Thursday, May 27th, 10:30 pm
There were better ways to die.
But never a good time.
Jonathan Foley wouldn't have chosen to die in a vacant
warehouse with the river lapping at its crumbling
foundation. Definitely not while shackled to a cast-off
swivel chair beneath the glare of a single bare bulb.
But life stunk that way sometimes.
"Amp it up another notch," the punk gripping the
defibrillator paddles ordered. Then he smiled at his
prisoner. "Last chance, tough guy."
Evidently the trigger-happy lackey was through playing.
Foley braced for the electrical charge that would throttle
through his chest the instant the paddles touched his naked
skin. Nope, there was never a good time to die. But then he
had accomplished his mission. This was likely as good a time
as any. He lifted his gaze to the nimrod currently holding
the power. "We both know I'm not going to talk."
The jerk laughed, his pale blue eyes glittering with
anticipation. "I was hoping you'd say that."
The one manning the controls gave the appropriate knob a
violent twist then checked the readout. "Ready," he
Jonathan's jaw clenched and his fingers tightened on the
arms of the chair, but he refused to close his eyes. He
stared straight at the SOB with the paddles. Refused to
allow even a glimmer of fear or defeat. This waste of DNA
might kill him but he couldn't make him cooperate.
Better men had tried.
The sharply issued order echoed in the stale air of the
long-abandoned warehouse, wiped the smile right off the
paddle punk's face.
Foley should have relaxed. After all, he was just a few
volts from dead. This unexpected interruption provided a
momentary reprieve. He shifted his attention in the
direction of the footsteps coming nearer. Not that he needed
visual confirmation. He knew the voice.
Tall, distinguished, with just enough gray at the temples to
lend an air of wisdom. Even at a time like thisin a
place like thisthe man sported a three thousand dollar
black silk suit. No doubt the leather shoes he wore were
handcrafted. Nothing was too good for a Lennox. A similarly
dressed underling, briefcase in hand, rushed after him.
Well, well, Foley mused. Would wonders never cease? He'd
thought Lennox was long gone by now. Yet, here he was, in
the flesh, assistant in tow.
"Sir," the underling urged, "the Learjet is
waiting. There's no time."
Lennox held up a hand, cutting off his much younger
colleague. "Before you die," Lennox said to Foley,
his gaze narrowed with disdain and fury, "I have one
Foley licked his cracked lips, noted the taste of blood and
sweat. "For the past two hours I've been
beaten" his ribs ached with each indrawn breath
"shocked with ever increasing amperage
and" he jerked his head toward the punk with the
paddles "I still didn't talk. What makes you
think I have anything to say to you?"
"Let me give it another go," paddle punk pleaded.
"He'll talk." He smirked at Foley. "They
Lennox shook his head firmly from side to side. "Not
"Sir." The assistant dared to intrude into the
exchange yet again. "You must hurry."
Lennox ignored him. "I did my research, Foley. I know
all about you." He made a disparaging sound deep in his
throat. "And you're right, you won't talk."
He crossed his arms over his chest then reached up and
tapped his chin with a finger as if mulling over the
situation. "I have friends in places you can't even
fathom. I'm aware of your military career,
One corner of Foley's mouth twitched with the ghost of a
smile. "Then you know it was over a long time ago."
Bits and pieces of images flickered through his brain. He
banished the memories.
"You endured days of torture," Lennox went on as if
recalling documents he'd only just recently read.
"Never uttered a single word while every member of your
reconnaissance team was executed right in front of you."
A hint of respect flashed in the man's eyes. "Still
you remained strong. Loyal to the bitter end. Didn't let
your country down." He gave another shake of that
distinguished head. "No, no. You didn't talk then.
You won't talk now."
"Then what's your point?" Foley looked him dead
in the eye. He would have a point. A man who'd just been
nailed for treason wasn't going to hang around for
anything without a compelling reason.
"After a few years of doing nothing significant, you
joined a firm called the Equalizers," Lennox explained,
as if he had all night and wasn't the slightest bit
worried about the feds who no doubt had already turned
Chicago upside down to find him. "Your most recent
assignment was to do what no one else had been able to do."
"That's right." Foley had gotten Lennox. Gotten
him good. No one else had been able to penetrate the perfect
shield he'd built around himself. No one had had a clue
that it was the esteemed Victor Lennox who was selling out
his own company, his own country. Now his crimes were bared
to all. He could run, but he would never again possess the
power he had flaunted. Checkmate.
Lennox leaned down, stuck his face in Foley's. "Who
"The head of the Equalizers."
Rage tightened the features of the man's face better
than the Botox he likely used on a regular basis. "Three
people were involved in that aspect of my business,"
Lennox hissed. "Only three. Not one of them sold me
Foley shrugged. "I guess you'll never know for
"Oh, I already know. You see, every man has his breaking
point. Each of the three broke eventually. Like you, they
remained loyal until the end. Though I suspect they were
motivated by fear rather than anything else. You," he
accused, "already knew coming in what you were after.
All you had to do was find concrete evidence."
Foley stared at him. He wasn't denying or confirming
"It's not necessary for you to corroborate the
statement," Lennox assured him. "I know."
"Mr. Lennox," the well-dressed assistant interrupted
again, "we must go. Now."
Continuing to discount the warning, Lennox demanded,
"Tell me who sent you."
That ghost of a smile materialized fully on Foley's
lips. "I told you. My employerthe head of the
"A name, Foley," Lennox pressed. "I want a
Foley could tell him that he didn't know, because he
didn't. No one did. The man behind the Equalizers was a
complete unknown. So Foley did what he did best. He said
"You've won," Lennox fairly shouted.
"I've been exposed. I'm on the run. Even I know
that it's only a matter of time before they catch up
with me. What difference does it make now? I simply want to
know the identity of the man who discovered what no one else
Foley wondered if Lennox had any idea just how much
satisfaction his sheer desperation prompted.
"Cut him loose," Lennox ordered.
"What?" the paddle punk demanded.
"Sir!" the assistant declared, his panic clearly
"He's going with us," Lennox announced. "I
will know who sent him." He stared directly at Foley
once more. "Every man has his breaking point. All I need
is time to find yours."
While the assistant argued with Lennox, the punk tossed
aside the paddles and reached for the knife lying on the
cart next to the controls. He grumbled curses under his
breath but followed the order. His cohort passed a handgun
Lennox waved the weapon toward the rear door through which
he'd entered. "Let's go."
Foley pushed to his feet, the pain radiating through his
muscles and settling deep into his bones.
Lennox nudged him in the side with the weapon.
"Move," he commanded.
Foley had taken two steps when a cell phone blasted a
familiar tune. He glanced over his shoulder at the phone
lying on the table next to the portable defibrillator.
His phone. He'd been relieved of his weapon,
his wallet and his phone hours ago.
"Check the screen," Lennox directed.
Foley resisted the urge to roll his eyes. Wouldn't
matter if it was his employer, the name and number would
reveal nothing. A trace on the call would divulge the same.
"No name," paddle punk reported as he scrutinized
the screen. "Out of area call."
A frown attempted to stretch across Foley's brow but he
schooled the expression. His employer's number usually
showed up as a local call. A different number every time.
"Accept the call," Lennox instructed his torture
technician, "and put it on speaker." He glanced
around the room. "Not a word from anyone."
The creep holding Foley's cell punched the necessary
Another waste of time. Foley's employer wouldn't
leave a voice mail or speak into dead air. Maybe if Lennox
wasted enough time, the feds would be waiting for him at
whatever airfield where his Learjet waited on standby.
Emotion exploded in Foley's chest. Three
three long years of sleepless nights and pent-up
frustration leached into his blood. Haunting snippets of
whispered words, the brushing of lips and the hot, smooth
feel of bare skin against bare skin rushed into his brain.
It couldn't be
"I hope this is your voice mail
" A shaky
release of breath sighed across the silence. "Call me,
please." She stumbled through a number. need your help.
Please. It's a matter of life and death."
Silence reigned for three beats, then Lennox smiled.
"Ah. Perhaps we've found the missing piece we
need." Certainty glinted in his eyes.
Foley's mind churned with emotions. Why would she call
Didn't matter. He knew her inside and out.
Something was very wrong.
Lennox nudged Foley in the spleen with the weapon. "That
sounded exactly like the sort of leverage I need to obtain
the answer to my question."
Ice formed in Foley's gut. No way was he letting this
ruthless monster learn her identity and use her.
"Bring me that cell phone," Lennox ordered his
underling. He reached out in anticipation of having it
placed in his palm.
Foley whipped around and in one second had Lennox in a
chokehold, the weapon he still gripped aimed at his proud
brow. "Don't ever let yourself be distracted when
you've got a gun to a man's back."
Paddle punk's cohort dared to reach for his weapon.
"Nobody moves," Foley warned. He bored the barrel of
the nine millimeter into Lennox's temple.
Both men inched forward, testing the line Foley had drawn.
"Do as he says!" Lennox squeaked around the pressure
on his throat.
Smart man. "You," Foley said to the underling
who'd followed Lennox into the warehouse, "call 911
and give our location. Then give me my cell."
Weapons clattered to the floor as the two thugs who'd
tortured Foley raised their hands in surrender. "You got
what you want," the one who'd brandished the paddles
said. "You don't need us." The two started
backing away, most likely toward an exit somewhere beyond
the scope of the single bare bulb's illumination.
"You're right." Foley studied the two men.
"But you're walking away from your best chance at
cutting a deal," he warned. "Your prints are all
over the place." He nodded to the tools of the torture
trade. "Chances are the police will find you
Paddle punk's eyes narrowed. "What kind of deal?"
Now that was loyalty. "I'm sure the DA will be very
interested in any details the two of you can give regarding
his" he tightened his hold on Lennox
"activities. Your cooperation could earn you a
very sweet deal."
Lennox attempted to blubber his own warning. Foley clamped
his arm tighter around the bastard's throat and shot a
look at the man who'd trailed in here after him like a
puppy. "Make the call," Foley repeated.
While the assistant in the expensive suit entered the
necessary digits, the two thugs dropped to their knees then
went face down on the concrete floor.
"You might think you've won," Lennox screeched,
"but you and your employer will suffer the
"Maybe." Foley nodded to the guy who'd made the
911 call. "Bring my cell to me," he ordered a second
time, "then join your pals on the floor."
The younger man glanced at the filthy floor then swallowed hard.
"Now," Foley prompted.
The man inched close enough to give Foley the phone, then
side-stepped in those same small increments back toward his
partners in crime. It was almost worth the torture Foley had
endured to watch that silk suit kiss the dirt and, during
the short minutes before the cops arrived, to listen to
Lennox's offers of excessive amounts of cash for his
But Foley had one thing on his mind. Her. She'd
called. Unbelievable. He hadn't seen her, hadn't
heard her voice in three years.
I need your help.
Worry throbbed in his skull, flexed in his jaw. She
wouldn't call him
unless it truly was a matter of
life and death.
Fear trickled into his veins. He had to get to her.
When the cops arrived, Foley gave one of the officers his
business card and walked away. He ignored the warning that
he wasn't supposed to leave until the detective in
charge of the case arrived.
There wasn't a force on earth that could prevent him
The cell in his pocket sang its annoying tune.
Foley withdrew it, checked the display in case it was her
It wasn't. It was his employer.
Not at all surprised his employer already knew Lennox was
downhe seemed hotwired into everywhere with
everyoneFoley hit the answer button even as he
quickened his pace. "Foley."
"Outstanding job," the voice on the other end
praised. "I knew you were the right man for this one.
File your final report and relax. I'll contact the
office with your next assignment."
What kind of man could position a player to bring down a man
like Lennox? A god in the murky and political world of
"Who are you?" Foley had been hired as an Equalizer
more than five months ago. He'd heard this voice a dozen
times, but he had no idea who the guy was or even what he
looked like. Foley and the other two Equalizers currently on
staff had done their research, gone to all sorts of lengths
to find that answer.
And there was nothing. It was as if the man behind the voice
"One day you'll know," the voice promised.
"For now, your payment will be deposited into your bank
The connection severed.
Foley stalled, stared at the phone a moment. One day he
would know? What did that mean? Then he shook off the
questions and broke into a sprint.
She needed him.
He shouldn't care.
Stepping back into her life would be a mistake
But he couldn't ignore the call. Not even if he tried.