“Company coming,” Kowalski said.
Jain ducked off the road and into the shadows to join them.
Tucker grimaced. “Must’ve found the boy I tied up.”
“Or they’ve had enough killing for one day,” Kowalski said.
“Or they’re looking for more,” Jain added.
Kowalski grimaced. “You had to say that, didn’t you?”
She shrugged. “No matter how you cut it, boyo, we’re bloody screwed.”
Gray couldn’t argue with her, but they had no choice. They had to forge ahead, find Amanda, and do their best to survive.
“Let’s go.” Gray pointed his arm forward. “Tucker, I want Kane’s eyes and ears ahead of us. I’ve had enough surprises for one day.”
Tucker gave a curt nod and went to his dog.
They hurried down the road, staying at the periphery. The forest to either side offered better protection, but the dense growth would slow their progress, make too much noise.
Right now, he needed to put some distance between them and the approaching trucks.
“We can’t do this on our own,” Seichan said, striding fast next to him. “A guarded camp ahead of us, mercenary soldiers behind us—not great odds.”
Gray had already come to the same conclusion. He had to trust his gut that Amanda was here, that there was a reason for such lethal and overt reaction to their presence in the mountains. He shifted his shoulder pack and removed his satellite phone.
It was time to call in the cavalry.
That meant reaching Washington.
Gray dialed up Sigma command, hoping the quantum encryption built into the phone would keep the call from reaching the wrong ears. After a long moment and a series of passwords, he heard a familiar voice.
Gray let out a hard breath of relief. “Director, I believe we’ve found where Amanda was taken. I’m not sure she’s still here, but as a precaution, we should mobilize SEAL Team Six to my coordinates, so they’re ready when—”
“Already done,” Painter said, cutting him off. “I got approval from the defense secretary a few minutes ago. The SEAL team is en route to your position with orders to engage only if the president’s daughter is positively identified. They’re about forty minutes out.”
Forty minutes? That may be too late.
Confirming this, the roar of engines in the distance grew steadily louder. Amanda didn’t have forty minutes.
A disconcerting question rose in Gray’s mind. “Director, how do you know our position?”
“We’ve been monitoring your progress for the past half-hour.”
Gray searched around him, then saw Tucker send his shepherd running ahead, hugging the forest’s edge.
Tucker must have left his dog’s camera running since the roadblock.
“It was Kat’s idea,” Painter explained.
Of course it was. If anyone had the brains to find them without raising an alarm, it was Kat Bryant. She had proved countless times to be an elusive and crafty spider when it came to the intelligence web.
“Kat set up a passive search algorithm, set to the wireless frequency of the dog’s camera. Nothing that would trigger any alarm bells. We could watch over your shoulders without giving away your location.”
Gray was grateful for the covert support, but it also made him vaguely uneasy. In the future, he’d have to make sure to circumvent that ability if he wanted total privacy.
“Audio is bad, though,” Painter finished. “Cuts in and out, so keep that in mind. We can see you, but not always hear you.”
Ahead, Tucker came running back toward him.
That had to mean trouble.
“Have to sign off,” Gray said.
Painter’s voice went hard. “I can see why. Go. But be—”
Gray cut him off before he could warn him to be careful.
It didn’t need to be said—shouldn’t be said. It was like wishing an actor good luck instead of break a leg.
Tucker came up, breathing hard. “Another Land Rover is blocking the road ahead, counted six men around it. Another handful in the camp.” A worried frown creased his face. “Look at this.”
Tucker held up his phone, displaying a dog’s-eye view of the facility.
A large tent-cabin, raised on pilings, stood in the middle of a cold camp. Around it, ash pits marked old bonfires. Garbage, rusted stakes, oil stains, along with a few collapsed tents, abandoned in haste, were all that was left of a large campsite. A few shreds of camouflage netting still draped from the trees at the forest’s edge, but that was it.
“Looks like most of the camp bugged out already,” Tucker said. “I’d say no longer than an hour ago.”
Gray felt the pit of his stomach opening to despair.
Were they already too late?
“But I did see shadows moving inside that cabin,” Tucker offered. “Someone’s still there.”
Seichan overheard. “Maybe they left their victim here, fearing reprisals, and scattered.”
Gray grasped at this thin hope.
Kowalski joined them. “So, what are we doing?”
Jain stood at his shoulder, bearing the same question on her face.
They needed a plan from here.
He ran various scenarios in his head. “We can’t risk panicking the remaining soldiers. We also don’t want to needlessly expose ourselves to the enemy combatants if Amanda has already been moved. We’ll do her no good dead.”
“Then what?” Kowalski asked.
Gray turned his focus upon Tucker. “We need to see inside that cabin.”
July 2, 3:24 P.M. East Africa Time
Cal Madow mountains, Somalia
Tucker lay on his belly with Kane at the edge of the forest. Forty yards of open space stretched between his position and the cabin. With men milling at the entry road and three more soldiers scavenging the grounds ahead for anything of value, any attempt to cross here would be readily spotted.
Even a dog on the run.
Tucker stared through his rifle’s scope, studying the terrain. A lone soldier pushed a dented wheelbarrow past his field of view, stopping occasionally to pick something out of the discarded debris.
The radio scratched in his ear. It was Kowalski, reporting in from his post down the road, acting as rear lookout. “Company has arrived. Trucks—three of ’em—are reaching the turnoff.”
Gray responded on all channels. “Kowalski, rally back to our position.”