Chapter 7. China
Austin lifted me up so I could see through the window. “Do you see anything?” Austin asked.
“It’s too dark inside!” I hissed.
“You can’t see anything?” Austin asked in disbelief.
“No,” I sighed.
Austin sat me on my feet. “Well, that’s just great,” Austin muttered.
I turned to face the boys. “We’re going to have to get in there,” I said. We didn’t come all this way for nothing, and we wouldn’t know the truth unless we got into the building, and even then, we may not find what we’re looking for.
“Oh great, let’s just let ourselves in. That isn’t suicidal at all,” Abel said and chuckled.
“She’s right,” Austin agreed with me.
“We won’t all go in,” I suggested.
“Some of you stay out here and keep watch or something,” I muttered. “If we’re going in, now is the time. Bohai and most of his men are gone.”
“So, wait, who is going in?” Austin tilted his head. Instead of pointing, I took my pointer finger and wiggled it between him and me.
All the boys chuckled.
“Damn, why me?” Austin muttered.
“You’re the strongest fighter,” I said.
“Why you?” Austin asked and chuckled.
“Better at everything else,” I said.
Dad laughed and looked at Austin. “Well, you can’t argue that, can you?”
Austin laughed and followed me around to the side of the building.
“Hey!” Dad hissed.
Austin and I stopped and looked back at Dad in confusion.
“What do I do if you don’t come back out? Do you have a time frame or something?” Dad asked.
“Forty-five minutes,” I said. “If we don’t come back out, don’t come looking for us.”
“Bet,” Dad grunted and stalked off.
Austin chuckled at my dad’s response. We ran around the side of the building.
“Ready?” Austin asked. He stared up at the open window on the second level.
“As I’ll ever be, but how am I going to get up—” I stopped and squealed.
Austin grabbed my hips and threw me up in the air as easily as if I weighed a few pounds.
I grunted and grabbed onto the ledge of the window. “Thanks for the warning, asshole,” I muttered and glared down at him.
“Got you up there, didn’t I?” Austin smirked and wiggled his eyebrows.
I laughed and pulled myself up. I crawled through the window and gazed around the small room. I strolled over to the door and locked it.
When I glanced back, Austin was halfway through the window.
“How in the fuck?” I asked. Jumping that high wasn’t easy. I wasn’t even sure Ace could have made a leap like that, and Ace could jump incredibly high.
“Some Jackie Chan shit. Woah,” Austin gasped. He lost his balance and fell to the floor. Austin stood up and shook his head. “Let’s go.”
I giggled and shook my head. My steps were measured and quiet as a mouse as I snuck out of the room into the hall.
We started with the door closest to the one we walked out of. There was nothing and nobody inside. It wasn’t much different than the room we had been in.
The hallway was still empty. We made our way down it quickly.
“Hey!” A voice boomed.
We gasped and turned to look.
A Chinese man stood at the end of the hall. We looked back the other direction, and another man stood at the other end of the hall.
Austin and I glanced at each other. Austin raised his gun, which had a silencer on it. I lifted my leg, pulled a blade from my shoe. I flipped the pocket knife open and whipped it at the same time Austin’s gun went off. The knife entered the guy’s throat. He choked, gurgled, and grabbed the knife that stuck out of his neck. The man attempted to pull the blade out, but he dropped to the floor before he could. I started toward the man that had my knife in his throat.
“Aria, what the fuck are you doing?” Austin hissed.
“I want my knife,” I murmured.
“Are you fucking insane? We haven’t got time for this!” he whisper-shouted. He grabbed my arm and spun me into him.
“It’s Ace’s knife. I killed Gabriel with it, and I want it back,” I snapped. I ripped my arm from Austin and ran down the hall.
“Fuck,” Austin said. He chased after me.
I knelt beside the man and pulled the knife from his throat. I wiped the blood off the blade with my shirt. As I stood up and closed the knife, I looked up just in time to see a man open a door.
The man pointed his gun at me.
I had no time to think. I closed my eyes and waited for the bullet.
The gunfire echoed in my ears, but the bullet didn’t hit me.
Austin groaned in pain.
My eyes fluttered open, and I realized Austin took the bullet that was meant for me. Austin stared into my eyes; his body shielded mine. I grabbed the gun from Austin’s holster, held the gun up under Austin’s arm. I peeked around Austin to aim the weapon at the Chinese man.
The Chinese man stared at me in shock, and I fired the gun. All of it happened so quickly that I wasn’t even sure where the bullet had hit Austin.
My eyes locked with Austin’s eyes. “Are you okay?”
“I’m good,” he grunted. “It’s just a graze. Now move your ass!”
At the end of the hall were a set of stairs. We raced down the steps, taking two at a time. As we turned to go down another flight of stairs, a man appeared.
I grabbed onto each side of the railing and swung my leg up to kick the man under the chin. The man stumbled back, and his body slammed against the wall.
Austin put a bullet between the man’s eyes. Blood splattered against the white wall. The man’s eyes were wide as his body fell to the floor.
Austin shoved me forward to pull me from my daze. “Go, go, go!” Austin hissed.
We threw the door open at the bottom of the stairs without looking. As soon as I got through the door, a fist struck my jaw, and I slammed against the wall.
Austin grabbed the guy who had punched me in the jaw and slammed him against the wall. “Aria!” Austin hissed.
I spun around with my knife. Austin turned the man to face me. As I threw the blade, Austin tilted the man’s head back, and the blade entered the man’s throat.
Before Austin could drop the guy, I pulled the knife from the man’s throat. Austin dropped the body, and we sprinted down the hallway.
The sound of footsteps stopped us dead in our tracks. We heard someone but didn’t see them.
Austin grabbed my hand and pulled me through a door off the hallway. Both of us stumbled through the door so fast we fell over. I stared at the door in horror and waited for someone to come in. I grabbed my knife. If this kept up, we were so fucked. My breathing became erratic as I kept my knife in place. My heart pounded against my ribs.
“Um, Aria?” Austin whispered.
My gaze flickered to Austin. “What?”
Austin sat up and faced the opposite direction of the door. The blood drained from Austin’s face.
I didn’t want to take my eyes off the door, but I needed to know what made Austin tense up. I sat upright.
“Holy shit,” Austin breathed.
I turned around and looked up. There was a body tied to a chair. The man was thin and tall. His black hair was shaggy, and he had a full beard. I almost didn’t recognize him, but then it hit me.
“Oh my god,” I gasped in horror. “Benny?”
Austin jumped to his feet faster than I could process what I saw. Austin crossed the room.
Benny groaned and looked up, confused. “Austin?” Benny mumbled. “Am I dead?”
“N-no, man,” Austin spluttered. “We’re getting you the fuck out of here. Aria, help me.”
I knelt behind Benny and sliced the ropes that tied his wrists together.
Austin cut the ropes that tied Benny’s ankles to the chair. “Benny, where the fuck is Ace?” Austin asked.
“I-I don’t know. I haven’t seen him since we were on the p-plane,” Benny stuttered.
“Is he here?” I asked.
“I don’t think so,” Benny whispered. “I’ve been all over this building. I nearly escaped multiple times. I haven’t seen him once.”
“We have to find him, Austin. He might be here!” I hissed.
“Aria, we can’t! We’re too outnumbered. Our best bet is to get the three of us the fuck out of here. We’ll come back, okay?” Austin asked.
“Maybe you,” I huffed. “I’m going.”
“You aren’t going!” Austin spat as he grabbed my arm. “We will find him, Aria, relax. Just trust me. Let’s get Benny out first. Look at him. If he gets hurt, it could kill him. We owe it to him to get him out of here alive. I’m weak from being shot. I won’t get him out of here without your help.”
Benny could barely stand up. He was frail, and it looked like they had barely fed him. Benny had always been thin, but he lost weight since we saw him last. Austin supported Benny’s weight. Austin was right.
I couldn’t get the two of them killed out of selfishness. I wanted to find Ace but not at the risk of getting us all killed. I grabbed Benny’s other arm and slung it over my shoulder. “Let’s go,” I agreed.
We walked into the hall. “Can you handle him? I’ll go first,” I told Austin.
“What? No, I will,” Austin argued.
“Look, I can keep them off of you two while you get Benny out! I can’t support his weight and move as fast as you,” I said.
Austin stopped to let me grab one of the guns from his holster, and I had my knife ready too.
A man jumped in front of us and kicked the gun from my hand. I huffed and punched the man in the face. He stumbled back but regained his balance.
The guy attempted to kick my legs out from under me, but I jumped over his leg. He fell to the floor on his ass. I grabbed each side of his head and snapped his neck.
“Let’s go!” I huffed.
Austin walked as fast as he could as he supported Benny’s weight. We turned down the last hall that was near the front door but stopped. There were two men on one side and two men on the other side. We turn around, and two more men ran down the hallway toward us.
“We’re surrounded,” I gasped. I never retrieved my gun from when the man had kicked it out of my hands. I grabbed another gun from Austin’s gun holster. I spun around and fired shots at two of the men with guns. There was a large glass window in front of us. I shot the window out. “Run!” I screamed.
Austin and Benny took off as quickly as they could through the broken window. I followed after them. The jump was only a couple of feet off the ground.
The men chased after us. I spin around to fire my gun at them. More shots fired that didn’t come from my weapon, and several men around me dropped.
“Aria!” Dad shouted from across the street. Austin handed Benny off to Joey. Austin and I turned around to fire at more Chinese men that ran after us.
The van started, and the door opened. Shots were fired just slightly above our heads as we jumped into the van. The door swung shut as Luis drove the van away from the shooters. The back window of the van shattered from one of the shots. Austin and I hovered over Benny protectively.
“Benny!” everyone shouted. They finally had time to wrap their head around the fact that we found him.
“What about Ace?” Luis asked.
“We didn’t find him. We were outnumbered, but we’re going back soon. We had to get Benny the fuck out of there first. They’ve been torturing him,” Austin explained.
“Benny said he hadn’t seen Ace since the plane crash,” I said.
“Fuck, man. I’m so glad to see you,” Joey said and stared down at Benny.
“You have no idea how fucking good it is to see you guys. Fuck, it took you long enough, though!” Benny huffed.
“We didn’t know the Chinese were behind it,” Dad told Benny.
“You have Aria to thank. The rest of us thought she was wrong,” Luis admitted.
“Thank you, thank you, thank you once again!” Benny said. He planted kisses all over my head.
I laughed at him. “Always saving your ass, homie. When is it your turn to save mine?” I teased.
Benny laughed and nodded in agreement.
“It isn’t safe to go back to that hotel. They know we own it,” Joey said.
“Hell, man, I could have told you that. They have surveillance all over that fucking hotel,” Benny said. Dad handed Benny a bottle of water. “Thanks,” Benny coughed.
“You’re kidding me?” I spat.
“They’ve been watching you guys for over a year. They’re trying to figure out the best way to come at you. They only kept me alive for information. They’ve been trying to torture it out of me this entire time. I’ve been gone for over a year?” Benny asked.
We all nodded.
“Thought so,” Benny muttered.
“You must have given them something, Benny, or you’d be dead by now,” Abel said. His voice held nothing but disbelief.
Benny snorted. “Please, did you guys forget that I’m your genius or what?” Benny was offended by Abel’s remark, but I couldn’t deny that Abel had a point.
“Then what did you do?” I asked curiously.
“I’ve been giving them false information for months. They’re just too fucking dumb to catch onto it. I’m surprised you guys didn’t figure it out sooner. I’ve been trying like hell to get it across to you guys,” Benny explained.
“We’re not telepathic, Benny,” Joey snickered and rolled his eyes.
I chuckled at Joey’s joke. “We didn’t have a hacker,” I said.
“All you had to do was go through your emails a little more often,” Benny said and shook his head. “You guys fucking suck without me.” Benny chuckled.
Miguel and Diego laughed too.
“Amen, brother.” Joey laughed and high-fived Benny.
“I’ll show you what I mean when we get to wherever we’re going,” Benny said.
“Where are we going?” Dad wondered.
“I bought a house over by Langfang a few months ago,” I suggested. “Nobody knows about it, either.”
“I’m pretty sure Aria is smarter than most of you combined. Which is why it fucking amazes me that you missed all of my emails. You suck,” Benny said.
“Only you can insult and compliment a person at the same time, Benny,” I muttered. I smiled, rolled my eyes, and nudged his shoulder with mine playfully.