Lola stopped at the door of a private room and slipped inside, beckoning Jack to follow her. She held her finger to her lips and crept toward the bed. "Emilio?"
Diaz opened one eye and licked his lips. "Lola."
"How do you feel?" She dragged a plastic chair to his bedside, and Jack hung back in the corner.
He took her hand in a clawlike grasp and whispered. "Where's Coburn?"
Jack took a step forward. "I'm here."
Diaz nodded. "Come."
Jack hunched over the bed, his ear close to the older man's lips.
"Have you remembered anything yet?"
"Not much. I was in the Army Special Forces, recruited for a covert ops team, worked closely with a few guys, retired and went into business for myself."
Diaz's eyes narrowed to slits and Jack thought he had fallen asleep, but then Diaz's chest expanded and his voice rasped through dry lips. "You were the best. I'd heard about you from a colleague. You'd rescued a family member of his from a drug cartel in Colombia."
Jack cocked his head. "I negotiated his release?"
Diaz's lips stretched tightly. "I don't think there was much negotiation involved, but you got him out...your way."
Jack's heart thumped in his chest. How much could Diaz tell him? "This colleague, you got my contact information from him?"
"A phone number. I was ordered not to give you that number, Lola. Instead, I called Jack directly and gave him your number."
Lola pressed her lips into a thin line. "Yes, and Jack contacted me. I did use the number he'd left to call him again but after he'd gone to Afghanistan it no longer worked."
Diaz tugged at Lola's sleeve. "Get my phone."
Lola reached across Diaz's chest for the cell phone on the tray. "Jack's original number is in your contacts?"
"Under JC. Look it up." He grimaced at his right hand wrapped in bandages. "You never know when you're going to need the services of a man like Jack."
Lola transferred the phone number from Diaz's cell to her own and peered at Jack over the display. "The area code's three-one-oh. That's L.A., Jack."
"Makes sense." He'd gone to Stanford. He must be a California boy. He was a long way from home.
He shifted his attention back to Diaz. "When you called, did you get me directly or did you have to go through another party?"
"I left you a message. You returned my call. I gave you Lola's information." Diaz closed his eyes again, wiping his mouth with the back of his unbandaged hand.
Jack couldn't lose him yet. "And what did you hear after I'd gone out to find Dr. Gabriel Famosa? When we walked into your office that day, you thought I was a ghost."
Diaz squeezed his eyes once and then peeled them open. "I'd heard you were dead--right after I'd heard you rescued Gabe only to kidnap him yourself."
A traitor. A wanted man.
Diaz's face, blurry and indistinct, swam before Jack's eyes. He gripped the cold metal railings on the bed. His gut churned.
"No!" Lola jumped up and the plastic chair bounced on the linoleum floor. "I don't believe it."
Diaz pressed a hand to his eyes, tired of their game. He seemed to sink into the hospital bed as if all his words had been keeping him buoyant and their release had deflated him.
Could Jack grill the old man for more?
He straightened his spine. "Who came after you and why?"
Diaz parted his fingers and stared at Jack through the spaces. "Someone was following me, watching me, maybe bugging my office. They didn't want us to meet."
"Do you believe the allegations against me?" Jack clenched his jaw so tightly, it ached.
"I don't know." Diaz dropped his stiff hand to the white covers and smoothed them across his chest. "When I heard the rumor, I dismissed it. I didn't know you, but I'd heard enough about you--decorated Green Beret, covert operative, stellar reputation as a hostage negotiator--to make it hard to believe."
"Do you know anything about Prospero or its team members?"
"No. Speculation only." Diaz waved a hand. "That's all I can tell you. You live in the shadows, Mr. Coburn. I suggest you stay there."
His spine stiff, Jack walked down the hospital corridor next to Lola as she slipped off the white lab coat. "How do you know it's not all true? I could be your worst enemy right now. Gabe's worst enemy."