“I think it’s safe for you two to go to bed now,” Hutton suggested after a brief moment of silence. “We need to rest well to be effective.”
“See who’s talking,” Kahn gasped. “I could be home all day, but you need to go to the FOX office tomorrow. You’re the one who needs to get enough sleep.”
“I’m going to be sleeping right here,” Hutton replied. “I wanna get first-hand information from Florence when Carl is captured.”
Kahn looked up to check the time on the wall clock. “Don’t you think you should ask how soon Florence hopes to bring Carl Winston to you? And maybe her plans to do it?”
“I wanna give her the freedom to do it her way. If she succeeded with Rex Morris, she could succeed with Carl Winston too,” Hutton replied.
“What if she fails?” Chanda put in.
Hutton stared at him thinly for a moment. “We have failed several times following my plans. She’s taken down Rex the first time I let her do it her own way. Even if she fails, it would just be her first time.”
“I didn’t suggest that you ask about her plans to take control of it, I suggested you ask to schedule your rest. Your lack of sleep could affect your cognitive ability and you can’t afford such situations, especially now that you’re leading the FOX.”
Hutton let in a deep breath. “Maybe I should,” he muttered before picking up his phone.
“Hold on, guys,” Chanda spoke out loud suddenly. He was staring at his phone’s screen like he’d seen something shocking. Hutton and Kahn had their eyes on him immediately after he called for their attention. “Maria Nasheed was not in the building during the explosion.”
“What?” Hutton gasped. “How was she not there?”
“I don’t know how, but she’s alive,” Chanda got up and handed his phone to Hutton to read the WhatsApp text.
We have just confirmed that Maria Nasheed of the FOX is alive. Some policemen were discovered in bonds in her parents’ house. According to the police report, her parents had earlier called in to report that she was kidnapped by two people from their home. She returned with the same two people to get her parents out of the house.
“Phew!” Hutton exhaled deeply after reading the text. He handed the phone to Kahn who was also interested in seeing the text.
“I guess those two must be Samantha and Dave,” Kahn spoke after reading the message.
“Yeah, it must be those two,” Hutton replied.
“We don’t have to bother about the three of them, do we?”
“No, they’re insignificant without Carl Winston. We can declare them wanted and arrest them later, but our focus now remains on Carl,” Hutton replied to Kahn and then turned to Chanda. “Keep monitoring the results of the explosion as you’re doing. But you can also take time to rest until morning.”
After that, Hutton opened his call records and dialled Florence’s number.
Florence was at the back of the vehicle, washing her blood-stained hands and feet when her phone began to ring. She paused and wiped her hands dry with the face towel previously hung around her neck. After that, she took out the phone and checked the caller before answering.
“Where are you now?” Hutton’s voice sounded from the other end.
“Somewhere far, we had to pick up the bodies of our men and discard them first. We’re bringing the bodies of Rex Morris and Sheila Jack to you,” Florence answered.
“Still think you can get Carl Winston before morning?”
“No,” Florence shook her head. “Because of the gun war, the police are sniffing around already. I have to be careful not to get caught. Or do you have our operation recorded in your FOX’s directory yet?”
“No, we don’t. Take your time.”
“You should let me go now before the police trace us here,” Florence replied and turned towards Xavier, who had just lit up a pile of bodies with fire.
“Before I go, is there anything you need?”
“Yeah, two or three new cars. I’ll send you the locations to have them parked.”
“Will get it done,” Hutton replied and the call went off.
Xavier turned and noticed she had ended the call. He began to walk towards her. His face, clothes, and hands were full of blood stains and dirt.
“He has been calling,” he got to Florence’s front and stopped.
“Huh?” Florence raised a brow.
Xavier wiped his palms with the back of his trousers before taking out Rex’s phone which was in his pocket. He opened the call register and turned the screen to Florence.
She sighed. “He must be at the first location already.”
“Do we send him the second address?”
“No, it’s impossible to meet up.”
“So, we just let him wait?”
“Yeah, he’s gonna wait. The other option he has apart from waiting is having Sheila killed. He’s not going to want that.”
“So, are we gonna reach him again?”
“Just ignore his calls for now. We gotta get out of here fast.”
“Sh*t! What the heck is going on?” Carl cursed under his breath after dialing Rex’s number for the fourth time without getting an answer.
Different thoughts began to run through his mind. Has something happened to Rex and Sheila? Did Florence Brown ki*ll them already? He asked himself.
Even if Florence Brown was to ki*ll anyone, she couldn’t have touched Sheila since they had a deal to exchange himself for her. He wasn’t sure if he could trust her though.
His heart began to beat faster than usual. He scanned around the area from behind the windscreen again. There was nothing suspicious or no signs that Florence Brown could be around there. The place was just a regular residential area which was usually quiet at such time of the day.
After a few more minutes of waiting in the car, he picked two pistols from under the seat and put them in the holsters by his side. Then he proceeded out of the vehicle to check around the area. Thirty minutes after looking around carefully, he returned to his car without seeing anything. Then, he decided to dial Rex’s number once more but it rang again without being answered.
He closed his eyes and took in a deep breath, trying to shut out the negative thoughts that were flowing into his mind. At that moment, his phone began to ring. His eyes popped open immediately and he turned the screen up to see the caller but was disappointed.
He sighed before answering the call. “Hey, Dave.”
“I wanted to know what’s happening,” Dave stated from the other end.
“I’ve been at the location and can’t see anyone around.”
“Are you sure they haven’t planted a bomb or something around there for you?”
“I don’t know,” Henry gasped.
“I’ll be waiting for your call,” Dave added before ending the call.
Immediately after the call ended, a text message entered Henry’s phone. It was from Rex’s number. He opened it quickly to check.
Go to sleep! The exchange will take place tomorrow. I’ll send you a new location.
Henry heaved a sigh of relief, but fear crept into his mind almost immediately again. While the text might be a sign that Florence Brown had not changed her mind about exchanging Sheila for him, it didn’t prove that Sheila and maybe Rex were still unhurt.
He thought of dialing the number again but resisted the urge. He was just going to go to sleep and wait for their call.
Henry’s eyes popped open suddenly as he got up from the bed huffing and puffing. He looked around him quickly as if to check if anyone was with him but there was none. He had sweat on his forehead even though the air conditioner in the room was working.
After finally getting some sleep, he couldn’t stop the nightmares from coming. Several times, he’d seen Sarah and Hutton working together, murdering innocent folks while his son was right in the presence of his son, Kellar. In the last one, Sarah handed over a knife to Kellar to stab his father.
Henry was scared and confused at the same time. It took him some time to start breathing calmly. Before he could do anything else, the phone in the drawer beside the bed beeped. He reached for it quickly to see what message it was.
“Meet us in 210 minutes at the Clemont district – come alone,” the message read.
Henry took in a deep breath and exhaled forcefully.
Why Clemont district? He thought. The place had been deserted three months ago after a disastrous flood damaged the buildings and sent people out of the settlement. Even though the floods had left, the government had kept the place out of the boundary to all people, trying to fix the damage and do everything to avoid a repetition before allowing people to go back to the place.
Henry wondered why Florence wanted her to come that far. He was still thinking about it when a knock sounded at the door. He got up from the bed quickly and rushed to the door. He checked the peephole and heaved a sigh of relief on seeing that it was Samantha and Dave.
“Sam,” he gasped as he opened the door for her to step in.
“Good morning,” Samantha greeted as she walked in with a pack of food. “We thought you might need breakfast.”
Henry locked the door and watched Samantha walk close to the bed to put the food in the drawer.
“Don’t you want to eat?” Dave questioned when Henry kept staring at them from the door.
Henry finally let in a deep breath and walked towards the angle where the pack of food was kept. Dave reached for the chair at the opposite end and sat there. Samantha sat at the opposite edge of the bed.
Henry opened the pack of food to see what was in it before he looked up again. “We lost most of our friends yesterday, I thought you guys would hate me right now.”
“There’s no reason to hate you,” Dave replied after a couple of seconds. “You lost your family too.”
“I’m not sure about that…” Henry gasped.
“What do you mean?” Samantha questioned.
Henry stays quiet for a while, thinking about the right response to give. Dave and Samantha stared at him intently.
“The woman holding Sheila and Rex sent me a message a few minutes ago to meet her in Clemont district…”
“Clemont district?” Samantha gasped. “That’s gonna take you at least two hours.”
“I have enough time, she asked me to get there in three hours and thirty minutes,” Henry replied. Samantha looked a bit relaxed while Dave just kept his narrow gaze on.
“You’re still going alone?”
“No,” Henry shook his head. “She asked me to come alone, but I’m gonna find a way to convince Tanko to follow me with his men. If the exchange takes place successfully, Tanko and his men will bring Sheila Jack to you. I just hope Tanko agrees to work with me.”
“What about you?” Samantha asked.
“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do,” Henry replied slowly.
“Isn’t there another way?” Samantha questioned.
“There’s no other way…”
“So, you’re saying you’re just going to submit yourself to the Wolves like that?” Dave scoffed. “Everything we’ve been doing for the past year has been a waste? Our brothers are just going to f**king die like losers,” he ended up screaming but Henry stayed calm.
“Don’t you think it’s time to throw in the towel?” Henry asked in low tones.
Dave and Samantha glanced at each other in disbelief.
“I can’t believe you’re f**king saying this! We’re gonna throw in the towel at this point?” Dave flared up. He got up from the chair angrily and proceeded to the door.
“Dave!” Henry called his name as he touched the knob. He stopped and turned. “Last night, I said I wasn’t going to involve you two in this anymore and you seemed cool with it…”
“Yeah, I seemed cool with it because all we’ve got from this war is bullsh*t!| Dave turned back and slammed at him. “Our team members died in that explosion. I could have been dead too if Samantha didn’t ask us to wait.”
Henry raised his head and got up slowly. He walked towards Dave and stood in his front. “When I said I didn’t want to involve you two in this anymore, I meant it. But if you don’t want to throw in the towel, we still got a chance.”
“You didn’t sound like we had a chance at midnight. Even now, you plan to surrender yourself to be killed by the Red Wolves,” Dave fired back.
Samantha got up from the bed to join them. “Tell us what we need to do, Henry,” she said before Henry could reply to Dave.
Henry looked at Samantha’s face briefly before putting back his eyes on Dave. “Yes, I didn’t have a plan yesterday because the time seemed little. This morning, we have about three hours to make some things work, only if you will work with me.”
Dave kept staring at him silently with a furious look on his face.
“Tell us what we need to do,” Samantha put in again.
Henry turned back and walked to the drawer. He opened the first box and took out a folded piece of paper where he’d written down some data. He walked back and handed the piece of paper to Dave.
“Here are details for a tracker. I need you to find the location and get all information you can get about it.”
“What’s this location?” Dave asked after taking a look at the code written on the paper.
“It’s most likely where the Red Wolves’ hideout is,” Henry replied. “I placed it on someone who works with the Red Wolves. If you can get this location and find a way for us to use it against the Red Wolves in one or two hours, I may get out of this alive with Sheila and Rex.”
“We’re going to get it done,” Samantha replied affirmatively.
Henry stared intently at Dave’s face, waiting for a response. “You’re gonna do this, Dave?”
“Okay,” Dave nodded slowly and then suddenly squinted at Henry’s face like he realized something. “Who did you put the tracker on?”
Henry was taken aback by the question. It wasn’t that he wasn’t expecting that they’d ask, but he was still not ready to answer it.
“Who’s it, Henry?” Samantha also joined, when it seemed Henry was delaying the response.
“Is this your wife?” Dave furrowed his gaze at him angrily.
Henry stayed quiet. His lips opened slightly but he was unable to voice anything. He had regret written all over his face.
“Talk to us, Henry…” Samantha hit him lightly on the shoulder.
He let out a deep breath and finally began in low tones. “I’m sorry…”
“Oh, sh*t!” Dave turned and put a hand on his head.
“I don’t know the full story yet but Rex was after her because she was with the Red Wolves,” he explained, his voice almost inaudible.
“Your wife was the damn mole and she was f**king with us all these while,” Dave scoffed. He found it difficult to believe. “So, Samantha was right all along.”
“Yea, it’s difficult to accept that, but she was right. The Red Wolves planted someone right under my nose and I didn’t see it,” Henry gasped. “Maybe if I had been more careful, I would have seen what she was and I wouldn’t have put everyone in danger. The other could have been here with us safely right now.”
Dave was fuming inside but he managed to keep himself from talking as he could see Henry was already blaming himself.
“You can’t blame yourself, Henry. She showed no signs of being against us,” Samantha said to him. “You couldn’t have seen anything because she was your family. We should have seen it too.”
There was a brief moment of silence between them.
“Dave,” Henry called, making Dave look straight at him. “I can’t change what has happened, but we can make them pay if we stay together. If you guys can find that location, you can come up with a plan that’ll be helpful.”
Dave took a look at the piece of paper again.
“Where’s Maria?” Henry suddenly remembered he had not seen her.
Dave and Samantha glanced at each other.
“She’s in this hotel, in a suite with her parents. She needed to rest well after the torture yesterday,” Samantha replied.
“Dave, can you get her to do this with you?” Henry requested. “She works with the FOX IT department and it could make it easier for you two.”
Dave cast a look at Samantha as if to ask why Henry had left out Samantha.
“Samantha can come with me,” Henry quickly explained. “I’m not sure Tanko would want to follow me, but I need someone to bring back Sheila in case anything happens.”
“Okay, I’ll get Maria now, so you can speak to her directly,” Dave replied and proceeded out of the room.
“Why don’t you eat now before Maria gets here?” Samantha suggested.
“I stink,” Henry replied. “I need to wash up first. I could eat on our way in the car.”
_ 35 Minutes later_
“I made it clear I’m not doing this with you, man. I don’t care how much you’re willing to pay,” Tanko refused for the umpteenth time.
He had his back turned to Henry and Samantha, a hand on the wall as he fumed.
“I don’t need you for war, man. I only need you to get Sheila Jack back to safety for me,” Henry explained again.
“What part of I’m not interested do you not understand?” Tanko turned and slammed at Henry angrily. “Can’t you see it’s too risky? Going against the whole FOX, I can’t do that man. I can’t risk my men’s lives and mine for nothing. I could supply you enough weapons even if you do not pay a dime.”
Samantha who was standing a metre behind Henry moved closed and held him gently by the arm.
“We’re running out of time,” she whispered. “He’s not going to come with us, we need to go now.”
– Clemont Road
“Will you call them now?” Samantha asked Henry as they drove down the rough road to Clemont.
Samantha was at the driver’s side while Henry was sitting behind her. He had his phone in his hand and his eyes checked around the road.
“They must have gotten to the location already,” Henry remarked as he finally took his eyes off the road, after seeing signs of motor tyres ahead.
He took his phone and dialled Rex’s number.
Florence answered almost immediately. “Hey, you have just about one hour to get here. Where are you now?”
“We’re on our way, where are Rex and Sheila?”
“You don’t have any business with Rex, the exchange is Sheila for you? Are you alone as instructed?”
“No, of course, I’m not alone. How am I going to get Sheila out of there if I come alone?” Henry replied.
“I gave you my word that I will let her go if you surrender to us…”
“Why should I trust you?” Henry interrupted. “You don’t expect me to trust the words of someone that works with the Red Wolves, do you?”
There was no response from the other end.
“Now, may I speak with Sheila?”
“Why? You’ll see her when you get here,” Florence replied.
“I need to be sure before I proceed,” he answered.
“I’m not close to her now, I’ll call you when I am.”
“Make it quick, or the deal is off.”
“The deal is off when I say it’s off, man. If you get here later than the allotted time, you’ll meet her dead body.”
The line went off before Henry could say anything. He sighed and kept the phone on his knee.
“They didn’t let you speak with her?” Samantha glanced at him.
“No,” he replied. “She said she’s gonna call back.”
“We’ll be getting to the meeting point in less than 60 minutes. You think we should proceed without hearing from Sheila first?”
“Yes, we proceed. Every minute counts now. She threatened to ki*ll Sheila if we don’t get there on time.”
“But…” Samantha was about to say something else but went quiet as Henry’s phone began to ring.
He picked it up and looked at the screen immediately. It was from Dave.
“What’s up, Dave?”
“Are you sure that your wife is the f**king mole?” Dave quizzed from the other end.
“What do you mean?” Henry questioned.
“The damn location of the tracker is the FOX hospital. I’m currently there with Maria.”
“The hospital?” Henry gasped. He had confusion written all over his face. “Can you access the exact ward to confirm if she’s really there?”
“No, it’s not even the ward. It’s the morgue.”
“What?” Henry widened his eyes in shock. “How can that be?”
“It’s true, man,” Dave replied. “If she’s not dead, maybe she took out the tracker and planted it on someone else.”
“She couldn’t have done that without my knowledge, it was planted under her skin,” Henry replied quickly.
“Maybe she’s dead,” Dave remarked.
“No, she can’t be,” Henry shook his head.
How could Sarah be dead if she was with the Red Wolves? Had the Red Wolves killed her with the explosion or was it after? He asked himself.
Either way, her death meant that their last link to Hutton Ryker was gone. They were indeed now at the mercy of Florence Brown.
** Clemont District **
“Do you have eyes on them?” Florence Brown asked someone over the phone. She was standing on the concrete roof of a deserted two-storey building, scanning the whole area from there.
“Yes, I do,” the person from the other end replied. “He’s with just one person.”
“Good!” Florence remarked. “Remember the plan. Don’t trail them, but make sure you’re on your way here too.”
“I got it.”
Florence Brown ended the call and dialled Hutton’s number immediately.
“I’ll be bringing Carl Winston to you in Venus in four hours,” she said into the phone. “And it looks like we’re gonna have a bonus – he’s got Samantha with him.”
“Bring them all.”
To be continued