A Terry Thorne story
The evening was dank and musty as the Australian made his way toward the hotel. Another successful completion always made him look for a woman, to relieve the tension that built during negotiations, and good liquor to make him relax.
He thought as he approached the brightly lit entrance of the hotel, that a shower and some music would do just fine. He entered and went directly to the elevator that took him to the fourth floor. His room was only two doors down. The card key slid into place and he opened the door.
Three months he’d spent living in this room. He didn’t isolate himself but he didn’t involve himself with local activities. Three days a week he spent negotiating at the home of the victim’s family, the other four he concentrated on the bits and pieces of the information he picked up on during the short radio communications with the kidnappers. Terry Thorne never allowed himself to be distracted during a ransom negotiation. Well, except once. What a mistake that had been. Alice Bowman had used him for consolation and he’d let her. He knew it was wrong, her husband was being held in the mountains of Tecala while they…
He shook himself trying not to remember. She had touched a deep need in him from the very beginning. It wasn’t that she was exceptionally pretty, or that she seemed lost in what to do about getting her husband back. She had preyed on his sense of what was right to get him to help her.
His life to this point had been unsettled except in his professional mode. The wife he’d loved, still loved in a fashion, left some ten years earlier, taking their child with her. He’d thrown himself into his job to fill the loneliness. In doing so he all but ruined his relationship with his son, Henry. A relationship he very much wanted and needed. Alice had offered nothing in return for his sacrifice. Of course he knew at the time she couldn’t and wouldn’t.
He was vulnerable from too many trips away from home, too many one night stands. He hadn’t been back to Australia in years and was feeling the loss of his family ties. When he stood at the edge of the London rugby field and told Henry he was leaving before the game on Saturday, he had to watch the disappointment again, in his son’s eyes. He jetted off to Tecala to help the Bowman’s regain their chance at being a family, sacrificing his own opportunity once again.
Terry stood in the shower allowing the water to run comfortingly until it began turning cold. He turned off the taps and climbed out. Toweling off, he walked into the bedroom and stood naked, looking in the full length mirror. At thirty-seven he still looked good, had never allowed his body to turn to flab. He wasn’t the slender youth he’d been when he met his ex-wife. He had bulked up and was a solid two hundred pounds, all muscle. He knew he wasn’t pretty-handsome, but the face that stared back at him was easy to look at. A medium nose, cleft chin, and dimples when he smiled made the ladies notice when he walked in a room. There were scars here and there with a story to match each one.
His eyes, though, were his blessing and his downfall. They were blue-green with small laugh lines lightly spreading away to the tops of his cheeks. They changed according to his moods, green when in the throws of passion, blue when he was somber, and near black when there was danger. He’d been told many times that it was his eyes that either drew someone to him or turned them away.
After dressing he slipped out of his room and made his way down to the hotel’s restaurant and lounge. He decided to have a couple of drinks then maybe have dinner. Terry ordered a beer and sat back perusing several females. Here in Mexico City one could find a variety of lovely ladies. Some were modern Mexico’s more liberated women who went to bars like the women in the U.S. and Europe. Some were upscale hookers, seductive and tempting.
He watched the doorway as a couple walked in. At first he thought he was seeing the Bowmans. The woman was the right height and weight with blonde hair and her escort was tall, a large man. His heart nearly stopped. As they passed him he realized it was a trick of the light and his imagination. God, would he ever get the thoughts of her out of his mind?
His waiter brought him another beer and when he questioned it, the waiter pointed to a woman at the bar. “Senior, the senorita with the dark hair sends her compliments.”
The lady picked up her own beer and raised it with a smile. Terry nodded and raised his in thanks. He studied her for a moment. Long, dark hair, classic, elegant features and a nice figure, athletic. From the expensive clothes to the manicured nails, he surmised she was probably well to do and bored, looking for some excitement away from either her job or a husband she was no longer in love with. He’d met several women like that over the years. Their husbands paid the bills while they took trips to relieve the boredom, spending time with someone more exciting. He really wasn’t up to listening to a sad story about how her husband was never home and she needed companionship, or something along those lines.
He returned to checking out the other women. He realized, though, that the woman hadn’t taken her eyes off him. He finished the beer and stood to go to the restaurant. For a moment he hesitated, then walked directly toward her. She smiled as he approached.
“Gracias por la cervesa.” Terry realized that the woman, now that he was closer, was older than he first thought.
“You’re welcome.” Her smile showed beautiful, even, white teeth and slight dimples. She was even more beautiful and seductive than he first thought. Now that he was standing in front of her, he saw gorgeous green eyes with flecks of gold. They were nearly almond shaped and gave her an almost feline look.
“So, you’re American?”
She laughed, “And you’re Australian!”
“I assumed that you were American. Not many Mexicans have your color hair. Here on business?”
“Just finished, I’ll be leaving tomorrow morning.”
“Back to Oz?”
“No. I live in London. I travel a good deal.” He hesitated again, something told him not to get involved with this woman, but he needed distraction if only for dinner. “I was about to have dinner. Would you care to join me?’
She seemed to think it over, then smiled again. “That sounds nice, thank you.”
“Terry, Terry Thorne.” He extended his hand as he introduced himself.
As she took his hand he could feel an electricity buzz through him. “Rose Zumwalt. It’s nice to meet you.”
They ordered drinks after being seated. “So what brings you to Mexico?” Terry wanted to get as much information as he could. Even though his male libido was at an all time high, his internal alarms were ringing and the uneasy feeling wouldn’t leave.
“I wanted to get away from my job. I’m a workaholic. I spend sixty to seventy hours a week planning and executing different situations and it tends to wear me down if I don’t force myself to take a break.”
“Planning and executing? You sound like a soldier preparing for battle.” He smiled as he said it but something veiled in her eyes seemed to indicate he wasn’t far off.
She laughed. “Well, the world of business can be very similar. One must plan extensively and know the weakness of one’s enemy if one intends to win the battle. You might be surprised how very much intelligence we gather before marching forth.”
“So you’re a strategist not an operative?”
“I started in the field, doing research and gathering intelligence, but only on rare occasions nowadays. I’ve thought of retiring. I have a nice little nest egg, but I’m not sure what I’d do without the distraction of my job.”
He glanced at her ring finger. She wore a simple, filigree gold band. “So are you married?” Terry watched as her eyes changed to a more amber color. Her face stayed the same but she lowered her eyes to look at the candle sitting in the middle of the table.
“No, never married. Not enough time and too much chaos.” She sighed and looked up.
“Yeah, once. It’s been over ten years now.”
“Yes, a son. He’s thirteen.” She could see his boy meant a great deal to him.
Their waiter came, took their order and brought more drinks. They sat and talked small talk. She rendered information about herself in an easy manner but somehow Terry could tell it was too easy, too contrived. When dinner came they ate in relative silence. The food was delicious. He laughed at her when she moaned at her first bite. Between the look on her face and the sound she made, he was reminded of a lover in the throws of orgasm.
“What?” She caught the look and smiled knowingly. Her next bite teased him while slowly licking the chorizo that sat impaled on her fork. She licked it carefully up one side and down the other before slipping her mouth over it and sucking it ever so slightly.
Terry watched, fascinated by her. Never had he seen such a carnal display in such a public place. He felt his pants tighten near his crotch. She saw him move slightly and realized he was trying to adjust himself.
Terry said nothing, but fell to eating his meal. He couldn’t ignore how blatantly sexual she was being. She was obviously trying to seduce him and had it not been for the red flags that kept rising, he would have ended their evening in his room.
When they finished their last bites, Rose smiled and said, “Well, that hit the spot.” She giggled thinking about which spot it hit.
The waiter appeared and asked if they wanted dessert. Neither one had any room left and Terry sent the waiter away to tally the bill.
“Well,” he smiled, “that was probably the most interesting dinner I ever ate.”
She giggled again, “I have to admit I don’t usually do that sort of thing in public. But the look on your face was just too tempting. I’m sorry. Can I buy you a drink to make up for it?”
“I really should call it a night. I have an early morning flight.”
“Oh come on, just one drink, a night cap. I promise I’ll behave. Besides, I have to leave tomorrow morning, too, an early flight.” She smiled but her eyes told the story. She wanted him and wasn’t ready to give up.
He wanted her, too. The possible danger only served to arouse him further. Mysterious and seductive, a very dangerous combination, he thought.
Terry paid the bill and they moved into the lounge. They found a table near the dance floor and ordered drinks. The band wasn’t the usual Mariachi most Americans seemed to think played on every street corner. It had a large repertoire and ranged from the Mexican Hat dance to The Blue Danube.
They sat watching the few couples dancing and Rose suddenly asked, “Terry, would you dance with me?”
He stood, offered his hand and they moved out on the dance floor. The song wasn’t familiar to either one, but the soft lilting strains carried them along. Terry could feel her body, strong yet giving. Her perfume was soft and alluring, hanging like an unseen mist.
She eased in close, resting her cheek against his and allowing her breasts to gently brush his chest.
Rose wasn’t his usual type. He normally gravitated toward petite women. They made him feel strong and protective. Rose was nearly his height and was clearly not a woman who needed to be protected. He felt from the moment he saw her that she was capable in nearly anything she set her mind to. So why was he so attracted? She was obviously sex on a stick, but looking around the room he saw younger and more vulnerable women who, he was sure, would be willing to spend the night with him. Was it the mystery and danger he craved? Wasn’t that why he’d joined the S.A.S and later became a K&R specialist? Part of him wanted normalcy but another part wanted the danger. He’d taken many of the assignments his past company, Luthan Risk, offered that were extremely dangerous.
Lately, he seemed to invite those types of assignments. When his partner, Dino, and he went into business for themselves, Dino tried to get him to sit at a desk and direct their ten specialists. But the more he sat behind a safe desk the more he resented it. He told himself it was because he couldn’t send someone else into a dangerous situation. It was Dino who pointed out that he seemed to have a death wish. They’d had an argument and Terry flew to Mexico City to handle a very touchy situation. His expertise gained him the advantage and all had worked out well. During the negotiations, though, he found himself almost wishing things would go wrong and they would be called on to physically handle an extraction.
Perhaps that was what he wanted, to be killed while trying to rescue someone less capable. Maybe Henry would stand at his grave and forgive him for not being the father he should have been. Maybe he would at least be proud of his father for trying to help others. What a coward I am, he thought. I’d rather die and be a hero to my son instead of being a proper father to him.
“A penny for them.” Rose was looking at him, a very serious look on her face. She could feel his tension and wondered at his dark thoughts.
“Just off in thought.” He wasn’t about to go into the why’s and wherefores. It just wasn’t him.
When the song ended, he pulled away. “I really enjoyed the evening, Rose, but I need to call it a night.”
“So that’s it, huh?” She reached up and stroked his face. “I’m sorry. I thought maybe…” She turned her back on him and strode away.
He watched her leave and had second thoughts. “Rose!” He moved quickly and grabbed her elbow in a light grip. She turned and he saw tears forming in her eyes. She quickly turned her head away. He never could stand to see a woman cry. He pulled her into him and wrapped his arms around her as she returned the embrace.
She felt so good, and he needed someone if only for the night. He slid back and cupped her face in his hands. She stood with tears running down her cheeks as he kissed her. “Stay with me tonight?” He kissed her again as she nodded.
Rose turned over and watched as Terry slept. He was every bit as handsome as she expected. Not dandy handsome, masculine, a man’s man. She thought about what those sweet bowed lips had done to her. She’d been kissed by many men, but Terry made kissing an art form. It was truly foreplay at its best. He didn’t stop with her mouth. He teased and titillated every part of her, making her want him. She had tried to keep her distance and act the part, but he had drawn her into the love making like only one man in her life had. Even that man hadn’t satisfied her with the type of crescendo she felt when they fell over the edge to an intense fulfillment.
She hated herself for what she was about to do. She knew he wouldn’t understand why she did it. She hoped he would allow her to explain when the time came. “Never mind the recriminations. There is far more at stake than Terrence Thorne and his reputation,” she said to herself.
Rose eased herself out of bed and crept to the laptop sitting on the floor. She picked it up and walked out to the sitting room where she placed it on the coffee table in front of the couch.
The next morning Terry woke to the phone ringing. He grabbed it, “Good morning, this is your wake up call,” the mechanical voice said. He glanced at the clock, 5:30 am. He turned over to wake Rose but found she had already left. He immediately got up and went to check on the .9mm Bersa he kept in his luggage. It was there. So was his laptop. Nothing seemed to be disturbed. He never slept that soundly when in the company of a woman he didn’t know, but last night seemed to be an exception. He was lucky she hadn’t fleeced him and left him without so much as a peso to call Dino with. “You’re slipping, mate,” he said to himself.
He reeked of sex. As he stood in the shower, he thought about how Rose had given as good as she got. The tease with the chorizo had only been a prelude to what really happened. He’d been with ‘professionals’ that didn’t do what she had. She fulfilled his every fantasy and then some. When they finally fell asleep, he didn’t hear the warning bells or see the red flags flying. It was the first time he felt protected. Maybe that’s what he needed. He was always the protector; maybe at this time in his life he needed the shelter of someone as capable as him.
He pulled the laptop up and placed it on the bed. He connected it to the internet line, opened the lid, flicked it on and checked for messages. Dino had sent one and he opened it. It read: “Terry, what in the hell were you looking for information about the Middle East for? We don’t have anything going on there.”
“The Middle East?” Terry hadn’t asked about The Middle East. What was going on? He moved to the telephone and immediately called Dino in New York.
“Dino! What’s the word?” Terry sounded more jovial than he felt.
“I don’t know. What’s with you? I thought you were heading to New York. What did you need that info for?”
“It’s personal, mate. I am coming to New York. I’ll be there overnight. Meet me at Sammy’s at eight and we’ll talk over a couple of beers, my treat. See you then.”
“Sammy’s at eight.” Dino echoed and hung up.
He returned to the e-mails he had left, one was from Henry, and he answered it hoping he would be able to fulfill the commitment he made to be home for Christmas nearly four months away. The other e-mail was one from someone unknown to him, probably a mistake, something about Mindy and Michael being lost in never land.
Terry quickly dressed and checked out of the hotel. A taxi waited for him in front as he stepped into the warm Mexican air.
Terry barely made it to his gate as they began loading passengers for the flight to New York. First class was allowed to board first as a courtesy. He moved to the gate and walked down the hall to where the movable platform rested next to the plane. Several passengers were ahead of him but moved along quickly.
As he stepped onto the flight deck the attendant, smiled and welcomed him onto the plane. He moved to the first row on the starboard side, behind the first class bathroom. The first class galley was just forward of the bathroom, with the cockpit hatch on the aisle next to the door of the galley.
When making his reservations he specifically requested this seat. It was his favorite spot on the smaller 727’s. There was extra leg room between the seat and the wall between the cabin and the bathroom. There were only two seats on either side of the plane and eight rows of first class passengers. Most of these planes had already been taken out of service, but some countries, not as wealthy as the U.S., still found them useful.
When Terry stepped around the wall to find his seat he came face to face with Rose. “What are you doing here?” He said it to her close enough and quietly enough not to arouse anyone to a problem brewing.
Rose smiled and said, “I told you I was flying out last night, remember?”
“Yeah, you did. I just thought maybe your plans had changed to somewhere in the Middle East. What were you doing on my laptop, checking out cheaptickets.com? And how did you get my password?”
“Terry, let me explain…”
“I can’t wait!”
They settled into their seats as the tourist passengers filed past to the rear of the plane. They silently agreed to put their conversation on hold until the plane was in the air.
The flight attendant was just closing the hatch in preparation for the plane to leave the gate, when three men stopped her. They explained that they were the passengers that the plane was supposed to wait for. The flight attendant had been notified earlier, but after waiting nearly ten extra minutes the pilot insisted they not wait any longer. She allowed them to board and quickly closed the hatch. Pushing a button on the outside of the cockpit, she indicated that the plane was ready for taxi.
The three men offered her their tickets and she motioned two of them back to the tourist lounge while she indicated the seat at the back of first class to the third man. All three of them had carry-on bags and she instructed them to stow their bags as quickly as possible. She felt the bump as the tractor pushed the plane away from the terminal and out to the runway apron.
What she didn’t know and couldn’t see was the man who had climbed the outside stairway that met at the junction of the gate dock. He quickly unlocked the door, opened it and handed each of the three men carry-on bags, just before they boarded. He closed the door and ran down the stairs to the luggage tractor and trailer. He quickly pulled the vehicle and its now empty trailer underneath the wing of the plane and away toward the terminal. He turned momentarily, looking over his shoulder, whispering, “May Allah, be with you, my friends.”
As the three men passed, moving toward the back, one of them glanced at Terry. Years of being a special forces soldier had honed his sixth sense. When their eyes met he recognized the same look in an enemy's eyes. There was contempt and hatred. If this man was a simple tourist or businessman why would he show those feelings? The man quickly turned his eyes away and headed to the back of the plane.
Terry watched the three men as they moved to find their seats. He stood up pretending to check the overhead bin where he’d placed his laptop and overnight bag. He glanced down the aisle toward the back of the plane and watched as the two men in tourist section found their places. One sat on the aisle seat about midway down, the other was nearly in the tail section. They were spaced far too carefully for Terry’s liking. They could have simply taken the last of the tickets available as the plane was full, or it could be something more sinister.
He looked directly at the man in first class. When the man stared back at him, Terry smiled his most charming smile and said, “Looks like a good day for a flight, mate.”
The man simply nodded. He sat contemplating the effect he and his companions would have on the world. The man who stood fumbling with the things he’d stowed in the overhead bin, was either Australian, New Zealander or English. He couldn’t tell for sure. No matter, his death along with the others would send a message. If you deal with the United States, or help in their conquest of the Middle East, you are the enemy and will be dealt with accordingly. Britain, Australia, and New Zealand supplied arms and personnel to help in the destruction of his home. Their people would die for helping the infidels. Mexico supplied oil to the United States. Their people would die for that reason alone.
He contemplated the plan to make the plane land, then blow it up with all the passengers still aboard. If the pilot refused to land, he would simply shoot out the windows and decompress the plane. If they all died, he had no remorse. Allah would reward him.
Terry looked at Rose and said rather loudly, “Sweetheart, would you mind if I took the aisle seat?” Terry caught the look in Rose’s eyes. She could feel the same thing he did. He needed to be in a position to move quickly if necessary.
“Oh, honey, I’m still feeling queasy from the morning sickness. I don’t think sitting next to the window will help.” She smiled up at him, knowing she stunned him with that statement. She wanted to be where she could do the most damage if it came to that.
Terry sat down next to her, fastened his seat belt and leaned over, nuzzling her ear. To anyone watching, it would look as though he was being affectionate to his pregnant wife. He quietly whispered, “So I was right, you are a soldier. You have the same take on these three as I have.”
Rose giggled, making it seem that her ‘husband’ had said something naughty. She took Terry’s face in her hands and whispered, “If you dropped their pants, I’d bet there was ‘terrorist’ tattooed on the crack.” She kissed him, “If things start to happen, trust me to follow through.”
He pulled back and did his best to smile lovingly at her, “It would be best if we weren’t in the air when it happens.”
“Well, we can’t force their hand at this point. We don’t know for sure.”
“Maybe we can.”
Terry unfastened his seatbelt and started to stand up. The head flight attendant saw him and immediately told him, “Sir, please sit down and fasten your seatbelt. We’re on the approach to the runway. I don’t want to have to stop the flight.”
“I need to go to the bathroom, Luv.” He smiled disarmingly.
She would have been tempted, he was so handsome, but her professional bearing took control. “I appreciate that, but you’ll have to wait until we are airborne.”
“But,” he tried to move closer to her so he could whisper his fears in her ear.
She backed up and pointed to his seat. “Sit, now! Buckle up, and wait!”
Terry could feel the plane turn and hear the engines building up to the necessary revolutions. He barely got into his seat as the pilot let off the brakes and the plane began rolling faster and faster down the runway. He leaned and whispered to Rose, “Well, so much for that plan.”
They felt the plane lift and climb. As soon as the seat belt sign blinked out, Rose grabbed her purse and unbuckled her seatbelt. “Got somethin’ special in there?” he asked quietly. Terry was hoping for maybe a porcelain gun, but knew how unlikely it was.
Rose just smiled and handed him what looked like a packet of birth control pills. It was something special made for her in Hong Kong. A slight notch on the side revealed a release that opened a very thin blade. Sharp as a razor, it was made of very light weight, extremely strong plastic. She showed it to him while turned with her back to the aisle so the other passengers couldn’t see. “Here, you take this.”
“What about you?”
“I’ll charge it to my credit card.” She held up the credit card and grinned as she said, “American Express, never leave home without it.” She slipped it into her pants pocket.
“Get up and go to the ladies' room for a couple of minutes and follow my lead,” he whispered.
As she got up he said loud enough for everyone in first class to hear, “Aw, sweetheart, you know I have to go.”
She caught onto what he needed. “I won’t be long. If you need to, use the bathroom in the tourist section.”
He waited until she moved down the aisle. He still had the pack of birth control pills in his hand. He smiled at a woman watching them. “I guess we won’t need these for a few more months.”
The lady smiled and asked, “How far along is she?”
“Only six weeks, but the morning sickness…you know.”
The lady congratulated him as he moved down the aisle to the back of the plane. He still carried the closed ‘knife’ in his hand. Terry was checking out each of the passengers as he slowly moved aft. He knew with so many American tourists returning to the states, there was a very good chance that a Sky Marshal was aboard. He needed to make contact and warn him, or her, he corrected himself. Things could get very nasty if Rose and he were the only ones that could make a difference. He kept thinking that after 911 the American public wouldn’t stand for another terrorist takeover of one of their planes. He appreciated their valor and willingness to fight, but untrained personnel could make things worse instead of better.
As he passed one of the passengers, a Willie Nelson look-alike, the man gave him an appraising look. The hair stood up on Terry’s neck. The man rose and followed him to the bathroom. It was occupied, and Terry stood waiting for the occupant to finish. He noticed the probable terrorist wasn’t in his seat. Terry moved back towards the rear galley and the other man followed.
“Problem, mate?” he addressed the man.
“Maybe.” The man looked at the bathroom door then up the aisle to the man in mid cabin.
“Well, I’m afraid I was here first. I promise I won’t be long. Why don’t you go back and sit down until I’m finished?” Terry gave him a meaningful look and the man nodded and returned to his seat, just behind the man from the Middle East.
Just as Rose came out of the bathroom, the man in first class made his way up the aisle. As she passed him she noticed he had his carry-on bag with him. He slipped into the bathroom.
Mohammad Adhi pulled out his walkie-talkie and spoke in Iraqi to the man in the aft bathroom. “Behni will hold them at bay when he sees me in the aisle. Be ready when I tell you to. Allah be praised.” A moment later he stepped out, leaving his carry-on in the bathroom and secreting the handgun in his pocket. He turned and instead of returning to his seat, he stepped into the galley.
It was starting, she could feel it. Rose glanced down the aisle and saw Terry standing at the bathroom, in a very relaxed stance.
Adhi smiled at the flight attendant and said, “Wonder if you could give me some tea? My stomach is upset.”
She smiled at him saying, “Certainly, sir.” As she turned her back to him he grabbed her, wrapping his arm around her throat. He brought the walkie-talkie to his mouth as he squeezed, “Now.” The gun he held in his right hand jammed into her side. “Move or I’ll kill you right here.”
Terry could hear talking behind the door and looked up toward the front of the plane. Sure enough, the man stepped out of the galley with the head flight attendant in a choke hold and a walkie-talkie in his hand. He held a pistol to her side and shouted, “Everyone down! Down…and put your hands on the back of your heads.”
The man in the bathroom emerged at the same time, but seemed to get tangled up with someone waiting to get in.
The moment the bathroom door opened, Terry saw the gun, and in one fluid motion rammed the man and buried the ‘knife’ into his chest. Just as the man in front of him pulled a gun from his carry-on, the Sky Marshal grabbed his ankle gun and stood placing the gun to the back of the terrorist's head. “Move and you’re dead.”
There were screams and general fear. The terrorist in first class yelled, “Put your weapon down or I’ll kill the woman. Her death will be on your hands.”
“Oh, God!” The flight attendant fainted and he let her drop. He moved to Rose and pointed the gun at her.
“Oh, please, I’m pregnant, please.” She seemed to cower. He bent down, intending to grab and haul her up. As he leaned over her she made a swipe at him as if to bat his hand away. In reality, the thin edge of the credit card sliced cleanly across his neck. He staggered back grabbing his throat. Rose was up and at him with the speed of a striking viper. She knocked the gun from his hand and kicked him in the chest. He flew back slamming into the door of the cockpit. She watched as he slid down to the floor and slumped to one side. She checked him, making certain he wouldn’t get up again.
Terry was helping the Sky Marshal bind the third man as the passengers began screaming, “Yeah! Way to kick ass!”
The Sky Marshal told the pilots what happened and asked that they notify the Mexican authorities. He also suggested that they return to Mexico City. All this was done via a special walkie-talkie used exclusively by the airlines. Never once did the cockpit door open until they were back at the airport.
Terry helped one of the passengers stow the man he killed in the galley, after closing the other man in the bathroom. He had on handcuffs and ankle cuffs as well. There wasn’t much chance he’d be going anywhere. Once done, he moved up the aisle to first class to check on Rose. As he passed, several of the passengers thanked him for his part in saving their lives. One woman made the sign of the cross and blessed him. Strange, he thought, that she would bless me for taking another’s life.
Rose was talking softly to the lady who had congratulated Terry earlier. “But you took an awful chance, dear. What about the baby? What would your husband have done if you had been killed?” It never even entered the mind of this sweet woman that she wasn’t what she seemed.
“Yes, darling, what would I have done?” Terry stood smiling at Rose. She straightened and hugged him with a fierceness he hadn’t expected. He returned the embrace with more feeling than he cared to contemplate.
The plane was less than an hour from Mexico City when the take-over happened. Three hours later the Mexican authorities released what was left of the passengers after taking statements. The Sky Marshal came and stood next to Rose and Terry. “I think that will be all for now, Senior, Senorita.” The man nodded his head in acknowledgement and turned to the Sky Marshal. “I will leave them to you, Senior Caan.”
After the policeman walked away the Sky Marshal said, “Well, I don’t normally look for passengers to get involved, but this time I was glad to see the ones who did were capable.” He extended his hand and Terry shook it. “Thanks, thanks very much.” He turned to Rose, “If you ever want a job as a Sky Marshal or at least a flight attendant, let me know. I’m sure I can help.”
Rose smiled, “I don’t think so, but thanks anyway.”
Both Rose and Terry were exhausted. The adrenaline rush that always accompanied action, and the tension afterward, took a physical as well as mental toll. “Shall we book a room at the same hotel as last night?” Terry needed to relax and he needed answers as well.
“Are you sure you trust me to stay with you?” Rose knew he would demand answers about her use of his laptop as well as her misdirection about her line of work.
“I think you owe me some explanations.”
Rose sighed, “You’re right, I do. I didn’t count on this interruption. Let’s get to the hotel and you can call Dino.”
“You know Dino?”
“How do you think I got your password?”
Terry suddenly got a mental picture of Rose doing to Dino what she’d done to him. He was disgusted and it showed.
“No, Terry, I didn’t get it that way.” Rose had read his thoughts and it made him uneasy that she could see that far into him after so little time.
They settled into the suite Terry booked and he made a quick call to Dino to explain what happened. “Sorry, mate, I guess Sammy’s will have to wait.”
“So this woman that helped you, what’s her gig?”
“Not certain yet, but I’ll let you know. I’ll e-mail you with my arrival time once I get it.”
“Tio, watch your back.” Dino had a very uncomfortable feeling about how this Rose person had conveniently been with Terry the night before and on the same flight the next day.
“No worries, mate. See you soon.” He turned to see Rose standing in white shorts and white sun top.
“So, Dino warned you about trusting me?”
“We’ve been in the K&R business for some years now and we were both in Special Forces before that. You tend to be suspicious. But I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. Am I?” His voice held an edge
“Terry,” she spoke softly hoping to calm him with seduction.
“Cut the crap, Rose. Is Rose you real name or just a name on a phony ID?”
Rose sighed heavily and went to sit down on the over-stuffed chair. She had needed his laptop and the information it could provide. She hadn’t intended to get him physically involved. In the past she never used her mule for anything more than to gain information about, or proximity to, the target. But now that the game was up, the truth, as far as she could tell it, needed to be said. If he perceived a lie he might interfere with her plans. If he did, Terrence Thorne would have to be eliminated. In all her years, only once had she made that serious a mistake. She could still see the man’s face as he died almost instantly. Never again, she’d told herself, never again would she make that kind of mistake. Now here she was, in the same situation and she didn’t want to contemplate the possible outcome.
“Alright, Terry, I’ll tell you whatever you want to know.”
“What is your real name?”
“Suffice it to say, that Rose Zumwalt is my name for the time being.”
“What did you want information about the Middle East for and who are Mindy and Michael?”
Rose stood up and slipped off her blouse. At first Terry thought she was again resorting to sex as a way to ply him. “Terry, take the bandage off my shoulder and it will explain several things.”
He reached for the large bandage on her right scapula, ripping it off in one quick jerk. It hurt and Rose winced slightly. During their lovemaking he’d questioned it and she told him she had scraped her shoulder on some coral while scuba diving off the coast of Baja, Mexico two days earlier.
Instead of seeing the angry marks of sharp coral on delicate skin, he saw a beautiful tattoo in the form of a broken rose. When he realized what it was, Terry stepped back several paces and looked at Rose in disgust.
“So you’re a member of the Broken Rose?” Terry had heard of the organization, originally created as a covert military group, comprised only of women. They were trained by the Navy SEALS in physical prowess and military tactics, then schooled by CIA in intelligence gathering. Their sole purpose was to infiltrate and remove targets that strong arm tactics wouldn’t allow. The women were chosen for their intelligence, fortitude and looks. They were further trained in how to use their feminine wiles to gain information and access. They were far more than CIA or the SEALS. Their training from those groups elevated them to ultra experts.
The Broken Rose had started out with high ideals and only the best of intentions. They were crusaders every one. They began their assignments believing they were doing something important for their country. But in the world of shadow and intrigue, things often go awry. Mistakes were made by those directing them and eventually dissolution and defeat took its toll. After two of the original twelve were killed and three left to rot in a mid-eastern prison, the remaining women left the service and became mercenaries. The stories told about these, now unbridled soldiers for hire, were far more vicious than any told about other known mercenaries.
Rose slowly drew her blouse back on, leaving the rose uncovered by the bandage. She could see Terry was well familiar with the reputation of Broken Rose, an organization she had once been very proud to be a part of.
“Am I your assignment, or is he in Iraq, Afghanistan…where?”
“No, you’re not my assignment, but I needed information that you had.”
“To do what?”
She thought about telling him only part of the story, but seeing the mistrust in his eyes made her waiver. She didn’t want him involved in this; she only wanted the intelligence he could provide. If he perceived a lie, God knew what he’d do. She didn’t want to admit it but she was becoming personally involved with him. In the past she’d always been able to keep a comfortable distance from her mules.
“It’s a long story, Terry. Suffice it to say that I’m involved with something I didn’t ask for. I needed the information so I could do something I don’t want to do.”
“Terry, just believe me when I say, it’s best if you don’t know. I used you for intelligence. I never wanted to get you involved. I didn’t realize you’d be on the same plane, although I should have.” She sighed and went to sit on the couch. “I’m sorry. I know you hate me, but I needed the information your office could provide. I would have seduced Osama bin Ladin for that intelligence.”
“Well, I’m glad to hear last night was nothing personal.” Terry felt such a fool. He’d dropped his defenses with her and she’d used him. He felt violated. “I guess that display of relief on the plane was just for the old woman’s benefit.” He was thinking how tightly she’d held him once the danger was over.
“No, last night was personal, although I didn’t want it to be. And the relief was real.” She waited a moment before continuing. “I haven’t been with Broken Rose in nearly six years. I really am a businesswoman. I gave up that other life for various reasons. I’m doing this because I have no choice.”
“Mercenaries usually have a choice; it’s called how much are you willing to pay?” His voice was cold and he stood with clenched fists.
“Don’t sound so superior, Terry. You charge for extractions. What are you if not a mercenary?Just because you usually do it without force, what makes you think you’re better than me? You call your business ‘insurance’, but what it really is, is an expert doing what he does best. That’s what I used to do, what I did best.”
“The difference is I knew which side I was on. You only worried about the highest bidder. You and your organization sold their souls to whoever could pay the most. They did things no human should do and they did it for money!”
“Why do you think I left?” She began telling him about all the atrocities she’d seen. The other women that she’d thought of as sisters had slowly turned into predators, looking only for money. They had lost their ideals and used their skills to please their employers. It made no difference to them who was hurt by their actions and many innocents were. They paid no mind to the misery and history-altering changes made by their actions.
The last incident came to mind. They had gone to Africa disguised as high class hookers. Their target was a man in control of a diamond mine. He was a good man who took care of his employees, but he was in the way of a large diamond company. They had offered him huge sums of money for his operation, but when he refused, that company paid Broken Rose to change his mind. They were only supposed to scare him, what happened wasn’t planned.
The mine was located in the back and beyond, and Rolley Chambers did his best to keep his workers happy. He was known to invite ‘ladies’ on occasion, for the pleasure of his men. He always had a party, with good food and liquor brought in, all the way from the nearest town. Broken Rose made themselves available when Rolley called the man he usually dealt with. The man told him the women he was sending were ‘special’ and charged him extra. Chambers hadn’t complained when told the price, he simply commented that they’d better be worth it. When they arrived, Rolley agreed they were worth the price.
He was a married man with three children and a wife he loved very much. His family lived in Aurora, a smaller town about a hundred miles away. He usually spent the weekends with them, but on this occasion they had come to spend the week with him. The children, a boy nearly sixteen and two small girls with ringlets and red hair had accompanied their mother so they could celebrate their father’s birthday. It was a surprise when they arrived and Rolley was happy to leave his men to the hookers while he spent the evening with his family.
Broken Rose knew nothing of his family being there. When Rolley came down to the celebration to see that his men were enjoying themselves, two of the women stole off to set C-4 around the house he lived in during the week. The lights were out and everyone was in bed. The dog began barking and as the women backed off from the house, Chambers' son stepped onto the small veranda to see what the fuss was all about. The two women, Calinda and Rose, saw him just as the plunger for the C-4 was slammed home. The ensuing explosion blew the young man off the porch nearly fifty feet and his clothes were on fire. Rose had tried to stop Calinda when she saw the boy. Her only response was, “This will get Chambers' attention.”
Rose had seen Calinda at her coldest while on assignment, but this was totally different. She welcomed the pain Chambers would feel and relished the agony the boy was in. Rose was sick. The boy had to be Chambers’ son, the likeness was unmistakable. Rose ran to the young man and tried to help. He was dying and there was nothing she could do to stop it. With his last breath he whispered, “My mother and sisters…”
Rose sat holding the boy, watching the flames and destruction. “My God, we took his whole family…”
Calinda barely pried her from the dead boy and dragged her into the brush before the men from the party arrived. They watched from the safety of their hiding place as Mr. Chambers collapsed to his knees and wept, holding his son and lamenting his dead family.
It was assumed that someone from the other company set the explosives, and suspicion never fell on the women. They returned to the U.S. later and counted their bounty, with one exception, Rose. She refused her share of the blood money and announced her retirement. Only one comment was made, “Well, if you don’t have the stomach anymore, we don’t need you.” Calinda stood smiling at her when she said it. Calinda had always wanted command of the troupe; now she had what she wanted.
“That was six years ago, Terry. I’ve spent everyday of that time asking for forgiveness. The really ironic thing was that Mr. Chambers never gave in. Instead, his vengeance was set on owning the company that killed his family. I heard only three years later, that he took it over. The man who hired Broken Rose never knew Chambers found out it was he who hired us and inadvertently caused the deaths of Chambers' family. Chambers hired Broken Rose himself and when everything was set, the man was given a ‘vacation’ along with his own family. It was supposed to be a ‘thank you’ for all his hard work. The plane they were on never made it to its destination. It was never found and the fate of the executive and his family was never determined. I believe they may be stranded somewhere or perhaps worse. You must believe me when I say if I had known the family was in the house I would have never allowed Calinda to do what she did.”
Terry could see the agony in Rose’s face. He wanted to believe her, needed to believe her. Somehow, she had gotten to him like no one else had. It wasn’t her beautiful allure, it was a common loneliness, one only soldiers who had done battle, killed, and survived could share. The burden of past deaths and the loss of ‘self’ each time it happened, weighed on them both. Whether or not what was done had to be done, didn’t lift the responsibility of their actions.
How many times had he seen the faces of the men he killed in the past? Terry always tried to keep perspective and remember that those men had been a threat to his life and the lives of innocents. He tried to tell himself that the man he killed on the plane would have taken the lives of all the passengers with no remorse. No matter how hard he tried to justify his actions the thought that perhaps the dead man had a family waiting for him bothered Terry. Maybe he had a son, like Henry.
“Those thoughts will get you killed.” Rose sat studying Terry’s face. “Maybe it’s time you changed jobs?”
She had again read his thoughts and Terry was unsettled by her understanding.
“So what is it that you have to do?”
“I have to kidnap and kill a child.”
“I don’t really want to get you any more involved in this than you already are, Terry. The more you know, the more danger you’re in.”
“Rose, I’m already involved. You took information from our data banks and we’ve been seen together.”
Rose had to give it one last try. “Yes, but Calinda will interpret our being together as me making you my mule. She knows I needed the information you have.”
“I realize that, but if al Bahran has any suspicions about what you’re doing they will fall on me and Dino as well. Our company and our reputation, not to mention our integrity, will be ruined at best. Now tell me what the situation is. Maybe I can help.”
Rose walked to the corner bar and picked up a bottle of scotch. She held it up, indicating that she was having a drink, would he like one as well? When Terry nodded affirmatively, Rose poured two fingers of the amber liquid into each glass. Taking one and handing it to Terry, she returned to the bar sipping her drink as she went. She stood at the bar for a moment looking at the drink in her hand as if it would provide an explanation that Terry Thorne would accept.
“I told you last night that I never had time to marry. I didn’t. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to. I met Michael during a lull in assignments. I fell in love and made the mistake of thinking I could carry on a normal life away from Broken Rose. Michael convinced me that we should be married and I was on the verge of accepting when things went wrong in the Middle East. Several Broken Rose were caught in an attempt to assassinate a head of state. They were held in a filthy prison and two were killed. We attempted to get them out and were nearly captured ourselves. I was hurt during the pickup and transported to a hospital in D.C. Michael visited me and tried to get me to resign. It took nearly nine months for me to recuperate. I found out I was pregnant during that time and Michael was the father. He begged me to resign and marry him. I didn’t feel I could walk away and leave the other girls to their fate. After the baby was born, Michael took her and continued to try to convince me to walk away. In the end, I gave up the man I loved and a baby I wanted only to become involved in something I didn’t want.”
Rose moved over to the couch and sat down. Her hands nearly covered the glass she was holding as she leaned her elbows on her knees. Her head was down and Terry was certain she was crying. He wanted to go to her, hold her and take away some of the pain. No one knew better than he did how hard it was to lose those you loved.
Terry set his glass down and slowly moved to stand in front of Rose. He squatted down and covered her hands with his. She looked up, gazing directly into his beautiful eyes. He didn’t need to say anything; it was all there in that look. He was offering to help, not because he was worried about reprisals, he and Dino were targets already from past foiled kidnappings, he was offering because of her, what he was feeling for her in this moment.
“Alright, Terry, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” He let her hands go and moved to retrieve his drink. Rose sat back and got comfortable on the couch.
“There’s a sheik named Ali al Bahran. He’s a forward-thinking man concerned about what is best for his people. He was educated in the states and has great affection for Americans and things that are western. Although he is a devout Muslim, he met and married a Catholic American and took her back to the Middle East with him.
Unfortunately, although his people accept his wife, his advisor, Mahmed ben Mahed, does not. He wants to consolidate the power that other leaders in that area have, with the power Ali holds. He feels those leaders look upon Ali as a maverick, a man who could ally with western countries against them because he shares his bed with a westerner.”
“I’ve heard of Ali, but everything I read indicated that the leaders respect him and don’t seem opposed to working with him.” Tio wasn’t unaware of how things worked in that region, but nothing to this point indicated a problem for the sheik.
“Yes, they do. He’s a very charismatic person. He’s intelligent and diplomatic and he understands how to handle difficult situations well. If it weren’t for a sudden change in the sheik’s health, they would probably continue to work with him. According to news reports the sheik has pancreatic cancer and isn’t expected to live long. His condition has been followed by the press reports released by Mahed. That information alone is important. Usually when an important leader is sick with a lingering disease, it’s kept quiet. Mahed released the report without Ali’s go ahead. That indicates some intent by Mahed. Ali has been personally tutoring his son, Sahid, in the nuances of being a leader, hoping that he will be able to carry the title with minimal help from Mahed.”
“We were aware of this. I can’t remember how old the boy is, though.”
“Thirteen? His father expects him to run a sheikdom at thirteen?” Terry’s thoughts immediately went to Henry. They were the same age and there was no way Henry could manage the affairs of a kingdom, even a small one, at his age.
“I know it sounds ridiculous, but he’s been groomed from babyhood to become his father’s successor. Of course the sheik didn’t anticipate it being this early in his life, but the alternative is naming someone else in his place. This would remove him from the political line indefinitely. The only other option is to name Mahed as an interim ruler with the understanding that he would surrender control on the boy's eighteenth birthday.”
“I take it Ali doesn’t trust Mahed enough to do it?”
“No, and well he shouldn’t. Ali has suspected Mahed of undermining him to the other sheiks but doesn’t have proof enough to remove him as his supreme advisor. You see Mahed has a great deal of power and removing him could create far more problems than it solves. With the change in Ali’s health, Mahed has been pressing him to announce that Mahed will be named interim protector. Of course he keeps reassuring the sheik it is only for the good of the people.”
“If so, why are you supposed to kidnap and kill the kid?” Terry already drew his own conclusions but wanted verbal affirmation.
“Mahed was Ali’s father’s advisor. Before the father died, he implied that Mahed would become interim advisor for Ali. Ali was only sixteen but apparently, he convinced his father that no interim would be necessary. When the announcement came that Ali would succeed his father and Mahed would remain only as an advisor and not receive control, he was disappointed in the extreme. Fortunately, Ali’s father lived long enough for Ali to attend college in the states and return with a wife before he needed to assume control. Mahed hated Ali, but remained where he was, hoping sooner or later that he would have an opportunity to take control. Now it seems he may have that chance.”
“He has Ali’s son kidnapped, things go wrong, and the boy is killed. No suspicion falls on him and the power passes to him as long as he is given interim protector beforehand, correct?” Terry could see what a nice package that was.
“Yes. According to Broken Rose the announcement should come within the next two weeks and I was supposed to leave from the states by tomorrow.”
“I’m coming with you.”
“No, Terry! You can’t!” Rose didn’t want Terry involved in the scheme she had already begun to implement.
“Rose, I’m already involved…”
Before Terry could continue, Rose interrupted him.
“I’m already committed. I don’t want to carry out Broken Roses’ instructions, but I will not see Michael and my daughter slaughtered to save someone else. Especially since I can guarantee you Sahid will be murdered sooner or later anyway.”
“Sahid’s mother, Karen, is from a very influential family. Her father is mega millionaire, Andrew Sipes.”
“I know. The marriage was front page news for days.” Terry remembered reading about the Texas debutant and her engagement to a rich Saudi when he was in London on leave visiting Gwen. The marriage happened only two months later. He never read about Sahid’s birth a year later, since he had been on a covert mission oversees during that time.
“Karen’s father hates Ali. He wasn’t happy when Karen announced they were going to marry. He only dealt with Ali because of the oil he supplied his company. He feels mid-easterners are trash, unworthy of trust or friendship. He’s a greedy bigot who uses anyone he can to promote his own wealth. He doesn’t look on Sahid as his grandson, only as living proof of his daughter’s shameful behavior. He’s in league with Mahed and has helped him gather his own power in hopes that Ali will die and leave him in charge. He doesn’t trust or like Mahed, but he knows him. They each respect what the other can do for them.”
“So Sipes and Mahed are in this together?”
“It looks that way. The point is, I’m up against two very powerful men. If I don’t do what is required, they will make certain Michael and Mindy will die. If you come with me and things go wrong, you will, too. I don’t want anymore deaths on my hands.”
“What makes you think Broken Rose won’t do this again? You think once this is done they’ll leave you alone, never bother you and Michael or Mindy again?” Terry knew how blackmail worked. Once you gave in it never ended. That’s why his line of business was so lucrative. Kidnapping was nothing more than blackmail with a different name.
Rose didn’t answer his question; she just closed her eyes and laid her head back on the couch. “Rose, it won’t end there. They’ll know once this is done that all they have to do is threaten Michael and Mindy and you’ll do their bidding. Why did they want you to do this instead of doing it themselves?”
“As I told you before, Broken Rose was nearly caught before when we attempted a rescue of the girls that were incarcerated. I was the only one who wasn’t identified. In fact, no one knew I was even there except Michael. I left after the others and caught up with them just before the raid. As I said, I was hurt during the raid. When our transport made pickup on us I was taken to a hospital and checked in under an assumed name as an accident victim. The others left and were detained at the border. They had all come through customs together and were therefore suspect but since I came alone and was never seen with them I wasn’t considered as part of them. They were released, but have been banned from the region. When I say ‘region’ I mean in a dozen countries. If they enter again and are caught they will be considered insurgents and dealt with immediately. No arrest, no trial.”
“We have to stop Broken Rose. That’s the only way to help Sahid and the only way to keep you from being put in this position again.”
“What do you mean? We can’t stop them! I know what they are capable of. They’ll kill Michael and Mindy immediately if they think…”
“They won’t! Look, Rose, you know that T&D Enterprises holds the K&R contract for Ali al Bahran. It’s why you wanted my computer, isn’t it? We have information on the sheik that others don’t.”
Rose wouldn’t answer but Terry knew it was true. “We could kidnap Sahid and take him to a safe place, then start negotiations for his release. If I go as the specialist, I can control the speed of the transaction and buy time for Dino to find out where Broken Rose is holding Michael and Mindy. Once he finds them we can return Sahid and concentrate on catching Broken Rose.”
“You make it sound so easy.”
“No, not easy, but possible.”
For the first time since arriving in Mexico, Rose felt hope.
ON TO PART 4
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