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December 11. 2000
I stood on the plateau facing the weather, letting the biting wind blow stinging specks of ice and snow into my face. I needed the pain at that moment…I needed something to remind me I was still alive.
I had just gotten off of the phone with the Russian man, and had been told that we were being held for an additional ransom. When that ransom had been paid, they would release us and reunite us with Abby.
The only problem was…I didn’t believe him.
They had already lied once when they hadn’t released the girl for the money we brought on the plane.
Now we were supposed to hang tight until someone else ponied up even more money to be rescued?
“Shit!” I shouted frustratingly as I turned to make my way back to the shack. I had to check on Preacher, as well as see if I could find a flashlight.
The man had also said that the phone was blocked to any other numbers than his, but invited me to call him anytime! He had imparted that knowledge with a hearty laugh of course.
Before the man who called himself Ivan had hung up however, he had added that he had stashed some supplies for us to use one mile to the west.
Of course, he had supplemented, if you don’t claim them soon, they will be buried under a meter of snow.
Entering the shack, I went immediately to Preacher to check on him.
He looked like hell!
Pale as the moon, some of the sweat on his face was starting to freeze. My heart pounded in my chest at the sight of him. He had lost a lot of blood, a reality that I had apparently stopped by the looks of his bandage, but what else could I do?
Rubbing my hand on my forehead, I tried searching my memory for any useful information that I might have picked up over the years.
He needed more warmth.
I moved across the room and picked up the portable heater, moving it closer to his location. I also knew I needed to get him off of the cold, concrete floor.
One would think there would be some sort of bed available in a building like this, but I couldn’t find any. Maybe they had brought cots with them when they came and took them back with them when they left.
There were however, plenty of what we used to call space blankets…thin but supposedly highly insulated sheets made of a stiff plastic material.
Suddenly I remembered something I had seen outside. Rushing back out into the frigid blackness, I waited a moment to let my eyes acclimate to the darkness. Luckily, the stars overhead were enough to give off a small glow to the area.
Scanning the vicinity, my eyes finally caught sight of what I was after.
Frozen together, I had to kick them apart, freeing four of them before I started dragging them back to the building. Once I had them inside I started stacking them next to Preacher. Stacking two close to his head, I placed the other two by his feet. Finding four more blankets, I laid them over the pallets.
Now for the hard part!
“Hey buddy, I’m going to try and move you onto these pallets,” I mumbled to Preacher, “Hopefully without hurting you.”
Straddling his head and on my knees, I snaked my arms around his shoulders and through his arm pits…and heaved.
Barely moving his weight off of the floor, I slid him over a few inches only before I had to let him down.
I barely had the edge of one shoulder on the pallet!
Taking a short break, I reassessed.
I hated to do it, but he was too heavy for me to lift…I was going to have to roll him onto the pallets.
Kneeling in the middle of the pallet/bed, I reached forward and grabbed his belt in one hand and his good arm in the other.
Heaving back for all I was worth, we both grunted with the effort until I had his right hip and shoulder firmly on the edge of the pallet.
Moving to his legs, I lifted both of them onto the pallet as far as I could get them before moving back to the middle of the bed.
One more good pull should do it…maybe…
Clasping his belt in my left hand, I opted for his coat instead of his arm for my right so that I wouldn’t pull on his wound.
Letting out a loud yell, I pulled for all I was worth and finally got him rolled onto the pallets. Quickly checking his bandage, I couldn’t see where any fresh blood had erupted through the bandage. The extreme cold was probably helping him in that respect.
Catching my breath, I put some more blankets on top of him before going to look for a flashlight. Finding two that worked, I moved back toward Preacher, readying myself to go get the supplies.
Then another thought hit me…a very important thought.
Preacher had lost a lot of blood…he would need liquid to replenish his body.
Moving back into the laboratory area, I found the closest thing to a pan that we had…a large Pyrex beaker.
Heading outside again, I packed as much of the looser snow into the beaker that I could and brought it back into the hut. Setting it beside the portable stove, I hoped that it would melt before I got back. If not I would set it on top of the stove then.
Kneeling next to Preacher, I looked down on my unconscious friend, the guilt at getting him into this tugging at my soul.
“I’m sorry I got you into this old buddy,” I whispered, pulling his blankets over his head to conserve heat. “I’ll do my best to get you out of here.”
With that, I picked up my flashlights and made my way outside. Not knowing where in the world I really was, I looked to the sky, soon finding the little dipper…and then the North Star.
If I’m looking at the North Star, west should be to my left…I think.
Sighing in frustration, I turned toward what I assumed was west and looked ahead.
There was nothing to focus on!
There were no trees or mountains to use as guides…nothing to focus on so I could keep a straight path.
In the throes of certain failure, I still took that first step…and then the next.
In the end, it wouldn’t matter if I failed…we were dead if I couldn’t find the supplies and get them back here…and soon!
December 11, 2000
“You shot her?” Michael asked unbelievingly. “You hardly ever get in the field Patrick…how was it that you took the shot?”
McGruder shrugged, “I was down a man already, with only one operative left. I went in to help with the comms and to coordinate the evac. She surprised us while we were waiting for the chopper…shot my man between the eyes…we had rescued a young hostage…her gun was aimed at him…”
“I reacted,” he finally continued after a few moments.
“And you said you shot her in the head?”
McGruder shrugged again. “That I hit her in the head I have no doubt…that it was a kill shot I am now understandably unsure of.”
“Tell me about her,” Michael urged, his intense blue eyes wide with interest, “This woman you thought you ended.”
McGruder took a long sip of coffee before answering, seeming to gather the information in his mind that he had long ago filed away.
“Noon Byrk,” he finally uttered. “The coldest, most heartless woman I have ever had the misfortune to go up against.”
Sighing loudly, McGruder sat back in his seat to continue, resigned now to telling the whole story.
Sweden, she was…or is of mixed
origins…both Scandinavian and Asian. The combination gives her an odd…yet
sexually appealing look that she would use to her advantage in her dealings
“And her dealings involved?” Michael questioned.
McGruder glanced at Michael, seeming somewhat surprised that he had spoken.
“Art theft…originally. Her standard modus operandi was to get close to rich men with big collections. Once ensconced in the household, she would study the ins and outs of the security…biding her time until she could make off with as many of the pieces as she felt she could move quickly.”
“But that changed?”
McGruder nodded, “Indeed. One day when she left with her paintings, she took one of the owner’s children with her.”
McGruder looked up at Michael again. “She found it was much easier to claim a ransom than to fence the art.”
Michael Montana nodded, his mind studying the situation.
“Where were you…when this happened?”
McGruder thought for a moment before answering. “Along the northeast tip of
to the .” village of
“Where were your operatives when they were taken?” Michael continued.
“Unknown where they were actually taken, but they were on their way to
“Right down the road from that part of
if memory serves,” Michael continued, deep in thought. “It’s another fact that
conveniently points toward your chosen suspect.”
McGruder nodded. “There is one more fact that you should know about her.”
“What’s that?” Michael questioned distractedly.
“She almost always gets the ransom she demands…but historically…it’s only fifty/fifty whether you ever see the hostages again…alive anyway.”
December 11, 2000
When Raven and Snake entered the kitchen an hour later, they found a concerned looking May with the phone to her ear as she wrote on a notepad.
“When?” she questioned before noting something on the pad.
“That’s good…thank you for calling Patrick…PLEASE keep me informed.”
Hanging up the phone with trembling hands, May turned to face her friends.
“They’ve been abducted,” she announced in a shaky voice, “They are mounting a rescue operation…”
Snake was instantly beside her as her legs started to give out.
“I’m here May,” Snake assured her, grasping her arm as Raven pulled one of the kitchen chairs behind her.
“Let her down in the chair,” Raven ordered softly as she grabbed the other arm to help ease her down.
Immediately Raven was on her knees in front of her friend, pulling her into a hug.
“I’ll get some water,” Snake uttered as he turned toward the sink.
Pulling away from May again, Raven caught her eye. “Tell us what you know May…we’re here to help.”
Nodding, May took a deep breath before speaking.
“Patrick called…someone over there has captured Gabe…captured them. They said they would release Gabe and the others as soon as Patrick presents himself to them…he is to give his life for theirs.”
“Son of a bitch,” Snake whispered unbelievingly.
Raven was also shaken up, pulling another kitchen chair over in front of May and setting down in it.
“He was very honest with me,” May continued then, “He said he will offer himself up to them…but he doesn’t believe they will honor their word. He has a plan though…another operative…a friend of his…”
May’s eyes moved to the floor as a sob escaped her lips.
Grasping May’s hand in hers, Raven tried to console her.
“It sounds like they are doing everything they can May…”
May’s eyes rose to meet her friend’s.
“I talked him into this,” she barely whispered, “If I hadn’t opened my mouth…”
“You can’t think like that!” Raven was on her knees again, gently holding May’s chin, their eyes locked on each other. “You know Gabe…You know he couldn’t pass up something like this! None of them could!”
May shook her head weakly. “I know you’re right…I know it. I just…I feel so helpless!”
“Did he say anything else May,” Snake asked quietly, “any other details?”
May shrugged, “Only that they are leaving tonight…and that he thinks it is someone from his past that has them…said she used to be an art thief…”
“Did he mention a name?” Snake interrupted immediately.
Nodding, May lifted the notepad from her lap. “A woman…he called her Noon…”
“Noon Byrk?” Snake gasped, “Is that the name he mentioned?”
“Shit!” Snake breathed before looking back at the women. “I need to use your phone.”
Not waiting for an answer, he strode across the kitchen and lifted the receiver, immediately dialing in a number.
“Snake?” Raven asked as he dialed.
Glancing over at her momentarily, his eyes then moved back to the buttons as he finished punching in the number.
“As you can imagine,” he started as he held the receiver to his ear, “The world of art thievery is rather small…smaller than you would expect.”
A voice on the line claimed his attention. “Is he in?”
Nodding at the reply, he moved his attention back to Raven and May.
“I have contacts all over the world…I’m pretty sure I can find someone that knows where she is.”
Raven smiled, “That’s fabulous!”
“Yeah, I’ll wait,” Snake uttered into the phone distractedly, his eyes moving back to the women in front of him.
“Finding her isn’t our biggest problem,” he said then, “In fact, that may be relatively simple.”
Raven caught the ominous undertone in his voice, glancing momentarily to May before turning back to him.
“What is our biggest problem then Snake?”
Averting his eyes to the floor for a few seconds, he finally raised them to confront the two women before him.
“Our biggest problem is that Noon Byrk is the most ruthless bitch I’ve ever come across.”
Copyright 2015 J.T. Lewis
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