Jeffery Archer was on the telephone for nearly four hours talking to some of the most powerful people in the current administration, allies and friends. With terrorism so high on the administrations agenda he didn’t have to twist anyone’s arm much to set in motion the desired chain of events. Simon knew what he was doing when he told Jennifer to contact him, she left an important assignment and flew to Washington because she believed in her mentor and although Jeffery sensed something more than just hero worship he was just really happy that she was there to help him.
They requested a room at the Best Western with two separate lines so that as fast as he made contact she could follow up and co-ordinate efforts on the other line. The intelligence network was put on high alert across all agencies. And because Simon mentioned where he was going it didn’t take long to track them down. As the information trickled in, more pieces of the puzzle started to fit, especially for Jennifer. The dots connected to form a network so frightening in its scope and reach that it bordered on being paranoid and absurd in the extreme, and yet it made sense. Still, they were not sure how far up the chain of command the reach of this shadow organization extended.
Jennifer sat in the chair next to Jeffery exhausted, mulling over all the pieces, and half listening to Jeffery’s conversation on the phone. She heard the click of the receiver being returned to the cradle and looked up at him. He could barely smile as he spoke.
“I have some news,” he paused “intelligence has spotted Simon in Spain. It’s amazing to me that he was even allowed to leave the country. But I guess it also gives us a better idea of what if not who exactly were dealing with. Already I am sensing some reluctance. He was seen going to the estate of one of the wealthiest men in the world and it appears he has lots of influence in high places.” He sat down and for the first time looked physically worn. He rubbed his eyes as he continued.
“I’m going to have to call in a couple favors on this one, but it’s beginning to stink and I’m not too sure if either one of us really wants to follow the smell.”
From the time of their arrival they were treated with nothing but respect but Simon refused to let his guard down. He had enough experience to know that this was their way, who ever they were dealing with, and he would not give them the satisfaction. He would die with his eyes wide open and by God he would take some of them with him. Jean Pierre entered the room effortlessly and smiled a genuine smile at his prisoners. He was a personable man accustomed to charming a room of strangers and his manner already started to ware on Natalie who smiled nervously in return.
“I hope you are comfortable.” He said finally
“You are my guests and my home is your home. Just let me know what your heart desires.”
“My heart desires freedom.” Simon responded seriously
“Can I have what my heart desires?”
Jean Pierre’s smile quickly vanished, replaced by a cold hard stare.
“You will have freedom so enough Mr. Franz, freedom for you all will come soon enough.”
Simon’s mind raced, it made more sense to play the game right now at least it might buy them some time. He knew that Jennifer would be doing all that she could to get to them. Maybe they did have a shot, it was a small window but right now it was all that they had. His face relaxed and he was no longer visibly upset.
“I’m sorry Mr. Pierre. But you must admit that these are not the best of circumstances to have a first meeting.”
Jean Pierre enjoyed getting his own way and was pleased that Simon seemed to recognize who held all the cards.
“I understand your fire Mr. Franz,” he said smiling again “in fact I admire it. But we have lots to talk about. I’ll have my man fix you what ever you like.”
“Thank you.” Simon responded.
“You should all make yourselves comfortable. We are not expecting the rest of our guests until the morning. Until then I bid you all a good evening.” And without another word Pierre left the room.
As they sat in the black hawk flying out to the USS Carlton in the Pacific, Jennifer smiled inwardly. Simon was right. Jeffery was a good man and it seemed the best man for Simon to have in his corner. As they left the chopper Captain David T. Jackson met with them.
“Good evening sir, mam,” he roared over the loud hiss of the engine “if you would just follow me this way please.” As he shut the door to the main deck behind them, he began again extending his hand.
“Mr. Archer, Ms. Lee. I am Commander David T. Jackson, I was told to extend every convenience and assistance to you both and that has come on the highest authority.”
“Thank you Mr. Jackson. Can you spare us fifteen of your best combat ready men?” Archer asked directly.
“I most certainly can. How soon do they leave?”
“Is two hours too soon?”
“No sir. Two hours gives us more than enough time.”
Less than two hours later Special Agent Jennifer Lee and fifteen trained Navy SEALS bordered two black hawks destined for the Spanish coast. Jennifer convinced Jeffery that he had done everything that he could and she was better trained and capable of seeing the rest of their mission to its conclusion. Her face marked with the black polish ‘war paint’ of the SEALS, she sat gripping the cold steel of her modified Uzi, praying that there would be little need for the dozens of body bags that they carried with them.
Simon was the first to awaken. He had been drugged before and he tasted the familiar bitterness in his throat. They were all drugged on their ride from the airport, so he had no idea where they were only that they were somewhere in Spain, that is if they were still in Spain. He felt the cold steel restraints on his ankles, wrists and around his neck. As much as the neck restraint allowed he moved his head to look around the room. They were all accounted for. William, Michael, Natalie and a woman who so resembled William that Simon knew it could only be his mother. Everyone seemed to be restrained in much the same way with lights over every chair. The chairs were arranged in a circle so they faced each other.
Something else caught Simon’s attention. There seemed to be something else in the center of the room. Supported on a wide base with…My God he thought, he knew what it was. It was a baby’s crib.
“Simon.” William whispered hoarsely from across the room.
“Where are we?”
“I’m not sure, but at least everyone seems to be okay for now.” Then they both heard the sound of a baby stirring from the center of the room and Simon hoped that the women stayed under for a while longer…it was all too much. He felt the cool air on his face and realized that oxygen was being pumped into the room. Somebody wanted them awake and as Natalie and Cheryl came to the level of panic increased. They struggled against the restraints asking questions to which no one in the room had answers.
“Ladies please;” Franz interrupted “I know how difficult this is but please, please stay calm. If we have any chance we need to remain calm.”
“And just who the hell are you?” Michael asked.
“Special Agent, Simon Franz.”
“He’s good people Dad. He’s kept me alive so far.”
The moment wasn’t lost on Michael, his son’s word was good enough, and besides what choice did he have.
Michael looked around the room and couldn’t see any way they could get out. If they were to be executed they would all die and Michael feared how it would be done. With tears streaming down his face, he screamed.
“Father!” his voice echoed numerous times within the large room, before he appeared. He stood in the doorway of the large room in silence.
“Father, I am ready. I am ready to take my place at your side.” Cheryl’s jaw dropped.
“Are you truly ready my son? You have a lot of atoning to do. You know I am not going to make it easy for you?” He paused before continuing “You must kill one of the people closest to you, but not before you witness me taking the life of someone very close to you.” Michael’s heart raced.
“You have a very beautiful wife son.”
“No, please no.” Michael whispered, as his sedated wife was brought before his eyes. His father removed a dagger from the small of his back and in one fluid motion brought it up to her neck and without hesitation plunged all seven inches of the blade into the right side of her neck. She convulsed violently and tried to cover the spray of blood with both hands. Her mouth was twisted into a ghastly scream, but the voice he heard was his own. He watched his wife die; feeling the energy drain from his body, his vocal cords already strained from his screams.
He hadn’t even recognized the second man that entered the room, and as he walked towards him he realized that he couldn’t place the face. But that wasn’t important. He could feel the restraints on his hands and feet being released and finally the clasp on his neck. His father must have been speaking for some time because he focused on his moving mouth now. His head ached, and his body went numb, it was all too familiar, it was just the sought of chaos Pierre lived for. He walked towards his father and saw the outstretched hand with the bloodied dagger. He could barely contain his rage, his mind raced. There was no time left, they were all going to die and Michael knew it didn’t matter whether or not he killed one of his loved ones as Pierre requested. His head throbbed and he could feel blood pulsing in his temples, he could almost hear a buzzing sound in his ear. The buzzing got louder and louder and he realized it wasn’t in his ear it was…it was coming from outside and it was a sound that sounded oddly familiar. A smile began to tease the corners of his mouth as he felt a sharp pain spread across his chest. He looked down to see his pants and shirt drenched in his own blood and the handle of the dagger protruding from the right side of his chest. As he lost consciousness he saw his father leave the room with the other man and the child.
Smoke flooded the room and red lights danced in every corner as heavily armed SEALs secured the area. As they were escorted out of the villa and given oxygen Simon’s eyes found Jennifer.
“Thank God you found us” he said hugging her “You real came through kid, thank you.”
He stepped back holding her shoulders.
“I’m sorry Simon, but they are still sweeping the entire area. But as you would appreciate it was hard enough getting the clearance for these two black hawks to fly into Spanish air space.”
“Shit...I’m sorry, I just don’t want that bastard to escape. He still has the child, Jesus Christ we need to find him fast!”
“Okay.” She said firmly “we’re on it. We know who we’re up against now. He can’t hide.”
Simon listened to the choppers’ engines and rubbed his eyes.
“You’re right. I just don’t know how he can just disappear into thin air just like that.” He exhaled audibly rubbing his eyes with both hands “We have to find that kid.”
“Agent Lee!” The voice came from one of the SEALs emerging from the house with a small bloodied rag in his hand. Only it wasn’t a rag.
“No, No, No, Oh God No!!!” Simon looked over to William who was screaming and being restrained. Natalie was hysterical. They found baby Michelle and it felt like their world exploded.