TWENTY-SEVEN

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After three days straight of staring at a screen, Paul's eyes were starting to cross. Ben's and Adam's surveillance followed Gus throughout his days—every day. Repeat performances of rising in the morning to go to the office, meetings for lunch, meetings for dinner, and then back home again. And in between, a whole lot of time spent on the cell phone.

General Evans had been in touch with the regional defense counsel of the Marine Corps. Not surprisingly, all of Paul's cases had been reassigned, giving him carte blanche to do what he could to help out at the Nest. Unfortunately for Paul that meant being plunked in a corner office in front of a widescreen to watch Mr. Boring for most of the day. But in the meantime, he had kept his eyes and ears open.

Spinelli and his men had gone undercover in a joint effort by both the FBI and the Marines after a number of shipments of arms to the Middle East war effort had been hijacked. The Taliban was blamed at first, but Headquarters, Marine Corps had become suspicious. Too much had been known about dates, times, and locations. The FBI, having seen an increasing number of military weapons being used in organized crime on U.S. soil, decided to team up with HQMC in their investigations. The Nest was an FBI facility.

Over the years, the attacks continued, becoming more blatant and vicious each time. It hadn't taken Spinelli long to gather enough evidence to implicate Gus, but finding the supplier had proven to be much more complicated. Transportation of the weapons went through various countries, each one selected for its aversion to paperwork. Poor shipping and receiving documents ultimately severed the connection between the supplier and the family.

All hope now turned to the possible link to Walt's father.

Paul needed a break from the screen. Rubbing his temples, he looked over at Bruce leaning against the far wall. Spinelli was there too, out in the main room—the bullpen they called it—helping some of the agents sift through piles of evidence as they pieced together their case. Spinelli only made appearances during the evening hours since he couldn't chance being away from his office for too long and raising suspicions. His relationship with Augustus had become strained after the whole Enzo fiasco, but Gus had it much worse. Being under some sort of Chilvati house arrest, he couldn't go anywhere without a chaperone.

Paul lifted the remote and pressed pause. "I'm going to get a coffee. Do you want one?"

Bruce's piercing stare had Paul wondering whether the guy was there to assist . . . or to guard. When no answer was forthcoming, his irritation at being stuck in a room all day found its vent. "It's a simple question. Do. You. Want. A.—"

"Do you know where she is?"

Paul looked through the glass wall, nailing the back of Spinelli's head with his hard glare. "Did he tell you to ask me that?" he snapped, thrusting his chin in Spinelli's direction before swinging his annoyance back to Bruce.

"He wouldn't do that."

Paul grunted.

"Could you deliver a message for me?"

Paul stood up, curiosity piquing his interest. "Sure," he said, crossing arms at his chest.

Bruce hesitated, his eyes shifting to the ground. "Tell her"—he looked like he was battling some inner demon deep down in his gut. His head came up to level his gaze out at his boss—"he is a great guy." With a push of hands, he removed himself from the wall and headed toward the door.

Paul stepped in his way, grabbing hold of his arm. "Does he know how you feel about her?"

Bruce's eyes stabbed into Paul's, and for a moment he looked like he was going to deny it. Then he ran a hand through the ridiculous mane he called hair. "Yeah, he's figured it out."

"Shit." Paul dropped his grip.

Bruce spoke quietly, his gaze now riveted on the man who was the subject of their discussion. "That's exactly how it feels . . . like shit." With a pull-it-together shake of his head, he muttered, "I'll get you that coffee." Then he was gone.

Paul took a minute to stretch and absorb Bruce's confession. Yet another complication his sister didn't need right now.

Returning to the screen, it was more of the same stuff. He rolled his shoulders and was about to take that much-needed break he had been intent on earlier when something caught his eye in the bottom corner of one of the frames. He shot forward, grabbed the remote, and replayed the scene. Replayed it again in slow motion.

"Hey!" he yelled.

Nobody came.

He pushed pause and walked up to the doorway. "I think I have something," he called across the bullpen.

Spinelli whipped his head around, threw down the file he was holding, and rushed toward the office with Bruce and Agent Carter hot on his heels.

Paul pointed to the screen after pushing play . . . and they all got a look at the man coming out of the Chilvati office building with Gus. After shaking Gus's hand, the man turned in the direction of the camera. Paul hit pause, freezing the face on screen. Zooming in on it, the features became slightly pixelated.

But it was clear enough. "That's him."

Agent Carter was already on the phone. "General, you need to come down here. We have him with Gus Chilvati."

Thirty minutes later, General Evans arrived and the scene was replayed. He only had to watch it once before declaring, "Major General Wayne Morris. You were right, Captain, he is posted in Afghanistan. He's been the top Marine commander on the ground over there since the beginning of the war, overseeing different units as they are deployed and return home." The general shook his head, heaving a sigh that filled the room. "He's pretty well respected from what I've heard. It's a damn shame. Certainly explains how this surveillance was passed over by our intelligence, though. He's been over there for so long, most of our people don't recognize him."

"So what do we do now?" Spinelli asked.

"Now that we know who he is, we need someone over there to gather evidence against him."

"I'll go," Paul volunteered.

Spinelli shot him an impatient look. "He's met you."

"He's not going to remember me."

"I can't take that chance."

"I'll go," Bruce offered. "The kid can take my place here. Who knows"—he thumped Paul on the back, knocking him forward—"maybe he'll even learn a few things."

Paul glowered back at him before turning to Spinelli to plead his own case.

But Spinelli's focus was on Bruce. It looked like he was about to get rejected too until General Evans stepped in and made the decision for all of them, patting Bruce on the shoulder while saying, "That's great, Major. I'll arrange it."

Bruce nodded stiffly, then headed to the exit without looking back.

Paul turned on Spinelli. "Don't you think he is volunteering for the wrong reasons?"

There was a hint of surprise in Spinelli's eyes, but it was gone in an instant. "We are Marines, Captain. There are no such things as wrong reasons."

But even with all the bravado, Paul sensed that the man in front of him was struggling. He was clearly not happy about sending his friend into a war zone.

END OF CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

I know it's a short one, but it just worked out that way. I have the next one almost ready, so I'll update again on Friday. I hope this gave a little more insight into their undercover role.

So Bruce is on his way to Afghanistan. Do you agree with Paul? Did he volunteer out of guilt?

Coming up: We meet the woman Bruce is heading overseas with ;)

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