Nathan wanted to take Emma to the airport, but she’d insisted on driving herself. He’d had to settle, a word he hated, but he had non-the-less since it was a ritual with her. For the first time in years, he felt aimless. He wandered the grounds, his thoughts on Emma and what they were doing. Family orientated shenanigans he was sure if Emma was involved. He pictured her outside, racing around, covering her siblings with leaves. Or perhaps involved in a game of tag or hide and seek. She’d mentioned the possibilities in their phone conversation late last night. He was sure she had a plan in place for just those delightful fun-filled antics.
Heading into his studio, thoughts of Emma filling his mind, he began sketching an outline and it flowed. His hand was virtually flying across the canvas. Before long he was painting vibrant colours, a garden, and Emma. Time stood still as he splashed paint on the canvas as tenderness filled his eyes and a smile of satisfaction played on his lips. He painted her in the colourful dress she’d worn when she’d arrived at his home that first time. Her captivating eyes, that luscious smile along with a suggestion of sensuality, and the hint of demure she was so unaware of in her eyes.
Hours flew by and it was dark by the time he’d finished. Standing back, he grinned. Yes, this was Emma, his Emma in all her glory.
Jim knocked on the door and entered. “Nathan, there’s a call from Jester.” Wandering closer, he stared at the painting. “You did her justice, Nathan, she’s beautiful.”
“Yes, Jim, she is. Perfection.”
Wiping the paint from his hands, his eyes never leaving her face, he asked, “Jester you say? What the hell does he want? You’d think even he would take Thanksgiving off.”
“He didn’t say. I didn’t ask. I didn’t detect any angst, though.”
“Good, perhaps all he’s calling for, is to wish us a Happy Thanksgiving then.”
Nathan gave his hands a final swipe before pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. “Jester, what the hell man, it’s Thanksgiving, surely even you take a day off once in a while.”
“Normally, I would be at home with my family. Instead, I’m here, in need of your assistance.”
“I’ll fly out immediately,” quickly checking his watch said, “I should arrive in an hour forty-five, alright?”
“Thanks, Nathan. Appreciate it.”
“Jim, get my bag, will you? Seems we have work to do.”
“Want me to call the others?”
“No, not yet. If we don’t have to interrupt them, we won’t. Depends on the nature of the beast.”
Nathan finished cleaning up and quickly changed into fresh clothes before heading out to his waiting car, Jim at the wheel.
His jet was fueled and ready when he arrived at his private airstrip. Hustling across the tarmac, he took the steps two at a time, Jim right behind him.
Upon arrival at Jester’s home, he entered and headed for the den. “Ok, I’m here, Jester. What’s so all-fired important it couldn’t wait until tomorrow?”
Before speaking, Jester clicked the remote in his hand. Pictures of a pretty young girl appeared. She’d be 15 or 16 Nathan decided. “Ok, whose this?”
“Her name is Marian McKenzie. Her father’s a big deal in renewable energy. He’s about to pass a ground-breaking piece of legislature that will no doubt change the course of history. Essentially, moving us from the fuel age into environmentally friendly options. It seems there are some who wish to derail the plan before it even has a hearing.”
“Am I correct in assuming it involves the daughter?”
“You’d be on the nose.”
“Someone showed up at her school yesterday, she’d been abducted. We have several leads, but we require an ace to go in and get her. It’s touchy. We needed the best.”
“Where is she being held?”
“A farm in Maryland. Dilapidated and owned by a relative of this man.” He clicked and added a picture of a seedy looking character, with evil written all over him. “This is?”
“A man by the name of Alfred Janks. Related to this man, Harrison Gelder.”
“What’s the connection?”
“Harrison Gelder is going to lose his shirt should the bill pass. He’ll stop at nothing to attain his goal. Which is, stopping the passing of the bill.”
“Nicer word than I had in mind.”
“What’s the set up on the farm?”
“It’s 20 acres, with plenty of undergrowth, trees, a barn toward the back of the property and where we suspect the girl is being held.”
“Bring up the schematics so I can see the layout.” Nathan planted his feet and searched the area highlighted.
“How many men involved, any idea?”
“Pretty low key operation far as we can tell. They obviously wanted to keep this under wraps without causing a fuss.”
“My gear ready?”
“Yep, you interested?”
“You really have to ask me that?” Nathan’s brow furrowed.
“No, not really, but I wanted you to have an option. You are the best, Nathan, I called you first.”
Nathan headed out to the waiting vehicle and once inside began changing. “You prepared, Jim?”
“Certainly. What’s the drill?”
“Little girl, held by a seedy character on twenty acres of land.” Nathan quickly filled Jim in on all the details he had and prepared a plan of action.
It was a cloudless night and the moon shone brightly necessitating extreme caution. Nathan moved slowly, low to the ground, Jim right beside him. He had to get in without alarming anyone, especially the little girl who must be terrified. They were fifty feet from the barn when a man appeared. He’d been inside the barn and after taking a look around, walked to the end of the barn, closest to their location and he unzipped and relieved himself. Nathan gestured and Jim went left. He made a crackling sound, and the man’s head turned as he stared into the pitch black surrounding them. Without hesitation, he walked toward Jim’s location. Jim hunkered down and waiting. Nathan swung into action racing across the open space as light-footed as a gazelle grabbing the man by the neck and twisting. He fell silently to the ground. Jim raced to his side and dragged the man into the underbrush.
Nathan moved toward the door. He’d nearly reached the opening when a voice just inside yelled, “How long’s it take you, Franko, I gotta go. Hurry the hell up will ya?”
Nathan had an advantage, the door opened from the far right to the left and obscured his position giving him a fraction of a second on the guy. “Hey, didn’t you hear me?” the unknown miscreant bellowed as he opened the door. Nathan was instantly on him and a short scuffle ensued before he dropped laying on his side facing away from Nathan. Jim grabbed the man under the arms and dragged him around the corner.
Nathan peered inside. He didn’t notice anyone else, there was no other sound emanating from within. His gaze searching left and right, he finally spotted the girl, tied to a chair duct tape wrapped tightly around her feet, her hands behind her back and her mouth covered. He squatted low and indicated he was going right, and he wanted Jim to go left. Carefully, soundlessly they moved inching their way across the dirt floor. The stench was unbearable and made his eyes sting. Down the far left of the barn stood a gin mill. Along the right, a table with paraphernalia for bottling. They continued inching forward and the girl spotted him. He was near enough now to see her eyes, they were filled with stark terror and she shook her head, looking left then back at him.
Jim was moving down the far side, and noted the interaction. He pulled his knife out and began moving. He was within feet of another man who sat sprawled in a chair, half asleep. Soundlessly he moved stealthfully forward. Nathan was feet away from the girl, stood and ran toward her, placing his body between her and the shocked man. As he rose, rifle in hand, prepared to shoot, he was felled by Jim who turned him away from the girl, shielding her from the man’s lifeless body.
Nathan asked, “There anybody else here? You expecting anyone else to show up?” Nathan carefully cut the tape between her feet and then her hands. She shook her head and then he gently removed the tape from her mouth.
“No, at least I’ve only seen two men.” Her voice sounded gravelly.
“You had anything to drink or eat?”
“I had some water while it was light, but nothing since.”
Handing her a capped bottle he admonished, “Drink this, it’s water, but sip it, carefully. Can’t have you overdoing it at the moment. ” She complied gratefully.
“You here to take me to my father?”
“Yes, little one, we are. Come on, can you stand?”
“Yeah, I think so.” She attempted to stand on wobbly legs, her arms hanging limply at her side.
“Come on then, hop up on my back, I’m going to carry you out. If anything goes wrong, you run straight ahead and don’t look back.”
“I don’t want to. I want to stay with you.”
“We’re ok, little one, we’re ok. Just do what I ask, alright?”
Fortunately, they didn’t encounter any others as they made their way back to the waiting vehicles, but that didn’t mean it was over yet. Once they had her safely home, more security would have to be set in motion to protect the family. Probably at an undisclosed location for the time being.
When he returned home, feelings of relief and satisfaction washed over Nathan. This was a good one. He sat down with Jim and a drink each and debriefed. “Good work, Nathan.”
“It went well, we were lucky.”