Gray swung his weapon toward the shooter.
Seichan yelled, “Stop! Don’t shoot!”
Tucker, closer, pistol-whipped the woman and dropped her to the floor, then collected her weapon.
“They’re British Special Forces!” Seichan shouted, finally beginning to hear her own words as the effect wore off.
Gray pointed to the pair. “Keep them down,” he ordered Tucker. “Until we can sort this all out.”
He turned next to Seichan, a small military dagger appearing in his hand. He rushed to her side and sliced her bonds free, careful of her bloody hand. As he crouched, he rested his palm on her bare knee, his fingers electric on her inner thigh.
“Are you okay?”
With her ears ringing, she still understood enough to nod. “I’m fine. I cut myself on purpose. Made sure I kept the wound open as I clung to the truck’s door frame on the way here. Figured it was time for that damned dog to earn his kibble.”
Tucker heard. “Leaving a blood trail for Kane to follow. Smart.”
It wasn’t smart. It was planning.
On the flight to Africa, she had studied up on their potential new teammate, ascertaining the dog’s strengths and weaknesses, as she would any partner in the field. A report she read stated that a trained dog could distinguish a single drop of blood in an Olympic-size swimming pool. She hadn’t planned on testing that sensitivity, but she was more than happy to prove it true now.
She gained her feet, still unsteady from the auditory assault, but at least she could hear. “What about the other SRR personnel?”
“We took down one outside the hotel,” Gray said with a worried look. “He’s still tied up in the back alley, out cold. Kowalski has the other secured upstairs. Took him down like a battering ram when we burst inside, might’ve broken his leg.”
“Definitely broken,” a gruff voice answered at the door. Kowalski stepped to the threshold and pointed his thumb toward the stairs leading out of the basement. “Got him gagged and tied up there. So how much trouble are we in for kicking some British soldiers’ asses?”
The answer came from the floor. The man had also regained enough of his senses to glare, teary-eyed, at them. “I think your American colloquialism is a shitload.” He stared at the assemblage in the room. “Who the bloody hell are you all?”
Gray holstered his weapon and offered out an arm to get him back on his feet. “Someone who needs your help.”
The man took Gray’s hand suspiciously, but he allowed himself to be pulled back to his feet. “This is a fine way to ask for it.”
Kowalski offered the only possible explanation. “We’re Americans. It’s how we do things.”
An hour later, Gray had everyone gathered back at their suite at the Hotel Jubba. They sat in the common room. A call to Director Crowe, followed by a flurry of communiqués between the two countries’ intelligence agencies, facilitated some candid conversation.
“The kidnapped woman out of the Seychelles,” Captain Trevor Alden said, holding a steaming teacup in the palm of his hand. “She’s the president’s daughter?”
“That’s right,” Gray said. “Amanda Gant-Bennett.”
The two groups sat on opposite couches, Americans on one side, Brits on the other. A tea service tray rested on the table between them. Kane kept near his handler as Tucker balanced on the arm of the sofa, but his nose kept drifting toward a stack of tea biscuits.
Captain Alden’s eyes shifted to Seichan, seated next to Gray. “And she works for you chaps now.”
Gray simply nodded, not bothering to go into the complicated details of their professional relationship.
Alden leaned back. “Someone could’ve informed us all of this before you got here. Would’ve saved Major Patel a great deal of hardship.”
Kowalski paced behind the sofa, near the balcony doors, where the smoke from his cigar was less offensive. “Sorry. Maybe I shouldn’t have sacked him so hard, but he got in my way.” He shrugged, showing little remorse. “But aren’t you guys supposed to wear special berets or something?”
“Not on a mission. We’re a covert team,” Alden explained. “Just the four of us—or three now, I guess.”
Patel had been shot up with morphine and was sleeping in the next room, awaiting evacuation due to his broken leg. On the sofa, the captain was flanked by his two other associates: the Indian woman—Major Bela Jain—and a black, wiry soldier, Major Stuart Butler.
Gray redirected the conversation to the problem at hand. “Captain Alden, any local intelligence you can supply us, to help figure out where the president’s daughter might have been taken, would be most appreciated.”
“No appreciation necessary. We’ve been ordered to offer our services.” Alden winced, then gently placed his teacup on the tray. “My apologies. That came out less sincerely than I intended. I have a young daughter of my own. If she’d been kidnapped …”
Alden leaned forward and offered his hand.
Gray took it and found the man’s grip firm and dry.
“You have our full cooperation,” Alden promised.
Gray found himself warming to the man. Once past the stiff British reserve, he seemed likable enough. And he had captured Seichan, not an easy thing to do.
However, from the way Seichan sat with her arms folded over her chest, fingering the tiny silver dragon pendant at her throat with her bandaged hand, she didn’t share Gray’s opinion of the SRR captain. Likewise, Major Jain barely said a word, her features hard and unreadable, her posture rigid. Gray imagined the woman’s head still ached from the effects of the flash-bang, not to mention being pistol-whipped by Tucker.
Not the most opportune way for allies to meet.
Still, they’d all have to find a way to work together.
“Do you have any clues at all to the whereabouts of the young woman?” Alden asked, getting down to business. “Where she made landfall? Who took her?”
Gray had briefly related their encounter with Amur Mahdi and the attack by an assassination squad in the construction yard. The captain was unaware of any of it, so Gray got him up to speed.
Next, he reached to the table and unfolded a topographic map of the country. Alden leaned closer as Gray ran a finger along the mountain range to the west of the city. It cut clear across northern Somalia.
“All we know,” Gray said, “is that she was likely taken somewhere up in these mountains.”