Nemesis Page 1

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JFK AIRPORT

NEW YORK CITY

Wednesday afternoon

Mid-May

The airport security line slowly inched forward, nearly sixty passengers stoically weaving back and forth in the ritual strip-dance everyone knew and put up with. At least Sherlock didn’t have her Glock with her, so she wouldn’t have to fill out a gazillion forms. Her meeting with the lead federal prosecutor in an upcoming murder trial had lasted six and a half hours, and probably would have gone on longer if she hadn’t simply gotten up and said she had a plane to catch. She couldn’t wait to get home and throw a football with Sean, if the plane took off at a reasonable time, that is. She looked forward to downing a cup of Dillon’s knock-your-socks-off coffee, and having him sing to her while he scrubbed her back in the shower.

Out of habit she studied the faces, the eyes, the clothes, and the body language of those around her, guessing what people were thinking, planning, where they were going. Home? Business? Rendezvous? She knew one thing for sure: they were hoping as she was that flights wouldn’t be delayed or canceled. The woman ahead of her sighed. “All I want to do is get home, jump in the tub, and wash off all traces of Mickey Sturgiss.”

Sherlock said, a smile on her face, “A wild day with Mickey?”

The woman rolled her eyes. “A deposition for a slime bucket who should be deported to Mars.”

Sherlock laughed. “You’re a lawyer?”

“Yes, but not this idiot’s lawyer. I was doing his lawyer a favor. Believe me, I’ll make sure he knows he owes me big-time.” She stuck out her hand. “Melissa Harkness.”

Sherlock shook her hand. “Lacey Sherlock. Come to think of it, I could do some washing, too.”

“Don’t tell me you’re a lawyer, too?”

“I’m FBI, actually.” Melissa Harkness was on the heavy side, in her thirties, and she was carrying a large briefcase in one hand and a black tote the size of one of Jupiter’s moons in the other. She looked like she might be dragging, but her bright eyes were filled with intelligence and interest.

Her laugh at Sherlock’s name started them off, and soon they were talking about Sherlock’s dad, a federal judge, and Sherlock’s job as an FBI agent, as the line slowly snaked its way toward the TSA folk ensconced on their high stools, checking each ticket and ID.

Sherlock noticed a tall man a couple people ahead of Melissa. He was standing stock-still, as if frozen in place. The man behind him had to nudge him, unheard of in an airport security line with everyone wanting to move forward quickly. He was dark-haired and on the thin side. What caught her eye was the fact that his lower face was bone white, as if he’d recently shaved off a full beard, perhaps that very morning. He looked calm, but she saw his hands were trembling as he pulled off his black loafers and placed them in a bin. Something was off. She watched him shrug off his coat and start on his belt. Then, without warning, he turned, shoved aside the two passengers behind him, and grabbed Melissa around the neck. He pulled something out of his briefcase—it was a grenade. He waved it around, all the while backing away, pulling Melissa with him. When people around them realized what was happening, there were screams and shouts, everyone focused on the grenade held high over his head now, a finger through the safety ring. He yelled, his voice shaking as badly as his hands, “That’s right, it’s a grenade!” He screamed at the TSA agents, who were now speaking into their walkie-talkies, several of them moving toward him. “Nobody move! Your X-ray isn’t much use now, is it? It doesn’t matter I’m not lily-white!” He pointed the grenade at a tall black TSA agent who was trying to flank him. “Or black! All of you—stay away or she dies, along with the rest of you.” He stopped moving when he felt a concrete pillar behind his back.

A TSA agent called out, only a bit of a wobble in her voice, “Sir, put the grenade down and we can talk about what you want.”

He laughed. “Really? I know how you idiots operate. Even without this grenade, you’d probably have taken me to one of your little rooms and ordered me to strip down, treated me like a criminal—that’s because you target men who look Middle Eastern, and that’s profiling and it’s against the law.” His voice was near a scream now. Sherlock heard a French accent overlying the British clip, with a trace of Farsi or Arabic. “Because I’m dark and wear a beard?” Had he forgotten he’d shaved it off? “Don’t come any closer or we all die right now!” He tightened his hold around Melissa’s neck. Her hands were pulling at his arm, her face turning blue.

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