Heroes, p.22
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       Heroes, p.22

           Leigh Barker

  Lone Wolf

  Ethan Gill brushed as much dust off his old woollen overcoat as he could reach without drawing attention to it, and looked up slowly to see the PA watching him with a practiced blank expression. He recognised her from the last time he’d been invited to the Pentagon by SecNav. She didn’t show any recognition, but she remembered him, he knew it.

  SecNav opened his office door, crooked a finger, and Ethan crossed the small reception area and followed him in, after giving the PA a friendly wink. She scowled at him, but Hollywood wouldn’t be calling her any time soon. He’d seen the glint in her eye. And truth be told, she was cute, for somebody who looked like she could freeze steam if she chose to.

  “That job your squad did down in Texas,” SecNav said, pointing at one of the chairs by his huge desk.

  “The scumbags who killed the kids?”

  SecNav frowned. Did people really say scumbags? Something to ask later. He sat in his leather chair and leaned back. He looked tired, but he was a government employee, so that came with the territory.

  “Yes, the…scumbags. Good job.”

  Ethan shrugged but said nothing. Five rapists dead didn’t even begin to even the score. The two women they’d raped and killed had been on their first liberty from their first ship. So, not even close to even.

  “You think you can manage another mission?” SecNav leaned his elbows on his desk.

  Ethan waited for a moment, but that was all. “Could maybe do with a vacation and a massage first, but I’m probably good for another mission. One more. Maybe.”

  SecNav nodded. “That’s what I thought. None of us getting any younger.”

  Ethan let that go. Bouncing SecNav’s head off his desk a few times would probably be frowned on. By the burly men who’d come to drag his ass off to Leavenworth.

  “Nice trip to the sunshine,” SecNav said, struggling to hide his smile. “Good for the joints, I hear.”

  “Iraq?” Ethan said.

  “Closer to home.” SecNav left it for a beat. “Bolivia.”


  “Beautiful country,” Ethan said.

  “Was. Now it’s infested with all manner of vermin.”

  “I hear that.” Ethan brushed a patch of dust off his sleeve.

  SecNav watched him steadily. “You remember you’re back on active duty, right?”

  “I do, sir,” Ethan said, continuing his hopeless effort to rejuvenate his moth-eaten coat. “Hence the sir bit. Sir.”

  SecNav laughed a short snorting laugh he cut off quickly so as not to encourage the man. “Your uniform at the cleaners?”

  “Thought I’d go incognito.”

  “Disguised as a tramp, you mean?”

  “This is my best coat, sir.”

  “Only coat, I’d guess.”

  Ethan smiled. “Uniform seems to have shrunk. I’m having it let out a bit.”

  “Know the feeling.”

  “None of us are getting any younger,” Ethan said, and raised an eyebrow.

  “Quite.” SecNav sat up in his chair, a signal that it was back to business. “I want you to scoot down to Bolivia and pick something up for me.”

  Ethan resisted the temptation to suggest what the something might be. He waited.

  “Rafael Milaris.” SecNav raised a hand. “Or should I say Colonel Rafael Milaris.”

  “Another colonel,” Ethan said, and shook his head once. “They do like their military titles.”

  “They do. This one’s a piece of…work. Even for a murdering drug lord. He’s got an army, and not a small one. He controls the drugs east of La Paz.”

  “Nice place. Been there. What do you want us to bring you?” Ethan took a breath and just said it. “I’m no assassin, if that’s what you’re thinking. Sir.”

  “Never crossed my mind.” He gave Ethan a quick smile. “We have people for that kind of thing. No, not an assassination. I want you to pick up a list.”

  “Sounds easy enough. What about the DEA?”

  SecNav waited.

  “Won’t they be pissed with me stomping all over their jurisdiction?”

  “Don’t tell them.”

  “Copy that. But we’ve…you’ve got your own special forces, all full of vim and vigor.”

  “And that’s just the problem.” He saw Ethan waiting. “Send a SEAL team down there and they might as well be wearing Ol’ Glory over their shoulders.”

  “They look like what they are.” Ethan let it hang there for a moment. “And we don’t.”

  SecNav pointed at Ethan’s old blue overcoat that even a street bum would throw in the trash.

  Ethan saw more dust on his sleeve, but let it be. “Right.” He looked up. “This list?”

  “Well, database would be a better description.”

  “For you maybe. Don’t do technology.”

  “Others might believe that, Top, but we know better. Right?”

  Ethan shrugged.

  “The database is on his computer.”

  “Guessed that much. You want us to snag his computer?”

  “No. I want you to get the data and get out without him knowing; otherwise the information will be useless. He’ll just change everything.”

  “And everything being his shipping pipelines?”

  “That and his distribution network, who’s on his payroll in high places, where his money is.” SecNav shrugged. “That kinda thing.”

  “DEA stuff.”

  “DEA stuff,” SecNav said. “I’ll play nice and share.”

  Ethan chuckled.

  “What? You don’t believe me?”

  “I believe you’ll share what you choose.” Ethan raised his hands in surrender. “Don’t ask me, I don’t do politics.”

  “Me neither,” SecNav said, without a hint of irony.

  “Any chance NCIS might get involved?”

  SecNav frowned as he thought it through, then nodded slowly. “Agent Kelsey Lyle, by any chance?”

  “She’d do if nobody else was available.”

  “I’m afraid not, Ethan. This is strictly a need to know. I’ve arranged for another marine to join your team.”

  “Anybody I know?” Ethan said, hiding his annoyance at not being consulted.

  “A techy. You’ll need one.”

  “Copy that,” Ethan said, and emphasized it with a shrug of resignation.

  “Rachel has everything you need.” SecNav picked up his pen. The meeting was over.

  Rachel held up an attaché case without looking up. “Sign this.” She paired the case with an A5 form. “And this.” It was joined by another form.

  Ethan took the case and signed the forms, then looked at the case’s contents. “Anything of value in here?”

  “Master Sergeant, everything I give you is of value.”

  He met her narrowed stare. He’d been right, she was cute. He didn’t have time.

  She let him get almost to the elevator door. “Everything is to be handled with special care. Returned scratch free. Shining like new.”

  He saluted and stepped into the elevator.

  As he rode down to the ground floor, he looked in the case again. Maps, plans, orders, and authorization to requisition anything he wanted from anybody in the navy. But nothing that would scratch, nothing shiny. He looked up as the chime told him the elevator had reached its destination. Then he smiled. Rachel was quoting from a Bond movie, from the guy who provided all the gimmicks. What was his name? Q the quartermaster. The smile stayed. He liked the fierce woman’s sense of fun.

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