He’s gonna kill you,” Wade grumbled over the phone.
“He’s gonna have to make me first,” Mase said as he pulled up flights.
“He’s an operator of the highest caliber. He’ll probably feel it when you land at the same airport he did.”
Mase rolled his eyes. There was no way Jazz would ‘feel’ when he landed. Then again, Mase felt it when Jazz entered a room. It was like the air changed. In the beginning, he’d tried to ignore it, but over the past decade, it had become a part of him. He was a sucker for Jazz.
“I’m plenty angry at him, too,” Mase said. “I just might kill him for doing something so monumentally stupid.”
Jazz wouldn’t see Mase until he wanted Jazz to. And, at some point, Mase would want that. Jazz would learn he couldn’t just go rogue at any time without being detected.
“Fuck,” Max yelled as something crashed.
“Don’t throw that keyboard. It belongs to Hart Consulting,” Wade chided.
“I can afford to replace it,” Max said.
“I have no doubt, but that would mean you’ll have to use a regular keyboard until it arrives, so let’s just respect HC property.”
A scraping sound followed by the clackety-clack of typing meant Max had made up with his computer and was once again working to find Jazz with his mad hacker skills.
“I can’t find him. Why can’t I find him? I have better facial recognition software than the government does,” Max mumbled.
“Only because you took theirs and made it better,” Wade reminded him.
“Why start from scratch when you can improve on what’s already there?”
“If it’s so stellar, why can’t you locate Jazz?” Mase asked.
There was a sigh and more typing on the other end of the line. Mase had three tabs open on his laptop, each ready to book a flight to a different city.
Jazz was already in the air, headed to some unknown destination. They were stuck trying to figure out which flight he’d boarded.
“This is ridiculous,” Max said. “You can’t wear a hat or a hood through security, so why can’t I find him?”
Mase could tell that it was more of an ego thing than a general frustration on Max’s part. Max never missed. He didn’t screw up when it came to computers. He was a genius with both hardware and software, and Hart Consulting was lucky to have him.
Max had never been in the military, but he still had a call sign. His name was S.I.N. Some buddies in college had called him a Super Intel Nerd and the name had stuck and shortened to ‘Sin’.
The description fit Max, but the acronym didn’t. Mase only ever thought of him as Max, because if he looked at Max, his thoughts were more protective than sinful. Max was cute as a button…in a grumpy kitten sort of way. Sure, he was a good-looking kid—but he was still a kid.
He looked about sixteen, not twenty-four. And he was one of Mase’s kid brother’s best friends. Mase still couldn’t believe that his younger brothers had sought him out after all these years. He shifted in the pleather airport seat as he thought about how much pressure Nick was applying to get Mase to go see their father.
“Is there another way to find him?” Wade asked.
“Of course there is, but I still need to figure out how he slipped past my facial recognition software. If it’s a flaw in the program, I need to know and adjust for it.”
“Fret over your precious program later,” Mase said. “For now, find Jazz so I can get on a plane.”
Mase kept his voice low. He was already at the airport, bag in hand, ready to chase after Jazz. No one was close enough to hear what he was saying, but he was still paranoid. It came with the job.
“Fine,” Max sighed. “Let me follow his coordinates for a minute or two. I’ll match the trajectory with tail numbers of planes and find out where he’s going. If we didn’t have a GPS tracker on him, this wouldn’t be possible, so when you do see him, ask him how he slips past airport security cams.”
And Mase sent a thought of thanks to Dee, Jazz’s grandma. They’d all been worried about his erratic behavior over the past two months. Dee had helped them plant GPS trackers in items Jazz almost always had with him.
Mase would do everything he could to keep Dee’s name out of it, but he’d have to give up at least one of the trackers when he confronted Jazz. And there would definitely be a confrontation.
He’d give up the disk they’d placed in his wallet first. It was something any of them could have put there. Max had tagged each tracker. Currently, Jazz had two of the trackers on him, the one in his wallet and the one in the watch that had been his grandfather’s.
They’d put a third tracker in his favorite knife and a fourth in the knife that had been his grandfather’s, but Jazz had left both of those behind. It would have been hard to get them through airport security.
“Is it some CIA trick?” Max asked.
“Dodging my facial rec program.”
“I’ll ask him if I ever find out where he’s going,” Mase said.
“Yeah, yeah. Almost there… Got it. He’s on a flight headed to Bush Intercontinental in Houston.”
“Fuck,” Mase said as he clicked on the tab with the flight to Houston.
“Houston’s bad?” Max asked.
“Martin Coleman lives in Texas, so not a good sign. Okay, flight’s booked. I’m out for at least forty-eight hours.”
“You’re risking your cover, too,” Wade warned.
“My job is to follow around Bernard. That’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Jazz was supposed to be undercover as a high-level French drug and human trafficker named Lucien Bernard. Mase had been rising in the ranks of a Ukrainian drug and human trafficking ring. Their covers were intersecting for the moment.
“We’ll make it work if we need to.” Wade sighed. “Texas is a believable place for you both to travel. I need you back by Wednesday, though, because Jazz has that meeting with Campbell, the lawyer from San Francisco, though I’d prefer to have you back by Tuesday. Double-D is coming in to go over financials, and since you’re Stateside…”
“I’ll be back. In fact, both Jazz and I will hopefully return long before Tuesday. I need to go catch my flight. We’ll talk when I touch down.”
Mase disconnected the call and got in line for the security checkpoint. Being back on American soil was great—and yet it wasn’t. Wade wanted him to jump into a role he’d neglected three years before when he’d moved to Ukraine.
Hart Consulting had originally started as a joke. While he was being investigated for sedition, Mase started investigating the men accusing him, namely his commanding officer and teammates.
It hadn’t initially worked out as he’d planned. Mase had been discharged, and two of the three men who’d testified against him were still in the army. But he’d done such a good job investigating his commanding officer that Captain Banning had been court-martialed and was still in jail. The assholes who had accused Mase of sexually harassing them were still serving their country.
Mase was no longer bitter, because he’d found his calling. The army had offered financial security when he’d had none. But Hart Consulting was his, and he was making a difference exactly where he wanted to.
He’d been cleared of most of the charges, though he hadn’t received an offer to return to service. He could probably thank Major General Moore for that.
Mase shook thoughts of Blake and his father out of his head. Coming back to the US had his past bombarding him. It seemed Jazz was facing the same issues.