Sidney Sheldon’s Reckless

Except for Apollo.

Hunter hated using the stupid Greek codename. It was so pretentious. But as it was the only name he had for the bastard who had shot Bob, it would have to do. Apollo was always different. Angrier, surlier, more self-important than the others. Hunter had identified him early on as a bully and a nasty piece of work. But never in a million years had he thought Apollo intent on murder.

Bob’s execution had left the entire camp in a profound state of shock. It wasn’t just Hunter. The other guards seemed genuinely horrified by what had happened. People were crying. Vomiting. But no one had the gumption to face down Apollo.

This was it. The new reality.

They were all in it up to their necks.

The radio signal was fading. Hunter twiddled the knob desperately, looking for something, anything, to distract him from his fear. He’d been in dangerous situations before in his journalistic career. He’d been shot at in Aleppo and Baghdad, and narrowly escaped a helicopter crash in Eastern Ukraine. But in a war zone you had adrenaline to keep you going. There was no time for fear. It was easy to be brave.

Here, in the silence of the cabin, with nothing but his friend’s empty bed and his own fevered thoughts for company, fear squatted over Hunter like a giant, black toad. It crushed the breath from his body and the hope from his soul.

They’re going to kill me.

They’re going to kill me and bury me in the forest, next to Bob.

In the beginning, in the days and hours after Bob’s death, Hunter had dared to hope. Someone will find me. They’ll all be looking now. The Brits. The Americans. Someone will come and rescue me.

But as the days passed and no one came, hope died.

Hunter’s radio crackled loudly, then the signal dropped completely. Reluctantly, he crawled back under his covers and tried to sleep. It was impossible. His limbs ached with exhaustion but his brain was on speed. Images flew at him like bullets.

His mother in her Chicago apartment, beside herself with worry in her tatty chair.

His most recent lover, Fiona from the New York Times, screaming at him for two-timing her the day he left for Moscow. “I hope one of Putin’s thugs catches you and beats you to death with a crowbar. Asshole!”

Bob Daley, making some stupid wisecrack the night before he made the video.

The night before Apollo blew his brains out.

Would they make him record a video too? Would Bobby’s bloodstains still be on the camera lens?


A cold prickle of terror crept over him, like needles in the skin.

I have to get out of here!

Hunter sat bolt upright, gasping for breath, struggling to control his bowels. Please, God, help me! Show me the way out of this.

He hadn’t realized until this moment quite how desperately he didn’t want to die. Perhaps because this was the moment when he knew for certain that he was going to. Any rescue mission would have happened by now.

No one knows where I am.

No one’s coming.

And really, why should they come? Hunter Drexel had never felt or shown any particular loyalty to his homeland. What right did he have to expect loyalty in return?

Hunter had never understood the concept of patriotism. Allegiance to a country, or an ideology, was utterly baffling to him. People like Group 99, who devoted their entire lives to a cause, fascinated him. Why? Hunter Drexel saw the world only in terms of people. Individuals. People mattered. Ideas did not. Hunter had more in common with Group 99’s worldview and political beliefs than he did with Bob Daley’s. Yet Bob was a good person. And Apollo, or whatever his real name was, was a bad person. In the end, that was all that mattered, not the labels that either man lived under:





They were nothing but empty words.

If Hunter Drexel identified himself as anything, it was as a journalist. Writing meant something. The truth meant something. That was about as ideological as Hunter got.

He looked around the wooden cabin that had been his home for the last few months and tried to slow his breathing. The heavy wooden door was wedged shut with a split tree trunk and armed guards took shifts outside. Since Bob’s death two solid iron bars had been nailed across the window. Beyond it lay miles of impenetrable forest, an army of tall, darkly swaying pines above a thick white blanket of snow. In their wilder moments of fantasy, Hunter and Bob had concocted escape plans. All were insanely risky, preposterous really. The kind of thing that would work in a cartoon. And all involved two people. Alone, escape was quite impossible. The only way out of here was the one that Bob Daley had already taken.

Hunter lay back, not calm exactly, but past the hyperventilating stage. Acceptance, that was the key. Letting go. But how did one accept one’s own death?

His mind drifted to a story he’d heard on the radio yesterday, about the Greek prince who’d hung himself at Sandhurst. Achileas. It sounded like one of the stupid names Group 99 gave themselves. There was much hand-wringing about the boy’s death and an “official inquiry” had been launched.

As ever, it was the human side of the story that gripped Hunter.

Here was a young man with everything to live for, yet who had chosen to die.

Perhaps if Hunter could understand that impulse, the impulse that drove a young prince to embrace death like a lover, he would feel less afraid?

Slowly, Hunter Drexel drifted into a fitful sleep.

THE NOISE WAS A low buzz at first. Like insects swarming.

But then it got louder. The unmistakable whir of chopper blades.

“Dimitri.” One of Hunter’s guards grabbed the shoulder of his companion, shaking him awake. “Listen.”

The other guard slowly struggled out of sleep. Like Dimitri he was only nineteen. Both boys were French. This time last year they’d been studying computer science in Paris. They’d joined Group 99 for a lark, because a lot of their friends were doing it, and because they loosely supported the idea of taking the world’s super-rich down a peg or two. Neither of them quite knew how they’d ended up in a Bratislavan forest, freezing their tits off and armed with machine guns.

By the time they got to their feet, strobe lights filled the sky. The whole camp was bathed in blinding light. Then the first shots rang out.

“Shit!” Dimitri started to cry. “What do we do?”

Already the helicopters were so loud, it was hard to hear each other.

“Run!” yelled his friend.

Dimitri ran. He heard shots behind him and saw his friend fall to the forest floor. He kept going. His legs felt like jelly, as if all the strength had been sucked out of them.

The camp was a horseshoe of canvas tents clustered around the cabin. There were also two breeze-block structures, one used as a weapons store, and one as a control center, complete with a generator, satellite phone and specially customized laptop. The second structure was closest. Dimitri staggered towards it. All around him, group members were emerging from their tents, bleary-eyed with panic. Some waved guns around, but others were unarmed. Atlas and Kronos, two German lads, had their hands in the air. Dimitri watched in horror as they were mown down anyway in a hail of bullets, their limbs flailing grotesquely like dancing puppets as they died.

Then something hit him from behind. Not a bullet or a stone. It was a gust of wind, so powerful it blew him off his feet. The choppers had landed. Suddenly all was chaos, light and noise. American voices were shouting. “ON THE GROUND! GET DOWN!”

Dimitri screamed, a child’s wail of terror. Then suddenly, arms were around him, under his shoulders, dragging him into the control center.

“You’re OK.” Apollo’s voice was firm and calm. Dimitri clung to him like a life raft.

“They’re going to kill us!” the boy screamed.

“No they’re not. We’re going to kill them.”

Dimitri watched as Apollo pulled the pin out of the hand grenade with his teeth and lobbed it toward the men who had just killed his friends. As they were blown into the air, their legs came off.

“Here.” Apollo handed him a grenade. “Aim for the choppers.”

INSIDE THE CABIN, HUNTER Drexel cowered under a table.

The noise of the Chinooks was the most beautiful sound he’d ever heard.

They’re here! They found me!

Even the gunfire, the all too familiar pap pap pap pap of machine guns he remembered from Iraq and Syria sounded soothing to his ears, like a lullaby, or a mother’s voice.

Boom! The cabin door didn’t so much open as explode, shards of wood flying everywhere. Smoke filled the room in seconds, disorienting him. Hunter’s ears were ringing and his eyes stung. He heard voices, shouts, but everything was muffled, as if he were hearing them under water. He waited for someone to come in, a soldier or even one of his captors, but no one did. Crawling on his belly, Hunter began feeling his way towards the space where the cabin door used to be.

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Categories: Sidney Sheldon