PAINTER HELDtight to Safia, clinging to her. “Stay quiet,” he whispered in her ear, leaning against the wall of the ruins.
She quaked in his grip.
He had been hiding here for the past few minutes, watching the courtyard, attempting to ascertain some way to draw Cassandra out. But his ex-partner seemed entrenched, patient, letting her team do the work for her while she guarded the prize. Spotlights from the hovering helicopters crisscrossed the yard, keeping him pinned down. Again Cassandra had outwitted him, hiding an aerial force, probably sent here in advance.
All seemed hopeless.
Then a moment ago, he had watched a camel stroll by through the rain, seemingly unconcerned by the gunfire, moving with steady determination to pass his hiding place and disappear in front of the tomb. Next, a spatter of shots and Safia came tumbling out.
“We have to reach the back wall of the complex,” he whispered, motioning down the alleyway. There was too much gunfire coming from out front. They’d have to take their chances on the steep slopes out back, try to reach cover. He released his grip on her, but she still clung to him.
“Keep behind me,” he urged.
Twisting around, Painter led the way in a low crouch, heading back toward the rear of the complex. The shadows lay thicker there. He kept a keen watch through his night-vision glasses, wary and tense. Pistol pointed forward. Nothing moved. The world was defined in shades of green. If they could reach the far wall that encircled the complex…
Taking another step, he saw the alleyway bloom with light, blindingly bright through the goggles, burning the back of his eye sockets. He tore away the scopes.
Painter froze. A man lay flat atop the wall of the ruins. He held a flashlight in one hand, a pistol in the other, both aimed at Painter.
“Don’t even twitch,” the man warned.
“Kane,” Safia moaned behind him.
Painter cursed silently. The man had been lying in wait atop the wall, spying from on high, waiting until they had moved into his line of sight.
“Drop your weapon.”
Painter had no choice. If he refused, he’d be shot where he stood. He let the pistol fall from his fingers.
A new voice called sharply from behind him, coming from the entrance to the alleyway. Cassandra. “Just shoot him.”