He HHChapter Twenty-Seven ~
Amy woke up slowly. Her head was splitting in pain and her vision was blurry. She shook her head to try to clear it, but nausea prevailed. She swallowed over and over again, trying to keep from vomiting while holding her head in her hands, moaning loudly.
A voice from across the room said, "It seems we've been in this position before, girlie."
"You’ve got to be kidding me. If you're going to kill me, just do it!" She screamed in angry frustration. She opened her eyes and tried to focus on the terrorist. "I don't know why you keep doing this. I don't know where the thumb drive is. If I did, I probably wouldn't give it to you anyway. What kind of monster are you? Why would want to give millions of people a flesh-eating virus that causes untold pain and suffering?" She instantly regretted yelling because her head pounded with each word, but her anger was a driving force.
"I’m the kind of man who won’t be ignored. I’m the type of man who’s determined to be heard. I’m the kind of man who puts women like you back where they belong, and because I do this, I’ll rule the world."
"You sure know how to toot your own horn, don't you?"
"What does this mean, to toot ones' own horn?"
"It means you have an ego the size of Mount Rushmore."
"For all your words, you can't even take the punch of a real man."
Amy jumped up before she had a chance to think and propelled herself at the smug-faced man. "Who do you think you are?"
Hami picked her up like a sack of potatoes and threw her over his shoulder. As she was being carried down the hall, she realized they were back in Jackson's mansion. She groaned in dread, and waited for him to dump her onto the floor in front of the safe like she knew he would.
"I don't need to tell you this is your last chance, girlie. You can either get the thumb drive for me, or I’ll kill you and be done with your smart mouth and less than desirable attitude."
"Go ahead and kill me then." She sat up and crossed her arms across her chest. "I would rather you kill me than let you get your hands on something as deadly as that thumb drive."
"Why must you American women always be so stubborn?" He asked in irritation. "I’ll just torture you until you open the safe, and you will open it."
A shiver of fear flowed up from Amy's heart to her brain, but she stopped it cold. There was no way she could let him get his hands on the virus code. "You can do what you want to me. I’m not telling you anything. My God will enable me to get through the ordeal that awaits me." She spoke with more bravado than she felt. Inside, she was quaking in fear.
"We’ll just see how much attention your God pays to you when I'm skinning you alive." He reached over and grabbed a handful of Amy's now short one inch hair and yanked it with all his might. She felt it give a little, and screamed in pain.
"See, you can't even take a little hair pulling. How are you going to stand it when I am skinning you alive with a dull scalpel?"
"Why do you have to be like this? Whatever happened to you that caused you to turn so evil?" She was hoping for a glimmer of compassion and sympathy, but there was none forthcoming.
"I’m like I am because my god tells me to be this way." He said with a twisted smile. "My god tells me to storm this world by force and take what is rightfully mine, and that's what I intend to do."
"What kind of god would ask you to kill millions of people just to prove you can?"
"Do not even think of saying anything against my god, or I’ll boil you in oil you disobedient witch.” He pinched her mouth so hard it caused tears to pool in her eyes.
Hami Ibraham began to beat her with his fists. They landed all over her body, and she thought he’d never stop. Amy prayed to God through the whole thing. She knew He would see her through, or see her until death, and the thought gave her comfort.
Throughout the long minutes of the beating, her mind flashed from one scene in her life to the next, and each one began to run into the other. She knew she was close to losing consciousness and prayed to God if it was His will for it to be so.
Finally, it was over. Amy lay in a heap in the middle of the floor with blood pouring from the many different cuts and abrasions that covered her body. Hami Ibraham left the room. His anger was appeased for the moment. He thought he had all the time in the world because only Jackson had come back to the cabin earlier that day.
Jude climbed the stairs as quietly as possible. He heard noises from the landing and new Hami Ibraham was just around the corner. His gun was out and ready. He popped around the corner and yelled, "Drop the weapon, Hami!" He was carrying some kind of little handgun.
Hami ignored the order and raised the gun in surprised outrage. "I will not. Why do you people persist in defying me? I will prevail." His finger began to squeeze the trigger.
Jude didn't warn him again. He aimed and shot the gun out of Hami's hand. Hami bent over and tried to grab the gun, but Jude shot him in the leg. The terrorist went down with a scream of angry indignation. "Look what you've done!"
Jude kicked the gun across the hallway floor. He reached down and punched the guy in the side of the head. He passed out cold. He took the time to drag him over to the stairway rail and handcuff him to it before running into the office where he suspected Amy was.
A yelp of worry escaped Jude's lips as he saw Amy lying on the floor in a pool of blood. She was moving around, though, and he was relieved to know she was alive. "Amy, wake up." He shook her gently.
She moaned quietly and tried to get to a sitting position, but screeched in pain. And then she asked, "Where’s Jackson?"
"He's outside in the car. His wound is open again, so he can't move around a lot. Hami Ibraham is out on the stairway. I cuffed him to the rail. Let's get you out of here before whatever buddy he has comes looking for him." He grabbed her around the waist and lifted her effortlessly into his arms.
Amy grunted and groaned, but took the time to say, "Be careful, I don't want you getting blood all over your clothes."
He looked at her curiously. She shouldn't be worried about something so insignificant at a time like this. One look at her eyes and their uneven pupils told him all he needed to know. She had a concussion. "Amy, are you okay? You have a concussion. You do know who I am, don't you?"
"Yeah, you're Jackson's friend...uh...John? No, that isn't it." She shook her head, trying to clear it, and winced in pain. "Well, I can't remember your name, but I know you."
Jude knew Amy needed to get to the hospital. Concussions could be dangerous. He was preoccupied as he carried her out into the hall.
A figure at the end of the steps surprised him. He thought it was Otis at first. He knew it wasn't Scott because he was still with the kids, and Jackson was in the car barely able to move.
But it was a man he didn't know who stood at the top of the steps with a gun pointed at his head. "Put the girl down and back away slowly."
Jude didn't have his gun. He'd put it away to carry Amy. It was one of the biggest mistakes he'd ever made during his career, but he couldn't let it end in a bad way. "Who are you?"
"It shouldn't concern you. What should concern you is I have a gun pointed at you."
"That's happened before, and I'm still alive to tell about it."
"This doesn't have to end badly, you know. All you have to do is put her down and back way. I'll let you go. It isn't you we want."
"I didn't fall off the turnip truck today, man. I know you aren't planning to let me live. I can deal with that likelihood. What I can't live with is knowing you plan on killing this innocent girl. I don't know why you people won't leave her alone." Jude said desperately. He didn't know what he was going to do. If he didn't put her down, the man might shoot them both. If he did put her down, the man would definitely shoot him. Either scenario ended with Amy dead. He prayed silently, Dear Lord, help us out of this if it's your will.
"That's an easy question to answer. First off, she's the nanny of the man who stole our virus. Secondly and more importantly, she's the sister of a man who infiltrated our gang on the street. He's the reason the thumb drive got moved in the first place. That left it open to possible theft, and that is exactly what happened."
Jude saw movement behind the man and his eyes cut toward it. It was Jackson. He was moving stealthily, holding his side. His face was a mask of concentrated pain. "What's going on now?" He asked, trying to cause a distraction. When the assailant turned around, Jackson couldn't help the gasp that escaped him. It was his boss, Colonel Jacob Walsh.
"Colonel Walsh?" Jackson asked in confusion. His heart was tripping a wild tattoo as his mind tried to wrap around what it was seeing. He halted for a second in surprised horror.
"Wow, you mean you didn't figure out it was me? You're my best operative, and you didn't figure out something that obvious? I'm truly disappointed."
"How could you do something like this, sir? This is your country!" Jackson spat out in anger.
"The country is mine. I don't give two hoots about the people."
Jude had slowly begun to back-up. He was trying to escape unnoticed. It wasn't meant to be. Jackson's boss discerned correctly he was hurt and not up to par, and he turned around just as Jude cleared the doorway, not afraid of the man who could barely walk, let alone give chase.
"You can stop and give me the girl, and I might let her live. If you don't, I'll shoot her now." Jacob Walsh shouted as he raised his gun and pointed it at Amy's head.
Jude stopped in his tracks. Not because he believed the guy wouldn't kill her, but because he knew he needed some time to come up with a plan. She was in need of medical care. The blood had quit dripping now, but she was weak and pitiful in his arms.
Jacob Walsh hadn't counted on Jackson's stubbornness, or his love for Amy. "I can't believe you." Jackson gritted out through clenched teeth as he took a run and bowled his colonel over. "You taught me everything I know about loving this country, Colonel. How could you turn your back on her now?"
Otis crept up behind him and was now very close to overtaking Jacob, and he didn't even know it. Jackson got off the colonel and dodged a blow from his boss's big beefy arm. "Stand up and put your hands behind your back Jacob Walsh, you're under arrest." Otis advanced and grabbed one of Jacob's much bigger arms and twisted it behind his back. He pulled it up just enough to make sure his prisoner knew he meant business. "I've been on your trail for five years now, and I've finally got you, I can retire now."
"What do you mean you've been after him for five years?" Jude asked. He was confused how Otis even knew what was going on.
"This here is the reason I was involved in trying to get the thumb drive back in the first place. I'm sorry I had to lie to you." He said sincerely as he jerked his head in the prisoner's direction.
"You mean to tell me you knew all along my boss was in on this?" Jackson asked. His voice raised several octaves during the question, and Otis found himself shrinking at Jack's anger.
"It wasn't personal Jack, I couldn't tell you. Put yourself in my place. You would've done the same thing." Otis said. He didn't want Jack to get mad at him. He not only needed his help, he wanted his friendship.
Jack looked indecisive for a second, and then seemed to make a decision. He shrugged his shoulders and headed after Jude and Amy.
Otis was left standing over top of Jacob Walsh. He finished handcuffing him to the stairs beside Hami Ibraham and ran after Jackson. He was getting old and didn't have any kids. He'd begun to accept these young people as his own.
Jackson was on the phone when he rounded the corner. "Yes, I need an ambulance at seven, seven, seven Wiltmore lane, please hurry."
He ended the call and called the chief of police. "Yes, I need to speak to Chief Wilson. Yes, it is an emergency, thank you." He tapped his toe impatiently while he lightly rubbed Amy's dark hair off her forehead. There was a huge, angry red and purple lump the size of a large chicken egg there. "Hello Chief Wilson. My name is Jackson Masters..." He began as he told a summary of the events that had taken place in the last few days.
"Are you okay, Jude?" Otis asked as he came around the corner. "I can hold her if you need me to." The old man said with unshed tears shimmering in his eyes.
"I'm good, thanks man. She's light as a feather. I think she's gonna be okay Otie. She's a tough little sparrow."
They heard the sirens in the distance, and all three let out sighs of relief. Jude looked at Otis and asked, "How in the world did she end up at your door the other day, man? That's just unreal to me."
"It was just a coincidence, really. I had the house they took her to under surveillance. I saw her run out of the house through my scope, and next thing I knew, she was pounding on my door. The only thing I could do was let her in. She came in, all scared, carrying those babies, but she didn't fall apart. She immediately sniffed out the pantry and crammed herself and three kids in there. I fell in love with her at that moment. I've always wanted a daughter, and she fits the bill perfectly.”
Jude had a feeling there was more to Otis' 'would've been like' but it wasn't the time to ask right now. "I'm glad you were there, whatever the reason."
Jackson could hear the paramedics at the foot of the stairs. They were arguing with the police who had actually arrived first. "I wish they'd just let them up here." He was so worried about Amy he couldn't think straight.
"They're probably getting the prisoners secured first, Jack, calm down, man." Jude clapped him on the back. Amy slipped downward as he used his hand to console Jackson. He jerked her body up just as she threatened to hit the floor. "Oops, sorry about that man, just trying to make you feel better."
"I can tell you I won't feel better if she hits the floor.”
I'm gonna use the bathroom before we go." Jackson said with an abrupt subject change. "If you need to go just sit her down on the carpet and go before we leave."
"No, I'll be okay. What about you, Otis?" Jude asked.
"I think I'll go, too."
As he came around the corner, he saw Hami Ibraham sitting awkwardly against the rail. Jacob Walsh was gone. He didn't want to alert the others just yet. He wanted to check and make sure they hadn't already come and taken him away.
Hami said as he walked up, "You won't find him, old man, he got away.”
"Why are you so happy? In case you didn't notice, he didn't take you with him." Otis huffed in angry sarcasm.
Hami shut-up as if the thought hadn't occurred to him. It sure would be to their advantage if they were all this dense, Otis thought to himself as he jogged down the steps to make sure the terrorist wasn't lying.
Jack went into his study and opened the safe as quickly as he could. He took out the thumb drive and dropped it into a glass bowl on his desk that contained a red, scented candle. He went to the cupboard and pulled out some lighter fluid and doused the drive before throwing a match on it. It poofed-up and burned bright and hot for a few seconds before slowly simmering, and then flickering out. It was melted and twisted into an almost unrecognizable lump.
Otis walked in and yelled when he saw what Jackson had done. "Jackson, what did you do? Jacob Walsh escaped. We still needed that."
"What are you talking about?" The same alarm was pouring forth from his voice.
"When I came around the corner, Hami Ibraham was still cuffed to the rail, but your boss was gone. I went outside and they hadn't seen him. They were still arguing with the paramedics."
"A dollar to a hole in a donut says the fight with the paramedics was a distraction. I bet he's in one of the emergency vehicles." Jackson ran as fast as his hurt and abused body would allow him. He hopped down the stairs and out the door just in time to see a first responder vehicle drive down the road.
"That was probably him. What have I done? I wish you'd told me before I torched it.”
"What's done is done. I thought I told you the government wanted that stick drive? Now they're gonna be on me like bees to honey." Otis watched the small box truck as it disappeared out of sight.
"I was never going to give you the stick drive, you know?" Jackson said in a thicker English accent. It came out more when he was tired, and he was beyond it now.
A gurney was wheeled around them just then and Jackson heard Amy say weakly, "That is such a sexy voice..."
In spite of all that happened, both men laughed. Jude came walking up, covered in Amy's blood. Jackson moved to follow Amy's gurney before they loaded her into the ambulance. He wanted to talk to her, even if it was just for a second.
He reached her side and put out a hand to stop them from loading it. "Amy, I'm sorry I got you into all this. I'm going to get you out of it, you hear me?" He asked tenderly as he grabbed one of her cold, bruised hands in his.
She reached out and shoved his dark hair out of his face with one slim and trembling hand. "I know you will, Jack, I love you." Her hand dropped, and she was unconscious again
"We gave her something to make her sleep.” The paramedic told Jackson. “We assessed she didn't have life-threatening injuries and figured it would be the best thing for her after an ordeal like this." They lifted the gurney into the back of the ambulance.
"You're probably right." He walked over and handed the younger man a card and said, "Take her here, but don't call it in. There’ll be a handsome reward for you if you follow my orders." Jackson walked away with his head toward the ground. So many things had gone wrong in the last few days. He didn't even feel like his usual confident and cocky self. He shrugged the depression away and walked back to where Jude and Otis were waiting for him.
"Let's head back to 'our' headquarters and see what we're up against. I don't trust anybody at my work now; they could all be in on it. I had no clue the colonel was the mastermind behind this. What does that say about my ability to discern?" He asked rhetorically. Everybody made mistakes, and this had been a big one for him. He’d trusted the man with his life.