79 Hostage Negotiations
Rickie held a headset to his ear and handed a phone to Meaghan. With hands that were only trembling a little, she took the offered cell phone, and dialed the familiar number.
Shel picked it up by the second ring, and Meaghan identified herself.
"Meaghan! So nice of you to call. I just had a chat with your sister, and was wondering when you would show up. Did you bring the files I requested?"
The voice was so calm, as if she was talking about a grocery list, and Meaghan knew that the madness she had glimpsed in the boat now had finally taken over her soul. She desperately tried to think of something, anything to protect her sister and the other hostages.
"I found it in their belongings, just like you said, Shel. It was a small memory card; that's why I couldn't find it before. I have it with me, though. Can I come in and give it to you?"
Ricky vehemently shook his head, but Meaghan ignored him, listening to Shel's low laughter.
"I know you would find it, Meg," Shel said with satisfaction, "I always knew you were bright. Now, what to do about that information."
Meaghan heard a faint tapping noise, and realized it was Shel's nervous habit of tapping her front teeth. 'Perhaps she wasn't as in control as they thought' Meaghan thought, and filed that away in her head. The tapping noise stopped.
"Ok, Meg, I'll let you in through the back door, but know your sister's life is forfeit if you try anything. Oh, and you can bring your lover along, too. After all, this is his house and he is the head of household."
Meaghan felt a cold stab of fear. "What did you do to Rickie's father?!"
"Nothing," Shel, stated matter of factly. "What can you do with something that just stares and drools? Your sister, however, is tied and gagged, and the servants are locked in a closet, so I would strongly suggest you cooperate. Just you, Ahmad, and that file."
Meaghan could feel the anger rolling off Rickie, but she focused on the leader of this operation. At the commander's nod, Meaghan replied.
"Okay, Shel, we'll do it your way."
As soon as she disconnected and returned the phone, Rickie grabbed her wrist and pulled her away from the command vehicle to a small stand of palm trees.
"Why would you volunteer to go in?" he all but hissed, "It's too dangerous!"
Meaghan winced a little at the violence in his voice, but knew he would never hurt her. Reaching up with her free hand, she gently cupped his face. With a deep sigh, he pulled her into his embrace.
Muffled against his broad chest, she replied, "If I can help keep our family safe, I'm willing to do it." She pulled back and looked into his eyes. "I can do this, because I know you'll be by my side."
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His anger gone but not his fear, he gave a swift kiss to her nose before he released her, then he reached for her hands. He entwined their fingers and gave a little squeeze.
"Then we do this together."