"You can't leave him there," Jamie Sanders said, then
shoved her hands into her jeans pockets so no one would
see that she was shaking. She wasn't sure if it was caused
by rage or fear.
Probably a little of both. "Zach Jones is dead," Winston
Danville III stated calmly. "You don't know that.
According to the men who got away, he wasn't in the second
helicopter when it exploded."
Winston leaned back in his leather chair and stared at
her. Jamie had always thought his combination of pale blue
eyes and white blond hair made him look like a Hollywood
casting director's idea of the perfect villain â€” cool,
confident, in control. Winston's reputation did nothing to
dispute that image.
"Three weeks, Jamie," Winston said softly. "Three weeks in
one of their prisons, being tortured several times a day.
If Zach Jones wasn't dead, he is now."
Her stomach rolled at the thought. She desperately needed
him to be alive, but the thought of him having to endure
that kind of suffering was more than she could bear. The
word torture wasn't just a casual phrase to her. She was
intimately familiar with the inhumanity of deliberately
inflicting pain on prisoners. Surely death would be a
But Zach wasn't dead.
She crossed the richly decorated room and sank into one of
the leather chairs opposite her boss's desk. She stared at
him, meeting his cold gaze with an equally determined
stare of her own. She'd trained at the hands of a master.
She knew how to intimidate as well as anyone in the agency.
Surprisingly Winston looked away first.
Before she could pounce on her unexpected advantage, there
was a quick knock at the door. Winston's pretty, young
assistant stepped inside and brought them each a mug of
Jamie accepted the cup with a muttered "Thanks" and took a
sip. The assistant glanced at her, then left. Jamie knew
she looked out of place. The worn jeans, scuffed athletic
shoes, faded tank top and the flannel shirt she wore
instead of a jacket didn't fit the dress code of the
office. She had never been the suit-and-high-heels type.
She filed away the feeling of discomfort, knowing she
would deal with it at another time. All that mattered now
"He's not dead," Jamie repeated.
Winston raised one eyebrow. "How do you know?"
"I just do."
"I see. Well, fine. I'll write up the report and quote
your intuition as the source. I'm sure the director will
Jamie set the coffee on the desk and rose. "I'm going in,
Winston, with or without your permission."
"No, you aren't. You still work for me and you'll do what
I tell you." He paused and raised his pale
eyebrows. "Unless you plan to resign. Isn't that what
you've been talking about?"
He was right. She had wanted out. The last mission was
supposed to have been her final one. She even had the
letter of resignation typed up at home. But she hadn't
turned it in. A voice inside of her, a voice Zach had
taught her to listen to, had whispered to wait. Now she
"That was before I knew about Zach."
Winston motioned to the chair. Jamie hesitated. Since
finding out what had happened to Zach Jones, she'd been on
the move. She'd flown directly to Washington on the first
flight she could get. Once in the capital, she'd made a
few phone calls and come up with a plan. All she needed
was Winston's cooperation.
Sitting down felt too much like giving up, but her boss
was stubborn enough not to talk to her if she didn't at
least pretend to go along with him. Grudgingly she perched
on the edge of her seat.
He reached for his coffee and took a sip. "I wasn't aware
you and Zach were so close."
Jamie grimaced. "You know we aren't. Zach took me through
training and my first assignment. He made me the best. I
owe him for that."
There was more, of course, but Winston didn't need to hear
about it. Their boss prided himself on knowing every
detail of his operatives' lives. This was one detail he
hadn't been able to claim. Not that it mattered. Seven
years was a long time for anyone to remember. She was
reasonably sure Zach had been able to forget, even if she
"According to my records, you've never worked with him
since. That's a long time to carry a debt," Winston said.
She shrugged. "Interesting." He leaned back in his
chair. "And touching. But the answer has to be no."
She was on her feet in an instant, her hands braced on his
desk. "Listen to me, Winston. Short of arresting me, you
can't keep me from going after Zach. You can make it easy
or you can make it hard, but I'm doing this." She glared
at him, ignoring the frosty look in his icy blue eyes.
"You'll end up just as dead as he is."
"I'm willing to take the chance."
"Then you're a fool."
"Maybe, but I'm a determined fool. Besides, if you're
right and I do get killed, how are you going to explain my
"Terrorists don't send bodies home."
"What if they do this time?"
His thin lips twisted in disapproval. "I'll handle it the
way I've handled other problems."
"I'll leave a letter with my lawyer explaining everything
and exposing the agency."
"Don't threaten me, Sanders."
She knew she was playing with fire, but she didn't have a
choice in the matter. She had to convince him. "I have a
better chance of surviving with your help than without
it," she told him. "But it doesn't matter what you say or
do. I'm going in after Zach and I'm going to bring him
"I suppose you're just going to walk in there and take him
from under their noses," Winston said. He reached for his
mug and cradled it in both hands.
Jamie sank into her seat. "Exactly."
He stared at her for a long minute. She couldn't tell what
he was thinking, but she refused to let the silence make
her squirm. She was an expert at waiting. She had to
convince him. Winston was her only hope. She would go in
without agency assistance, but without the backup, the
odds for success were almost zero.
Finally he nodded briefly. "Explain."
Relief crashed through her. She had him. He was going to
agree. Once he heard her plan, he would be convinced â€” she
She pushed aside the momentary flush of victory and
concentrated on the task at hand. She grabbed a pen and
the blank legal pad poking out of the pile of papers on
his desk. Working quickly, she made a sketch of the
compound, based on the aerial photographs she'd seen and
what she knew about the area.
She drew the low, one-story building where Zach was
probably being kept. A quarter mile away was their
When she finished, she slid the paper toward
Winston. "Zach is here," she said, trying to sound as if
she really knew where he was being held instead of just
guessing. "It's not a main training facility, which is in
our favor. Also, Zach's men were there less than a month
ago. The debriefing information should still be accurate.
The plane will drop us off about thirty miles away, and
we'll drive until we get within sight of the perimeter."
She nodded, trying to act casual. "Rick Estes is coming
Winston was a pro. He might wear expensive suits and silk
ties, but there had been a time when he'd been the best
field agent in the agency. Not by a flicker of his pale
lashes did he give away what he was thinking.
"He owes Zach, too."
"I wasn't aware Agent Jones inspired such loyalty." She
didn't bother commenting on that one. After a few moments
of silence, Winston shook his head.
"It won't work."
"But we â€”""
"No, Jamie. I'm not the heartless bastard you think I am.
I didn't abandon Zach to those animals. He's a good man
and a friend. I've already sent in a team. Half the group
couldn't get close, the other half suffered fifty percent
casualties. Enough people have died. I'm not risking any
more just to bring home a corpse."
She hadn't known. She could feel the blood draining from
her head. The room tilted, but she didn't give in to the
She swore under her breath. "We have a better plan."
"Backed by that famous intuition of yours?" She ignored
the sarcasm. "You sent in a team. This time there's just
going to be the two of us. Rick will create a diversion,
and I'll get Zach out. We'll rendezvous at the jeep, then
meet the plane."
"Sounds simple. Why didn't we think of that?" He glared at
her. "Jamie, you're not stupid. What do you think you can
do that hasn't already been tried?"
"We're going to blow up the munitions."
That got Winston's attention. He leaned forward in his
executive leather chair. "Are you crazy?"
"I'm aware of the potential problem."
"Problem? Problem? We don't know what's there, Sanders.
That's a hell of a lot more than just a problem."
For the first time since entering Winston's office, she
was the one to look away. She and Rick had discussed this
in detail. Blowing up the terrorists' ammunition and
weapons would be a terrific diversion. There was only one
catch. No one knew exactly what was stored there. If their
intelligence was correct, then Rick could safely blow it
up. If the intelligence was wrong â€” if the terrorists had
more-powerful bombs and explosives â€” then the blast would
not only take out the stash, but Rick, Jamie and everyone
else in the vicinity, including Zach.
"It's a calculated risk," she said softly. "One Rick and I
are prepared to take."
Winston glared at her. He punched a button on his
phone. "Get Estes in here." He broke the connection
without waiting for a reply. "I assume he's lurking around
waiting to hear the outcome of this meeting."
Winston swore. "You're putting me in a difficult
position." She drew in a deep breath. The relief was as
tangible as the chair she sat in. "I'm sorry for that,"
Winston glanced at her. "No, you're not."
"You'll need a transport plane, a jeep. I assume Estes
already has his supply list ready."
She nodded. "You really think Zach is still alive?"
"I know he is."
"You could be risking your life for a dead man."
"It's a chance I'm willing to take." There was a knock at
the door. "Come!" Winston called.
Rick Estes entered. Jamie looked up at him and
smiled. "We're in."