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Home > Troublemaker(8)

Troublemaker(8)
Author: Linda Howard

Axel was a master at reading nuances of expression. “And . . . ?”

Until he heard the “and,” Morgan hadn’t been aware there was an “and.” He took a deep breath, cut it short when the pain in his chest cut into him. “Could be coincidence, but he made a call after talking to me.”

“How soon after?”

“Immediately.”

“Cell phone?” If Brawley had used a cell, Axel could use the time and the cell towers to get a bead on the possible call recipients.

“No.” Very clearly, Morgan saw in his mind the old-fashioned corded phone Brawley had used. “Corded landline.”

“Shit.” Frustration was clear in the word. Getting the info wasn’t impossible, but it would require a warrant. Technology would let them bypass that little detail if the call had been made on a cell.

But, regardless of the phone call, Morgan couldn’t think of any way Brawley would know where he lived or, more importantly, why he would need to set up a hit.

The effort to sit up and answer questions was wearing on him hard. He didn’t have much more juice left in him. “No reason,” he muttered, letting his head drop back. His eyes closed automatically, and he fought them open again.

“What?” Axel demanded.

Morgan focused, laboriously reconstructed his thoughts. “No reason for Brawley,” he finally said, or thought he said. Maybe his mouth wasn’t working. His eyes closed again. But he didn’t care because darkness was rising up and swallowing him whole, and there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The next time he saw Axel, Morgan was actually sitting up under his own power. It was almost three weeks since he’d been shot; he knew because he’d asked. Sitting up wasn’t all he could do. Twice a day for the last couple of days he’d taken a few steps across the small room, bracketed on each side by nurses so he didn’t face-plant. He was eating halfway-solid food now, and he’d never before in his life been so grateful for mashed potatoes, or oatmeal. He didn’t even like oatmeal. Tomorrow, they’d told him, he could have eggs. He’d requested steak with those eggs, and they’d laughed at him. Hands down they were the meanest nurses he’d ever been around.

Even more disturbing, he was beginning to love them.

He didn’t know how long it had been since Axel had been there, but he figured it was about a week. The only surprising thing was that Axel hadn’t been there every day to badger more details out of him.

Sometimes Axel’s persistent nitpicking was a pain in the ass, but now Morgan would have welcomed it because he wanted to get the bastard or bastards who had set up the ambush. It was typical of Axel that he’d chosen that time to stay away.

“About time,” Morgan said by way of greeting.

“I’ve been busy, running down details and setting things up.”

“What things? What details?”

“That’s what I’m here to tell you,” Axel snapped as he dropped into the visitor’s chair.

Being snapped at was good; if Axel had tried to be kind—with emphasis on the word “tried,” because he’d never really succeed—Morgan would have suspected he wasn’t recovering as well as a few steps and mashed potatoes would indicate.

“So, talk.”

“You were located by your boat registration. We’ve found where someone hacked into state records and got your info off your registration form.”

There was something wrong with that. Morgan said, “I use my post office box as my mailing address.”

“Yes, but the form also includes your Virginia driver’s license number and your social security number. Those were both traced, and that’s how they got your address.”

“The big question is why.”

“Yeah. But there’s another wrinkle, one that’s even more serious.”

It was almost amusing that Axel would think something was more serious than one of his operatives being targeted. Well, given that he dealt with global issues, he was probably right; Morgan had to give him that.

“When you were first brought in, we didn’t know what was going on, if an orchestrated attack was being made on GO-Team members or if another attempt would be made on you personally. I loaded up the hospital with men to guard your ass, but the logistics were a nightmare, too many stairwells and elevators, too many people coming and going. As soon as you were halfway stable, I had you loaded up and brought here. I’m the only one who knows where you are.”

“Other than the people who transported me here.”

“I changed transport teams three times.”

Yeah, that was Axel, paranoid and cautious to a maddening degree. “So what’s this new wrinkle that has you worried?”

“The GO-Team files were hacked after I had you moved.”

Shit. Morgan frowned, working it through. Obviously, whoever had tried to kill him was still after him. Just as obviously, whoever it was knew what he did.

“It’s the security breach that worries me more than anything,” Axel said, and Morgan stifled a wry smile. Yeah, the loss of one of his men would definitely rank below security in his book. “After I had you moved, I let it be known that you had some memory problems but were recovering, and the doctors saw no reason why you wouldn’t regain all your memories.”

That was cold, even for Axel. Morgan growled, “Well, hell, why not just paint a target on my back?”

“The target’s already there,” Axel pointed out. “My job is to find out who and why. Unless you’re fucking someone else’s wife, the strong possibility exists that this is work related.”

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