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Episode 116

 

Release Date:  June 10, 2010

 Read the episode Recap

 

 

 

Episode 116

"Confirmed Dead"

 

A 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. 

Finally, 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. 

“What the hell?” Cassidy Solomon asked under her breath.

Upon further 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. 

“This is 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.” 

Twenty excruciating 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. 

“Senorita Taylor?” 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. 

Adrenaline coursing 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 head bleeding.

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. 

The precarious 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.” 

More 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 their path. 

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. 

Then everything 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.”

Manuel swallowed 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. 

A 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 us.” 

“Brooke Taylor?” Manuel had asked when he looked at the name. 

“She’s in Acapulco with a movie crew.  They’re staying at Las Brisas.  He wants her dead.”

“I 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.”

Ricardo 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.”

“Where are the freighters coming from?” Manuel wanted to know.

“Some 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 got. 

“Manuel,” 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.” 

Surprised, Manuel 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 es ella!”

“Que?” asked Manuel.

“Es la personal equivocado!  It’s not Brooke Taylor!”

With the 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. 

“Don’t question 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.

Manuel 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. 

“Mrs. Blackthorne?” 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 then.  “Yes.” 

“We’ll be in touch.”

When 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 people.” 

“Well 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 be proud. 

Kyle Fenwick

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 out. 

No reply. 

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 the night. 

Kyle stumbled, 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. 

Straining 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 happening. 

But 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. 

Part 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. 

Standing 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. 

With 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 unbearable pain. 

Once 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 decided. 

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.

After 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. 

Almost immediately, he drifted off to sleep, mosquitoes attacking his bare arms and neck.

Brooke Taylor

Two 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. 

Her 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. 

Slowly 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.

Suddenly, 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.

Of 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 her.

Can you get free?” is what she wanted to say. 

His 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. 

Slowly, 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 rope. 

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.” 

“Ransom?” Brooke asked.  “It’s the only thing that makes sense.”

“Not necessarily,” 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 watching us.”

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?”

Brooke continuously 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 himself.”

“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?”

“It doesn’t matter,” he replied.  “This thing isn’t budging.”

“So what do we do now?” asked Brooke.  “Wait until they come back and kill us?”

Stormy, inspecting the room carefully, shook his head with determination.  “No, we’re going to find a way out of here.” 

Kyle Fenwick

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 soon. 

Swatting 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.

The 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. 

Struggling 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. 

He 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 Blackthorne

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 idea.  

“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.” 

“Maybe there’s another door.”  She wandering away, inspecting every inch of the large space until she returned baring a look of defeat. 

“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.  

“Enough,” he 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 me?”

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 entire life. 

“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 Ambassador!” 

And within seconds they’d disappeared, the thick door slamming closed behind. 

Kyle Fenwick

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. 

With his 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. 

He’d been caught. 

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. 

Abruptly, he 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 thud. 

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

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 Commission.”

“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.”

Manuel exchanged 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.”

More conversation 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 held. 

“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 to you?”

“They just asked me questions about how wealthy we are,” Jack replied.  “I’m assuming because they’re preparing to ask for a ransom.” 

“Did they say anything else?” Brooke inquired.  “Did you see anything?  How many more of them are there?”

Jack 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. 

“I 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.”

“What kind of deal?” Stormy demanded.

“Someone supplied them with ships to transport drugs to the states,” Jack continued.  “It would appear that we’re payment for those services.” 

“Huh?” Steven asked, his shorts and t-shirt soaked in sweat from the sweltering heat in the warehouse. 

“That’s 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.”

Looking 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 now.” 

“Let’s 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.”

Stormy nodded in agreement.  “They pulled us over coming from the airport on the day we got here.” 

“I told you then they’re opportunists,” Jack reminded him.  “They’ll take your belongings and sell them for money if given the tiniest chance.”

His 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 was theirs.  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. 

Once he’d managed to discard his weapon, he put his hands up in an effort to claim his innocence. 

“Brooke….” he murmured through a haze of exhaustion.  “They took Brooke….”

With that, he slumped over the steering wheel and lost consciousness. 

Stormy Blackthorne

The 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. 

Beside 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 concentration. 

“I knew something like this was going to happen,” Stormy whispered to Brooke, hands hung between his legs as he shook his head with remorse.

“What do you mean?” she asked, turning her head weakly toward him.  “This isn’t your fault, Stormy.”

“Yes, it is.  I’m producing this movie and I failed to protect everyone involved.”

“You 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.”

“Like Cassidy?” he said, head hanging low. 

“Look, 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.”

He finally turned to meet her gaze.  “They warned me what a volatile situation it was down here, but I chose to ignore it.”

Brooke 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?”

“Alejandro 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.”

“Stormy…”

“My 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 constant disappointment.”

“Your father does not think you’re a disappointment.”

He 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.”

“Your 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 that.” 

He managed a meager smile, squeezing her hand as she laid her head on his shoulder. 

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. 

She refused to be a victim of circumstance.

Kyle Fenwick

When 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.

Immediately, 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. 

Desperate 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 motionless. 

Moments 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 sedative. 

As the nurse re-inserted the I.V. into Kyle’s arm, the doctor injected the bag with the drug.

Immediately, Kyle began to drift off to sleep, murmuring a panicked string of broken words as his eyes shuttered closed. 

“Brooke….” he muttered.  “Help Brooke.”

James Blackthorne

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.

“I’ll 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. 

“Yes,” 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.”

James 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 guard.

“What 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?”

Lenny 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.”

James closed his eyes, both relieved and mortified at the same time. 

“What about the others?” David asked.  “Have they turned up anything?”

Alejandro 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.” 

Eddie 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 way. 

“Have you spoken to the FBI?” Lenny asked. 

James 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.”

“I 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.”

“Terrific,” said James.  “If no one in authority is going to be of any help, then what are we supposed to do?”

David 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.” 

They 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.

“All 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.”

“Are 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…”

“Lenny, go,” James said, pointing back to the vehicle.  “I’ll fill you in when we know anything.”  

Lenny 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. 

“What now?” Eddie asked.

“We start looking for them,” David said plainly.  “That’s why we’re here, isn’t it?”

Alejandro 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 morning.” 

“They could be dead by then,” James said in a frustrated rage. 

“So 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.” 

Reluctantly, 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. 

He 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. 

Brooke Taylor

Brooke 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. 

Salvation 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.

Jack Childers

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. 

Forcing him inside the house at gunpoint, Manuel ordered one of his men to watch the van and the other to follow him inside.

Once 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 elaborate decorations. 

“Get into your bank account,” Manuel ordered him, handing a scrap of paper with a number written on it.  “Transfer everything into this account.” 

Jack swallowed hard.  “Everything?” he asked. 

“Yes, everything!”  Manuel replied, nervously looking behind him every few seconds. 

“And then you let me go, right?”

“Yes, just do it!” Manuel bellowed. 

Jack 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.

“Hurry up!” ordered Manuel. 

While 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?”

“You’re pissin’ me off, man!  Just do it before I plug you between the eyes!”

“Okay, okay,” Jack went on.  “You’re sure?  You won’t back out?”

And 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.

Manuel immediately turned, startled by the sudden presence behind him. 

“Ricardo,” he said to his brother.  “What are you-“

“You been disobeying my orders, Manuel?” Ricardo asked, white tank top showing off his giant scorpion tattoo.

“No 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.” 

“You’re not running things your way anymore,” Ricardo cautioned him. 

“Maybe I run them better than you do,” Manuel said defiantly. 

Jack 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. 

“You think so?” Ricardo asked, pointing the gun at his brother.

In 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. 

In 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 Blackthorne

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.

“Mr. 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.”

“Is it Stormy?”

“I don’t know,” he replied, but James was already firing out the door to gather David and Eddie. 

Minutes 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. 

Standing 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 important information.

“Are you okay?” James asked. 

“I’ll be fine,” he replied, sitting up in the bed.  “James, I know where they’re holding them.  Stormy, Brooke, Steven and Jack.”

“They’re alive?” Eddie asked.

He 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.”

“So you just left them there with a group of murderers?” David asked angrily.  “Typical.  Save yourself and to hell with anybody else, right?”

“I 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?”

“I wouldn’t have left without Brooke, that’s for damn sure!”

“Oh, because you’re such a noble hero, aren’t you?” Kyle said with a sarcastic edge to his firm voice.

“That’s 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?”

“There’s 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 hour.” 

“Let’s go,” James said and headed for the door. 

“I’m going with you,” Kyle said, climbing off the bed.

“I think you’ve done enough,” David warned him with a scowl. 

“I’m going and that’s final.”   He grabbed his pants from the chair and pulled them on under his gown. 

James 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…”

He 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…”

“They’ll be fine,” David said firmly, leading them out of the room into the corridor.

David Jenner

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.  

When 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. 

“This is where they were holding them,” he surmised. 

“Did 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 own. 

“Doubtful,” 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.”

“So where are they?” James demanded. 

Silence 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.

“Kyle, how did you escape?” James asked. 

“Through 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.”

“James, we’ll find them,” David insisted. 

“How?” he asked.  “This was our only lead.  And without help from the local authorities, we have no idea where to look next.” 

The 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 inside.”

James 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 dead?

James Blackthorne

Smoke 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 burning flesh.  

Nearby 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. 

Alejandro 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. 

“What is it?” Kyle asked. 

Tears 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. 

Eddie 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. 

“There’s only three people here,” David said.  “Four of them were taken.  Five including Kyle.”

“Bodes 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.” 

James broke down in tears, turning away and trying to grasp the fact that Stormy and Brooke were gone.

Stormy Blackthorne

The 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. 

Inside, 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. 

They were trapped again.  This time with no hope that anyone would find them. 


Next time....

Suzanne 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 Bryan.

  

 

Read Episode 117

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