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“Well, you should have thought of that before you decided you wanted to have a bitch session.” Rapp brought the black Charger to a sudden stop and threw the gearshift into park. As he unbuckled his seat belt, he said, “Leave your phone in the car.” Rapp checked the mirror, waited for a car to whiz by, and then got out and circled around the trunk. He had a .45 caliber Glock on his left hip in a paddle holster and as he stepped onto the grass he rested his left hand on the butt of the weapon.

Nash reluctantly got out of the vehicle and said, “Come on, Mitch, this is bullshit.”

“What would be bullshit, would be putting you in front of the president and whoever else he’s bringing to this meeting.”

“I’m not the problem here, Mitch.” Nash pointed at himself and then, turning his finger on Rapp added, “I think you need to take a long hard look at yourself.”

“You are so fucking out of line right now, I don’t even know where to begin.”

“Why . . . because I have a conscience . . . unlike you and Stan, who pretty much do whatever the hell you want, whenever you want, to whoever you want?”

“You’re cracking up, Major,” Rapp said, using Nash’s Marine Corps rank. “Combat fatigue. You haven’t slept, you look like shit, and you’ve lost all discipline.”

“Discipline,” Nash spat the word back at Rapp. “Coming from you that’s just ripe. Your entire career has been one insubordinate move after another.”

“You used to talk to your battalion commander like this?”

“Stop with the Marine Corps analogies, all right. This is nothing like the Corps.”

Rapp took in a deep breath. What little patience he had was gone. “I’m giving you two options. You either take two personal days . . . five days . . . I don’t care how many days you need to sort this mess out, but you take ’em, and don’t come back until you get your head screwed back on.”

“What’s my second choice?”

“You resign right now.”

“And if I choose neither?” Nash asked with a forced lack of interest.

“Then I’ll fire your ass,” Rapp responded without hesitation.

“This is bullshit. I’m not the one with the problems. Maybe you should be the one taking a few days off.”

Rapp was on the verge of snapping. He’d seen this type of behavior before. Perfectly healthy guys who succumb to the stress of a job that can grind up and spit out the most hardened warrior. Hurley had warned him a week ago that Nash had been showing signs of fatigue.

Nash’s wife had called Hurley and shared some things that she probably should have kept to herself. Rapp thought of that conversation and asked Nash, “Tell me, when was the last time you had a hard-on?”

Nash frowned. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Rapp stared at him. “You know exactly what I’m talking about.”

“Fuck you.”

Rapp shook his head. “You can try to make this about me and what happened down at the lake, but you know that’s a lie. The only reason your plumbing doesn’t work when you’re thirty-eight is because you got some shit going on in your head.”

Nash’s face flushed with anger and he took a step toward Rapp and clenched his fists. “Don’t make this about me. I didn’t sign up for this shit. No one told me I’d be involved in kidnapping and murder . . . least of all of a fellow American. I don’t care how much you hate—”

Rapp was already alert to the fact that Nash might take an illadvised swing at him, so when he heard him getting a little too close to divulging what had gone down the night before, he took a quick step forward, and his left hand shot out like a battering ram. The palm strike landed in the center of Nash’s chest, rolling his shoulders forward and nearly breaking his sternum. The blow sent Nash backpedaling for a few feet and onto his butt.

Rapp closed the distance and remained in a combat stance. “If you’re dumb enough to get up, I swear I’ll put you in the hospital.”

Nash was clutching his chest and had the look of a feral animal on his face.

Rapp could tell he was calculating odds. “You’re so damn tired you look like a strung-out junkie. I don’t wanna see your face for at least two days. I want you to go home and sle

ep . . . and spend some time with your family, and if after two days you still can’t get your emotions under control . . . then I want your resignation.”

“And if I don’t do what I’m told,” Nash said clutching his chest, “what are you going to do, kill me? Hurt my family?”

Rapp was in a state of semidisbelief. “You know damn well I’d never touch your family.”

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