CODE NAME: DIESEL
Code Name: Caleb "Diesel" Jacks
Target: Bryar Davies
Mission: Use intelligence to ignite the fire of one hot FBI agent
As a Cornell grad and former CIA operative, I've got the wits and thirst for danger to go deep into the shadows. Seeing my fair share of death and destruction, I never flinch when my life is on the line. But when I meet her, I know she's the only one who can truly destroy me.
This damn serial killer investigation is going to be the death of me—literally. And now, Diesel won't let up, protecting me like I'm some damsel in distress. He knows I'm far from it. My FBI badge and education matches him wit for wit and danger for danger. But let's be completely honest, Diesel has all the right fuel to ignite my fire. I just hope this doesn't all go up in flames.
Number four. That was the description used by the man who’d swooped in to “take over” while the FBI’s original agent assigned to the case—Bryar Davies—recovered from surgery. The victim wasn’t a fucking number. She was a person. A person I knew.
“Where are you going?” my boss, Onyx, asked when I stormed through the investigation command center.
“I need some air.”
At first I only intended to walk down to the lake, but when I put my hand in my pocket to ward off the windchill of the Adirondacks in the middle of February and felt my key fob, I got in my SUV instead.
I didn’t know exactly where I was going when I threw gravel pulling out of the forestry service lodge where the command center had been set up, only that I had to get the fuck out of there.
While she could be a pain in my ass, at least Special Agent Davies had grasped the fact early on that we—K19 Shadow Ops, a private security and intelligence firm—had the knowledge, resources, and experience to lead this investigation better than the FBI ever could.
There wasn’t a single person on our team who hadn’t either been part of special forces units for various branches of the military or done stints of duty with the CIA. In most cases, it was both. We didn’t demand respect like Davies’ dickhead boss. We didn’t have to. We’d earned it.
I was stunned when my cell rang and I saw the name of the very woman who was on my mind.
“What can I do for you, Agent Davies?” I asked, skipping unnecessary niceties.
“I just got a call from Ryan, saying you left without alerting anyone.”
I shook my head. While Ryan may think he was in command of this case, he was in for a rude awakening in about five minutes when my boss set him straight.
“I don’t answer to him, or to you for that matter.”
“Don’t be fucking smug with me, Diesel. This is the same asshole power play shit you pulled with me the day I arrived.”
“Guess you’re feeling better.” Agent Davies had taken a hit when the team transporting a prisoner was ambushed on the way into the FBI field office in Albany. She’d been in surgery for four hours and thirty-seven minutes before they were able to control the internal bleeding and repair the damage from the bullet that had ripped through her abdomen.
How did I know the exact amount of time she was in the operating room? Because I counted the fucking seconds. That’s how.
“Diesel? Are you still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“Why did you say you guess I’m feeling better?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard you toss so many swear words into one sentence.”
“You haven’t been listening.”
“Where are you?”
“Still at the hospital, but I think they might release me today.”
“I’ll be there in twenty.”
“No! Don’t come here. Ryan wants you back the command center.”
“I don’t give a shit what Agent Fitzsimmons wants. Is someone there to give you a lift once they let you go?”
“But, what? There aren’t cabs in the Adirondacks, babe.”
“Don’t call me that. Besides, aren’t you anxious to get back to the investigation? I’m sure you’re very concerned about locating your girlfriend and bringing her back safe.”
“My girlfriend?” What the fuck was that about?
“You’re not denying it.”
“First of all, we’re talking about a person who was abducted, probably by a serial killer. Second, Patricia Fasano is not my girlfriend.”
“Not your girlfriend, but you slept with her.”
“Those meds are messing with your head, babe. Barely had a cup o’ Joe with her, let alone sex.”
“You have an IQ of what, in the one-sixties? Yet you use words like ‘babe’ and ‘cup o’ Joe.’ You speak ten languages. Use better vocabulary.”
“Twelve, and I’ll see you in fifteen.”
I ended that call when another came through from my best friend, Ranger.
“Hey, I just got a call from the FBI asshole.”
“Yeah? What did he want?”
“To know where you are.”
“Too fucking bad.”
“Yeah. I appreciated the opportunity to tell him he wasn’t your boss so it was none of his business. I used a few different words, but that was the gist.” He chuckled. “But seriously. Where are you?”
“On my way to the hospital. Agent Davies thinks she might be released today.”
“Would you cut the Agent Davies shit? Everyone else may be blind to how you hang on her every word, but I’m not. Her name is…what’s her name?”
“Bryar, and I don’t hang on her every word.”
“Yeah, whatever. Weird name. Anyway, so you’re picking her up?”
“Yeah but listen to this, she thinks I slept with the psychologist.”
“Why does she think you did?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
“All right. I’ll let Onyx know you’re out for the rest of the day.”
“I was working on a review of the ransom call that came in to Fasano’s parents.”
“I already jumped on it. Go get brier patch.”
I laughed. She wasn’t going to like that any better than babe.
“Hey, Diesel, before you hang up, I had a talk with Admiral.”
Pershing “Admiral” Kane had been my college roommate at Cornell who Ranger was good friends with too. He’d attended college via the Navy’s ROTC program but had been plucked up by the FBI two years into his required four years of active duty.
“What about?” I asked.
“He’s looking into the leak resulting in Maxim Edward’s death. He’s also Fitzsimmons’ boss, which makes him up Agent Davies’ chain of command.”
“Just one layer between them. Anyway, Admiral is on his way here now.”
“To Canada Lake. He also said he’d be meeting with Agent Davies about what went down that day.”
She’d come close to being the third casualty that day. The other man we lost was Miguel Rodriguez, a damn good agent.
“He’s not sure what time he’ll get in but he asked about getting together for dinner tomorrow night.”
“I’ll let him know.”
“He also said he’d be accompanying Agent Davies back to DC.”
“Wait. She’s leaving? Why?”
“She had major surgery, Diesel. Why do you think?”
“If I knew, I wouldn’t have asked.”
“Because she needs to recuperate, asshole.”
“Why can’t she do that here?”
“For God’s sake, I gotta go. Ask Admiral why not, or better yet, ask her.”
I’d just gotten off the elevator on the surgical floor when Ranger called again.
“Are you still on your way to the hospital?”
“Just got here, why?”
“Need you to head down to the ER as soon as possible.”
“Ms. Fasano has been located—alive.”
“You’ll never guess.”
“She was walking down Sherman’s midway seemingly bewildered.”
“What’s her physical condition?”
“Almost identical to how we found Maisie.”
The troubling part of this was that the details of Maisie’s kidnapping and rescue hadn’t been released to the media and who her assailant was, was not to be shared with anyone given the investigation into the serial killings was ongoing. The same with the details of the other three murders.
“Have you asked Maisie?”
“Affirmative. She confirmed that she and Fasano talked about what happened to her but not by whom or where.”
I had been the one to brief the medical staff about the importance of nothing being leaked to the press. Given HIPAA laws prevented them from talking about anything to do with Maisie’s medical condition, I expected their full compliance.
Before I could comment, I received an alert of an emergency text coming in.
“Call ya back,” said Ranger, obviously receiving the same alert.
The message was from Onyx. Another suspected abduction had just been reported, this time near Long Lake.