By Russell Blake
Average 4.4 STARS
Code name: Jet
Twenty-eight-year-old Jet was once the Mossad's most lethal operative before faking her own death and burying that identity forever. But the past doesn't give up on its secrets easily.
When her new life on a tranquil island is shattered by a brutal attack, Jet must return to a clandestine existence of savagery and deception to save herself and those she loves. A gritty, unflinching roller-coaster of high-stakes twists and shocking turns, JET features a new breed of protagonist that breaks the mold.
Fans of Lizbeth Sanders, SALT, and the Bourne trilogy will find themselves carried along at Lamborghini speed to a conclusion as jarring and surprising as the story's heroine is unconventional.
Turquoise water lapped at the powdery sand on the leeward side of Trinidad, caressing the shore with a tranquil surge. Decrepit fishing skiffs with single outboard engines floated a dozen yards from the beach, tugging gently at their moorings as their captains lazed in the shade, passing rum bottles and familiar stories back and forth.
Music and the heady aroma of exotic food drifted on the evening air as the annual Carnival festival lurched into full roar. Excited groups of young children tore up and down the waterfront, peals of glee and laughter battling with the din of adult celebration. From far and wide, revelers packed the streets, beers hoisted high to the setting sun, welcoming the untamed night that was to follow. Flashes of coffee-colored skin, strong white teeth and long, smooth legs hinted at the weekend’s delights as a tremble of simmering promise pervaded the atmosphere, of possibility and inebriated hope. Drums pounded hypnotic tattoos as the flamboyant costumes and masks paraded, the natives and visitors alike bubbling with a giddy sense of abandon.
The chime of the little internet café’s front door sounded, jolting Maya’s focus from the computer screen at her desk in the rear office. She pushed her long, black hair from her face with a listless hand and clicked the mouse with a sigh, noting the onscreen time. There had been no visitors for at least an hour, and she was getting ready to close. Her assistant had taken off at five, eager to join the bash, leaving her to clean up at the end of the day. Now, four hours later, there was little hope of any more revenue with the town in party mode. Anyone on the streets would have a more tangible kind of entertainment in mind than the sort found in cyberspace.
As she shouldered through the hanging beads that separated the back from the storefront, a garrote looped over her head, and she barely got her left hand up in time to keep it from closing around her throat. She sensed the raw strength of her assailant as the wire bit into her hand and instinctively stomped on the top of his foot, trying to break his hold. Had Maya been wearing her boots, she would have broken metatarsal bones, but with tennis shoes, all her effort bought was a grunt and a momentary relaxation of the deadly pressure.
Blood ran down her wrist as she threw herself back, driving her attacker against a granite counter supporting a bank of monitors. A screen tumbled to the floor and shattered as she groped along the edge of the computers for anything she could use as a weapon.
Her fingers found the neck of a Fanta bottle, and she swung it back to where his head would be. It connected with a satisfying thunk, and she swung it again, this time feeling it break against his skull. Ignoring the pain from the garrote, she stabbed behind her head with the jagged edge of the broken bottle, again and again, then heard a muted exclamation as a warm gush sprayed against her upper back. The grip on her loosened, and she swung around, bringing her knee up in a fluid motion as she flung the garrote away. She felt her leg connect with the soft flesh of his groin and caught a brief impression of a hardened middle-aged face with blood streaming from the man’s lacerated cheek and right eye. He swung at her with a fist, but she ducked to the right, and the punch went wide. She slashed at him with the bottle again, then feinted with it as she kicked him in the abdomen with all her might.
The attacker’s legs buckled, and he stumbled, hitting his brutalized head against the counter as he dropped to one knee. Stunned, he reached into his pocket and extracted a switchblade. The blade snapped open – he lunged – she dodged the knife and kicked him again. This time he was ready for it; she felt the stiff muscles of his stomach tighten for the blow. As he crashed against the counter again, she flung the bottle at him then grabbed a flat screen monitor and swung it against his head, connecting with his cheekbone. The screen splintered as she continued to beat him with it, savaging what was left of his face.
But he still held onto the knife.
He threw himself against her, and she felt a stab of pain as the blade nicked her lower back even as she twisted to stay clear of it. She kneed him again, pulled a mouse free from the devastation and wrapped its cable around his neck, improvising a stranglehold.
The muscles in her arms bulged as she pulled against both ends of the wire, and the slashing of the knife gradually became feebler even as she stayed out of its reach. Maya ignored the blood streaming from the slice in her left hand as she strained to maintain her grip, watching as consciousness faded from the killer.
Aware that he was losing the struggle, he wrenched himself away, tearing the mouse cord from her hands. She rushed towards the cash register, hoping to grab one of the heavy metal pitchers she used for water and juice, but he swung a foot at her legs, bringing her down against the register before he spun, leaning against it for support as he lurched towards her, knife at the ready. She knew he was blinded by the blood streaming down his face, but that wouldn’t do her any good now that she’d lost the momentum and he was on the offensive.
He slashed at her again with the blade, catching her loose shirt but missing her ribs. She twisted and groped for the scissors she kept by the register, but her fingers felt a different, familiar shape. Chest heaving from exertion, she grabbed it and smashed it against his head with all her might.
His eyes widened in puzzled surprise before he dropped to the floor, twitching spasmodically.
She watched his death throes, eyeing the base of the receipt holder she had used, its six-inch steel spike driven through his ear into his brain. When he stopped convulsing, she fell back onto one of the swivel chairs, trembling slightly, and quickly took stock. The hand was messy, but when she flexed her fingers, they moved, so it was superficial. She could tell that the cut on her lower back was trivial, even though it stung a little. Most of the blood on her was from the dead man.
She stood panting for a few moments then, after glancing around, grabbed one of the shop T-shirts she sold to tourists and wrapped it around her hand. Returning to her attacker’s corpse, she leaned down and felt in his clothes for a weapon, but he’d carried nothing other than the garrote, the knife and a wallet with a no-name credit card and a few hundred dollars.
A noise at the back of the shop snapped her back into the moment. Someone was trying to get through the locked back door.
If they were professional, it wouldn’t stop them for long, she knew.
~ ~ ~
A gloved hand pushed the door open, the lock having proved a minor impediment easily overcome with a strategically placed silenced gunshot that shattered the doorjamb with a muffled crack. The cramped hallway was dark, so the intruder moved cautiously through it until he arrived at the small office. Leading with the barrel of his gun, he felt for the light switch on the wall, which he flicked – nothing happened.
The door opposite him burst wide as Maya exploded from the storage closet in a blur. He’d hardly registered her arrival when he dropped the weapon, his life blood pouring down his back from where she had driven the scissors between his shoulder blades, into his heart.
It was over within a few seconds. The intruder’s body slid to the floor and leaked out a dark puddle of crimson. Maya stepped over him, scooped up his pistol and checked it. A Beretta 92, full clip, so fourteen more rounds, allowing for the one used on the door. Custom-machined compact silencer. The gun had been modified to accommodate the suppressor; money and time had been expended – not good.
She crouched by the dead man and performed a quick search but found nothing other than another blank wallet with a few hundred dollars.
The slightest of scrapes sounded from near the back door.
Maya threw herself onto the floor of the hallway and fired close-quarters at the silhouette hulking in the doorframe. A grunt from the shooter, then a silenced slug tore a hole through the wall by her head. She fired two more rounds, and the attacker fell back onto the ground outside.
She waited. One beat. Two. Could be only three of them, or could be a fourth. Or more.
If anyone else was in the mix, they’d be smart to wait for her to come outside and check the body.
She jumped to her feet and ran to the front of the shop. She’d flipped off the breakers before hiding in the closet, so the storefront was now completely dark, the sun having completed its celestial plunge into the sea. Maya stopped at the counter and grabbed another T-shirt from the pile, stripping off her bloody top and replacing it with a clean dark blue one, then grabbed a roll of paper towels from behind the register and made a makeshift dressing for her hand, stuffing another wad into her bag. The gash was already clotting. Even if it felt awful, she’d live.
She paused, ears straining for any sounds. Music from the street and occasional whoops of passing celebrators were the only ones she detected.
Nothing from the back of the shop.
Maya pulled her purse over her shoulder and clutched the gun inside it so it wouldn’t cause panic on the street. Glancing through the windows, she estimated there were easily a couple of hundred people meandering outside, which would make it easy to disappear into the crowd, but would also make it tougher to spot potential attackers. She took one more look at the carnage in the little internet café that had been her livelihood for the last two years and inhaled a deep breath. Nothing good would come from stalling the inevitable, and with any luck, she now had an element of surprise in her favor.
She swung open the front door and stepped out into the fray, alert for anything suspicious. Waves of inebriated locals flowed tipsily down the sidewalks, spilling into the streets, which were closed to cars for the duration of the festival. Two jugglers – high on stilts – tossed balls back and forth, their painted faces leering mirth at the throng beneath.
An explosion ripped into the air overhead, jarring, causing her to cringe. Another sounded before she took in the delighted expressions around her – the detonations were fireworks starbursting amid the fervor of festivities.
She shook herself mentally, forcing her pulse back to normal. The old instincts were rusty, yet it was all coming back in a rush. A third boom reverberated across the waterfront street, and a staccato popping of secondary fireworks followed it, the glow from the red and blue blossoms illuminating the night sky.
She reached the far corner and moved without hesitation across the road to the cluster of buildings that comprised the center of the little beach area where her café was located. She used the storefront windows to study her surroundings, pausing every fifty yards to scan for threats.
Whoever had come after her was deadly serious. The weapons and the approach were uber-pro. Her carefully-constructed peaceful existence was blown. But why this – why now? And who? It made no sense.
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