Part Y, in a continuing story from A to Z [link to the beginning]
Zoey vaulted over the edge and scrambled down the cliff, reaching Anton within seconds.
“Damn you, Ferraro, don’t be dead. I won’t forgive you.”
She checked his pulse and it was strong, he was still breathing. But he was out cold and his shoulder was bleeding. She felt around the back of his head and it was bloody, so he had a head wound. She hoped it was from the fall and not a bullet.
She pulled his shirt away from the shoulder wound. It was high, the bullet hadn’t hit bone.
She touched her comm unit, “Man down. Target taken. All report.” There was no reply. She repeated her command. Nothing. The thing was dead. She realized she hadn’t heard any chatter since before the scene in the library. Damn it. The kidnappers must be using jammers.
She hadn’t taken the time to get a replacement phone from Ferraro and was now regretting her oversight. She’d bet money those things couldn’t be jammed. She had to go after Sam, now, but couldn’t just leave Ferraro unconscious and oozing blood all over the beach. No telling when the next high tide might rush in.
She needed help. Even as she had the thought, she felt a hard shape in his shirt pocket. His phone.
Great, except it wasn’t programmed to work for her. She pulled it out anyway and brushed sand off the face. It was slightly larger than the one he’d given her, but also lighter weight. Then she frowned. There was a slight dent in the screen. From a bullet? If so, it had saved his life. What was the thing made of anyway?
She was absently running her finger over the dent, her mind racing through options, when the screen suddenly lit up. Was it a glitch of being hit or was it working?
“Call Benton,” she said. It chimed.
He answered. “Yes, sir.”
“It’s Zoey. Ferraro’s been shot. He’s unconscious, on the beach. They took Sam and I’m going after them.”
The man didn’t even blink. “Go. On my way.”
Zoey bent down and pressed a quick kiss to Ferraro’s forehead. “Don’t you dare die before I get back.” And then she ran to the beach shed.
She hoped someone had retrieved the jet ski and put it back inside. Apparently they had, but they’d also locked the door. And Zoey had no idea where the key was– probably at the bottom of the cove after her misadventure with the squid. She could break the window, but it was too small for even a child.
“Damn it,” she said, slamming her fist into the door. “I need a key.”
She heard a chime and looked down at the phone she still held. There was a small golden bar of light extending from one end, maybe an inch long. She stared at it. “No. There’s no way.” But she grabbed the lock with one hand and pushed the bar of light into it like a key.
The lock clicked and fell open. Either Ferraro’s phone was malfunctioning or– “Are you programmed to accept my commands?” she asked, not expecting an answer.
A message popped up on the screen: Yes, Ms. Prescott.
Well then. “We’re going to have a talk about this later, Ferraro,” she muttered under her breath, strapping his phone to her arm.
She pulled the jet ski over the sand and into the water, checking the charge meter as she raced over the cove in the dark. Just under twenty percent. She hoped it was enough.
She’d been up close with the huge white rocks and knew the jet ski wasn’t going to fit between them. They were more like a solid wall under the surface, no breaks. She could see the dark outline of a ship further out. She needed to get to it, fast, and it was too far from the rocks to swim.
The tide was high enough that the powerful motorized raft had skimmed between the tops of two boulders. She didn’t think the ski had that kind of power. She was going to have to jump and hope the landing didn’t destroy the machine. Or kill her.
She calculated the angle and velocity as she raced in a tight circle, creating a wake. Then she took a deep breath and headed full speed straight at the space between two rocks, lifting up with all her strength at the last minute, using the water as a springboard.
She cleared the rocks and shoved the ski to one side just before she hit the water, hard. Losing teeth on impact with the handlebars was not in her plan. She swam over and got back on the ski, ignoring the ache in her shoulder, racing toward the ship that was still anchored a ways out.
They’d had plenty of time to make way. Why weren’t they moving? Was there a problem with Sam? She’d been limp in the raft, so they’d either drugged her or knocked her out. Had they miscalculated and hurt her badly?
She came alongside and secured the ski as best she could, using a mooring line that hadn’t been coiled properly. Sloppy, she thought. These people might be deadly, but they were careless.
She quietly climbed over the rail and hid in shadows, listening to a small group of heavily armed men gathered several yards away, engaged in a heated argument.
“I say we take the easy money, same as always.”
“The client promised more, we just need to hide the girl. Couple weeks, he said.”
“I don’t trust him. Don’t seem right in the head.”
“Cap’n come around yet?” a third voice asked.
“Still out cold. That bastard Ferraro throws a mean punch.”
“I still say we sell her like the others. The sister offered a bonus.”
“Cap’n won’t like it. He made a deal with the brother,” said the third man. He almost sounded reasonable.
“Money’s money. I’ll take your share, you don’t want it.”
“His share of nothin’ ain’t going to buy you a single pint, idiot.”
Zoey clenched her fists, still furious about the cousins’ treachery. She hoped they killed each other and saved everyone the trouble.
It sounded like the argument wasn’t ending any time soon. She needed to find Sam and get her off the boat. She made her way across the deck and to the hatch, figuring the girl was being held below.
She paused at the bottom of the ladder, not sure where to start. It wasn’t a huge ship, but time was a factor. She heard a faint tapping and smiled. Morse code. Zoey was going to have to reconsider her stance that Sam spent too much time with lessons.
Sam had been dumped in a cramped storage room, gagged, her hands tied. Her eyes flashed with rage until she realized who had entered the space. Zoey saw the bruise and swore softly, but gave thanks the girl hadn’t been drugged.
Zoey quickly freed her, whispering to her to keep quiet.
Sam let out a small sob. “Zoey, I’m so scared. They were t-talking about s-selling me.”
“Shhh, Sam, it’s okay. I’m going to get you out of here.”
They made their way back on deck and Zoey lifted Sam over the rail and helped her onto the jet ski.
“Sam, you know this thing can only carry one of us.”
“I’ve never ridden one, Zoey.”
“It’s easy, I’ll show you. I want you to steer toward the big white rocks, okay? Wait there for help.” Zoey was certain her team wasn’t far behind at this point.
“What about you?” Sam’s voice was low but frantic.
“Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. You can do this.”
Sam threw her arms around Zoey in a rather desperate hug. “You be careful,” she said, her voice all quavery.
“I always am,” Zoey reassured her. “Now get moving, nice and easy. You’ve got this.”
Zoey stood there watching for a few seconds, making sure Sam was underway. Then she climbed back up over the rail. She was going to sink this heap and every bastard on it.
The crew was still arguing, passing around a bottle of whisky now. A few were sounding a bit subdued, but a couple of them were getting more belligerent. She heard the voice of the third guy, trying to convince them to wait for the captain to come around.
Zoey made her way below, looking for anything she could use as fuel. She found what she was looking for in the hold. And then some.
Holy shit, she thought, staring at the crate full of automatic weapons she’d just opened. She opened another crate full of military grade explosives. This sure complicated things. Who were these guys?
If she had her team, they’d apprehend these idiots and recover the cargo. But she was on her own and didn’t have time for that. She unstrapped the phone from her arm. Best she could do was record the evidence before she destroyed it.
“Camera,” she whispered. The phone obliged and she took several shots. She hit “send,” hoping the images were going somewhere she could find them later.
Now she needed a detonator. She hadn’t seen any in the crates. Either these guys were too smart to store them with the explosives or too stupid to know how the stuff worked. Or their supplier was too clever to give them both. She’d bet on the latter.
She’d exhausted the possibilities and was thinking she’d have to load a couple of the guns and shoot her way out. Those odds weren’t in her favour, but it was looking like her only choice.
“I don’t suppose you have a handy detonator in there,” she murmured to the phone, only half kidding.
The screen lit up and a message appeared: You mean like this?
It flashed again and an image popped up. Zoey just stared, not sure at first she was really seeing what she thought she was seeing. How was this even possible? She touched the screen and two small metal prongs extended from the base of the phone, the screen changing to show a timing device.
“Ferraro, I’m falling hard for you here,” she whispered, and got to work. She paused just before she set the timer, realizing this option would destroy the phone.
Another message flashed, briefly, as if it read her mind: It’s just a phone. I have more.
Then the screen went back to showing the timer. Zoey gave a soft laugh and set it for two minutes, figuring that gave her enough time to get off the boat and away from the blast. Her finger was poised over the final screen to arm it when she heard a soft voice from behind her.
“Appreciate if you’d hold off on that, brat.”
She was so startled, her finger touched the screen.
“Alex,” she hissed, “what the hell are you doing?”
“Cleaning up a little inventory problem.”
“You’re on a fucking mission here?” she said, furious. “And you didn’t think I needed to know?”
“Classified,” he said, giving her a familiar cocky grin.
She swore under her breath. “I am going to kick your ass, sailor.”
“Did you just arm that thing?”
She nodded and looked at the screen. “One minute, fifty.”
“Plenty of time.”
“Did your guys get Sam?”
“Jake and Marcus have her.” He held up one hand, listening to an earpiece. “Roger that. Got a change of plans here, hoss. Ninety seconds and this thing blows. Get everyone clear in sixty. That means you too, Zach. Out.”
He reached over and ruffled her hair. She was going to kill him and then kick his ass.
“C’mon, brat,” he said. “Let’s get out of here.”
They came up on deck to the remnants of a fistfight. The bad guys were losing, but there were a few stragglers. Alex shoved a life jacket at her. “Put this on and stay behind me.”
“Oh please,” she mumbled, shrugging into it. Zoey turned in time to see bad guy number three coming up behind her brother. She laid him out with a kick behind the knees and had his combat knife in her hand before the guy knew what hit him.
“Jesus, Zoey,” said Alex, shaking his head. “He’s one of mine.”
The man levered up off the deck into a fighting stance and growled.
“Farley, you hit my sister, you’re a dead man. Time to go.”
Zoey grinned and tossed the knife back to Farley and the three of them took off, side by side, and went over the rail at a dead run.
She felt the first bullet hit the back of the life jacket. No problem, it hit at an angle and missed her. The second one grazed the back of her thigh and stung like a son of a bitch. The third hit her left biceps. That was going to be a problem.
She heard a stream of vicious curses from the men on either side of her just before they all hit the water. She let the momentum of the dive carry her a good distance and surfaced to the sight of flashlight beams searching the water, hard male voices calling her name. She gave a sharp whistle and, when the beams hit her, pointed at the boat and then her wrist. The count she’d been keeping in her head was ticking down.
She resumed swimming, hard and fast, away from the boat. Saw her brother’s team doing the same. She was tiring too quickly, slowing down, and knew she was losing blood. Damn it. She wasn’t far enough away.
She executed a shallow dive, fighting the life jacket’s buoyancy, and kept swimming. The blast came exactly when she knew it would, muffled through the water. She felt debris rain down around her and swam harder, holding her breath.
The next time she surfaced, she was fading fast. She paused, glanced back at the glowing wreckage and, in spite of her injuries, felt a huge rush of satisfaction wash over her. It was done.
All the bad guys had been exposed and defeated. Sam was safe. Anton was alive, she could feel it. Her brothers had backed her up, just like they’d been doing since the day the Prescotts took her in.
“Mission accomplished,” she said softly.
She drifted in and out of consciousness, bobbing in the waves, weightless and detached. She felt the warm glow of sea glass on her chest and heard the slow flapping of massive wings. She smiled as the magnificent dragon swooped down, claws extended, and then felt herself being plucked from the sea and soaring through the air.
She came to again on the hard black sand beach, people crowded around. She searched for the one face she wanted, needed to see. She had to tell him.
“Ms. Prescott. I would be most grateful, in future, if you would take care to avoid all these little problems.”
Oh, that wonderful voice.
“No more problems, Anton,” she managed, her voice weak. “Just an answer. Yes.”
He lifted her gently, cradling her in his strong arms, his mouth close to her ear. His quietly fervent words for her alone. “With you, Zoey love, it’s always been yes.”
And then there was nothing but total blackness.
Y is for Yes