The Wrong Girl
Taylor headed to the edge of the building, gun held up and took a quick look around the side. The guard was lying on the ground, arms holding a gun, pointed at the side door to the hangar. Taylor moved around the corner, headed forward in a steady pace, weapon at the ready.
Even as he started toward the man, he fired a shot wide, in warning.
“Point that weapon at me, and the next one ends you,” Taylor said as he closed, his weapon leveled.
The man almost looked like he wanted to try it, then threw the weapon away, into the field behind the hangar, a grimace of pain crossing his face. As Taylor got close, he could see a hole low and to the right of the man’s left shoulder blade. As long as he didn’t bleed to death, it wouldn’t kill him, but it had to be painful and limited his use of that arm, which was clearly not his gun hand.
“Stand up,” Taylor said, stopping several feet from the man, not offering a hand up.
It took a minute for the guard to push himself up, his face ashen. Taylor waited, the gun never wavering.
“Let’s go,” Taylor said, gesturing for the guard to follow him back to the hangar, walking backward.
Once inside the hangar, Taylor pointed at a chair near the bullet ridden office door, and the man sat carefully, grimacing with each movement from the pain in his shoulder. Taylor looked around and saw some cable lying against one of the outer walls.
“Kara, could you come here,” he yelled over his shoulder at the girl.
As she approached, the guard’s eyes stopped looking around and locked on her, going slightly wide. She was quite the sight, a line of red going down the middle of her body like a macabre painting. As she got closer, the small pieces of bone and meat could be seen stuck in her hair.
“Would you grab that cable and tie this guy’s hands to the legs of that chair, please,” he said, never taking his eyes off the guard.
She followed his suggestion, although still robotically, ambling to the cable and circling around. But, from where he was standing, it looked like she tied it pretty tight, and the man winced when she pulled the arm on his wounded side back and tied it to the other. Taylor wasn’t actually all that worried he’d try to jump him, but he wanted to talk to Kara. Considering everything else that had gone wrong over the last few days, he figured better safe than sorry.
She finished and walked over to Taylor, who holstered his gun and backed up closer to the far end of the hanger. It was a little louder closer to the plane, but he preferred a little privacy.
“Hey,” Taylor said, putting a hand on each shoulder and turning her to face him, “You OK? You seem a little zoned out.”
“I ... I’m OK. That man was a pig, but ... he just exploded. I...” she just stopped, shaking herself.
“Hey,” he said again, shaking her until she looked up. “You’re OK now.”
“I know. Thank you,” she said, her funk seeming to finally clear, her eyes focusing. “When Timor decided to take me with him, I thought I might not...”
“Where was he taking you?”
“Some place on the coast of the Black Sea. He wasn’t specific, but he said he had a friend that would ... appreciate me. He was going to fly there for a few days, but it sounded like he was going to leave me behind.”
“I’m sorry I lost you,” Taylor said.
“Well, you got me back.”
“Let me talk to this guy and see if I can get some information on the compound, see if there is a way for me to get in. Then, I know a guy I can drop you with, for a while at least. If I don’t get back, I’ll give you some people’s contact details who can help you.”
“There’s a party!”
“What?” Taylor asked, confused at the non sequitur.
“Tonight. There’s a party for the fat man’s son. Mary Jane is the boy’s present.”
Taylor frowned and turned from her walking back to the man in the chair.
“The shoulder hurts, doesn’t it?” Taylor asked the man, poking a finger into the bullet hole, eliciting a scream of pain. “I’m giving you a onetime deal. I want you to call back to your friends and tell them Timor OK’d us to come to the kid’s party. If you do, you live. Sure you’ll stay tied up here for a while, but I’ll make sure someone comes to find you. If you don’t make the call...” Taylor’s voice drifted off suggestively.
“What’s it going to be?”
The man was looking past Taylor at the smear of red where his boss used to be and gulped.
“I’ll make the call.”
“Two of you guys reasonable in a row. Russia makes smarter bad guys than the US I guess,” Taylor said, honestly surprised. “What’s the number you would use to call your friends?”
The man stuttered out a number and Taylor pulled out his Sat phone, starting to dial.
“This better be convincing, or I’ll put a bunch of holes in you and let you bleed out right here.”
The man nodded as Taylor held the phone to the man’s ear.
“Yuri, it’s Isaac ... Yeah, he got on the plane. Listen, there’s a guy Timor OK’d to come to the kid’s party, tonight. His name’s...” the guard stopped and looked at Taylor.
“Taylor. Timor said it was OK for him to go. Yeah. OK. You, too.”
The man pulled his head away from the phone and Taylor hung up.
“See, that wasn’t hard. Once we are done at the compound, I’ll call someone, and they’ll come let you out. I’ll patch up your shoulder before I leave so you don’t...”
Taylor was cut off by the crack of a gunshot, as the guard’s chest exploded and he tumbled over backward. Taylor’s hand was already reaching for his weapon as he turned, and stopped. Standing behind him and to one side, Kara was holding a pistol, still raised, pointing at where the dead guard had sat moments before.
“What the hell?” Taylor demanded, taking two steps toward her and pulling the gun out of her hand.
“He would have gotten free. He was too dangerous to live.”
“He talked because I told him I would let him live. If we go shooting everyone who gives up, we won’t get anything from these guys in the future.”
“No one knows.”
“I know. I told the man I was going to let him live.”
“And I told myself if I ever got the chance, I’d see him dead.”
Taylor stopped, giving her a look, unsure of what she was talking about.
“He and his friends all wanted ... before I was gone. Since I was new, at least here at the compound.”
“I’m sorry about that, Kara, but this isn’t the way.”
“Because he’s dead, but now you have to live with both what he did to you, and ending a human life.”
“I won’t weep over him. And he wasn’t the first I’ve killed.”
“Timor, you did in the heat of action. It was necessary. This is different, and inside you know that. You’re not a sociopath, I don’t think.”
“He deserved it,” she said, her voice sounding less sure than before.
“Probably. But you don’t. Just trust me, this isn’t a road you want to go down.”
She nodded, looking at the floor. He would bet this would come back on her, the guilt of ending a life this way catching up to her. Although with the life she’d led, it would be hard to separate out the emotional trauma of that from everything else. What this girl needed was a place to feel safe and a shit ton of therapy.
“Now we have to get you cleaned up then I’ll drop you off with a friend who will watch out for you until I’m finished.”
Taylor was pretty sure Sebastian would agree to take in Kara, at least for a while, but he didn’t want to drop off a girl covered in blood. Marta would be a hard-enough sell without that, and he didn’t want to expose the two girls to that.
“Yes. No. I’m not going to be dropped off. I’m going with you.”
“Kara, it’s going to be dangerous. I can’t take you into that compound with me.”
“My entire life has been dangerous. I know where the girl is being kept, and the layout of the house. Do you think, just because a guard called and told them to let you in, they’ll let you just wander around?”
“I’ll figure something out,” Taylor said defensively, but he knew she had a point.
“Not without getting noticed. The few girls they have there, they treat like servants. We’re invisible. You’re not.”
“I know you think I’m a kid and you’re trying to be the hero. Don’t. I know what I’m signing up to do. I know what this is, just like I knew what I was doing when I called you.”
“Fine,” Taylor said against his better judgment.
She had a point, a lot of them in fact. He was on his own out here, and the next step was going to be damn near impossible. If Mary Jane was a ‘present’ to this guy’s son, there was no buying her back. He had no law enforcement support like he would have had in either the US or even Russia, even if that were more restrained. He still had no idea how he was going to get her out of there, and turning away help just wasn’t an option. And he hated himself for it.
“If you are going in with me, you can’t go like that,” Taylor said, pointing at her bloodstained clothes.
“I had a bag with some clothes in it. They hadn’t taken it out of the car yet.”
“Well, let’s go get it.”
Taylor led her out and around the building, past the still running plane, and to the car and jeep parked next to the building. She stepped around Taylor, barely glancing at the guard lying near the passenger door with the ruined face, opened the driver’s side door and popped open the trunk.
She stepped over the man’s body and around to the trunk, Taylor trailing behind her. Pulling out a bag, she pulled out the dress she’d been wearing to the auction when they’d be separated.
“I’m surprised they let you keep that.”
“They didn’t have much in the way of clothes, this and one other thing was all that would fit me. There are only a couple of girls at the compound, and I’m shorter than all of them. So they let me keep it, or just wear the one other thing they could find for me at the time.”
Except for a red gas can pushed all the way to the back, the only other thing in the trunk was another, somewhat larger bag that Taylor thought likely belonged to Timor.
“There was a small restroom across the hanger from the office. Go and wash out as much of that mess as you can and get changed,” Taylor said, not closing the trunk.
She took the dress and headed back toward the hanger while Taylor stood, looking into the trunk, trying to work out some thoughts. Taylor thought for another minute and came to a decision. Reaching into the back of the trunk, he pulled the gas can toward himself. Clearing a spot in the middle of the bag, he put the can in the middle of it then pulled clothes around it and zipped the bag closed. Finally, he pushed the trunk closed, put the bag on the back seat floorboard and went over to the driver, rummaging through his pockets. It took a moment, but he found what he was looking for, pulling a set of keys out of the man’s pocket, along with a small plastic lighter. Shoving both into his own pocket, Taylor headed back toward the hanger.
Taylor spent time going through the pockets of the dead men, looking for anything that might give him a leg up in the compound. Not that he expected to find anything. He was mostly killing time until Kara finished cleaning up.
She eventually came out of the restroom, looking worlds better. Her hair was wet, and she was shivering, despite wearing a coat. But, the blood all seemed to be gone, as well as everything else that had ended up on her.
“OK, let’s get going. It’s an hour back to the compound,” Taylor said, heading toward the black town car.
He pulled wide around the jeep, avoiding the two bodies, and made his way back to the road. Sebastian’s bike was still in the ditch, but Taylor couldn’t think of any way to get it back to him ... at least, not at the moment. The town car wasn’t big enough to shove a bike in, at least not without it being extremely noticeable. The whole point of taking Timor’s car was to add to the idea that they were supposed to be there. The last thing they needed was a big, two wheeled hint that something was off.
“You said you were invisible to the guards. Just how invisible?”
“Very. They never even looked at me, unless they wanted something from me.”
“Would they stop you from carrying a bag somewhere? Or bringing it into the house? Would they check the bag or pat you down?”
“No. Except for the times when I was needed for ... company, they had me doing errands. Taking things to people, delivering messages, that sort of thing.”
“Good. I am certain they will frisk me before I go inside, and I bet if you were right with me, they might check you too. But, if I were to ignore you, and you were to just walk off with a bag, would they think that’s weird?”
“Probably not. Just don’t acknowledge me and I should be OK. They really did not pay any attention to me.”
“OK, then, here’s what we’re going to do. There’s a bag on the back floor with a gas can in it. I’ll also hand you a lighter. On one side of the compound is a building where it seems guards are staying. You know the one I’m talking about.”
“Yes,” she said, in a voice completely void of emotion, which suggested she had been there, and not of her own free will.
“On the back side of the building, there is a large tank, which looks to be for natural gas, probably to heat the various buildings on the property. It’s right against the building, and the building looked to be lifted off the ground. Put the gas can just under the building, wedged next to the tank. Pour some of the gas on one of the pieces of clothes in the bag, a shirt or something. Not a lot, just a few drops. And wedge the shirt into the gas can, so some of it sticks into the gas itself. Then light the end of the shirt, and come find me in the house.”
“So you’re going to blow up the guards?”
“I have to even the playing field,” Taylor said, his face in a tight frown. “I’d prefer not to have to kill a ton of people if I could avoid it, but the odds are just too heavy against me. I also want to use the explosion, which with the storage tank should be pretty big, I hope, as a diversion to make my move inside the house.”
“I have no problem killing those men.”
“I am going to put my gun in your coat pocket. After lighting off the shirt, come find me, because when the explosion happens, I am going to need it. Then, you lead me to where they are keeping the girl, and we get the hell out there.”
“It’s not going to be. It’s going to be chaotic and messy as hell. But it’s all I can think of. When the shooting starts, I want you to stay behind me, do you understand?”
“I’m serious Kara. There’s going to be a lot of shooting, and I don’t want you exposed. If I have to go in the room, you stay tight against the wall until I tell you to come in. You need to follow every order I give you to the letter. I swear to god I am going to bring you out of there too.”
She didn’t say anything, but he saw her nod. His plan more or less outlined, Taylor pulled out his Sat phone.
“Andre, you still in that town?”
“Yes. You keep calling me asking that. I will probably stay here one more day, and that’s it.”
“Did you ever get your backup?”
“Yes, some of it.”
“Good. In two or three hours, maybe four at the most, I’m going to be headed back to you, probably not alone. Could you do me a favor and make sure the way is cleared for me?”
“What are you planning?”
“I’m going into the compound in the next thirty minutes or so. Shortly after that, I’m going to blow the hell out of it and come running back with two girls in tow. Odds are, what guys I can’t clear out of my way in getting the girls are going to be pissed and out for blood. I’m really outnumbered here buddy, so I need a safe fallback position.”
“We’ll have something set up for you. Do you know what vehicle you’re going to be in?”
“No. Whatever one I can get my hands on. It will be the one people are shooting at.”
“We’ll be ready,” he said and hung up.
“Do you think it’s going to be that bad?” Kara asked.
“Yes. The explosion is going to get some of them but when I looked the compound over, there were a lot of guys. No way I will get them all. Speed is going to be our goal. Once we’re on the road, we just have to stay ahead of them.”
They fell into silence, and Taylor thought Kara had fallen asleep, her face turned away from him and not moving for a long ten minutes, then she spoke, breaking the silence.
“If I help you, I want a new deal.”
“What kind of deal?”
“Money isn’t enough. I want to go to America.”
“Kara, I don’t have that kind of power.”
“But whoever you’re working for does.”