A few moments later the water was up to his neck and rising every second. He felt the car level out as it hit bottom.
They were now thirty feet down. Swimming to the surface was not impossible, but they had to get out of the damn car first.
“Knox! Knox! Wake up!” He reached up, shook her violently, then slapped her face. “Knox!”
He heard her sputter and then choke as water entered her mouth.
“What…what?” she began groggily.
Puller had to arch back to keep the water out of his mouth.
He pulled his gun but knew it was no good. He should have done that sooner. A mistake. Probably now a fatal one.
Unlike in the movies, guns immersed in water did not fire. But with nothing to lose, he pointed it at the car window and pulled the trigger.
The water was now up to his eyes. Even arching back he couldn’t keep his mouth out of it. He started to sputter and choke on the foul stuff.
He rammed his big feet against the glass, but he couldn’t get any momentum pushing through the water.
Holding Knox up, he put his back against the steering wheel, torqued his body, put his feet against the door and pushed, slowly, methodically. He was using every ounce of his considerable strength. He could feel the door give, but only a bit.
So this is how it’s going to end?
He felt Knox move above him and then she fell into the water next to him.
He frantically reached for her, but she came up beside him and, mimicking his movements, put her feet against the door and they pushed together, their backs arched to keep their mouths out of the water.
They pushed as hard as they could, synchronizing their movements. The door began to open a bit more.
But it wasn’t nearly enough, and if they moved to try to get out, the water pressure would slam the door closed. For good.
The interior lights of the car were still feebly on. They could dimly see each other. Their dual fates were imprinted on their resigned features.
As they both passed under the water, she reached out and touched his cheek.
The panic in her eyes, he was sure, was matched in his.
But he was feeling an even more powerful emotion.
He had failed.
And he had died.
And most damning of all?
He had allowed Veronica Knox to die alongside him.
You didn’t do that to a comrade. You saved them, even if you died yourself. That was just the Army way. That was the point of being a soldier.
They were past saving at this point, he knew. Even if someone had seen them go into the water, which he didn’t think they had.
But Puller was not going to give up.
He turned back to the door and pushed with all his might. This took a lot of air, but it wasn’t like he was going to need it much longer anyway.
He looked at Knox, clenched his teeth to keep out the water, and mouthed the words, “I’m sorry.”
She nodded in understanding.
They were going to die. But at least they would die together.
Still pushing against the door with his shoulder, he reached out with his hand and she took it in hers.
He felt her hand tremble and he clinched it tight.
His air nearly gone, he turned to look back at her.
Her eyes were fluttering as the hypoxia took over.
In another moment their mouths would open and the water would rush in, fill their lungs, and that would be that.
He stopped pushing and turned to her, traced her jaw with his finger.
And then Puller held her tight.
And they died.
ANY MOMENT NOW he thought his head would explode.
Paul Rogers wiped at his eyes and refocused.
Building Q was across the street. He was hidden in a large clump of bushes.
He had decided he would stay here until he saw Claire Jericho walk either in or out of the place. And when she did he knew exactly what he was going to do.
If she didn’t, he was going to head to North Carolina and torture Josh Quentin until he had what he needed to get to Jericho.
It was getting dark now and he had watched workers leaving over the course of about two hours.
Jericho and Josh Quentin were not among them.
The guards made their patrols and Rogers kept his vigil.
Then around nine o’clock he saw the car pull down the street, pass his hiding place, and turn into the gate. It was directed to a parking space next to the gate.
He tensed as the two people got out.
One was the tall guy. Puller with CID. An Army cop. He was with a woman. They were led into the building by a guard.
“Son of a bitch,” muttered Rogers. So Puller was working with them. He was probably reporting to Jericho right now his interaction with Rogers, his dismantling of a team of killers at the bar. Jericho would know now that Rogers had returned.
Puller and the woman were spies for her.
Rogers rubbed at the spot on his head so hard that he could feel some of his scalp peel away. It started to bleed. He took no note of it. It didn’t matter.
He settled back in his hiding place and waited.
Less than thirty minutes later, Puller and the woman came out and got into the car. They didn’t drive off right away but just sat there.
Rogers couldn’t see their expressions from this distance, but he figured they must be feeling pretty good right about now. He imagined Jericho rewarding them somehow for having put her on to him.
He ran to his van and climbed in when they started their vehicle.
He dropped in behind them with his headlights off as they passed by where his van was parked, hidden by the corner of a building.
They drove out the main road leading out of the fort.
Rogers debated what to do. He could punch the gas and ram them, overpower them, and make them tell him what they had told Jericho. He thought he might do that before they reached the small downtown area just over the causeway.
He was just about to hit the gas when he stared straight ahead, amazed at what Puller was doing.
The car shot forward.
Has he spotted me? Is he trying to get away? Is the woman dialing Jericho right now? Will the choppers soon be appearing in the sky?
He started to accelerate when the sedan cut a sharp left, almost flipping over, hit a slight rise in the earth, and sailed over the wall and into the channel.
Rogers skidded to a stop and watched from his van as the car immediately began to sink.
What the hell is going on?
The car disappeared from view, a slight frothing of the water the only sign that it had been on the surface moments before.
As he watched his thoughts whirled.
Okay, they’re dead. That’ll save me the trouble.
But then something else occurred to him.
Puller saved my life. But I didn’t ask for his help. I owe him nothing.
Rogers counted off three seconds in his head and then kicked the van door open, leapt out, ran straight toward the channel, jumped high in the air, and dove into the water after taking a lungful of air.