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Chapter 129: "Shane's not dead,"

"What does 'C/S' mean?" Hope asked, her voice a stunned whisper.

Those were the first words either of them had spoken in at least ten minutes.  John had just stared, dumbfounded, at the computer screen, reading the entry over and over.  The ISA believed Shane was dead.

"John?"

He remembered Hope's question.  He answered in a flat voice.  "It means 'change status.'  They make the notation in the case file and it gets transmitted to the higher-ups also, so . . . ."  He took a deep breath.  "So they can take the agent off the roster."

"We don't know he's dead," Hope said.  "It says 'presumed dead.'  Maybe he's being held somewhere."

John knew Hope was trying to hold onto some hope, but she did not understand.  "They didn't declare it right away.  The entry says the ISA kept surveillance on the palace for two months and never got any report of any prisoner inside.  And they found the bodies of the other members of Shane's team.  Doesn't that tell you something?"

"Yeah," she snapped.  "It tells me that the ISA didn't find Shane's body, which means either they didn't look hard enough or he's still alive."  She leaned forward, past John, and began scrolling through the file.  "Let me see this."

John stood up and let her take his seat.  He had read a couple of the entries below the one listing Shane as dead and could not read any further.  Not right now.

He felt sick.

How had it happened?  The report said Shane infiltrated the palace, leaving a two-man team outside, where they were ambushed.  Did that happen before or after Shane was. . . .

John couldn't finish the thought.  No, he had to.  Before or after Shane was killed.  He tried to block the images in his head of what might have happened, but they came before he could.  Did he die quickly?  John hoped so.  An ambush by the palace guards.  Or a firefight where Shane went out fighting.

But they had killed the other members of Shane's team.  Did that mean Shane revealed their location?  That would have required Shane breaking, and John could not imagine any amount of torture accomplishing that.  Still, it was hard to shake the thought that Shane might have been tortured before dying.

If Shane was dead, John owed it to him to find out the truth.  He owed it to Andrew and Jeannie -- and to Kim.

God, what will I tell Kim? he wondered.  He had promised her that he would bring Shane "home."

Just not this way, John thought as he sank heavily into one of the plane's seats.

"Shane's not dead," Hope insisted.  She was glaring at him.  When he said nothing, Hope returned to the computer and began to recite what was in the entries.  "So they learned about this Operación Norteño from an informant and Shane used Nightwing to get into the palace.  The plan was for the informant to provide documents, and it looks like they were transmitted by satellite, but nothing further about Shane."  Hope paused.  "I don't get it.  The ISA must have hundreds of agents who could meet an informant.  Why would Shane do this mission?  Why would the ISA let him?"

"I don't know," John said.  It was a good question.  Shane was too valuable to the ISA to risk on a run-of-the-mill drug trafficking operation.  Or even a no-so-run-of-the-mill operation.  There must be something we're missing, he thought.

Hope frowned.  "This reeks of a set-up."

"Except Operación Norteño was real, and the ISA took down a lot of people," John pointed out.

"Yeah, because of the information Shane transmitted out of the palace.  That's the last the ISA heard from him."  Hope studied the computer a bit more.  "From this, it appears that the ISA's last contact with Shane or the team was on February 16.  They did not find any bodies until a few days later.  So it's possible that Shane was moved from the palace before the bodies were found.  That could explain why the ISA found no evidence of Shane being in the palace."

John had to admit that sounded reasonable.  He saw Hope minimize the window with the ISA file and open a web browser.  "What are you doing now?"

"Just checking a hunch."  She paused.  "Oh, damn.  I forgot.  We're in the middle of frickin' nowhere.  No phone and no internet."

"So what was the hunch?" John asked.

Hope seemed to think for a moment.  "I was thinking we should check news reports out of Costa Blanca that week and see if anything was reported being out-of-the-ordinary around the palace."

That was a good hunch, John thought.  "Is there any follow-up information about the informant?"

"No," Hope said.  "That's weird, isn't it?  Wouldn't they have tracked him down?  He was probably the last one to see Shane before . . . before this happened."

Before Shane was killed, John thought silently.  The informant was the last one to see Shane besides whoever killed him.

John knew what Hope was suggesting and he nodded.  "Okay . . . see what you can find on the informant.  I'll talk to the pilot about heading to Costa Blanca."

He stood up and headed for the cockpit.  Costa Blanca, it was.  John had no hope of finding Shane alive, but at the very least, perhaps they could find his body.  At least, then, he could fulfill his promise to Kim.

No matter what, he would bring Shane home.

Comments

( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Anonymous)
Jun. 7th, 2011 04:31 am (UTC)
Gotta love, Hope. She never did give up!
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )