The Worst Fear Excerpt Chapter Seven

Chapter Seven

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Niles could hear a pin drop.

He had been screened and scanned up top, then made the same ear-popping descent down to the high-security level deep underground, where he was shown into the same hyper-secure conference room. He had taken his same seat opposite the same seven men at the long table, and after pleasantries had been exchanged, all eyes had turned deferentially to the big man seated in the middle, directly across from him.

 

General Petrone knew he had the floor, but he didn’t speak, didn’t say a word. He just stared intently at Niles, his penetrating gaze unwavering, like a laser, peering into Niles’ soul.

Niles met Petrone’s stare head-on. He didn’t enjoy being scrutinized like this by anyone, not even a high-ranking officer for such a high-stakes operation. But he also knew there was nothing he could do about it but be cool and ride it out. 

 

“Are you a winner, Agent Niles?” Petrone’s question finally broke the silence.    

 

“Sir?” Niles hadn’t been sure what to expect from the General, but this wasn’t on the list.

“I only back winners, Agent Niles. That’s how I got these stars.” Petrone tapped the three silver stars pinned on the shoulder loop of his tunic. “So let me ask you again: are you a winner?”

“Yes, sir,” answered Niles. He understood now.

“Because this plan of yours, well, it appears there are only two people in this room who believe you can pull it off -- you, and me.” Petrone looked at the faces of the other officers flanking him. All of them, including Dixon, continued to stare impassively at Niles.

“That’s why I asked you to come up here today on such short notice. So I could look you in the eye when I ask you one question, the only question that matters.” He paused.

Niles straightened up in his chair. “Yes, sir…”

 

“The question, Agent Niles, is this: Are you sure? About your plan. Are you goddamn sure?!”

Niles didn’t need to think about his response. “As sure as I can be about anything on this Earth.”

“Because there’s an awful goddamn lot riding on this, Agent Niles.”

“Yes, sir. I know that.”


“And once the genie’s out of the bottle, you can’t put it back.”


“I know that, too, sir.”


Petrone regarded Niles for a long moment. Finally, he pursed his lips and rapped the table twice with his knuckles. “Okay -- Go get ‘em.”
 

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