Tina's cry was faint over the sound of her blood pounding in Meaghan's ears. Face down on the floor, for a brief moment, she thought she was hit. But there was no sharp pain, only a dull throbbing where her body impacted the floor. She scrambled to her knees and crawled over to Rickie, who was still on his back, staring at Shel.
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"Are you okay?" Meaghan cried, cupping his face and staring into his eyes. Realizing her back was to the mercenary; she twisted around and placed her body between Shel and Rickie.
Shel was standing, arms akimbo and with the gun hanging loosely in her grip. A bright red stain spread quickly across the front of her blue t-shirt, as she stared uncomprehendingly past the couple, then, with almost a graceful movement, the woman collapsed to the floor.
Meaghan swiveled around and saw that JoAnne was standing by the door, a vicious looking handgun still pointed at the now-prone extremist. She walked over to the body and competently checked for a carotid pulse. Satisfied, she holstered the weapon and smiled at Meaghan, who was stock still for a moment.
"Great timing, JoAnne," Rickie said, as Tina dropped the andiron and ran to Meaghan, where she hugged her older sister and cried.
Rick touched Meaghan on the shoulder, not wanting to break in but needing to make sure she was okay. She gave a steady nod of her head and turned back to Tina.
Standing up, he brushed his pants, and walked over to his father, who was watching the two sisters.
"Are you okay, bapa?" He grabbed both of the older man's hands; his father nodded and squeezed back.
"It was young Tina's idea for me to pretend to be incapacitated. Even with this almost-useless hand, I was able to untie her while we were alone. Your sister hid among the staff, but since that woman knew Tina, we couldn't do that for her."
The sound of pounding feet was heard outside the still-open door, and soldiers poured into the room with drawn weapons.
"Glad to see the troops have finally arrived," JoAnne stated sardonically.
Rick left his father's side and talked briefly with the lead soldier; he gave him the location of the house staff and Sethe. The soldier gestured at the other men to withdraw room.
The leader snapped off a salute and followed behind his team after promising to update Rickie.
Meaghan held fiercely onto her trembling sister and stroked her hair, barely noticing the troops leaving the room.
"I was so scared," the younger girl hiccupped, "but I knew I had to pretend in order to protect everyone. Why, Meg? Why did Miss Shel become our friend?" The last part was said with bewilderment.
"She was after something she thought our parents had," Meaghan replied. She decided not to bring up the facts of their parents' deaths, until she could find a quiet moment with just the two of them.
"I found out that she had our house confiscated, just to find some electronic file."
"You mean, like a memory stick? Like this?" Tina reached into the front pocket of her jeans and pulled out a small blue SD card.