Dave sat alone on the stairs that led up the balcony. He had his eyes shut as he took deep slow breaths. His mind was busy with thoughts, particularly centred on all that had happened that day. Apart from hearing that the number of confirmed deaths had increased to four, there had been nothing new from the explosion.
He thought about Jennifer and Maxwell, and all the short pleasant memories they had together before returning to Bexford to continue the mission. That was after Cole’s death when Maxwell was recruited. No one had the slightest idea that there would be a day when a bomb would go off in their hideout.
He remembered the brief moments he had with Evelyn too, their short romance which never materialized into anything serious. He had hoped that one day, after all the Red Wolves’ trouble had ended, they would have talked about getting into something serious. But that was never going to be a reality, he thought. It could only be possible if Evelyn happened to survive. And at the time of the last report, the police had confirmed that two of the victims were under intensive care.
There was a chance that Evelyn was one of those two victims who had yet to be confirmed dead. If she was and then happened to come out of it alive, the dream of him having something serious with her may still materialize, Dave thought.
But what was the point, he asked himself. Did they really have to go through the horror of losing the people who meant so much to them, in a fight to stop the nation from being delivered into the hands of terrorists?
His thoughts were disrupted when he heard the creaking sound of the door opening. He didn’t bother to look back but could hear some soft footsteps.
Someone stopped beside him and sat down slowly on the same bottom stairs he was sitting on. He didn’t bother looking but could tell from the scent that it was Maria.
“I hope you know that none of that was personal,” he voiced after taking a deep breath.
“I understand, you don’t have to explain yourself,” she replied in a low voice.
Samantha walked past them to the floor and turned. “We can’t stay here all night, can we? Someone’s going to find out we broke in.”
“Yeah, we gotta leave,” Dave sighed and got to his feet. He placed his gaze on Maria for the first time since she stepped outside. “You look horrible, Maria. We need to get you something to eat, and something for all of us too.”
“No, that’s not what I need now,” Maria got up to her feet. She stared at Dave’s face for a few seconds and then at Samantha. “My parents will be damn worried and would have called the police. I need to get them to safety.”
“If they called the police, they’ll be safe already. We just have to make sure they don’t find you or find us, isn’t it?” Samantha queried with squinted eyebrows. She glanced at Dave to see if he shared the same thoughts with her and returned her focus to Maria’s face again. Dave was expressionless and Maria remained quiet but looked worried. It took a few seconds more for Samantha to realize what the real problem was. “Oh, sh*t!”
“We have to find a way to get them away from the police and to safety,” Dave put in. “When Hutton finds out you didn’t die in the explosion, they won’t be safe anymore.”
“Let’s go,” Samantha gestured with her head and followed Dave. “We’ll get something to eat on our to your parent’s.”
Maria took in a deep breath before following. They turned out from the backyard of the warehouse where they had broken into and walked to the road. After walking for a few minutes, they got to where the car was parked.
Dave got into the driver’s seat before Maria got close to the car while Samantha left the door to the passenger’s side open until she got there. Maria stepped into the backseat before Samantha entered and closed the door.
Maria groaned slightly as she settled in the back. She rubbed her face gently to massage the bruises she had received. Then she looked up to notice that Dave was looking at her through the rearview mirror.
“Before we proceed, Maria, I need to know that you’re cool with me… that you’re cool with us,” Dave turned back to look at Maria’s face.
“I’m fine, Dave. I’m not holding it against you two,” Maria gasped.
Dave’s eyebrows gathered together as he looked straight into her eyes. “I’m really sorry about that, Maria.”
“It’s okay, I understand,” Maria voiced tiredly. “I would have loved it if you believed me initially, but I can’t blame you, I understand how it feels like. Maybe I would have done worse if I was in your shoes.”
Dave nodded slowly and then turned to the front again. He took in a deep breath and glanced at Samantha who was looking at him.
“We gotta make a move now before Hutton finds out about her parents,” Samantha chipped in.
Dave was about to start the car engine when Samantha’s phone began to ring. He took it out of his pocket and checked the screen before handing it to Samantha. “It’s him.”
Samantha collected the phone and didn’t bother to take note of the caller’s ID before answering.
“Hello,” she answered and put the phone on loudspeakers.
“Sam, is Maria okay?” Henry asked immediately.
“Yes, she’s fine. She’s listening to you,” Samantha replied.
“Thank God,” Henry heaved a sigh of relief.
“We’re headed now to get her parents,” Samantha added. “We need to keep them safe before Hutton finds out that Maria wasn’t killed in the explosion.”
“That’s right,” Henry remarked. “You guys should get them tonight and you all stay somewhere safe. By morning, I’ll send you a location to track. Try to get enough rest tonight.”
“Alright boss,” Samantha let out a deep breath.
“Maria,” Henry called out loud from the other end.
“Yes?” she answered.
“How are you?” He asked in a rather calm tone.
“Fine,” Maria replied. “And I understand everything that happened, you don’t need to tell me you’re sorry too.”
“Okay, then,” Henry replied. “Go get your parents to safety. I’ll talk to you all by morning.”
El Deols, Bethanna
“I can’t tell them to track it tonight,” Henry announced to the others after ending the call. “They have a different assignment and I need them to rest too. So much has happened in the last twenty-four hours. And we almost killed one of our moments ago. I don’t know if they have the mental capacity to do more tonight.”
“That’s okay,” Rex replied. “As long as you’re certain that we can track this device you implanted in her, we can wait until tomorrow before making our moves. Maybe, we’ll change our route and medium of transportation too.”
“I’m sure we can track it, I had it tested after it was implanted,” Henry replied. “And we can have Sheila help us confirm it later if we get the necessary devices for her.”
They all looked towards Sheila who had taken some steps away from them. She looked consumed with the device in her hand and they could hear some sounds from it. It seemed she was listening to something.
She noticed their silence and looked up to discover they had their eyes on her.
Henry approached her. “Please, let go of the device, Sheila.”
He stretched out his hand to take the phone from her but she wouldn’t let go.
“My Dad just uploaded a video online,” she gasped.
Henry squinted and moved closer, interested in seeing the video.
“What video?” Rex also walked towards them.
Sheila had already watched the video halfway but took it back to the first second to play again. She increased the volume. The video was recorded outdoors, with Emery Jack standing in front of an ornamental shrub.
Right now, I don’t even know what to say about the Anthannian police or whoever concluded that my daughter is a member of the Red Wolves. I just want the world to know that my daughter could never be part of a terrorist group. She has never worked with one and will never work with one. Everyone knows who Sheila is, every one knows her passion and her dedication to bettering human lives. She would never stoop so low to destroy people. I must say it’s utterly disgraceful for the Anthannian police to declare her a terrorist without proof.
Sheila Jack is not a terrorist. Sheila is not a criminal and has never involved herself in criminal activities. She was kidnapped weeks ago and the police have failed in their efforts to get her back. It’s a shame that they refused to accept that they failed but instead declared her a wanted criminal. Right now, my daughter is in grave danger because she’s in the hands of the same man that kidnapped her boyfriend, Adrian. We don’t know what they’re doing to her currently.
The man in the video paused for a while to take a deep breath and dry his teary eyes. Then he looked directly into the camera again.
If by any means the kidnappers are watching this, I plead with you to let her go. Sheila is the sweetest soul ever and she doesn’t deserve to be hurt. She’s been my only family since death took Amanda from me. I would ki*ll myself if anything happens to her.
The man broke down in tears as he continued, sounding a bit incoherent this time.
Please, Sheila, stay strong and stay alive. If anything happens to you, this place would not be safe for me anymore, then I would go to Amanda. Yes, Sheila. I would rather go with Amanda before losing you too.
Tears had already filled Sheila’s eyes by the time the video ended. The last time she saw her father that emotional was during her mother’s death tenth year remembrance program. She sniffed in and wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, managing to keep the tears from rolling down her cheeks. For a moment, she began to doubt if escaping her father’s care to help Henry was the right decision. Maybe the only thing she needed was to be happy with her family – her father and maybe Adrian.
“You saw Emery Jack with the police back there, didn’t you?” Rex broke the silence. He took the phone and handed it back to Tanko.
Henry nodded in response.
“Why do I feel that Emery Jack told the media about the search, just to inform us?” Rex added.
“I feel so too,” Henry agreed in a thoughtful tone. “He could have heard about it and decided to give the press information to warn us.”
They all looked toward Sheila as if to listen to her opinion but she was too emotional to say anything.
“I don’t know much about Emery Jack, but I know he wouldn’t want Sheila to stay in prison for a single minute. And that’s exactly what’s going to happen if the police arrest us,” Henry continued. “I’m sure that’s why he must have released the information to the media.”
“Guys, I don’t have anything to say on whether her father leaked it or not,” Tanko put in with a worried look. “I just want to be sure that it’s not going to change the fact that we aren’t travelling anymore tonight.”
“Maybe, we will,” Rex answered him and then turned to Henry. “Why do you think he felt he needed to warn us so badly? He knew we were aware that the police were after us already.”
“Yeah, but before this evening, the police were after us because you kidnapped Adrian and we got away with Sheila. But now, all security agents and not just the police are after us. And they’re coming after us not because we kidnapped someone, but because they think we’re dangerous terrorists,” Henry replied.
“The news he released to the media would have been enough to warn us to get away. If what he wanted was for us to get away with Sheila safely alone, he won’t need to release another video pleading with the ‘kidnappers’ to let his daughter go,” Rex argued.
“You’re right,” Henry narrowed his gaze thoughtfully. “You think he was trying to point something out something more?”
“I don’t really know,” Rex shook his head. “But if wanting to keep us away from the hands of the security agents were his objective alone, he wouldn’t have recorded the video. Or maybe we’re wrong, maybe the information leaked in some other way and not through him.”
“Ermmm… Can I see the video again?” Sheila stepped closer to them after having followed their conversation.
“Listen to me, agent! You must find whoever the f**ker is that leaked that information! And you must fish out the person immediately,” Hutton yelled at the Anthannian FOX head before ending the call.
“Are we ever going to get rid of Carl Winston?” a voice spoke behind him.
Hutton turned to see Kahn in the wheelchair behind him. He reached for the closest sofa and settled down, unbuckling his belt for more comfort.
“You’re not going to say anything?” Kahn wheeled himself close to Hutton.
“What do you want me to say, man?” Hutton sighed. “At this point, we’ve achieved almost all the goals we set. What we have left is to wipe out Carl Winston and Rex Morris. And we’re going to achieve that too, even if it’s difficult.”
“Now that Rex Morris and Carl Winston are moving together, don’t you think it’s going to be even more difficult to defeat them?”
“We control any army of Red Wolves, Kahn. Now, we also control the FOX. These two may be dangerous as individuals but they’re not enough to form an army. We’re dangerous and we have an army. It’s just a matter of time, the two of them will be dead soon.”
There was silence for a while before Kahn spoke again. “He’s going to be searching for who f**ked up his team too. You think that won’t be a problem for us?”
“No, even if he discovers who it was, it’s too late already,” Hutton replied.
At that moment, Chanda walked into the living room.
“Is there any update on the number of the dead explosion victims?” Hutton asked, his eyes following Chanda as the latter approached a sofa beside him.
“No, it’s still the same four dead people and two in the hospital, yet to be confirmed dead. The men are still working at the explosion, trying to recover more dead bodies,” Chanda replied.
“Do we need to keep those two in the hospital alive?” Kahn questioned.
“Yes, for now,” Hutton replied. “We need those to use as scapegoats. They’re the ones who will be paraded as surviving terrorists. They will be tried and sentenced in court for everyone to see. After that, anything can happen to them in jail.”
“Do we have the names of those who survived?” Kahn asked Chanda.
“Not yet, they haven’t been identified. The objective at the moment is to keep them alive. All I can say is that it’s a male and female,” Chanda replied.
There was silence for a few seconds.
“Have you seen the video released by Emery Jack?” Chanda asked Hutton who shook his head in response immediately. “I just saw it before walking into the living room. I assumed you must have seen it too,” Chanda added as he took out his phone.
“I don’t have my smartphone with me,” Hutton replied.
“The video was released not too long after the search was leaked by Anthannian news sources,” Chanda handed his smartphone to Hutton.
Hutton clicked on the play button and squinted at the screen. Kahn did not bother to come close enough to watch the video but listened to the sound as it played.
“What the heck is this?” Hutton remarked after the video ended. He lifted his face and stared blankly for a moment. Then, he played the video a second time.
“Didn’t Florence say Emery Jack was with the police at Rex’s hideout?” Kahn questioned.
“Yes, he was,” Hutton replied.
“In my opinion, this video sounds makes him suspicious. He was released too quickly, like something he premeditated. Maybe some policeman was careless to spread the information to him. Emery must have given the media the information.”
“That sounds close, but maybe that wasn’t it,” Hutton replied. “If Emery released the information to the media, he’s trying to help Carl and his daughter not to get caught. But in this video, he’s pleading with the abductors to let his daughter go. Isn’t that confusing?” He turned his gaze to Kahn after speaking.
“It is confusing,” Kahn replied. “But I don’t think there’s any reason Emery Jack would want Carl to return his daughter now, knowing that she would be treated like a criminal based on the new allegations. The girl was accused of being a terrorist, and that’s an accusation that countries don’t take lightly. She’s not gonna get bail or anything.”
“Yea, I agree. Emery would want to keep his daughter away from the police right now,” Hutton remarked. “What I need to figure out now is the reason for the video.”
Hutton clicked on play again but reduced the video speed to see if he would notice any strange gesture from Emery.
El Deols, Anthanna
“What do you think he’s saying?” Henry asked Sheila after they all watched the video again three times.
“I think he’s saying we should go with Amanda,” Sheila replied thoughtfully.
She played the video again but watched only the last fifteen seconds this time.
“Who is Amanda?” Rex asked.
“My mum,” Sheila replied.
“Does he want you to go to your mum?” Rex squinted.
“No, she’s late,” Sheila answered.
“Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t know.”
“So, what do you mean by saying he wants us to go with Amanda?”
“My Dad has got a jet, his favourite. He named it after my mum, Amanda. He hasn’t renewed the license of the jet or his private aerodrome recently. No one is going to be suspecting we will travel in it right now. It’s the perfect option for us to get to Bexford without being stopped. Then, I can crash the satellites to ensure they can’t detect where we’re travelling to or landing at.”
“So, your Dad is saying we should travel in his jet,” Rex had a bright smile on his face.
“How long will it take us to get there?” Henry questioned.
“Maybe an hour. The place is outside Deols,” Sheila replied. “It could have been thirty minutes, but I guess we can’t drive so fast to avoid attracting attention.”
“Yeah, going fast will sell us out,” Rex replied. “One hour is good enough.”
Hutton had played the video up to six times more but couldn’t catch anything yet. His frustration was getting visible.
“Maybe we need to see it on a larger screen,” Kahn suggested.
“It doesn’t look like Emery is making any gesture,” Hutton replied. “I think I just have to listen more.”
He played the video once again but still got nothing.
“You should take Kahn’s suggestion,” Chanda advised too.
“We don’t have time, gentlemen,” Hutton scoffed. “The video has been uploaded over thirty minutes ago. Sheila and Carl must have gotten the message already, so they’re already ahead of us.”
“The faster we get it to a larger screen, the faster we get the message too,” Kahn put in.
“Okay,” Hutton gave in and handed the phone to Chanda. “Help us get it on the screen and I’ll join you there soon.”
Chanda walked out of the living room with the phone immediately.
Hutton took out his phone to make a call. He was connected with Florence Brown a few seconds later.
“Did you see the video Emery Jack released?”
“Yes, I did.”
“Was there anything you noticed in it?”
Florence’s response was delayed for a few seconds. “No, I didn’t notice anything.”
“I think Emery is giving them a message with the video. He wants to help them get away. But I don’t understand what message he’s passing across.”
“What do we do, Hutton?”
Hutton took in a deep breath. “Get on the flight back to Bexford right away.”
“What?” Florence replied in shock. “Those guys may still be in El Deols and you want us to get back there?”
Kahn also stared at Hutton in shock on hearing the instruction.
“Yes, get back to Bexford, Florence. We don’t know what Emery has told them and it might take time for us to figure it out. They could have gotten out of El Deols by the time we figure it out. So, you should be here early enough to lead an attack on them.”
“According to your logic, they may have also left El Deols as we speak now. So, we’re never going to catch up with them,” Florence replied.
“No, I don’t think they left El Deols yet. I believe Emery might try to take them out through another route. Maybe smuggle them into South Husan or Zambia and get them back here. They can’t take a flight from El Deols because the FOX has covered all take-off points. Just get back to Bexford right away.”
“Understood,” Florence replied.
“You’re sure of what you’re doing?” Kahn asked after watching Hutton end the call.
“Yeah, I’m sure,” Hutton answered and got up to his feet. He proceeded towards the exit door to join Chanda but stopped halfway as he noticed Kahn was also following. He turned back to wheel Kahn along with him.
They got to the well-lit operation center and met Chanda who had already gotten the video into the computer. He played it immediately after he saw them walk in.
The larger screen did not make much difference. Both Kahn and Hutton could still not see any gesture or hear anything. After a while, they covered their ears with earphones to hear closely and note if Emery tried to pass a message with a special sound. They still got nothing.
After over thirty minutes of nothing, Hutton dropped the earphones and decided to listen to it for the last time before giving up. Again, the video ended without him getting any clue.
He sighed in resignation and was about to turn to leave when something struck him. He turned back immediately and looked at Kahn.
“Do you know anyone else who’s close to Emery that’s Amanda?”
“There’s no way I would know that,” Kahn scoffed.
“I think Emery is telling Sheila to go to an Amanda, not his wife. But the video makes us think he’s talking about his late wife,” Hutton sounded so sure. He rushed to one of the other computers and sat in front of it. He took out his phone while booting the computer and dialled a number.
“Hey, I want you to scan around for any of Emery Jack’s friends or relatives who goes by the name Amanda. Also, check for any of his late wife’s family members who have remained close to Emery. Let me know once you find anything.”
He dropped the call shortly after and stared impatiently at the booting computer. The home screen on the desktop showed but the icons were yet to display properly. Nevertheless, Hutton grabbed the mouse to go to the start button. He stopped as something else came to his mind. He took out his phone and dialled the previous number again.
“Hey, I want you to get your team to work on this task with you. Also, scan for properties that belonged to Amanda Jack. I want the list of every property she had before she died and the list of every property Emery got in her name, whether houses, companies, or islands.”
To be continued