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Ethan #AtoZChallenge

I think we have a problem. When are you back?

I read the text I just received. Concerning but I know the sender well enough to know if she was in immediate danger she would have been more specific. And I suspect I already know what has her rattled. I type out a quick response and we make plans to meet two days from now, Monday night, when I return to Chicago.

Setting that aside, I have other things that require my immediate attention, I slip my phone back in my pocket and return my attention to the surveillance equipment in front of me.

“Boss, no movement in two days. What are we doing here?” Kurt Erickson, this assignment’s lead, asks me, his voice whispering through my ear piece.

I understand his frustration. He’s a field operative, he’s used to taking action, providing protection. He’s not like me. Research, information gathering, intelligence, observation. Spending so much time behind computers has made me incredibly methodical and patient. I know if I wait long enough my enemies, the men and women I target, will make a mistake. They’ll break a pattern, forget to delete some footprint, miss dotting that ‘I’ and as long as I do my job I will find them.

“We run the lead, Erickson. Like always. We wait.”

Silence greets me. He may grumble when he doesn’t have things to punch but I trust him with my life. And the lives of people I love. He’s proved his skill and loyalty more than once.

It’s also becoming increasingly likely that this particular lead is bringing us nothing. We’ve been staking out this private air field outside of Las Vegas for days with nothing to show. The information I gathered seemed to indicate a 72-hour window that a pilot with connections to a man I’ve been hunting would be coming to party on the Strip and using this airfield to house his plane. Seventy-two hours that is quickly dwindling. It’s already dusk, if he doesn’t come tonight I’ll have to consider pulling back. If we stay in place much longer someone is bound to spot us.

But even the smallest possibility I could get one level closer to him would motivate me to sit in this van for weeks if necessary. He wasn’t the first monster I met but he’s the one I need to stop before I can think about having a life beyond this.

He’s a ghost. Literally.

I saw him die.

Yet, there are still sightings of him all over the globe.

Money still moves through his bank accounts.

People still die in his name. Others kill by his order.

Even she is beginning to doubt she actually killed him.

But I saw her shoot him. I saw him fall. I felt his pulse fade.

I know he’s dead.

But I don’t know who has taken his place. And I don’t know why.

And until I do, no one I love is safe.

Sleep Walker. That’s what he calls himself.

Movement on the screens in front of me catches my eye, shaking me loose from my dark thoughts.

“Car approaching from the west,” I alert the team.

“I’ve got eyes on it.” This is from Peter Novak, another member of the team. “Looks like just the driver.”

My computer beeps. “Tower just approved landing for a plane coming in.”

Erickson orders his team to stay sharp. I feel the adrenaline moving through me as I lean forward, watching the lights of the approaching plane. The car has stopped near the hanger. Although I don’t see anyone I know Kurt has moved in to position, close enough to apprehend the driver once we have confirmation on our target.

The plane comes in for a landing, skirting right over us before touching down and taxing to the far end of the strip. I watch from the van as it turns and comes back, moving back toward the hanger.

“Tail number doesn’t match.”

Dammit! I squint at the cameras but none of them have the angle or lighting I need to see if Novak is right. My refusal to trust him is an obvious indication how different this assignment is than all the others. I refuse to accept this dead end. Something must be here.

Something has to be here.

Screw it.

I grab my gun off the table and check the safety. Then I slip out of the van.

“Boss?” Erickson must see me moving on the tarmac.

“I’m getting a closer look. Wait for my signal. Stay in position. And don’t shoot me.”

The last is a joke. No one on my team shoots without knowing what they are aiming at. But better to let them know I’m now in play.

By now the plane has done a 180 and is returning our direction, the on site mechanic preparing to refuel it as the engines shut off. I walk towards the hangar, knowing they’ll need to check in at the terminal, feigning ignoring the plane itself. Novak is right of course, the tail number isn’t a match.

But I still want to know who is on that plane before I give up.

Out of the corner of my eye I see the hatch open, stairs lowering and a few minutes later an average white guy descends. I pretend I’m on the phone, complaining about a late ride. He hesitates as he approaches, eying me carefully.

Trying to put him at ease, I turn my back again ‘ignoring’ him.

He takes another two steps.

Then turns abruptly and retraces his path at a sprint.

“Everyone move in! Do NOT let him get back on that plane!”

Want to know more about Ethan’s backstory? Click here.

And we find out more about Nathan here.

Peter appears briefly here.

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