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UNDER THE ASSASSIN’S MOON (Special Forces: Operation Alpha): A Moonstruck World Novella by Silver James, Operation Alpha (1)

1

Brody translated the crudely printed note. A literal message in a bottle, he’d discovered it washed up on the beach at Rodney Bay in St. Lucia. The letters were hand drawn in a childish scrawl using a little-known tribal dialect indigenous to the Amazon jungle.

PLEASE HELP the note said. BEFORE THEY KILL US.

He stared toward the south. Something he’d thought long dead stirred inside him. The roiling black waves of rage, always present, threatened to engulf him. He closed his eyes, bracing for the deluge.

No.

A tiny spark buried deep inside flickered. A fierce sense of protectiveness surged up to battle the rage. His wolf twitched—not awake but no longer comatose. He’d entombed his other half after the slaughter. Blood. Death. So many children massacred.

Two attractive women in barely-there bikinis strolled toward him, their long, tan legs inviting his eyes to linger. Their movements were languorous, full of desire, their interest obvious in their inviting smiles. He snarled. With teeth. They stumbled to a halt, exchanging wide-eyed glances as they backed away.

“Yo, Buchanan!” A man down the beach waved an arm his direction, trying to catch his attention. “You owe me a beer.”

Brody didn’t owe the man a thing, especially since the promised information the guy passed on came to nothing. He was no closer to tracking down his prey. Until he found the two who got away, until he gave justice to the innocent, he needed to stay on track. He glanced at the bottle he still held. He didn’t believe in signs. Or coincidences. Ignoring the women and the man, he turned to face south once more. He hadn’t been to Brazil yet. It was a big country. Rio teemed with people. And he spoke Portuguese. Yes. It was time to move on.

* * *

Zeta continued the rhythmic brush of steel across whetstone, ignoring the man sitting across her kitchen table. His impeccable suit and natty silk tie with it’s equally impeccable Windsor knot framed his model-handsome face. The cordial smile curving his full lips belied the frigid lack of emotion in his eyes.

“Don’t you think it’s time you came back to work, Izeta?”

She didn’t acknowledge the man’s question, nor did she display her annoyance at his mispronunciation of her name, using long I and A sounds in the first two syllables. An old-fashioned clock ticked off the seconds with a soft click that echoed in the silence. With one finger, he pushed a large envelope closer to her.

“At least look at the details.”

Tick. Scrape. Tock. Scrape.

The man from Langley fidgeted. He never had developed patience. One corner of her mouth flicked up in the ghost of a smile, a facial tic so swift most would miss it—including her guest. She gave him three more minutes at most. He lasted less than sixty seconds.

Pushing back from the table, chair legs scraping across the tiled floor, her visitor grunted. “Dammit, Izeta, I need you on this one. You have one hour. Call me.”

She didn’t move, her hand still, as he stormed toward her door. He’d just closed it behind him when her knife embedded itself in the wooden door frame, inches from where his head had been.

“Now I’ll have to sharpen it again,” she muttered. Heaving out of her chair, she glided across the open living space to retrieve her weapon. Settled back at the table, she continued honing her blade, her eyes watching the sunset over Albemarle Sound.

The house she’d inherited from her grandparents sat on the northern tip of Colington Island, part of the Outer Banks of North Carolina. This place was her refuge, where she came to recover. And if she felt anything, she would have been pissed as hell that her handler knew to find her here. She’d have to alleviate that problem as part of her exit strategy.

When the room was bathed in the last soft glow of the scarlet sunset, she inhaled deeply and clapped her hands—two sharp smacks. A small lamp flicked on and she smiled. Her grandmother had been so excited and totally loved the Clapper device she’d received for Christmas so many years ago. She’d been what? Ten. Maybe. Her grandfather had called the phone number and ordered it for Zeta, keeping the big secret and helping her hide the box when the postman delivered it.

Life had been so simple then.

The envelope squatted on her table, an ominous manila stain on the bleached pine. The fingers on her right hand tingled. Her trigger hand. Not a good sign. She pulled it toward her, but didn’t open it until darkness surrounded the house in a quilt of anonymity.

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