Nemesis, p.1Part #19 of FBI Thriller series by Catherine Coulter
ALSO BY CATHERINE COULTER
THE FBI THRILLERS
Power Play (2014)
Split Second (2011)
Twice Dead: Riptide and Hemlock Bay (2011)
Double Jeopardy (2008): The Target and The Edge
Double Take (2007)
The Beginning (2005): The Cove and The Maze
Point Blank (2005)
Eleventh Hour (2002)
Hemlock Bay (2001)
The Edge (1999)
The Target (1998)
The Maze (1997)
The Cove (1996)
A BRIT IN THE FBI THRILLERS (WITH J. T. ELLISON)
The Lost Key (2014)
The Final Cut (2013)
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Copyright © 2015 by Catherine Coulter
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Nemesis / Catherine Coulter.
p. cm. — (An FBI thriller ; 19)
1. United States. Federal Bureau of Investigation—Fiction. 2. Sherlock, Lacey (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 3. Savich, Dillon (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 4. Government investigators—Fiction. 5. Terrorism—Prevention—Fiction. 6. Murder—Investigation—Fiction. 7. Married people—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3553.O843N46 2015 2015015995
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
To my incredible other half, who continues to pour his heart and brain into my books. Thank you for this very special book.
To Angela Bell, FBI Office of Public Affairs. You continue to keep me on the straight and narrow, and I thank you. Soon we need to go for drinks.
Nichole Robson, SM guru, Trident Media Group
Emily Ross, SM guru, Trident Media Group
Brianna Weber, SM guru, Trident Media Group
You three women did so very much to promote The Lost Key on social media. (Yes, that’s what SM means, not S&M.) My thanks. I can’t wait to see what you do with Nemesis.
And finally, and always, my bows and kudos and everlasting thanks to Karen Evans, my own personal guardian angel who’s always there for me, always in my corner, ready to take on anything. Always. Thank you, Karen.
Also by Catherine Coulter
To sleep, perchance to dream . . .
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.
NEW YORK CITY
The airport security line slowly inched forward, nearly sixty passengers stoically weaving back and forth in the ritual strip-dance everyone knew and put up with. At least Sherlock didn’t have her Glock with her, so she wouldn’t have to fill out a gazillion forms. Her meeting with the lead federal prosecutor in an upcoming murder trial had lasted six and a half hours, and probably would have gone on longer if she hadn’t simply gotten up and said she had a plane to catch. She couldn’t wait to get home and throw a football with Sean, if the plane took off at a reasonable time, that is. She looked forward to downing a cup of Dillon’s knock-your-socks-off coffee, and having him sing to her while he scrubbed her back in the shower.
Out of habit she studied the faces, the eyes, the clothes, and the body language of those around her, guessing what people were thinking, planning, where they were going. Home? Business? Rendezvous? She knew one thing for sure: they were hoping as she was that flights wouldn’t be delayed or canceled. The woman ahead of her sighed. “All I want to do is get home, jump in the tub, and wash off all traces of Mickey Sturgiss.”
Sherlock said, a smile on her face, “A wild day with Mickey?”
The woman rolled her eyes. “A deposition for a slime bucket who should be deported to Mars.”
Sherlock laughed. “You’re a lawyer?”
“Yes, but not this idiot’s lawyer. I was doing his lawyer a favor. Believe me, I’ll make sure he knows he owes me big-time.” She stuck out her hand. “Melissa Harkness.”
Sherlock shook her hand. “Lacey Sherlock. Come to think of it, I could do some washing, too.”
“Don’t tell me you’re a lawyer, too?”
“I’m FBI, actually.” Melissa Harkness was on the heavy side, in her thirties, and she was carrying a large briefcase in one hand and a black tote the size of one o
Her laugh at Sherlock’s name started them off, and soon they were talking about Sherlock’s dad, a federal judge, and Sherlock’s job as an FBI agent, as the line slowly snaked its way toward the TSA folk ensconced on their high stools, checking each ticket and ID.
Sherlock noticed a tall man a couple people ahead of Melissa. He was standing stock-still, as if frozen in place. The man behind him had to nudge him, unheard of in an airport security line with everyone wanting to move forward quickly. He was dark-haired and on the thin side. What caught her eye was the fact that his lower face was bone white, as if he’d recently shaved off a full beard, perhaps that very morning. He looked calm, but she saw his hands were trembling as he pulled off his black loafers and placed them in a bin. Something was off. She watched him shrug off his coat and start on his belt. Then, without warning, he turned, shoved aside the two passengers behind him, and grabbed Melissa around the neck. He pulled something out of his briefcase—it was a grenade. He waved it around, all the while backing away, pulling Melissa with him. When people around them realized what was happening, there were screams and shouts, everyone focused on the grenade held high over his head now, a finger through the safety ring. He yelled, his voice shaking as badly as his hands, “That’s right, it’s a grenade!” He screamed at the TSA agents, who were now speaking into their walkie-talkies, several of them moving toward him. “Nobody move! Your X-ray isn’t much use now, is it? It doesn’t matter I’m not lily-white!” He pointed the grenade at a tall black TSA agent who was trying to flank him. “Or black! All of you—stay away or she dies, along with the rest of you.” He stopped moving when he felt a concrete pillar behind his back.
A TSA agent called out, only a bit of a wobble in her voice, “Sir, put the grenade down and we can talk about what you want.”
He laughed. “Really? I know how you idiots operate. Even without this grenade, you’d probably have taken me to one of your little rooms and ordered me to strip down, treated me like a criminal—that’s because you target men who look Middle Eastern, and that’s profiling and it’s against the law.” His voice was near a scream now. Sherlock heard a French accent overlying the British clip, with a trace of Farsi or Arabic. “Because I’m dark and wear a beard?” Had he forgotten he’d shaved it off? “Don’t come any closer or we all die right now!” He tightened his hold around Melissa’s neck. Her hands were pulling at his arm, her face turning blue.
The TSA agents were slowly flanking him as he talked. Sherlock knew airport security would arrive at any second, all of them trained to deal with such a threat, but it didn’t matter. They weren’t here yet. She was on the spot, a few feet away from him, looking right into his eyes. His arm was still around Melissa’s neck, his finger still hooked around the grenade’s ring. One pull and a whole lot of people would die, herself included. Her heart kettledrummed in her chest; the spit dried in her mouth. There was an instant of dead silence, only the sound of his hard, fast breathing. She called out, her voice calm and easy, “Sir, what do you want?”
He locked on Sherlock’s face, tightened his death grip on Melissa, and held the grenade toward her. “Who told you to talk, you stupid woman? Get back with the rest of the mutts and shut up!”
“Sir, you obviously knew you couldn’t get a grenade through X-ray, so you planned it this way. Why? What do you want? What if they simply let you leave?” She wanted to see how tight his hold was on the grenade ring, but she forced herself to keep her eyes on his face.
He screamed at her, “Shut up or you’ll be the first one dead! You agents, stop moving around, do you hear me? Any more of you take a step toward me, I’ll toss the grenade right in front of you!”
The TSA agents stopped in their tracks, their eyes moving from him to Sherlock, and always back to the grenade he held in his shaking hand. The passengers stayed still as stones, as they’d been told, hardly breathing, watching, praying. Sherlock heard a distant cacophony of voices, either running away or swarming closer to see what was happening. Not good. Airport security was beginning to inch toward him. He juked this way and that, trying to keep an eye on the agents. His eyes narrowed, sweat beaded on his face. What had he planned to do? Sherlock felt rage and fear rolling off him. Yet he hadn’t pulled the pin. Why? Was he having second thoughts, or was he waiting to make some kind of statement? She saw it clearly on his face, he was struggling with himself, trying to rev himself up to kill as many people around him as possible, Melissa included. That was certainly what he’d planned when he’d taken off his shoes and set them in the bin. They didn’t matter then because he knew he was going to die.
She looked at Melissa’s face, at her eyes. She was terrified, but she was there, ready to do something if she could. Sherlock said to her, “What’s your name?”
He was distracted and automatically loosened his hold. Melissa sucked in air. “Melissa Harkness.”
He was looking at Sherlock now, focused on her. Good. “And what’s your name, sir?”
“None of your business!” He raised the grenade higher, ran his tongue over his lips, and tightened his hold on Melissa’s neck again.
“Why don’t you let Melissa go? She didn’t do anything to you. Maybe I can call your wife, you can speak to her and to your children.”
“What are you talking about? You know nothing about my blessed wife. For you to even speak of her is an abomination.” He kept swinging the grenade around to force airport security guards and TSA agents back.
Melissa was beginning to choke again, her fingers pulling against his arm.
Sherlock spoke quickly now. “Does your wife expect you to die today and kill dozens of innocent people along with you? Does your wife even know what you’re doing? Where is she now?” She saw the security team moving even closer and she smelled fear, a raw corrosive in the air, from everyone around her, especially from him. He was as frightened as Melissa. She had to stop this now.
“I told you not to speak of her. I’m a British citizen, not some poor sod from Pakistan or Iran you can manipulate.” He laughed, a scary laugh that was filled with derision and something buried deep, something that made him what he was, and something deeper, a kind of desperate bravado. He was trying to convince himself to accept his own death. “I’m from London—that decadent city they call Londonistan. We will fight until we control the whole world, in the name of Allah.”
What idiot taught you that? It sounded like he’d practiced saying it, exactly that way. Why? “Despite what you said, I don’t think you want to die. If you throw the grenade, that is what will happen. You’ll die and you’ll never see your family again. Do you want to be nothing at all in the flash of a second?”
Sweat bathed his face, and his hands trembled so badly Sherlock wondered how he could keep hold of the grenade ring. He bared his teeth at her. “You shut your mouth.”
Sherlock smiled. “You throw the grenade and so many bullets will hit you from airport security, your body won’t be able to hold itself together. Your wife won’t be able to recognize you because your face will be blown off. Maybe she’ll recognize your sock, the one with the hole in it.”
He glanced down automatically at his foot and Sherlock ran at him. “Melissa, drop!”
Brave Melissa threw all her weight forward, pulling the terrorist with her. He struggled with her, off balance, and his finger slipped free of the grenade safety ring. Sherlock took two fast steps, reared back on the heel of her foot and kicked his right wrist, heard the bone crack. He screamed and dropped the grenade. Everyone froze, watched the grenade hit the floor with a loud thump and begin to roll. There was mayhem—yelling and people running to get as far away from the grenade as possible, pushing others out of their way, some of them falling to the floor, a stampede, and over it all security shouting, “Everyone get down! Get down!”<
The terrorist was holding on to his wrist, cursing her, but he didn’t come at her, he lunged for the grenade. Sherlock ran after him, kicked him hard in the kidney. He whooshed out a breath as he fell forward onto his hands and knees, hissing in pain as he crawled toward the grenade, now fetched up against a security counter. She prayed none of the security officers would lose it and shoot, since she was so close to him now.
She yelled at him, “Don’t do it!”
He twisted back to look at her, fear and desperation glazing his eyes, screamed curses, and dove for the grenade, his good arm outstretched. She kicked him in the head. He fell forward, sprawling away from the grenade, but still Sherlock saw his fingers reach out and pull the ring free of the grenade. Thankfully, the safety lever stayed attached, still in place, but for how long?
Everyone remained frozen in place, terrified, all eyes on the grenade.
One, two, three agonizingly slow seconds—nothing happened.
She didn’t have handcuffs, so Sherlock planted her foot on the middle of his back and pressed down. “Listen to me, get hold of yourself. If you don’t move, the grenade might not explode and you might survive this.”
The man was heaving for breath, murmuring over and over something she couldn’t understand. A prayer? To Allah? His eyes were tightly closed, one hand still pressed to his head where Sherlock had kicked him. He wasn’t moving now. His other hand lay palm up three inches from the grenade.
He was weeping. He said in a whisper, “You’ve ruined it all. Now they’ll die because of you.” She leaned close, heard him whisper over and over, “Bella, Bella.” A woman’s name, his wife’s name?
He didn’t even see her, didn’t see anything beyond himself and what had happened.
She heard the loud buzz of voices all around her, but she ignored them. She looked up to see a man striding toward her, airport security officers flanking him, guns drawn. She’d recognize a Big Dog anywhere. He had to be the chief of security here at JFK, ex-military, tall, built, straight as an oak, with white buzz-cut hair. He yelled to all the huddled passengers, “Do not panic. TSA agents will escort you away from here right now. Slowly, that’s right. Clear the area!”
Nemesis by Catherine Coulter / Mystery & Detective / History & Fiction / Thrillers & Crime have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes