The Enforcer (Taskforce Series) Online - Marliss Melton

Chapter One

Stepping off the Amtrak at the train station in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, Special Agent Tobias Burke spared a distracted thought for the station’s architecture. The building, a relic of the Victorian Era, stood quaint and well-maintained. Someone with questionable taste had decided to paint it maroon.

Milly, his bomb-sniffing Labrador, tugged him toward the luggage being tossed out of the train’s underbelly. As she snuffled inquisitively at the bevy of suitcases, Toby picked out his army-issue duffle bag and slung it over one broad shoulder.

The bag matched his battle dress uniform and the black gel bracelet embossed with Never Forget. He’d strapped on his old military watch and the boots he’d once worn to trudge across Afghanistan. In combination with his shaggy hair, the ensemble made him look like a veteran drifter—just the illusion he wanted to create.

Pushing out of the train station, Toby headed for the Civil War era buildings teetering on the façade of the crimson-leafed mountain in front of him. The small historical town of Harpers Ferry looked in danger of sliding into the rivers that converged below, especially if it were to rain too hard. Fortunately, a bright October sun warmed the top of Toby’s dark head and only one fluffy cloud floated in the light blue sky.

As he skirted the parking lot for Milly to relieve herself, the hairs on Toby’s nape began to prickle. Was he being watched already? His gut burbled with unexpected nervousness. He had battled extremists in Afghanistan and, for the past six years as a member of the Special Response Teams in the ATF, he’d exchanged fire with gun-traffickers on the streets of Washington D.C., so why would lunch with a West Virginia militia leader so much as elevate his pulse?

Then again, Captain Dylan Connelly wasn’t your average, everyday militia leader. Her work in Mortuary Affairs with the U.S. Army had left her with a raging case of PTSD. Her anti-government essays and civil-rights-violations protests made her the FBI’s top suspect in the bombing of Defense Secretary Nolan’s car the month before. The bombing had left the Secretary dead, but FBI had yet to prove her culpability. If she was guilty of murder—and they were pretty sure she was—Toby was bound to find out.

Searching the nooks and crevices of the town before him, he hunted for the eyes that were no doubt watching him. The shops and sidewalks teemed with tourists taking advantage of Columbus Day, hiding the source of his disquiet. Keeping a sharp lookout, he proceeded toward the designated meeting spot—Private Quinn’s Pub, a dog-friendly eatery.

The hostess standing on the wooden deck beamed down at them. “Just the two of you?”

“We’re joining the Connelly party.”

“Oh, yes, they’re waiting for you. Follow me.”

As Toby rounded the corner of the building, a silvery set of eyes alighted on him, sending a jolt of awareness clear to his toes. She’d been watching him from the back of the L-shaped deck where the shadows had kept her concealed. Her rich auburn hair, pinned into a bun, contrasted sharply with her milk white skin. Her striking eyes seemed to see straight through Toby’s guise, unsettling him. The size of her dark-skinned companion did little to reassure him, as that man pushed to his feet.

“Tobias Burke?” His deep voice resonated in the open space.

“Yes, sir.” Toby extended a hand, but the giant ignored it.

“Terrence Ashby, Executive Officer of the Second Amendment Militia,” he intoned with formality. “This is Captain Dylan Connelly,” he added, gesturing to his leader.

Do I salute? Toby opted for a respectful nod. “Pleasure, ma’am.”

“Welcome.” Looking chagrined by her XO’s pompous formality, she fixed her gaze on Milly. “Who is this?” she asked, extending a hand to the black Lab.

“Her name’s Milly,” Toby said. “She’s a service dog, though, not a pet.”

The leader abruptly drew her hand back.

“I was diagnosed with PTSD,” Toby lied. “And Milly keeps me on an even keel.” He had to have some excuse for bringing his bomb-sniffing dog with him. Claiming Post Traumatic Stress Disorder was meant to give them something in common.

Except that Captain Connelly did not acknowledge her diagnosis.

“Please, have a seat,” she said.

Drawn to her pleasant voice and the way her lips moved when she talked, Toby dropped into the chair next to hers. If the rumor about the leaders was true, then they made an odd-looking couple. The executive officer was as broad and dark as the captain was slight and fair. At least they wore civilian clothing in lieu of militia garb,