Chapter Fourteen ~
Jackson Masters had formulated a plan with Jude Johnson on the way over. Whether it would work or not was the question. Jude had been adamant there would be no murder. He would take the man down, but he wouldn't kill him unless it was in self-defense. Jackson had reluctantly agreed to the terms. He didn't have much of a choice. Saving Amy's life was the number one priority right now. Keeping the thumb drive safe was the second, in his book anyway. He doubted the NSA would agree.
He'd called the hospital twice since leaving the plane and was dialing the now-familiar number a third time.
"You're going to wear out the nurses and keep them from their job." Jude told him. "They're fine Jackson. You need to focus on getting your nanny to safety."
"It's obvious you don't have children." He retorted impatiently as he waited for the head nurse to pick up the phone.
"I don't, you're right about that. I know it must be hard on you man, but you have to concentrate on taking care of this first. You called me to help you, so let me do it. The first thing you need to do is at least listen to what I'm saying. The second thing is to realize it's true."
Jackson pushed the end button on his phone and slipped it back in his front pocket. "You're right, old chap. I’ll call them when this is over. At least I got to hear their voices earlier.”
"So tell me about this nanny of yours. What's she like? Is she pretty? Is she smart?"
"She's one of the sweetest women I've ever met. Yes, she's smart as a tack, and just as sassy, and yes, she is pretty. She's beyond pretty, she's beautiful." Jackson said with a dreamy tone, as if he was imagining her in his mind.
"Wow, you got it bad, don't you?" Jude gave a low whistle.
"Is it that obvious?"
"And then some man, and then some." Jude laughed, a smirk finally forming on his lips.
"I can't let him know that. He'll use it against me, and Amy will be the one who ends up paying."
"We're not going to let anything happen to her. I'm staking my life on it." Jude said. He reached over and gave the worried man a reassuring thump on the shoulder.
"I can't let anything happen to her. This is my fight. She doesn't even know anything about who I really am. I'm angrier at myself than at Peter. I should know better than to trust anyone, no matter how long I've known them."
"You can't go through life not trusting anyone. It really stinks that one of the first one's you trusted turned out to be who he is."
"That's exactly why I don't trust anyone."
"Well, you need to lighten up and turn to God. He'll see you through all situations, no matter how bad they are." He turned to scrutinize the look on Jackson's face.
"What's He ever done for me?"
“He lets you live.” Jude saw it was time for a subject change. "This reminds me of the Reeds' kidnapping, how about you?"
"Yes, but I hope the outcome is more favorable than that one."
There was a tone in his voice Jude had never heard before. Maybe he had more than just a crush on this woman. That would be bad if she ended up paying the ultimate price. Jude shrugged the thought away and tried to concentrate on their plans. He handed the megaphone to Jackson and said, "Okay, go get 'em."
Jackson took the bullhorn and put it up to his lips. He shouted, "Peter, you know I'm putting all this together. One of your men was killed because he refused to drop his weapon. I'll find out who the others are too."
Jackson's cell phone immediately began to ring, and he reached into his front pocket and pulled it out. He put it up to his ear. "Hello, that was quick."
"Who did you pigs kill?"
"I believe his name was John." Jackson said with a small amount of pleasure. He immediately felt guilty. What was wrong with him? A month ago he wouldn't have had a problem being pleased about a perp's accomplice being killed, even if it was the perp's brother.
"Jackson, don't you dare tell me you killed my brother."
"I didn't do it, Peter. He was dead when I got here. He pulled his gun and squeezed off several shots before he was hit in return fire."
"I'm going to kill you Jackson. I'm gonna kill your evil nanny, too, just as soon as she opens that safe."
Jackson could tell he was crying. "Peter..." He began, but as before, the kidnapper hung up on him in mid-sentence.
He held back a curse as he switched the megaphone off and handed it back to Jude. "He hung up on me."
"Yes, but you obtained your objective, which was to make him angry. Hopefully he'll make a mistake and we can catch him before he kills your nanny." They both turned and walked to the mobile trailer.
Amos was in the trailer, sitting on an over-turned milk crate sipping a steaming cup of coffee. The smell made Jackson's stomach growl. He realized he hadn't had anything to eat today. "Hey, Amos is it?" Jackson pulled another crate up to sit beside the hostage negotiator. Jude did the same.
"Yeah, it's Amos. How did things go out there?"
"Jackson managed to make him mad. He hung up on him. That's twice in one day. He's getting good at it."
"You don't want to make him too angry. He's got your nanny in there." Amos warned.
"Actually, I'm purposely trying to anger him. I've known him for twenty years. When he gets angry, he can't concentrate. He makes mistakes, the kind that could help us get Amy out of there before he decides to kill her. I need to ask you a favor."
"What's that?" Amos asked cautiously.
"I need to borrow a bulletproof vest and a gun. Mine are locked up inside the house." He explained, as if it was the most natural thing in the world for a police officer to loan out guns and vests to perfect strangers.
"I can't do that Mr. Masters. You know that's against the law."
"You can borrow one from me." Jude said.
A surprised look came over Jackson's face. "Are you serious? You'd let me borrow a gun and a vest?"
"Yes. I know that if we don't do something quick he's going to kill your nanny. If the thumb drive isn't there, it'll happen a whole lot sooner."
A few minutes later Jackson exited the mobile trailer clad in an FBI issue bulletproof vest, wearing a gun strapped to his side. He had another, smaller gun strapped under his shirt and one on his ankle. He wanted to be prepared.
He made his way past the police barricade and into the courtyard of his house. He knew the whole property like the back of his hand and stealthily made his way to the window around the side that led into his basement. It was totally concealed by dirt and bushes and he worked quickly to remove them so he could go in.
He pulled his walkie-talkie up to his mouth and pressed the button. "I'm getting ready to enter. You know the plan. The only reason you're to follow is if you know for a fact I've failed and Amy's still inside." He didn't wait for an answer, but turned the button all the way down and clipped it to his pocket.
He pulled a miniature glass-cutter out of his sock and proceeded to cut as much of the window out as he could. He needed it to be big enough to get through.
A few minutes later he was in the basement. Sweat poured down his back and chest because of the bulletproof armor. He wiped his forehead with his hand. It was as soaked as his back felt. He pulled a mag-lite out of his pants pocket and shined it around. He wanted to make sure no one else was there. They were confident all of Peter's accomplices had left the property, but lesser mistakes had killed people.
He pulled the walkie-talkie out and turned the button up a little. He whispered, "I'm in the basement. No hostiles in sight."
Jackson's mind was spinning a million miles an hour. Thoughts were jumbled in his brain. He saw Amy the first day he'd met her. She'd been like a breath of fresh air even then, if he was honest. He saw her easy smile, and the light shining in her huge blue-gray eyes.
Jackson heard a noise and spun around instantly. The light caught the little brown body of a field mouse. He turned back to the task at hand.
He made his way to the wine cellar. There were two buttons under the first shelf, and he pushed the one on the right. The shelf moved over to the right. There was a door behind it. Jackson pulled a set of keys out of his pocket and stuck one into the lock. It clicked, and he opened it up. Unlike the rest of the house, which was like Fort Knox, this door wasn't even hooked to the alarm system. No one knew it existed but him. He hadn't even told Chester, and he was his uncle. The other button opened the room where he had a small jail cell he used for dangerous criminals when he needed to transport them without the public knowing about it.
Jackson stopped what he was doing and said a little prayer. "Dear Lord, please guide me in this situation. I'm so weak, and my objectivity has been compromised. You know why Dear Lord, amen." He finished the prayer with the thought it was becoming a habit to call on God for help, but shrugged it away as he headed down the narrow hallway that led to his personal den. His den was attached to the back of his office. He'd had it built that way specially, just for the reason that now faced him. He'd been afraid someday someone would come after him, or something he had. The hallway went upward gradually, and the coolness of the wine cellar was left behind for the stale air of the passageway. A few minutes later Jackson came upon the door that led into the bathroom of his den. He hoped the wall opened quietly. He hadn't opened it in quite some time, but it was crucial Peter didn’t hear it. Amy’s life depended on it.
He pushed the wall to the side and it slid noiselessly to the left. The maroon and forest green-striped wallpaper in the bathroom completely concealed the door. He stepped into the room and pulled the wall closed behind him.
He stopped to listen for a minute, getting acclimated to the cool temperature of his house. He didn't hear anything, and he began to worry. He knew they were in his office, he'd seen the blinds move. The doorknob to the bathroom began to jiggle and Jackson's heart thumped a wild dance. He jumped into the shower, hoping Peter wouldn't notice him through the smoky-glass shower door.
Peter came into the room and did his duty. It took everything in Jack not to jump out of that shower like a madman and throttle his ex-friend. He couldn't do that because he might’ve hidden Amy. This was a big house, and even though Jackson knew every nook and cranny, he needed to know exactly where she was because the rescue would have to be quick.
He watched as Peter zipped his jeans up and flushed the toilet. Jackson almost groaned in half-amusement, half-anger as Peter took the time to wash his hands and comb his frizzy mop of red hair before he exited the bathroom. He was whistling Dixie.
Jackson knew for sure that at least one of his guards was dead. He'd been killed before Peter even entered the house. Chester was gut-shot, and they'd shot poor Matilda in the head. He'd heard just before coming in that Peter had kidnapped Matilda's daughter and grandchildren in order to make her comply with his wishes. Anger and frustration filled him, but he shoved it away. He'd be no good to any of them if he gave into his anger.
He pulled the walkie-talkie out again and turned it up just a notch. "I'm almost to the office. Peter just came into the bathroom and almost caught me. He had the nerve to wash his hands and comb his hair, and he was whistling Dixie when he left. Can you believe the audacity of the man?"
On the other end, Jude was angry, too. It never ceased to amaze him what humans could do to each other. He hoped they were able to get Jackson's nanny out alive, but he needed to cool his jets if that was going to happen. "Jackson, are you still there?"
"Yeah, I'm still here. I'm trying to calm down. I know if I go in mad and half-cocked I'm gonna blow this whole thing."
"Good, at least you know your emotions have to be put away. That's what I was gonna tell you. Just remember, I'm here. If you need to vent, do it on me."
"You got it, I'm out." He turned the little knob down and clipped the walkie-talkie to his pants before opening the shower door and stepping onto the floor. He was tip-toeing through the small passageway that led directly into the back of his office when he felt a sharp pain on the back of his head.