The Long Road Home (Chapter #3)
Sara felt calloused fingers gently checking her rising pulse rate as she fought her way through a lethargic mist back to consciousness. She heard a deep male voice say "Yup, right on time. She's coming round now."
Sara's fuzzy brain quickly rejected the idea of playing possum as unproductive. Her closely monitored body had already made that plan unfeasible.
Slowly opening her eyes Sara found herself lying on her back in a large pine bed that was in a room big enough to make the king size bed look small. She could hear the sound of an air conditioner nearby trying to cool the hot dry air in the room. Hundreds of knotty pine eyes stared back at her from the walls and ceiling as her fuzzy vision finally sharpened into focus. Sitting beside her on the bed holding her wrist was the blond haired, gray eyed man who had held her down when Cowboy had jabbed her with his needle.
Giving her a quick nervous quirk of his thin lips that was meant to come off as a smile he told her quietly "I know your head feels like it's stuffed full of cotton and your mouth must be dry but a hot cup of coffee should help." Sliding his long arms behind her back he helped her to sit up against the head board and after arranging the pillows behind her back to his liking, he slipped off the bed and walked over to a dresser where a thermos sat on top. Carefully pouring a half-cup of coffee he turned and brought it to her.
Sara noted her hands were now tied with strips of braided cloth in front of her and her legs were also bound together in a looser fashion. She knew she could free herself of these restraints in a quick minute if only her head would clear a bit more.
Taking the carefully help out cup of hot coffee in her unsteady hands, Sara gave him a wary glance and debated about throwing it's hot contents right into his face. Barely touching the cup to her lips, she tried tensing her muscles but finding them still half limp and unresponsive decided to wait for her body to wake up some more before she tried anything.
Taking a small taste of the coffee she shuttered as the strong bitter taste hit the back of her dry throat. Making a face of distaste she made herself take the two more mouthfuls then handed it back to him.
Giving her a sad eyed look he shrugged his shoulders as Cowboy's shout of laughter wafted across the room.
"Now there is a woman with courage and good taste," he chuckled. "I keep telling Slim that his coffee is so strong it could choke a horse."
Sara watched as the red haired hazel-eyed man she thought of as Cowboy strolled over and stood near the bed. She was glad that she hadn't throw the coffee into the other man's face after all as she had been so fuzzy in the head she had missed seeing Cowboy across the room when she had sat up. Filing Slim's name away in her brain she decided she would just have to wait and bide her time until later.
Their behavior puzzled Sara. They didn't act like professional hit men and try as she might she still hadn't been able to spot a gun on either one of them. That's not to say they didn't have one or a nasty little knife tucked away somewhere but their attitude was all wrong. They acted like they really cared about her comfort, which was crazy if they meant to hurt her, but her blood ran cold at their lack of concern for her having seen their faces. Sara shivered as a cold sweat ran down her back. No, she didn't like this setup at all. Till now she had not said one word that she was aware of. Knowing how certain drugs could affect a person she knew she couldn't be one hundred percent sure she had not already been grilled while under the influence of some drug but she had the feeling that she had not been treated to that as yet.
Information was what she needed badly, so marshalling her sluggish thoughts she asked, "Where am I?"
Her tongue felt swollen and dry, like it was too big for her mouth but she got the words out anyway.
Cowboy raised his eyebrows and glancing at Slim said, "By golly, she does know how to talk."
Slim frowned at his and said, "Don't tease her Brad. If I was in her shoes I'd be wondering that and a lot more."
Slim then gave her a look of respect for her cool behavior and told her "I'm sorry Ma'am, but I can't tell you that."
Plugging on Sara asked, "What do you want with me."
Slim and Brad exchanged a quick look, then Slim gave her his eyed stare and told her "We don't want anything bad Ma'am. And if it will ease your mind some I can promise you we mean you no harm. The Boss will fill you in on everything real soon."
Not a lot of information, but Slim appeared to be sincere. Either that or he was one hell of an actor, which Sara thought unlikely. This was just plain weird. It wasn't making any sense.
Trying again Sara asked, "Do you make a habit of kidnapping people?"
Giving her a shocked look both men stammered at once "No!" Then Brad hurried on nervously "We haven't kidnapped you Ma'am!"
"Then what," Sara asked wearily, "do you call what you did to me?"
Brad looked at Slim and in a strained voice hurried on, "We just kind of... borrowed... you."
Incredulous, Sara replied, "Borrowed me? Are you nuts?!"
The sound of boots crossing on bare wooden floors brought instant relief to Brad and Slim's sweating faces.
Sara wondered if this heavy footed walked was the Boss and had a premonition he would not act the Larry to Brad and Slim's Curly and Mo routine. Sara didn't have long to wait as the door was pushed open wide to admit a tall muscular man. Grey hair peppered the sides of his lean chiseled face and piercing blue eyes that missed nothing swept the room and centered their cold steely gaze on Sara. Powerful shoulders that tapered down to slim taught hips and long lanky legs stuffed into high boots completed the picture but it was his merciless blue eyes that sent a shudder of terror through Sera.
That this was the boss man she had no doubts. His gaze traveled quickly over her then dismissing what he saw he turned to Brad and asked, "Did you have any trouble?"
"No Sir," he replied, "it went just like you wanted."
"Good. I need your help with," he stopped and gave Sara a look of pure venom, "down the hall."
Both men chimed "Sure Boss" and made as if to follow as he swung around to leave, then he paused as if he had second thoughts and shooting another sharp glace at Sara's carefully blank face he eyes traveled to her bound hands. Stepping over he quickly untied her wrists, grabbed her right one in a death grip and flipped a pair of metal handcuffs out of his back pocket, preceded to cuff her securely to the solid three-inch bed frame.
Looking her straight in the eyes he growled out "I don't underestimate your resourcefulness Cat, and damn you woman, I refuse to let you get away from me now!"
Turning back to his men he asked, "Did you search her carefully? You didn't leave so much as a hair pin on her?"
Blushing a little Slim told him "We checked her real good Jake. She didn't have anything useful on her except a small handgun that we found in her purse and we emptied that. Anyway she wasn't looking out for any trouble because we got her as she was leaving on a vacation."
Jake purred "Vacation you say?"
Brad picked up Sara's purse from a bureau and pulling out her tickets and itinerary handed them over to Jake.
"As you can see she was to go on a four week cruise to the Virgin Islands starting today."
Sara gave a start of surprise as she realized more time had passed then she had thought.
Smiling grimly Jake said with satisfaction "Good! Real good. This gives me a lot more time then I had hoped for," and swinging around he strode out the door closely followed by Brad and Slim.
Sara watched them leave then quickly slipped off the bonds wrapped around her ankles with a hand that shook slightly, then kneeling on the floor besides the bed kept a wary eye on the open door as she tried to find a way of either removing the hand cuffs or slipping the one attached to the bed off the frame. It didn't take her long to realize why Jake had cuffed her to the bed as it was solidly bolted together, making it impossible for her to free the cuff without cutting through three inches of wood or using a wrench. Gripping the wood in her hands Sara strained her muscles to the limit as she tried to pull the heavy bed over to the dresser where her purse lay. With any luck she might be able to find a paper clip inside and free herself.
White faced and gasping with pain from her overstressed knee she got down on the floor once more and checked the underside of the bed. Her shoulders slumped in defeat as she realized that the heavy bed had been securely bolted to the floor. Damn the man! She raged to herself. No wonder he had felt safe in walking out the door leaving her alone in the room.
Sara slumped to the floor resting her back against the side of the bed while gulping air deeply into her lungs in an effort to stop the room’s dizzy spin. Her body was still trying to throw off the effects of the drug she had been given and wincing in pain she gingerly rubbed her sore knee.
Her sixth sense sent the hair on the back of her neck standing on end and Sara warily opened her eyes looking at the doorway.
Quietly standing there Jake watched her dejected shoulders stiffen and giving her a grim smile he stepped into the room and seated his long length into a comfortable chair that was just out of Sara's reach.
Broodingly he studied her face. She was certainly no great looker but her find boned features were pleasing enough in an ordinary way, surrounded as they were with thick brown hair that had a nice gloss to it and showed no signs of gray yet. Fine lines crossed her brow and feathered gently out from the sides of her eyes. Jake wasn't sure what had caused them to be so deeply etched into her features but knew they had become an integral part of the person sitting before him.
Makeup would have improved her appearance but watching her firmly held lips, he decided she probably chose not to on purpose. The way she looked right now she could have easily blended into any crowd and never been noticed. Considering what she did for a living that had to have become second nature to her by now as to insure her own safety and survival.
His hard eyes dropping lower he conceded that for a woman pushing onto thirty as she must be she had a pretty nice figure. He could see no bulges of excess fat pushing against her blouse and pants. She appeared slim and trim.
Her one outstanding feature was her large soft brown eyes that were surrounded by unbelievably long and thick dark lashes. Knowing they had to be natural it was a shock to look deeply into her eyes and see nothing but hatred and fear for him there. Those eyes were definitely making him uncomfortable.
Sara decided enough was enough as Jake sat in his comfortable looking chair and slowly dissected her body with his steely blue eyes.
Looking him straight in the face Sara asked him "Why am I here? What do you want?"
Matching her look he replied, "I want you Cat." Then running a frustrated hand through his gray speckled hair he continued, "I need your help."
Her eyes going wide with shock her looked from him to her handcuffed wrist and asked sarcastically "Help? This is how you ask for my help?" Then suspiciously, "Help with what?"
Leaning forward and pinning her with his hard gaze he said deliberately, "I need help with Ben." Seeing no response from her he repeated more strongly "You know, Ben Flariety."
Sara's mind raced, Ben? Ben Flariety? The name meant absolutely nothing to her.
Watching her face closely for any sign of shame or remorse at the name he had mentioned, Jake's anger bubbled up anew as she just gave him a blank stare and told him flatly "I don't know any Ben Flariety."
"Don't give me that!" he snarled at her. "I know you've worked together."
Dispassionately she repeated, "I know no Ben Flariety."
A chill ran through his gut as he realized how callous and unfeeling this woman really was.
Glaring at her hotly Jake couldn't help but wonder at the twist of fate that had allowed this cold little bitch to unknowingly wield such power over his family's happiness.
No longer able to control his agitation Jake jumped to his feet and pacing the floor in front of her said menacingly "Like it or not Cat. You’re going to help me with him." Unable to control his tounge any longer he shouted at her "My God woman! Don't you feel any responsibility for what's happening to him?!"
Clinching his fists he decided he had better remove himself from her vicinity before he forgot himself completely and did something drastic, like wringing her scrawny little neck. Stalking out the door he left her sitting hunched up on the cool wooden floor staring after him.
Feeling like she had just been battered by a raging storm Sara shakily pulled herself up off the floor and sat on the soft edge of the bed giving a sign of relief that Jake was gone.
Weary from her struggles physically and mentally she leaned her head back against the soft pillows and closing her tired eyes went over in her head their short conversation. Try as she might she couldn't make much sense of this whole setup. That he badly wanted her to do something for him with a man named Ben Flariety she had understood clearly. But for over the past year her specialty had been teaching new agents the fine art of debriefing and deprogramming certain types of individuals. Some friendly and otherwise. If Jake thought he could use her abilities to get information from this Ben Flariety then he was in for one big disappointment.
She wasn't sure but he appeared to be either an information broker or possibly even some kind of arms merchant. Sara would die before she would help scum like him to do his dirty work. But somehow his choice of hired help left her feeling dissatisfied with her logical conclusions. She was missing some crucial piece of information and she knew it. Her last coherent thought before drifting off into a troubled sleep was who was the unfortunate man Ben Flariety?