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“You’re damn right I did, and I’d do it again. This shit is bigger than you and me, and you knew that when you signed up. You were the one who came to me and said you were sick of fighting a war with one hand tied behind your back.”

Nash was silent for a few blocks. Charlie hummed away in the backseat and then finally Nash said, “I’m not ungrateful, but I’m not going to throw my conscience out the window. You have no right . . . Stan has no right to—”

“Easy,” Rapp said, cutting him off. “Slow down before you make a fool of yourself again. I’m not asking you to sell your soul.”

“Well it sure does seem like it.”

“Just hear me out for a minute. I spoke with Stan and filled him in on your situation.”

“Great,” Nash moaned. “I suppose you told him you knocked me on my ass.”

“I did.”

“Crap. I’m never going to hear the end of this.”

“Probably not, but that’s not what’s important.”

Nash stared straight ahead. “What did he say?”

“He said the fact that I was able to knock you on your ass with one palm strike is all the proof he needs that you need to take a sabbatical.”

Nash was a state high school wrestling champ in Pennsylvania and had boxed in the Marine Corps. His little altercation with Rapp had been the shortest fight of his life. His sternum hurt like hell, and his ego was ten times worse. “Yeah . . . well, I haven’t had a lot of sleep lately.”

Rapp could have made any one of a dozen retorts but none of them would have been helpful. This morning wasn’t about winning the argument and getting a stubborn friend to do the impossible, which was to admit he’d been wrong. It was about advancing the ball toward the goal line. “All of us have been under a lot of stress lately. You probably more than most of us. Chris was your guy. The way he was taken out really sucked, and then there was Jessica and the rest of the folks you knew in the NCTC. Stan’s never set foot in the place, and I don’t get in there very often, but you knew those people. I’m not a heartless bastard. I understand why you’re a little messed up, but in this line of work, there’s no coddling. You need to take a few weeks off . . . take ’em, but you have to honor your promises and keep your mouth shut.”

“And if I take a week off and I still disagree with you and Stan, where does that leave us? Do I just ignore my conscience and let you guys do something that I think is a mistake?”

“No,” Rapp said. “In fact, I think Stan has a solution.”

“Let me guess . . . it involves a Kimber 1911 and a wood chipper.”

“No.” Rapp shook his head and smiled at the visual. “He’s says it’s your call.”

“What’s my call?” Nash asked with a frown.

“Whether that unethical bastard ever sees daylight aga



“Nope . . . Stan says he’s sick of doing all the heavy lifting. Says he’s sick of you bitching about the size of the hole.”

“The size of the hole?” Nash asked, not understanding what Hurley meant.

“Yep . . . he says it’s your turn to grab a shovel and start digging. He’s done. He says it’s your call.”

“My call about what?”

“On what we’re going to do with that rat bastard who leaked our operation. The one that got Chris Johnson killed and quite possibly another 187 Americans.”

Nash turned his head slowly and looked out the window. His thoughts turned to Chris Johnson. The retired Army Ranger had been Nash’s first recruit. The twenty-nine-year-old had gone completely off the grid, for nearly a year, while he infiltrated one of D.C.’s most radical mosques. He was on the verge of exposing the cell that had pulled off the attacks only a week ago, when a story appeared in the Post that accused the CIA of illegally running surveillance on a half dozen East Coast mosques. The day after the article appeared, Johnson was discovered, tortured and killed by the Lion of al Qaeda and his merry band of terrorists.

Without looking at Rapp he asked, “When do you want my decision?”

“Stan says you have a good week before we’re done with the debriefing.”

A week, Nash thought. Seven lousy days to decide a man’s fate. A man whom he hated. What in the hell had he gotten himself into?