He dove in the water as bullets sprayed against the waves. Applying pressure to his side, he kicked and tried to achieve more distance than depth between him and the men firing at him. He swam under the boat and to the other side so they wouldn’t have a chance to hit him again. What the fuck had just happened? How had he gone from enjoying a cold beer with a former teammate to watching a trail of blood drip from his forehead and nearly two dozen men carrying an arsenal of weapons boarding the small yacht? He ignored the gut-wrenching realization that his friend of nearly twenty years was dead. The cold stare of shock in Tom’s face as he fell forward told him he was killed instantly. A single shot from a sniper had taken out a man who served his country for over twenty years while managing to live to tell about it.
The whizzing sound of bullets hitting the water was becoming more distant. Despite being hit he was still a strong swimmer. His training had saved his life more than once, and this time proved to be no different. If his bearings were right and he wasn’t disoriented from blood loss, he’d estimate that he was about two miles from shore. If he swam around the south peninsula of the island, that would put him far out of the sights of whomever the hell was shooting at him. It would mean at least a three-mile swim. With blood loss and pain it wasn’t going to be easy, but he’d survived worse than this before so he had no doubts that this time would be no different.
Exhausted and starting to feel light-headed, he tried not to panic. He had to remain focused. One thing he learned was that if he rested to float for even a moment he would tire even more so and never continue on. While he hoped the men firing at him assumed they were successful in their attempts to kill him as well, he couldn’t be too careful. They could be scouring the dark waters with a spotlight looking for any sign of him.
The shore was in his sights now. He kept on, kicking with everything that he had despite the burn in his muscles. If he was able to use his full strength it probably wouldn’t be so strenuous on him, but having to hold his side in an effort to diminish some of the pain left him somewhat handicapped.
When he was so close to the shore his kicks met with more sand than distance he finally rested, allowing the surf to carry him the rest of the way. His mouth filled with sand as his body swept up to the soft beach. He laid there for a moment, breathless and physically spent. The pain from his right side where the bullet hit was radiating to his arm, rendering it useless. It took all his will to use his other arm, the muscles still burning from his several-mile swim. He crawled farther up the beach, not wanting to chance the waves that carried him in to safety pulling him right back out again. There was a small opening against the cliff. It was only a few yards away but seemed to be so much farther.
He crawled to what would be his shelter for the night. Echoes of his BUD/S instructors shouting at him for being a pussy swam in his mind. He was a United States Navy SEAL for Christ’s sake. Well at least for another month until he retired, that is. He was trained to never give up. What would they tell him in training? Take off your girlie panties and swim like a man with your balls swaying free in the water. It was a dumb-ass analogy, but it served the purpose at the time when he’d heard it. He had survived BUD/S training and twenty years in Naval Special Warfare. A measly bullet wound in his right side wouldn’t be the death of him.
Somehow he managed to pull his shirt off. He couldn’t remember a time when he was this tired. Everything he’d ever experienced seemed like a drop in the bucket compared to this.
The events of the past several hours flashed through his head. He arrived in town by small plane to meet up with Tom who had just begun to celebrate his retirement. Living large on the open sea he had called it. They ate some steaks that Tom’s onboard cook had managed to charbroil to near perfection while enjoying a couple of cold Coronas. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. He still had two days on his leave, so the two had planned to fish and do nothing much of anything else.
He shook his head as he replayed the events in his mind. None of it made sense. He was damn good at sensing danger. Hell, they both were. One minute they were laughing about some señorita who would hit on Tom every time he went to town, and the next the slow trail of crimson drew a line down his forehead, his eyes wide and surprised as they stared back at him.
Tom had given twenty-two years of his life to the navy. Why the hell did this have to happen a mere two weeks after his retirement? What in God’s name was going on?
Once again, playing everything back through his mind over and over, he kept looking for some sort of a sign. Something he may have missed. Still he could find nothing.
He had only known that type of surprise killing capable of three types of men—military, mercenaries, or the mob. None of those possibilities made any sense. Tom was a decorated war hero. He had saved countless lives in leading men on various missions. The military would have no reason to want him dead, except maybe the Taliban, but these men weren’t Taliban. He couldn’t see their faces behind their grease paint, but they moved much too disciplined to be a part of that sect. That ruled out his possibility of the mob as well. Aside from the cool, calculated methods of killing, they didn’t have the physical skill to move like a trained soldier.
That was it.
A trained soldier. These men moved like military, but something was off. A military force, even Special Forces for any country, would’ve been identifiable to him in one way or another, but they weren’t. These men were former military. Mercenaries, no doubt.
The question was, why would mercenaries be after Tom? His friend had led a clean, by-the-book military career, only killing when it was required and the only means necessary. Tom never stepped on toes or used anyone to his advantage. Everyone on the teams looked up to and respected him.
Those conclusions left him with only one possibility. These were foreign mercenaries, sent from another country to shut Tom up. Why would anyone want or need a former Navy SEAL dead when he was no longer a threat to them?
Something wasn’t adding up, and he was becoming more and more tired. The blood loss was taking its toll. He needed to get medical attention, get the bullet removed and get stitched up. He was surprised he hadn’t gone into shock yet. Adrenaline had no doubt kept him going. Pushing up with his one good arm he tried to steady himself to stand. He was nearly on his feet when he collapsed from fatigue. If he just closed his eyes for a few minutes then maybe it would reenergize him. At least he hoped it would. He knew if he stayed here any longer he would either die of blood loss or those men would find him to finish the job.
It was his last thought before he saw the barrel of a gun pointing down at him and his eyes closed.