The Last Man
Author:Vince Flynn



Chapter 5
JALALABAD, AFGHANISTAN

HUBBARD was clearly agitated. He'd gone over to the window to watch Zahir and his men leave. Rapp ignored him and took a moment to discuss something he wanted Coleman to follow up on. Rapp was just finishing his point when Hubbard approached them.

Hubbard blinked several times and asked Rapp, "Do you have any idea what you've just done?"

"I think so," Rapp replied calmly.

"I'm not sure you do. That man is crazy." Hubbard pointed toward the door as if Zahir was still there. "I have to work with him. What in the hell were you thinking?"

Rapp remained cool and said, "You can't bribe a guy like that. He'll screw you over in the end. Every time. The only way to deal with a guy like Zahir is to make him fear for his life."

Hubbard was incredulous. "Darren is going to flip when he finds out. He's worked nearly a year to bring Zahir back into the fold."

At the mention of Sickles's first name Rapp began to lose his grip. "Darren is an idiot."

"Idiot or not, he's my boss and the Agency's top guy here in Afghanistan."

"Are you done?" It was more of a warning than a question.

"No . . . I'm not done. I'm far from done. You're going to be here for a week or two at the most and then you'll head back to the States and I'll have to deal with him. You don't know shit about Zahir. He's a ruthless son of a bitch. He's probably going to kill me."

"Then kill him first," Rapp growled.

Hubbard looked at Rapp as if he'd lost his mind. "Darren's his handler . . . I can't kill him."

"I'll deal with Darren. In the meantime you need to grow a set of balls. The way you let him walk in here and talk to you. What the hell is wrong with you? You work for the damn Agency, Hub, not the State Department. Start acting like it, or find another job. Shit . . . you've got mercenaries, former Taliban, Northern Alliance, former coalition Special Forces . . . they're all hanging out looking to make a buck. You could have gone to Rick, given him ten or twenty grand, and found fifteen guys that'd be willing to shoot the prick in the head when he left his house in the morning."

"It's not that easy."

"Really?" Rapp asked, his jaw clenched with anger. "Well, then I must be frickin' Superman, because I've lost track of how many scumbags like Zahir I've plugged over the years. It's not fuckin' rocket science," Rapp said, poking Hubbard in the chest.

"Darren would lose his mind," Hubbard said in his own defense.

"I just told you, I'll deal with Darren." Rapp couldn't wait to get his hands on the pencil-pushing prick. "Right now I need you to work every source you have. Start shaking the trees and find out what happened to Rick, and if you run into Zahir and he so much as looks at you the wrong way I want you to call me. Do you understand?"

Hubbard slowly nodded, knowing it was unwise to continue to push the point with Rapp. "Yeah, I'll get on it."

"Good, and remember, we need to move fast." Rapp heard his name called from upstairs. He looked at the staircase and then back at Hubbard. He slapped the taller man on the shoulder and said, "Remember who we are, Hub. Don't take any crap . . . especially for the next forty-eight hours. If we don't get Rick back, Zahir is going to be the least of our problems."

Hubbard moved toward the door. Coleman stood at Rapp's side, his .45 caliber H&K hanging loosely at his side. When the junior operative was gone, Coleman said, "I'm not sure he's cut out for this job."

Rapp wasn't sure either, but he couldn't be mad at Hubbard. "If Darren Sickles had been my boss God only knows how I would have turned out."

Coleman kept his blue eyes focused on the door and said, "If Darren Sickles had been your boss, you would have killed him. Hell, Stan was your boss and you almost killed him, and he's one tough bastard. Sickles is a pussy."

Rapp thought of Stan Hurley, the man who had trained him. Pound for pound, Hurley was the toughest man Rapp had ever known - one mean son of a bitch. That was more than twenty years ago, though. More recently, Hurley had begun to show his age. His mind was still sharp as hell, but he was looking frail. "They don't make 'em like Stan anymore."

Coleman cracked a smile. "They sure don't, but you're not too far off."

Rapp feigned insult. "Are you trying to say I'm some crotchety, set-in-his-ways old man who drinks and smokes too much and still chases women like I'm in my twenties?"

"You're more like him than you'll ever admit. If he was here the two of you would have gotten in a fight over who got to stick a gun in that terrorist's face."

Rapp laughed. "Yeah, and he would have won and then he would have flown up to Kabul and done the same thing to Sickles."

"Well, the day's far from over. I'd say there's a better than fifty-fifty chance you and Sickles will have it out."

Rapp cursed under his breath. One more thing to deal with, he thought to himself. He heard his name called again and walked to the bottom of the stairs, stepping around the dead bodyguards. He looked up the flight of stairs and said, "What's up?"

A brunette poked her head around the corner and said, "I think you should come up here. There's something you need to see."

Rapp started up the stairs, keeping his feet near the wall so as to not step in the trail of smeared blood. Sydney Hayek was the newest member of Rapp's team, and it had been Kennedy's idea to have Hayek fill a vacant spot. Rapp had been less than enthused for several reasons. The first was pretty straightforward - his line of work didn't lend itself toward trusting people. The room for error was thin and the stakes were so high that Rapp preferred running an op with an understaffed team over risking a new recruit who might get the entire team killed. The second reason for his apprehension was obvious - Hayek had come to them from the FBI.

Rapp hit the top landing and asked, "What's up?"

Like the rest of the team, Hayek was wearing an olive drab field jacket, the pockets stuffed with the various tools of the trade. As directed by Rapp, she wore her flak jacket under her field jacket to draw less attention. She was also wearing a pair of jeans, a pair of Merrell hiking boots, and a blue Detroit Tigers baseball cap with a light and a small fiberoptic camera clipped to each side of the visor. She looked at Rapp with her almond eyes and asked, "Scott told you about the safe?"

"Yeah. Any sign of forced entry?"

"No. I'm afraid it looks like it was opened by Mr. Rickman."

Rapp frowned. "Let's not jump to any unfounded conclusions."

Hayek shrugged. "I never met the man, but I assume he was the only person within a couple thousand miles who had the code."

It was more like seven thousand miles, but Rapp didn't bother to correct her. Hayek had grown up in Detroit, the only daughter of Armenians who had emigrated from Lebanon. She was fluent in Arabic and, most important, she could walk down the streets of nearly any Middle Eastern city without anyone giving her a second glance. In response to her accusation, Rapp said, "He was the only one with the code."

"Well, the safe was opened using the code. There was no tampering with the locking mechanism and as best I can tell it wasn't hacked."

"You're sure."

"As sure as I can be after being here less than an hour."

Rapp tried to picture how it had gone down. "So he was forced to open the safe at gunpoint."

"I didn't know the man, so I can't say."

After working with her for seven months Rapp was starting to get a sense of how Hayek operated. It was more what she didn't say than what she said. "You have some concerns."

"I always have concerns."

"Share them."

"Some things don't make sense."

"Such as?"

She hesitated and then said, "Come here and I'll show you." They started down the hall. "Careful where you step."

Rapp looked down and stepped around a sizable pool of blood. That was when he noticed the splatter on the wall. "What's this?"

Hayek looked over her shoulder. "One thing at a time. I want to show you the office first." She entered the room and walked behind the desk. There were no windows, the walls and ceiling were covered with acoustic foam, and the floor was covered with a series of rubber squares. Behind the desk, a narrow door covered in foam was open. Behind it was the open safe.

"What am I looking for?" Rapp asked.

"Nothing." Hayek turned off the lamp on the desk and then hit the UV light on her visor. She looked down at the floor in front of the safe and then expanded the area, sweeping the light back and forth. "No blood. Not a drop."

"I still don't get it."

"Come here." She walked across the room and stepped into the hallway. She hit the light switch and extinguished the hallway lights. The UV light on her visor lit up splotches and splatters of blood. "Lots of blood out here, but none in there. Now, I don't know Rickman, but I've heard he was a pretty serious man."

"Your point?"

"I've been around you long enough to guess that someone would have to beat you to a bloody pulp before you'd even think of opening that safe."

Rapp nodded.

"There's no blood in the office."

"The rough stuff could have started anywhere . . . down in the kitchen."

Hayek shook her head. "And there would be blood in that office . . . even if it were just small traces, but there isn't any."

Hayek's theory was slowly sinking in. "What else do you have?"

"This mess." Hayek pointed at the blood on the wall. "Best guess is it belongs to one of the bodyguards downstairs."

"The one missing half his face?"

"Yeah." Hayek edged closer to the wall. She pointed at a gooey chunk. "I have samples of everything and I'll be able to test them for verification when we get back stateside, but I'm 99 percent sure this is brain matter with a little bit of bone and blood. Consistent with the gunshot wound received by John Doe number four downstairs."

"And this should interest me how?"

"Look at the pattern of the splatter." Hayek acted as if she was holding a gun. "The bodyguard would have been facing this way toward the stairs. The person came up and shot him from behind. The bullet tore through his head, exited, leaving this large splatter on the wall, and then the bodyguard fell facedown here. That's why there's the big pool of blood."

Rapp studied the blood splatter on the wall. It all lined up. "I agree. So what's your point?"

"Three of the four guards were shot in the face . . . makes sense. They were reacting to the intrusion. Going to meet the threat. This one, though, is shot in the back of the head. Doesn't make sense. He should have been shot over there at the top of the stairs, by the perps coming up the stairs."

Rapp ignored her police talk. He was a little irritated with himself for not seeing it sooner. "How closely did you look at the bodies downstairs?"

"Close enough."

"Did you take measurements of the entrance wounds?"

"Not exact, but I'm pretty confident that the first three men were shot by a nine-millimeter."

"And you know that how?"

Hayek held up a Ziploc bag with three brass shell casings. "I found these on the floor."

"And the fourth man?"

Hayek shook her head. "I've looked all over this hallway and the stairs and I can't find the casing."

"Best guess on the caliber?"

"Best guess . . . a .45 . . . hollow point. Definitely not the same caliber that took out the other guys."

Rapp ran all the information through his head, knew where it was taking him, but didn't want to go there even though he knew he had to. He looked back in the office. There was no sign of struggle. Not a thing out of place. The hallway was a bloody mess. Rapp's eyes focused on the Rorschachlike splatter. "I suppose the slug is buried in that wall."

"Yeah . . . I was going to dig it out but I wanted to ask you first. I don't know this team coming in from Langley . . . don't want to step on their toes."

It would be a problem but Rapp could deal with it. "Dig it out as quick as you can. Anything else you need to tell me about?"

Hayek hesitated and then said, "No."

"What is it?"

"Nothing." She shook her head. "I'll know more when I start matching up the blood samples with the bodies. I think we'll be able to get a pretty clear picture of where everyone was when this thing went down."

"Nice work, Sid. Do me a favor and keep this between the two of us. Until we know for certain, I don't want anyone running around pedaling half-baked ideas. Anyone leans on you, send them to me. Understood?"

Kennedy had asked her to relay as much information as possible as quickly as possible. Hayek could see that she was caught between her two bosses, but Rapp was just starting to trust her, so she said, "Understood."

"Good. Wrap things up and be ready to pull out in ten."

"What's the rush?"

"There's a meeting back in Kabul. The whole alphabet soup."

"You hate those kinds of meetings."

"I hate any meeting, but especially this kind." Rapp thought of Sickles running the meeting without him. Why the man worked for the Company was beyond Rapp's ability to comprehend. "I need to make sure a certain idiot doesn't make this shit show any worse than it already is."