"And Then They Came..." ( Chapter XXIII )

Chapter XXIII

Lucas fired at the enemy, invisible in the darkness except for the flashes from the muzzles of their rifles.

Next to him, Danny Satter yelled “Incoming!’ and a wall next to them exploded, covering both with dust and small fragments of concrete.

“Are you alright?” he asked Danny, except it was Jeannie, and they were trapped in a round hall at the end of a dark tunnel. The entrance to the room was barred by large, round barrels, but already many of them were disintegrating under the continuous barrage of fire by El Alacrán and his men.

Then the firing abruptly stopped, and El Alacrán shouted in a mocking, disdainful tone, “Hey, Alfaro! You still alive?”

“As far as I know,” he responded, provoking a cackle of pure mirth from the terrorist.

“Not for long!” El Alacrán promised gleefully.

Lucas braced for the shooting to renew, but instead a strange buzzing sound made him look sideways, and for the first time he noticed there was a wasps’ nest on one of the barrels. A particularly large wasp hovered next to his ear, making him wince.

Then he woke up, and saw that his cell phone—which he had placed in its silent mode for the night—was buzzing insistently. He picked it up, and saw it was a call from Archie, and that the time was 1:18 A.M.

Still half asleep, he answered immediately, fearing that something had happened to Michelle.

“Lucas, is it you?” Archie asked in an urgent voice.

“It’s me,” Lucas responded quietly, trying not to wake up Jeannie.

He felt her stir, but she said nothing.

“Is Michelle__”

“She’s fine,” Archie responded before his brother-in-law could finish his thought.

Lucas closed his eyes in relief.

“But listen, I got a call from El Chino about ten minutes ago. Actually, earlier, but I had left my cell phone in my living room, so I didn’t see his message until about ten minutes ago, when I went to the kitchen to get some water. One of his people saw the man in the photo that the Governor gave you.”

Lucas opened his eyes. “Go ahead,” he whispered.

“The man got into a red Honda CRV, license plate JFF-167. He drove off into the El Yunque-Río Grande area.”

“He is certain of that?”

“Absolutely certain, El Chino says.”

Lucas considered the information without saying anything.

“Hello, are you still there?” Archie asked after a long silence.

“They must be renting a house near El Yunque,” Lucas said, more to himself than to his redheaded in-law. “It narrows our search, but it’s still a wide area. Any idea how we can locate it?”

“I can search for the license plate in the police data base, but I suspect we won’t find anything.”

As the official liaison person between the police and the press, Archie had various contacts within the Department that gave him access to most of the police data and files.

“Any other ideas?”

“Let me give it some thought. We’ll talk tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay.”

Lucas ended the call, and carefully placed his phone back on his night table. He was fully awake now.

“What did Archie want?” Jeannie asked, startling him.

“How did you know it was Archie?” Lucas responded.

“The tone of his voice is unmistakable.” Jeannie rolled on her left side and leaned her head on her hand, looking at Lucas. “I may not have understood what he said, but I could certainly recognize his voice. What did he say?”

Lucas hesitated, then decided to tell her the truth. Jeannie listened quietly, most of her face hidden in the room’s darkness.

When he had finished, she asked him, “What do you plan to do?”

Lucas considered her question for a few seconds.

“I’m not sure,” he said. “I want to find them as quickly as we can.”

“And then?”

Again, Lucas hesitated. “I don’t know.”

Neither spoke for a while.

“I agree with you and Archie that you will probably not find anything from the license plate number,” she said at last. “But there may be another way to look for it. You know Doel?”

“Doel?

“Michelle’s boss, the news director of the WKPA News team,” she reminded him.“WKPA has a helicopter__”

“And some drones!” Lucas interrupted her enthusiastically. “Jeannie, you are a genius! The CRV is a red vehicle. It should be easy to spot from the air, unless it’s parked inside a garage. I know Doel will do anything for the story…and for Michelle. I’ll phone him tomorrow, early in the morning.”

“Good,” Jeannie said, turning and snuggling into Lucas. “Now let’s sleep a little, okay?”

And almost immediately, she fell asleep, her light snores giving her away.

Sleep, however, eluded Lucas, Jeannie’s question about what he would do if they found the terrorists still resonating in his head.

What would he do? Notify the police? Would he go after them?

During the rest of the night he considered the problem, weighing the pros and the cons of every alternative. It took him until nearly five in the morning to make up his mind.

And then, he fell asleep.

* * *

Flanigan awoke at 6:00 A.M. with the metallic noise of the garage door as it rolled upwards.

He was still tied up to the same chair where they had held him before, except that the two guards had further bound his hands and arms to a metal tube located on the side opposite to where the tools were deposited, to stop him from further wandering through the garage. The thick tube, apparently used to hold weights, or a bike, or God knew what, was solidly attached to the concrete, so that Flanigan had not been able to budge it.

Not that he was in any condition to do so. Most of his face was puffed up and bloody, his left eye swollen shut, and he suspected that some of his ribs were broken, from the intense pain he experienced every time he tried to breathe. The two guards had kicked him to within an inch of his life as he lay on the floor, unable to cover his face and body.

He had not been fed, given water, or allowed to use a toilet, and had had to pee in his pants, smelling of urine, blood, and sweat. It told him that they did not expect him to live long.

He had to conserve his energy for the last showdown, he told himself. Even though they had bound his hands and arms with even more duct tape, they had not noticed the half broken tape at the back of his ankles, a cut that he managed to expand during the night until his ankles were nearly free.

Four men now walked into the garage and approached him.

Fillo, the thin man with wide black hair and the two neck tattoos, sniffed the air with disgust.

“Oh man, do you stink!” he said in an exaggerated voice, pinching his scarred nose.

All of the other men laughed, with the exception of a bald man with a long beard, who took a quick look at the prisoner—as if to ascertain that he was still alive—and said, “Stop wasting time. Let’s take him to the van.”

Fillo stood up at attention and dramatically saluted the other man, saying, “Yes, sir, Da’ud, sir!”

His response prompted the other men to laugh again. One of them was the taller, heavier guard who, with Fillo, had beaten up Flanigan the previous afternoon. The other was the youth Flanigan had pinned under a table in the restaurant before he had been tasered.

He felt the tape binding him to the metal tube give way, and then two of the men grabbed the chair by its front legs, and the other two held him by the back.

Grunting, they raised him and began to carry him out of the garage.

“Jesus! This is some heavy mother fucker!” Flanigan heard the thin tattoed man mutter, provoking more laughter.

The men carried their prisoner to the back of a white van, and unceremoniously dumped the chair on its metal floor. Then the young terrorist climbed in and sat next to him.

“Enjoy your last ride,” Fillo told the American with a smile, closing its twin doors from the outside.

* * *

BULLETIN

Hurricane Fay Advisory Number 7

NWS National Hurricane Center Miami FL

8:00 AM AST (12:00 UTC )

SUMMARY OF WATCHES AND WARNINGS IN EFFECT:

A Hurricane Warning is in effect for...

* Guadeloupe

* Dominica

* St. Kitts, Nevis, and Montserrat

A Tropical Storm Warning is in effect for...

* Martinique

* Antigua and Barbuda

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Lucia

A Hurricane Watch is in effect for...

* U.S. Virgin Islands

* British Virgin Islands

* Saba and St. Eustatius

* St. Maarten

* St. Martin and St. Barthelemy

* Anguilla

DISCUSSION AND 48-HOUR OUTLOOK

------------------------------

At 500 AM AST (900 UTC), the center of Hurricane Fay was located

by an Air Force Reserve reconnaissance aircraft near latitude 13.8

North, longitude 57.5 West. Fay is moving toward the

west-northwest near 15 mph (24 km/h), and this motion with a

decrease in forward speed is expected through the next two days. On the

forecast track, the center of Fay will move across the Leeward

Islands tonight and then over the extreme northeastern

Caribbean Sea tomorrow night.

Reconnaissance data indicate that maximum sustained winds have

increased to near 85 mph (138 km/h) with higher gusts. Additional

strengthening is forecast during the next 48 hours, and Fay could

be near major hurricane intensity when it moves across the Leeward

Islands.

Hurricane-force winds continue to extend outward up to 15 miles (30 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 105

miles (169 km).

The minimum central pressure measured by the aircraft is 982 mb

(29.00 inches).

(Chapter XXIV will be posted on Monday, July 13)

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