Overwatch CHAPTER 1
29 OCTOBER 2008
Logan West opened his bloodshot green eyes as he emerged from unconsciousness. Light pierced his vision, and pain lanced through his head like a sharp knife. His forehead throbbed relentlessly as the brightness slowly dimmed.
He was facedown on the carpeted floor of his basement, his left arm stretched out above his head. He turned his wrist to look at his watch. It was almost one thirty in the afternoon.
I remember the first whiskey sometime around six o’clock, but there’s no way this is from only last night. Oh God . . .
With a dawning sense of horror, he realized he’d lost at least forty hours. A whole day? I’ve never blacked out that long before. It’s getting worse.
He struggled to his knees, his right arm fully extended, bracing himself for a fall that didn’t come. A wave of nausea washed over him. This is going to be a bad one, he thought. He felt the acrid bile rising in his throat when he heard a disembodied voice from across the room. “I was wondering when you were going to wake up. I’ve been waiting all night.”
The voice had the effect of ice-cold water thrown in Logan’s face, instantly suppressing the nausea and clearing his cloudy mind. He turned his head to look at the intruder, his mind feverishly working to regain its bearings.
The man was smiling as he leaned against the long marble-top bar fifteen feet from Logan. He appeared to be Hispanic, in his late twenties or early thirties. His hair was black and cropped closely, almost in a military manner but without the sides shaved to the skin. He wore a white long-sleeved thermal tee shirt under a black polo, as if trying to hide his muscular frame. His dark-brown eyes curiously assessed Logan, and although the man appeared relaxed, his overall demeanor presented a different picture. A neon sign flashed in the darkened street of Logan’s mind. This man’s a professional. And then . . . More importantly, he’s a threat.
A multitude of questions ricocheted in Logan’s head. None of them mattered. Logan knew the intruder wasn’t here to nurse him back to health. “Who the hell are you?” He wobbled on his hands and knees.
“That’s not important,” the man responded. The smile faded to reveal the hard interior beneath the cool facade. “But what is important—extremely important—is that you have something we want. Let me rephrase: need.” Logan’s unease grew at the man’s tone. “And as soon as you get your sorry ass off that floor, you’re going to tell me where it is.” The certainty in the man’s voice triggered the final alarms in Logan’s head.
Logan West, relapsing alcoholic, was still a man who, once committed to anything—a plan, a promise, an ideal—was relentless in its pursuit. He evaluated a situation so rapidly that his former platoon sergeant had repeatedly accused him of acting recklessly; however, in each of those former situations, Logan’s judgment had always proven correct and above reproach. He just understood and saw things before others did.
Unfortunately, that was before alcohol had forced its insidious way into every aspect of his life, including his decision-making abilities. Had he been completely sober, the rational part of his mind might have stopped him, but Logan West hadn’t been himself for months, and this afternoon was no different. This time, his platoon sergeant would’ve been correct. He acted before thinking.
He launched himself across the basement floor like a sprinter out of the starting block. His speed caught the intruder off guard—but only slightly. As Logan covered the distance in four long strides, a long blade appeared in the man’s right hand.
Logan was almost upon the man, his left shoulder raised and his right arm at his waist, both hands in fists. As he gained momentum, he moved his head to the left in a quick feint, hoping the man would draw back and provide an opening Logan could exploit. Otherwise, plan B was to plow into the man as hard and fast as he could.
Instead, the man violently flicked his right arm upward in an arcing uppercut motion. Logan, surprised by his miscalculation—not the first one of the day—saw the blade rush past his face. Even as he moved his head away, he felt a searing pain race across his left cheek. His mind registered the soft pat . . . pat . . . pat . . . of blood droplets cascading to the carpeted floor.
Then the sound was gone as his 210-pound frame crashed squarely into the assailant’s chest and forcefully slammed his back against the marble countertop. Logan heard the man grunt, his breath expelled in a sudden gasp, and Logan seized the momentary opening.
He delivered a vicious short punch to the inside of the man’s right wrist, causing his hand to open reflexively. The knife fell to the carpet and softly bounced away, landing near the bench press machine of Logan’s multistation gym.
Now disarmed, the man lowered his arms to protect himself as Logan assaulted his ribs with a furious onslaught of violent punches.
Logan sensed the tide of battle distinctly turn in his favor. He reached upward and grabbed the back of the man’s head, intent on delivering a knee to the man’s face to swiftly end the confrontation.
The attacker sensed his intent and countered. Rather than try to ply Logan’s arms from his head, he quickly snaked his right arm over Logan’s left arm and under the right one. The man’s left palm struck his own right hand with an upward blow with enough force to break Logan’s grip, flinging Logan’s arms up and away from him. The smart, defensive move of a trained professional, Logan thought.
The wounded intruder stepped forward and quickly delivered a side kick that squarely connected with Logan’s stomach. Logan stumbled backward, and his legs struck the seat of the pull-down station of the gym. He felt himself falling, and he grabbed the pull-down bar still attached to the pulley’s cable suspended over his head. His fall abruptly stopped, and Logan teetered precariously, twisting in the air from side to side.
Logan glanced at his enemy—how he now thought of the intruder—as he dangled from the pull-down bar. He recognized the change in his thinking, but he didn’t have time to contemplate the psychological implications of it. To his dismay, his enemy had moved closer to the dropped knife as Logan had fallen backward. In another moment, he’d have it—as well as the tactical advantage.
Logan did the only thing he could. As the man dove for the knife, Logan regained his balance, reached up, and unhooked the carabiner that secured the pull-down bar to the cable. He grabbed the bar with both hands and wielded it above his head like an awkwardly shaped sword, a heavy weapon forged from the top of a wide parallelogram. He stepped forward and swung the bar downward with all his might.
The attacker was prone on his stomach, crawling toward the knife with his hand outstretched, when one end of the metal bar violently collided with the back of his neck. He didn’t have time to register the fact that the end of his life had arrived.
Logan heard a sickening crunch! like popcorn being stepped on with a hard-soled shoe, and then the intruder sprawled forward, his spine severed. Logan watched as the man’s legs kicked spasmodically, his lungs shut down, and he began to suffocate.
Logan stared impassively at the dying man. You brought this on yourself. After a brief period, the man’s body stopped moving. Silence engulfed the basement in the aftermath of the battle.
The adrenaline rush that had swept away his hangover suddenly subsided, and Logan felt the all-too-familiar effects of his self-destructive behavior return. He realized he was breathing hard, and he forced himself to take slow, deep breaths. He was still thinking only one step at a time. Now that the fight was over, he needed to clear his head and figure out who the dead man was.
He bent over slowly to prevent the accompanying dizziness he often felt after a hard night’s drinking. He grabbed the man’s left arm and rolled him over onto his back. The dead man’s eyes looked at him accusingly. Logan didn’t care. Something else had grabbed his attention.
The left sleeve of the thermal tee had been pushed up his forearm during the fight, revealing a tattoo of a pair of .50-caliber bullets crossed in front of a skull. You’ve got to be kidding me. Who the hell was this guy?
He’d seen a tattoo like this on one of his Marines in Fallujah. The young sniper’s favorite weapon had been his Barrett .50-caliber sniper rifle, and the sergeant had been eager to broadcast it to the rest of his team.
They’d initially ribbed him with copious sarcasm when he’d received the tattoo. Fortunately for all of them, the sergeant had proved to be a deadly, accurate shot. After three days of heavy fighting in Fallujah, he’d earned the right to wear the ink proudly. No one said a word about it afterward.
Logan turned his thoughts to the present. The dead man lying in his basement wore tactical boots, had possessed a military demeanor, and was illustrated with a killer’s tattoo. It was the knife near the dead man’s hand that told Logan that his attacker was a skilled professional. Of the pay-for-hire kind, he thought. It was matte black with a ribbed handle for an improved grip during hand-to-hand combat.
His world tottered again. Logan felt another wave of nausea overtake him. He sat down on the basement floor as the withdrawal symptoms set in, and he knew they weren’t going to go away this time. He needed a drink to alleviate their severity. But first, there was one thing even more important.
I have to call Mike.
At six foot two inches and close to 220 pounds, Special Agent Mike Benson hunched over his desk. He scrolled through the latest National Counterterrorism Center intelligence report on a laptop that felt tiny in his massive hands. His phone suddenly rang, the only noise in his private office.
The ringing was a welcome relief. He could only process so many threats to his country at one time. Most of them were the result of erroneous or faulty intelligence, thankfully. Unfortunately, it seemed like every extremist group associated with Al Qaeda was in the planning stages of a major operation against either the US homeland, US embassies worldwide, or US allies. It wasn’t a good time to be a Westerner overseas.
He removed his hand from the mouse and picked up the phone. “FBI, Washington, DC, Field Office, Special Agent Benson.”
“Mike, it’s Logan. I don’t know what you’re doing, but I need your help, and I need it now.”
At the word now and the tone with which Logan used it, alarm bells sounded in Mike’s head. He immediately knew it was serious. So much for the NCTC.
It wasn’t an exaggeration to say that Mike owed Logan his life from their time in Iraq before the surge. “Just reading some bullshit report. Where are you?”
“At home . . . the Annapolis one. How soon can you get here?” The urgency in his voice heightened Mike’s level of tension.
Mike looked at the time on his computer. It was 1:35 p.m. Traffic out of DC wouldn’t be too bad, especially moving outbound toward the capital city on the west side of the Chesapeake Bay.
“Give me forty-five minutes or so. Anything I need to know beforehand?”
“Yeah. Come alone and don’t tell anyone . . . at least not yet.” Logan paused. “It seems I’m in a bit of a bind, but at least I’m better off than the dead guy in my basement.” He said it as matter-of-factly as if he were reciting a dinner menu.
Logan didn’t give Mike a chance to respond. “See you soon,” he said and hung up.
Mike stared at the receiver in his right hand, thankful Logan had abruptly ended the conversation. He hadn’t had time to formulate a response—let alone a thought—before the phone went silent.
He’d once vowed to Logan that no matter what the cost, he’d be there for him. As he looked at the phone, he realized he was about to test that commitment. Dismissing from his mind the number of laws he was likely about to break, he got up from his desk and moved toward the door.
What the hell now, Logan? I thought we left all the dead guys in the desert.