The morning sun came peeking over the mountain as she took up her place on the little rock overlooking the compound. This morning was no different from the many others before it. Two months now she lay hidden waiting and watching.
Below her in the shadow-laden valley the occupant slowly began to stir. She searched frantically hoping that her parents would be brought out. It had been three days since she had seen them. Praying that they were unharmed she clenched her fist vowing that somehow, someway she would win them their freedom
Her father was an Electrical Engineer, her mom a doctor. They had come to Suriname because of a project her dad had been working on. It seemed such a long time ago.
Ramon and his men had come early that morning, pulling them from their beds. They didn't give a reason they just came and stole them away. Her father had been an Army Ranger and he fought like a demon, but there were just too many of them. They were thrown in the back of a big truck. For the rest of her left she would never forget the smell of moldy canvas as it permeated the air around her. When the guard had dropped the rear flap she felt like her life was ending as the darkness descended. She promised herself she wouldn't cry, not then not ever, unless they were free again.
The truck was moving up a long winding dirt road and it seemed to take forever, in reality it had only taken two hours. Her Dad lay on the bench. They had hit him so hard he was unconscious. Her mom sat beside him cradling his head in her lap. Her little brother sat beside her and she could feel him shivering in the crisp morning air. Wrapping her arms around him she hugged his tiny body tight.
Slowly her dad's eyes flicker open. He was trying hard to tell her something with his eyes but she just couldn't understand. Then he winked and she was ready. Even though his hands were bound, he leaped for the guard, yelling for Kim to run and take Timmy. Grabbing Timmy by the hand she rushed toward the back flap, but the guard was too quick and he grabbed Timmy's shirt jerking him out of her grasp. That's when her mom yelled "Go Kim – run." Timmy's eyes grew wide with fright as he watched his sister disappear under the flap.
Leaping from the truck Kim stumbled as her feet hit the ground. Falling forward she scrapes her knees badly before scrambling back to her feet. Fear filled her as she watched the truck pull away. Ignoring the pain in her knees she darts into the bushes running along the side of the road after the truck. Six hours later, exhausted she finally finds Ramon's stronghold. The compound sat in a little valley between two mountains hidden beneath the trees. At first glance it looked like a sleepy little village, but her eyes soon caught the guards patrolling the perimeter.
Climbing the mountain Kim watched and waited wondering how she was going to survive.
But her dad had taught her well, Kim found a small cave on the side of the mountain overlooking the valley. The forest was filled with berries and roots and a short distance away a clear sparking stream lay hidden. She had even forayed down into the compound late one night and pilfered several loaves of bread from the kitchen.
That's when she decided to do more than just survive, She wanted her family back, and she wanted to go home. Carefully picking her way down the mountain she went home.
It took her nearly a full day to reach her old home. Her dad kept a rifle in the house he had shown her years ago how to use it, praising her for being a quick learner and a good shot. Pulling up the floorboards in the basement she found the rifle and several boxes of ammo. Beneath it laid her dads bow. She wasn't very good with a bow but she vowed she was going to get better. In the kitchen she loaded as many supplies as she could find into bags, filling her pack with matches a first aid kit and her mom's medical bag. Strapping the sacks to her bicycle Kim avoided the main streets as she headed back into the mountains determined to do everything in her power to free her family.
If she went to the authorities she knew they would only ship her back home. Kim wasn't leaving without her family and somehow she was going to win them their freedom.
Silver Star Hotel
Hermosa Beach CA
Matt and his team sat around the bar, it was early evening and the crowd had yet to arrive. After a sip of beer, CJ commenced to tell another story, beside him his teammates groaned in agony.
"What," CJ says defensively?
Margo looks up, breaking into CJ monologue, a breathtaking smile on her lips. "Xavier, how wonderful to see you."
Xavier Trout stopped in his tracks a guarded look on his face as he looked into those beautiful eyes. Taking him by the arm she winks at him before they all head toward Matt's office.
The team range themselves around the room as Matt and Trout head for the desk.
"This is a rescue mission Matt, over the last six months at least ten American families including children have gone missing in Suriname. We suspect a man name Ramon Rivera. From all the reports he's building an army in the Santa Rita Mountains and plans on overtaking the fledgling Suriname government."
"I'd like you and your team to find them Matt and bring them home."
Put like that Matt knew he wouldn't refuse the mission. "Everyone comes home," he murmured to himself.
Opening the briefcase Trout lays several packets on the desk, explaining what each contained. "The American ambassador, is aware of your mission, he will be your contact should you need anything."
Less than twelve hours later the team was in the air. Chance in the pilot seat, Benny Ray beside him watching his every move.
Seeing his interest Chance asks, "Have you ever wanted to learn to fly, Benny Ray?"
Benny Ray laughed flashing Chance a wary grin, "I don't mind riding in these things, I enjoy jumping out of em, but learning how to fly one I don't know."
"Take hold of the wheel," Chance says grinning.
Wiping his sweaty palms on his pant legs, and gritting his teeth Benny Ray grabs hold of the wheel as Chance lets go. Pushing forward the little plane takes a dive. Grabbing the wheel Chance brings it back to level. "Easy Amigo," Chance says chucking, "she needs to be handled gently just like a woman, take it slow and easy."
"What in bloody tarnation…" CJ asks popping his head in. "Bloody hell," he says and turns back. Chance laughs again as they hear CJ say, "buckle up my friends, we are in for a wild ride, Mr. Benny Ray Riddle is driving."
"Flying CJ," Margo corrects.
"Sweetheart if he flies like he drives, I'm putting on my parachute too."
Chuckling, Matt and Margo return to their original activities, but Chance and Benny Ray can hear the click of seat belts echo through the plane. Turning they look at each other and laugh.
The ambassador was at the airport when the plane landed. The "special" diplomatic boxes were immediately offloaded into his suburban. The Suriname government though not aware of the exact nature of the mission had turned a blind eye to this particular plane and it's occupants.
The embassy was a large building in the center of the city. The ambassador made them comfortable offering them food and rooms in which to freshen up. After finishing breakfast the ambassador showed them to his office, introducing his aide. The ambassador was eager to discuss the plan, but Matt being as tactful as he could, informed the ambassador that the less he knew the better. Reluctantly the ambassador agreed.
Matt had called the team to his room, he knew they had about six hours before they had to move out and wanted them rested and alert. "Get some rest people, meet back here at 1630, we'll go over the plan one more time before we move out."
Matt had the maps and imagery laid out looking it over carefully before the rest of the team arrived. Imagery showed six building scattered in an upside down L shaped pattern. The area around the compound had been cleared to at least 100 ft. From there the ground rose sharply up into the mountains. Rocks, trees and shrubs would give them enough cover to observe the compound
Chance and CJ would be coming in from the southwest. CJ's orders were to take out the vehicles and place explosives in strategic positions along the road. Benny Ray would be set up on the side of the mountain, giving him a clear view overlooking the compound.
The team would spend at least one day watching the compound, but Trout's Intel via Infrared photos had been able to spot a mass of heat signatures in the building at the eastern tip of the L. Matt had made this his first target, hoping it was the holding area for the Americans.
Trout and the Ambassador had made trucks and Choppers available to evacuate the hostages. When Matt gave the word they would move in.
1330 hrs – same day
Something was wrong Ramon had men running everywhere. All of the prisoners had been herded back into the building and locked up. Kim could hear Ramon voice shouting orders. By early evening, his men were hidden around the compound's outer edge. Someone was coming and Ramon was ready. It scared the heck out of her, but she would be ready, maybe this was her chance to free her family.
Santa Rita Mountains
The team had made a HALO jump, landing almost a mile south of the compound and they were now on their way up toward the compound. Benny Ray was the first to get into position Matt, Margo soon after. Chance had estimated another ten minutes before they reached the western side of the compound.
Pulling on his night vision goggles Benny Ray scanned the compound. Swallowing hard he says, "Matt I've got hotspots all over the compound it's a trap." "Get the hell out of there!"
That's when all hell broke loose, Chance and CJ had stumbled across several of Ramon's men, setting off the alarm. Ramon had given orders that he wanted the intruders alive and Chance and CJ were fighting hard but badly outnumbered.
On the hill Benny Ray began to pick his targets, hoping he could distract enough of them so that the rest of the team could get out.
From his position on the rooftop Ramon pulled out his radio, seconds later the compound lights bathed the area in hazy shadows.
Matt and Margo had been following the tree line but Ramon had stationed men above them. From all around bodies erupted out of the ground and out of the trees, they were effectively surrounded with no place to go.
Benny Ray picked his targets, taking out as many men as he could find. But Ramon had made one slight miscalculation. Several weeks ago, he had built an ammunition storage chamber into the side of the mountain, but the face was made of wood. The chamber was to the right and below Benny Ray about 100 ft.
Many of Ramon men were young and inexperienced and as his fellow soldiers began to fall around him one young man panicked. Standing up he pounded the hillside with fire, back and forth his weapon on automatic. Seeing the bullets ping off the buildings wood face Ramon begins to scream hoping to distract the young soldier. Failing that Ramon raised his rifle and took aim. Squeezing the trigger he closed his eyes in pain, not wanting to see the young man's body snap forward as his bullet found its mark. But the young man had jerked the trigger of his own weapon as he fell pointing it directly at the ammunition bunker.
Benny Ray felt it before he heard it and ducked for cover. The explosion tore through the side of the mountain. Those unlucky enough to be in front of the building paid with their lives, the concussion tore through the compound knocking everyone off their feet, breaking every window in every building, sending shard of glass hundreds of feet into the air.
Kim sat on the little rock watching as the battle raged below her. One by one she saw Ramon's men begin to fall. She couldn't see where the shots were coming from, the marksmen was too well hidden on the side of the hill. Suddenly the night sky was torn apart as the ammunition exploded, fire erupted, shooting hundreds of feet into the air, it ripped through the valley and sped up the mountainside. She felt the wild rush of wind and a sudden blast of heat as the concussion pass over her. That's when she saw him, the explosion picked him up and tossed him into the air, it played with him like a puppet on a string, then tossed him away, he fell to the ground like a limp beaten rag doll.
It could only have been him firing into the compound. Picking herself up Kim raced down the hill. Ramon would not have him she vowed, if he were still alive she would find him and steal him away.
In the shadowy darkness she saw him get to his knees then fall back to the ground, seconds later he tried again, but this time he managed to stay on his knees. Sliding on the soft leaves she stops beside him.
Benny Ray was numb with shock. The explosion had torn through him, white-hot pain seared through his head as he tried to get up. Collapsing back to the ground as the dizziness washed over him. He was near unconscious as he struggled back up, he wasn't ready to accept defeat and give in, one thought remained in his numb mind the major and his team needed him. Pushing himself back to his knees he gasps as stars burst in front of his eyes. He neither felt nor heard Kim slide in beside him, his body moved automatically as she lifted him to his feet.
Looking around she knew there wasn't much time to get him away before Ramon would come looking. Picking up the broken rifle she tossed it into the bushes grabbing his arm she drapes it over her shoulder as she helps him to his feet. He was practically dead weight as they lumbered back up the hill. "Please," she whispered desperately, "you have to help me." He never looked up but began to move more quickly taking some of his weight off her shoulders.
The back way into the cave was a little bit longer but Kim knew Ramon's men would never find the trail. Stumbling through the cave opening he nearly took them both down. "Just a little bit farther," she whispered encouragingly."
She heard him grunt in pain as she helped him back to his feet. The cave had three chambers and they stumbled through to the second one where Kim had set up her cot. Easing him down she covered him with several blankets before racing back to sweep the trail clear of tracks.
Benny Ray was barely conscious, oblivious to everything around him except the agonizing pain encompassing his world.
Standing in the center of the compound, Ramon surveyed the damage. The sniper on the hill had killed six of his men the explosion took a dozen more. The four captured prisoners were kneeling ten feet away. American's!
Ramon had known that sooner or later someone would come looking for the people he had taken, but he didn't care, he needed them so he took them. His army was steadily growing and in another few months he would be able to put his plan into action.
Maybe he would have to move his operation sooner than he had anticipated.
Turning to face the prisoners he saw three men and a woman, they looked a little worse for wear caught so close to the explosion. They didn't look like mercenaries and his mind started whirling. His man at the embassy had not given him much information. All Ramon knew was the American ambassador was involved, which could mean the American government was interested in his activities. He would hold these people hostage and see if the American government was interested in getting them back. In due time he would question them, one of them had answers, he suspected it was the tall dark haired man.
Waving them away he spoke rapidly, telling his men to lock them up.
Matt, Margo, Chance and CJ were dragged and pushed through the compound toward the last building at the east end of the compound. Opening the door to a small cell, Ramon's men tossed them inside.
"What about Benny Ray," Margo whispered, "Did anyone see him."
"No," Matt says worried, if he had been caught in the explosion, there was no way to know how badly he was hurt.
"He was too close to the explosion," CJ said, "It would be a miracle if he survived."
With heavy hearts Matt and his team settle back against the cold concrete wall. He needed a plan, but at the moment they all needed rest.
Kim knew she had no choice but to leave him there even as badly injured as he was, but she had the feeling she needed to cover their tracks. Twenty minutes after the explosion Ramon had men in the hills – hunting. Finding the man's backpack she slings it over her shoulder as she heads back up the mountain. With Ramon's men in the woods she had to be more cautious than usual taking precious minutes longer than expected to get back to the cave.
He lay on his back his eyes closed his breathing was harsh and labored. His poor face was scratched and bleeding. Her mom had taught her quite a few things about first aid and she knew to check him for other injuries. His left shoulder was swollen and bruised but she gasped when she saw the piece of wood buried in his left leg just above the knee. It was hardly bleeding, but she didn't know if that was a good sign or bad.
She worked quickly and efficiently cleaning up his cuts and bruises knowing sooner or later she was going to have to the remove the piece of wood from his leg, she didn't have a clue as to what to do for his shoulder.
Cutting his pants leg open she poured a little bit of alcohol over the cut. She heard him groan but he didn't move. Hesitantly she got a grip on the wood and started to pull, he groaned again and tried to move away from the prying hand. Sitting on his legs Kim tried again. Wiggling the thing from side to side she finally pulled it free. It wasn't very big, but the sharp point had been driven about two inches into the muscle. Holding a pad over the wound she waited, hoping the bleeding would stop. Ten minutes later it was wrapped and bandaged. She desperately hoped he didn't move around too much and tear it open.
Looking up she saw his eyes on her, blue eyes that looked into her soul.
His voice cracked as he said, "Matt?" "I have to find them," he croaked as he tried to sit up. Only to fall back as his world spun crazily.
"We'll find them," she whispered encouragingly, "but first you need to get better."
Benny Ray didn't want to sleep. His team needed him, but the whirling in his head wouldn't let him go, it sucked him down into the darkness.
24 hours later
Trout was worried, Matt had not checked in. The Ambassador had called, saying the team had left and were in place but he hadn't heard from them since.
Something had gone wrong. If Matt had aborted the mission he would have notified the ambassador and called off the waiting choppers. Picking up the phone Trout dials, several rings later he hears a familiar voice. "Rico, Trout, I think Matt and his team have run into trouble."
"What kind of trouble," Rico asks.
"Hostage recovery," Trout answers, "and they haven't checked in. It's been over 24 hours. It's not like Matt."
"No Sir, it's not, what do you need me to do."
"Find them Rico, I'll help you with anything you need."
0700 hrs next day
They had been herded into the building Matt had guessed housed the prisoners. But he was surprised to see how well kept and orderly things were. The long hallway was brightly lit and Matt could make out at least six doors lining each side. The cell they were in was fairly large with four cots resting against the back wall and bars across the front. A separate room off to the side held a sink and toilet.
The guards came and went providing food and water, but Matt knew sooner or later Ramon was going to want answers. During the intervening hours he heard voices up and down the hallway and knew the other prisoners were here.
The rest had done them good, and unless they thought about Benny Ray their spirits remained high. He didn't know how, but he was going to get them out of here.
Hearing the clink of keys in the door Matt steeled himself for the coming interview. Ramon and six of him men stood outside the little cell his eyes assessed the four people in front of him.
"You," he said pointing to Matt "will come with me!"
As the other jump to their feet Matt waves them back. So far Ramon had pretty much left them alone and Matt didn't want to push their luck. If he went willingly he knew the other would be left alone at least for the moment.
Walking through the cell door several men grab Matt by the arms pulling them behind his back as they fasten a pair of handcuffs to his wrists. He winks at Margo as he walks away seeing the concern written clearly in her eyes.
The bright sunlight hurt n his eyes as he stepped out into the compound, squinting he can see that work was already in progress replacing the windows. A few minutes later he's sitting in a small, sparsely furnished room with the six guards stationed around him. In front of him Ramon sits drumming his fingers on the desk. "I am not a fanatic Mr. … Ramon says waiting!
"Smith, John Smith," Matt replies calmly.
"Have it your way Mr. Smith," Ramon replies his face impassive. "I am a soldier. You think because I have taken these people from their home and made them work for me that I am some kind of monster do you not? Well you are wrong Mr. Smith. I cannot afford to pay for their services, but I need their help. I look around at my county and see the children starving in the streets, no food to feed them, our water supply contaminated. I see death and disease everywhere. I have to change what is happening to my country. I want to build a better world for my people, unlike the pigs who currently govern this country. They are greedy, petulant children who have gained power and forgotten the promises they made to the people."
"Now you want to stop me and I cannot allow that. I want to know who you work for Mr. Smith and sooner or later you will tell me."
Matt looks at Ramon through slitted eyes; regardless of his motives kidnapping could never be tolerated. Raising he chin Matt says, "I won't tell you anything!"
Nodding, two men pick Matt up out of the chair. A third man stands in front of him, his fist wrapped around a steel bar. Bracing for the blow Matt would have fallen had the two guards beside him not held him upright. Several more punishing blows rained down on him until he was gasping for breath.
"Will you talk to me now Mr. Smith?"
Matt shook his head in denial unable to form the words.
"I'm sorry Mr. Smith I had hoped you would be more cooperative. We will continue this later. Standing up Ramon nods and walks out of the room. Matt groaned as the men around him moved in. Blow upon blow beat at him until he could stand it no longer. His body sagged to the ground as he sinks into unconsciousness.
Nearly an hour later, Matt regained consciousness slowly, Ramon sat at the desk watching him.
"Please Mr. Smith," Ramon pleaded. "I hate what you are making me do, but I need answers. The lives of my people depend on it."
Barely able to shake his head, Matt denies Ramon.
Visibly upset, Ramon nods to his men. Closing his eyes he can hear the sounds of fist hitting vulnerable flesh. Picking up his glass he wearily throws it across the room watching as it shatters into a thousand pieces. "Enough," he cries, "Take him back with the others."
Dragging him from the room the guards throw him back into the cell with the others removing his cuffs.
Carefully Margo turns him on his back. Searching and finding cuts and bruises on his face and body, his breathing labored and a small trickle of blood oozed from a split lip. Opening his shirt she can see the dark bruises along his sides, but most of them were superficial.
Margo hoped Trout had an ace or two up his sleeve. They were long past their check in point. "Benny Ray," she whispered, "where are you."
It had been a little over 24 hrs since the battle in the compound. She tried several times to wake him during the day and night giving him water and making sure he was still breathing. He didn't say anything, just drank and went back to sleep. She didn't know what else to do.
It was nearing 4 am when Kim woke. Turning to look at him she found those piercing blue eyes assessing her.
"Who," Benny Ray rasped wearily?
"Kim," she whispered gently. "Can I get you anything?"
Benny Ray tried to clear the foggy haze clouding his mind. At least for now the fireworks in his head had subsided. In the dim light of the cave he could barely make out the shadowy figure of the girl sitting beside him. She couldn't have been more than sixteen he thought. Looking up at the rock walls he wondered where he was, he couldn't remember how he got there. Turning his head, he groaned, gritting his teeth as the dizziness and nausea washed over him. "That was stupid," he mumbled to himself.
"Benny Ray," he whispered raising his hand, "Glad to meet ya ma'am."
"And you." Tinkling laughter filled the tiny room as she gently shook his outstretched hand.
"Where am I," he whispered quietly.
"A cave in the mountains above Rivera's compound," I answered.
"Why," he asked his voice cracking?"
"Why am I here," Kim asked questioningly.
Barely hearing his whispered yes, Kim answered slowly, "When Ramon kidnapped my parents I escaped. I have been here ever since waiting hoping that something would happen and we could all go home – together – it's been two months, two days and ten hours," she added quietly."
"What happen to my friends," he asked.
"Ramon knew you and the others were coming he was waiting, somehow the ammo building exploded, you kinda got caught up in it. The others were captured."
"Did you see the others," he asked.
Turning away Kim didn't want him to see the sorrow in my eyes. "I saw them, Ramon has them locked up in one of his prison's."
"How many," he asked.
"Four," I answered, "but Ramon took the tall dark haired man out this morning." Kim put her hand on his chest knowing he was going to try and get up. Knowing he wouldn't make it two feet, but she could see he was going to try. "He's still alive," Kim," whispered desperately, "at the moment he's a little worse for wear but alive. Ramon had his goons beat him up. The other are ok, Ramon only seemed interested in the tall man."
"I need to find my pack," he mumbled.
"I have it, I found it yesterday, what do you need?" I could see that he was tiring fast, his eyes were filled with the pain.
"Small pocket, inside there's a phone."
"Stay put and I'll get it," she told him shaking a finger at him to stay put.
"Yes, Ma'am," he said smiling wryly.
Rummaging through the pack she finds the phone hidden in a small pocket near the bottom. Pulling it out she hold it up triumphantly.
"Help me up," he whispered.
Kim gave him a dirty look but helped him sit up. He face turned white and pasty and she thought he was going to pass out but he held on. Moving to sit behind him she took his full weight against her. He took a deep shuddering breath before leaning his head on her shoulder whispering the number for her to dial.
Dialing the number Kim handed him the phone.
"Trout," he said.
"Benny Ray," I heard the voice ask in surprise, "where's Matt?
"Captured, Rivera knew we were coming, had men waiting."
"That's not possible," I heard the voice say. "Only two people were aware of the plan the ambassador and I."
"No Trout," he said faintly remembering the other man at the embassy, "There were three, the ambassadors aide."
"I've got Rico on the way," Trout stated, "He should be there in fifteen hours. Is there anything else I can do?
"No," Benny Ray whispered exhausted."
"Bring them home, Mr. Riddle."
"Roger that, Sir," he murmured before hanging up. To himself he said, "Your damn straight I'm bringing 'em home Sir."
Benny Ray closed his eyes taking a deep breath before dialing again. The call took a long time to connect but finally a familiar voice answers.
"Compadre," Benny Ray said."
"Benny Ray, damn good to hear your voice Amigo, what the hell is going on, Trout called, Drummer and I are on a plane now heading your way."
"Mission went south Rico, could use your help."
"Hey Amigo you ok," Kim heard the voice ask, "you don't sound too good."
"NO," Kim yelled, at the same time Benny Ray said, "Yes."
Kim could see him scowling at her and she wrinkled her nose in disgust.
Reaching into his pack he pulled out a map spreading in on the cot beside him. Rico I need you to meet me at the following grid 21NXE16577357."
"Roger we should be there by 2230 hrs tonight. Who's with you Amigo?"
"A friend," he whispered, "Thanks, Rico."
"Anytime Amigo, see you soon," Rico answered.
Kim slipped out from behind him easing him back down to the bed, he didn't protest closing his eyes exhausted.
"You're not going to make it," she told him. "That spot you picked out is over thirty minutes from here, your too weak and dizzy, you'll pass out before you get to the end of the tunnel."
That's when he angrily turned those icy blue eyes on her, as he struggled to prop himself up on his elbows. She shivered, but didn't back down. "I have to make it," he growled!
"You won't make it," she whispered pleadingly, "But I will." "My dad taught me how to read a map, beside I know this terrain a lot better than you do."
Benny Ray hesitated; he knew she was right he could barely see much less walk but it didn't make him feel any better sending her out there alone but Matt and the team needed help. He couldn't rest knowing they were in the hands of a fanatic and kidnapper. Reluctantly he nodded gritting his teeth as pain in his head sent him spinning.
He woke abruptly, hearing the sliding home of a rifle bolt. A few feet away he watched through hooded eyes as Kim cleaned and re-loaded her rifle. Pulling a bow from its resting place on the wall she slid several arrows into a pack at her feet. She moved quickly and efficiently with the fluid grace of a ballet dancer.
"Can you use that," Benny Ray asked quietly?
Turning a startled gaze to the man behind her she looked closely. Lines of pain were etched across his brow and the exhausted look in those ghostly eyes told her he had a long way to go before he was even partially recovered, but he held himself tightly in check. His hands were wrapped around the side of the cot his knuckles white as he sat facing her.
"I can usually hit what I aim at," she smiled serenely. In reality the past several months had given her the chance to practice and improve her skills. At first she could barely hit the broad side of a barn, but with diligence and many hours of practice, she could pull the arrow, knock it, draw and fire with deadly accuracy within seconds. Hunting for food had been a challenge, a rifle made too much noise especially with Rivera so close. But the bow had become her favorite weapon and she was proud of her skills.
For the first time Benny Ray got a clear look at the girl standing in front of him. Quickly revising his first hazy impression. The young lady standing in front of him was young in years but her eyes told him a story of hardship, sorrow and depravation, he could also see the strength hidden deep within her and he smiled grimly. Rivera had a lot to answer for, she should have been home enjoying movies, ice cream and the company of her friends, but with the taking of her parents she had grown up too quickly learning how to survive, feed and fend for herself.
The silence stretched awkwardly between them. Kim could see the look in his eyes change from questioning tenderness to bullheaded determination. He wanted to continue the discussion of her going. Why couldn't he see that it was their only choice!
That's when she looked a little deeper and saw the worry and concern written in those incredible eyes. He was trying to protect her! Amazed at the discovery she smiled a sweet, gentle smile that rung his heart.
Kneeling beside him her voice filled with determination she said, "I want Rivera as much as you do, maybe even more, he's stolen two months of my life and I want my family back. I'm not going to let anything get in my way. Her eyes shoot daggers at him as she angrily whispers. "And that includes you!"
She neither flinched nor backed down as he stared at her. Seconds pass and his eyes suddenly soften as he hands her the phone. "Two men, Rico and Drummer are their names will meet you at the rendezvous point. If they don't show up within an hour of the set time you can try calling. If they don't answer call Xavier Trout it's in the phone."
"I'll bring them back, I promise," she whispered crossing her heart. Kissing him gently on the cheek she springs to her feet, slinging her pack and the rifle over her shoulder before she grabs the bow and heads for the back entrance. Behind her Benny Ray got to his feet leaning heavily against the wall as he followed her out.
"If you're not back in two hours," he stated, "I'm coming after you."
Shaking her head she smiles before taking off down the trail.
Slowly Benny Ray made his way back to the cot, the fireworks in his head had returned, he didn't want to sleep, but he had little choice in the matter.
Rico and Drummer cautiously entered the area. Rico knew Benny Ray hadn't sounded too good on the phone, if he was seriously injured he could be lying in the dark somewhere unconscious.
Kim hiding in the bushes saw them moving up the trail. She had to know for sure who they really were before she would take them back to the cave.
Stopping beside a large tree Rico pulled his night vision goggles from his pack when Drummer made a hissing noise from behind him.
"Who are you," a feminine voice asked?
Standing to the side, partially hidden behind a large tree a young girl stood poised a drawn bow in her hand the arrow pointed directly at Drummer's heart.
"I asked you a question?"
"Dammit Rico, tell her something before she skewers me with that thing," Drummer growled.
Stepping from the tree she lowers the bow saying, "I'm Kim, Benny Ray sent me – sort of," this last whispered quietly.
"Rico," he whispered, "and this is Drummer."
Without waiting Kim turned away saying, "Follow me."
Shrugging they followed. Rico had to wonder how badly Benny Ray was hurt if he had sent this girl out to meet them. It wasn't like him, wasn't like the sniper at all!
Moving quickly and quietly through the underbrush Kim takes them by the shortest route back to the cave.
Stepping into the cave she whisper "Benny Ray?" Waiting as he steps out of the side cavern a Glock in his hand held in front of him. Blinking owlishly he see only Rico and Drummer standing behind her, Benny Ray lowers his guard.
Stepping around Kim Rico moved quickly toward the sagging figure of the sniper. Without a word he grabs him around the waist, heading back into the small cavern and lays him back down on the slim cot. Pulling the lantern from the corner he turns it up so he can see the face of his friend.
"What the hell happened to you," Rico queries concerned, as he begins to pull first-aid supplies from his pack.
"Zigged when I should a zagged," is Benny Ray's chuckling answer.
Behind Rico, Drummer asks, "Who's the little Amazon?"
"Kim", Benny Ray answers slowly, "her parents are down in Rivera's compound. She been up here for two months trying to figure out how to get her them out."
Quickly and efficiently Rico probes Benny Ray for injuries, hearing Benny Ray hiss as he checks his left shoulder. It only takes him a second to pop the shoulder back into place, but the effort cost Benny Ray. His face white and drawn his breathing heavy he closes his eyes as he waits for the throbbing pain in his shoulder to subside. Checking the wound on his leg, Rico is happy to see it clean and healing well under Kim's makeshift bandage.
Rico was most concerned about the concussion, Benny Ray's eyes were dilated, and he was running a temp of 103. "Benny Ray," he whispers waiting as his eyes flicker open. Holding up his hand with three fingers extended he asks, "How many fingers?"
Benny Ray squints, a slow grin spreads across his face as he says "Eighteen"
"Wrong Jarhead," Drummer mumbled grinning, "Twenty-Seven."
Standing outside the little cavern, Kim listens to the three men's banter. Hope rose in her that soon her parents' ordeal would be over and they could all go home.
Feeling the prick of a needle in his hand, Benny Ray's eyes open, shooting daggers at Rico as he sets up an IV. Growling low in his throat he protests. "We need a plan to get the Major out of there Rico and I can't do it like this."
"Look Amigo," Rico snaps, "You're dehydrated, and you're running a fever, Drummer and I will scout the area tomorrow. We can't do anything in the daylight, it's going to have to wait until tomorrow night anyway, and we're not going in there blind. So shut up and be a good boy or you won't get your lollipop.
Sighing deeply, Benny Ray was worried about Matt and told Rico so. "Kim said Rivera took Matt out yesterday, they beat him pretty bad, Rico. We need to get him out of there."
"I know, Benny Ray," he said reassuringly, "and we will, but we need to do it right!"
Santa Rita Mountains
Checking on Benny Ray, Rico was glad to see that he was sleeping. His color had returned and his fever had broken. But Rico knew he was going to have a hard time keeping the sniper out of the coming confrontation. Truthfully he knew there was no way in hell he was going to do it unless he tied him up. The worse part was if they were going to succeed in getting Matt and the team out, they badly needed the sniper unique skills. He also knew Benny Ray would put his life on the line for any one of them, no matter how badly he was hurting!
Kim stood at the front entrance to the cave, bow in hand waiting for Rico and Drummer. She knew they were going to object if she went with them but just like Benny Ray she wasn't going to give them the choice.
Drummer rolled his eyes when he saw her standing there, but Rico just eyed her thoughtfully.
"I know the terrain," she said defensively, "I can show you all the cracks and crevices, Rivera will never know your coming!"
The trio moved silently through the forest to a point North of the compound it gave them a good overall view of Rivera's defenses. Heavily armed men patrolled the area at different intervals. But Kim had found a weakness a large wash running through the back of the compound that came within thirty feet of the prison building. The wash was heavily covered in brush and tall grasses and would provide plenty of cover. Only one man stood guard on the door and the roving guards made infrequent passes.
The dizziness had disappeared but the pounding headache remained. It was nearing noon as Benny Ray lay beneath the cover of a large tree watching the coming and goings in the compound below. His heart had done a small dance as he watched Margo being paraded across the clearing, then he saw her look up, he shivered as his eyes locked on hers. "Not Margo," he's screamed silently.
Ramon Rivera stood gazing solemnly into the cell its four occupants fairly bristled with hatred. "Mr. Smith" was lying on his cot, propped up on one elbow. He had brought more men this time and at his nod they moved into the cell. With guns drawn eight men moved in, with two on each of the prisoners. Two guards lifted Margo from the cot beside Matt. Pandemonium broke out as the trio began hurling invectives and fists at the guards. But it did them no good - they could not break free, as Margo was dragged from the cell.
Ramon watched in sorrow knowing that even if he promised not to hurt her they wouldn't believe him. He abhorred rape! Setting Margo on her feet, their arms entwined with hers, the guards march her from the building. Margo calmed slightly as she looked into Rivera's eyes, she had seen his sorrow as he looked into the cell and it confused her.
Shielding her eyes from the bright sunlight Margo followed Rivera across the compound. Her eyes scanned the area and she looked upward into the trees. A familiar tingle course through her but she didn't know why. Shaking with the feeling she followed Rivera into another building.
Margo was surprised at the room she was taken to. It was sparsely furnished but comfortable and clean with a threadbare carpet spread across the rough planked floor. The room held a large blue couch and several matching chairs. On the little coffee table sat a platter of sandwiches and drinks. Now she was really confused. Rivera wasn't like any terrorist she had ever encountered - so far she amended. Her eyes sparkled as she thought about this new kind of torture technique.
"Ramon Rivera," he said offering her his hand to shake.
Margo hesitated slightly before taking it. His grip was warm and solid but it didn't linger which surprised her again, she had expected some kind of seduction routine.
"Please, take a seat," he offered pointing toward he couch.
"I'm not going to hurt you, Miss…"
"Smith," she offered, grinning, as his rumbling laughter filled the room.
"You must be related to your dark haired friend Mr. Smith," he chuckled.
Rivera kept her entertained for nearly an hour, opening himself to her enquiries. Readily answering her probing question. She understood what drove the man, but argued his kidnapping and hostage taking of innocent people. Their easy banter escalated into a heated debate.
Abruptly Ramon stood reaching down to lift her to her feet. His eyes lock with hers and she wasn't surprised to see the ardent flame kindled in their dark depths.
"You are a very beautiful and desirable woman, Ms. Smith," he murmurs silkily placing a warm kiss on her upturned wrist. "I could wish that things had been different between us."
Margo was baffled by Ramon's strange behavior. "I too," she whispered. She had enjoyed spending time with him. He seemed genuinely concerned about the suffering of his countrymen, but the man standing in front of her was made up of contradictions and very complex, one minute solicitous of her every need the next a fanatic about his cause. Not unwillingly she was drawn to him, his barely controlled strength and the intensity of his gaze reminded her too well of Benny Ray. Snatching herself back to reality she dropped her hand, smiling sadly as she walked to the door.
Still sitting beneath the tree Benny Ray snapped to attention as the door was pulled open. He breathed a sigh of relief as he watched Margo step out, apparently unharmed. If he had laid one finger on her, Benny Ray vowed the man would pay with his life! But the look Margo threw over her shoulder at the man standing framed in the doorway told Benny Ray another story.
The trio had returned to find Benny Ray awake and alert though Rico could still see the clouds of pain reflected in his eyes.
They sat in the largest of the three caverns eating and discussing the plan. "Thanks to our little Amazon here," Drummer stated, "this might be easier than it looks.
"The building, which houses the prisoners, has two doors, one on each end. The top floor is the sleeping quarters for the compounds laborers. Kim says they are usually exhausted and rarely leave their rooms after dark."
"Chiming in," Kim says, "They only keep one guard on the doors with roving guards checking the perimeter. Usually the guard starts to nod off around midnight."
Benny Ray, you will provide cover from here," Drummer states, "pointing to a small ridge about ten feet above the wash. When the prisoners' start filtering out it will be your job to lead them down the wash toward the rendezvous point. The guard standing at the door is your first priority."
"No, you can't kill him," Kim cries.
"Do you want your parents out of there," Drummer shoots back, "he has to be eliminated!"
"Please," Kim pleads, "he didn't do anything, he doesn't deserve to die!"
Laying his hand on her shoulder, Benny Ray turns her toward him. "I won't promise anything Kim, but I'll try. You have to understand, someone is going to get hurt whether we want it to happen or not, it's the only way your parents are going to be free."
Nodding in mute agreement, Kim sits back wiping tears from her flushed cheeks.
The plan is fairly simple, but there were too many unknowns for Benny Ray to be satisfied. Cell keys, had to be found, there were probably guards inside as well as out and that many people were bound to make a racket. But they also knew it was now or never.
They had at least ten hours before they could put the plan into action. Drummer took first watch as Rico ordered the stubborn sniper back to bed.
It was a little after midnight as Kim wandered around the cave hopefully for the last time. She watched as Benny Ray quietly cleaned and prepped his rifle. His body radiated confidence, his eyes bright with barely suppressed energy. Rico and Drummer were discussing the plans for entry into the building one final time. A call to Trout had placed several choppers on alert they would be waiting at the rendezvous point at the designated time.
"You Ok," Benny Ray asked her quietly.
She wanted to giggle hysterically, but looking into the face of the man sitting in front of her Kim slowly brought her emotions under control. His quiet, unfaltering, determination somehow calmed her fears.
"I am now," she whispers.
Laying the rifle down he leans over and hugs her, whispering "We'll bring them home Kim, I promise!"
Thirty minutes later the four of them are in position. Watching from his vantage point Benny Ray sees Kim take up her position in the wash behind a large bush, the bow held tightly in her left hand. She can see the door and the rear of the compound, it was her job to notify Rico if anyone came from behind the building. Drummer and Rico move slightly closer beneath the brush near the top of the wash.
With the word "Now" from Drummer, Benny Ray takes aim and fires. The bullet creases the young man's brow above his right temple. Silently he slides to the ground still breathing. Moving quickly into position Rico checks the downed guard for a pulse, finding one he moves the young man out of the way before trying the door, surprised to find it unlocked. Opening it he steps inside, the hallway runs for about fifty feet straight ahead. Stepping inside Rico and Drummer move down the long hallway until they find the barred cells. Inside they can barely make out the sounds of breathing and the four cots against the back wall.
"Major," Rico whispers.
"Rico," Matt's tired voice answers in surprise.
"Do you know where they keep the keys," Rico asks?
"To your right around the corner."
Taking the keys from the wall Rico quickly opens the door asking, "Everyone ok!"
"I've been better," Matt says, "but I'll make it." Handing them weapons, Rico says, "Chance, grab the Major, Margo, CJ start unlocking the cells, try and keep them as quiet as possible."
The question in all they minds was how the hell Rico and Drummer had gotten there, but time was of the essence and they held their questions until later. Margo was the first one out the door Matt and Chance close behind. The prisoners, understanding the need for silence had donned their clothing as quickly as possible in relative silence.
From his vantage point Benny Ray watched as a door across the compound opened and Rivera stepped out onto the veranda. Raising the rifle he placed the crosshairs on the man's chest.
Ramon's head snapped around as he saw the prisoners jump into the wash. Coming out of the building Margo turned looking over her shoulder. Her eyes sought his and she stopped half way across the clearing. She stood waiting for him to set off the alarm raising her hand when he didn't.
Ramon was tired; maybe the woman was right, if he pleaded with the American government, they might assist him in his struggle to save his country and his people. His eyes sought hers across the distance and he nodded.
Turning away Margo glanced over her shoulder once more before sliding out of sight into the wash. Following Margo the prisoners quickly hurried down the gully.
Benny Ray wondered at the exchange between Margo and Rivera, had she fallen for the guy. He was amazed when Rivera didn't raise the alarm chuckling at her persuasive powers in turning him. Picking himself up Benny Ray limped and slid down into the wash. His sudden appearance surprised Margo and she swung quickly toward him on guard.
"Benny Ray," she whispered before throwing herself into his arms. He staggered beneath her weight almost going down, but hugged her tight non-the-less.
"Easy Sweet Pea," he whispered laughingly in her ear, "a slight breeze would blow me away at this point."
"You don't know how glad I am to see you," she whispered as the tears flowed down her beautiful face.
"Well, if I didn't before," he said wiping a tear from her cheek, "I do now!"
"I thought your were dead," she cried, "How?"
"I found a Hidden Treasure in those mountains," Benny Ray said solemnly thinking of Kim. "Come," he whispered.
Taking his arm she grabs him around the waist as they head down the wash toward the rendezvous point.
From her position beside the wash, Kim's heart was in her throat waiting for her family to come through the door.
Timmy stepped out first his happy face shining in the moonlight, close behind him came her mom, and a few seconds later her dad. Kim wanted to jump for joy and run to them but Benny Ray had made her understand that their lives were dependent upon her. No matter what, she had to stay in place until Rico and Drummer came out of the building and everyone was safely in the wash.
All of the prisoners were safe as Rico closely followed by Drummer step out of the building. Kim squeaked in horror as one of the roving guards stepped around the end of the building. "Someone's coming," she said into the comlink, "Hurry," she whispered, "Hurry!"
But he was coming to fast, she watched as he raised his weapon aiming for Drummer's back. Turning Drummer saw his danger but new he wouldn't be able to get out of the way in time.
Standing up Kim pulled the bow back and aimed, the arrow whistled through the air catching the man in the right shoulder driving him backward. He stumbled going down hard, smacking his head against the side of the building.
Drummer's look of surprise was comical as he stared at his little Amazon. Walking up to her he wraps his burly arm around her as they head for the gully.
Three days later
They sat around the ops room in comfortable silence. Matt and Benny Ray had spent a couple of days in the hospital at Coronado getting some much need rest. Even Drummer had stuck around to make sure the dynamic duo was out of danger.
Benny Ray ducked his head a slow flush creeping into his cheeks, embarrassed by all the attention his teammates were lavishing on him. They had worried and fretted over him and he realized he meant as much to them as they did to him.
Benny Ray looked quizzically at the lady sitting beside him. Margo turned her head seeing the question written in his eyes. "What," she asked amused.
Forming his words carefully Benny Ray says, "I saw you and Rivera that night! So what did you do to the guy? Why didn't he try to stop us?
Her searching gaze locked with his, "I don't know why he let us go, I really don't. We just talked and argued Benny Ray, mostly about his cause. I found a lonely, incredibly intelligent, very likeable man out there."
"Remind me never to get into an argument with you," he laughed pulling her close.
From across the room Drummer yells, "Hey marine, did you know your little Amazon saved my life?
"Sorry to hear that," he rumbled.
Shooting the sniper a dirty look Drummer continues. "Used that bow of hers and took out one of the guards. Have you heard from her?"
"Yup," Benny Ray smiled angelically. Trying hard to annoy the man.
"Well," Drummer remarked, "what did she have to say."
"Said if you ever called her an Amazon again she was going to stick one of those arrows in your butt?"
Laughing at the expression on Drummers face, Matt breaks in. "It looks like Rivera may have won after all. Kim's mom and dad have volunteered to help Rivera and several of the other kidnapped Americans are going back as well. They were impressed with Rivera's projects. Disagreed with his methods, but saw the good the man was trying to do. His plan was to build power plants and water treatment facilities. It seems Margo made quite an impression on him. He's here in the states at the moment trying to drum up Human Rights assistance from Uncle Sam. The ambassador has decided to help him. And by the way, the ambassadors' aid has been fired.End of Line