The Long Road Home (Chapter #2)
Six weeks later Sara no longer showed a limp as she walked without the aid of crutches or cane. She once again was acquiring the smooth glide and balance of a feline that had earned her the name of Cat and had been her trademark while working in the field.
Physically she felt the best she had in two years but emotionally she knew she was a basket case. She had resisted the best efforts of the Agency's sociologists over the past two years and now it was finally catching up with her. The nightmares were back and occurring most often as her nerves stretched close to breaking. She couldn't stop thinking of Dancer and her sense of desolation at his continued silence.
Walking home from the bus stop she pondered over the grilling she had just gone through with her commander. He had been blunt in the extreme and had given her only two choices. She was to take her four-week vacation now and when she came back he expected her final answer.
Damn! He wasn't giving her much choice. She hated the thought of spilling her guts out to Dr. Tanner about Dancer and the guilt she felt but if she refused to work with him again then she would be regretfully retired from active service with the Agency, and right now that choice to her was unthinkable.
The Agency was the only place she had ever thought of as home. Oh she lived outside in an apartment but that was only a place she slept at. At the Agency she had always felt comfortable and needed even though her work was often times dangerous. She had reveled in the danger and excitement, feeling herself stretched as her keen mind found ways to do what had seemed impossible.
Sara slowed her steps as her mind raced with confusion. Automatically it seemed her feet found there way to her apartment building and Sara stared down at the few steps that led to her basement apartment. Pulling herself together she felt glad that the winter snows were now gone and the new scent of spring filled the Baltimore air. Stepping lightly down and unlocking the door she walked over to her kitchen to brew herself a much-needed pot of tea. Filling the kettle and turning on the gas she turned and walked over to her couch and sank into it's worn comfort. Kicking off her shoes she propped her feet up on one of her colorful throw pillows and gave a sigh of relief as she wiggled her toes and closed her troubled brown eyes.
For two years she had kept quiet about her thoughts and feelings and hopes for Dancer. Never had she felt so pulled to another human being as she had to him. The danger they were in had been extreme but the mutual attraction they had felt for each other had been explosive in it's intensity and yet sweet and pure too. Then the nightmare of their capture had turned their newfound feelings for each other into something horrible that the enemy had exploited fully.
After their rescue, Sara had never again seen him or found out who he really was. Her orders had been clear. She was to forget she had ever known a tall wonderfully warm man known as Dancer. Her one inquiry that she had felt driven to make had gained the information that he was safe and still in hospital recuperating just as she was herself as that time. So Sara had waited. Waited for Dancer to come for his brown eyed little Cat as he had called her and promised before their capture. He knew which Agency she worked for, and, of course her code name of Cat, as he was on loan to them himself at the time. Miserably Sara could only believe that Dancer had not felt as deeply for her as she had for him or that he had changed his mind. Her imagination pictured him as married by now to some tall sleek woman that he didn't have to bend nearly double to kiss. With maybe a child on the way. Her heart ached at the thought of someone else bearing his children but Sara had no choice but to go on as best she could. He knew where she was and had to make the first move.
The high pitched whistle of her tea kettle pulled Sara back to her surroundings and leaving the couch she padded softly to the kitchen trying to shake away her depression. After laying out her tea things on a tray she carried it back to her couch and putting the tea cozy over the pot to help it steep she noticed a shadow thrown across her pulled down shade again.
Frowning she silently glided over to the window and without pulling it up carefully peeped out from the side of it to where the figure of a man stood watching her building. Feeling a shiver of apprehension race through her, Sara recognized him as the man who had been following her for the past week. At least that's what she felt he was doing, but as yet, she had nothing concrete against him that she could mention to the Agency. She just had this feeling. However at this point in time the last thing she needed was to show herself as being paranoid about some red haired man in cowboy boots that could have a legitimate reason for being at the same book store and grocery as herself. The fact that she had never seen him on the bus or in the neighborhood before could also be explained away if he was a new boyfriend to a girl living in the apartment building. But even this reasoning could not stop the hair from rising on the back of her neck each time she saw him waiting outside her building. Giving a shiver Sara went back to her couch and poured herself a hot cup of tea, curling her now cold fingers around the cup for warmth.
Bright and early the next morning Sara awoke with a guilty start and glancing at the alarm clock jumped out of bed, rushed to the bathroom, dashed cold water onto her face and stopped dead in her tracks as she realized she was not late for work after all. Feeling the adrenalin slowly subside from her quivering body, she gave a rueful laugh at her reflection in the mirror, and at a more moderate rate continued her morning routine wondering with a sigh just what she was going to do with herself for the next four weeks.
As Sara carefully stretched and pulled her body into limberness she double-checked the tight elastic knee brace that helped support her still weakened knee. Going slowly she did her morning exercises that kept her body as taught and fit as a sixteen year olds. Then bracing herself on the back of the couch she stretched and worked her left leg and knee until a fine sheen of sweat covered her face and arms again. Finished she removed the weight strapped to her ankle and gave herself the luxury of standing under the hot shower longer then usual. Then over a leisurely breakfast Sara decided to check with a travel agency about booking on a cruise ship to the Virgin Islands. She had always been a frugal person and had saved a great deal of her money for a rainy day. Today, she decided with a determined lift of her chin, was a rainy day and she was going to see those Virgin Islands now.
Dressed in a simple long sleeved white blouse with matching beige pants she set out to the nearest travel agency. Looking around she was pleased to see that the red haired cowboy, as she had dubbed him, was nowhere in sight. At the ticket office Sara found to her delight that a four-week cruise to the Islands was to leave from California the next day and due to a last minute cancellation there was an opening in a special package tour. If she packed her things and caught the five o'clock flight to California today she could fit herself into the cruise lines schedule without missing a thing they offered in their travel package. A half hour later Sara left the agency smiling with her tickets and itinerary in hand and with her pocket book a lot lighter. Hurrying home she quickly packed the articles she felt she would need and then called the Agency to notify them of her plans. She took some good-natured ribbing from her friends there and promised to bring them back something outrageous that they could possibly have no use for. With a half hour to spare Sara called for a cab and a short time later heard it's honk outside. Carefully balancing her two large pieces of luggage she firmly shut and locked her door and climbed up to the curb.
The driver was standing by the opened trunk and quickly stowed her bags away. Shutting her door for her he climbed into the front seat, settled back, and asked her where she wanted to go.
Feeling excited for the first time in a long while Sara happily told him which airport [author note: find name of largest airport in area] she wanted to go to and relaxed back into the seat.
Pulling away from the curb the cabby drove quickly and surely towards her destination. They were twenty blocks away when the driver gave the steering wheel a hard yank to the right, swiftly pulled around the corner and succeeded in throwing a surprised Sara down across the seat and halfway onto the floor as he slapped on the breaks hard and stopped by the curb. Both doors were quickly jerked open and two men jumped in fast landing on top of her. With the wind knocked out of her Sara could only struggle for air as they quickly grabbed her arms and secured them behind her back.
Only then did Sara curse herself for a fool as it dawned on her that the cab she had stepped into was the wrong color. The one she had called for should have been white and blue, not yellow and black. [author note: find out real colors] Adrenaline flowing through her as she gulped in air Sara knew she could have taken out at least one of the men but that would have left her with two more to contend with. Sara was good, but not stupid enough to think she could take out a total of three men who were most certainly armed with her hands tied behind her back. Breathing hard she tested the strength of the bonds holding her and finding them tight turned her attention to the men holding her. Somehow she was not surprised to find that the man firmly holding her down as the other one was trussing up her legs was none other then the red haired cowboy she had seen watching outside her apartment building the past week. He slipped his hard-callused hands firmly over her mouth so she couldn't scream and Sara grimly scanned him looking for a weakness she could exploit. She had felt no hard bulge of a gun digging into her body, but that didn't mean much. Closely she examined each one trying to get a good mental picture of her captors but her body froze when the one she had dubbed Cowboy leaned close to her ear and easing off his hand on her mouth a little said, "Cat? That's the name you go by isn't it?"
Trying not to let her body shake or show her even greater fear her mind raced. Only certain people who had top security clearance knew that she had gone by the name of Cat. The only others who knew were definitely not friendly to her or to the United States. Pressing her lips firmly together she refused to answer him with anything other then a hard cold glare, then taking advantage of his loosened fingers she sank her sharp teeth hard into his hand. Giving a yelp of pain, Cowboy managed to pull his hand away from her mouth before she could do any serious injury and frowning heavily at her growled out "We aren't going to hurt you Lady. We just want to take you someplace that's safe without making a lot of fuss." Looking over her head at his partner he said, "Hold her still" and as the cab once again pulled out into traffic another pair of hard-callused hands replaced his more firmly across her mouth and leaned on her heavily as Cowboy pulled a hypodermic needle out of his pocket.
Sara saw the needle and tried desperately to fight and move away but Cowboy quickly slipped the plastic protector off the end of the prepared needle and Sara flinched as she felt the sting as he jabbed it through her blouse and injected it's clear contents into her straining arm. Her last coherent thought was to wonder if she would ever wake up again.
Brad watched as the woman's taught body become flaccid and slumped limply back into the seat. Carefully he checked her pupils and pulse to reassure himself that she was really out but still stable. All things considered he was very pleased with the way things had gone. It had been much simpler then he had anticipated and had trouble believing the warnings he had received about how dangerous she would be. He couldn't help but respect the strength of character she had shown in not becoming hysterical as well as the body strength she had exhibited when he had pulled out his hypo. Looking over at Slim, his partner, they both gave a sigh of relief and wiped the nervous sweat from their brows.
Carefully following their instructions they quickly searched her for any hidden weapons. Finding none on her person they searched her purse and found the travel tickets and itinerary along with a small wicked looking handgun. Grinning happily at each other they put the papers back into her purse and after removing the bullets from her gun replaced it as well. Then tensely waiting for their driver to finish the journey to the private airstrip where a small private jet was awaiting them.
While Brad was handing over a thick wad of bills to the waiting cab driver, Slim quickly transferred Sara's limp body into the waiting jet and then Brad loaded her luggage on board and closed the door. Slim gently strapped Cat down onto the jet's small couch and removed the tough rope that was cutting the circulation off in her hands and legs. Pulling a much softer braid of cloth out of his pockets he retied her feet with the cloth and did the same to her hands, only this time securing them in front. That done to his satisfaction he strapped himself into a seat that faced her and sat back to wait. Brad double-checked the locked door, and then giving thumbs up sign with his sore hand he walked past Slim and entered the pilots cabin. Slipping into the co-pilots seat he gave his final instructions to the waiting pilot, and within minutes they were airborne.