have exercised more. The problem was his main form of working out was sex. Somehow it didn’t prepare you for long runs over uneven terrain.
He looked around desperately for another way out.
If not the boat, what?
The road out of his estate was not an option. Even now he could hear sirens in the air. He walked slowly along, parallel to the beach, thinking hard.
There had to be some way.
Maybe he should just chance the boat. It would be more maneuverable than a sub, wouldn’t it?
The fact was he didn’t know. But he couldn’t think of a viable alternative.
Then, as he watched, the sub started to sink into the water. It turned and, its tower still visible, rapidly made its way back out to sea.
Maybe they had heard the sirens too, way out there. Or maybe they just assumed that things had gone badly and they had better retreat.
Whatever the reason, Lampert now had his window of opportunity.
Lady Lucky had a steel hull. It could take the pounding of the ocean. He had crossed the Atlantic in it before. Once he reached international waters he would feel much safer. It would take time for Landry and the others to talk to the police. Warrants would have to be issued. Police would have to be sent out. By that time Lampert could be very far away.
He heard the sounds behind him, turned, and saw what was coming.
Frantic, he started running flat out for his precious boat and the open seas.
Lampert looked as though he had seen Satan himself after him.
And in some ways, he had.
Puller had caught up to Mecho and the two men ran side by side.
Mecho did not look at him or say anything to him. His total focus was on the man up ahead.
Puller and Mecho ran like the combat warriors they were. Not the fleetest in the world, they ran with a practiced motion, a fluidity that got maximum results with a modest output of energy. When you were in combat you often had to run. Mobile targets tended to survive. Stationary targets tended to die.
But when you stopped running you usually had to fight. The latter took a lot more energy than the former. Better not to waste all of it on the running part.
They were still neck and neck as they gained on their quarry. But Puller snaked ahead at the last moment and tackled Lampert.
The man went down, the wind knocked from him.
Mecho reached down and lifted Lampert off the sand with a violent upward jerk of his arms.
Puller slowly rose and watched the two men.
Mecho looked at Lampert and Lampert looked back at him.
Mecho’s features were stone.
Lampert’s were fear mixed with curiosity.
“What the hell is your beef with me?” he finally shouted.
Mecho threw him back down on the sand, reached into his pocket, and pulled out the photo. He held it in front of Lampert’s face.
“Do you remember her?” Mecho asked, his voice strained.
Puller kept watching, and waiting. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do if Mecho decided to try to kill Lampert. The man was his prisoner, a potential witness against one of the biggest criminals in the world. Mecho was wounded, but then so was Puller. In a one-on-one all bets were off. Puller knew his skills and his limits and he wasn’t sure he could take the bigger man.
But then he might surprise himself.
The thing was, though, Puller didn’t want it to come to that.
Mecho was not his enemy.
Lampert stared dully at the photo.
“Uh, am I supposed to know this person?”
“Her name is Rada. You took her from a village in the Rila mountains in Bulgaria. Her and many others. That was my village.”
Lampert looked at Puller. “Is he serious? You think I’m going to remember someone like that?”
Puller stared stonily back at him. “Wrong answer, Pete.”
Mecho again lifted Lampert up off the sand, held him up with one arm, cocked his other arm back, and hit Lampert so hard that several of his teeth exploded out of his mouth. He flew backward five feet and landed in the sand. He hit so hard on his cuffed arms that he popped both shoulders out of their sockets.
Screaming and crying in pain, he tried to wriggle away.
“Shut up,” said Mecho.
“Oh God,” screamed Lampert. “Oh my God.”
Mecho kicked him in the gut.
“You don’t remember her? You don’t remember Rada?”
“Oh God.” Lampert was spitting chunks of teeth and bloody gums from his mouth and rolling all over the sand.
Puller knelt down next to him, cut his bindings, and with two firm, quick thrusts popped both shoulders back in place.
Lampert lay there crying quietly and gasping for air.
Mecho stared down at him, his hands balling and unballing. His huge chest heaved with every breath.
Puller rose and looked at him. “How is this going to play out?” he asked.
“He is coming back with me.”
“He’s in my custody. He’s wanted for crimes here.”
“He is coming back with me,” Mecho snarled.
“Mecho, we’ll make sure this scum never sees the light of day.”
“He took everything we had. I made a promise.”
Puller drew out his sidearm and pointed it at Mecho. He had no bullets left in it, but Mecho didn’t know that.
“The last thing in the world I want to do is hurt you, Mecho. But I’ve got a job to do and I plan on doing it. This guy was responsible for my aunt being murdered. He’s going to pay for that.” Mecho eyed the gun and then turned to look down at Lampert and held up the photo once more. “Tell me where she is. Tell me now.”
“I don’t know where she is,” Lampert sobbed through his broken and bloody mouth. “I swear to Jesus.”
Mecho grabbed him, jerked him up. “You do know. You will tell me.”
“I don’t. I don’t know, damn it.”
Lampert fell over on his side crying when Mecho let him go.
Mecho looked down at the photo and, as Puller watched, tears slid down the big man’s face. His body began to tremble.
Puller looked out to sea, where Lampert’s yacht was visible. All that money. Based simply on misery. Based simply on greed. Based simply on destroying people’s lives for cash.
He glanced back at Mecho and holstered his weapon. He gave a long sigh. What he was about to do flouted every rule in the book that had guided him for most of his adult life.
“How were you planning on getting him out of here?” he asked.
Mecho glanced up at him. “Why?”
“I have a friend. He pilots a cargo ship. He will take us back home. No questions asked.” “Where and when?”
“Tonight. From Port Panama City.”
Lampert had stopped crying and was listening intently to this.
Through his busted mouth he stammered, “You... you can’t be serious. You’re not going to let him take me to... to Bulgaria.”
Puller glanced down at him. “Why not? You’ve been there. Had a good trip, right? Got everything—correction, everyone—you needed, right?”