Johnny didn’t take his eyes off the local Tanzanian kid and his grandfather, who Max was questioning in Swahili. They sat in a quiet corner as the rest of the task force watched surreptitiously from a distance.
If this didn’t go anywhere, Johnny would lose it. With no other leads to rely on, this little boy was their only hope. The child answered with firm replies as the grandfather patted his shoulder.
Max finally stood and walked over.
“It looks like a legit lead. There’s a derelict airstrip, five clicks west of here. They live nearby; even though his grandfather has warned him against it, the kid likes to play in the abandoned hangars on occasion. He stopped by on his way home from the store and saw a light aircraft landing on the runway. He also saw five men loading the plane with their human cargo.” Max turned to the ambassador and Johnny. “Two males and one female hostage. The child remembers Lizette Steyn’s hair.
Huge fists clutched handfuls of sand as Johnny howled. Hearing her sudden screams, which followed him down the path as they’d carried him away, had Johnny fighting every one of the assholes. He’d tried to punch, kick and bite his way back to her. Now he lay curled on the ground. The pain was suffocating in its intensity as his brothers-in-arms sheltered him in a wary circle. Johnny’s heart felt like a flayed—yet still beating—pulp in his aching chest. Slater’s blurry boots registered in his peripheral vision. A sentinel standing guard over his broken teammate. Fuck broken; pulverized was the word. Johnny couldn’t imagine physically getting to his feet, never mind finding the strength to call her family. To tell them she was gone. His Lizbug was gone. He’d failed her. Johnny rocked against the white-hot pain. Hands squeezed his shoulder. His numb brain focused instead on the night, groping for sanity. The wind whispered through crisp leaves. A hyena barked in
MIT fucking one. Hidden in Lizzy’s message to the team.Aside from selecting Ivan’s song, Johnny picked up on her constant emphasis and subtle play on the word one in her goodbye speech. Lizzy changed up the words to send her message and Donnie was the one to fit the pieces together.“Listen to what Lizzy’s saying—‘I’m the one. I choose me…. And tell Jay Jay, he’s always been the ones. This song is for him. The one I’ve chosen for him.’ The word one is emphasized everywhere in her speech.” Donnie leaned forward. “Johnny, remember, we spoke about the teams with her, at dinner that night. We called them the ‘Ones,’ and mentioned that MIT1 works out of Lagos. Lizzy has visited Nigeria. She knows where she is.”Slater played devil’s advocate. “What if Lizzy was just really out of it and confused her words?
MIT fucking one. Hidden in Lizzy’s message to the team. Aside from selecting Ivan’s song, Johnny picked up on her constant emphasis and subtle play on the word one in her goodbye speech. Lizzy changed up the words to send her message and Donnie was the one to fit the pieces together. “Listen to what Lizzy’s saying—‘I’m the one. I choose me…. And tell Jay Jay, he’s always been the ones. This song is for him. The one I’ve chosen for him.’ The word one is emphasized everywhere in her speech.” Donnie leaned forward. “Johnny, remember, we spoke about the teams with her, at dinner that night. We called them the ‘Ones,’ and mentioned that MIT1 works out of Lagos. Lizzy has visited Nigeria. She knows where she is.” Slater played devil’s advocate. “What if Lizzy was just really out of it and confused her words? She seemed pretty far gone.” Johnny reran the footage, slowing every time Lizzy said “one,” which
It felt surreal. After so long, he had her all to himself. The Scythian carried an unconscious Lizzy over the threshold and into the bathroom. He laid her in the bath, then stripped off her soiled skirt and underwear.She looked like a limp porcelain doll. Dried blood and bruises marked her skin and he traced a hand over the damage. He’d caused that. The thought thrilled him, and he felt himself stir. In their future together, he’d be the only one marking her, for however long that may be. He injected her with another sedative, wanting time to admire his new acquisition.Then he stood and stretched his back before turning to the mirror. He looked like a scary-as-shit mother. Who knew this was what he’d become. His childish dreams as a kid never amounted to anything this spectacular. The scariest human on the planet.Getting to this point hadn’t been easy. It was hard work, developing such a terrifying brand. People walked arou
“The SOB is alive.” Max took a photo with his phone, looking as grim as Johnny felt.“It says ‘Kris,’ right?” Johnny confirmed.“That’s the only word that makes sense.” Max studied the markings.Slater crossed his arms. “If Kris Muller is alive and Lizzy tagged him, how does he play into this?”“This is the location of the message; I’m guessing he was in the room, and he sure as hell ain’t here now,” Johnny said.“Stands to reason then that Kris killed Ivan,” Max agreed.“Are we then looking for two crazy jerk-offs? Is he the Scythian’s sidekick?”Johnny answered Slater’s question with a shake of his head. “Negative. It’s too much of a coincidence.”“Now that we have a possible suspect, I’ll use Muller’s height and build; we can compare voice prints.” Donnie stoo
The rainforest surrounding Kris Muller’s fortress posed both an advantage and a logistical challenge, with one road leading in—and twenty-foot walls—causing possible breach delays.Even with all the security measures providing blockades, the teams slid in undetected. Thanks to past fieldwork, MIT2 worked seamlessly alongside the Delta team and MIT1. The familiarity nudged Johnny into full battle mode. This was what he did best. Lizzy’s welfare was now in his hands; they were no longer separated by endless miles or unknown terrors. It was Johnny’s game—as brutal as the Scythian’s—with a dash of justice on the side.His woman lay beyond the gate ahead. Behind those mansion walls. Johnny knew in his gut that Lizzy was close. Donnie and Max were the first to infiltrate the compound, slipping over a back wall. They made their way around to the front, took out the guards at the gate, then opened it for the rest of their team.
Delta checked in, two of theirs were unaccounted for, three including Slater. Men ran towards them with Mason Clark strapped to a stretcher.“What the hell happened?” Max yelled.“The second prisoner ambushed us, a planted target. I think he used a grenade. The wall collapsed when we were already out in the hall.”“I’ll stay behind to help,” Donnie said.“No,” Max said over the chaos. “We have enough men on the ground. I’ve got this; I need you to help with both the injured assets, get them to the safe house.”Donnie hesitated.“Go!” Max ordered. “I’ll pull Slater out. I have two additional medics and seven men at my back. I’ll get our boy.”With one last look at Max racing down the passage, Johnny and Oscar hustled Lizzy out into the open, as Donnie covered their run to the MH6 assault bird.***Max scrambled to c
Tinkling wind chimes teased her awake. Lizzy stretched, and her toes stuck out the bottom of the covers—her Lizzie McGuire bed cover. When last had she lain in her childhood bed? Hadn’t she outgrown this clunky wooden bed when she was ten? Too tired to care, Lizzy’s eyes ran over her bright blue walls. What on earth had motivated her to choose such a crazy color? Kids made no sense.The smell of pancakes wafted up the stairs. Mom made the best pancakes, with thick British syrup and loads of cream. Yum. She wiggled her toes.Time to get up. Lizzy looked up at her blue ceiling. Wait. Blue? She stared up at the open sky. The endless blue surrounded her tiny bed. Relaxing into the comfy duvet, she watched a single drifting cloud. Playing the shape game, she supposed it looked like a man on a horse. Two birds flew across the sky, their silvery wings capturing her gaze.Her eyes flitted back to the now pink cloud. No, wait&mdas