Undercover Texas - By Robin Perini

Chapter One

“We need a dead body.”

“Yeah, Jimmy, we do, except we need two bodies for this job.” From the passenger seat of their van, Terence Mahew scanned the suburban development they’d staked out. A lick of sweat trickled down his forehead. Blasted Florida heat. The van was hotter than some of the hellholes he’d visited courtesy of the U.S. military before he’d been drummed out.

Terence swiped his brow with a bandanna, tied the rag around his shaved head and looked over at his eager-eyed cohort. “You wanna pick the vics this time? We need a woman and a kid.”

His nephew nodded, face flushed with excitement.

Yeah, Jimmy was psycho. Just the way Terence liked his accomplices. Ready for anything. No conscience in sight.

Terence propped his combat boot on the dash, slid his favorite Bowie from the leather sheath on his thigh and tested the blade. The sharp steel nicked his index finger, and a drop of blood pooled on the pad. Bored with waiting, he considered the crimson bead for a few seconds, then smeared it across his skin. Interesting how the cut oozed and then stopped so quickly. He inhaled deep and sucked the salty fluid. Sick, he knew, but he loved that coppery tang.

Since being booted out of Special Ops, Terence had missed the kill. He’d put the word out to the right people, and he’d landed a sweet gig this time. A woman and a baby. Easy pickings.

The way he looked at it, he’d been lucky. Paid to kill since he turned eighteen. Of course, now the highest bidder wrote the checks instead of the government. His next paycheck had enough zeros to take care of his mama for quite a while.

Terence flicked his thumb against the blade, drawing another dollop of blood. He’d regretted the fear in his mama’s eyes when he’d given her the new car his last visit. She never asked him a question or said a word. Just gave him that look, that same skittish, knowing look as when he was a kid telling her he planned to hone his “hunting” skills in the woods near home. Well, he was all grown up and still hunting. He expected she knew it. At least his prey was a lot more fun now.

Speaking of prey, Terence had a kidnapping to plan. He scanned the upscale neighborhood’s surroundings beneath a hooded gaze. His nephew might be raring to go, but too much enthusiasm made a man stupid. Jimmy boy didn’t need any help in that department.

His nephew needed to be cold and calculating, no emotions. That’s what made Terence the best.

“Okay, Jimmy, tell me what you see. Anything useful?”

“There are some nice houses,” Jimmy ventured nervously. “Lots of trees. Grass.”

“Are you trying to piss me off?” Even with the air conditioner blowing full force in his face, perspiration soaked the back of Terence’s T-shirt. Ninety percent humidity and ninety degrees pretty much sucked as much as the kid’s powers of observation.

“Listen up, you idiot. We’ve been following Dr. Jamison around for the past few days. Each afternoon we’ve been planted right in this spot, watching her. What does she do?”

“Uh...snags her kid from the car seat and cuddles him?”

“That’s the hearts and roses version. We’re kidnapping her. You need to identify what she does that will let us grab her and the baby. She pulls her car in right beside those great big bushes, takes the kid out and puts him on her hip, Jimmy. That means she balances all her other crap on the other arm so she has no way to defend herself.”

“Do we kill the kid?”

“No.” Terence had wanted to eliminate the baby, too. Easier to set up the disappearance that way. “The guy who hired us almost blew an artery when I suggested it. Apparently, his group needs Dr. Jamison alive and unhurt. They want her baby for leverage.”

“Too bad.”

“Yeah.” Truth was, as long as the check cleared, Terence didn’t care what they’d planned for the doctor or her kid. None of his business. But he’d bet she wouldn’t be living in a small, peaceful suburban neighborhood with tidy green lawns anymore. From the rumors he’d heard about this terrorist group, she’d likely be held in one of the piss-poor desert countries he’d spent the past fifteen years crawling all over. The only way her kid would stay alive was if she did exactly as she was told. Terence could almost pity her, except he was too busy counting those tantalizing zeros.

He leaned his