Home > Murder Game (GhostWalkers #7)

Murder Game (GhostWalkers #7)
Author: Christine Feehan

Acknowledgments

As always I have to thank the people who really helped me. So much research goes into a book like this one, and many of the scenes or the technical data are complicated. Morey Sparks walked two miles in the Iraqi heat to get information to me. I can't thank him enough for his dedication and his help. Stay safe! Brian Feehan, who gave up so many hours to work action scenes with me. making certain each stroke of the knife and each scene would not only work, but be the best possible way to actually carry out the mission. For my SF team, you know who you are, thank you for all the information to help me make my men real. If there are any mistakes, they are solely mine.


The GhostWalker Creed


We are the GhostWalkers, we live in the shadows

The sea, the earth, and the air are our domain

No fallen comrade will be left behind

We are loyalty and honor bound

We are invisible to our enemies

and we destroy them where we find them

We believe in justice and we protect our country

and those unable to protect themselves

What goes unseen, unheard, and unknown

are GhostWalkers

There is honor in the shadows and it is us

We move in complete silence whether

in jungle or desert

We walk among our enemy unseen and unheard

Striking without sound and scatter to the winds

before they have knowledge of our existence

We gather information and wait with endless patience

for that perfect moment to deliver swift justice

We are both merciful and merciless

We are relentless and implacable in our resolve

We are the GhostWalkers and the night is ours

 

 

CHAPTER ONE

 


The cougar was going to turn. Tansy Meadows inhaled swiftly, biting at her full lower lip. Her heart was pounding; she could taste the familiar dryness in her mouth and feel the dampness on her palms. The rush of adrenaline made it difficult to control her shaking hands when she needed desperately to be absolutely still.

Turn, baby. She whispered the encouragement in mind, willing the animal to do so. If you turn, I'll make you very, very famous.

The big cat stretched lazily, its sleek body rippling with muscle beneath the soft, tawny fur. The end of its long tail twitched.

Tansy's heart nearly ceased to beat, than began to tap out double time. Come on, little mama, she coaxed, turn for me.

Her legs had long since lost feeling; they were so numb from inactivity, Tansy wasn't certain she would be able to leave the tiny ledge where she had set up her blind some months earlier. It didn't matter; nothing mattered except getting this picture.

The mountain lion was large, nearly eight feet long, very pregnant and due to give birth any day now. The slate gray tip of its tail twitched again and again, and Tansy remained utterly still, waiting for her moment. Five long hours of waiting, anticipating. Five long hours of cramped, sore muscles, not to mention the months of preparation.

Come on, baby, a little more. You can do it. Get that beautiful face pointed this way.

The mountain lion arched her back leisurely, tantalizing Tansy with expectancy. The cat turned her sleek head, green gold eyes glittering like sparkling jewels. Tansy exhaled slowly as she began snapping frame after frame with her camera. As if she knew she was the object of admiring eyes, the cat preened herself, lapping at her tawny coat with her long tongue. She grimaced, showing off her gleaming yellow fangs. She even managed something Tansy thought resembled a smile right before she let out a soft, whistling call.

Mountain lions hunted mainly at night. Tansy worked with both digital and film, capturing wildlife in its natural habitat. She had captured a beautiful photographic series of this particular cat bringing down an elk calf three weeks ago, but this was her first real break since. Cougars were elusive and difficult to photograph in their natural habitats. Whenever possible, they preferred a high vantage point, and their superior vision allowed them to spot humans long before humans spotted them. Tansy had been studying the female cougar, one of the most elusive animals in North America, for a long time in the hopes of capturing a cougar birth on film. She was lucky she had such an affinity with animals; even the wild ones didn't seem to mind her presence too much.

She continued taking as many pictures as she could, knowing every angle, every frame was going to yield gold. The background was everything she could possibly have asked for. The night sky, the moon and stars, the slight wind shifting the leaves just so and ruffling the silver-tipped fur. Her subject was quite cooperative—stretching, cleaning and displaying her long, sleek body from all angles.

Tansy particularly wanted a series of shots with a variety of lighting up close on the fur. The color was difficult to truly describe, especially with each individual hair tipped in that silvery gray, enabling the cat to disappear at twilight, to simply blend into her surroundings and move without detection through most of her habitat during night hours. She wanted to get the sense of that camouflage in the pictures, of the stealth and power of the huntress, in contrast to the playful and motherly personality.

In the distance overhead, the thump, thump of a helicopter, blades spinning fast as it made its way across the dawn sky, interrupted the silence of the night. The cougar froze, crouching low so the few bushes and blades of grass growing on the rock hid her. She bared her teeth in a silent snarl as she looked upward.

Tansy slowly lowered her camera and remained just as still as the cat, an inexplicable awareness of being hunted creeping down her spine. Her breath caught in her lungs, and for just one moment she was disoriented, a frightening thing while on a narrow ledge with a wild cougar just a few feet from her.

She turned her face toward the sky as the helicopter flew directly over her. Just the sight and sound of the aircraft was unsettling to her, and she bit down hard on her lower lip, peering at the craft in order to identify it, worried her parents had sent someone after her when she'd insisted she was exactly where she wanted to be. She had chosen this wilderness to be completely away from all human contact, and the helicopter above her was definitely military—not forestry, and certainly not one belonging to her father.

The undercarriage of the helicopter glowed with green lights as it moved fast over her, a large bird of prey swooping low over the tall trees and then just as suddenly dipping down below her line of vision, the noise fading quickly. She lay very still on the narrow ledge, her heart thundering in her ears. She forced air through her lungs as the lights disappeared. Her imagination was running wild—maybe she had been alone too long after all.

Movement snapped her attention back to the cougar, as the cat gave one final, almost contemptuous lick along her tawny, muscled leg and, in a single bound, leapt to the rock above her resting area. Tansy knew her den was there. The cat had chosen a small cave to give birth to her kittens.

Tansy had been able to infiltrate two caves the cat had previously used as dens to set up her equipment, in the hopes she could somehow film the event. To her disappointment, the cave the mountain lion had chosen was totally inaccessible, which meant Tansy would have to spend another year or two studying the species and waiting for the next birth cycle, after these kittens were raised. In the meantime, tonight's pictures were worth a fortune and would give her the necessary money to continue her work.

Tansy deserved a long soak in the natural pool and an even longer nap in the mid-afternoon sun. Very carefully, she stretched her sore, tired muscles. Needles and pins rushed in where before there had been only numbness. The cramps would hit soon, grabbing at her calves and thighs, a protest against the long hours of being motionless. She had no real room to maneuver, the ledge was so narrow. She breathed through the needles, breathed through the cramps, flexing and stretching with care until she was certain she was able to climb the sheer rock face as she did most days.

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