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Hunting Zero

Джек Марс
Hunting Zero




They were directed to the stern of the ship, where the man in the leather jacket took out a ring of keys and unlocked the padlock on the door of a boxy steel crate, painted a rusty orange.

He swung the door open, and Maya gasped in horror.

Inside the crate, squinting in the dim yellow light, were several other young girls, at least four or five that Maya could see.

Then she was shoved from behind, forced inside. Sara was too, and she fell to her knees on the floor of the small container. As the door swung behind them, Maya scrambled to her and wrapped Sara in her arms.

Then the door slammed shut, and they were plunged into darkness.


The sun set quickly in the overcast sky as the quadcopter raced north to deliver its cargo, one determined CIA operative and father, to the Starlight Motel in New Jersey.

His ETA was five minutes. A message on the screen blinked a warning: Prepare to deploy. He glanced out the side of the cockpit and saw, far below, that they were soaring over a wide industrial park of boxy warehouses and manufacturing facilities, sitting silent and dark, illuminated only by the dots of orange streetlights.

He unzipped the black duffel bag sitting in his lap. Inside he found two holsters and two guns. Reid struggled out of his jacket in the tiny cockpit and put on the shoulder rig that held a Glock 22, standard-issue—none of Bixby’s high-tech biometric trigger locks like he had with the Glock 19. He pulled his jacket back on and tugged up the leg of his jeans to attach the ankle holster that held his backup weapon of choice, the Ruger LC9. It was a compact pistol with a stubby barrel, nine-millimeter caliber in a nine-round expanded box magazine that stuck out just an inch and a half further than the grip.

He had one hand on the rappelling crossbar, ready to disembark from the manned drone as soon as they reached a safe altitude and speed. He was just about to tug the headset from his ears when Watson’s voice came through it.


“Nearly there. Just under two minutes—”

“We just got another photo, Kent,” Watson cut him off. “Sent to your daughter’s phone.”

Icy fingers of panic gripped Reid’s heart. “Of them?”

“Sitting on a bed,” Watson confirmed. “Looks like it could be the motel.”

“The number it came from, can it be traced?” Reid asked hopefully.

“Sorry. He already ditched it.”

His hope deflated. Rais was smart; so far he had sent photos of only where he had been, not where he was. If there was any chance of Agent Zero catching up to him, the assassin wanted it to be on his terms. For the entire ride in the quadcopter, Reid had been nervously optimistic about the motel lead, anxious that they had might have caught up to Rais’s game.

But if there was a photo… then there was a good chance they had already moved on.

No. You can’t think like that. He wants you to find him. He chose a motel in the middle of nowhere specifically for that reason. He’s baiting you. They’re here. They have to be.

“Were they okay? Did they look… are they hurt…?”

“They looked okay,” Watson told him. “Upset. Scared. But okay.”

The message on the screen changed, blinking in red: Deploy. Deploy.

Regardless of the photo or his thoughts, he’d arrived. He had to see for himself. “I have to go.”

“Make it quick,” Watson told him. “One of my guys is calling in a false lead at the motel matching Rais’s and your daughters’ description.”

“Thanks, John.” Reid pulled off the headset, made sure he had a tight grip on the rappel bar, and stepped out of the quadcopter.

The controlled descent of fifty feet to the ground was faster than he anticipated and took his breath away. The familiar thrill, the rush of adrenaline, coursed through his veins as wind roared in his ears. He bent his knees slightly on approach and touched down onto asphalt in a crouch.

As soon as he released the rappel bar the line zipped back up to the quadcopter, and the drone buzzed away into the night, returning to wherever it had come from.

Reid glanced around quickly. He was in the parking lot of a warehouse across the street from the dingy motel, dimly lit by only a few yellow bulbs outside. A hand-painted sign facing the street told him that he was in the right place.

He scanned left and right as he hurried across the empty street. It was quiet here, eerily quiet. There were three cars in the lot, each spaced out along the row of rooms facing him—and one of them was clearly the white SUV that had been stolen from the used car lot in Maryland.

It was parked right outside of a room with a brass number 9 on the door.

There were no lights on inside; it didn’t seem like anyone was staying there at the moment. Even so, he dropped his bag just outside the door and listened carefully for about three seconds.

He didn’t hear anything, so he pulled the Glock from his shoulder holster and kicked the door in.

The jamb splintered easily as the door flew open and Reid stepped inside, the gun level at the darkness. Yet nothing moved in the shadows. There were still no sounds, no one crying out in surprise or scrambling for a weapon.

His left hand felt along the wall for a light switch and flicked it on. Room 9 had an orange carpet and yellow wallpaper that was curling at the corners. The room had recently been cleaned, insofar as “cleaned” seemed to go at the Starlight Motel. The bed had been hastily made and it reeked of cheap aerosol disinfectant.

But it was empty. His heart sank. There was no one here—no Sara or Maya or the assassin that had taken them.

Reid stepped carefully, looking over the room. Near the door was a green armchair. The fabric of the seat cushion and back was slightly discolored with the imprint of someone who had sat there recently. He knelt beside it, outlining the shape of the person with his gloved fingertips.

Someone sat here for hours. About six-foot, a hundred and eighty pounds.

It was him. He sat here, next to the only point of entry, near the window.

Reid tucked his gun back into its holster and carefully peeled back the bedspread. The sheets were stained; they hadn’t been changed. He inspected them cautiously, lifting each pillow in turn, careful not to disrupt any potential evidence.

He found two blonde hairs, long strands without the roots. They had fallen out naturally. He found a single brunette strand in the same fashion. They were here, together, on this bed, while he sat there and watched them. But why? Why had Rais brought them here? Why had they stopped? Was it another ploy in the assassin’s cat-and-mouse game, or was he waiting for something?

Maybe he was waiting for me. I took too long to follow the clues. Now they’re gone again.

If Watson had called in the fake report, the police would be at the motel in minutes, and Strickland was likely already on a chopper. But Reid refused to leave without something to go on, or else all of it would have been for nothing, just another dead end.

He hurried to the motel office.

The carpet was green and coarse beneath his boots, reminiscent of Astroturf. The place stank of cigarette smoke. Beyond the counter was a dark doorway, and behind it Reid could hear something playing at low volume, a radio or television.

He rang the service bell on the counter, a dissonant chime ringing out in the quiet office.

“Hmm.” He heard a soft grunt from the back room, but no one came.

Reid rang the bell again three times in quick succession.

“All right, man! Jesus.” A male voice. “I’m coming.” A young man stepped out from the rear. He looked to be in his mid-twenties or early thirties; it was hard for Reid to tell on account of his bad skin and red-rimmed eyes, which he rubbed as if he’d just awoken from a nap. There was a small silver hoop in his left nostril and his dirty-blond hair was trussed up in mangy-looking dreadlocks.

He stared at Reid for a long moment, as if annoyed by the very concept of someone walking through the office door. “Yeah? What?”

“I’m looking for information,” Reid said flatly. “There was a man here recently, Caucasian, early thirties or so, with two teenage girls. One brunette, and a younger one, blonde. He drove that white SUV here. They stayed in room nine—”

“You a cop?” the clerk interrupted.

Reid was quickly growing irritated. “No. I’m not a cop.” He wanted to add that he was the father of those two girls, but he stopped himself; he didn’t want this clerk to be able to identify him by any more than he already could.

“Look, bro, I don’t know nothin’ about teenage girls,” the clerk insisted. “What people do here is their business—”

“I just want to know when he was here. If you saw the two girls. I want the name that the man gave you. I want to know if he paid in cash or with a card. If it was a card, I want the last four digits of the number. And I want to know if he said anything at all, or if you overheard anything, that might tell me where he went from here.”

The clerk stared at him for a long moment, and then he let out a hoarse, raspy snicker. “My man, look around you. This ain’t the kind of place that takes names or credit cards or anything like that. This is the kind of place people rent rooms by the hour, if you know what I mean.”

Reid’s nostrils flared. He’d had just about enough of this nitwit. “There must be something, anything, you can tell me. When did they check in? When did they check out? What did he say to you?”

The clerk shot him a pointed stare. “What’s it worth to you? For fifty bucks I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”

Reid’s fury ignited like a fireball as he reached across the counter, grabbed the young clerk by the front of his T-shirt, and yanked him forward, almost off his feet. “You have no idea what you’re keeping me from,” he growled in the kid’s face, “or how far I’ll go to get it. You’re going to tell me what I want to know or you’ll be eating through a straw for the foreseeable future.”


The clerk put his hands up, his eyes wide as Reid shook him. “All right, man! All right! There’s a, uh, registry under the counter… let me grab it and I’ll look it up. I’ll tell you when they were here. Okay?”

Reid hissed a breath and released the young guy. He stumbled back, smoothed his T-shirt, and then reached for something unseen beneath the counter.

“Place like this,” the clerk said slowly, “the kind of people we get here… they value their privacy, if you know what I mean. They don’t care much for people snooping.” He took two slow steps back, withdrawing his right arm from underneath the counter… as it gripped the dark brown slide of a sawed-off twelve-gauge shotgun.

Reid sighed ruefully and shook his head. “You’re going to wish you hadn’t done that.” The clerk was wasting his time for the sake of protecting scumbags like Rais—not that he knew what Rais was involved in, but other sordid types, pimps and traffickers and the like.

“Go on back to the suburbs, man.” The barrel of the shotgun was pointed at center mass, but it was shaky. Reid got the impression that the kid had used it to threaten, but never actually fired it before.

He had no doubt that he had the faster draw on the clerk; he wouldn’t even hesitate to shoot him, in the shoulder or in the leg, if it meant getting what he needed. But he didn’t want to fire a shot. The report would be heard for a half mile in the industrial park. It might spook whatever guests were staying in the motel—might even prompt someone to call the police, and he didn’t need that attention.

Instead he took a different approach. “You sure that thing’s loaded?” he asked.

The clerk glanced down at the shotgun for a dubious second. In that moment, with his gaze averted, Reid planted a hand firmly on the counter and vaulted over it easily. At the same time he swung out his right leg and kicked the shotgun out of the clerk’s hands. As soon as his feet were on the ground he leaned forward and swung his elbow into the kid’s nose. A sharp gasp erupted from the clerk’s throat as blood flowed from both nostrils.

Then, just for good measure, Reid grabbed a fistful of filthy dreadlocks and slammed the guy’s face into the counter.

The clerk collapsed to the rough green carpet, moaning as he spat blood onto the floor from his nose and two cracked lips. He groaned and tried to get to his hands and knees. “You… oh, god… you broke my fuckin’ nose, man!”

Reid snapped up the shotgun. “That’s the least of your concerns right now.” He pressed the barrel into the dirty-blond dreadlocks.

The clerk immediately dropped to his stomach and whimpered. “Don’t… don’t kill me… please don’t… please… don’t kill me…”

“Give me your phone.”

“I don’t… I don’t have one…”

Reid bent at the waist and quickly patted the guy down. He was being honest; he didn’t have a phone, but he did have a wallet. Reid flipped it open and checked the driver’s license.

“George.” Reid scoffed. The clerk didn’t look much like a George. “You got a car here, George?”

“I got, I got a dirt bike, p-parked out back…”

“Good enough. Here’s what’s going to happen, George. I’m taking your bike. You, you’re going to walk out of here. Or run, if you prefer. You’re going to go to the hospital and get your nose checked out. You’re going to tell them that you were sucker-punched in a bar. You’re not going to say a word about this place, or a word about me.” He leaned over and lowered his voice. “Because I’ve got a police scanner, George. And if I hear one mention, even one word of a man fitting my description, I’m going to come to…” He checked the ID again. “Apartment 121B on Cedar Road, and I’m going to bring your shotgun with me. You got all that?”

“I got it, I got it.” The clerk blubbered, blood and spittle hanging from his lips. “I got it, I promise I got it.”

“Now, the man with the girls. When were they here?”

“There was… was a guy, like you said, but I didn’t see no girls…”

“But you saw a man that fit that description?”

“Yes, yes. He was real serious. Barely said a word. Came last night, after dark, and paid for the night in cash…”

“When did he leave?”

“I don’t know! Sometime in the night. Left the door open, or else I wouldn’t have known he was gone…”

During the night? Reid’s heart sank. He had hoped, but hadn’t truly expected to find the girls at the motel—but he thought he was catching up. If they had a full day’s lead on him… they could be anywhere.

Reid dropped the wallet and stepped back, taking the shotgun barrel from the kid’s head. “Go.”

The clerk scooped up the wallet and ran through the dark doorway, tripping once and falling onto his hands before hurrying out into the night.

Reid ejected the cartridges from the shotgun, four of them in all, and stuffed them into a jacket pocket. He wasn’t actually going to take the gun with him; it was an illegal weapon by virtue of having its barrel and stock cut off, and likely unregistered even before its modifications. He wiped the shotgun clean of his prints before replacing it beneath the counter.

He didn’t need to invite trouble. He had enough as it was.

The police would arrive at any moment, but he couldn’t leave without something more to go on. He hurried back to the broken door of room 9 and searched again, this time not caring to replace anything or handle with care. He tore the pillows and sheets from the bed. He searched under the bed and chair. He pulled out the drawers of each shoddy nightstand and the bureau, but found nothing but an old Bible with a cracked spine. He fanned its pages and shook it out, just in case.

At every opportunity so far, Maya had left something behind on purpose. According to the clerk, the girls had spent most of a night here.

Reid hurried into the bathroom. It stank strongly of bleach as he checked the shower stall, the sink, the vanity with the cracked mirror. He opened the single small cabinet beneath the sink and found two spare rolls of toilet paper, a spray can of air freshener, and, curiously, a blue ballpoint pen.

Reid turned on the hot water in both the sink and the shower and closed the door to the tiny bathroom, letting it fill with steam. He inspected the mirror in the hopes that Maya had perhaps written an invisible message that would only show with condensation—but there was no message. Still nothing.

I’m missing something. She left a clue. I know she did.

Sirens wailed in the distance, floating to him through the open motel room door. The police were en route. He grunted in frustration and kicked at the toilet bowl with his boot, hard enough to chip the porcelain.

He looked down and blinked.

I should have seen that. Should have known.

Atop the toilet tank was a single hair, brown, long, with a white root still attached. He dropped to his hands and knees and found a few more scattered on the floor. They were Maya’s hair, tugged loose from her head on purpose—to give him a clue.

He lifted the lid from the back of the toilet.

Reid reached in and tugged loose the furled scrap of fabric that was looped into the flush lever’s chain. He unrolled it in his fingers, which began to tremble as soon as he recognized the familiar pattern of pineapples.


The scrap was triangular; a pocket, he realized, torn loose from her favorite pajamas.

He held the scrap to his face. It could have been his imagination, but it still smelled like her, like his baby girl.

He turned the fabric over to the other side, the all-white side, where three words were written in blue ink.

“No,” he whispered hoarsely.

Port Jersey. Dubrovnik.

Reid sprinted from the bathroom as fast as he could.

Rais was trying to take his girls out of the country… if he hadn’t already.


No, no, no… As Reid leapt across the orange carpet of room 9, it felt as if his legs couldn’t move fast enough, as if every muscle was straining to react at an impossible speed. He had to get to the port.

He understood now. The cars, the change of directions, even the murder of the woman in the rest stop bathroom—all of it would confuse the authorities, make Rais look desperate and meandering, as if he didn’t know what he was doing.

He knew damn well what he was doing. He was taking Reid’s girls to Europe—and from there, god only knew where. With a twelve-hour lead, they could be anywhere in the world. Away from the jurisdiction of the police and feds. Away from him…

He scooped up his bag without pausing and kept running, parallel to the row of motel rooms toward the office at the end. He barely heard the sirens, wasn’t even cognizant of their blaring wail until he was suddenly awash in headlights.

Three police cruisers screeched into the narrow lot of the Starlight Motel. Reid blinked in their glare as officers poured from them, unseen behind the bright headlights, shouting so many warnings at him at once that not any one of them was intelligible.

He didn’t stop. He couldn’t stop, not now. Reid sprinted onward, around the corner of the motel and behind it. As George had said, there was a dirt bike waiting, faded with age and looking worse for the wear.

Reid leapt onto it, slinging his back securely over one shoulder. He squeezed the clutch and kick-started the engine. It sputtered once and then came to life in a high-pitched whine, strong and robust beneath him. Despite its appearance it seemed that the clerk had taken decent care of the parts that mattered.

The pursuing officers came around the corner, their rapid footfalls drowned out by the roar of the bike’s engine. They held their hands out in front of them in warning. Two went for their guns.

Reid released the clutch and twisted the left handlebar, fully opening the throttle. The bike bucked so hard he nearly fell off, but he leaned into it at the last moment and the dirt bike sprang forward toward the officers like a shot, forcing them to scatter and leap out of the way.

He barely slowed as he reached the street, swinging the back end of the bike out and stabilizing with his right foot. Over the siren cry of the engine he heard another sound, faint but recognizable—the steady approach of a helicopter. A quick glance over his shoulder showed him a black Huey alighting in the parking lot across the street from the Starlight, the same lot that the quadcopter had delivered him to.

Agent Strickland had arrived, but Reid was not wasting time waiting around. He shifted and tore at the throttle again, this time hanging on securely as the bike streaked forward. He was certain that at least one of the cruisers would try to give chase, but he wasn’t concerned about that—he had a lead on them and the bike was at least 250cc, and despite the lack of speedometer he knew it was capable of up to a hundred, maybe a hundred and ten miles an hour.

It also had no headlight, and he had no helmet, but he couldn’t let that stop him. He hurtled through the industrial park as fast as he was able, the only vehicle on the road at that time of night.

He knew the way to Port Jersey. In the daytime, with traffic, it might have taken fifteen minutes to get there. At night, with no one around, ten minutes. On the dirt bike, doing an impetuous triple-digit speed, Reid got there in five.

Even so, it was the longest five minutes of his entire life. Every horrible thought that could invade his mind did so—his daughters smuggled out of the country. Never seeing them again. Never finding them. Fates worse than death, for both him and them.

It doesn’t make sense. Rais wants me to find him. Doesn’t he?

The burner phone sat heavy and obvious in his pocket. He wanted desperately to call Watson, to alert the police and the CIA and the FBI and whoever else possible about Port Jersey, to have a veritable army crash down upon the port and sweep every corner for any sign of his daughters.

The marine terminal of Port Jersey was a long, U-shaped cargo-handling harbor on the southern edge of Newark Bay, with a view of the Bayonne Bridge. To its north were Jersey City and the Hudson River; northwest was the island of Manhattan. But to the port’s southeast was Lower Bay and, from there, the open Atlantic.


They’re not out there, he told himself as he entered the port. They’ll be here. I’ll find them.

The dirt bike screamed past the dockworkers’ parking lot and kept right on going, down the long rows of bright rectangular containers until the congestion of cargo would no longer allow him access. He slowed enough to lay the bike down, leapt off, and sprinted on foot as the bike continued to skid right into the side of a steel container.

The seaport was still alive despite the hour; powerful fluorescent lights on poles lit the docks while crews continued to work loading and unloading ships by crane and forklift. A huge freight ship sat in the comparably small harbor, a dry-bulk cargo barge nearly as large as the cruise ship Reid had been on just two days earlier. The cargo ship was laden with a seemingly impossible number of containers, stacked so high and deep to the point that it was hard to tell whether the crews were working to load it or offload it.

As he ran toward the ship, the bright lights, and the dockworkers, he yanked out the burner phone and called Watson. It rang four times before a recorded message told him that a voicemail box had not yet been set up for the number.

He gritted his teeth and briefly considered throwing the phone in anger before he jammed it back into his pocket. He hurried toward the first two men he saw. Both were wearing hard hats and bright yellow vests, one leaning against a dormant forklift while the other climbed up into the seat. Reid reached into his jacket as he ran over to them and pulled out the photo of his daughters, the one of them on vacation with him in Florida.

“Have either of you seen these girls?” he asked, waving the photo in their face.

The two confused men glanced at each other and then back at him. “Here?” one of them asked. “Sorry, pal, we haven’t seen any girls.”

Reid moved along, walking quickly among the crews as they worked. Anyone who wasn’t actively doing something had the photo shoved into their bewildered noses. “Have you seen these girls? Around here, at the port? Any girls at all?”



“Can’t say I have, buddy.”

Reid nearly shouted in frustration as he spotted a trio of men standing outside a white trailer, sipping coffee from Styrofoam cups. He strode over to them. “I’m looking for two teenage girls,” he said, showing them the photo. “There’s reason to believe they might have been here. Have any of you seen them?”

The largest of the trio, a black man with a shaved head, scratched idly at his chin and said, “Look around, guy. This ain’t exactly a place for kids.”

Reid took a breath, trying to calm himself. “They weren’t… they didn’t come here by accident or choice. They were kidnapped. They’re missing.”

The large man sighed and shook his head. “Damn. I’m really sorry about that. But… we ain’t seen any kids around here. If we did, we’d tell you. Hell, we’d probably call the cops.”

Reid stalked off wordlessly, half angry and all desperate. His breath quickened; he felt slightly dizzy. The cargo port seemed impossibly huge, with hundreds—likely even thousands—of containers, drums, steel boxes, and crates piled high around him. Suddenly those stacks looked like skyscrapers, lording over him from above.

Mild nausea washed over him as he thought, What if they’re in one, right now? What if they’re here, locked away somewhere? Could that have been Rais’s game—to hide the girls, force him to look one way while Rais took a different tack? It didn’t make sense to him, but he had to acknowledge that he wasn’t thinking straight.

If they were here somewhere, he wouldn’t have a prayer of finding them. He was one man. There was a lot that Kent Steele could do, but searching the entire industrial port alone was not among them.

I could call the police. I could even call Riker. He had already defied the CIA, tampered with evidence, and broken laws. Not to mention that he was definitively on Riker’s bad side—if she knew he was meddling, he’d land in a jail cell in the best-case scenario. But the police had already caught him in their headlights back at the Starlight Motel. His image had undoubtedly been captured by dashboard cameras, which meant that Strickland and the CIA would know in minutes that Kent Steele was doing precisely what the agency didn’t want him to do.

Doesn’t matter now, he determined. Whatever fate would become of him, blacklisted or arrested or even sent to some godforsaken hole like H-6, it would be more than worth it if it meant his girls were safe.

He pulled out the burner and flipped it open, ready to call someone, anyone—but the phone rang in his hand. He answered it immediately.

“I need help,” he said desperately. “I’m at Port Jersey, and I can’t find them, not alone…”

“Kent.” The voice on the other end of the line was not Watson, as he had expected. It was soft, feminine, and familiar. “It’s me.”

“Oh god. Maria.” He said her name like a sigh. In that moment, despite everything, hearing her voice was a relief—maybe an infinitesimal one, but no less welcome. He felt a lump rising anew in his throat. “Maria, the girls, they’re gone…”

“I know. Watson sent me a message. Kent, I’m so sorry.”

He breathed into his free hand. “Where are you?”

“Ukraine,” she told him. “I’m sorry it took so long for me to contact you. It’s not easy finding a secure line around here.”

“Maria, it was him. I know it was him.”

“I believe you,” she said. “But the agency doesn’t. They still have me chasing false leads out here…”

“Because of Riker,” he said scornfully.

“That doesn’t matter right now. What matters is getting those girls back to you. What are you doing at Port Jersey?”

“I found a message,” he told her. “It was from Maya, in her handwriting. It said to come here. It also said ‘Dubrovnik.’”

“Croatia,” Maria said quietly. She was silent for a moment. “All right. Kent, I’m going to do whatever I can to help you. Finding Rais is my op, and there’s nothing more important to me right now than the safety of those girls. But this is going to be the hard part. Are you listening to me?”

“Yes. I’m listening.”

“Kent… your girls are already gone.”

Reid put a fist to his mouth as a sob bubbled up through his throat. “No.” His voice cracked behind his closed fist. “They’re not. They’re not gone. You don’t know that.”

“How long has it been since they were taken? Kent, how long?”

“Um.” He thought hard, but the numbers seemed muddied and confusing. “I don’t… I don’t…” He took a deep breath. “Thirty-two hours, maybe. Thirty-two to thirty-six.”

“Right.” Maria paused a moment before continuing. “Rais is a psychopath, but he’s not an idiot. We know that. If he wanted the girls out of the country, they’re already out of the country.”

Reid leaned against a cargo container and sank slowly against it, coming to a seat on the concrete. “How am I supposed to find them?” he asked quietly.

“It’s not just you. It’s us—all of us. We’ll find them. But I need you thinking clearly. If his plan was Port Jersey, he would have put them on a boat, right? How long would it take for them to get to Dubrovnik?”

He didn’t answer. Instead he pressed his fingers against his closed eyes. Maybe when I open them again none of this will be happening.

“Kent?” Maria said sternly. “How long?”

Reid thought for a moment. “Um… six. Six to seven days. No, eight. They would have to travel across the Mediterranean. Eight days.”

“Right. Up to eight days to get there, and they’ve been on a boat for one, at most. So we alert the agency. Have them find the manifests for any ship heading to Dubrovnik that left in the last twelve hours. We get the Coast Guard involved. We get you on a chopper, if we need to. We can stop that boat long before it ever reaches Europe.”

“Yes. Okay. We can stop it.” Reid wiped his eyes and took a long, calming breath. He knew Maria was right; his girls were already gone. If Rais’s plan was to get them out of the US, he wasn’t going to let Reid learn that if there was anything he could have done to prevent it.

“I’m going to help you find them as best I can from here,” Maria told him, her voice strong and even and comforting. “First we need to get a message to Watson—”

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