Capitalize on the weak link
Somewhere near the Mediterranean
“Prisoner is escaping! The King Killer is escaping!”
The words over the intercom, in English and French, became muffled as Navy SEAL Mick Ranger walked through fog created by flash bangs. The concrete floor and high ceilings of the prison echoed with the shouts of his fellow prisoners intermingling with the guards. The loud alarm grated in his ears, and in harmony with it, a red strobe light pierced the fog.
“Quadrant five, lock down!”
He wasn't sure where this prison was located—could be Panama or Portugal, Malaysia or Vietnam—but he’d been waiting two years, sixteen days, and seven hours for the guaranteed rescue the United States had promised him. One long fucking time in Club Hell, though he’d been in worse. His last king killer stint, and subsequent breakout, had occurred in Qatar. Fucking turd of a place that had been as hot and smelly as Satan’s balls.
He suspected from the quality of this place—which was still piss poor—and the lack of weapons on the guards, he was somewhere in France, close to the Mediterranean. Although he'd been kept in solitary confinement most of his stay, he’d heard the smooth, nasally sound of French being spoken amongst the guards, along with the harsher edge of Spanish and the sing-song of Italian. A regular trifecta in the melting pot of European prisons.
A guard dressed in black and carrying a bully stick emerged, a ripple of red light sweeping over the sweat on his face. As he lifted the weapon, Mick stepped into his personal space and disarmed him in two moves. He then knocked the guard in the back of the head, sending the unconscious man to the floor.
The French had a good idea not arming guards with guns. Weapons could easily be taken and used against them. Like he’d done to the man at his feet.
Instead, the sprinklers overhead could release gas that rendered prisoners unconscious. It seemed to work like nitrous oxide—laughing gas—effectively quelling any uprising. Another point to whoever designed the place.
Guards had oxygen and masks. As the overhead lights blinked to alert staff the gas was on its way, the alarm continued to rip the air. Mick relieved the guard of his tank and protective mask right before the sprinklers cut loose. He checked quickly for other weapons, finding nothing but cigarettes and a lighter. He tossed the cancer sticks aside and pocketed the lighter.
France was a good distance from Northern Africa and the mission he’d completed that had landed him here. He’d known from the start he’d most likely be captured, which had been part of the deal. If he took out King Babiker Nassir and survived, the US government would rescue him.
King Killer…he hated the nickname but guessed he’d earned it.
He’d set his affairs in order before leaving on the mission, fully expecting to die. He'd ended the King’s reign and his plans to become the next bin Laden, but the gig had landed Mick in prison.
The stairs leading to the roof appeared and he jogged toward them, keeping the oxygen in place. Pounding footsteps were nearly on top of him before he heard them over the alarm. He whirled as two guards came into view, one aiming what appeared to be an Uzi at him.
Guess they do have weapons.
Surprise registered behind their masks, the guards expecting to find him lying on the floor unconscious, he supposed, and Mick ducked as the man fired a few warning shots.
The flash bang haze was clearing, the gas already evaporating, and he was still a good fifteen steps from freedom.
Grinning as they advanced on him, he raised his hands in a surrender gesture. Closer, he mentally urged. The shot had been a warning, nothing more. They weren’t intent on killing him—the death of a US Navy SEAL on their hands would get them in hot water—but nevertheless, he didn’t need a gunshot wound slowing him down.
Freedom. He could taste it on the tip of his tongue, smell it in his nostrils. Fresh air, decent American food, a soft bed.
And women. Let’s not forget the smell, taste, and feel of a warm, willing woman. He’d missed that most of all.
The guard with the gun stayed several feet back as his partner yelled commands at Mick. His voice was thick with a French accent and muffled by the mask. “Turn around! On your knees!”
Mick did as instructed, taking one more deep suck on the oxygen. As expected, Frenchie ripped the mask off his face, dropping it and the small tank onto the concrete floor. He grabbed one of Mick’s wrists to pull his hand behind his back.
As he went to grab the other wrist, Mick locked onto him instead, bending forward hard and throwing the guard over his back. He crashed headfirst into the bottom of the concrete steps.
Before the guard with the gun could react, Mick snatched up the oxygen tank, rolled, and nailed the man in the shin.
The sputter of gunfire erupted—pop, pop, pop—as bullets smacked into the concrete walls and the metal railing of the stairs, echoing in sharp contrast to the blaring alarm. Mick came up swinging and clipped the guard on the chin, followed by a jab to the nose.
Bone broke and blood splattered as the man yelped and lost his balance. He tumbled into a concrete column, tripping over his feet and falling face forward onto the floor. Mick jammed a bare heel into the man's left kidney, making him grunt. “You'll stay down if you know what's good for you, brother.”
He kicked the Uzi away and took off for the staircase. His body felt slightly sluggish, the tang of metal filled his nose from the gas still hanging in the air. He grabbed the fallen tank and inhaled a good deep breath through the mask before taking out the lighter he’d nicked from the earlier guard. A little bit of rigging and he had an open flame positioned to blow the oxygen tank.
The guard on the bottom step was still unconscious, and what do you know? There was a handgun in the holster at his waist.
The canister of oxygen would go any second. Mick knew the cavalry was upstairs—the tiny American flag taped to a toothpick and stuck in his daily slice of bread had delivered the welcomed message—but he believed in being prepared for any and all outcomes. He removed the gun—an H&K beauty—and took the stairs two at a time on bare feet. The Uzi was too cumbersome, too big to hide, but the sleek handgun was perfect.
The rooftop exit was unlocked, and he shoved the heavy iron door open, glancing at the waiting helicopter as he turned his face up toward the sun.
Heat and humidity—so different than his cool, dank cell—hit him full in the face. Laughter filled his chest and his lungs expanded to take in all the fresh air he could, blinking against the bright sun nearly blinding him.
The backwash from the helicopter blades sent air over his bearded face, lifting his stringy hair and making his prison clothes flatten against his body. His escape vehicle had avoided the anti-helicopter netting blanketing everything but this rooftop—the one weak link in the entire area.
Interrupting his moment of happiness, an explosion went off behind him. Over the noise, he heard a shout coming from the helo, a command to run. He cracked his eyes open to see a familiar face leaning out the open door on the helo’s side, the man waving at him frantically.
Well, I’ll be goddamned. If it wasn’t Trace Hunter, a legend in the teams, whom Mick had worked with in Serbia. The man had disappeared right before Mick was imprisoned the first time. Mick had been sure Hunter and his SEAL team would be the ones to rescue him in Qatar, but Hunter had been absent when they came.
Shouts erupted behind him, pounding footsteps coming up the stairs. A heat of flames wafted across his back. Time to go. His reacquaintance with fresh air and sunshine would have to wait.
He walked toward the helicopter, noting a sniper in position to mow down the bad guys following him, but the weapon in his hand felt good, solid. He hadn't held a gun in all this time and some sleeping part of him came awake.
He preferred hand-to-hand combat, but there were circumstances when a weapon, besides his fists, was necessary. As he saw the sniper take aim, he didn't look back, but casually fired off a couple shots in the direction of the guards in pursuit.
Hunter was laughing as he reached down to clasp Mick’s arm and haul him inside. Mick’s butt landed in a seat, and looking back, he saw he’d killed them both.
I’ve still got it.
Grinning, he swept his gaze around the occupants and came to a dead stop when he saw the knockout female across from him.
“Well, hel-lo,” he said. The noise as they lifted off was too loud for her to hear, but she must’ve read his lips, one sexy brow cocking over pale blue eyes that stared at him from behind thick glasses.
A fierce air blew through the cabin as the bird dipped to one side, and Mick grabbed his seatbelt, locking it into place. It was like Christmas—a clean rescue, a sunny day, a beautiful woman waiting for him. All he needed was a hamburger and fries to make his second escape from prison a total success.
Two years, sixteen days, and seven hours after capture, Mick Ranger was once more a free man, and damn if he wasn’t going to make every minute of that freedom count.
Beginning with her. Once again, he looked across the aisle and gave the woman sitting there a wolfish grin.
She didn’t smile back.