5:32 P.M.

PAINTER BOUGHTtime on another computer. He left Omaha to monitor the SUV’s progress. If they could get a lead on where Cassandra was headed with Safia, they could get a head start. It was a slim hope.

Alone with his computer, Painter again accessed the DOD server. There was no reason to feign death any longer. He’d left enough of an electronic trail. Besides, considering the elaborate trap at the safe house, Cassandra knew he was alive…or at least, she was acting that way.

That was one of the reasons he needed to log back onto the DOD site.

He entered his private pass code and accessed his mail system. He typed in the address for his superior, Dr. Sean McKnight, head of Sigma. If there was anyone he trusted, it was Sean. He needed to apprise his commander of the events, let him know the status of the operation.

An e-mail window opened, and he typed rapidly, relating a thumbnail sketch of events. He stressed the role of Cassandra, the possibility of a mole in the organization. There was no way Cassandra could have known about the safe house, the electronic code for the equipment locker, without some inside information.

He finished:

I cannot stress enough that matters at your end must be investigated. Success of this mission will depend on cutting off further flow of intelligence. Trust no one. We will attempt to rescue Dr. alMaaz this evening. We believe we know where Cassandra’s group is taking the doctor. It appears they are headed to

Painter paused, took a deep breath, then continued typing:

the Yemeni border. We are headed there right now in an attempt to stop the border crossing.

Painter stared at the letter. Numb at the possibility.

Omaha waved to him from the neighboring computer. “They made the turnoff on the side road!”

Painter hit the send button. The letter vanished, but not his guilt.

“C’mon.” Omaha crossed to the exit. “We can close the distance.”

Painter followed. At the door, he gave one final glance back to his workstation. He prayed he was wrong.

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