Home > Deadly Game (GhostWalkers #5)

Deadly Game (GhostWalkers #5)
Author: Christine Feehan

Chapter 1

Ken Norton glanced up at the swirling dark clouds obscuring the stars and casting an ominous charcoal veil across the moon. He noted the shadow of the trees, closer to the hulking building, checking them constantly for any alteration, any sign of someone slipping through the darkness out of sight of the cameras, but his gaze kept straying back to the large hunting cabin and two carcasses swaying from meat hooks on the porch. The smell of blood and death assailed his nostrils and he wanted to gag, a stupid reaction to the two skinned deer hanging from hooks on the porch when he was a sniper and had done more than his share of killing.

His skin color changed to better blend with his surroundings, and his specially designed clothes reflected the colors around him. allowing him the effect of disappearing completely into the surrounding foliage, hidden from prying eyes. For the thousandth time he looked away from the swaying carcasses still dripping blood.

"So who the hell orders a hit on a senator of the United States?" he asked, his steel gray eyes turning to turbulent mercury. "And not just any senator, a senator being considered as a vice presidential candidate. I don't like this. I haven't liked it from the moment they told us who the target was."

"Hell, Ken. This is no innocent man," his twin, Jack, replied, easing forward to get into a better position to cover the cabin. "You know that better than anyone else. I don't know why the hell we're protecting the son of a bitch. I want to kill him myself. This is the bastard who was the bait to lure you into the Congo. He got out and you were left there to be cut into little pieces and skinned alive." The words were bitter, but Jack's voice was utterly calm. "Don't tell me you don't think he was in on it. Any number of people might have ordered it. The senator set you up, Ken, handed you over to the rebel leader and Ekabela nearly killed you. I could whack him a hundred times and never lose sleep over it—or stand by and let him get whacked."

"Exactly." Ken rolled over, using care to keep the bushes surrounding him still. He hoped the darkness had hidden his slight wince when his twin brought up the past. He didn't think about the torture much—being cut into tiny pieces, his back skinned—or how the knife felt slicing through his skin. But he had nightmares every time he closed his eyes. He remembered it all then. Every cut. Every slice. The agony that never stopped. He woke choking, covered in sweat, his own screams echoing deep inside where no one could ever hear. The deer hanging from meat hooks brought it all back in sharp, vivid detail. He couldn't help but wonder if that was all part of a much larger plan.

He held out his hand, checking for tremors. The scars were rigid and tight, but his hand was rock steady. "Why do you think we were chosen to protect him? We have a grudge against this man. We know he's more than everyone thinks, so who better to take him out without questions? Who better to blame it on? Something's not right."

"What's not right is protecting this bastard. Let them kill him."

Ken glanced at his twin. "Do you hear yourself? We aren't the only ones who know Senator Freeman isn't squeaky clean like the public has been led to believe. We were all debriefed when we came back from the Congo, both teams, and both teams came to the same conclusion—that the senator was dirty—yet he was never questioned, never reprimanded or exposed. And now we've been ordered to protect him from an assassination threat."

Jack was silent for a moment. "And you think we're being set up to take the fall if they get to him."

"Hell yeah I think that. Did the order come down directly from the admiral? Did the admiral actually tell Logan himself? Because, if they have dirt on this guy, why didn't they arrest him? And we just turned down a job to get rid of General Ekabela, another old enemy of ours—one connected to the senator here. It's looking a bit like a pattern to me."

"Ekabela was taken out anyway. They just brought in another shooter and I didn't get the pleasure of putting the guy in the ground."

Ken frowned at his twin. "You're making it personal."

"The senator made it personal when he delivered you to Ekabela so that sadist could torture you. I'm not going to pretend. I want the senator dead. Ken. I don't mind looking the other way if someone wants to slit his throat. If he lives and continues the way he is. he's bound to become president, or at least vice president, and then where are we going to be? He knows we know he's dirty. The first thing he'll do is send us on a suicide mission."

"Like when they wanted to send us back to the Congo to kill Ekabela?" He had to stop looking at those carcasses. He was going to get sick, his stomach churning in protest. He could almost hear the steady drip of blood even though he was yards away. It ran like a small stream down through the boards and collected in a dark, shiny pool. He tried to shut off the sound of his own screaming in his head, but his skin was crawling and each scar throbbed as if every nerve remembered the steady slice of the relentless knife.

"Ekabela deserved to die." Jack said. "He more than deserved it and you know it. He leveled villages, committed genocide, ran the drug industry and stole from the UN when they tried to get food and medicine to the area."

"That's right, but look who stepped into his shoes. General Armine, more feared and hated than Ekabela. and how strange that the transition of power went so smoothly."

"What the hell are you trying to say, Ken?"

Ken looked up at the clouds obscuring the sliver of moon, watching them spin slowly and lazily, a dark veil with nowhere to go. He remembered the pattern of the clouds in the jungle, the sway of the canopy and the smell of his own sweat and blood. "I'm saying we never make things personal, but someone has been doing just that for us. I don't like it and I like this job even less. I think we're being set up again. I just don't believe in coincidences, and this is a huge one."

Jack swore under his breath and fit his eye to the scope, carefully surveying the mountain cabin several hundred yards away. "He's in there with his wife. I could take him out and we could just walk away clean; no one would be the wiser."

"Just our entire team."

Jack flashed a small, humorless grin at his brother. "They'd help me and you know it. They detest the man nearly as much as I do."

"Someone wanted Armine in a position of power. Someone here, in the United States. I've thought a lot about this, Jack. Every assignment we've been sent on in the past year has created a void, a hole for some other lowlife to step into. From Colombian drug lords to General Ekabela in the Congo, we're creating a vacancy in those positions of power and someone is manipulating that. I just don't happen to think it's the president of the United States." He cast his brother a quick glance. "Do you?"

Jack swore again. "No. I think we're screwed."

"I can't ask Logan if the admiral gave him the order face to face, because Jesse Calhoun contacted him, said it was urgent, and Logan went to see him. Jesse's been conducting an investigation into the Ekabela-Senator tie. That's why Kadan Montague took his place on the team."

"I thought Jesse was still in a wheelchair," Jack said. "The last I heard he was inactive and doing physical therapy."

"Well, apparently he's working again. He's one of the more powerful psychics on our team and he's got brains. The admiral wasn't about to give him up. It was a hell of a thing what they did to him. Between enhancement and the psychic experiments and Jesse's legs, he got the short end of the stick."

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