out of character, even for someone
as detached as Jessie.
That left Alexa with questions. And before they worked
together, she had to clear the air by testing a theory she
had for the reason Jessie had severed her link to Chicago.
"What are you doing tomorrow morning?"
"Not much. Why?"
"I thought you might want to ride with me to the airport. I
invited your friend Seth Harper to town for the weekend."
The alarmed look on Jessie's face told her everything she
wanted to know. Alexa knew her plans with Seth and her
playful weekend of seduction had gotten complicated.
Port de Paix, Haiti - 10:00 p.m.
"And are you single, Mr. Kinkaid?" In a coy gesture, the
older woman stroked the stem of her wineglass, not taking
her eyes off him. Before Kinkaid replied, she added, "My
daughter is studying finance back in the states. I'm sure
she'd love to meet you ... to discuss your ... assets."
He forced a polite smile and downed a full martini, wishing
he had a second one on deck. He took a deep breath and
gazed across the room to catch Sister Kate smirking. She
stood with a small group of contributors, holding the hand
of a little Haitian boy. And whenever she could, Kate
glanced his way, watching over him. Kinkaid could tell that
the nun took devilish delight in his uneasiness, mostly
because she shared it with him. Misery did indeed love
company. He narrowed his eyes and shook his head at her,
but Kate had supplied him with all the excuse he'd need.
"Best wishes to your daughter in her studies. But if you'll
excuse me, Sister Mary Katherine is calling."
He made what he hoped was a diplomatic exit and went
looking for a drink. But as he walked away, he caught the
matchmaking woman checking his assets head to toe. She
smiled and waved without any sign of embarrassment. And
from a distance, Kinkaid raised his empty glass in reply.
Sorry, lady. For your daughter's sake, you shouldn't troll
in these waters. You've got no idea what lurks deep.
Kinkaid took a detour to the nearest cash bar as he
listened to the music and took in the room. The musicians
weren't bad, especially after a few drinks. And the food
looked great. Sister Kate and her organizers had put on a
fine spread. When he crossed the room, dodging partygoers
and avoiding eye contact, he shifted his gaze to the exits.
At first nothing seemed out of the ordinary. And he would
have let the nagging sensation go, except for one thing.
It wasn't what he saw, but what he didn't see that bothered
him. He stopped and turned. Not one local policeman was at
his post. The uniforms were gone.
"What the hell..." He turned toward Sister Kate with a look
of concern on his face. She noticed his expression right
away and shrugged to convey she didn't understand.
Neither of them saw what happened next until it was too
A blast of automatic gunfire erupted and echoed through the
room. A deafening sound. He reached for his Glock as
plaster rained down on his head and he ran for cover.
Complete and utter chaos followed. People ran screaming and
jammed the exits. Gunmen dressed in black grabbed the
guests. Men, women and children were ordered to the floor,
face down. The assailants wore masks. Only their eyes and
mouths were visible, making them appear more sinister.
Kinkaid caught a glimpse of Sister Kate across the room.
She herded children toward the door to help them escape.
Her black habit was hard to miss. And for the first time,
he'd seen terror in her eyes when she stared back-although
he knew her fear wasn't for her own safety.
But the gunmen shut down the mass exodus and Kinkaid was
too far away to help Kate.
"Jackson ... Kinkaid."
He heard his name called out. The armed men were looking
for him. Damn it! But why? Had he brought this down on
Sister Kate? Or were these men just looking to abduct a
wealthy American businessman?
"Kinkaid," a man yelled and searched the cowering people on
the floor. No one looked him in the eye as he raged and
spat at his hostages.
Kinkaid stayed hunched behind a column, considering his
limited options. By his estimation, he'd be the only guest
with a weapon. If he guessed wrong on what to do next,
people could die and he'd be taken out of the equation,
unable to help. Yet he had to do something.
Slowly he wedged his gun at the small of his back and hid
it under his jacket. If one of these men got close enough
to search him for a weapon, they'd find an empty holster.
And that small diversion might give him time to pull his
handgun and get some answers. Risking his neck might be
worth the gamble if he found out what these men wanted and
could stop the gunplay. He stood and raised his hands,
ready to come out and identify himself.
But before he could, more shots rang out. This time the
bastards aimed into the frantic crowds who packed the exits-
a cruel sadistic show of power meant to terrorize already
"No, no." His lips moved, but his voice sounded muffled in
his head. His hearing was trashed from the gunfire. And all
he could do was watch. Everything happened too fast.
Two bodies fell. A man in a suit got shot in the back. The
round hit his body with a meaty thud and sent him sprawling
to the floor. And a gray-haired woman in a blue dress
snapped her head back and tumbled. A crimson mist hung in
the air as her body fell. When she hit the floor, the back
of her head slammed hard and a pool of her blood seeped
onto the carpet. Her vacant dead eyes stared accusingly at
a young girl who stood over her. The kid couldn't have been
much more than eight years old.
"Oh, shit," Kinkaid muttered.
For a split second, everything in the room stopped as he
watched the girl. He tuned everything out. Complete tunnel
vision. He couldn't take his eyes off her, but the instant
was gone in a flash.
A shrill scream rose above the panicked cries of men and
women as they fled. The sound of the pitiable wail
triggered a dark memory. He shut his eyes and tried to
shake the past, but nothing would break him free until the
blond girl screamed again.
His eyes fixed on her and grounded him in the moment. Even
from a distance he saw the little girl tremble. And her
face had turned a vivid red as tears streaked her cheeks.
She stared at the woman's body in shock, unable to move.
One of the attackers turned toward the crying child and
yelled something in a language Kinkaid didn't understand.
The masked man raised his weapon and aimed at the little