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Mick Reavers was Coleman’s one-man wrecking crew. He was built like an NFL linebacker, only meaner. “Fine by me.” Rapp got out and popped the trunk while Coleman issued instructions to the rest of the team. He dialed in the two three-digit codes on a large black rectangular case and then slid the buttons out. Both hasps popped up with the thud of an old-fashioned briefcase. The inside of the case consisted of a large gray block of foam. Sections of the foam had been cut out in the silhouette of a variety of weapons. Rapp already had his 9mm Glock on his hip. As was almost always the case it was loaded with subsonic hollow-point ammunition. Rapp took his wallet out of his left pocket and set it next to the case. He grabbed the shorter of two silencers and put it where the wallet had been.

Rapp never went anywhere without a gun, and he had all the proper paperwork to carry the thing anywhere he wanted, but even so, the quickest way to land yourself in hot water was to fire your weapon in the District. Whether the action was warranted or not, the District was very sensitive to gunplay. Rapp looked toward the door and considered the crowd. He wasn’t going to go in without a gun, but he would have to be in big trouble before he used it. The Glock would be for defensive purposes only. He stared at the cutouts, trying to decide between several other less-than-lethal options. There was the pepper spray, but it wasn’t exactly his favorite, especially in a crowded place like a club. If you used enough of it, the next thing you knew, it got sucked into the ventilation system and the entire place would empty as if there were a fire, people coughing and spitting, emergency crews showing up to give medical aid. That was the type of thing that might attract a local TV station.

Rapp didn’t want to cause that kind of stir if he could avoid it. He decided on an expandable tactical baton, an ASP F21 in a small belt holster. It was a heavy black piece of steel about eight inches in length with a foam grip. With the proper flick of the wrist the eight inches extended to twenty-one. It was a nasty little weapon that was great to use against bigger people with long reaches. It also worked well if you needed to clear a path through a crowd of people. A couple of flicks and people would start moving like spooked cattle.

Rapp hooked the ASP onto his belt on his right side and then decided on one more thing. He grabbed a Taser X26 and two extra cartridges. It looked pretty much like a gun except parts of it were yellow. He put the two extra cartridges in his front right pocket and stuffed the taser between the small of his back and his pants. Coleman joined him at the back of the car and Rapp asked, “Do you need anything?”

Coleman looked at the case as if he were shopping for watches. “Is that your new M-4 rifle?”


“I’ll take it.”

“Funny.” Rapp handed him the pepper spray and said, “Don’t use it unless you really think we need it.”

“Got it.” Coleman hooked the bottle to his belt and buttoned his suit coat. “So what’s your plan?

Rapp shrugged and closed the trunk. “We go in like we own the place . . . which we do. This is Washington, not Moscow.”

“And then what?”

“We grab the little prick by the scruff of his neck and we pull him out of there.”

Coleman had a worried expression on his face. “And if they try to stop us?”

Rapp thought about it for a second and then said, “A few of them will probably end up in the hospital.”

Coleman moaned, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Rapp shook it off and started walking toward the club and its four massive gatekeepers. “You always say that.”

Coleman fell in a half step behind and under his breath mumbled, “And I’m usually right.”



OTHER than the four years he’d spent in the army, Dan Stewart had worked his entire adult life for the same employer. A Lowell, Arkansas, native, he’d practically fallen into the job when he returned from his second tour of duty in Vietnam. A new low-price retail chain just up the road was hiring. Stewart took a job as an assistant manager and moved to Eureka Springs a few hours east. Within a year he was rewarded for his strong work ethic by being promoted to manager and moved to Branson, Missouri, to open one of the company’s new stores.

That was where he’d met his Kelly. She was one of his cashiers and after a courtship of just five months he married the daughter of the local Baptist preacher. Not a big deal for most, but Stewart was a Methodist, and in Lowell, Arkansas, the Methodists were warned to stay away from the Baptists and vice

versa. Fifteen years, four kids, nine stores, and six states later, he was transferred to headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, and promoted to senior management. The timing was perfect in the sense that it allowed all four kids to put down some roots and attend Bentonville High School. The kids all graduated and three of them went on to college and one joined the army like his dad.

As the years trickled by Stewart took part in the employer stock plan. During all those moves he had promised Kelly they would return to Branson when he finally stopped working. It was during his thirty-ninth year with Wal-Mart that she found out they had accumulated over three hundred thousand shares of preferred stock. With the price hovering around fifty dollars a share at the time the math was not difficult. On his fortieth anniversary with the company his wife forced him into retirement. They bought a cabin on Table Rock Lake where Kelly had spent the summers of her youth. After the first year Stewart bought the hobby farm just down the road. Kelly’s relatives seemed to drop by the lake a little too frequently and he was getting way too much crap from his friends for living in Missouri. So he convinced his wife they needed the hobby farm so he could store all of his stuff and avoid paying the outrageous Missouri taxes.

Stewart was sound asleep in his big leather recliner when his German shepherd started to make noise. Her name was Razor the Third. Two and three had lasted ten and eleven years and the Third was going on nine. She was a good dog, perfectly obedient to her master, protective of Kelly, and reasonably tolerant of the grandkids. Stewart was sleeping in the chair because his shoulder was giving him problems. He’d been putting off surgery for years and had finally decided it was time to fix the darn thing. All of his friends were playing golf and hunting and he was in so much pain he could do neither.

He came to hearing the low growl of Razor, and then she let loose two unhappy barks. Stewart was about to shush her when the exterior lights snapped on, and then he could hear the grumble of an engine. Stewart was a motor guy, and he could tell immediately it was not a car. It was something bigger. He pushed forward in the chair, dropping the footrest and springing to his feet. The blanket fell to the floor and he watched as the headlights washed across the opposite wall, above the TV. The first thing he thought of was the meth heads who had been causing all the trouble with local law enforcement over the past few years. There had been a home invasion at the lake just after Christmas. An elderly couple had been beaten, tied up, and robbed at gunpoint.

Stewart had vowed he would never let a couple of hopped-up pieces of white trash get the draw on him. He yanked open the front hall closet and stuck his hand in, shoving the collection of fall, winter, and spring jackets from the right to the left. Without his having to look, his right hand found the back corner and the cold tempered steel of his Remington 870 shotgun. He closed the closet door, threw back the bolt on the main door, and opened it. Stewart stepped into the cool evening air, wearing a pair of maroon Arkansas Razorbacks pajamas his grandkids had given him for his sixty-sixth birthday.

His bare feet hit the white-painted porch. Razor growled at his side, showing her menacing teeth. Stewart saw a man coming at him out of the near-blinding white lights on the front of a big motor home. He racked a shell into the chamber and flipped off the safety with the smooth, practiced motion of a man who had hunted game since he was seven. He kept the muzzle pointed at the intruder’s feet and said, “Who’s there, and what in the hell do you want?”

The next part happened fast. Somewhere to his right, Stewart heard a slapping noise and then he heard Razor’s nails sliding around on the glossy porch floorboards as if she were wearing roller skates, and then she was down. Stewart glanced at her to see what was wrong and right as he noticed the blood pooling against the white backdrop of the porch, something big and heavy smacked him in the upper left chest. There was no time to figure out what it was. He was spinning and falling, his bare feet giving him no traction. He landed hard on his left side, the shotgun clattering away as it bounced down the steps.

Another moment passed and Stewart’s brain still wasn’t processing what had happened, but as he lay there, a warmth began to spread beneath his left side. Stewart realized he’d been shot. He thought of Razor for a second and then his wife. He heard a scraping noise on the gravel and knew it was the shotgun being picked up. Then there were footfalls on the porch steps, slow and deliberate. Stewart tried to crane his neck around to see who it was, but a stabbing pain in his left shoulder stopped him. The intruder used his foot to roll him onto his back. Stewart winced in pain and clutched his shoulder as he took in the shadowy figure standing above him.

“What do you want?” Stewart asked in a pain-laced voice.