When Victor Holland comes flying out of the night, he runs straight into the path of Catherine Weaver’s car. Having uncovered a terrifying secret that leads all the way to Washington, Victor is running for his life—and from men who will go to any lengths to silence him.
Though Victor’s story sounds like the ravings of a madman, the haunted look in his eyes—and the bullet hole in his shoulder—tell Cathy a different story. As each hour brings pursuers ever closer, she has to wonder, is she giving her trust to a man in danger…or trusting her life to a dangerous man?
NEVER SAY DIE
Twenty years after her father’s plane crashed in the jungles of Southeast Asia, Willy Jane Maitland travels to the other side of the world to track his final moves. She recognizes the danger in what she’s doing, but her search for the truth about that fateful flight is the only thing that matters.
Irreverent former army officer Guy Barnard knows the jungles and the workings of the land so unfamiliar to Willy—and Willy knows she couldn’t proceed without him. But in a place where truth has many faces, she suspects even Guy has hidden motives. What she couldn’t have prepared for are the shocking secrets and undeniable attraction she must face.
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General Joe Kistner did not sweat, a fact that utterly amazed Willy Jane Maitland, since she herself seemed to be sweating through her sensible cotton underwear, through her sleeveless chambray blouse, all the way through her wrinkled twill skirt. Kistner looked like the sort of man who ought to be sweating rivers in this heat. He had a fiercely ruddy complexion, bulldog jowls, a nose marbled with spidery red veins, and a neck so thick, it strained to burst free of his crisp military collar. Every inch the blunt, straight-talking, tough old soldier, she thought. Except for the eyes. They're uneasy. Evasive.
Those eyes, a pale, chilling blue, were now gazing across the veranda. In the distance the lush Thai hills seemed to steam in the afternoon heat. "You're on a fool's errand, Miss Maitland," he said. "It's been twenty years. Surely you agree your father is dead." bury, General."
Kistner sighed. "Of course. The wives. It's always the wives. There were so many widows, one tends to forget"
"She hasn't forgotten."
"I'm not sure what I can tell you. What I ought to tell you." He turned to her, his pale eyes targeting her face.
"And really, Miss Maitland, what purpose does this serve? Except to satisfy your curiosity?"
That irritated her. It made her mission seem trivial, and there were few things Willy resented more than being made to feel insignificant. Especially by a puffed up, flat-topped warmonger. Rank didn't impress her, certainly not after all the military stuffed shirts she'd met in the past few months. They'd all expressed their sympathy, told her they couldn't help her and proceeded to brush off her questions. But Willy wasn't a woman to be stonewalled. She'd chip away at their silence until they'd either answer her or kick her out.
Lately, it seemed, she'd been kicked out of quite a few offices.
"This matter is for the Casualty Resolution Committee," said Kistner. "They're the proper channel to go"
"They say they can't help me."
"Neither can I."
"We both know you can."
There was a pause. Softly, he asked, "Do we?"
She leaned forward, intent on claiming the advantage.
"I've done my homework, General. I've written letters, talked to dozens of peopleeveryone who had anything to do with that last mission. And whenever I mention Laos or Air America or Flight 5078, your name keeps popping up."
He gave her a faint smile. "How nice to be remembered." "I heard you were the military attaché in Vientiane. That your office commissioned my father's last flight. And that you personally ordered that final mission."
"Where did you hear that rumor?"
"My contacts at Air America. Dad's old buddies. I'd call them a reliable source."
Kistner didn't respond at first. He was studying her as carefully as he would a battle plan. "I may have issued such an order," he conceded.
"Meaning you don't remember?"
"Meaning it's something I'm not at liberty to discuss. This is classified information. What happened in Laos is an extremely sensitive topic."
"We're not discussing military secrets here. The war's been over for fifteen years!"
Kistner fell silent, surprised by her vehemence. Given her unassuming size, it was especially startling. Obviously Willy Maitland, who stood five-two, tops, in her bare feet, could be as scrappy as any six-foot marine, and she wasn't afraid to fight. From the minute she'd walked onto his veranda, her shoulders squared, her jaw angled stubbornly, he'd known this was not a woman to be ignored. She reminded him of that old Eisenhower chestnut, "It's not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog." Three wars, fought in Japan, Korea and Nam, had taught Kistner never to underestimate the enemy.
He wasn't about to underestimate Wild Bill Maitland's daughter, either.
He shifted his gaze across the wide veranda to the brilliant green mountains. In a wrought-iron birdcage, a macaw screeched out a defiant protest.
At last Kistner began to speak. "Flight 5078 took off from Vientiane with a crew of threeyour father, a cargo kicker and a copilot. Sometime during the flight, they diverted across North Vietnamese territory, where we assume they were shot down by enemy fire. Only the cargo kicker, Luis Valdez, managed to bail out. He was immediately captured by the North Vietnamese. Your father was never found."
"That doesn't mean he's dead. Valdez survived"
"I'd hardly call the man's outcome "survival.""
They paused, a momentary silence for the man who'd endured five years as a POW, only to be shattered by his return to civilization. Luis Valdez had returned home on a Saturday and shot himself on Sunday.
"You left something out, General," said Willy. "I've heard there was a passenger!."
"Oh. Yes," said Kistner, not missing a beat. "I'd forgotten."
"Who was he?"
Kistner shrugged. "A Lao. His name's not important."
"Was he with Intelligence?"
"That information, Miss Maitland, is classified." He looked away, a gesture that told her the subject of the Lao was definitely off-limits. "After the plane went down," he continued, "we mounted a search. But the ground fire was hot. And it became clear that if anyone had survived, they'd be in enemy hands."
"So you left them there."
"We don't believe in throwing lives away, Miss Maitland. That's what a rescue operation would've been. Throwing live men after dead."
Yes, she could see his reasoning. He was a military tactician, not given to sentimentality. Even now, he sat ramrod straight in his chair, his eyes calmly surveying the verdant hills surrounding his villa, as though eternally in search of some enemy.
"We never found the crash site," he continued. "But that jungle could swallow up anything. All that mist and smoke hanging over the valleys. The trees so thick, the ground never sees the light of day. But you'll get a feeling for it yourself soon enough. When are you leaving for Saigon?"
"And the Vietnamese have agreed to discuss this matter?"
"I didn't tell them my reason for coming. I was afraid I might not get the visa."
"A wise move. They aren't fond of controversy. What did you tell them?"
"That I'm a plain old tourist." She shook her head and laughed. "I'm on the deluxe private tour. Six cities in two weeks."
"That's what one has to do in Asia. You don't confront the issues. You dance around them." He looked at his watch, a clear signal that the interview had come to an end.
They rose to their feet. As they shook hands, she felt him give her one last, appraising look. His grip was brisk and matter-of-fact, exactly what she expected from an old war dog.
"Good luck, Miss Maitland," he said with a nod of dismissal. "I hope you find what you're looking for."
He turned to look off at the mountains. That's when she noticed for the first time that tiny beads of sweat were glistening like diamonds on his forehead.
General Kistner watched as the woman, escorted by a servant, walked back toward the house. He was uneasy. He remembered Wild Bill Maitland only too clearly, and the daughter was very much like him. There would be trouble.
He went to the tea table and rang a silver bell. The tinkling drifted across the expanse of veranda, and seconds later, Kistner's secretary appeared.
"Has Mr. Barnard arrived?" Kistner asked.
"He has been waiting for half an hour," the man replied.
"And Ms. Maitland's driver?"
"I sent him away, as you directed."
"Good." Kistner nodded. "Good."
"Shall I bring Mr. Barnard in to see you?"
"No. Tell him I'm canceling my appointments. Tomorrow's, as well."
The secretary frowned. "He will be quite annoyed." "Yes, I imagine he will be," said Kistner as he turned and headed toward his office. "But that's his problem."
A Thai servant in a crisp white jacket escorted Willy through an echoing, cathedral-like hall to the reception room. There he stopped and gave her a politely questioning look. "You wish me to call a car?" he asked.
"No, thank you. My driver will take me back."
The servant looked puzzled. "But your driver left some time ago."
"He couldn't have!" She glanced out the window in annoyance. "He was supposed to wait for"
"Perhaps he is parked in the shade beyond the trees. I will go and look."
Through the French windows, Willy watched as the servant skipped gracefully down the steps to the road. The estate was vast and lushly planted; a car could very well be hidden in that jungle. Just beyond the driveway, a gardener clipped a hedge of jasmine. A neatly graveled path traced a route across the lawn to a tree-shaded garden of flowers and stone benches. And in the far distance, a fairy blue haze seemed to hang over the city of Bangkok.
The sound of a masculine throat being cleared caught her attention. She turned and for the first time noticed the man standing in a far corner of the reception room. He cocked his head in a casual acknowledgment of her presence. She caught a glimpse of a crooked grin, a stray lock of brown hair drooping over a tanned forehead. Then he turned his attention back to the antique tapestry on the wall.
Strange. He didn't look like the sort of man who'd be interested in moth-eaten embroidery. A patch of sweat had soaked through the back of his khaki shirt, and his sleeves were shoved up carelessly to his elbows. His trousers looked as if they'd been slept in for a week. A briefcase, stamped U.S. Army ID Lab, sat on the floor beside him, but he didn't strike her as the military type. There was certainly nothing disciplined about his posture. He'd seem more at home slouching at a bar somewhere instead of cooling his heels in General Kistner's marble reception room.
The servant was back, shaking his head apologetically.
"There must have been a misunderstanding. The gardener says your driver returned to the city."
"Oh, no." She looked out the window in frustration.
"How do I get back to Bangkok?" "Perhaps General Kistner's driver can take you back? He has gone up the road to make a delivery, but he should return very soon. If you wish, you can see the garden in the meantime."
"Yes. Yes, I suppose that'd be nice."
The servant, smiling proudly, opened the door. "It is a very famous garden. General Kistner is known for his collection of dendrobiums. You will find them at the end of the path, near the carp pond."
She stepped out into the steam bath of late afternoon and started down the gravel path. Except for the clack-clack of the gardener's hedge clippers, the day was absolutely still. She headed toward a stand of trees. But halfway across the lawn she suddenly stopped and looked back at the house.
At first all she saw was sunlight glaring off the marble facade. Then she focused on the first floor and saw the figure of a man standing at one of the windows. The servant, perhaps?
Turning, she continued along the path. But every step of the way, she was acutely aware that someone was watching her.