Antón Lizardo, Mexico
“Nick Donovan, you’re going to die!”
Nick felt the crushing impact, a burst of agony, and warm blood as bullets tore into his shoulder. More shouts echoed from down the hall.
He fought to catch his breath and think through the pain. What the hell was going on? He’d been sleeping after a back alley doctor patched him up, only to wake to this chaos.
A hulking shadow lumbering toward him registered at the exact moment Nick realized there was something in his own hand. He looked down and clenched his fingers. A huge sense of relief washed over him as his palm closed around the familiar handle of a Sig Sauer P226 9mm.
Thank God. Someone had left him a gun.
He couldn’t see well enough to aim with much accuracy, but at the rate the shadowy figure was headed for him, aiming wouldn’t be an issue for long. A deafening concussion rocked the room, and a fireball whooshed in from the hallway. Nick rolled off his gurney to escape the conflagration, crashing to the terrazzo tile. Pain blossomed in his stomach and shoulder. As an IV line gave way, medical tape ripped hairs from the back of his hand, spewing blood everywhere.
Still, Nick clung to the Sig.
A smoky silhouette thrashed about on the floor, a few feet to his left. Fire licked at the cool tiles under them both, and more shots blazed around Nick’s head from the opposite direction. He crawled toward a massive stainless steel cabinet that had been toppled during the . . . Jesus . . . the explosion?
For a fleeting moment he wondered if this was some kind of hallucination brought on by the medication he was taking for his injuries sustained earlier at Rivera’s compound, but the excruciating pain and the stench of burning chemicals told him this was all too real and happening right now.
Smoke continued to fill the room. He couldn’t figure out where the shots were coming from. The body on the floor near him quit moving.
Shit, shit, shit. What in hell was going on? His right hand was going numb.
Where was everyone? Where was Marissa?
He had a vague memory of arriving at what looked like a veterinarian’s clinic, complete with dog cages in the yard. Bryan Fisher and Leland Hollis had been there. Someone must have carried him inside. After that everything went hazy and gray till he woke up alone in this insanity.
How long had he been out? Hours? Days?
He wasn’t going to be able to do anything to help himself much longer. Another man moved through the thickening smoke—head down, running low. The murky apparition was fifteen feet away when Nick wrapped his left hand around his right and fired twice. His fingers, no longer working correctly, kept sliding off the trigger, which was sticky with blood.
Even through the haze he could see that the shadow was Cesar Vega, the enforcer for the most lethal drug cartel in Mexico. Nick knew he’d hit him at least once. No way he’d missed at this range, despite his impaired vision and dexterity.
Cesar continued racing toward him like a freight train, promising certain death with a booming voice that sounded like a concrete mixer. Between the threats, Nick could hear Cesar cursing in Spanish as he thundered through the doorway, heedless of the crackling flames. The dealer must be coked up and operating on adrenaline, even as he was bleeding out.
Nick tried to check the clip on the Sig, but his right hand was now completely numb, and he was never more grateful to be ambidextrous. Once he was able to switch hands with the gun and wrap his left index finger back around the trigger, he was out of ammo. Perfect.
Cesar’s progress slowed, the freight train was finally running low on steam, but the dealer still had an AK-47 with plenty of bullets. He stumbled and tripped. When the man fell, he was practically on top of Nick, and the impact was like being hit by a Mack truck. The room shook. Cesar’s assault rifle skittered across the floor.
This was Nick’s chance, but he couldn’t move. The stitches across his abdomen had torn when he rolled off the gurney. Blood seeped from new wounds at his shoulder. He and Cesar lay side-by-side; Nick’s own blood mingled with the drug dealer’s.
Cesar’s lips were bloodstained as he whispered just loud enough for Nick to hear. “They’re coming after yours, and you can’t stop them.”
The dying man laughed, his laughter changing to a cough as his damaged lungs filled with blood. Even so, he managed to rasp out one last threat. “It’s personal now. Your family’ll be dead in six weeks.”
The shocking words were meant to taunt, a final insult. Cesar never would have spoken if he hadn’t thought Nick was dying, too. Nick struggled to sit up, and Cesar’s eyes widened in surprise. Obviously, he hadn’t been expecting Nick to move.
Nick leaned close to the downed man’s ear. “My family will be fine. I always see to it.”
Cesar’s eyes closed for the last time, and Nick heard another deep rumble starting farther back in the building. Damn. He recognized that sound. He glanced at the door, seemingly a thousand miles away. He’d never make it.
He looked back at Cesar, dead now in a puddle of blood. The dealer’s dying threat galvanized him to action. He rolled toward the wall, wrenching himself to his feet. His vision swam and blood seeped into his eyes, but he hung on and moved his ass.
Whatever happened, he was getting out. There was no other option. Nick Donovan took care of his family.
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Copyright © 2014 by Kay Thomas. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.