Authors: Marysol James
(Unseen Enemy #5)
By Marysol James
© 2015 by Marysol James.
All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, including information storage and retrieval systems, without prior written permission from the author, except in the case of a reviewer, who may quote brief passages embodied in critical articles or in a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real locales are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Cover photo: © Vladimirs Poplavskis/Fotolia
Reader of faces of keeper of souls.
Hunter Sullivan was flat on his stomach, staring through the binoculars, his dark eyes fixed on the farmhouse in the distance. He saw Michael Ferguson go to the car again, carrying what looked like a suitcase this time. He looked around and even from this far away, Sully could see that he was on edge, ready to snap.
Ferguson went back in to the farmhouse and Sully waited, not lowering the binoculars for even one second. When Ferguson re-emerged dragging the bound, gagged man, Sully almost groaned aloud.
was the nightmare scenario that he and his boss Dallas Foreman had discussed – and now it was playing out right in front of his goddamn eyes.
Fuck. Nobody’s going to like how this ends.
Ferguson shoved the man in to the front seat on the passenger side and said something. The man nodded, looking terrified. Ferguson checked his gun, went back in the house, came out alone with keys in his hand. Yep, Mark was right: Ferguson was definitely on the move.
And with a hostage. Goddammit.
“So what do you think, man?”
Sully lowered the binoculars and glanced over at Mark. “Yeah. We’ve got to make a decision. Soon.”
Mark Hayden nodded, his mint-green eyes cool. He looked over his shoulder at the three local cops standing way back, hidden by some bushes on the side of the dirt road.
“These boys aren’t up for this.”
“No, I know.” Sully ran his hands through his dark hair. “Call Dallas. We need to get a green light on this clusterfuck.”
Mark nodded again, his thumb already on the speed-dial to Dallas. From his position flat on the ground, he stared around, barely taking in the breathtaking scenery. They were about a kilometer outside of Meadow, Utah and God knows, the tiny town of just over three hundred souls was aptly named: there was nothing but open, green space as far as he could see. Charming, quiet, idyllic. And right now, it was the scene of a hostage situation with a brutal, violent, and heavily-armed man at its center.
“Talk to me.” Dallas’ voice was harsh, not wasting any time on bullshit small-talk. “You got eyes on Ferguson?”
“Yeah. He’s got the male hostage in the car and they’re about to pull out.”
“No sign. She must still be inside the farmhouse.” Mark hoped hard that she was alive.
“How many guns have you seen?”
“Two. But he’ll have more.”
“Yeah, that’s for damn sure.” Dallas sighed. “How are the local cops?”
Mark glanced over at them again. The oldest one was pushing retirement age, the youngest barely looked twenty. Sully had already quizzed them about their experience in hostage situations and had been met by blank stares and lots of shuffling of feet in the dirt.
None of them had any military training or background and they admitted to rarely even discharging their weapons in the line of duty. Meadow was a peaceful little farming community and their jobs reflected this: it was painfully clear that these men were adept at breaking up the occasional bar fight and tactfully handling domestic problems – but they were way out of their depth when confronted by a monster like Michael Ferguson.
Mark turned his back on the men now, kept his voice down. “They’re inexperienced.”
Dallas paused. “You and Sully will need to take point.”
“They going to object to that?”
“I don’t think so. They know Mr. and Mrs. Halloway well and all they seem concerned about is getting them out of this alive.”
“What about the Utah State Troopers? I thought they’d be on the scene.”
“Yeah, well.” Mark shrugged. “There was a pissing contest about jurisdiction and now it is what it is – the local guys have their egos intact and were high-fiving about that until about an hour ago, when reality hit.”
“That they’re not fucking up for this.”
“You got it, boss.”
“Yeah, OK. But they’ll let you take it away from them?”
“I think they now see that they don’t have much of a choice.”
“So who’s going to take the shot? You or Sully?”
“Oh, Sully… no fucking debate.” Mark looked up, saw Sully’s dark eyes fixed on his face. “He’s done this way more than I have.”
“Good. Put him on.”
Mark extended the phone to Sully. “You’re up.”
Sully took the phone. “Hey, Dallas.”
“You OK with this, Sullivan?”
Back in Denver at the Solid Security office, Dallas nodded. Normally, he’d be the one to handle this kind of long-distance kill but Hunter Sullivan was one hell of a second-best choice. He may not have Dallas’ extensive sniper background, but he was an expert at surgical speed shooting and accurate within two inches and that made him damn qualified. Dallas had no reservations about the man’s skill.
“OK.” Dallas sat back in his chair and sighed. “You’re good to go, then. Tell the cops that Mark will get Ferguson out of the car and try to reason with him and you’ll be hidden. We may still take him alive, though I highly doubt it. So if things even
at maybe, possibly, going south, you take the shot. Quick and clean and no complications.”
Sully nodded. “No complications. Just like I like it.”
Mark watched as Michael Ferguson drove towards him. Luckily, there was only one road away from the Halloway farm, so guessing this asshole’s choice of direction hadn’t been a big challenge. No, the challenge was yet to come. Mark’s large body tensed up as he prepared to make contact with a man that, until now, he’d only encountered on paper; God knows,
man had been bad enough.
Ferguson was the Sheriff of Foxburg Falls, Oregon, a former Marine, a high school football hero. He was also a sick, twisted fuck who raped and beat up women in his hometown and then used his badge to intimidate them in to silence.
He’d come up on the Solid Security team’s radar through Katherine Lawrence – who had now reclaimed her real name of Beth Harper in light of Ferguson’s arrest. Beth was Jim Alden’s girlfriend, and Jim was one of Dallas’ closest friends and a fellow survivor of three tours in Afghanistan. The two men and their friends had stepped up to protect Beth from Ferguson when she’d finally told them the truth about her life.
The truth was that Beth had been on the run from Foxburg Falls and from Michael Ferguson for more than four years. He’d raped, beaten and terrorized her for a year before she’d fallen pregnant with his baby – a baby that she’d then lost after an especially bad beating at Ferguson’s hands. When he’d found out about the miscarriage, he’d sworn to kill Beth for ‘killing his baby’… and she ran. She ran, she assumed new names, she worked as a hair stylist for cash, she changed her hair color every two weeks and she moved every few months. She’d maintained that exhausting, terrified, lonely existence until she got to Denver, where she’d found a life that she wanted to fight to keep.
Dallas had sent Sully and Cordelia Patton – the Solid Security receptionist with uncanny people-reading skills – to Foxburg Falls undercover to observe Ferguson. Their assignment had been to simply watch the man and to try to get some dirt on him. Dallas’ original plan was to maybe find something to bribe Ferguson with, a bargaining chip to throw down and demand Beth’s safety in return.
What Sully and Cordelia had turned up was even better: they’d uncovered Ferguson’s drug trafficking ring and they’d convinced two of his accomplices to turn on him. The evidence was overwhelming and Ferguson had been arrested. Unfortunately, the man still had friends in the small town police department and he’d been quietly granted bail two days earlier.
The first thing he’d done was to drive like hell through the night to Salt Lake City, Utah and take Clyde and Emily Halloway hostage in their own living room. Then he’d called their son Aaron Halloway – one of Ferguson’s own cops back in Oregon – and threatened to kill his parents unless Halloway could come up with a good hiding place for him. He’d suggested the family farm in Meadow and so the nightmare for the senior Halloways had really begun: Ferguson had taken them with him and done God-only-knows-what to them in the meantime.
When Dallas had heard that Ferguson had received bail and disappeared in to thin air, he’d immediately sent Mark and Sully to Foxburg Falls to try to figure out where Ferguson may have gone. Within seconds of meeting Halloway, Sully had just
that the man was more involved than he was trying to let on and Sully had gotten him to talk. And now here they were. In the middle of a goddamn field in Utah, facing down a brutal, professionally-trained ex-military man with his back against the wall.
Trapped animals with nothing to lose are the most dangerous.
When he saw Ferguson’s oncoming car slow down, Mark quickly ducked back under the hood of his rented SUV – which was smack in the middle of the road, effectively blocking anyone from getting past – and pretended to fiddle with some wires.
He was interested to note that Mr. Halloway was nowhere to be seen. Either Ferguson had shoved him down to the floor with orders to stay quiet or he was knocked out cold. At this point, Mark knew what he preferred: he wanted the hostage unconscious and a hassle to hold on to. Ferguson may give up sooner if he didn’t have the man to grab and physically place between himself and Mark and God knows, Sully would get a cleaner shot if Clyde Halloway was out of the way.
Mark straightened now, wiped his hands on a rag. He started to walk over to Ferguson’s car and sure enough, the man got out before Mark got close enough to get a look in to the front seat.
“Afternoon!” Mark called cheerily. “Sorry for the road block – I’m having car trouble.”
Michael Ferguson leaned on the hood of his own car, blocking Mark’s view even more, and stared at the man in the middle of the fucking road. The guy was cleaning his hands and was wearing jeans and a dark t-shirt and seemed friendly. He was also quite clearly half-black and Ferguson felt a sneer threaten to break out across his face.
His unrelenting racism was deep-seated and he didn’t even care to try to work on that. He was good at hiding it, since it caused problems in his life as a Sheriff to be so blatantly anti-visible minorities… but it was all a façade and Michael Ferguson truly didn’t give a shit. He needed this asshole off the road, though, and he needed it now. Ferguson dug deep, trying to act normal and not like he had a man tied up and gagged just two feet away.
Mark saw the contempt in Ferguson’s cold blue eyes and mentally, he thanked Cordelia for her heads-up. She and Sully had met this dickhead before, back in his hometown of Foxburg Falls when they were undercover. Cordelia had told all the Solid Security team that Ferguson was a racist prick – and that if it was at all possible, Mark should interact with him in Utah to throw him off his game. Cordelia’s opinion was that the man’s blind hatred would make him angry and defensive when confronted by a black man and in turn, that would make him weak and vulnerable.
You get a drink on me, Cordelia. You called it in one. He’s stressed and on-edge already from being on the run – and now the ‘nice guy’ mask and his control are both slipping damn easy.
“What kind of car trouble?” Ferguson said, trying to sound calm and interested.
“Not too sure.” Mark looked back at the SUV and shook his head. He saw that he was in Sully’s direct line of fire and he casually stepped to one side. “I’m not all that great with cars.”
“Oh. So you couldn’t give me a hand, then?”
“Too bad. I guess I’ll just have to wait for triple-A.”
“Yeah.” Ferguson stared at the other man some more, trying to get a read on him but he was having trouble staying focused. Right now, he was in survival mode and all he saw when he looked at this guy was an obstacle. “I’m in a bit of a rush, so I’ll just pull off the road a bit and drive around you.”
“You’re in a rush?”
“Yeah. I am.” He pushed himself off the car hood and started to walk back to the driver’s side. “Good luck.”
“You’re in a rush because you need to get away with your hostage?”
Without any hesitation at all, Ferguson spun around, his gun already out and pointed at the other man. He blinked when he saw a gun pointed right back at him.
Fuck. A trap.
“This is all over, Ferguson,” Mark said quietly. “The local cops are already at the farmhouse checking on Emily Halloway… is she still alive?”
Mark paused, still determined to at least try to take the man alive. “Look, you have no way out, man. Put the gun down and get on your knees.”
“No way.” Ferguson shifted his large frame back and forth, grounding himself better. “You’ll have to shoot me, asshole, ‘cause I ain’t going to jail.”
“It doesn’t have to go that way.”
Ferguson stood and glared at Mark, totally still and silent and every single instinct in Mark’s powerful body was screaming at him. Yeah, he and Sully and Dallas had assumed that Ferguson wasn’t going to get out of this alive and he saw now that it was worse than that: Ferguson was going to
of it. He was going to force their hands. Mark’s finger tightened and he got ready to shoot.
Suddenly, Halloway sat up in the car, looking dazed. Both men startled at his unexpected appearance and that was when Ferguson made his move: as fast as a blink, he swung his gun to the right, leveled it through the open window and inside the car. Immediately, Mark stepped even farther to the left. He knew that Sully was lining everything up behind him and Ferguson’s life was now being measured in seconds.
“Out,” Ferguson hissed at Clyde Halloway. “Out
The old man blinked, confused. His head was bleeding badly and Mark was sure that he was in shock. Still, he fumbled with the door handle, managed to swing it open and get to his feet. With plodding, hesitant steps he started to walk around the car to Ferguson.
Fuck. Sully’s got to take care of this before Ferguson gets his hands on Clyde and uses him as a shield… come on, man, take it. Take the shot.