'I don't know.' Rake's phone vibrated through its waterproof case. The caller was Harry Lucas, the government defense contractor running the mission. 'We have her,' said Rake. 'She's badly hit. There's been a firefight.'
'We picked up that much.' Lucas voice was clipped. 'What happened?'
'They tried to kill her. They backed off. Then they tried again. We got her out.'
'But why?' Lucas asked testily, as if Rake would know. 'We're meant to be working with the Russians on this.'
'You tell me, Harry. It's your op.' Rake stayed on the right side of anger. Lucas was responsible, but Rake doubted it was his fault. He was too thorough for that, and security operations could somersault at any time.
'Is she conscious?' Lucas asked.
'In and out. What do you need?'
'She should have a thumb drive.'
'If it's there, I'll get it. What's on it?'
'A cryptographic code.'
'Code for what?'
Lucas didn't answer. Rake pressed, 'What do I ask her, Harry? She's conscious now. In five minutes, she might be dead. So, what do we ask her?'
'The drive contains details of a new weapon that's out there.' Lucas drew a breath. 'We don't know what, except it's a game-changer.'
'So why are the Russians giving it to us?'
'Best guess is that the Russian military wants it. The Kremlin doesn't, especially now with its new détente with us, which is why they're sharing.'
'You need to know what the weapon is?'
'Correct, and get her identity and the drive that she's carrying.'
Inside the school, on Carrie's instructions, they lay the woman on a stainless-steel dining table fixed to the floor with benches each side. Behind was a kitchen. Her wounded right leg sprang out and recoiled, an unconscious reaction to a nerve message. Joan's husband, Henry, held it and scissored through her pants.
Mikki prepared a tourniquet. Joan rested her hand on the patient's neck, speaking to her softly.
Carrie saw Rake on the phone and said, 'We need an air ambulance. Now.'
Rake repeated to Lucas, who had anticipated it, 'Thirty minutes out.'
Joan held the woman's hand. She and Henry had raised Rake from the age of seven. His mother left when he was five. His father stayed another two years, then vanished too. There was a rumor he had gone to Russia.
The woman's eyes opened unsteadily, trying to focus on the ceiling. Her breathing was steady. The way her head tilted emphasized her Asiatic features. She was slight and fit. Her hair was black, her eyes green-blue, her height around five foot eight. Her clothes—warm, tough, designed for travel—would have been all right for a fast, secure crossing, but not for going into near-freezing sea water with no wetsuit, only a protective green one-piece which was torn at the top, a zip pocket sliced through, fabric hanging loose. This was where she would likely have secured the drive, zipped and waterproof. Rake felt inside and found nothing.
Carrie shone a flashlight into her eyes which were half-open but unresponsive. She raised the woman's head to examine the back. Blood ran from the ear around the temple to the base of the skull. She moved the flashlight to the ear. 'Torso,' she said. Joan cut open the shirt and vest. There was a raw blood mark where a single round had penetrated below the ribcage. It looked slight, even harmless. But a single bullet could rip through muscle, bone, organs and blood vessels, and the damage would be near invisible.
From the amount of blood on the clothing, Rake thought an artery might be severed. But her life had been saved by Carrie's clotting agent and Mikki's tourniquet. The patient shifted, seemed to want to push herself up.
Carrie put her arm under her shoulders, taking her weight. 'My name is Dr Carrie Walker. We're going to get you well. You're in America. You are safe.'
Rake was at Carrie's side and said, 'Where is the drive—'
'Not now,' Carrie snapped.
Rake kept going. He crouched so he was close to her face. 'What is the weapon?'
Her eyes opened, trembled, closed again. Carrie lowered her back.
'The drive?' Rake pressed. 'Where is the drive?'
Carrie's gripped Rake's shoulder, trying to pull him away. Joan arranged a pillow under the patient's head.
'The code?' Rake sensed Carrie's growing hostility. The survival of her patient was pitted against retrieving the information she carried.
'Not safe.' Barely a whisper, breath from her lips. She lost her strength.
'The Kremlin?' tried Rake, hoping one of his questions would prompt a response.
This excerpt ends on page 13 of the hardcover edition.
Monday, September 20th, we begin the book The Therapist by B. A. Paris.