Hidden Order - Brad Thor
Claire Marcourt should have gone to bed hours ago. She should have ignored the second bottle of white burgundy in the fridge, placed her empty wineglass in the sink, and headed upstairs. But the forty-five-year-old was feeling nostalgic. And the more she drank, the more nostalgic she became. Picking up the bottle, she stepped outside.
The night was warm and the ocean air carried with it the scent of magnolias. Just beyond her pool, foamy waves tumbled onto the quiet beach.
Her pool. It was hard for Claire Marcourt to believe how far one family could come in a generation. Her mother had cleaned houses on Sea Island. Now Claire owned one and was being considered for one of the most powerful positions in the world. Only in America, she thought to herself.
It was heartbreaking that her mother hadn’t lived to see everything Claire had accomplished—her career, her handsome husband and their three beautiful children, the Sea Island house with its stately oaks covered in Spanish moss, all of it. She would have been so proud.
As it was, she hadn’t even seen Claire graduate from college. Cancer had taken her and, in its wake, had left Claire with a growing fear that she too might someday be prematurely taken from her family.
Pouring another glass, she set the bottle on the outdoor table and walked to the edge of the patio. She was becoming maudlin. Focusing on the ocean, she took a long sip and closed her eyes. As the waves rolled onto the beach, she reflected on what a blessing it was to be able to come back to Georgia and escape the sirens and traffic of Manhattan. The family didn’t get down to Sea Island enough these days. Everyone was so busy. The funny thing, though, was that once Paul and the kids were here, no one wanted to leave.
She couldn’t blame them. The island was for them not only a source of strength, but also of revival. It was the one place where they all felt truly at home, truly safe.
Listening to the waves, she was reminded of a poem about the area by Sidney Lanier called “The Marshes of Glynn.”
Take courage from the land which God has given you, which has always nourished you, and which is still there, and be comforted.
Claire smiled and opened her eyes; her budding melancholy swept out to sea on a receding wave. She needed to think about that poem, and this place more often. Work had all but consumed her and it wasn’t going to get any easier if things went in the direction she thought they were about to.
Draining the last of the wine from her glass, she stood there admiring the power of the ocean for a moment, lost in her own thoughts.
She never noticed the figure that stepped out of the darkness and onto her patio. He was powerful and moved quickly, clamping a gloved hand over her mouth. Before she knew what had happened, she felt a prick, almost like being stung, and her body went limp. She not only couldn’t move a muscle, she couldn’t make a sound.
The man removed his hand from her mouth, bent down, and slung her over his shoulder.
She could feel her heart pounding in her chest. What is going on? she screamed in the silence of her mind. Why me? What does he want? Where is he taking me?
It didn’t take long for her last question to be answered. Staring down past the man’s dark trousers and thick, black boots, she could see the flagstone path turn to sand. He was taking her to the beach. Why the beach? Does he need some isolated spot where he can do whatever it is he is going to do to me?
A couple of hundred yards away, Claire began to see the outline of something else and her heart began to pound even faster.
Pulled up onto the beach was an inflatable, gray Zodiac boat. Claire was deathly afraid of open water, particularly the open ocean. It was one thing to have a house on the coast with a view of the ocean; it was something entirely different to be out on the water. But Claire had no choice in what was about to happen.
Laying her down inside the Zodiac, the man pulled the bow around and dragged the boat into the ocean.
She could feel the moment it was floated and lifted up off the sand. A wave of nausea swept over her and she wanted to