Excerpt 3, Walking Wounded

May 23, 2015

Of course life is never as easy as we’d like. The guys are just settling into their new place together when Keven gets a call from his old CO. The renegade mercenary who killed two of his men has apparently set off on a vendetta against everyone who got him fired. He’s already eliminated the commander who scapegoated Kevin, and another man… and Kevin is likely next on the list. And the SAS doesn’t know anything about the killer’s whereabouts–except that he is somewhere in England.

* * * *

“What’s going on?” Johnny asked. “You’re not leaving again.” It wasn’t a question.

“I can’t talk about it yet. Not here. Let’s go for a ride, Johnny.” He dug out his car keys and tossed them over. “You drive.”

He knew it was most likely his imagination that made a spot between his shoulder blades itch when they went out onto the street. And he knew he looked like a fool when he raised the bonnet, and even more so when he got down to check beneath the car before taking the keys and starting it himself. That didn’t matter. He wasn’t about to take chances with Johnny’s life. He left the keys in the ignition and climbed into the passenger side.

“Kev, where are we going?” John asked, once they were clear of the car park and rolling down the road. “What the hell is going on?”

“I need to get out of the house for a little while. Let’s go grocery shopping.” That wasn’t just a way of killing time either, come to think of it. If this was going to turn into a siege, now was the time to lay in provisions.

“What?”

“Bear with me, please.” Kevin put a hand on Johnny’s thigh, felt the tension in his body. It wasn’t fair to throw him into this. “I’ll explain everything, I promise.”

John put his hand over Kevin’s. “All right. Mind if I switch on the radio?”

“No, go ahead.” They drove another ten minutes to the sprightly but incongruous melodies of a Strauss waltz festival while Kevin checked the number now programmed into his mobile phone, noted it on a page of his pocket notebook, then pulled the back of the phone off and disconnected the battery. While he had the notebook out, he started a grocery list.

Halfway through “The Blue Danube,” John turned into the car park at Tesco’s and stopped the car at the edge of the lot, far away from the building. “All right, now can you—”

Kevin put a finger to his lips and got out of the car. John followed, frowning. When they were a few yards away from the vehicle, Kevin stopped. “Johnny, I’m sorry. I couldn’t be sure the car isn’t bugged.”

“Never mind apologizing, I can see it’s not your idea. Just tell me what’s going on.”

Kevin outlined the situation, with a few heartfelt expletives thrown in for good measure. “And they’ve taken it upon themselves to add an emergency number to my phone.” He tore out the page and gave it to John. “Keep this. If anything happens to me, or if we get separated and you see anything suspicious, call that number.”

John tucked the page in his pocket. “What did you do to your mobile?”

“I took the battery out. That shuts off the fucking GPS and keeps them from eavesdropping on us.”

“What?”

“Think about it. Mobile phones bounce their signals off satellites—that’s how global positioning works, right?”

“Yes. Oh.” John’s eyes widened. “Damn! That’s right—remote location for emergencies. Last year some lost hikers were rescued because one of them had a mobile phone.”

“Right. Most people don’t realize that their handy little mobile can also be switched on remotely and used as a transmitter by anyone who’s got an override code. That means emergency services—and the military. The only way to make sure they can’t do it is to take out the battery. No power, no signal. You don’t have a cell, do you?”

“No, just the landline.”

“All right. One thing we’ll do here is buy one of those pay-as-you-go units and have it activated on-site. I can get around the registration codes so it won’t be traceable to us. We’ll use that to call Pat and Tess, then I’ll switch on this one to call my parents—no point in leaving the thing dead for too long. Now, if Shaney’s death was murder rather than just an accident, we know where our renegade merc was last night, so with any luck he won’t know anything about your connection to the ladies. The next thing….” He took a deep breath and tried to consider where they were most vulnerable.

It was so damned easy to slip back into the mindset of being at war with the whole world. Too easy. Kevin knew it was possible that they’d already been followed, that John and his circle of friends were already in danger—but even if there was more than one enemy hunting him, it only made sense for them to be working together, not scattering their forces.

“Johnny, the next thing I’d say is let’s leave the animals at the vet and see if Pat would be willing to pick them up and take them to my mother for safekeeping. I don’t believe my parents are in danger. The Colonel didn’t say anything about Shaney’s family being attacked, and my father has a pretty impressive security system on the house. He’ll see to it that the rest of the family is covered.”

John nodded. “Are you sure all that’s necessary?”

“No, I’m not. But—Johnny, we’re dealing with people who killed two of my men rather than wait ten minutes for an all clear. They’re the kind of bastards who’d shoot a stray dog, or even a stray kid, just because they had loaded guns and a moving target—so long as they wouldn’t be held responsible. There’s no telling who they might go after. What I probably ought to do is take you home and let the outfit set me up somewhere as bait.”

“No.” John closed the distance between them, moving so close Kevin could feel the warmth of his body. “You are not going off on your own to make a target of yourself.”

“I said that’s what I ought to do. But the problem is, if our side has found me, maybe the enemy has, too. It may already be too late.”

“So you’ll stay?”

“What would you do if I didn’t?”

He wasn’t prepared for the sheer pain that shattered Johnny’s face. Then John took a deep breath and got control of himself—obviously with an effort. He turned without another word and strode off toward the store’s entrance.

Kevin trotted to keep up. “Johnny!”

Another deep breath. “Look, Kev, I don’t mean to put pressure on you. I really don’t. But if you went off and got killed….” John stopped and turned to face Kevin, his eyes filled with tears. “I could only hope the fuckers would find me too, as soon as possible.”

The words felt like a punch. “John—”

“I’m sorry. That’s not rational, it’s not fair, it’s probably emotional blackmail, but—” Johnny threw up his hands helplessly. “You’ve got to understand something. When I had no choice, I made myself learn to survive—learn to keep myself together, make new connections, all the things they say make life worth living. But it’s all bullshit, Kev. What makes my life worth living is having you in it. In terms of being an emotionally healthy, self-sustaining, self-actualized human being, I’m a net loss.”

“Johnny—” Kevin was at a loss himself. He’d known John wouldn’t want him to go, but he hadn’t expected anything this heavy. “John, I’m not leaving, damn it!”

“You fucking should! I wouldn’t blame you if you did—I’m not exactly the man to have at your back. I wouldn’t even mind if you left me for somebody else—it would be the smartest thing you could do. I could handle that. But I can’t handle your going off to get killed because you think I need—”

“SHUT UP!”

“—protecting,” John finished, and stopped. He dragged a sleeve across his face, sniffed, and took a long, unsteady breath. “Damn. Sorry, love. PTSD crap. You have nightmares, I have these sodding waterworks.”

Kevin ached to hold him, but here in a car park, he just couldn’t. “Are you all right? To go in the store, I mean.”

“You’re not going to run off and get killed?”

“No, I won’t.” He hated to say it. Clearing out still felt like the one sure way he could protect Johnny, and that was more important than anything else. Well… more important than anything but keeping Johnny’s trust, and apparently he couldn’t do both. “I give you my word—whatever it is, we’ll see it through together.”

John put his hands on Kevin’s shoulders, his body relaxing. “Thank you. And I’m sorry, Kev. I am not trying to be a fucking drama queen.”

“I know.” Kevin slapped him on the arm. “It’s all right. You’d look like hell in sequins. Especially in Brighton, this time of year.”

“Brighton?”

“No, I’m just throwing out a name. But we might want to put some distance between us and Portsmouth—make ourselves moving targets so our team can see who follows when we move. My instinct is to get this bastard as far from our home as we possibly can. That is—” He stopped for a moment, distracted, as a car pulled in off the road. He kept an eye on it as he finished his sentence. “That is, if this is for real. People do die in traffic accidents, and national security types do tend to see enemies around every corner. The trouble is, some of the time they’re right.”

“How long do you think it’ll be before we find out for certain?”

That was the real question, wasn’t it? Never mind the unfairness of it—the fact that they would be living in fear because someone somewhere had neglected to arrest a war criminal, and that murderous bastard had decided to hold a grudge against one of his victims who had been so inconsiderate as to survive the initial attack. The real problem was that they were potential targets and would be until the renegade merc was caught.

If he was caught. If he was even out there at all.

“Kevin?”

“I don’t know, Johnny. There’s just no way to know.”

3 Responses to “Excerpt 3, Walking Wounded”

  1. Denise Dechene says:

    Some intrigue to go along with the story. Sounds good

  2. Susan says:

    Ooh, I know they survive, but what tension!

  3. lee7rowan says:

    Wait till they go out to dinner (evil chuckle…)

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