Camden Alexander squinted against the onslaught of salt water striking his face. He smacked his lips closed and gritted his teeth against the sand lodging in his gums.
Salt and sand. He was beginning to hate it.
He slithered one hand in front of him, slowly, carefully, feeling his way around the marshy dunes.
Something was wrong. Tension ran like brambles along his spine, lashing the back of his neck. The clammy heat stuck to his skin and clothing like epoxy, and not even a fresh spray of ocean air could help dissipate the goo.
No, this ocean air was putrid. Dead fish. Dead seagulls. Swarms of mosquitoes. This wasn’t the section of ocean displayed in the traveler’s brochures.
Moonlight drifted across the water. Camden used the glow that beamed across the water as his flare, keeping him grounded as he trudged on his knees through sand and cacti, praying. If Web caught him here, what would he say? How could he explain this?
He couldn’t explain it. That’s why he couldn’t be found.
"Camden," his earbud cackled. His heartbeat quickened, his nerves already chaotic. He stopped, crouching lower, as if anyone else could hear the voice in his head.
"I'm here," Camden whispered.
“Where?” Moore’s voice was edged in tension. Moore, who was back at the command post. Safe, sound and secure.
“I lost sight of Web. Where’s our backup?”
Static. Camden jiggled the earbud. Nothing.
The unmistakable smell of death struck him. Like rancid meat left out too long, or the smell of vomit festering after a week in the hot sun. Camden couldn't see. He lost sight of the moon behind a thick row of clouds and the burrow of weeds he hid in.
He put one hand in front of the other. Moved his knee, felt around on the ground. He searched for his gun and breathed a sigh of relief when he found it.
Not that it’d help him much with the mess he was in.
He butted up against something squishy and smelly.
The clouds shifted, revealing a sky full of twinkling stars and translucent beauty. It should have been a time to kick back with a woman and bask in the afterglow of love. A time to relish the warmer days of summer, run down the beach and dive into the cool splash of water, or eat cold watermelon with a frosted mug of brew.
The body on the ground was anything but beautiful.
Agent Bill Fletcher was dead.
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