Cruel Paradise

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Chapter 31

Larkin and Blane were still in their perch in the woods behind Governor Tholen’s estate, with nothing to do but wait for the appointed hour of the phone call. Blane assessed the amount of time that it would take to get in to position, and address any obstacles to do so, and felt that they still had a couple of hours to kill. So they settled in to pass the time there, since it would be too dangerous to lurk around the grounds unnecessarily before then, even for Blane.

Larkin couldn’t relax or be coerced in to trying to take a nap in the thick brush below; she was far too tense. So they rested there in silence, each of them wrestling with the uncanny feeling that this was finally the beginning of the end for them on Tortola. And with the subsequent suspense and anxiety building, they each occupied themselves with imagining different scenarios for how the next very critical 24 hours would play out.

Finally, Blane spoke up and disrupted the drowsy haze that they’d slipped in to. It was time to go. They carefully descended from the tree one by one, then hid behind the warehouse to review their tactical plan. Blane knelt down and began to draw a map in the dirt. There he went, acting like a top secret agent in a spy novel again, Larkin thought.

“So here’s how this will go. Similar to what you already saw me do in approaching the garden party earlier, I’ll first cross the open space between the warehouse and the cover of the large bushes near the fence. Then I’ll signal back to you to tell you to follow. We’ll stay crouched down low and move along the fence, then the shadow of the house, check both sides for guards before we go ahead with the next part of the plan. We’ll be doing all of this with guns drawn and ready to fire in case we come in contact with anyone. So you have to Be. Careful. And stay calm. Okay?”

She nodded determinedly, and Blane was glad to see that she wasn’t too mentally or physically fatigued to be alert for the operation. With a final nod, he left her side and advanced on the villa without issue, and she joined him shortly thereafter. They soon found that despite the guards being back in Parham Town, they had apparently been dismissed from the grounds for the afternoon. It was fortunate for them, though perhaps a telling sign too. Still, Blane knew that they couldn’t be certain that the Lieutenant hadn’t assigned one or two men to the main entrance or interior.

Next they shifted their focus to attempting to locate Tholen in the house, and detect the presence of anyone else that they would need to be aware of. There was a light on in his office, and an occasional shadow moved across the window, as though he were pacing back and forth in thought or while having a phone conversation. The chef was bustling around the large kitchen, packing up the last provisions for the festival. Only the maid and house manager could not be located. They would just have to be extra cautious, thought Blane.

He motioned for her to stay put in the shadow of a large willowy bush near the house, keeping out of sight among its yellow trumpet flowers. He crept around the corner of the patio, then quickly ducked down behind a chaise. There he could barely make out the elegant clock hung in the sitting area. It was 4:29 pm. Time was in short supply.

Just then he detected some movement inside the house out of the corner of his eye and froze. It was Tholen, coming down the staircase. Aberland watched as he crossed the dais and opened one of the wrought iron double doors in the entryway. There the agent caught a glimpse of two guards standing on duty, and faintly heard Tholen tell them to send the two stationed at the gate to go enjoy the party; he’d be leaving a little later and they could accompany him at that time. Therefore, the pair designated to watch the entrance had to be the only two not dismissed for the party yet, and Tholen was ensuring that they didn’t get any ideas about leaving early, the agent noted. The governor turned to go back upstairs, almost certainly to the sealed room where his listening equipment was stored.

Aberland knew that he couldn’t waste a second now. He and Larkin would either have to confront the Governor in the guest room or find another way in to the house underneath Tholen’s nose, he thought as he took off running around the side of the house, leaving a stunned Larkin in his wake. He deftly climbed the fence and ran through the front grounds to the entry gates, taking care to stay out of the front entrance guards’ line of vision. He could just see the pair leisurely walking away from their posts to leave as instructed. He allowed them to pass through the gate, then followed covertly at a distance, keeping a low profile.

They headed over to a side street, then parted ways with a wave, just as Aberland had hoped they would. He selected the thinner of the two to continue following, and after a few more paces, the woods conveniently crept up to border the street. Aberland looked around to be certain that no one was watching, then rapidly closed the gap between them, tackling him in to the nearby brush with a hand over his comrade’s mouth. He was easily rendered unconscious with a sleeper hold. Aberland made quick work of taking what he needed to complete his official guard’s uniform again – the man’s more presentable khaki shorts and shirt, the stupid beret that they had to wear, and his pair of sunglasses, just to be safe. It wasn’t the best disguise (he would have preferred to have some fake facial hair also) but it would have to do.

Just to be safe, he used the man’s belt to tie his arms behind him and secure them to a small tree trunk, and brusquely stuffed a sock in his mouth. The last thing that he needed was for his fellow guard to regain consciousness and sound an alarm. Aberland turned and sprinted back to the grounds, still sneaking from tree to tree before vaulting back over the fence. He quietly snuck up next to Larkin, who was still hiding and waiting as she was told, and she jumped when she realized that he was at her side again. Thankfully she didn’t scream. Or shoot him.

“What?” she mouthed, looking very confused at his change of clothes. He shook his head ‘no’ and put a finger to his lips, then moved back to his original hiding place on the porch to check the time. It was 4:43. They had no choice now. They would have to enter the villa and face Tholen themselves.

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