Chapter Twenty-Two ~
After breakfast the four men left the house, presumably to formulate a plan to thwart this nasty character her brother had been pretending to be an ally with. Amy couldn't help wondering what scar-chinnion would do to Scott for double-crossing him.
"Mamie, can we go outside and play?" Angie asked. "I wanna go down by the pond and build a sand castle."
Amy walked over and ruffled her hair. "I'm sorry baby, you can't go outside right now." Angie sat at a miniature table and chair set with paper and crayons, and was drawing what Amy guessed was the scene from yesterday when the kidnapper had her and her brother tied up in that little room. Her heart ached with compassion for their ordeal. There was no way to erase what happened from their minds, so she hoped to keep them busy to alleviate some of the memory.
"But why can’t we, Mamie?" She got up and stomped her foot in a show of temper. She was normally sweet-natured and even-tempered, but Amy suspected their ordeal had given the little girl some deep-seated issues.
She went over and hugged her tightly before saying, "It isn't safe, Angie. We have to wait until they catch the bad men." She smoothed the child's dark hair back from her face and dropped a kiss on her forehead, and then picked the dirty dishes up from the table and carried them into the kitchen. As she came back into the room, she was saying, "We can play..." But Angie and Benji were gone. Teenie was fast asleep in her car seat so Amy went in search of the older children.
"Angie! Benji!" She was half-angry, half worried, and she didn't know which one to let have the lead in her emotions until she heard a shrill scream coming from the direction of the water. Amy's heartbeat accelerated as she ran, all kinds of horrors plaguing her imagination on the way.
The four men made it to the clearing down by the water a second before her. "Amy, why are they outside?" Jackson yelled in obvious parental hysteria.
"I didn't let them out. I told Angie she couldn't go outside to play so they snuck out when I went into the kitchen."
Angie and Benji stood by the water, staring intently at something floating on top. Jackson rushed over to the water’s edge, and burst out laughing, throwing his head back in obvious delight.
Amy rushed up and looked down at the water, and she laughed, too. "It's a toad."
Jude and Otis joined in the laughter. It was the perfect way to break the tension that had settled over them.
"If that isn't a sight for sore eyes, I don't know what is." Scott said as he made his way to the water’s edge.
Otis picked the little girl up in his arms. He threw her up in the air and she squealed in delight as he easily caught her and swung her around in a circle.
Amy looked over at Jackson and said under her breath, "He sure is stronger than he looks. I guess that makes him even better for his job. It's not like people are expecting an old man who looks like he's on his deathbed to overpower them."
"True enough." Jackson returned with a wide grin.
They all walked back toward the opulent cabin in the woods. The day looked a little brighter because there had been laughter, and Amy felt a sense of peace inside her that she hadn't felt for the last couple of days. She said a silent prayer of thanksgiving to God for keeping her and the children safe during their ordeal. She also prayed it was over, even though she had a bad feeling it wasn't. She also decided she would find a local Church to go to when it was all over. She wondered how Jackson felt about God...
"So did you guys come up with some awesome plan that's gonna get us all out of this mess?" She asked as they walked.
"No not yet. It's a work in progress. We're trying to iron out whose gonna do what." Jude said.
"I need that thumb drive..." Otis began, before being elbowed in the ribs by Scott.
"Not in front of the kids, that isn't cool. They're just babies, and the longer they stay that way, the better." He sounded way beyond his years, and Amy found herself wondering if he’d ever wanted kids. She had a feeling this 'new' Scott would've been a good father.
"Were you ever planning on telling me about your secret life, or were you going to continue letting me believe you were a worthless, lazy gamer?" She was still hurt that he'd traded a life with his only close relative for work. Even though it was important work, it still rankled that he’d chosen it over her.
"Honestly sis, I don't know. When I got into this I was just a kid. I didn't stop to think of the serious ramifications it would have concerning family and friends, and even a girlfriend or wife." She detected a hint of sadness in his answer, and that was secretly pleasing. He had regrets. Maybe she could talk him into retiring.
"You could always retire. I'm sure you've been at it long enough for that to be a viable option."
"It's just like a woman to try to talk a man out of what's right because it doesn't suit her needs." He stalked off ahead of them, leaving Amy with the bitter taste of rejection floating in her head.
"I guess that didn't go as planned, did it?" Otis asked. "You've got to broach subjects like that with kid gloves, little lady. I've been hinting at the same thing for the last five years."
"I know I messed up." She wrung her hands together in agitation.
"Maybe he'll come around. Being around family will make it obvious it’s time to call it quits.” Otis said as he gave her a pat on the back.
"Yeah, I think I detected some sorrow in there." Jude said reassuringly.
Jude elbowed Jackson in the ribs and he piped up, "Yeah, he sounded sad to me, too."
When they got to the cabin there was no sign of Scott. Amy ran in to check on Teenie. She was sleeping soundly. She settled Benji and Angie at the small table and chairs and warned, "Don't either one of you get up while I'm not in the room. Do you understand me, Angie?" She hated to sound mean, but the child needed to understand she had to obey simple orders.
"Yes Mamie, I'm sorry. I just really wanted to play by the water." She pouted prettily and Amy began to soften.
"Apology accepted. I just want you to realize it's dangerous out there. What if it had been a snake instead of a toad?"
Angie gasped and her little mouth formed into an alarmed o. "I see what you mean. I won't go anywhere without asking you first ever again." She rushed over and hugged Amy's denim-clad legs.
Amy hugged her back, her heart melting the entire time. She was alarmed at how quickly these children had grown on her. The thought of leaving them sometime in the future was already a non-possibility in her book. She disentangled herself and went to the kitchen before her tears flowed. She didn't want to worry the observant little girl, she'd been through enough. She grabbed a tissue from the box on the counter and wiped her eyes and face, and blew her nose.
"It happens in the space of a breath, doesn't it?" A voice asked from a darkened corner of the room.
"Love for a child." Scott emerged into the light. Amy was distressed to see he’d been crying. Her grown brother crying seemed totally incongruous to the life he led.
"Is there a child out there that you love, then?" Amy asked, surprised her voice sounded normal to her own ears.
"There is. There's a woman, too. I'm sorry I got so upset earlier, Amy. It wasn't fair to you, especially since it was a logical question for a woman who loves me to ask."
"Apology accepted. Who is the woman?" Her mind had honed in on that one statement like a beacon in the night, and she wasn't about to let it go.
“She's a woman I met while undercover. She doesn't know anything about me, other than my cover name and occupation. She's heavy into a gang because all her family is. I want to help her so bad..." His voice broke, and amazement spread through Amy at this tender side of her brother she'd never seen before.
"What about the child? Is it hers?"
He stared, not even focusing on her, but paying attention to something in his brain.
"Yes, the child is hers, and mine."
"What? You mean to tell me you have a child and I know nothing about it?" Anger welled up in her, and she ran over to where he stood and pushed him with all her might. She wanted to hurt him for what he'd done. A voice from the kitchen doorway broke into the brother-sister confrontation.
"What on earth is going on in here?" Jackson Masters came into the room, closely followed by Jude.
"Nothing, just a little spat between siblings." Amy huffed as she pushed by them. "You can do the dishes, Scott."
Jude and Jackson laughed. "Man, what did you say to her?" Jude asked in amusement.
"I told her I had a kid, and she went ballistic for no apparent reason. She acts like it was something personal, but it wasn't. It was just business, and I couldn't tell her."
"Man, you have to understand women. She's hurt because you didn't confide in her. I mean, come on, she's an aunt and didn't even know it? How old is the kid, anyway?" Jude asked.
"He's three today. I guess that's why I've been thinking about it so hard."
"Wow, that's tough luck, man. I take it the mommy doesn't know who you really are, or we wouldn't even be having this conversation." Jude said.
"I can see why she's angry Scott, but I'm sure she'll come around. She has a very forgiving nature." Jackson put in.
"I certainly hope so. I've pushed her out of my life to keep her safe, but she doesn't understand that."
"Amy cares more about people than circumstances. She loves children, and you've denied her the right to be an aunt. I foresee a lot of major brown-nosing to get back in her good graces." Jackson said.
"Listen, while we're all in here without the old man, what do you guys think? Do you think he's on the up and up?" Jude asked.
"As much as I hate to admit it, he did keep Amy safe. He could’ve hurt her. He had the perfect opportunity." Jackson answered.
"Otis is a good man. He just wants the thumb drive so he can take it to Homeland Security for safe-keeping."
"I don't know man. You'd think he'd be intelligent enough to realize it needs to be destroyed. If we turn it in, then some other crazy person thirsting for power will try the same thing." Jude said logically.
"I know you're right, but my bosses want the stupid thing. There has to be a way we can make all people involved happy, excepting Hami Ibraham and his bunch, of course."
Otis walked in the kitchen. "I see you guys are excluding me from your little pow-wow. Does that mean I should be worried?" There was a disarming smile on his wrinkled face.
"Actually, we weren't really excluding you, and no, you don’t need to be worried. We're just trying to figure this out.” Jackson answered quickly. He didn't want to lose the old man as an ally because he was very good at what he did.
"Where is the thumb drive, anyway?" Otis asked.
"It’s not here. There was no way I was going to bring it down here with us." Jackson lied. "Is anyone else curious about where Amos the hostage negotiator ended up?" He got in the fridge and pulled out a cold soda.
"We don't have a clue man, but we're working on it." Jude answered. "What about the rest of your bodyguards? Did you find out what happened to them?"
"Not yet, but we need to find out. They all have families, so it's possible Ibraham took the families to make the guards do what he wanted. They were all loyal to me, but family comes first."
"I think each one of us should think of one person in our respective departments we know is on the up and up and bring them in on what's going on. We need information, and that's the only way we're going to get it way out here." Otis suggested.
"I think you're right." Jackson said. "I can call my Special Forces superior. He’s always got my back."
"I can call my partner, Lauren.” Jude said.
"I'll call my girl back in the city. I know she isn't really in my department, but we could probably use the extensive resources of the gang right now." Scott said.
"Yeah, true that, true that." Otis rubbed his chin thoughtfully. "Ordinarily, I would call Scott because I trust him with my life, and have on many occasions. But I can't think of a soul to save my life."
"What about George Sanchez, Otie?" Scott asked.
"Yeah maybe, He's a pretty good operative. I can't think of a time when he disappointed me, and I know he's loyal to this country and to his team. I'll call him."
"That settles it then. We'll all go outside and try to get some reception because it ain't happening in here." Jude held his cell phone out, trying to get bars.
They all dispersed to different areas outside and made contact with their 'inside' men.