A SOLDIER'S QUEST

The Luchettis Book #5

 

 

   Someday his tombstone might read: Another day, another hellhole.

   And that would be fine with Bobby. He’d been in more down-and-out countries than he could remember. Most of the time no one even knew he was there before he was gone.

   This mission, however, was different from the usual hit-and-run operation. He had a bad feeling this one might get him killed. Which would be an incredible joke on him.

   “Mexico,” he muttered. “Hardly any Americans die in Mexico.”

   Unless they drink the water.”

   Something skittered across the sand, then across Bobby’s boot. The stench of rotting vegetation, or maybe just garbage, teased his nose. A baby cried; someone moaned. One dog’s yip was answered by a dozen more. In Mexico, the ratio of stray dogs to drug dealers was about even.

   Sweat trickled down his chest. In this heat a normal man would be wearing shorts instead of cargo

pants, a muscle shirt instead of a black T-shirt, and sandals or bare feet instead of army boots. Of course Bobby had never been normal—or so his brothers always told him.

   “I could have been a farmer.” But he’d chosen the army instead.

   From his eighteenth year he’d worked his way up, until he was the elite of the elite. An operator, a D-boy, the Dreaded D—the army rarely uttered the word Delta—their force was that secret.

   “So what am I doing here?”

   Talking to himself, which he really needed to stop. Just because this was a cakewalk didn't mean he shouldn’t follow procedure. Namely, no yapping in the jungle.

   He’d come alone—singleton mission. Why waste two or more highly trained counterterrorism operators on an assignment that could be completed by a green recruit?

   Though Delta’s main function had once been hostage rescue, they’d become a lot more over the years. Bobby was now trained for threats on a global scale. Which was why it would be a genuine laugh-o-rama if he got killed rescuing the doctor daughter of a U.S. senator in the seemingly tame Yucatan Peninsula.

   Of course, tame was a relative term. The state of Quintana Roo was a hotbed for drug cartels. Still, when compared to some of the places Bobby had been, some of the things he had seen, Mexico was downright peaceful. Nevertheless, even a docile dog could turn mean if poked too much and too hard.

   Bobby pushed aside his misgivings, labeling the icy trickle of superstition down his spine as nothing more than another stream of sweat. He’d been living in sweaty countries for years. Why was the weather bothering him now?

   Because he wanted this done. He wanted out of here. He wanted to go home.

   And that was as strange as his premonition of disaster.

   After leaving Wind Lake, Bobby had done what he did best. He disappeared. Not very adult of him, but he’d been upset and he needed to return to the place where he was the strongest, the smartest the best. When Bobby was in the field, he was the king and the world was his kingdom.

   A short trip to Honduras had been followed by a longer one to Costa Rica. When the call had come in about the kidnapped doctor, he’d been so close it would have been foolish for him not to go.

   Bobby lifted his night-vision goggles and took yet another gander at the hut where Dr. Harker was supposedly detained. No moon tonight but that didn’t bother him. He could see pretty well in the dark, even without the goggles.

   People milled around the last shack on the left; a few of them held submachine guns. There were too many souls in the vicinity to extract the good doctor without an outcry. He’d hang around until the majority went to bed, then disable the guards and slip away with the woman he’d been sent to rescue.

   Having a plan made Bobby feel a lot better. He was spooked only because he missed home so badly. He never had before.

His mother, the queen of guilt, would have his head if she ever got hold of him. Shame tickled his gut. He’d called once after the fiasco with Colin, been thrilled when the answering machine picked up so he could leave a message telling everyone not to worry.

He hadn’t called back because he didn’t want to hear the lecture. Bobby would rather face… pretty much anything rather than listen to his mother when she was mad—and he had a feeling she was pretty mad right about now.

   Bobby took another glance at the hut. The crowd had dispersed, leaving behind only the goons with guns. He’d give the village an hour to fall asleep, then he’d make his move.

   Except the guards walked away. Not too far, but far enough that Bobby reconsidered disabling them. With a reasonable distraction, he could sneak into the hut and make off with the doctor. They might not know she was gone until morning, and by then it would be too late.

   He tried to think of a diversion that wouldn’t wake the entire village. Maybe a dog fight. If he could just find a nice piece of kibble, he’d throw it into the fray and—

   A sudden stillness drew his attention. The men with the guns had disappeared. The doctor’s hut stood quiet, dark, unguarded. This was too easy. Did they know he was here? Were they setting a trap?

   No way. If Bobby could do one thing extremely well, it was become invisible. He’d perfected that skill before he’d joined the army.

   Growing up in a houseful of kids—five boys, one girl—with a mother who took nothing from no one and had eyes in the back of her head, Bobby had learned early on to sneak under the incredible radar of Eleanor Luchetti. A drug dealer with a submachine gun would run screaming if he spent more than two hours in the woman’s company.

   Bobby discovered he was smiling at the memory of his mommy and forced himself to stop. He was on a mission and he’d better get to it.

   Needing to move quickly and silently, he concealed most of his equipment in the jungle. Taking only his sidearm, rifle and a knife in his boot, Bobby stuffed extra ammo in his voluminous and plentiful pant’s pockets before creeping from his hiding place. He’d either make a clean getaway with the doctor, or return to his original plan, take out the guards, then get away with the doctor. With luck, he’d be home for dinner tomorrow.

   He ran toward the hut, keeping low. The sand shifted beneath his boots with no more than a whisper. He reached the back of the shack and scanned the village.

  Not an outcry was raised, not a shadow slunk anywhere that he could see. A dog barked, but with no more enthusiasm than before.

   Success.

   He peered into the hut through the hole in the wall that served as a window. “Psst” he whispered. “Doctor?”

The lump in the bed didn't move. Did he have the right place?

   A more thorough examination of the interior revealed medical equipment and textbooks all jumbled together with girlie stuff on the table—although the girlie stuff in this case was sunscreen and a sturdy wide-brimmed hat with a red bandanna tied around the crown.'

   His sister, Kim, had always intermingled her lotions and potions with her schoolbooks, her hair ribbons with her pens and pencils. He didn't understand women. What a surprise.

   Bobby slid past the curtain that doubled as a door. He opened his mouth to hail the doctor again, but the word stuck in his throat. The lump in the bed was gone.

   “Shit,” he muttered an instant before a knife pricked him in the side.

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