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Chapter 40

Henry cut the call to Master Wong, and turned back to Shyla, Shaun and Essie. “The master told me he arranged a lift for us. We need to stay in the town, and we will be fetched from there.”

The group all walked together to the centre of town. Once there, they tracked down a park bench, and waited for their lift to arrive. The air was cooler than had been predicted, and Essie shivered slightly in her thin shirt and jeans, her body too thin to hold heat effectively. Henry rooted around in his backpack and tossed a hooded jacket at her. She nodded her thanks and wrapped it around her shoulders. It swamped her frame, and Shyla frowned. Essie was thinner than she had realised. Shyla stood up and began to pace the length of the bench. Henry grabbed her hand and pulled her away from the bench. “Shyla,” he whispered, “Master Wong was so worried they would try to break you.”

Shyla shook her head and wrapped her arms tightly around his waist. “They questioned me, but Protocol Seven worked, and they got nothing from me.”

Henry pressed his lips to her hair. “Shyla, I was so worried about you.” His voice cracked, and he buried his face in her hair.

Shyla held him tighter. “Thank you for coming for me. I don’t care if it’s the loyal code we live by. You still came for me.”

Henry stepped back, and gently pressed his lips to hers. After a moment, he pulled away, and looked back at Shaun. “I bet you’re wondering why he’s here.”

Shyla nodded. “Master Wong doesn’t let outsiders in easily, so there must be a very good reason why he is here.”

Henry nodded. “Let’s get you and Esther home, and then the master can debrief you on the full situation we are facing.”

Shyla nodded. “Essie, I don’t know how much more she can take. They didn’t feed her, not properly.”

Henry had to agree with her. The FBI might push for information, but how much would break her?

Essie huddled in the jacket, the cool breeze cutting across her exposed skin. She could feel her bones poking out into her skin, and knew she had lost a lot of weight. That couldn’t be avoided, since she had eaten nothing but bread for just over four weeks. She was running on pure adrenalin now. The guy sitting next to her looked across to her. “You okay?”

Essie nodded. “It’s a lot cooler out here than in the cell.”

The guy nodded. “I’m Shaun, by the way.”

Essie flashed a small smile. “I heard a lot about you. From Shyla.”

Shaun raised an eyebrow. “Only good things, I hope.”

A light blush coloured her cheeks. Shaun smiled at her, and sat back on the bench. He looked over at Henry and Shyla, and felt slightly self-conscious. Henry had toned muscle, and had a fair amount of girls who noticed him. Henry didn’t care that they did, but it still happened whether Shaun liked it or not. Although Shaun was at the gym regularly to keep himself fit, his lean muscle wasn’t as prominent. Essie looked over at Henry again. “They look so happy to see each other again.”

Shaun turned back to her. “Feel good to be out?”

Essie shut her eyes and rested her head back against the bench. “You have no idea how good it feels to be out of that awful cell.”

At that moment, Shyla and Henry walked back to the bench. “The master just texted me,” said Henry. “Our lift is almost here.”

Essie nodded and pushed her blonde hair away from her gaunt face. One meal a day, plus limited access to running water, had left her hair dull and stringy. She felt hideous next to the surprisingly well put together Shyla, who seemed to have the training to handle the kidnapping better than Essie had. Shyla, at that moment, was having a quiet argument with Henry.

“Henry,” said Shyla, looking at him. “When they discover that Essie and I are gone, a manhunt like you’ve never seen will begin. We have targets on our backs, and the only way to get rid of them is to destroy Liborio Fragale.”

“I agree.” Mumbled Essie, looking down. “I could give the FBI all the information I know about the compound. They could use it to take down Liborio Fragale.”

Shyla turned to Shaun. Shaun was watching Essie as she continued to stare at the floor, and Essie fought her blush at the staring. She definitely knew she looked terrible; so terrible, he couldn’t keep his eyes off her.

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