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“How many people in the house?”

Stewart had never met a meth head, but this man sounded far too calm, and he had an accent he couldn’t place. “It’s just my wife and me. Take whatever you need and leave us alone. We haven’t hurt anyone.” Stewart could see the shotgun in one hand and something else in the other. The man began to point the mystery object at him and Stewart realized a split second before he died that it was a gun.



RAPP was still wearing his dark suit and white shirt. He didn’t bother unbuttoning the shirt an extra button. He was either a three-button or two-button guy. He’d never really put any thought into it, but he knew he wasn’t a four-button guy, way too much skin and hair. With his scruffy facial hair, Rapp did not scream cop or fed the way Coleman did. The retired SEAL officer was in a blue sport coat, black polo shirt, pleated khaki dress pants and thick-soled lace-up black dress shoes. Anyone with a decent amount of experience would notice the bulges under their jackets and guess that they were carrying.

Rapp, used to blending in, had to consciously tell himself to act more like a cop, make his fluid movements a touch more robotic, and instead of avoiding eye contact, make sure he made it, kept it, and left no doubt who was in charge. He decided to cross the street directly across from the front door rather than at an angle. As he stepped off the curb, he sized up the four bouncers. Three of them were black and one of them was white, big fellas, with big legs, big arms, big chests, and big necks. They were easy to pick out since they were in black jeans and black polo shirts and they were two to three times larger than anyone else in the vicinity.

When Rapp was five steps from the sidewalk, one of the black guys did a sweep of the area and noticed the two men coming for them. His eyes screwed in on them and his face betrayed a split second of surprise that these two were different from all the other partiers they dealt with. Rapp locked eyes with the man and headed straight for him. No one was wearing any indication of rank, so it was impossible to see who was in charge. Instincts told him, though, that the most alert of the four would be the best place to start.

Rapp stopped just his side of the velvet ropes and glanced over the guy’s broad shoulder at the open doorway. Through a crack in the red velvet curtain he could see strobes and silhouettes of bobbing and swaying people. Loud music, with a heavy thrumming bass, rolled out the door and hit them like a strong gusting wind. Rapp put his eyes back on the big man. Rapp was six feet tall and he figured with the pitch of the sidewalk running away from the building to the curb, the guy was probably a few inches shorter than he looked. Rapp guessed he was about six and a half feet tall. The height didn’t concern Rapp. The taller the better when it came to a street fight, and if you wanted proof all you had to do was watch an Ultimate Fighting Championship match. The big guys had the reach but their center of gravity was way too high for no-rules fighting.

Rapp opened his suit coat on the left side and reached into the breast pocket. He watched as the bouncer’s eyes moved down to his waist. The guy noted the gun on Rapp’s left hip and didn’t bat an eye. Rapp pulled out the ID case in a smooth one-handed motion and held it open next to his right ear, so the bouncer wouldn’t have to work too hard.

The guy’s eyes flickered back and forth and then he nodded

and said, “What’s up?”

“National Security. Nothing to do with the club directly. I just need to get in there and talk to someone.”

The bouncer started to answer, but was stopped by another bouncer who had been standing next to the door. This guy was even taller. He had to be six-nine and easily tipped the scales at 350-plus pounds. His white head was clean-shaven and tattoos peeked out from under his shirtsleeves and collar. Rapp noted a hammer-and-sickle tattoo with a sword on the man’s forearm. He repeated what he’d already said to the other bouncer and for good measure held up the Homeland Security ID.

The big white bouncer reached out to grab the ID case and Rapp took a step back. In a cool voice Rapp said, “I’m not going to cause you any trouble. I just need to talk to someone.”

“No.” The man had a foul look on his face. “You have paper?” he asked with a thick Russian accent.

“Paper?” Rapp asked, having no idea what the guy was talking about.

The big Russian snapped his fingers several times while he searched for the right translation. “Warrant,” he said, finally coming up with the word. “You must have warrant. No warrant, no come in.”

Rapp looked at the big black guy and said, “He’s not serious?”

The black guy gave Rapp a shrug that said he was the wrong guy to ask.

Rapp looked back at the Russian and said, “Let me see your passport.”

The Russian made a big show of patting himself down as if he were searching for the proper documentation. Then with a smartass smile he said, “Sorry. No passport.”

“Then you better let me in, or I’m going to have to arrest you.”

The man laughed at Rapp. “Come back with warrant. No warrant . . . piss off.”

Rapp watched as he made a shooing gesture with his hands as if he was trying to send a door-to-door salesman on his way. Rapp glanced at Coleman, who was already looking over his shoulder wondering where Reavers was. “Three options,” Rapp said in a loud voice. “The first, I ignore the fact that you’re a rude son of a bitch and you get out of my way. Second, you decide not to let me in, so I arrest you for obstructing a federal agent, and I have you deported with all the other Russian assholes who were picked up this week.”

“And the third?” The Russian asked as he defiantly folded his big arms across his enormous chest.

“Third,” Rapp said as he cocked his head to his left, “I kick your ass and leave you bleeding and crying here on the sidewalk. Your choice . . . and to show you I’m not a bad guy, I’ll even give you a second to think about it.”

While the big Russian stood there like a statue Rapp turned and walked over to Coleman. In a voice that only the two of them could hear, Rapp said, “Call Marcus and tell him to jam everything. There are probably more Russians inside the club. I don’t need these guys calling for reinforcements when this guy goes down.”

“What are you going to do?” Coleman asked.

“I’m going to drop the asshole before he even knows what hit him.” Rapp looked back over his shoulder and gave the big man the once-over from the heavy soles of his black boots to his shiny bald head. There are a lot of ways to take down a man. Every guy is different— different strengths and different weaknesses. Big guys like this all had one weakness in common and Rapp had already scoped it out. This thing would be finished before the guy even knew it’d started. Rapp was sure of that. His only real concern had to do with the other three big locals. Giants like these guys were easy to handle one at a time, but in groups, they could be a problem. All they had to do, after all, was get their arms around you and fall to the ground. If you got caught between them and something really hard like a concrete sidewalk, you were bound to break a few ribs.

Rapp saw Reavers crossing the street and decided it was safe to start. His presence might be enough to give the other three bouncers pause. Rapp turned and marched straight back to the Russian. He stopped one pace away and placed his right hand on his hip and his left hand on the hilt of his gun. “So . . . what’s it going to be?”

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