Puller had spotted the shooters’ positions a split second before he hit the dirt.

He pulled his Mil and fired in an arc, emptying its mag. It was a defensive measure, solely designed to give him a few seconds to take up a new position and plan a counterattack. He took cover behind a car, gripped his MP5, and surveyed the area in front of him.


He glanced behind him. It was Carson. She’d taken up position behind a stone column outside the front entrance.

She was pointing to the left.

Puller looked in that direction and his gut tightened.

Diaz was lying facedown in a pool of blood. Even from this distance and in the darkness Puller could tell she was dead.

He looked around for Landry and Lampert.

Landry was cowering behind a tree. She yelled to Puller, “Lampert ran off]”

Puller looked up ahead, to where the shooters were.

He had one person unaccounted for.


Puller didn’t think the big man had run off. He was wired to fight just like Puller was.

Puller looked back at Carson after a wave of bullets was fired over his position.

With hand motions he communicated to Carson what he intended to do. She nodded and tightened her grip on her gun.

Puller turned back, his gaze flitting over all relevant points.

It was on the second pass when he saw him.

Mecho was directly on the shooters’ rear flank, his gun aimed at them.

It had been neatly done, Puller thought.

There were six shooters.

Puller looked around for the vehicles they had come in, but saw none.

Then he thought the shooters were actually Lampert’s bodyguards.

A second later he noted the lumps of flesh lying around the ground.

They were the bodyguards.

This was a new force to be reckoned with.

And they hadn’t come by car.

Puller considered deliberately the tactical situation.

There were three of them, six on the other side.

In his mind the other side was woefully undermanned. They should have sent more guys.

Puller counted to three, rolled out, and opened fire with the MP5. It was a feint only. Again, he was aiming at nothing. He was drawing attention. A moment later he drew counterfire. They were totally focused on him.

Carson’s weapon fired twice. One of the shooters went down. Another clutched at his arm and dropped his weapon. Good as out of the fight.

Two down, four to go.

And that was before Mecho struck from the rear.

The two shooters nearest to the big man went down a second later. One with a bullet to the medulla. The other with a knife strike to the heart.

Even with a wounded arm Mecho had more than enough strength to wield a killing blow with the blade.

Four down, two to go.

The two remaining shooters shifted their attention to Mecho.

Now it was Puller’s turn.

He did a zigzag run to the left and then shot back to the right.

He lined up his targets and squeezed off two shots from his Mu.

Head shots both.

Kill shots both.

Six down. Zero to go.

But then Puller’s mind went back to the hotel room at the Sierra.

In a millisecond his brain worked through the facts.

Six shooters against four. You had to take out Lampert’s guards. You had to allow for possible losses in that confrontation even with a surprise attack. All the lumps of flesh were dressed in the uniforms of Lampert’s security detail. So no losses there. Six was their full strength.

They had to assume that Puller and company might be here. That meant they would be seriously outgunned when combined with Lampert’s detail.

Puller had to assume that the shooters were from Rojas. And Stiven Rojas was a smart guy. Smart guys did not send underwhelming force.

The millisecond over, Puller reacted.

“Second wave coming,” he called out.

Carson and Mecho instantly moved to cover and took up new firing positions.

Puller slid back and over to Landry. She looked up at him pleadingly. “For Chrissakes, Puller, take the cuffs off and give me a gun. I’ll help fight.”

Puller reloaded and looked over at her. “Don’t think so, Landry. You already tried to kill me once. I’m not into second chances.”

“I’m defenseless here.”

“Nah, you’ve got me. And I’ve got every incentive to keep you alive.”

“What incentive?” she snapped.

He leaned close as he slapped a fresh clip in his MP5. He whispered in her ear, “To make sure you spend the rest of your life in prison.” He set the MP5 on full auto.

“Puller, please,” she sobbed.

He ignored her.

The second wave was about to hit the shore.

And it was going to hit a lot harder than Tropical Storm Danielle had.

But then Puller had an ace up his sleeve. At least he hoped he did.

Otherwise, they were dead.


The second wave was far more sophisticated than the first.

That made Puller think that the first wave was just a feint. It had cost them Diaz, reducing their force by twenty-five percent. Losing six guys for that was smart if you had a lot more guys to throw into the battle.

Turns out they did.

Twenty by Puller’s quick count. They moved in hard clusters of four each. They wore body armor and had major firepower, far more than Puller’s MP5. They took up tactical positions that were in the form of a classically designed pincers maneuver.

Puller looked at Carson and she looked back at him.

They both recognized the tactic and they both clearly understood the inevitable outcome it would produce.

Puller lifted his MP5. There was an old Army mentality that his father had taught him.

There is absolutely no shame in going down fighting.

He fired his full thirty-round clip in a sweep at the two clusters in front of him. Two of the men dropped and were not going to rejoin the fight.

Puller reloaded.

He had used thirty rounds to kill two. There were eighteen foes left. He clearly didn’t have enough ammo to kill them all.

They were a smart, well-trained unit, because they deployed their force on one target and brought to bear overwhelming fire on that target.