musty smell assaulted her senses, jarring enough to cause a grimace to form on
her taut face. She couldn’t tell what it
was at first. Dirt, maybe. In her disconnected state, she couldn’t be
sure. The sounds of trickling water
nearby added to her state of alarm, while humidity soaked her from head to
toe. Feeling around in the dark with her
hands, she guided herself through the space.
Something crunched beneath her feet, alerting her to a field of debris
that appeared to be scattered across the floor.
her trembling hands found a light switch on the wall. Once the room was illuminated, she found
herself staring at her reflection in the bathroom mirror. Gazing across the room, she gasped at the
disaster that lied before her.
the hell?” Cassidy Solomon asked under her breath.
inspection, she realized what had happened.
The bathroom ceiling in her hotel room had caved in. Spread out across the floor were bits of wet
plaster and a grimy, muddy substance.
Rusty water dripped from the empty space above the ceiling, leaving a
dirty pool on the tile floor.
unacceptable,” she said, more than a little tipsy from spending the majority of
the night in the hotel bar. After a week
of one nightmare after another, she’d needed a few drinks. Going to the phone, she called the front desk
and demanded to speak to a manager.
“I don’t care if
it’s after two o’clock in the morning,” she insisted, coiffing her platinum
blond hair with her fingers. “My
bathroom has turned into a swamp. How in
the hell am I supposed to function without a working bathroom?” A pause while she listened to the front desk
agent rattle off something in broken English.
“I don’t know. The ceiling
collapsed. There’s water and dirt
everywhere. Just what the hell kind of
establishment are you running here, anyway?”
Pacing the room,
she grew increasingly distraught. The
last thing she needed was to wake up tomorrow morning and have a moldy, wet
mess to get ready in. They had a huge
day of shooting coming up and she needed her rest.
“I should move
rooms?” she asked with a guffaw. “That’s your suggestion? Fine.
It better be a suite because I…”
She stopped and exhaled deeply.
“You don’t have any more suites?
Brilliant. Well that’s fine, but
I expect to be back in my own room tomorrow night.”
After a few minutes
of trivial details she had no time for, she threw her hands up in
resignation. “No, don’t you dare register the room under my
name. I’m a ce-leee-bri-teee,” she said,
drawing out the word to ensure they accurately understood her English. “I expect anonymity. Put it under Brooke Taylor.” The name was the fist that came to mind. Brooke was staying in Kyle’s room so it
seemed the least confusing arrangement.
“Yes. Please send someone up to
move my things.”
minutes later, she was in a new room down the hall from Stormy’s and
Kyle’s. It was now nearly three o’clock
in the morning and she was on edge, tired, and frustrated. Despite the late hour, she called Eric and
informed him that she needed to speak to him immediately. Then she called Stormy and told him the same
thing. She wasn’t going to stand for
this kind of treatment. They were running the show and should
take precautions to make sure this type of thing didn’t happen. In all of her other location shoots she was
given an extra suite as a standby in the event that she had to move due to
stalkers, rabid fans, or the occasional maintenance issue.
A few minutes later
there was a knock at the door. She
stalked across the room and pulled the door open to find several hulking
Hispanic men standing in the corridor.
Intimidation did not immediately enter her mind. They must be hotel maintenance, she decided.
“You’re a little
late,” she said very slowly.
one of the men asked.
Maybe they weren’t
from the hotel. Maybe they were
fans. Better to keep the pretense that
she wasn’t the Cassidy Solomon.
“Yes. What can I do for you?”
Her question was
answered by the first man raising a rifle and firing several shots into her
chest. Her body sunk to the floor amidst
a pool of blood. They proceeded into the
room and began inspecting her belongings.
Moments later, commotion in the hallway caught their attention.
“Cassidy, what the
hell is-“ Stormy began to ask as he
entered through the partially open door.
He stopped instantly when he saw the men standing there with automatic
rifles perched over their shoulders and Cassidy’s lifeless body lying on the floor.
through his veins, his first instinct was to run, though the effort seemed
futile. Just as he turned, one of them
men hit him over the head with the butt of his rifle. He collapsed to the ground, unconscious, his
The men exchanged
words in rapid fire Spanish. Seconds
later, Eric appeared in the doorway.
When one of the men noticed him standing there, he flew into a rage and
yanked him by the arm into the room.
situation immediately sent him into a panic.
His first instinct was to save himself.
“Look, whatever you want you can have,” he said, backing up into the
room with his hands held out in front of him.
He tried not to look at the gory sight of Cassidy’s body lying
motionless on the floor. Sweat ran down
his face, drenching him. “You can have
all of our money, equipment, whatever you want.”
incomprehensible Spanish followed among the men, the larger one angrily
pointing at Eric. He couldn’t understand
a word they said, but they did appear to be directing some kind of hostility
toward him personally. Then slowly he
recognized the leader as Manuel, the boyfriend of the local girl he’d had sex
with on the set of the movie several days ago. The one who had kicked him to
the ground in front of the entire crew.
“Hey, look, I’m
sorry, I didn't know she had a boyfriend,” he said.
Surely they didn’t come there seeking revenge on him. And to kill an innocent woman in the
process? No, they were there for
something else. Fate had landed him in
Before Eric could
utter another word, he was gunned down by Manuel, dead before he hit the floor.
For as long as he
could remember, Manuel Pacheco had always come in second place. He was the second born to a depressed mother
and alcoholic father in their impoverished Mexico City slum. He came in second place in every relay race
back in his days as a young student. He
was the second choice for a potential mate when he courted the lovely Marisol
Rios. And he served as second in command
of the Pacheco Cartel, one of Mexico’s
most notorious and feared criminal organizations. His older brother, Ricardo, had been the
leader for many years, a position passed down from the previous drug lords in
the organization. Being second in every
other way was something Manuel could handle.
Taking orders from Ricardo, on the other hand, he couldn’t.
That’s why when the
opportunity arose, Manuel set Ricardo up during a routine drug bust in Southern California.
For five years while his brother sat in a California State Prison,
Manuel became the new number one. From
then on, everyone took orders from him.
The feeling was powerful and liberating. He ran the cartel in the way he saw fit. Ricardo would never have approved the murder
and beheading of thirteen rival drug lords the week before. Manuel always said Ricardo was too soft; not
ruthless enough to do what they had to do.
They were in a business to make money, after all, and sometimes blood
needed to be shed.
changed two days ago when Manuel was summoned to a small ramshackle bar in Tijuana. There he came face to face with his brother
for the first time in five years. The
floor dropped from beneath him and he wondered if he knew of the setup he’d
arranged that sent him to prison in the first place.
“How’d you get
out?” Manuel had asked, wide-eyed as they sat at a dirty table in the corner of
the dimly lit building. “No way did they
grant your parole, man.”
“Yes, they did,”
Ricardo indicated to his brother. “I’ll
be back in Acapulco
in a few days.”
hard, fully aware his days of being in charge were over. Ricardo was back and would no doubt be
displeased with how he’d run things.
lawyer from Fenwick Industries came to see me,” continued Ricardo, scorpion
tattoo emblazoned on his arm. He reached
into his shirt pocket and handed him a scrap of paper with a name and description
scribbled on it. “He needs a favor from
Taylor?” Manuel had asked when he looked at the name.
with a movie crew. They’re staying at
Las Brisas. He wants her dead.”
think we already ran into them. I caught
one of them with his dick in Marisol.
Told him if I ever caught him looking at her again I’d rip it off his
body. Maybe I just kill him too, huh?”
“No. I don’t want anything spoiling this
deal. Just stick to the girl. Make sure it looks like a random target so no
one gets suspicious.”
“Why not just hold
them for ransom? If they’re movie person
that mean she got money, amigo.”
cut him off with a stern look of warning.
“Because we’re getting easy passage of our stuff from the bay up to Los Angeles. In exchange for killing the woman we get two
freighters that’ll hold all the cocaine we can move.”
are the freighters coming from?” Manuel wanted to know.
company called Merteuil Industries,” he replied, then gestured back to the
scrap of paper. “If those freighters
don’t show up day after tomorrow, you call this other lady. I’ll check in when I get back from L.A.”
Manuel looked at
the second name. Jacqueline Blackthorne. He
pocketed the scrap of paper and assured his brother that they would take care
of it. He had no choice now that he was
back. Whatever Ricardo wanted, Ricardo
said before his brother left the table.
“When I get back we need to discuss the cartel. You did a good job while I was gone. You make me proud.”
turned and left the bar with a smile beginning to form on his face. Second place suddenly didn’t seem so bad.
The next few
minutes were a blur of chaos and commotion.
Screams tore lose from those in the surrounding hotel rooms. A lone hotel security guard appeared at the
end of the hall and when he spotted the machine-gun toting men, quickly
retreated to the stairs.
One of the Hispanic
men inspected the items from Cassidy’s room and called out to the others. “No
“Que?” asked Manuel.
“Es la personal
equivocado! It’s not Brooke Taylor!”
realization that they may have targeted the wrong woman, Manuel instructed the
men to begin a sweep of every room on the floor. If Ricardo learned that he’d screwed up, he’d
probably have him killed. He’d already
be angry enough when he learned he killed the asshole white guy who’d been
banging Marisol. But he had to take an
opportunity when it presented itself.
Kicking the shit out of him back at the location shoot just hadn’t been
satisfying enough. The look on his face
when he plugged him with a hail of bullets did.
“What now?” asked
one of the men, pulling Manuel aside.
“Change of plans,”
he told him. "Ricardo wanted it to look
like a drug hit so that’s what we’re gonna do.
Get them all in the van and take them to the plant outside of town. Maybe we can get some ransom.”
“But he said just
the girl,” argued the man.
me,” warned Manuel. “Until Ricardo gets
back I’m still in charge. Now come.”
Everyone they found, they took, including
another blond woman sharing a room with a man who put up a fight. They knocked him to the floor and he lay
slumped over beside the bed while they bound and blindfolded the woman.
“Let her go!” Kyle
screamed and grabbed the gun from one of the men with lighting fast reflexes,
using it to butt him hard against the forehead.
Manuel grabbed him
from behind, pulling his arm tight around his neck while the other man punched
him in the stomach. While he was doubled
over, they bound him from behind, pulled a hood over his face and carried him
to the terrace with the woman.
One by one, they
were all taken down the stairs from the balconies, thrown into the back of a
van, and driven off in the night. Mike,
their security guard, made an attempt to take them on so they shot him point
blank in the head. He was too big to
take so they left him.
Several of the men
drove the van to a sugar cane plant set high up in the mountains on the
outskirts of town. Another put the
bodies of the man and the woman in the trunk of a stolen car and positioned it
a mile from the hotel. A warning that
they were serious about the others.
reached into his pocket and retrieved his cell phone when they neared the
plant. He referred to the scrap of
paper Ricardo had given him at their meeting in Tijuana.
Punching in the numbers
carefully, he waited for an answer while inspecting the dead woman's driver's
license they'd taken from her room.
he asked in his deep voice.
“Yes, this is
Jackie Blackthorne,” the woman’s voice came over the line. “Who is this?”
“We need Miss
Taylor’s date of birth.”
“What? What do you mean her date of birth?”
“There was a
mix-up,” Manuel continued, eyeing the plant as they drew near. “We
need to know approximately how old Brooke Taylor is.”
“She’s in her early
thirties. Why? How did you get this number?”
“Did you say early
thirties?” he exchanged knowing looks with the man in the driver’s seat of the
van as if to confirm they’d made an error.
“Yes!” her voice
sounded tinny over the connection. “Hello?”
Are you there?”
“There’s been a
delay,” he responded. “We’ll report back
soon. Can we get confirmation the
freighter will still arrive on schedule?” Silence while he waited for an answer. Again, he asked the question. “Can we get confirmation the freighter will
still arrive on schedule?”
“Yes,” she said
“We’ll be in
he hung up, the man driving turned to him with a look of doom spread across his
face. “Ricardo not going to like this,
Manuel. He said just kill the girl. He didn’t say anything about kidnapping these
Ricardo isn’t here, is he?” Manuel fired back, determined to let things play
out the way he originally wanted. They
were stupid not to take advantage of the opportunity. Who’s to say they couldn’t get the freighters
and a healthy sum of money for the
ransom? He was sure that Ricardo would
When the van
finally came to a stop, Kyle wriggled about on the floor. He managed to get his hands free of the ropes
that bound them. Quickly, he pulled the
hood from his head and tried to see through the blackness. It was still dark outside, making it
impossible to see who or what else was in the van. He knew there were others there because he
could feel them around him. No sounds,
however, were made.
“Brooke?” he called
Before he could
call out for her again, he heard the front doors of the van being opened and
commotion from outside. This was his one
chance to escape and get help, he decided.
Whoever these men were would have already killed them if they were going
to at all. There may still be time to do
something, but he’d have to act quickly.
With as much
strength as he could muster, he put his feet together and kicked the van doors
open with a leg-shattering blow. As soon
as they parted, nearly flying off their hinges, he leapt out of the van and
started running into the darkness.
One of the men
started after him, calling back to the others while drawing his rifle. With a steady aim, he fired one shot through
knocked forward by the impact of the bullet that sunk into his side just below
his arm. He groaned from the
excruciating pain that seared throughout his entire body. His
hand instinctively going to the wound, he forced himself to continue running
for the trees. Just ahead there was a
thick jungle. If he could make it there
he could find someplace to hide until he figured out what to do.
Another shot was
fired, this one missing him by inches.
Cringing, he waited for the next one, but it never came. At last he was in the trees, darting back and
forth to avoid remaining in their sight line.
He ran as far as he could before he couldn’t run anymore, and then had
no choice but to stop long enough to catch his breath.
Positioned behind a
tree, he peered through the darkness. He
couldn’t see anything, but rustling in the brush told him they were still in
pursuit. Shaking from the pain and sheer
adrenaline, he held his breath, willing himself to remain silent. Voices carried through the darkness. They were looking for him.
Glancing down, he
grimaced at his blood-covered hand, then quickly pressed it back against his
wound. He knew he didn’t have much time
before he bled out and went into shock.
Then it would only be a matter of time before he was dead. He had to find help, and soon.
Lowering himself to
the ground, he sat with his back against the tree. He was light-headed and parched with thirst,
and for a few seconds he closed his eyes but forced them open again. If he fell asleep he wouldn’t wake up. He had to keep conscious long enough to
escape. Brooke was depending on
him. They all were.
to listen, he could hear the footsteps growing closer. He bit down on his lip and sat motionless
when the sound stopped directly behind him.
He swallowed hard, realizing this may be the end. His escape would have been in vain, as he
hadn’t made a single stride to get help or even find out what was
miraculously, the footsteps started up again, this time going in the opposite
direction, back to the plant on the other side of the jungle. He remained silent for a few more tense
minutes, unable to move for fear of being heard. Once he was sure the coast was clear, he
turned back and looked in the direction of the clearing. Light from the building afforded him enough
opportunity to see what was happening.
The men, all Hispanic guerilla-types, were carrying several cloaked
bodies into the building. It was impossible
to tell who they were or if they were alive or dead.
of him wanted to go back. If Brooke was
alive, he couldn’t leave her to those savages.
God only knew what they would do to her.
But if he didn’t try to get help, the result could be much worse. He had no choice but to keep going.
up from his hiding spot, Kyle checked his gunshot wound again and tried to
determine its severity. He cried out in
pain as his fingers explored the bloody hole in his side. Next to it was another hole, indicating that
the bullet had passed right through him.
At least it wasn’t embedded in his body.
his hands soaked in blood, he searched for something to use to slow the
bleeding. Nothing but foliage and dirt
as far as the eye could see, which wasn’t very far. Improvising, he peeled off his t-shirt and
wadded it up in a ball, holding it against his side and groaning again from the
he’d adjusted to the pain, he started off through the jungle again, uncertain
of where he was going or what direction he was even headed in. They were in the van for about half an hour,
so he surmised they could be as much as thirty minutes from the hotel. On foot and in his condition, that could take
hours, but he had no choice. With any
luck, he would run into a road and a car.
Doubling back to the road that the van had traveled on crossed his mind,
but it was too dangerous. There was no
telling how many of them there were or if they would be searching for him. Better to stay in the jungle, he
walked for nearly an hour until he physically couldn’t walk any more. During his trek through the trees, he’d run
into no sign of civilization. They must
be further up in the surrounding mountains than he’d realized.
coming to a large, hollowed out tree that was splayed across the makeshift path
he’d been following, he sat with his back against it. His body had started to go numb but the
bleeding had slowly subsided. Finally,
he was able to move the t-shirt from the gunshot wound and relax his tired
arm. He was still thirsty, but more
tired than anything. When the sun came
out he’d be able to quickly find help.
For now there was nothing more he could do.
immediately, he drifted off to sleep, mosquitoes attacking his bare arms and
hours later, Brooke awoke somewhere to filtered rays of sunlight streaming in
through windows. Groggily, she looked
around her surroundings. Had she been drugged? Was that why she felt so disconnected? Or had she simply passed out from the trauma
of being taken in the middle of the night?
Her body was weak, she was thirsty, and she felt exhausted, all signs of
the body being under incredible stress.
hands were bound behind her back and she was gagged with some sort of
cloth. She was in a large room filled
with strange machinery. She decided it
was a warehouse or plant of some kind.
The only source of light came from a line of tiny windows thirty feet
above, much too high to see out of, and there didn’t appear to be any way of
getting up there.
she began to realize she was not alone.
On the floor next to her was Stormy, gagged and bound from behind. Beside him were Steven and Jack, also encumbered
with rope, presumably to prevent their escape.
She began to wonder if maybe the facility they were imprisoned in wasn’t
all that secure and their captors knew that.
she realized that Kyle was not with them.
She struggled to recall the harried events from the night before. As she was being taken, she saw him fighting
one of them off. Had he succeeded and
escaped? The only other explanation was
that he was dead, and she refused to entertain the idea.
the three others in the room, the only one who was conscious was Steven. Their eyes locked as soon as he realized she
was awake. She could see the panic in
his eyes and was certain he could see hers.
In a futile effort to communicate with him, she made a few muffled
attempts at speaking through the gag, but realized he couldn’t understand
“Can you get free?” is what she wanted to
response was to shake his head anyway.
Maybe he did understand her. He
tried to force his hands from their confines, but found the attempt exhausting
instead of productive.
Stormy began to awaken. Once he looked
around and saw the others bound and gagged, his eyes flew open with alarm. Almost immediately, he began wriggling about,
attempting to free his hands from the ropes that bound them behind his
back. Maneuvering his wrists toward the
cement wall behind him, he tirelessly tried to ware down the fibers of the
As he worked,
however, Steven had already managed to free himself. He quickly pulled the gag from his mouth and
went to help the others. As he did, Jack
began to awaken from his sleep.
“Where are we?”
Stormy asked once the gag had been loosened from his mouth.
“I think it’s a
plant of some kind,” Brooke surmised, wincing from the rope burns that remained
on her wrists. “It looks abandoned.”
Steven went to
untie Jack, first removing the gag from his mouth. Once he did, the man pushed him away with his
shoulders in a rage.
“What are you
doing?” he demanded. “They could come
back any minute! Once they see we’re
free who knows what they’ll do. They
could kill us!”
Steven shook his
head. “They would have killed us already
if they wanted to. They want something,
and they won’t get it if we’re dead.”
asked. “It’s the only thing that makes
Stormy indicated. “They killed Cassidy.”
The others looked
at him in horror and dismay. Silence
fell over the group while they processed the information.
“How do you know?”
Brooke asked, swallowing hard.
“I saw her,” he
replied. “She had to move rooms last
night. When she got there she called me
and told me she wanted to see me right away.
It was only a couple of minutes before I got to her room and there were
these men standing there with machine guns.
She was lying on the floor.”
“Are you sure she
was dead?” Jack asked.
“Positive,” he told
him. “I went to run but they hit me with
something.” He placed a hand on the back
of his head and felt the sticky residue of blood in his hair.
“How many men were
there?” Brooke wanted to know.
He thought for a
minute and shrugged with uncertainty.
“Four. Five, maybe.”
“Do you think they
had drug cartel connections?” Jack asked.
“Most likely. These weren’t just random criminals. I could have sworn I’d seen some of them
during the last week. They’ve been
Brooke ran her hand
through her stringy blond hair. “The
same men who took the camera equipment?”
“No, the hotel
employees took the equipment,” Stormy reasoned.
“The police said they were rivals of the cartels. That’s why they dumped those bodies up and
down the beach by the hotel.”
“So what do these
people want with us?” Jack inquired.
“And why did they kill Cassidy and not the rest of us?”
checked the door that appeared to lead out of the room. She expected the men to return any
minute. When they did, she feared for
what they would do.
A worse thought
occurred to her later. What if they
never returned? What if they left them
there to starve to death? They had no
water and no food. It would only be a
matter of days before they died.
Her thoughts went
back to Kyle and the uncertainty of what had happened to him. “I was with Kyle last night when they
came. He fought them off, but….” A pause while her mind immediately went to
the worst case scenario. “Do you think
he got away?”
Stormy looked at
her and then at the door. True, he and
Kyle hadn’t gotten off on the right foot and fought most of their time in Acapulco, but he shuddered
at the thought of him being killed too.
The brutality of their being taken from their hotel seemed to get more
disturbing the more they learned.
“He’s strong,” he
finally said. “Kyle can take care of
“Against men with
machine guns?” Brooke asked, hating herself for already thinking the
worst. But if one woman was already dead
then what’s to say no one else was?
“I heard something
when we got here last night,” Jack reported.
“It sounded like more gunfire.
Like they were shooting at somebody.”
The thought sent
panic through Brooke’s veins. What if he
was dead? They’d just professed their love for one
another before this whole nightmare began.
She couldn’t remember when she’d been as happy and content. Now a mere twelve hours later she didn’t even
know if she’d ever see him again. Tears
stung her eyes but she held them back.
She wouldn’t lose it. She
wouldn’t resort to playing the victim again.
By the time she had
regained her composure, she noticed Steven at the heavy steel door trying to
force it open.
“Are you crazy?”
Jack lamented. “What if they come back?”
matter,” he replied. “This thing isn’t
“So what do we do
now?” asked Brooke. “Wait until they
come back and kill us?”
the room carefully, shook his head with determination. “No, we’re going to find a way out of here.”
Sweltering sun and
insects crawling on his skin woke Kyle from a deep sleep. He sat up against the tree trunk with a jolt,
immediately wincing at the stiffness in his upper body. The gunshot wound was probably becoming
infected. He had to at least find water
at a fly that continuously bit at his shoulder, he sat for a few minutes to get
his bearings. Details of the horrific
night began to come back to him. So many
unanswered questions filled his head.
Who was doing this to them? Aside
from a few random incidents, they’d stayed away from the locals. Drug cartels rarely bothered tourists unless
they interfered in their business. Then
it occurred to him they could be asking for a ransom. They hadn’t exactly hid their profession in
the week they’d been in Mexico. Their camera equipment had been stolen and
Cassidy and Jack were going around acting like total Hollywood
royalty. Maybe they’d inadvertently
invited in the attention. Hollywood meant the same
thing no matter where you were: big bucks.
bigger question was how many of them had they taken? Had anyone been killed? He heard gunshots, both before they
infiltrated his and Brooke’s room, and after.
Surely the federal police would be on top of things by now. Despite how uncooperative they’d been up
until then, this was kidnapping they were talking about. Hell, the FBI was probably involved. At least he had an idea of where the others
were being held so he could lead them back once he found help.
to his feet, he examined his wound, grunting when he pulled the blood-soaked
t-shirt away from it. It was definitely
infected. He had to find help fast. On top of that, he was wandering around in
the jungle dressed only in a pair of jeans.
Bugs ravaged his skin and his feet were bare, battered and bleeding from
walking through the rough terrain in the total darkness. At least in the daylight he’d be able to see
where he was stepping.
decided to push all pain and discomfort aside, forging ahead through the thick
canopy of trees. The sooner he found
help, the sooner he could go back for Brooke and the others.
Stormy watched with
irritation as Steven tried to find something to boost himself up to the windows
that lined the ceiling of the warehouse.
Shaking his head and slapping hands to his sides, he called after him in
an annoyed voice.
“Why don’t you give
up on that?” he asked. “Unless you’re
spider-man, you’re not getting up to those windows. And even if you did, how are the rest of us
getting up there?”
Steven shot him a
defiant glare and continued pacing the wall while racking his brain for an
“Maybe we should
try the door again,” Brooke suggested.
“It’s locked from
the outside,” Stormy said with disdain.
“Face it. We’re trapped until
they come back.”
another door.” She wandering away,
inspecting every inch of the large space until she returned baring a look of
“Face it, people,”
Jack said. “We’re sitting ducks. As soon as they come back and see that we’ve
gotten free, they’re going to kill us.
So unless our intern here can levitate his way up to the windows, you
all might as well give up.”
“Why don’t you shut
your face?” Steven snapped, finally sick of the actor’s ranting.
“Who’s gonna make
me?” Jack fired back defensively.
“Me.” He approached in full attack mode, clenching
his fists angrily. “You wanna keep
complaining or are you gonna do something to help us?”
“Help what?” Jack
bellowed. “You haven’t done anything but
pace back and forth for the past three hours.
That’s not exactly getting us anywhere.
So unless you use those muscles for something other than flexing, I
suggest you put a cork in it and sit the hell down.”
Drawing his fist
back to punch him square in the face, Steven was suddenly restrained by Stormy
who put a stop to the bickering and threats of violence.
ordered. “Attacking each other isn’t
going to help anything. I’m still in
charge here and I expect you to both behave.”
Jack threw up a
hand in irritation. “I’m nearly forty
years older than you and you’re ordering me to behave? Who do you think you are, junior? I’ve known your father since before you were
born. Hell, I took him out for his first
drink and bought him his first hooker.
Either you respect me or-“
“Man, shut the hell
up,” Steven barked, arms folded belligerently.
“Why don’t you make
Brooke stood by
helplessly. The needless bickering was
grating on her nerves and giving her a worse headache than she already
had. Before she could protest, she heard
the threatening sounds of the heavy steel door being unlocked. Voices from outside carried into the
room. Terrified, she backed up against
the wall and exchanged looks with the others.
When the door
opened, Manuel appeared with two other armed men. They walked purposefully toward Jack and
grabbed him by either arm.
“What are you
doing?” he exclaimed in a panic, struggling within their grasp. “Let go of me!”
Stormy and Brooke
stood by, paralyzed with fear. Cringing
a few steps behind him, Brooke felt her facial muscles tighten and knots form
in the pit of her stomach. Where were
they taking him? Were they next? She’d never been more frightened in her
“I said unhand me!”
Jack raged as they drug him to the door.
“I demand to speak to the American Ambassador! Do you hear me? I demand to speak to the American
And within seconds
they’d disappeared, the thick door slamming closed behind.
After hours of
walking, Kyle had made little progress in his search for help. His body was ravaged and stiff, his feet
bleeding from the course terrain in the dense jungle. He’d slowed to a mere limp as he wove his way
through the trees and brush. The
diversion from the main road began to seem like a bad idea, considering he had
no idea where he was headed or even what direction he was going. He’d been walking in a straight line for the
majority of the night and morning, so he bearings told him what direction to go
to get to the road. It was dangerous,
but the only option he had. If he didn’t
find medical help soon, he’d be dead.
The ground began a
shallow decline, leading him to believe the road was not far in the
distance. There he could flag someone
down and get a ride to the hospital, assuming there was one nearby. He felt like he was caught up in a
nightmare. Even the filthy prison he’d
spent three years in back in New York
would be a welcome place to be right now.
He began wishing he was back in his cell, comfortable on the hard coils
of his bunk.
imagination running rampant, he barely had time to react when something caught
on his feet and tripped him to the ground.
With a thud, he went face first against a pile of dirt and palm leaves. The impact sent searing pain through the
gunshot wound in his side, prompting him to cry out in pain.
By the time he
opened his eyes and focused, he realized someone was standing before him. Slowly, he lifted his eyes, momentarily
blinded by the sun. Once he’d adjusted
to the light, he made out the shape of a man holding a rifle on him.
Abruptly, he was
yanked to his feet by the arm. The man,
whom Kyle was certain was one of them, rambled on in Spanish about something he
didn’t understand. The tone in the man’s
voice was apparent, though, and he began searching for a way out.
Directing him down
the hill with the gun aimed at his head, the man followed two steps
behind. Once Kyle could see the road and
the abandoned jeep waiting on the shoulder, he decided to take action.
stopped in his tracks, and using his good arm he brought his elbow back into
the man’s face. While his captor was
momentarily stunned, he spun around and secured the rifle from him, slamming
the butt into his forehead. The man
reached down to his leg and quickly removed a pistol from an ankle
holster. Before he could aim it in his
direction, Kyle fired the rifle into his chest and he sunk to the ground with a
He tried to catch
his breath, realizing there wasn’t much time before more of them arrived. Without wasting a second, he took the pistol
from the man’s dead hand, hoisted the rifle over his bare shoulder, and limped
down the hill to the awaiting jeep. The
engine was still running, so he pulled himself into the seat and sped off down
the road. In the distance he could see
the bay. All he had to do was follow it
and he’d find help at last.
Jack Childers was
thrown into a chair in a small room with concrete walls and no windows. Manuel issued an order to the others who
responded by pointing their AK-47’s straight at him.
“Jesus,” Jack said,
holding his hands up as a makeshift shield as he trembled in the chair. “What do you people want from us? What have we done to you?”
“You a big movie
star, huh?” Manuel asked, circling him.
“You come to Acapulco
to make a movie?”
“Yes. Is that a crime? We have permits on file at the Mexican Film
“You live in a big
fancy mansion, amigo?”
Jack couldn’t take
his eyes off of the rifles that stared him in the face. He’d been in a lot of hairy predicaments in
his life but this one took the cake. He
recalled a drug-seeking trip to Bora Bora he
took with Nathan Blackthorne and Victor Distefano in the early eighties that
landed them the unwitting captives of a local tribe. That instance had been easy enough to barter
their way out of. Victor had thrown a
bunch of American money at them and they released them with unforeseen
gratitude. As he recalled, they sent
them off with a native pig roast on the beach.
Something told him he was up against slightly more dangerous foes in
this instance. Still, maybe money was
the way to go to get him out of this predicament.
“Yes, huge,” he
told them. “A twenty room house in Bel
Air. I’m very wealthy. I can get you as much money as you want. Millions.
We’re talking American money.”
“And your friends?”
Manuel asked, staring with contempt at the haughty American actor. “They just as wealthy as you?”
“Not quite,” he
said with a scoff. “The guy with the
tattoos is an executive at the studio.
His father has the money, and I’m not even sure he’s that well off
anymore. A few too many bad business
deals, if you know what I’m saying.
Listen, let me go and I’ll get
you money. They don’t have to know
anything. Just tell them I escaped or
that you killed me.”
looks with the others and consulted with them in their native language. Jack
realized they must not be aware he spoke some Spanish. He could make out a few phrases, much of
which he collected and made a point of remembering later. When Manuel turned back to him, he approached
him slowly and with cold beady eyes.
“What about your
friends?” he asked.
“They’re not my
friends,” he replied with a cocksure grin.
He was suddenly feeling more confident knowing that he held all the
cards. How could they refuse his
offer? No way did the Blackthornes have
the cash to pay a hefty ransom, and their captors knew as well as anyone that
the United States
didn’t bargain with terrorists. They had
no alternative but to take him up on his offer.
“Let me go and you won’t regret it.
You have my word.”
between Manuel and the men. They rattled
back and forth until the two men went and picked him up again by the arms. Jack allowed them to lead him back through a
maze of corridors until they were back at the room where the others were being
“Just think about
what I said,” he told them as they unlocked the door. “Think about all that money.”
After the door was
open, they threw him inside, prompting Brooke, Stormy and Steven to gather
inquisitively. The door shut and Manuel
and the men disappeared. After they’d
gone, Stormy quickly began asking questions.
“What did they say
just asked me questions about how wealthy we are,” Jack replied. “I’m assuming because they’re preparing to
ask for a ransom.”
they say anything else?” Brooke inquired.
“Did you see anything? How many
more of them are there?”
shook his head, wondering if they were going to take him up on his offer. He didn’t mind leaving the others behind. Life was difficult enough as it was. He had learned a long time ago that taking
care of yourself was top priority.
Others would throw you under the bus at the drop of a hat, so better to
beat them to the punch.
just saw the three of them,” he reported, then recalled the conversation he’d
managed to make little sense out of. “I
did hear them talking about some kind of deal they made.”
kind of deal?” Stormy demanded.
supplied them with ships to transport drugs to the states,” Jack
continued. “It would appear that we’re
payment for those services.”
Steven asked, his shorts and t-shirt soaked in sweat from the sweltering heat
in the warehouse.
all I heard,” Jack explained, holding his hands up in resignation. “I don’t understand it either but something
tells me this thing isn’t just a random act of terrorism on tourists. They targeted us for a reason.”
around the room, Stormy pulled his tank top up and used it to wipe his
brow. “Whatever the reason, they’ll find
us soon. The others back at the hotel
would have called home by now once they realized what happened. The consulate has got to be involved by
just hope the Mexican authorities cooperate,” Brooke said with a shake of her
head. “They haven’t exactly been on our
side since we got here.”
nodded in agreement. “They pulled us
over coming from the airport on the day we got here.”
told you then they’re opportunists,” Jack reminded him. “They’ll take your belongings and sell them
for money if given the tiniest chance.”
remark suddenly resonated with Stormy as he thought back to the unnerving
incident on their first day in Acapulco. The police officer had demanded to see his
passport, which he complied with. But
when things had gotten increasingly tense, they took off and he never got his
passport back. Not that it would do him
any good now. It didn’t appear they
would be going home anytime soon.
After following the road toward the
bay, Kyle finally arrived back at a hotel, though he couldn't be sure if it
He was weak and scorched from the blazing sun, rifle still strapped over
his shoulder. There was a throng of
armed police officers surrounding the front drive. He steered the jeep toward the porte-cochere
and brought it to an abrupt stop on the curb.
Onlookers turned and federal police officers drew their rifles toward
him. One called to him with a booming
voice, commanding him to throw his weapon out the window. Stiff from the infection in his wound, he
could barely comply. Struggling, he
attempted to lower the weapon to the ground.
His actions were met with five heavily armored officers descending on
him with rifles aimed threateningly at his face.
he’d managed to discard his weapon, he put his hands up in an effort to claim
murmured through a haze of exhaustion.
“They took Brooke….”
With that, he
slumped over the steering wheel and lost consciousness.
sound of the second hand ticking on Stormy’s watch seemed distortedly loud as
he sat with his back against the wall.
It was after five in the afternoon and they’d been locked in the room
since early morning with no water and no outside air. The thickness that hung like a cloud in the
stifling room had begun to set in and so did the claustrophobia. Despite the enormous size of the room, with
its high ceilings and cold concrete floor, he began to feel like he couldn’t
breathe. Sweat dripped down his face,
soaking his shirt and causing discomfort like he’d never felt before.
him, Brooke sat with her legs tight against her chest. Her hair was matted to her face and her
usually bronzed face was pale; her eyes listless. Steven sat across from them, stripped down to
only a pair of athletic shorts as he slept, which Jack sat staring off in
knew something like this was going to happen,” Stormy whispered to Brooke,
hands hung between his legs as he shook his head with remorse.
do you mean?” she asked, turning her head weakly toward him. “This isn’t your fault, Stormy.”
it is. I’m producing this movie and I
failed to protect everyone involved.”
can’t protect against this kind of thing,” she reassured him. “If you’d tried you’d probably be dead, and
so would a lot of other people.”
Cassidy?” he said, head hanging low.
we don’t know what happened or why. What
happened to Cassidy wasn’t your fault.
No more than us being here is your fault.”
finally turned to meet her gaze. “They
warned me what a volatile situation it was down here, but I chose to ignore
shrugged. “So? There’s volatile situations back home in L.A. every day. People getting shot and killed; raped,
robbed. Would you blame yourself for all
of that too?”
told me it was a war zone back when you, Kyle and I came down to scout
locations,” he informed her. “He chose
his words very carefully but I knew what he meant. But I was in such a hurry to start production
that I chose to ignore it. Now people
are dead and we’re probably going to get killed and it’s my fault. We should have picked a different location.”
father’s been right about me all these years,” he told her. “I’m nothing but a failure. A punk kid who leaps without thinking. A
father does not think you’re a disappointment.”
cast her an incredulous look. “I ruined
both of my marriages, was probably responsible in some way for sending Heather
to the looney bin; I ran my recording studio into the ground. I couldn’t even stand up to my own family
when it came to Kelly. I mess up
everything I touch.”
father is very proud of you,” she assured him.
When her words didn’t seem to affect him, she slid a hand over and placed
it on his. “You have to believe
managed a meager smile, squeezing her hand as she laid her head on his
Brooke tried to
close her eyes. She had to rest. Saving her energy at this point was the most proactive
thing she could do. But the more she
tried, the more she thought about what would happen if she didn’t get out of
the nightmare she was stuck in. What
would happen to her son? He’d have lost
both of his parents. The thought made
her even more determined to get free of the hellish predicament.
refused to be a victim of circumstance.
the sun began to set over the bay, Kyle awoke from his deep sleep. He shot up with a start, glancing down and
realizing he was dressed in a hospital gown, his gunshot wound bandaged and
less sore than before he’d passed out. Attached to his arm was an I.V., which
explained why the feeling of weakness and dehydration now seemed less
extreme. The last thing he remembered
was crashing into the front of the hotel and collapsing with exhaustion. They must have taken him straight to the
local hospital. With a quick glance
around the dilapidated room, he realized their facilities weren’t as modernized
as those in the states. Still, he could
at least move without excruciating pain which was all he cared about.
he began wondering if they’d found Brooke and the others. With a quick check out the window, it was
clear that the day was nearly over.
They’d been missing for nearly twenty-four hours. Someone had
to be searching for them by now.
for answers, he began to climb out of the bed.
With a wince, he pulled the I.V. from his arm and made his way to the
chair that his jeans were splayed across.
Dizziness overcame him but he willed himself to get dressed. He came in without a shirt so the hospital
gown would have to suffice. Steadying
himself against the chair, he attempted to slip a leg into his jeans. The effort proved too taxing, compiled with
the light-headed feeling he experienced, and he collapsed to the floor. Too exhausted to move, he laid there
later, the doctor, an overly-groomed Hispanic man in a white jacket entered the
room. Calling for the nurse on duty, he
bent down to examine him. When help
arrived, they carried him back to the bed and the doctor ordered a
the nurse re-inserted the I.V. into Kyle’s arm, the doctor injected the bag
with the drug.
Kyle began to drift off to sleep, murmuring a panicked string of broken words
as his eyes shuttered closed.
he muttered. “Help Brooke.”
When the Sunset Studios jet landed at the
airport twenty-five miles outside of Acapulco,
two men were waiting for them in a black Mercedes SUV. The first was Lenny Korvanski, the crew
member who’d been filling James in on the day’s goings-on. The second was Alejandro from the Mexican
Film Commission. When James, David and
Eddie emerged from the terminal, they quickly met up and exchanged handshakes
on the way to the car.
need to talk to the American Embassy as soon as possible,” James was
saying. “Lenny, did the rest of the crew
get flights out okay?” He knew he was
changing subjects rapidly, but there was too much to figure out. The hour flight from
L.A. provided him with nothing but time to
think about everything.
he replied as they piled into the back of the vehicle. “And I made arrangements
for Mike’s body to be flown back to L.A.”
sighed. He’d had the unpleasant job of
calling poor Mike’s family while on the jet.
They’d of course been devastated.
All James would do was give his sincere condolences and offer to pay for
everything; flying the body back to the states and all funeral
arrangements. It seemed like such a
small thing to do in light of what had happened to their loyal security
about the two bodies they found in the car?” he wanted to know. His stomach was in knots not knowing who the
victims were. It would be devastating
for anyone to have been killed, but
he didn’t think he’d be able to handle it if it were Brooke or Stormy. “Did they identify them yet?”
and Alejandro exchanged harried glances and then Lenny nodded somberly. “Eric and Cassidy,” he told him. “They’re pretty sure it was a drug hit.”
closed his eyes, both relieved and mortified at the same time.
about the others?” David asked. “Have
they turned up anything?”
shook his head. “I’m afraid not. Hotel security saw the men who took them and
identified one of them as the leader of the Pacheco Cartel. They’ve been responsible for dozens of
murders and kidnappings in the past year.”
swallowed hard, not fully prepared for what they were about to embark on. He’d
been on some dangerous cases in his short career as a private investigator, but this one
had a whole different feel to it. It was
too familiar and too close to home.
Growing up, he’d had numerous interactions with Cassidy Solomon and Eric
Autumn, both having been acquaintances of his fathers. Now they were both dead. He prayed that Stormy didn’t end up the same
you spoken to the FBI?” Lenny asked.
nodded with an embittered look on his face.
“Yes and they tread very carefully in these situations. They don’t have much authority when things
like this happen. They basically told me
that they can’t intervene unless our country is threatened in some way. Otherwise it’s up to the Mexican government
to find the people responsible.”
was afraid of that,” Alejandro said with a knowing sigh. “The problem with that is the cartels own
everything in town, including the government.
They have deals in place that let them have their run of things.”
said James. “If no one in authority is
going to be of any help, then what are we supposed to do?”
gestured to the tell-tale bulge in James’s jacket pocket where he’d been
carrying his gun. “Find the bastards and
kill them ourselves.”
all exchanged glances and then rode in silence for the rest of the trip from
the airport. Once they arrived at the
hotel, they piled out of the SUV.
right,” James said when turning to Lenny on the asphalt. “I want you to have our pilot take you backto L.A.
tonight. There’s no sense in you
sticking around, but I appreciate everything you’ve done.”
you sure?” Lenny asked. He had planned
on leaving hours ago, but his long relationship with the Blackthornes had kept
him there. “I can stay if…”
go,” James said, pointing back to the vehicle.
“I’ll fill you in when we know anything.”
shook his hand, told them all to be careful, and jumped back into the car. As it pulled away from the hotel, James
rubbed the bridge of his nose. There
was so much to do that he didn’t know where to start. Calling home and telling them who the two
bodies were that they found in the trunk of the car was the number one
priority, he decided. Cassidy’s
daughter, Summer, would have to be notified, and although Eric had many friends
and acquaintances, he didn’t know of any next of kin to call. He thought that maybe Jackie would have some
idea since she had been close with Eric’s father before his death.
now?” Eddie asked.
start looking for them,” David said plainly.
“That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”
held a hand up in protest. “Not a good
idea, amigo. It’s after ten o’clock and
the others were taken at night. The
murders last week too. It’s too
dangerous. You should wait until
could be dead by then,” James said in a frustrated rage.
could you,” was Alejandro’s ominous warning.
“Believe me, it’ll be safer in the morning. Try to get some rest. Maybe there’ll be more news tomorrow.”
they agreed and decided to check into their own rooms. After he got settled, James called Miranda
and filled her in on the news. Crying,
she told him to be careful and asked that he pass the message along to Eddie
and David. He promised to call her with
updates, and ended the call after asking her to contact Summer and break the
news to her in person.
lied awake for most of the night, wondering what was happening to his son and
to Brooke at that very moment. The
thought was torture enough to last him a lifetime.
could tell it was very early when their captors came back. There was a faint pinkish tint to the sky
that filtered soft light into the room.
Stormy, Steven and Jack were startled awake by the sound of the door
being thrust open. They jumped to their
feet in an instant, a feat which proved difficult due to their lack of strength. With no food and no water for over a day,
their bodies had quickly been ravaged.
came in the form of a large jug of water that one of the men thrust in Brooke’s
direction. She greedily took it in her
hands and took a few large heaping gulps before passing it to Stormy.
Once they’d all
been sufficiently hydrated, the men ushered them to the door with AK-47’s posed
threateningly in their direction. Brooke
had no idea where they were being taken, but a million possibilities raced through
her brain – none of which provided any comfort to her. The worst of them all was that they were
taking them somewhere to kill them. But
even that didn’t make sense. If they
were going to kill them, why not do it right there? When they found the bodies on the beach last
week, Eric had said that they’d been killed elsewhere and dumped to act as a
threat to their enemies. Why should this
instance play out any different?
By the time they
were loaded into the van and bound with rope, she’d successfully convinced
herself that they were not going to die.
Strangely enough, Jack was kept in the front with the other men, which
raised a whole new set of questions.
First they hand-selected him as the one to question after they got
there, and now he was up in the front of the van with their captors. Something was definitely going on and she
decided to keep her eyes and ears open in hopes of learning what it was.
Wedged between Manuel and the other two men,
Jack made every effort to overhear any splice of information that could tell
him what was going on. Since he was the
only one of the four of them that knew any Spanish, he’d be able to be
selective on what to tell the others. All
he succeeded in deciphering was that it had to do with money. He began to hope they were going to take him
up on his offer after all. A few million
dollars was worth his freedom, he decided.
By the time they reached their destination,
the sun had risen and the heat of the day began beating down over the van
until it felt like a tin can in a microwave.
When the van stopped, the men got out and drug Jack toward a large
modern house nestled into the side of the mountain overlooking the bay.
him inside the house at gunpoint, Manuel ordered one of his men to watch the
van and the other to follow him inside.
they entered the spacious, meticulously decorated living room, Jack was forced
onto the sofa, a laptop computer open before him. He looked around, wondering who lived in the
house they’d taken him to. Whoever it
was had a great deal of money from the looks of the luxurious furnishings and
into your bank account,” Manuel ordered him, handing a scrap of paper with a
number written on it. “Transfer
everything into this account.”
swallowed hard. “Everything?” he
everything!” Manuel replied, nervously
looking behind him every few seconds.
then you let me go, right?”
just do it!” Manuel bellowed.
took a deep breath and logged into his bank account in Los Angeles as the other man watched him
closely, the barrel of the rifle aimed inches from his head. He looked nervously up at Manuel as he took
the scrap of paper from him.
up!” ordered Manuel.
plugging in the account numbers, Jack stopped and looked at him again. “I just want to make sure we have a
deal. I transfer this money into your
account and you let me go?”
pissin’ me off, man! Just do it before I
plug you between the eyes!”
okay,” Jack went on. “You’re sure? You won’t back out?”
just like that, the thunderous roar of gunshots echoed through the room. Tiny droplets of blood sprayed Jack in the
face. He jumped back, panicked and
startled, certain that the man had made good on his threats. But after checking himself over, he realized
the blood wasn’t his. Next to him, the
man who’d been holding the gun on him collapsed into a bloody mass on the floor.
immediately turned, startled by the sudden presence behind him.
he said to his brother. “What are you-“
been disobeying my orders, Manuel?” Ricardo asked, white tank top showing off
his giant scorpion tattoo.
Ricardo,” he said fearfully. “Things
just went haywire, man. We got the wrong
lady and then this other guys showed up and-“
A pause while he came close to stepping on the dead man at his
feet. “The freighters still showed up,
hombre. I got confirmation. We thought we could get a lot of money out of
these people so we took them. They’re Hollywood, man. They got millions.”
not running things your way anymore,” Ricardo cautioned him.
I run them better than you do,” Manuel said defiantly.
watched, paralyzed with fear and afraid to look at the bloody mess that lied
next to him. He inched closer to the
edge of the sofa, hoping to make a break for it when the time was right. He feared if he didn’t, he’d be the next to
get splattered across the far wall.
think so?” Ricardo asked, pointing the gun at his brother.
that instant, the prospect of spending the rest of his life as second in
command proved too depressing for Manuel to think about.
He’d run things his way and intended to continue to do so. Without warning, he raised his rifle and
fired several shots into Ricardo’s chest.
that instant, Jack jumped to his feet and dashed to the door. The man guarding the van heard the gunfire
and came running in at the same time.
During the commotion, Jack was able to escape on foot, running for his
life and hoping he could disappear without them following.
James was up shortly before six a.m. A knock at the door alerted him to a
visitor. With caution, he approached
just as Alejandro entered the room in a hurry.
Blackthorne, they found somebody from your crew,” he told him. “A man. They took him to the hospital
yesterday. I’ve got a car downstairs.”
don’t know,” he replied, but James was already firing out the door to gather
David and Eddie.
later, they were being led down a hallway at the small local hospital. Alejandro translated as the doctor revealed
the condition of the man after they brought him in.
outside the door, James took a deep breath, praying that when he opened it he’d
find his son alive and well. After
glancing hopefully between Eddie and David, he entered the room and was
surprised to find that it wasn’t Stormy they found, but Kyle. Disappointment lingered for a few moments,
and then was quickly replaced with the hope that Kyle could provide them with
you okay?” James asked.
be fine,” he replied, sitting up in the bed. “James, I know where they’re holding
them. Stormy, Brooke, Steven and Jack.”
alive?” Eddie asked.
nodded. “They took us to an abandoned
plant about thirty miles outside of town.
When we got there it was dark and I made a run for it but they shot me.”
you just left them there with a group of murderers?” David asked angrily. “Typical.
Save yourself and to hell with anybody else, right?”
knew if I got away I could find help and go back for them,” Kyle replied
defensively. “Are you telling me you
would have handled it any different?”
wouldn’t have left without Brooke, that’s for damn sure!”
because you’re such a noble hero, aren’t you?” Kyle said with a sarcastic edge
to his firm voice.
enough!” James ordered, glancing back and forth between them. “This isn’t helping anything.” He turned to Alejandro. “Do you know the plant he’s talking about?”
an old sugar cane refinery a ways outside of town. It’s been abandoned for a number of
years. We can be there in half an
go,” James said and headed for the door.
going with you,” Kyle said, climbing off the bed.
think you’ve done enough,” David warned him with a scowl.
going and that’s final.” He grabbed his pants from the chair and
pulled them on under his gown.
noticed the panic in Eddie’s eyes and led him off to the side of the room. “You okay?
If you’re not up for this, Eddie…”
shook his head. “No, I am. It’s just….just because they were alive over
a day ago doesn’t mean they still are.
What if we get there and…”
be fine,” David said firmly, leading them out of the room into the
group arrived at the plant and found it to be deserted. There were no cars nearby but tire tracks in
the dirt came and went in both directions.
James led them up to the entrance and they inspected each room with
caution. His gun drawn, he continued
with determination through the expansive facility.
they neared the refinery area, they found a collection of ropes and what
appeared to be blindfolds or gags scattered across the floor. Eddie bent down and inspected them carefully,
then lifted the empty water jug that had been discarded nearby.
is where they were holding them,” he surmised.
they get free?” James inquired as he looked around the room. He glanced up at the small windows that lined
the ceiling and realized it was too high for them to have climbed out on their
Eddie replied grimly. He gestured to the
door and the myriad of locks that were housed on the outside. “This place is like a bunker. No on gets in or out without a key.”
where are they?” James demanded.
filled the room for several moments until Alejandro’s cell phone rang, alerting
him to a call. He stepped aside and
answered it discreetly while the others remained, perplexed.
how did you escape?” James asked.
the jungle across from the dirt lot,” he indicated while pointing to the
north. “There’s a lot of thick brush in
there. If I hadn’t found my way back to
the main road I probably would have been in there for days.”
we’ll find them,” David insisted.
he asked. “This was our only lead. And without help from the local authorities,
we have no idea where to look next.”
tension was broken when Alejandro returned after his call. “They found some bodies not far from here,”
he said. “They were victims of a car
bomb. They said there were three people
closed his eyes in despair. This was his
worst nightmare come true. Ethan was already gone. How could he go on if Stormy and Brooke were
billowing into the air told them they were headed in the right direction. Alejandro slowed the SUV to a crawl until
they reached the side of the road along the bay where the charred remnants of
an unidentified vehicle smoldered amidst the thick smell of gasoline and
were several federal police officers, guns drawn as they investigated the
scene. James followed David and Eddie
toward the site of the explosion and grimaced with the discovery of three
burned bodies tangled inside the unrecognizable vehicle. Horror set in with the realization that the
bodies were too badly burned to make a positive identification. There weren't
even indications whether the victims
were male or female.
was speaking to the officers and returned a moment later with a half-burned
booklet in his hand. He handed it to
James with a grim look on his face.
is it?” Kyle asked.
burned his eyes as James leafed through the pages. “Stormy’s passport,” he told him, flashing
the page with his son’s photograph, edges burned from the fire.
turned toward the ocean, unable to look at the horrific sight. Kyle placed a hand over his face and tried to
reconcile what must have happened.
Obviously the others were taken from the plant after he made his
escape. Or maybe they found a way out
themselves and were the victims of the car bomb.
only three people here,” David said.
“Four of them were taken. Five
can be thrown several hundred yards during these car bombings,” Alejandro
reported grimly. “If there was someone
else in the vehicle with them then we may never find the body. I’m sorry.”
broke down in tears, turning away and trying to grasp the fact that Stormy and
Brooke were gone.
rusted metal door creaked open. One by
one, they were thrown inside the old bunker, thudding to the dirt-packed floor
from sheer force. Manuel slammed the
door closed and secured it with a padlock on the outside. Lowering his rifle, he turned and followed
the other man down a dilapidated rock corridor.
Stormy pulled himself to his feet, and then went to help Brooke. They met up at the door which Steven was
already trying desperately to pry open.
It appeared to him that they were in some kind of old prison cell,
complete with bars covering a small square cutout in the center of the
door. Frustrated, he turned and gave
them each a knowing shake of his head.
were trapped again. This time with no
hope that anyone would find them.
arrives at Brett's, still unsure if she can go through
with what he asks of her. Miranda has the unpleasant
task of breaking tragic news to someone. Brett
finds his path has taken a new course. James refuses
to give up hope. Jackie continues her search for
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