The Last Man
Author:Vince Flynn

Chapter 14
THE silver Toyota 4Runner hadn't been washed in over a month. The windshield had a divot from a rock and a crack that crawled its way along the bottom, dying in the right corner. The front bumper had seen some use but not as much as the rear. Both sides had enough scrapes and dents so that the vehicle fit right in on the wild streets of Kabul. This all made Rapp happy, as he greatly preferred anonymity to large steel-plated vehicles that screamed U.S.A.

Rapp was in back looking out the dirty rear-passenger window at nothing in particular. His mind was revisiting what he'd seen at the safe house that morning. Sydney Hayek didn't think she'd get the preliminary ballistics back for another twenty-four hours, and Rapp was already starting to think he didn't need them. The way the bodies were strewn about the house, the big .45 caliber hole in the back of the one guy's head, and the security system being defeated without the slightest warning, it all looked bad. Throw the dog on top of that and he cringed at the possible outcomes. The real question was why?

Rickman was a strange bird, there was no doubt about that, but it was a big jump from being a little different to being a traitor. Rapp knew he was getting a bit ahead of himself, though. The dog could have been an honest mistake. Hubbard could have easily misheard Rickman or just assumed that he'd put the dog down at the local clinic, but when Rapp got these kinds of feelings, more often than not they turned out to be right. The difference this time around was that he was hoping he was wrong.

Maslick was driving and big Reavers riding shotgun with his bushy dark beard, a pair of wraparound Oakleys, and his standard fuck-off expression on his face. Like a pit bull, he was not the friendliest creature when it came to new faces, but immensely loyal to those whom he knew. Coleman had been his CO when the two men were SEALs and then after they had continued to work together as private contractors for the CIA. Maslick was former Delta Force and had been attached to Rapp's team on and off for three years. Both men had a cool detachment that had been honed by killing enemies who had desperately tried to kill them first. They never looked nervous, but they never stopped surveying the landscape for threats.

Rapp pulled out his phone and checked to see if there were any new emails from Langley that might shed some light on Rickman's location. Kennedy had told him that Rickman was the top priority for the National Security Agency until the president said otherwise. Every conversation, email, tweet, and text within a thousand miles was being translated and crunched by the NSA's Cray supercomputers. They were bound to pick up something. Rapp just hoped it was enough for him to get a solid lead.

"So are you going to tell me why you've got a hard-on for some vet?"

Rapp looked up from his phone and wondered how much he should share with Coleman. It wasn't that he didn't trust him. Next to Kennedy and maybe Hurley there was no one he trusted more, it was just that a gut feeling like this could poison what they were trying to do.

Coleman waited a few seconds for Rapp to answer and then said, "You're not the only one who thinks this thing doesn't smell right."

Rapp made no attempt to hide his surprise. "What are you talking about?"

"Please . . . I've been in enough shootouts to know how things go down. You're hung up on the bodyguard . . . the one missing half his face."

Rapp confirmed his suspicions with a simple nod.

"It jumped out at me, too. The rest were all shot with nine millimeters and then there's this guy who was obviously tapped by a .45 and we both know Rick loves his big Kimber."

"And the guy was shot in the back of the head while he was moving down the hall away from Rick's office and bedroom," Rapp added.

"I noticed the same thing, but then I started thinking, what if Rick found out this bodyguard had set him up? Maybe he had some suspicions and then the guy went and took the security system off-line. Hell, Rick could have been sleeping. He hears the commotion downstairs and as a last act of desperation, he shoots this guy in the back of the head."

Rapp turned Coleman's scenario over in his mind, hoping that it would explain away his fears. "I hadn't thought of that." Rapp tried to imagine Rickman being roused from his bed and springing into action. Joe Rickman was anything but a foot soldier. Officially, he was a mid-level case officer in the CIA's Clandestine Service. Unofficially, he'd spent the last eight years running the Clandestine Service's black ops in the Islamic Republic. He didn't show up on the flow charts that were given to Congress. There was no important title before his name. He wasn't a station chief or a deputy director. He was a black hole that happened to be a repository of a mountain of dirty, nasty secrets. So far no one knew the exact number, but the best guess was that more than a quarter of a billion dollars in cash had passed through Rickman's hands while he'd played this dangerous game. There was no oversight, no accounting, no one back in Washington asking for receipts and riding his ass to fill out expense forms. The suits didn't want to know the details of what Rickman was up to, and because of his big brain he was able to keep it all straight without writing anything down. He continued to pass his twice-a-year lie detector test, and that was good enough for the people in charge. Rapp had worried for some time that it was a recipe for disaster.

Yes, Rick loved his Kimber, but there could be an absolute chasm between spending time on the range in a controlled environment and getting yanked from a deep sleep and not shooting yourself in the foot. The more Rapp contemplated the mess, the more he thought the biggest red flag was the security system. If Coleman was right, and the one bodyguard had been the inside man, he would need to see proof that this guy had the ability to defeat an extremely complicated security system. Rapp was no dummy, and he'd been stymied plenty of times by the technological aspect of his job. That was why he normally traveled with experts like Marcus Dumond, who was a hacker extraordinaire.

"Rick was no shooter," Rapp said. "I'm not saying it's not possible, but I have a hard time seeing Rick plugging a guy in the back of the head in the middle of the night. Especially one of these hardened guards we chose for him."

"We'll find out. If the bodyguard was bad, there'll be something. Now, what about this vet?"

Rapp sighed. "Rick had a dog."

"I remember. Rottweiler . . . slobbered all over the place. Thing never left his side . . . he treated it like it was his kid." Coleman shook his head with disapproval. "No way to train a dog like that."

"I asked Hub about the dog. He said it'd been sick. Only six years old or something like that. Rick brought it to the vet down in J-bad and had it put down. I told Hub to talk to the vet and make sure the dog was put down."

"The vet didn't put it down."

"Nope. In fact he couldn't figure out what was wrong with it so he told Rick to bring it to the big-city vet up here in Kabul."

Coleman looked skeptical. "Sounds like a bit of a reach."

Maslick announced that they were two blocks away from the clinic.

Rapp looked out a window as they passed a green Ford Ranger pickup that was the local police department's main form of transportation. Four men were sitting in back decked out in full combat gear. More to himself than Coleman, he said, "Yeah . . . well, we're about to find out."