He packed his bag and dropped a signed checkout form on the bed. At 3:00 A.M., no one saw him leave the hotel through a service exit. Stepping out of shadows onto Lafayette Street, he hailed a taxi.

“Where to, suh?” The driver looked wary, as if a man carrying a suitcase at 3:00 A.M. might be a threat.

“An all-night car-rental agency.”

The driver debated briefly. “Hop in. It’s kinda late to be takin’ a trip.”

“Isn’t it, though.”

He slumped in the backseat, thinking. It would have been easier to fly to where he needed to go. But he didn’t want to wait until morning and catch the first plane to his destination. For one thing, the major, the captain, and Alan might arrive earlier than they’d said they would and intercept him. For another, because he didn’t have enough cash to buy an airplane ticket, he’d need to use a credit card. But the only credit card he had was in Brendan Buchanan’s name. That would leave a paper trail for the major, the captain, and Alan to follow.

This way, while he’d still have to use a credit card to rent a car, there’d be no record of where he was planning to drive. The paper trail would end right here in New Orleans. And with luck, the major, the captain, and Alan would accept that he’d decided to do what he’d told them and disappear. In a perfect world, they would consider this a reassuring gesture and not a threat. To direct their thinking, he’d written a note about his determination to disappear, had sealed the note in an envelope addressed to Alan, and had left it on the hotel room’s bed, beside the signed checkout form.

“Here we are, suh.”

“What?” He roused himself and looked out the taxi’s side window, seeing a brightly lit car-rental office next to a gas station.

“If I was you, suh, I’d take it easy drivin’. You look beat.”

“Thanks. I’ll be fine.”

But I’d better look more alert when I rent the car, he thought.

He paid the driver and didn’t show the effort with which he carried his bag into the office, where the bright lights hurt his eyes.

A weary-looking spectacled man shoved a rental agreement across the counter. “I’ll need to see your credit card and your driver’s license. Initial about the insurance. Sign at the bottom.”

He had to look at the credit card he’d set on the counter to see which name he was using. “Buchanan. Brendan Buchanan.”

If only this headache would ease off.


He had to find Juana.

And there was only one place he could think to start.


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