Warrior's Heart (SEAL of Fortune)

This is a work of fiction. Any names, characters, places, and incidents are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, organizations, or persons--living or dead--is entirely coincidental

 

Warrior's Heart copyright @ 2014 by Laura Day. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embedded in critical articles or reviews.

 

CHAPTER ONE

 

Petty Officer First Class Ryker Evans, United States Navy, rises from his chair, his Beretta M9 service pistol held at his side as he quickly strides toward the figure stepping onto the patio of the restaurant. Ryker sees the man register the weapon in his hand and watches as his eyes go wide with fear…  … as they should.

 

Ryker grabs the man, whirls him around and slams him backwards against the concrete wall of the restaurant. “You motherfucker! I’m going to kill you right here!” he snarls into the man’s face while pinning him with a forearm to the throat. He shoves the weapon hard under the man’s chin, pointing it upwards. One pull of the trigger and most of the man’s head will disappear in a spray of blood.

 

The man stands still, afraid to move. His eyes show his fear, show how near death he knows he is, but his voice is calm. “If you kill me you will never find Dr. Baker.”

 

Ryker can feel his finger begin to tighten on the trigger as his face hardens. He is the fucking angel of death, here to collect this asshole’s soul, if he has one. “You had better talk fast you fuck.”

 

The man says nothing, standing stock still with his head his pinned to the wall by Ryker’s arm, his wide eyes staring into Ryker’s. With a menacing growl Ryker pulls his arm back from the man’s throat, takes Baltasar by the back of the head, and slams him face first onto the wooden table and places the gun to his temple, pressing hard. With no windows into the restaurant and a chest-high wall surrounding it, unless someone steps onto the patio from inside the restaurant they won’t be seen.

 

“You had better start talking!”

 

Baltasar winces in pain as Ryker pushes the weapon hard into the side of his head. “Is this how the vaulted U.S. military interrogates prisoners?”

 

“No. This is how one pissed off Navy SEAL interrogates a lying, cheating, son of a bitch that caused a lot of good men to be killed. Talk!”

 

“How do I know you won’t kill me as soon as I tell you what you want to know?”

 

“You don’t. But if you don’t tell me I
will
kill you,” Ryker snarls.

 

Baltasar considers his options and realizes he has none. “I will tell you, but take that fucking gun away from my head.”

 

Ryker grits his teeth, his mouth working in barely contained rage. He had almost hoped this fucker wouldn’t talk so he could blow his fucking head off. He feels his finger begin to tighten again as he leans in hard, then jerks back, hauling Baltasar off the table and slamming him into a chair. The chair goes over backwards, dumping Baltasar into the floor. Ryker reaches down and hauls the man to his feet, then slams him into another chair, but not quite as hard, causing the chair to rock back but not go over this time.

 

Ryker knows he is raging out of control, but he can’t help it. Not with his fucker. Two years ago six good men had gone in on a simple smash and grab mission, but only two—he and one other—had come out. All because of this shit Baltasar. He had played them and led them right into a trap.

 

“Talk!” Ryker snarls, sitting down across from Baltasar. His weapon is still out, pointed directly at him under the table. Gut shooting the bastard would be too good for him… all he needs is an excuse. And Baltasar knows it.

 

“I know where Dr. Baker is.”

 

“Where?”

 

“First I need your guarantee of freedom. I know the CIA is still looking for me. I want them to stop. I want to return home.”

 

“The only guarantee you’ll get from me is considering not killing you right here, right now,” Ryker mutters, his voice deadly.

 

“Then kill me,” Baltasar says, leaning back in his chair as if he hasn’t a care in the world. “I’m tired of looking over my shoulder, wondering when one of your CIA agents will be standing behind me. I would rather die.”

 

“I can help you with that,” Ryker sneers.

 

Baltasar says nothing, crossing his arms.

 

“Don’t press me, Baltasar,” Ryker warns.

 

Baltasar smiles weakly. “So? Do we have a deal?”

 

“Like the last time? When you sent us straight into the teeth of a fucking war? That kind of deal? Fuck you Baltasar!” Ryker snarls, jumping to this feet and hauling the man out of the chair. “I think it’s time I reintroduce you to your old pals at the CIA. It will be like old times. I’m sure they will love to talk to you. I wonder… are you the same guy that tipped us to Dr. Baker’s location then told the kidnappers we were on our way? That would be just like you… like what you did the last time. They really enjoy it when one of their guys is playing both sides.”

 

Baltasar feels his himself go pale. “Wait. Wait! I will tell you everything!” he nearly shouts. He has heard of the interrogation techniques the CIA uses and he wants nothing to do with them. He thought he had at last found a ticket out of his private hell, but this isn’t going the way he had planned at all. “Ryker! Wait! I will tell you! I will tell you everything!”

 

“Too late pal,” Ryker sneers. “You had your chance and you fucked up. Just like when you double-crossed us.”

 

“Ryker! Please!”

 

Ryker jams his weapon hard into Baltasar’s kidneys. “Now we are going to walk out of here nice and easy. One sound, one false move, and you are dead man. Got it?”

 

“You won’t shoot me in a crowded restaurant,” Baltasar says with more bravado than he feels.

 

“That’s where you’re wrong. You see, I’m here as part of the embassy staff. I have diplomatic immunity,” Ryker lies softly into Baltasar’s ear as he steers him through the restaurant, shielding his weapon from view with his own body. He sees two couples, his undercover backup probably, rise from their meals. “Get my radio,” Ryker says loudly enough for them to hear, but never stops walking and returns his attention to Baltasar. “It would so be worth being kicked out of the country to get to kill your worthless ass.”

 

As he steps out on the street the two men are right behind him. “One of you drive while I keep this asshole company.”

 

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Ryker is in a towering rage as he paces about in his room. He has turned that fuck Baltasar over to the CIA to let them sweat the details out of him, but knowing that Baltasar is in good hands doesn’t make him feel any better.

 

He and Michael Henry had made a pact when they had escaped the jaws of the lion. As the only two surviving members of that failed mission they had promised that if the opportunity were to present itself they would settle the score for Baltasar’s treachery. He had him! He had him and he didn’t pull the trigger. But this mission is too important to throw away their only potential lead for some personal…

 

He hears the knock on his door and takes several deep breaths, calming himself before opening it. Ronnie is standing there, a smile on her face.

 

“They told me you were back. I thought you were going to come and get… Ryker, what is wrong?” She hasn’t known him that long. Just over a week. But she can tell instantly that something has gone wrong. Terribly wrong. He has the look on his face that he has when the shit is hitting the fan. A look she knows well after he saved her ass. Twice.

 

“Nothing,” he grumbles, stepping back, silently inviting her to enter.

 

“Bullshit. What happened?”

 

“I met the contact. He wanted to play games so he and the CIA are in—aggressive—negotiations at the moment.”

 

“They’re torturing him?” she asks in shock.

 

“Unlikely. Not yet anyway. At the moment they are probably just sweating him. Torture can be counterproductive. The subject will tell you whatever you want to hear. There are better, more subtle ways to get people to talk.”

 

She doesn’t like the sound of that either. “But there is more to it than that, isn’t there?”

 

He looks at her. Dr. Veronica Baker, daughter to the kidnapped Dr. Julian Baker, the man he is looking for, is not only a brilliant geneticist, but obviously a good people reader as well. “Yes. I know him… and let’s just say that I owe him something.”

 

She has never seen him like this. Even when their life was hanging by a thread, he was calm, cool, and in control. But now, here in his room, he seems totally out of sorts. “Ryker. Talk to me. What’s going on?”

 

He takes a deep breath, trying to let the anger go. “The man’s name is Baltasar. He is a CIA contact. A couple of years ago we were on a mission to snatch a senior al Qaeda member hiding in Batroun. Baltasar tipped us on his location. We were going to go in, bag him, and then squeeze him for intel. Baltasar set us up. They knew we were coming and we walked into a buzz saw. A lot of good men died. I swore that if I ever found that bastard again I would kill him.”

 

“Wait. I thought you told me you were a search and rescue guy.”

 

“I am.”

 

“But, why…”

 

“Ronnie, I can’t tell you everything. SAR is what I do, but it’s not
all
that I do. Not all that I have done.”

 

She tries to get her mind around what he is saying. “How many? How many were killed?”

 

“Four. I and another guy escaped. We left three men behind—the other died before we could get him help. Mike, the other survivor, still doesn’t have full use of his left arm… and probably never will. He was a hell of a southpaw pitcher too. Maybe good enough to go pro. But not now.”

 

“And you?” Ronnie asks quietly. “What about you?”

 

“Me? I got off light. Nothing more than cuts and abrasions.” Ryker stares into nothingness for a moment.

 

He still hasn’t fully forgiven himself for leaving those three men behind, especially after their bodies were paraded around on television like fucking trophies. You
never
leave a man behind. Ever! But he had been part of the fighting retreat back to the beach trying to get Brennon out while he was still alive, him and Michael dragging the man between them. But it had been too little, too late, and he had died before they could be picked up. 

 

“I’m sorry Ryker,” she says, and she means it.

 

“Yeah. Me too,” he replies, before flopping into a sit on his bed. “I wanted to kill that son of a bitch so badly.”

 

“Why didn’t you?”

 

“Because he might lead us to your father. I couldn’t take the chance of scratching off our first good lead.”

 

Ronnie relaxes a bit. The Ryker she saw when he opened the door scared her a little. But the old Ryker seems to be back. She sits on the bed beside him. “I know it must have been hard. Thank you for not killing him.”

 

He smiles slightly. “The night is young. I may still get a chance.”

 

She returns his smile. “Maybe. But I actually had something else in mind for tonight.”

 

He can feel a thrill pass through him. He and Ronnie had become lovers last night and, for him at least, it had been magical. He can feel his lips beginning to pull into a wide smile when his phone rings.

 

“Evans,” he says into the phone.

 

“Will you find Dr. Baker and report to the detention area? Your friend has become very eager to talk.”

 

“We will be there in less than five minutes,” Ryker says before hanging up the phone. “Baltasar has become talkative. Let’s go see what he has to say.”

 

***

 

There is a man waiting for them as they step off the elevator in the basement of the embassy. “Right this way,” he says, directing them to a darkened room. Through the glass they can see a sweating Baltasar sitting in a chair at a table, another man across from him. Their escort steps to the glass and flips a switch.

 

“…but I can find out!” Baltasar says.

 

“You haven’t exactly proven yourself reliable in the past,” the interrogator points out.

 

“I know! I’m sorry! That was a mistake! I shouldn’t have done that! I see that now!”

 

“Baltasar… why should I believe you now? How do I know you aren’t the same lying sack of shit you have always been?”

 

Baltasar licks his lips nervously. “This is bad, okay? I know what will happen if this virus thing gets out. You Americans will send your planes and your bombs and you will turn the sand to glass. I don’t want that. Okay? I still have family that lives in Syria. I just want to go home. That’s all I want. I thought this was my ticket to get home. I tell you where Dr. Baker is and you forget about me.”

 

“But you see, Baltasar, there is that trust thing. You fucked us once. Maybe you are planning on fucking us again. How do I know?”

 

“I won’t! I just want to go home! I just want to go home and be with my wife! Please!”

 

“But you just said you don’t know where he is.”

 

“But I know who has him! I told you, I can find out!”

 

“Tell me who they are. If it checks out, then we can talk about what happens next.”

 

“No! I can’t do that! You will kill me!”

 

“Baltasar… I’m not going to kill you. I’m just going to make you
wish
I would kill you.”

 

Baltasar says nothing, the sweat beading on his face. “No. I won’t tell you. Let me go and I will find out. Or kill me.”

 

“You know what I think. I don’t think you know anything. I think you think I’m stupid,” the man says, rising. “Perhaps I should have Evans come in here and talk to you. I understand that you and he go way back. You know, I’m kind of surprised that you made it this far. I guess I didn’t give him enough credit. After reading your file, I’m rather surprised you lived long enough for us to even know you might know something.” The man looks to the guard standing in the room. “Find Evans and have him report here,” the interrogator says before stepping out.

 

“Wait! Wait!” Baltasar screams, rising to his feet as the door swings shut, leaving him alone. His hands are bound with a plastic restraint, but his feet are free and he paces around the room. A moment later the interrogator steps into the room with Ryker and Ronnie. “We’ll let him sweat a few minutes. If I send you in there, can I trust you to actually not kill him?” he asks Ryker.

 

Ryker stares at Baltasar through the window. “For now.”

 

The scary Ryker is back. “Ryker,” Ronnie says softly.

 

He looks at her and his face softens. “Don’t worry. I’m okay. But this is the best chance we have to find your father. We have to break him, no matter the cost.”

 

“But…” she says.

 

“Don’t worry, Dr. Baker,” the interrogator says gently. “We haven’t laid a finger on him. He’s nothing but a coward. Easy to break. His imagination is doing most of the work for us. Now, Evans, this is how it is going to go down. We’re going to go in together. You are going to take the place of the guard. Don’t say a word. Just stand there and look like you are only seconds away from pulling your weapon shooting him where he sits. Should be easy for you since we had to practically pry your weapon out of his side as it was,” the man teases with a grin.

 

“If he talks are you going to let him go?” Ryker asks, his eyes never leaving Baltasar as he returns to his chair and sits down again.

 

The man smiles. “There are many types of freedom,” he says as he turns to the door. “Dr. Baker… please stay and continue to listen. If he says anything that sounds wrong, or you hear something that seems relevant that I don’t pick up on, please press the red button,” the man says, pointing to a button on the control panel under the window. “I will get a tone in my ear and will know that you need to see me. Okay?”

 

She nods slowly, uncertain that she wants to see what happens next.

 

Ronnie watches through the glass as Ryker and the other man enter the room. Baltasar’s eyes go wide when Ryker steps into the room. She is amazed at how cruel Ryker can look, a nasty smile on his face as he stands by the door. Ronnie feels her stomach flip over and she wonders if she knows this man at all.

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