The night spins, but rights itself as he rolls his legs under him.


His prey crouches, holding his limb to his chest, wrist crushed, gun on the ground. Both hunters face each other—but only for a breath.

Kane dives low, snatching cloth at the ankle and throwing his body to the side, yanking the prey’s limb from under him. The other falls, head striking broken stone. Goggles knock away, revealing narrowed eyes. Kane smells his fear, still tastes the blood on the back of his tongue.

But the other is a hunter, too.

A flash of a blade in the other hand. It stabs down—but Kane is already gone, spinning away, running low into the night.

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But not without a hard-won prize clutched in his jaws.

9:25 P.M.

Gray sprinted along the barrier fencing as fresh gunfire erupted from the construction zone: the chugging coughs of automatic weapons along with the sharper blasts of smaller arms.

A moment ago, as he reached the street, he’d heard the initial pistol cracks.

Two shots.

They had risen from a different part of the site, well away from the current firefight.

Had to be Captain Wayne.

This was confirmed when Gray heard Tucker’s radioed command to his partner. There was no sign of the man on the street, so Gray rushed toward a gate at the next corner. He found it unguarded and pushed inside, his gun already in hand.

A bulldozed road led straight toward the fighting.

He spotted bodies on the ground.

Amur’s men.

Gray ducked to the side, into the shadows of a pile of broken concrete. A commando stepped into view and kicked one of the bodies. An arm lifted off the ground, a pleading gesture. The soldier’s pistol pointed down. A single crack, and the arm fell limply.

They were killing everyone.

As quickly as the firefight had started, it ended. The last few sputters of automatic gunfire died away.

Gray subvocalized into his throat mike. “Tucker, respond?”

The answer didn’t come from his radio.

A fresh flurry of gunfire erupted to the left, away from the pile of dead bodies. The commando in view dashed in that direction.

Biting back a curse, Gray rolled around the pile of concrete and headed that way, too. Gunplay spattered out, as Tucker played cat and mouse with the hunters.

Gray struggled through the maze, straining to track the gunfire, while keeping a watch around him. At last, he spotted Tucker. The man, pistol in hand, ran along a row of parked dump trucks at the edge of the rubble field, trying to stay out of sight.

Gray headed toward him—but before he could take more than three steps, a shadowy figure appeared a few yards ahead, his back to Gray, blocking the view. It was the same commando who had been slaughtering the last of Amur’s men. The soldier spotted Tucker and fired a flurry of rounds at his target.

Ricochets pinged off the dump truck.

Exposed, Tucker tried to twist away. But a round struck him square in the chest, knocking him against the bed of the dump truck with a loud clang. He fell hard to the ground, his pistol flying from his grip.

Gray raised his own weapon, strode two fast paces, and shot the commando through the back of the neck. The soldier collapsed to his knees, then to his face, gurgling harshly as he died.

Gray stepped past him, kicking the assault rifle away from his fingertips.

Ahead, Tucker struggled to stand up, a palm on his chest.

Damned lucky the man had been wearing a Kevlar vest.

But luck only lasted for so long.

A fresh crack of a pistol came from the right, from out of Gray’s field of view. Tucker ducked as a round buzzed his ear and struck the dump truck’s huge tire. More shots rang out, blasting sand from between Tucker’s legs and by his left hand. Tucker scrabbled away, disappearing from view.

Gray hurried forward, but the shooter was still out of sight.


Then the commando burst into the open, running low, heading toward where Tucker had vanished, pistol raised forward. His other arm was clutched to his chest, his wrist held at an impossible angle, dripping blood. Judging by the wild blasts, fury fueled this attack.

Gray struggled to fix the attacker in his sights, but the target was moving too fast and heavily armored. Gray fired anyway, emptying his weapon. But the soldier was so focused he didn’t even flinch from the rounds pinging off the truck’s side, even at a shot that glanced off his helmet.

Then his target was out of sight again, pursuing Tucker.

Gray ran forward, ejecting his spent magazine and slapping in another. In a few more steps, he spotted the gunman leaning over Tucker. His teammate, one shoulder bloodied, was sprawled on his back by the truck’s cab. The armored commando held his pistol at Tucker’s face, ready to shoot point-blank.

Gray could not stop him—then a miracle happened.

9:26 P.M.

The smoking barrel of the pistol lowered and pointed between Tucker’s eyes. His shoulder burned, but not as much as his blood. He stared past the gun to the eyes of the assassin. He recognized the fury there.

It matched his own.

As the gunman ran up, Tucker had spotted his broken wrist, the ripped bloodied flesh. He recognized Kane’s handiwork. This was the commando who had threatened his partner.

In the other’s eyes, he read the satisfaction of the kill to come.

It matched his own.

And another’s.

A fierce growl erupted from the shadows, drawing the gunman’s attention. His pistol jerked in that direction.

Using the distraction, Tucker yanked out the rifle hidden under the truck—the commando’s own weapon. He twisted the barrel forward and fired at the gunman’s face, blowing him backward.

As his body fell away, Gray appeared behind him, racing forward—then skidding back in surprise. “How … where did you get …?”

Tucker, still on his back, turned to the shadows under the dump truck. Kane crouched there, panting, his eyes glowing brightly out of the darkness. As commanded, his partner had not only taken down his opponent but also disarmed him. Tucker pictured his partner dragging the rifle by its leather strap in his teeth, ever obedient, obeying down to the word.

“Good boy,” Tucker said, staring back into those clever eyes. “Good boy.”

9:35 P.M.

Gray headed down the street toward Hotel Jubba. After he found Tucker, the pair had quickly retreated out of the construction area. They found no further resistance. With the mission completed, the remaining commandos—likely hired mercenaries—had pulled out and vanished into the night.

Whoever had employed those assassins plainly wanted Amur silenced. His inquiries must have alerted the pirates involved in Amanda’s kidnapping and triggered this swift reaction.

Now Gray and Tucker were back among the street throngs in the new section of the city, stopping only long enough to bandage Tucker’s shoulder. Luckily the bullet had only grazed his upper arm.

Tucker finished explaining what happened. “From the video feed, I saw that Kane had retreated somewhere among these dump trucks and went looking for him.”

“And you got ambushed.”

Tucker scowled and glanced down at the dog at his side. He’d stripped off the dog’s vest and held it bundled under his good arm. “I wasn’t leaving him in harm’s way, commander. And I never will. Kane looks after me with equal diligence. I wouldn’t be alive now if it wasn’t for him.”

And you wouldn’t have been in danger if you’d obeyed orders.

But Gray let that lie for now.

Tucker continued. “Once at the trucks, Kane must have tracked me down, keeping hidden, closing in on my scent.”

“And he brought you that rifle.” Gray could not keep the tinge of respect out of his voice.

“I’d ordered him to disarm his opponent. He’d been trained well.”

Gray suspected such coordination went beyond training, that it had more to do with an inexplicable bond between dog and handler, tying them together by something deeper than just hand signals and spoken commands.

Whatever the reason, they’d all made it out with only a few scrapes and scratches. Amur’s group might have been killed—silenced by the hired assassination team—but because of Kane’s help, they now knew the president’s daughter was being held somewhere in the Cal Madow mountains to the west.

Before Gray could formulate a plan of action from here, he noted the tumult outside of Hotel Jubba. Tables were overturned, stalls broken, windows shattered. Men sat in the street, nursing injuries. It looked like the aftermath of a small riot.

“What happened?” Tucker asked.

“I don’t know.”

Gray hurried to the steps of the hotel. He found the lobby equally ransacked. A televised soccer game played in the neighboring restaurant. A few men stood idly, sipping tea, amid the carnage of tables and chairs, as if nothing had happened.

Gray touched his throat mike and radioed both Kowalski and Seichan.

No response.

Tucker shared a worried look with him.

Together they mounted the stairs. Their room—a two-bedroom suite—was on the second floor. Gray led the way down a tiled hallway, softened by a threadbare Persian runner. He kept his tread quiet as he approached the door. From inside, the cheers of an audience echoed out, coming from a television, likely broadcasting the same soccer match.

Gray pulled out his pistol and grabbed the door handle.

Tucker held a palm toward Kane, readying his partner.

Gray burst into the room—only to find Kowalski sprawled in his boxers on the sofa in the suite’s common room, a washcloth full of ice held to his right eye.

Kowalski barely acknowledged them, still focused on the game.

Gray searched around the room. Nothing seemed amiss.

“Why didn’t you respond to my radio call?” Gray asked.

Kowalski stared sheepishly toward the table. His radio and earpiece rested there. He ran a hand through his wet hair. “I took a shower and forgot to—”

Gray cut him off. “Never mind. What happened downstairs?”

Kowalski heaved his legs to the floor with a pained groan. “You said to cause a commotion when we got here.”

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