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"I'm just looking for what flight she may have taken. We're expecting her to arrive this afternoon."

"I'm sorry, you'll have to get that information from Deputy Director Reynolds."

"Fine," Donovan replied. He'd known Calvin Reynolds for years, but why would Lauren's itinerary have to come from her boss. "Let me talk to him."

"I'm afraid he's off-site today."

"If you talk to him, have him give me a call," Donovan said. "He's got my number."

"I'll pass your message along, Mr. Nash."

"Thanks." Donovan hung up, checked his phone once again for any message from his wife, still nothing. He hurried toward the bathroom for his shower. As the hot, needle-sharp spray peppered his skin, Donovan found he couldn't shake the cloud of questions swirling in his head. Where was Lauren? Why hadn't she contacted him?


CHAPTER THREE

Lauren opened her eyes and found that the sun had risen far above the horizon. Something had woken her from a restless sleep. The mud on her face had cracked and dried, and the smell of putrid fish hung heavy in the air. Daniel was still in the shallow water beside her. During the night she'd managed to take his belt and used it to secure him to a log so he wouldn't float away. In the sunlight, she studied his slack features. They'd been in their mid-twenties when they were together. He was in his mid-forties now, but the man she'd known was still clearly visible. He was thin, a runner, with dark hair and brown, fiercely attentive eyes. He never possessed leading- man looks, but she'd been attracted to him for his clumsy sense of humor and considerable intellect.

From his dossier she knew that life hadn't been easy or kind to him since school. He'd married years ago, not long after graduating from MIT. His wife had left him and their daughter, Samantha, and run off with another man. Daniel had raised his daughter as a single parent since she was ten. From what Lauren had read, Samantha had never been in trouble, and Lauren had no doubt that Daniel would have given her the love, attention, and energy she needed. Over the years, Daniel had gone from project to project without any real focus or drive only to end up here, dying in a muddy river in Eastern Europe. Lauren had no real idea how all of this could have happened.

When Lauren heard the sound of men talking, her attention immediately snapped from Daniel to the voices. She could make out at least three different men. Farmers, soldiers, she had no idea, but they were getting close. She caught sight of them through the brush. There were three of them and they were on foot. They were only thirty feet away on what looked like a crude path. As they walked past, she remained motionless until they moved beyond her hiding place. Then Lauren quietly slithered out from beneath the pile of brush, and climbed the bank until she spotted the men in the distance. She crouched behind a thick bush and evaluated her situation. Two of the men were in uniform, carrying rifles. The third looked to be a civilian. He wore gray pants and a shirt that may have once been white, a blue bandana around his neck, and a straw hat perched on his head. A farmer perhaps, a man used to being out in the sun.

Lauren took in her surroundings. Where the trees ended, there looked to be a wider path or a primitive road; on the other side of that were more trees. As much as she wanted to get away from this place, in broad daylight, the best move was to stay where she was. Careful to mask her footprints, Lauren slid down the bank and crawled back under her makeshift canopy.

She thought back to the night before. The pilot briefed her that he intended to stay low until they reached the outskirts of Budapest, where there was a small airfield. He was going to climb into Hungarian airspace from there, appearing as if they'd just taken off. From there, the plan was to fly to Vienna. They hadn't been airborne very long, which meant someone either knew where they were going or that Daniel had been followed. High in the morning sky, Lauren spotted the contrail from an overflying jet, it was headed west, the direction she wanted to go. Home was due west, but help would not be coming. The entire mission to extract Daniel was off-book, which gave the United States Government complete deniability.

Lauren began to grasp the enormity of her situation. She swatted a large bug that was crawling on her wrist and grimaced as it fell away. She fought the overwhelming desolation of being alone in a hostile land. Her first order of business was Daniel. Her eyes filled with tears at what she needed to do, how horrible it was for him to end like this.


This excerpt is from the hardcover edition.
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