Once here, the hood had been removed, and she’d been ordered to strip down to bra and panties and been thoroughly searched again. Afterward, her wounded hand had been tended to, though blood still seeped down her fingertips and dripped to the floor. They’d allowed her to slip her clothes back on, but she still felt half-naked.
She tugged at the plastic slip ties that bound her to a metal chair. She tried rocking, but her seat was bolted to the concrete floor.
Resigned, she silently cursed her carelessness—placing an equal amount of the blame on Gray.
If the bastard hadn’t gone off so recklessly on his own …
But she knew she bore as much guilt. She had acted no less rashly than Gray. And that troubled her, especially since she knew the cause. She remembered that kiss in the hospital, both needing each other but for very different reasons. Her carelessness this night was born out of that kiss. Fear for his safety, worry that she’d lose him, blinded her and made her sloppy.
She should have known better than to run headlong into a back alley. Hadn’t their premission briefing warned of the rash of kidnappings in the city? The only balm to her ego was that her captors hadn’t been pirates.
The single door to the room finally opened. Two figures stepped inside. One carried a thick file folder; the other, a chair identical to her own. The seat was placed in front of her, and the man who had ambushed her in the alley sat down, resting a file on his knee. He had short sandy-blond hair, balding at the top, ruggedly handsome in his own way.
His companion—a slender Indian woman with mocha skin and smoky eyes—took a post behind the chair, stiff-backed, one hand resting on a holstered sidearm. Like the man, she was dressed in khaki pants and a buttoned blue blouse, all crisply creased, giving the casual clothes the look of a uniform.
Seichan locked eyes with her. “You were one of the three following us this evening, wearing the green sarong.”
The woman gave no reaction.
Seichan glanced between the two. She spotted an older photo of her, grainy but unmistakable, clipped to the folder. “Let me guess, you all have nothing to do with Amur Mahdi at all.”
The man answered, his British accent polite but firm. “I think I’ll be the one asking questions.” He flipped open the folder and glanced through the first few pages. “Considering your number of aliases, I don’t even know what to call you.”
“How about your worst enemy,” she said sourly.
This earned the smallest uptick of the woman’s lip—not out of amusement, but disdain.
The man ignored her comment. “Your employer committed an act of terrorism on our soil, a few years back at the British Museum, orchestrated by a terrorist named—” He sifted through some papers. “—Cassandra Sanchez. A nasty piece of work, that one.”
A chill iced over Seichan. Cassandra had been a Guild operative, like herself, planted beside Painter Crowe before he was director of Sigma. Seichan knew little else about that operation except the woman was dead.
Since her capture, Seichan had been struggling to determine who had ambushed her, running various possibilities through her head. She was on the watch list of multiple foreign intelligence services for her past activities with the Guild. From the man’s accent, she narrowed down the possibilities. They could be SIS—the British Secret Intelligence Service, sometimes referred to as MI6—but she caught the whiff of military about them.
“You’re SRR,” Seichan concluded.
The man straightened, staring back at her. “Impressive.”
The Special Reconnaissance Regiment was a newer division of the British Special Forces, established recently to engage in covert surveillance operations, specifically to conduct counterterrorism actions. They were also the most selective and most secretive—and the only British Special Forces unit to recruit women.
She stared at the Indian woman.
Few knew anything substantial about SRR activities. But it made sense they’d employ field operatives in Somalia. Pirates had kidnapped several British nationals over the past decade, and the lawless rural areas of this country were the training grounds for a handful of Islamic terrorist factions.
Unfortunately, she must have been swept up by their surveillance net by accident.
The man confirmed this. “We have facial recognition software hacked into the security cameras at the airport here. You were lucky it was us who found you. As I understand, the Mossad have a shoot-on-sight order regarding you.”
Seichan continued to put the pieces together in her head. “Your tail on us … it had been purposefully sloppy. You wanted us to know we were being followed.”
“And we expected you’d try to shake it, escaping out a back door—and right into our hands.” The man leaned forward. “But who are you traveling with? The two men? We’ve identified them both as former U.S. armed forces—but nothing after that. Their records are clean, spotless, suspiciously so. Are they Guild operatives, or merely mercenaries for hire, or were you using them in some manner?”
Seichan hesitated, unsure how to respond. No one knew she’d turned traitor against the Guild and now worked for Sigma. Only a handful of people in the U.S. government even knew about her involvement. Her past crimes precluded her from being officially sanctioned. So if she were ever caught—like now—she would be denied. She was on her own, certain to vanish forever down some black-ops hole.
“If you continue to refuse to cooperate,” the man began—when the door exploded behind him, ripped off its hinges.
A silver object bounced into the room.
Seichan closed her eyes, wishing she could cover her ears.
The flash-bang exploded in the confined space, searing through her eyelids and deafening to the point of nausea. She gasped out as it faded, and opened her eyes. Blearily, she saw a small shape dash into the room, running low to the ground. She felt the brush of fur against her bare calf, and the cold nose exploring her bloody fingers.
“About time you got here,” she croaked out, deaf to her own words.
Gray and Tucker swept into the room, pistols in hand. The two SRR operatives were down on the floor, in postures of agony, having taken the full brunt of the flash-bang’s impact. Still, the female had enough wherewithal to aim her weapon at Seichan. Though sightless at the moment, she kept enough of her senses to free her weapon and blindly shoot in the direction of Seichan’s chair.
The muzzle flashed, and the shot sparked off the concrete floor, stinging her toes with stone chips. The shepherd leaped away from her chair, startled.