Read Thin Line Online

Authors: L.T. Ryan

Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Action & Adventure, #Mystery; Thriller & Suspense, #Crime, #Thriller & Suspense, #Thrillers & Suspense, #Murder, #Spies & Politics, #Assassinations, #Terrorism, #Thriller, #Thrillers, #Mystery & Thrillers

Thin Line

BOOK: Thin Line
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No part of this publication may be copied, reproduced in any format, by any means, electronic or otherwise, without prior consent from the copyright owner
and publisher of this book.

This is a work of fiction. All characters, names, places and events are the product of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.


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Table of Contents



Jack Noble Series in Order

The Recruit

Noble Beginnings

A Deadly Distance

Thin Line

Noble Intentions Season One

Noble Intentions Season Two

Noble Intentions Season Three

Never Go Home (Jack Noble)

Beyond Betrayal (Clarissa Abbot Thriller)

Noble Intentions Season Four - Coming May, 2014



to join L.T. Ryan's mailing list, and receive a complimentary copy of
The Recruit: A Jack Noble Short Story




Chapter 1

December 31, 2006

"THE TARGET'S NAME is Brett Taylor, and this'll be your toughest assignment yet."

Frank Skinner set the blue folder in front of me, opened to Taylor's service record. A paper clip held a small photo to the upper left side of the folder.
A head shot of a face chiseled from stone, with eyes that gave a glimpse into a heart made of ice. I read over the file, then glanced at the picture again.
I might as well have been looking into a mirror. There were a few similarities between me and the target. Physically we were identical: 6'2", 220. We'd
both enlisted in the military at the age of eighteen. He went into the Army; I became a Marine. We had both been selected for special assignment during
boot camp.

I turned to the next page. It was blank. Every single one that followed was as well. There were only a few reasons for that.

"I'm not kidding, Jack," Frank continued. He pushed off the desktop and rolled backward. A rusted wheel squeaked until his chair collided into the wall
with a soft thud. "This guy makes you look like a teddy bear. While you were off playing with the CIA guarding doors in Baghdad and whatnot, Taylor was
doing black ops so insidious that any record indicating they'd ever even been thought of has been incinerated. When you were playing anti-terrorist agent
along with me, he was taking down cell leaders before they even knew that they wanted to blow something up. He's the ultimate government weapon. And my
understanding is that lately those hostile to the Nation's interests were not his only targets."

I looked up from the documents and met Frank's stare. His dark eyes didn't waver. I saw fear, perhaps. Anytime we had one of these meetings, Frank looked
serious. Lips, nose, jaw, eyebrows, all could be manipulated. But his tone and gestures conveyed more concern than I'd ever seen from him. And we had a
history that went back nearly five years to the summer of 2002, when he had hand-selected me to join him as his partner in the SIS. Together, we'd faced
our share of men who had no regard for the welfare of others - so many that Frank's warning list read like the back of a cereal box.

What was so different about Brett Taylor?

"Can you give any examples?"

Frank leaned back in his chair and placed both hands behind his shaking head. "You know I can't do that."

"A hint, then?"

Frank said nothing. He bit at his bottom lip - a tell that he was considering revealing more than he should. I had to press.

"Hell, give me a country, Frank. I can take it from there."

For guys like us, news headlines read like a
Who's Doing What
in the espionage and assassin community. Nothing was ever as tidy as they made it
sound in the papers and on TV.

Frank shook his head. "Can't do it. Not yet, at least. You live to finish the job, then we'll talk."

I closed the folder, pushed it toward Frank. "Nothing but a bunch of blank pages in there."

"That's to make a point."

"Which is?"

"Don't underestimate this guy. Every single one of those blank pages, and there's at least fifty, could be filled with details of the assignments this guy
has completed."

"I get it. He's a badass. Jesus, Frank. How long have I been doing this?" I rose and shoved the chair to the side with my leg, and then leaned back against
the glass wall and shoved my hands in my pockets. The glass felt cold against the back of my arms.

Frank remained silent. Thick jaw muscles rippled at the corners of his face as he stared me down. There was plenty about Taylor, and the job, that he
wasn't willing to share. Or had been prohibited from revealing. At times, things worked that way. We'd all become accustomed to it. And it was beneficial.
The less I knew about a target, the easier it was to complete the assignment. The less Frank knew, the less guilt there might be over handing it over to
me. I operated with the general understanding that if a government agency signed off on an order and sent me to someone's door, there was a pretty good
reason. The justice I was dispatched to enforce was quick and generally merciful.

We should all be so lucky.

So, Brett Taylor, while he provided service to his country for over a decade, must've done something pretty heinous for me to be sitting across from Frank,
staring at a blank service record.

I sat down, placed my arm on the desk, leaned forward. "Where and when?"

"New York," he said. "Brooklyn. Close to Prospect Park. He's due back ten days from now, on Tuesday, the ninth."

I had a place in New York. A few friends there, too. It'd be better if they didn't know I was coming into town, though. Not for something like this.

"Know his itinerary?" I said.

"Not yet, but we'll get it."

"He in the States now?"

"Coming in international."

"From where?"

"Not sure yet."

"I'll have Bear tail him."

Frank pressed his lips together so tightly they turned white. He'd never been a fan of my partner, Riley "Bear" Logan, whose nickname suited the guy in
more ways than one. The big man and I had been best friends since boot camp. After I left the SIS, we went into business for ourselves. I trusted him with
my life, and I didn't care what any of my contacts thought. Bear handled himself and got results. We were a great team.

Better than Frank and I ever were.

"He's in," I said. "Or I'm out."

Frank took a few deep, ragged breaths, and then nodded. "I'll make sure you have the flight info in time. I'm waiting on additional details of Taylor's
offices, residences, and so on, in case there are alternatives. I'll fax them over as soon as I get them. Meanwhile, limit how many sources you reach out
to. As you can imagine, if something this high-profile leaks, we'll all go down for it."

"Got it." I rose, turned, grabbed the door handle and pulled it open an inch. The air from the overhead vent shot past me on the path of least resistance.

Take one more shot at it, I thought.

Letting the door fall closed, I turned around. "What'd this guy do?"

Frank diverted his focus to his computer monitor and shook his head.

"Come on, Frank. Just between you and me."

A single laugh escaped past his pursed lips. He shuffled his mouse around on a gray square pad, clicking the left and right buttons. "You know people end
up on these lists at times because of conversations that go too far. If I say anything more, it'll be someone like Brett Taylor paying a visit to both of

"Fair enough." I turned my back to him.


I didn't look back. "Yeah?"

"Close this one out, and maybe I'll tell you everything over a pitcher or three. In the meantime, happy New Year."


Chapter 2

LOCATED ON 4TH Street between 6th and 7th Avenue, the five-story brownstone loomed like weathered ruins amid the surrounding rehabbed and renovated
buildings. The owner had received multiple unsolicited offers to purchase for reasonable sums, but he had refused to sell. The building held too much value
for him. Presumably Brett Taylor didn't care that the building was in shambles, or that nine of the ten apartments inside matched the rough exterior. I
guess everything he needed existed in that tenth pristine apartment.

Between Frank and one of my sources, I had a five-year history on the building as well as the day-to-day nuances of life within its walls.

When the block showed no human activity, I crossed the street and forced my way inside the brownstone. A combination of human waste, sweat, mildew, and
cigarette smoke pelted me, and I nearly gagged at the overwhelming stench. After a few moments I adjusted, and then continued past the entrance hall, which
branched in two, one passage leading east and the other west.

The first floor had four apartments. From the looks of things, transients and homeless occupied these units when Taylor wasn't there. Same with the two
units on the second floor. The fourth and fifth floors contained a single residence each. For whatever reason, Taylor had chosen to forgo the supposed
prestige of a penthouse, and lived in an apartment on the third floor.

I started my search in the west hall. My primary concern was security equipment - anything that would give our position away or record our actions when
Bear and I returned to complete the job. I saw no cameras on the outside, and none at the entrance. Presumably, Taylor had some sort of a monitoring system
in place. Men in his position had to.

The apartments on the first floor had all been occupied recently, although they were empty at the moment. Leftover cellophane wrappers, soda cans, and
liquor bottles were strewn about. Body odor lingered, a stench nearly as foul as that at the main entrance.

At the end of the east hall was a door that opened up to stairs leading to the basement. I followed them down, sticking to the edges to minimize squeaking.
The room below the building was wide open from foundation wall to foundation wall, aside from evenly spaced support columns that resembled an old man's
bowed legs. An old furnace sat dormant in the middle of the rear wall, the bricks surrounding it several shades darker than the rest. The floor was covered
in an inch of soot and dust. Pristine. No footprints. Clearly no one ventured into the brownstone's basement these days. I walked along the perimeter of
the room and remained on the lookout for electrical wires and communication lines. Only thing I found was brick and mortar and dust.

Satisfied that the basement was just that, I hiked back up the stairs, bypassing the first floor landing, and made my way through the building's second

Again, I found the rooms looking recently occupied, but currently empty. Perhaps Taylor had a system of letting the homeless that frequented his building
know when he'd return.
Use my place, but don't dare be there when I get back.
Perhaps his way of repenting for the sins he committed for our

I made the journey from the second floor to the third with more trepidation. So far, there were no signs of security. That had to change. Still, I didn't
find anything.

Of the two units on the third floor, one was used by Taylor.

I searched the unoccupied third floor apartment first. Unlike the units of the first two levels, no one had been inside this space for quite some time.
Maybe not since the last tenant, who might even have died in the room. Cobwebs hung from the ceiling and draped the walls. Roaches scattered as light
penetrated the space for the first time in perhaps years. I couldn't see them, but their thin legs scratched the hardwood floor with a sound like someone
clawing their way out of a wooden box.

The place was fully furnished. The furnishings had to be sixty or seventy years old, with a few turn-of-the-century pieces. The kind of stuff my mother
had, but never let me or my brother or my sister sit on.
And don't let your friends near it, Jack!
Antique picture frames housed yellowing
photographs. A young woman. A young man. A young couple, together. Her in her wedding dress, him in his suit. Her perched on his lap. A baby. A child. A
teenager. The sequence was repeated at the other end in reverse. One boy, one girl. One happy couple aging decades in a series of photographs perched on
the mantle. A casket cross etched with the name "Robert." He died first. She remained in the apartment, loyal to him, waiting to return to him, until her
final day passed.

I returned to the hallway. Examined the area surrounding the front door of Taylor's apartment. Again, I found nothing. He'd concealed his security and
monitoring devices well. When Bear and I returned, we'd have to bring equipment to aid in our search, and disrupt any communications equipment he had on

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