Lock and Load (SEAL EXtreme Team) (4 page)

BOOK: Lock and Load (SEAL EXtreme Team)
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Jacques snagged the memory card out of the machine and whispered in her ear, “Now!”

She crashed the server and the computer went black. The guard threw open the door and complaining voices drifted in.

“Whoops.” Amber tried not to smile. “Must have hit the wrong button.”

“What happened? What did she do?” The guard demanded using real Cantonese words, not caveman grunts. He didn’t know that she spoke the language almost as well as Jacques.

“She crashed the system. It’s no good.” Jacques sounded angry. In the couple months that she’d known him, he hadn’t used that tone. “Take her away. We can’t use her.”

The guard hauled her up by her arm. Her heels lifted off the floor.

“Let go of me!” She yanked her arm out of the guard’s grasp. “Jacques!”

“Just go, Amber. Walk away,” Jacques warned, in English. “I am sorry it had to end like this. That is—how you Americans say—the way it goes.”

Was this a joke? It had to be a joke. A very bad one. Her head started spinning. Dread settled in her chest.
We can’t use her
. Had she been used? What was happening?

“Jacques! Tell me what’s going on!”

Ma bichette
, some things are better left unsaid. Our time together has been sweet. I will miss you.”

She studied his face. It was calm, smooth. “I don’t understand.”

He shrugged. “What is to understand? It is over. I have what I needed from you and now it is good-bye.”

He had what
needed? The shock slapped her hard. She cared about him—not love, but tenderness, mutual understanding—and he’d scammed her. She’d broken her promise to help him and this is how she was repaid? “Why are you doing this?”

Jacques didn’t answer. He cocked his head at the guard. “Take her away.”

Ugly’s large hands pinched her shoulders. He shoved her toward the open door.

“I can walk, moron!” Pulling herself up straight, she tossed her hair out of her eyes and walked of her own accord. The guard shoved her again for fun, causing her to stumble and smash her palm into the corner of Jacques’ desk.

“Stop!” Jacques ordered. “Search her. Make sure she did not steal anything.”

“Steal anything? You know I didn’t—” Her words were cut off when the guard slammed her up against the cubicle outside Jacques’ office. “Hey!”

“Even if I told them you didn’t take anything, why would they believe me? I was the one who brought you in. Search her good. There must be no question.”

The guard’s rough hands seemed to be everywhere. He was enjoying this.

“Listen, man, you grab my ass again, you’re balls will have to be surgically removed from your throat,” she snarled in Cantonese.

“Best to keep those pretty lips shut,
He does not like mouthy women,” Jacques said.

“And you!” She rounded on Jacques. “I trusted you!” Rage flooded her veins. She curled her fist and swung, connecting with his nose.

His dark eyes flew open with surprise, but he chuckled as his blood ran. “You’ve always been feisty. I like that in women.”  He held a handkerchief to his nose.

When the guard finished his search, Amber glared at him. “I told you. I’m no thief.” She had a checkered past, yes, but she’d put all of that behind her. At least, she had until today. She glared at Jacques. Had he pulled her back into the life she was trying so hard to run away from? Damn him! When would she learn?

Taking her hand, Jacques kissed her knuckle like a gentleman from the flippin’ Dark Ages. “
Au revoir.
Be a good girl and leave quietly.”

Like that would happen.

She screamed her fury. Ugly gripped her elbow and man-handled her down the corridor toward the elevator. Spewing every Cantonese cuss word she knew, she struggled to break free. No one rushed to her aide. The noodle-eating man refused to look up when she was dragged by his cubicle and dumped into the elevator. The next thing she knew she was deposited outside the building and the large glass door closed in her face.

What just happened? It wasn’t until she was in a taxi on the way to her flat that she opened the hand Jacques had kissed. Nestled in her palm was another note Jacques had scribbled while Ugly had been busy frisking her.

Tell no one. We’ll have money for new things once we are safely away. You’ve got quite a right hook,
mon coeur
. Well done.

It had all been an act. Why hadn’t Jacques clued her in earlier? Maybe she wouldn’t have punched him in the nose. She stripped out of her business suit and put on her more usual garb—a black mini, black shirt, and her favorite thigh high boots. She popped the nose ring back in and took the bobby pins out to let her hair down. Better. She felt more like herself, but a bad feeling burrowed in her stomach.
Safely away.
Who was Jacques running from?

She went to the kitchen for a glass of water. The jiggling of the lock at the front door froze her blood. Someone was trying to get inside her flat! She didn’t own a gun, having no idea how to use a real one. She grabbed a knife from the wooden block. With the blade raised, she crept toward the front door.

Jacques was standing in the entry after having used the key she’d given him. “Ah, not enough that you bloodied my nose, you want to cut out my heart too?” He laughed.

“Jacques, oh my God. I could have stabbed you.” She put the knife on the table. “I’m completely freaked out. Tell me what’s going on.”

“What’s going on,
ma chère
…” He scooped her up in his arms and swung her around.”…is that we are going to be rich.”


“Because of this.” Still grinning he pulled the memory stick out of his pocket. “We will sell it to the highest bidder.”

“Like Nintendo? Are you out of your mind? Supremely bad plan, Jacques. You can’t sell the weapon designs.”

He threw his head back and laughed. “Nintendo? I hadn’t thought about them. Perhaps so.”

She hated to be laughed at, especially when she was so scared. “Konami, Sega. It doesn’t matter. This isn’t the way to solve your money problems. You think you have this figured out, think again. What if instead of buying they turn you in…” Her heart pounded a little harder. “...us. What if they turn
into the authorities for hacking Global Games and stealing their plans? I don’t want to go to prison, Jacques.” Her legs threatened to give out underneath her. She sat on the couch. “Chinese prison. How could you do this to me?”

He leaned over the couch and kissed her neck. “We will never be imprisoned for stealing from Global Games. I promise. Are you ready? I suggest we go now.”

She crossed her arms. “No. I’m not doing this. Forget it. You’re lucky I don’t call the police right now.”

“Stop acting like an infant.”

“Dammit, Jacques. I’m not going anywhere until I know what you are up to. All of it.”

He paced in front of her. His long figure blocked the last tendrils of golden light slanting through the window. “This isn’t a game. I was hired,
, we were hired to hack into the U.S. Department of Defense. Those weapon designs you copied,
? They were top-secret schematics, payloads, and dimensions to build weaponry in say, France, or China. Hell, Korea, Iran, Russia. What does it matter to us as long as we are paid well?”

Her mouth fell open. The weapons were real? The U.S. Department of Defense! “This has to be a joke.”

She did not hack into the D.O.D. She couldn’t have. They had layers upon layers of firewalls and fail safes. She was one of the best hackers around, but no one could break through as quickly as she did. Unless… “How long were you trying to break in?”

“I told you. Four months. I could not break the last firewall. It was impossible. Only you could to that.”

Four months. The one thing he hadn’t lied about.
She pressed her temples to keep her head from blowing off her shoulders. She’d dined at high society clubs with government officials with him while Jacques was secretly breaking into the D.O.D. No, this couldn’t be happening.
Wake up, wake up!

He put a hand on her shoulder and she jerked away. “Imagine the money. You’ll never have to worry about finding a job again. We’ll live like royalty. Our own yachts, islands, mansions…whatever we want.”

What she wanted was for this nightmare to go away. How? What should she do?

She paced her apartment, trying to make her frozen brain think. He’d tricked her into stealing national security secrets from her own country! He’d turned her into a traitor. Damn him! How could he do that to her? At that moment she did want to cut out his heart. Whoever
was. Had he cared for her at all? Or had he targeted her because of her hacking skills, seduced her, and strung her along? Crap. She’d followed him like a blind puppy.

, talk to me. Are you all right?”

She shook her head. No way would she allow this, no way. She’d have to turn him in to the police or the F.B.I. But, that would mean admitting what she’d done. Would they think she’d been in on it all along? They’d never believe her story. She had a police record. Jail time.

“Dammit, Jacques.” She spun on her heel. “I was trying to go legit!”

“I know
I researched your background. You were the best hacker I could find.” He dared to wink at her. “A definite plus that you are so sexy.”

used her! That night in the bar he must have bumped into her on purpose. She wanted to bloody his nose again.

“Don’t be angry. I’ve contacted several people.” Waving the memory card in her face, he laughed. “You wouldn’t’ believe how much money this little baby is worth.”

Oh, she could.
It contained the entire pathway to breaking into the D.O.D. and had the secret weaponry on it—schematics, designs, payloads, the whole nine-yards. Enemies could use this information to hurt her country, her people. She wanted to grab it from his hands and smash it. But destroying it now wasn’t a good idea. It was proof that Jacques and Director Lau had been hacking into the D.O.D. for months, long before she came along. If she could get it and turn it over to the Department of Defense, she could also use it to help the U.S. fill the security holes that Jacques must have weaseled through.

“Let me have that, Jacques. Right now.” She opened her palm.

calm yourself
Everything’s going to be—”

Bullets rang out.

In one moment Jacques was standing before her, in the next, sunlight streamed through three holes in her window. Two matching holes poured blood out of Jacques’s back and the third…she didn’t want to look at the blood pooling out of his head into her thick beige carpeting.


She crawled off the couch and put her fingers to his neck. No pulse. His eyes were open, unblinking. He’d been murdered in her flat right before her eyes.


I’ve contacted several people.
Who? Who did Jacques tell that he had U.S. top secret information to sell to the highest bidder? Someone killed him before others could get their hands on it. She looked at the window. They’d be coming here for the memory card. Whoever
were. Her heart pounded so hard that she couldn’t catch a decent breath. Her legs were impossibly weak.

They’d kill her too. Right here, right now.


She pried open Jacques’s closed hand. The memory stick was undamaged.
Her mouth went dry. Keeping low, she fast-crawled to the front door. She snatched her purse off the entry table, put the knife in the side pocket, and ran.

After she shimmied down the fire escape and raced through a dirty alleyway. She slipped in a greasy puddle, careened off a trash bin, and nearly fell head-first into the street. A Vespa honked and swerved to keep from hitting her. She forced herself to slow down. Every muscle in her body twitched to run, but she’d only draw attention to herself if she kept racing and flailing like a woman being chased by killers.

Oh God, what was she going to do?

She needed help. Breathing in short bursts, she passed through a tiny magazine store and out the back. She was trembling so badly that she nearly dropped her cell phone and couldn’t make her fingers press the right buttons.

Finally, she gave up and used the voice commands. “Call Daddy.”

In Washington D.C., the call connected. “Duncan Fitz speaking.”

Tears welled in her eyes. “I’m in big trouble.”

“Not again, Amber. Where are you?”

“Hong Kong, but I’m on the move. When we’re finished talking I need to ditch the cell phone. They could track me with it.”

“What did you do?”

It hurt that he automatically assumed the worst of her. She’d paid for her mistakes, would she ever be forgiven?

“This time, it wasn’t my fault. I swear.” Rushing on, she told him everything, skimming over the part about watching a man die in her living room. She could hardly think those words, speaking them would split open her cracked heart.

“Sit tight. I’ll come get you,” he said.

“No! They could track you to me. You have to pretend you don’t know where I am.” If the bad guys knew Jacques was in her apartment, they could easily find her dad.
Oh, God.
“Dad, you need to hire extra bodyguards. Just in case.”

“You expect me to sit here and do nothing?”

“Help me figure out a way out of China. That’s what I need right now. Tell me what I should do.”

Jacques’s stupid ass move to steal national security had put him at the top of America’s Most Wanted Terrorist List. Once the CIA figured out she’d hacked the D.O.D, they’d be looking for her too.

“Go to the American Embassy. Tell them everything.”

“Yeah, good idea.”
If I can make it to the embassy. If I’m not being followed. If I don’t get shot in the head.
“I won’t ditch the phone yet. I’ll call when I get there. Don’t forget, Dad. Get the bodyguards!”


She hung up and ran.



BOOK: Lock and Load (SEAL EXtreme Team)
4.06Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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