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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Strong As Steel

A Caitlin Strong Novel

Caitlin Strong Novels (Volume 10)

Jon Land

Forge Books

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1


DALLAS, TEXAS


“You want to tell me what I’m doing here again?” Caitlin Strong said to Captain Bub McNelly of the Texas Criminal Investigations Division.

McNelly, who favored string ties and shiny cowboy boots, turned to the quartet of figures in equally shiny windbreakers, milling behind him in the makeshift staging area. Caitlin had heard he was a descendant of the famed Texas Ranger captain Leander McNelly, a man who’d once told the whole of the U.S. government to go to hell, but wasn’t too keen on the freedom with which Rangers still operated today.

“Special Response Teams hang their hat on being multijurisdictional,” McNelly told her. “Consider yourself the representative Ranger.”

“Since when does an SRT look more comfortable holding briefcases than firearms?”

“I need to tell you that computers are the real weapons these days?” McNelly asked her. “And those boys accompanying us are forensic experts who know how to fire back.”

“Just two guns, yours and mine, backing them up,” Caitlin noted.

“I don’t need a computer to do the math, Ranger,” McNelly said, while the four techs wearing windbreakers hovered behind them in front of the elevator. “You and I serve the warrant on the geek squad upstairs and let the experts do their thing with brains instead of bullets. How hard can it be?”

They were about to serve a search warrant on an information technology firm on the forty-second floor of the Bank of America Plaza, the city’s tallest building. Caitlin had served plenty of more “traditional” search warrants in her time, on the likes of biker gangs, drug dealers, and various other suspects. The kind of service that found her backed up by guns, and plenty of them, instead of briefcases and backpacks.

A chime sounded ahead of the elevator door sliding open.

“In my experience,” Caitlin said, stepping in first to position herself so the door didn’t close again before the SRT computer forensics techs were inside, “it pays to have brains and bullets.”

McNelly smiled thinly. “That’s why you’re here, Ranger. You were specifically requested for the job.”

“By who?”

“I don’t know. Orders came from the top down.”

The cab began its ascent. If this were a Ranger operation, as opposed to CID, Caitlin would have insisted on securing the space in question prior to bringing up the civilians. Because that was clearly what these personnel in ill-fitting windbreakers pulled from a rack were. Civilians.

“Get your warrant ready, Captain,” she told McNelly, as the cab whisked past the floors between L and 42.

He flapped the trifolded document in the air between them. “Got it right here.”

“What’s CTP stand for again?” Caitlin asked, referring to the acronym of the company on which they were about to serve the warrant.

“Communications Technology Providers. I thought I told you that.”

“Maybe you did, but you never told me what the company did to get on the Criminal Investigations Division’s radar. I’m guessing that’s because somebody ordered you to take me along for the ride. All well and good, in this political world we live in, until something goes bad.”

McNelly flashed Caitlin a smirk, as a chime sounded to indicate the elevator had reached its desired floor. “I can tell you this much, Ranger. The suspects we’re after here don’t know a gun from their own assholes. Worst thing they can do is infect us with a computer virus.”

He led the way through the open door, without waiting for Caitlin to respond. She exited next, followed in a tight bunch by those four computer techs in their windbreakers, which made it look like they’d stuck their arms through Hefty bags.

The doors along the hall were uniformly glass, sleek and modern, some frosted. According to the building layout Caitlin had studied, Communications Technology Providers occupied a pair of adjoining office suites adding up to nearly five thousand square feet in total. One was a corner office, meaning at least a portion of those suites would enjoy wraparound windows and plenty of natural light.

Caitlin had just reflexively shoved her jacket back behind the holster housing her SIG Sauer P-226 nine-millimeter pistol, when the glass double-door entrance to Communications Technology Providers ruptured behind a fusillade of gunfire.


Copyright © 2019 by Jon Land