He heard Jada scuffling with the third one, and he wanted to intervene, but rushing in now would only get him killed and it seemed clear they wanted her alive. However, the men who’d come after them in New York hadn’t seemed all that concerned about whether she lived or died, and if these bastards were working for the same employer, they wouldn’t hesitate to kill her if it came to that.
One of the standing thugs gestured for the other to circle around to their left—Drake’s right. They were a few cars away, but if they split up now, they would flank him in moments. He’d have to try to take them down from cover, which would mean revealing his precise location.
He took a breath, finger resting on the trigger. He’d shoot the one who seemed to be giving the orders first.
A single gunshot split the air, and Drake flinched, thinking they’d found him. But then he realized that the shot had come from the gun Jada and the third thug were fighting over, and ice twisted in his gut.
“Son of a bitch,” he muttered.
Throwing caution to the wind, he ran between the truck and the bullet-riddled sedan, taking aim at the broad-shouldered white guy. The thug had been waiting and started to take aim, when a shot came from off to the left. It sang through the air and shattered glass but missed its target.
Sully stood at the edge of the parking lot, pistol clutched in both hands. Olivia was behind him, pressed against the hotel, looking frantic, like she wanted to bolt. The black-suited linebacker dropped behind a car; he was smarter than he looked. If he’d taken the time to aim at one of them, the other would have shot him, though it looked like Sully needed target practice.
“Nate, watch your three o’clock!” Sully shouted.
Drake spun, saw the olive-skinned goon appear between two rows of cars, and squeezed off a shot. A bullet screamed past his ear, close enough that he felt the displacement of air against his cheek. He swore and took cover, glanced over at Sully, and saw that his old friend had done the same thing, hidden behind the corner of the hotel with his gun barrel pointed heavenward like a cop about to break down a perp’s door.
Or James Bond without the suave, Drake thought. Sully would love that. Or maybe shoot him.
Olivia stood ten feet behind him, well out of range of the shooters. She was trapped there unless she wanted to go back into the hotel and deal with the chaos that would bring. The guests and restaurant patrons would be freaking out now, some under tables and others at the windows, trying to figure out what was going on. They weren’t alone in that.
“Jada, you alive?” Drake shouted.
In answer, she struggled to her feet. For a second he thought all would be well, but then he saw that she wasn’t alone. The third guy held her tightly from behind. White, early thirties, ex-military by the way he carried himself. But he didn’t look well, and the bullet hole in his shoulder probably had something to do with it. He’d been the only guy not in a suit. His shirt had been gray or blue, but a stain had spread out from the wound Jada had given him, the blood looking black in the dark.
Drake twisted and took aim, but there would be no way for him to take the guy down without shooting Jada. He was only a half-decent shot, not some kind of marksman.
The guy winced in pain but didn’t make himself a target. Jada might have shot him in the struggle, but he’d gotten the gun back. Now he jammed it against her skull like he was trying to drill a hole.
“Back off or she’s dead!” the gunman snapped.
Drake didn’t move, gun still leveled at Jada and her would-be abductor, but without a safe shot.
“Drop the damn gun, Drake,” the man snarled. “You and Sullivan both.”
Drake glanced at Sully and Olivia. Sully still had his back against the corner of the hotel, hidden from sight, gun still aimed at the sky. He saw the frown on Sully’s face and knew it reflected his own. These guys knew their names. If they worked for Henriksen, the boss had done his homework. Of course, Olivia had known Sully was with Jada, and she could have guessed that Drake was the other man with her on the basis of descriptions from the attack in New York. But Henriksen might have figured that out himself.
“I will kill her right now!” the gunman said.
Drake started to lower his gun, then darted behind a battered, dusty Jeep. He’d give up his gun if he had to, but he wasn’t going to stand there and wait to get shot.
“Dimitri, drive the car!” the gunman said.
The one Drake had thought Middle Eastern turned out to be Dimitri—a Greek. He kept his weapon aimed at the Jeep and hustled over to their BMW and slid behind the wheel. He kept the door open, ready to shoot again.
The linebacker didn’t need to be told what to do. He went to the man Drake had shot dead and lifted the corpse under the arms, starting to drag him around the back of the car.
“Open the boot!” he shouted to Dimitri. “The police will be here in moments.”
The Greek popped the trunk of the BMW, and it started to rise.
Drake took several deep breaths, waiting for the moment when the guy holding Jada would try to muscle her into the backseat. He had seen the fear in her eyes, but he had seen the determination as well. She would fight him if she had the chance, and if she tried to break free again, Drake would be ready. He would shoot the son of a bitch the second he had a target, and he knew Sully was waiting for the same thing.
Distant sirens reached them. The police were on the way. He tried not to think what might happen to an American with a gun and a fake passport in an Egyptian jail.
He heard a new scuffle, and a man cried out in pain.
Go, Jada, he thought, figuring she had tried to fight back. He swung out from behind the Jeep, aiming at the spot right beside the BMW where Jada and the wounded thug had been a moment before. They were still there, but they weren’t alone.
A darker figure had risen up behind the gunman. Hooded, clad in flowing black, the new arrival gripped the wounded thug by the hair and cut his throat with a long, wickedly curved blade. Jada had tried to twist free, had gotten her hand on the gunman’s wrist and forced the gun barrel away from her skull. Now she held on to the man’s wrist and watched him slump to the pavement, dead.
Others emerged from the darkness between cars, four, then six, then eight more of the hooded figures. Two of them fell upon the linebacker, killing him in near silence. Another appeared from the backseat of the BMW, flowing like liquid darkness over the seat and murdering Dimitri, who pounded the car horn—but only for a moment.
Sully had stepped out from the corner of the hotel and taken aim, but he watched in astonishment that mirrored Drake’s as the shadowed figures made short work of Jada’s would-be abductors. For her part, Jada staggered backward in shock.
Hooded figures put the linebacker in the trunk with the man Drake had killed. Others tossed the one Jada had wounded into the backseat of his own car. One of the assassins shoved Dimitri over and took his place behind the wheel of the BMW. Drake kept swinging the barrel of his gun back and forth, wondering if he ought to be shooting at them, though they hadn’t made any attempt to attack him or his friends.
Then one of them darted at Jada so swiftly that when Drake pulled the trigger, he had no chance of hitting the man. The assassin whispered something into her ear and then retreated into the shadows between cars. The BMW’s engine roared, and Drake moved aside as it shot from the parking lot, skidding into the road and vanishing up the street.
When he glanced back at the scene of the melee, Jada was alone. Sully ran toward her, and so Drake did the same thing. Of Olivia, there was no sign. She had vanished.
“Get the car,” Sully snapped at him.
“The cops!” Sully barked.
Drake ran for the car, digging out his keys. He was behind the wheel and had it started in a matter of seconds, slammed it into gear, and pulled up beside Sully and Jada, who quickly piled in.
“What about Olivia? We can’t just leave her for the police,” Drake said.
Beside him in the passenger seat, Jada shot him a withering glance. “Are you kidding me? She took off. You still think she didn’t set us up? Let’s go!”
Drake didn’t have to be told twice. He hit the gas and tore out of the parking lot, raced along the street, and slowed at the corner, taking the turn just as a police car barreled toward the hotel from the other direction.
Heart hammering, he kept his speed down until they were out of the city and the desert sky had opened up above them.
“Who the hell were those guys?” Drake muttered.
“The guys who tried to take me or the guys who killed them?” Jada asked.
“Either one,” Sully said.
“Jada, what did that guy whisper to you right before they did their disappearing act?” Drake asked.
She glanced at him as if deciding whether to tell. Then she exhaled. “Go home,” she said.
“Wow,” Drake said. “Y’ know, maybe this is me going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say I think we’re officially screwed.”
Nobody argued with him.
Drake woke on Saturday morning surprised not to have been rousted by the police during the night. He was even more amazed when he turned on the television and saw nothing about the violence outside the Queen’s Hotel on the news. Sully had spent the night in Jada’s room, presumably sleeping in a chair—though he might have taken a pillow into the bathtub and curled up there; it wouldn’t have been the first time—and when Drake phoned the room, he answered on the first ring.
“Any cops or reporters down your way?” Drake asked him.
“None. Weird, don’t you think?”
Drake did think. “Does Tyr Henriksen have enough money to pay a restaurant full of people to keep their mouths shut?”
“Either that or pay off the Fayoum City police,” Sully agreed.
“Why would he do that?” Drake asked.
“It’s pretty clear he thinks we know something he doesn’t want anyone knowing. If the cops question us, we might tell them.”
“We wouldn’t. Unless we had to,” Drake replied.
“He doesn’t know that.”
“How you doing on your morning beauty regimen?” Sully growled. “Jada’s feeling pretty vulnerable. She doesn’t want to spend a minute here she doesn’t have to.”
“Just Jada?” Drake asked.
“You ready?” Sully replied, ignoring the question. “I’ve got some dates and fuul down here.”
“Watch what you’re calling me.”
“Funny,” Sully said drily.
“I just woke up. Give me twenty minutes. We should check out. Whatever happens today, tonight we find a hotel in Cairo.”
Drake didn’t actually make it downstairs until a little more than half an hour later, but Sully and Jada must have only been a few minutes ahead of him because they were at the front desk when he walked up. Once they had checked out and settled the bill, they headed outside to the car, all of them blinking back the sunlight and glancing around for the cadre of local cops they expected to descend on them. Still, nothing happened. It was as if the events of the night before had never taken place.
“Did you ask about Olivia?” Drake said, glancing at Sully and ignoring the sharp look the question earned him from Jada.
“She’s registered. We couldn’t exactly ask if she came back to her room last night, and it’s not likely the same clerk on duty, anyway,” Sully said. “I rang her room, but no answer, and we didn’t feel like knocking on the door.”
Drake nodded. There had been too many surprises lately, and he wouldn’t have wanted to knock on Olivia’s door this morning, either. The way she’d vanished, she was either in on it or in even more trouble than they were.
“So, I take it we’re not going to take spooky-ninja-assassin’s advice and go home?” Drake asked.
Jada glanced at him. “No one’s keeping you here, Nate.”
“Hey,” Drake said, holding up his hands in surrender. “We can’t pretend those guys weren’t intimidating. I’d feel better if I knew who they were and what the hell they were doing saving our asses.”
“If that’s what they were doing,” Sully said. “Looked to me like they were killing Henriksen’s guys. Was that to save Jada or just because they were Henriksen’s guys?”
“If they were Henriksen’s guys,” Drake said.
“Please,” Jada said, waving a dismissive hand. “Olivia may have confused you guys with her damsel-in-distress thing, but I know her. She’s a part of this.”
“Even if she isn’t, she put the blame on Henriksen, too,” Sully reminded them. “Either she was really afraid of him, which means he’s behind it all, or she’s in on it with him, which still means he’s behind it all.”
“I guess we’re in agreement on Henriksen being behind it all,” Drake said.
Jada punched him in the arm.
He said, “ow.”
“Just drive the car, would you?” Sully said, sighing. “It’s not the morning for goofing around.”
Drake frowned. “People tried to kill us again last night. There were hooded assassins—and I mean really, really skilled hooded assassins. As freaked as I am, I think it’s the perfect morning for goofing around.”
Jada stopped short ten feet from the Volvo wagon.
Sully glanced at her. “Hey. You okay?”
She turned to Drake, stood on tiptoe, and kissed his cheek. “I thanked Sully last night. I don’t think I thanked you. For saving my life, I mean.”
Drake wanted to remind her that she’d done a pretty good job of helping save her own life, but he didn’t want to ruin the moment.
Sully smiled. “Well, that shut him up, at least.”