Authors: Kimberley Troutte
“That’s it,” Jenna pointed to an ornate blue and red gate. “Temple Street Night Market. This is where I’d go to hide.”
The eXtreme Team surrounded her, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. Charlie was on the street side. Chinese people pushed and shoved him, but he refused to budge. His duty was to watch for hostiles in vehicles and monitor the comm for chatter.
Mack nodded. “Hiding in plain sight. It’s good and crowded. Ty, recon.”
“I’m on it,” Ty Whitehorse pushed ahead, getting lost in the crowds.
“Charlie, picking up anything?” Mack asked.
He shook his head. “Nothing yet.”
Willy was on the building side, scanning for hostiles above. “Nothing here, either. Clear to go in.”
“Tavon will…“ Mack began.
“Watch your six. Got it, brother. We’ve done this before.”
Charlie cut his gaze toward Mack. Tavon was right, their Lieutenant Commander seemed squirrely. That wasn’t like him. Was he worried about Jenna? He shouldn’t stress because Charlie wouldn’t let anything happen to her. In Colombia she’d been snatched by the militant guerillas on his watch. It wouldn’t happen again.
Mack turned to Jenna. “You stay here, babe. Wait for us.”
Jenna chuckled. “Yeah, right. You guys don’t know where to go and the way you look…” She cast an eye over the team, resting a long beat on Mack. They were all wearing jeans and tee-shirts with coats to hide their weapons. “You’d scare off the locals. They won’t open-up to
. I lived here. My friends will talk to me.”
“I’ll protect her,” Charlie said.
Willy pounded him on the back. “Give it up. That ship has sailed.” He leaned closer and whispered, “She’s Mack’s girl, now. He doesn’t like to share.”
He shrugged his brother’s arm of his shoulder. “I know.”
“Good. I wouldn’t want Mack to pound sense into you. That’s my job.” Willy winked.
“Sense? That’s a long word, William. And you used it in a complete sentence.” He socked Willy’s shoulder.
“You still punch like a girl.”
“Do you still shoot like—?“
Mack stepped between them. “Ready to roll?”
Charlie nodded, all humor gone. “Yes, sir. Let’s do it.”
Mack led the way through the market with Jenna close at his heels. They passed food stalls of every kind. Live creatures wiggled around cages and swam in water bowls. The stench overpowered Charlie’s nose. A man sat in the middle of a stall with hanging, bloody meat all around him and slurped an eyeball out of a fish head. How did people eat this stuff?
“Around the corner,” Jenna said quietly. “Mr. Lee’s Teas. He’s a nice old man who has been here for years. I introduced Amber to him.”
Mack opened the door to the tea shop and went in. A few seconds later, he cocked his head for them to follow. It was close quarters. Boxes and barrels of crap had been knocked all over the place.
Charlie ran into Jenna. He might have grabbed her ass to stabilize her. “Sorry.”
Mack threw him a dark look.
“Mr. Lee!” Jenna raced around Mack and knelt beside an old man sitting on a wood barrel. He held a blood-stained cloth to his temple. “Your head!”
“Ask him what happened,” Mack said.
“He speaks English. Just give him a minute. Charlie, do you have water?”
“Always.” He stepped forward and offered the old man a water bottle.
As Mr. Lee drank, red water seeped through the corners of his lips. It didn’t look good to Charlie. The old dude might have broken teeth and a split lip.
After wiping his mouth on his sleeve, Mr. Lee blinked at Jenna.
“Pretty girl. That’s his nickname for me.” Jenna hugged him.
“Don’t beat the hell out of him, Mack. He’s an old guy and someone already had a go at it,” Willy said.
Mr. Lee looked to be in his eighties. Who beats on old men?
“What happened here?” Mack tried again.
Mr. Lee stared as if Mack had two heads. He squinted to see all of them, but his eyes widened when they fell on Tavon. The man guarding their six was a freak of nature. If a black bull and the WWE’s Mark Henry had a love child, it would be afraid of Tavon. Hell, the man scared Charlie sometimes.
“It’s okay, these are my friends,” Jenna said softly. “Go ahead. You can tell them.”
Mr. Lee’s wide forehead wrinkled. He put his hand on Jenna’s arm. “You no get involved.
. Very dangerous.”
“Who did this?” Mack pressed.
Mr. Lee dropped his voice. “14K. Very bad men.”
Willy leaned over her shoulder to look at the old man. “The triads? Jeez, dude, you don’t want to piss them off.”
Mr. Lee’s gaze flicked up to Willy. His accent was heavy when he replied, “No shit, Sherlock.”
Charlie snorted. “I like this guy.”
Mack exhaled impatiently, as if the questioning was too slow. “Why? Why did the 14K bust in here, smash up a tiny tea shop and bloody your head? Are you running drugs for them, old man? Skimming off the top?”
Mr. Lee raised his scrawny shoulders and looked Mack in the eye. “I run a tea shop, small dick with big mouth. No drugs. No triad.”
Tavon coughed, choking down his laughter. Charlie held his breath. It took great big balls to insult Mack.
“Let me handle this,” Jenna said. “Mr. Lee, we’re here because my friend is missing. You remember, Amber, don’t you?” She pulled Amber’s picture out of her pocket. “Have you seen her recently?”
Mr. Lee stared at the picture and dropped his gaze to the floor.
“Mr. Lee?” Jenna tried again.
“He’s not talking.” Mack spoke into his comm set. “Ty, get in here. We need a corpsman.”
“Corpse?” Mr. Lee croaked. “You will kill me if I do not tell you?”
“No! Ty is like a doctor. He’ll bandage your injuries,” Jenna explained.
“So I can kill you,” Mack growled.
“Mack! Don’t listen to him, Mr. Lee,” Jenna said.
“Can I speak to you?” Mack pulled her aside.
Charlie tried to move back to give them space but there was no room. He turned sideways and pretended to look at brown boxes with labels he couldn’t read.
“The old man knows something,” Mack said through his teeth. “If he doesn’t start talking we’re going to have to get tough.”
The door opened and Ty squeezed in. “So this is where the party is.”
“Over here,” Mack called. “Do your thing. We need answers.”
Ty checked the old man’s injuries. “You got lucky. No concussion. Mostly scrapes and bruises.”
“Doesn’t feel like luck,” Mr. Lee winced when Ty bandaged the head wound. “Unless you mean bad luck.”
“You’ll be fine.” Ty glanced around the shop. “Wow, this place smells like my granny’s house. She makes her own teas and reads fortunes with the leaves.”
“Your granny.” Mr. Lee sat up. “Is she married?”
Ty laughed. “Nope. She’s Apache and strong-willed, few men can handle her. Want me to introduce you?”
Mr. Lee cracked a smile, revealing a few missing teeth. He crooked his finger for Ty to move closer. “It is good to respect your elders. I like strong women, so I will tell you this—I know what happened to the girl.”
“How does he do that?” Willy said out of the corner of his mouth.
Ty had a way of getting people to talk.
“Where is she?” Ty asked.
“I hid her in the back, but…” He looked at Jenna, his eyes pleading for understanding. “…but I am an old man. The triad took her.”
“Oh, God. The 14K has her?” Jenna squeaked.
“How do we find them?” Ty asked.
“Wait an hour or two and you’ll find them here.”
Mack narrowed his blue eyes. “Why would the triad come back?”
Mr. Lee rose to his feet. “Because they won’t find want they need on the girl. And they are very persuasive. She will eventually tell them what they seek is here.”
Mack and Charlie locked eyes.
“It’s got to be a memory stick, or a card of some sort,” Charlie said.
“Go,” Mack ordered.
Charlie and Willy maneuvered around the group to get to the backroom. They knocked over the boxes and began searching.
“What are they doing? They’ll break something. My white tea leaves are very fragile.” Mr. Lee followed after them. “
! You are looking in the wrong place. There!” He pointed to a large vat of drying leaves. “Be careful.”
Charlie recognized some Cantonese words. Did the old guy just call him a dumbass? He shoved his hand in the vat and felt around.
, huh? He was right—it was a memory stick.
Mack carefully put the memory stick in his pocket. “We aren’t waiting around. When the triad realizes Amber doesn’t have this, they’ll kill her. How do we find them?”
Mr. Lee shrugged. “If it were me, I’d look for the biggest yacht in
Victoria Harbour. It should be easy to find. It will be marked with a red dragon symbol encircled in red and full of bad guys—little dicks with big weapons.”
Ty patted Mr. Lee’s shoulder. “I’ll have my Granny send you a postcard.”
Jenna kissed his cheek. “Thank you, Mr. Lee. I know you did your best to protect Amber.”
Jūk néih hóuwahn
. Good luck. You are going to need it.”
ressed in black and pretending to be a Chinese fisherman, Jenna hunched down in a Chinese wooden boat called a
and looked through the binoculars. Ty drove the
slowly in Victoria Harbour.
Mr. Lee was right. The yacht with the red dragon was easy to spot. It was the biggest one out there.
Charlie zipped up his wetsuit as he studied the computer LST. “Confirmation. Several armed hostiles.” Through his microphone he listened to the bastards interrogate a woman. “One hostage.”
Mack was ready. “Willy, Tavon, and Charlie with me. Be ready to get us out of here, Ty.”
Ty saluted and moved the
closer to the behemoth yacht.
“Be safe.” Jenna grabbed Mack by his wetsuit and planted a kiss on him that Charlie swore he felt. At least he felt the punch of heat to his groin. For a fleeting moment, Charlie wished he had a girl to kiss him good-bye. He eased into the dark water. Show time.
He was the best swimmer of the group with Willy being a close second. The two of them grew up surfing the Pacific in California. Mack was pretty good in the water, but Tavon was about as far from good as a SEAL could get. Instead of smooth clean strokes, the massive man fought the water in a constant battle to keep from sinking. It was amazing Tavon had passed BUD/s. Rumor had it Mack helped, but Charlie never asked. Luckily, they didn’t need to swim on the surface. Diving deep, Tavon was almost good. Almost.
Willy, on the other hand, was in his element. Explosives and diving were the two things he loved more than women. He was the best breacher in the Navy. Waving them off, Willy went in alone and planted his explosives on yacht’s underbelly. Charlie and the others dove deeper to the opposite side of the yacht.
Willy came up beside them and held up his gloved hand.
One, two, three