No woman is complete without her team…even if she doesn’t know them.
Miranda turned very slowly; she’d never faced a weapon before.
She could shoot one well enough, though she’d never enjoyed it particularly. Living in a very isolated area as she did between assignments, it was occasionally necessary to put down an injured animal herself. It still made her cry every time. So beautiful and free in life, then—bang!—gone forever. Just like every victim in a plane crash she’d been unable to prevent.
“I said no goddamn photographs. Now give me that thing.” General Harrison tipped the handgun slightly to indicate her tablet.
The pumping adrenaline made her even more hyperaware of details than normal. Every bit of grit shifting under the sole of her boots was a moment of individual assessment until she came face-to-face with the tiny black hole at the end of the barrel, which seemed to expand until it filled the world.
Now her heart rate was escalating toward panic and her palm went sweaty holding the tablet.
She glanced over the barrel at the scowling general’s face. This time when her eyes refocused on the tip of the barrel, the black hole had returned to its normal size—small, black, and utterly void of feeling.
Before she could decide on the best course of action, a tall blonde came toward them from the landed helicopter—slightly behind the general’s field of view. She could have blindsided him easily. Instead, she scuffed her boot loudly by kicking a thorny scrub brush.
The general flinched and redirected his aim at the newcomer, which caused the blonde to do little more than arch an eyebrow.
“Now isn’t this just so interesting.” Her accent was thickly Australian. She remained at perfect ease as she circled around to stand close beside Miranda.
The handgun tracked her closely.
“Now general, I don’t want to be telling you your job, but is this really the best course of action? First, if you do manage to shoot me, there will be a whole mess of paperwork just pilin’ up higher than Uluru—that’s the big red rock at the center of Australia, by the by, just in case you’re not from around about there—which is a lot of paperwork. Shooting a civilian is very bad form. Even worse, firing on the Investigator-in-Charge of the NTSB Go Team investigating your crash would make your motivations appear maybe a tiny bit suspect to people. People you probably don’t want suspecting things about you. However, far more importantly, me former mates in the SAS—that’s the Australian Special Air Service, not my Brit brethren—would be sorely disappointed if I was to let either of those scenarios happen.” She stood as casually as if she was chatting with a friend.
Miranda inspected her more closely.
She was five-ten and looked remarkably fit. Which would be fitting for the SAS. Australian Special Operations might not be Delta Force, but they were very elite military. Miranda had no idea what she was doing here, but the woman appeared far better prepared to deal with a weapon-bearing general than she herself was.
Her hands—Miranda always noticed hands—were strong and had a wide variety of calluses. The most prominent were on the webbing between thumb and forefinger. Miranda tried flexing her own hand through several positions that different tasks might require, but none of them seemed likely to create such a mark. Unless…
Miranda formed her hand as if she was firing a pistol. Yes, each shot would make the weapon buck against the webbing between thumb and forefinger, which matched the observed data. Just how much did someone have to shoot to create a callus there? Obviously, this woman could answer the question.
“So, mate. I’m asking myself, ‘Holly’—that’s my name, so it’s how I typically address myself—‘Holly, should you break one or both of the general’s hands as you take his weapon?’ For the moment, you may consider that an idle question while you consider the next part. As an extra add-on service, I’d be glad to shoot you with it after I rip it from your bleeding fingers. Just a graze, mind you, so that you could claim you struggled manfully before a Sheila took away your personal weapon and spanked you with it.”