Authors: Sally Clements
‘The gold arrives on Friday, and the exhibition is open to the public on Monday. I reckon they’ll steal it over the weekend. They’ll act quickly.’ He clenched his jaw and threw a stone into the water’s depths. ‘We need to get off this rock.’
There were no boats, and without a helicopter they were well and truly stuck. They’d escaped the tight confines of the lighthouse, but were still held captive.
Tempest sank down beside him. ‘We’re still in the UK. There were documents in the lighthouse, some old papers, and they were in English. We’re probably just off the coast.’
Jake nodded. ‘I saw no sign of telephone infrastructure, or a radio mast. So wherever we are, it’s not currently inhabited.’
‘I guess they must bring a phone with them.’ Her face crumpled as the severity of their situation took hold. ‘And take it away with them when they leave.’
Her head hung down and a dirty skein of hair brushed the side of her face. Like an abandoned puppy, she fired all his protective instincts into vivid life. His arm twitched with the urge to embrace her shoulders. To offer some scant comfort. He fought back his impulses with an iron determination. There wasn’t time for that. For the moment they were alone; they might not be for long.
Determination settled into a heavy stone in Jake’s gut. ‘We have to do something. Find some way off this goddamned island.’ He wasn’t beaten yet. His hands formed tight fists as he strode backward and forwards on the jetty. ‘I’m going back in. Stay alert. And if there’s any trouble, get back into the cave, and hide.’
Jake ran towards the lighthouse. He’d looked so fierce when he told her he was going back in, that she hadn’t even tried to go with him. Now, alone, fear flared into frantic life within her. There wasn’t a thing to see for miles from the summit, apart from land in the distance, and they’d found no boats in their travels. They were marooned. If something happened to him, she’d be totally alone.
Small streams drizzled down to the waterline. Maybe one of them would be a source of fresh water. She scooped a handful and tasted it, spitting out the brackish water with disgust.
Not this one though.
A different sound shattered the silence and she stilled, ears straining. In a split second, she registered the steady thwack of a motor in the silent air.
Her frightened gaze searched the path. There was no sign of Jake. He was inside, and probably hadn’t heard the helicopter’s approach. Her heart was beating frantically in her chest.
What if he didn’t hear them?
The lighthouse door was open, telegraphing their escape. Jake could be in terrible danger. Fear and indecision paralyzed her legs for long moments before logic kicked in. She had to get out of sight, and quickly. She was a sitting duck out here in the open. She kicked off her shoes and raced for the cave, as the sound steadied, then faded in the still air.
The kidnappers were back.
The strengthening wind, laden with the scent of salt, pushed against his chest as Jake neared the lighthouse. He ducked inside, blind for a moment before his eyes adjusted to the gloom. The air was clammy against his bare arms, and his nose wrinkled with the stench of damp.
He crept down the corridor, and pushed open a door to the right.
This must be the room where Tempest had found the key and the water.
The visibility in here was much clearer, thanks to the watery light bleeding in through the smeared glass of a tiny window, set high in the stone. A patch of blue sky was visible through it. A calendar hung on the wall, turned to February, 1992. The14th had been decorated with a badly drawn red heart around it. Apparently the previous occupant had been a romantic. Jake’s mouth twisted.
On the rough counter below the calendar, an old newspaper lay discarded. The Daily Mail, February 1992. Tempest was right. They must be off the coast of Britain somewhere.
Hands stilled and the paper fell from his fingers back onto the counter as a sound rent the silence. A slow, steady thrumming in the air. A dark shape appeared briefly in the tiny window. A helicopter. The men who’d snatched them were back.
And he’d left Tempest out in the open.
Jake cursed, and his hands curled into fists at his sides. Hopefully she’d taken his parting shot seriously, and had run for cover.
A broken wooden chair sat by the table, the spokes of its back separating from the seat. With a bit of work he pulled a tine out, weighing its weight and strength in his hands. Not perfect, but it would do. Jake stepped behind the open door, angling it so he could see through the gap made by the hinge. There wasn’t time to close the door he’d kicked open, and the outer door was open too. The element of surprise was gone. Jake’s hands tightened on the wood as the sound of voices drifted through the open doorway. There were two of them. Maybe three. He rolled onto the balls of his feet as their footsteps drew closer.
‘They’re gone.’ The unfamiliar voice was laced with panic. ‘Paul will kill us.’
Jake’s head swam.
Paul, his business partner, the man he’d thought was his best friend?
Anger and dismay battled within. His hand tightened on his makeshift weapon. There was no time to process thoughts of Paul’s betrayal now. The men were in the other room, and he needed to be ready.
The first voice muttered. ‘They’ll be hiding somewhere, there’s no way to get off this island.’ Then silence.
What was taking them so damn long?
A floorboard creaked so close Jake almost jumped, then a foot appeared. One more step…
Jake raised the bar and brought it down on the back before him with a resounding crack.
A high, almost feminine shriek rent the air, yet the body bent over in instinctive agony was pure male – thin, angular, familar. Jake kicked the stranger’s knee out from under him from behind, taking the element of surprise a vital inch further.
The man sprawled on the ground, holding his knee to his chest and howling in pain. Hard metal, a gun, skittered across the floor, out of reach.
A bellow from the door – then a hulking figure charged him, like a cartoon bull enraged by a matador’s red cloak. Jake’s heart hammered in his chest. His muscles responded automatically to the threat, and he leapt away a split second before the giant made contact. SING: solar plexus, instep, nose, groin. The acronym he’d learnt years ago kicked in as he stamped his attacker’s instep and simultaneously shoved the heel of his palm hard upwards. A river of red streamed from his assailant’s bloody nose and pain radiated from Jake’s wrist to his elbow.
The big man bellowed in pain, enraged, and his companion was struggling to his feet. Things were about to get a lot worse. There was a flash of movement behind his target, a fast moving shadow. He blinked, and then sprang away as the giant arced through the air, taking the thin man down with him.
Tempest stood in the doorway, breathing heavily. Jake reached for the chair and smashed it down onto the pair on the floor. He took the cuffs from her outstretched hands and pulled the giant’s wrists behind his squirming body, then cuffed them.
The other man lay motionless. Out cold.
Jake’s gaze flicked to Tempest. She was standing there with a triumphant grin lighting up her face. She was totally reckless. And totally gorgeous.
‘Where did you learn to do that?’
‘I took self-defence classes. And kick-boxing. You never know when you’re going to need it.’ She glowed with achievement, standing up straight with her hands on her hips.
‘I guess you never do.’
If she hadn’t rushed to his aid, he’d be lying there instead, unconscious. But she’d put herself in danger.
. The thought of what they might have done to her if they’d managed to fight back sent a shudder down his spine. But now wasn’t the time to berate her for it, he had a more urgent task in hand. To get off the island.
The giant’s big body twisted and shook. He couldn’t right himself without the use of his hands, so Jake rolled him over onto his back.
The giant stared at the motionless body of his friend. ‘Is he dead?’
‘Maybe.’ Jake glanced at Tempest. ‘Get the ropes.’
With a quick nod, she darted out of the room as he placed his face close to the giant’s.
‘You and me are going to have little talk. I don’t want to hurt you, not with a lady present, but I want information, and I want it now.’ Two steps across the room and Jake held the gun. The man’s eyes widened. ‘Let’s take the easy road, shall we? Who sent you?’
Ask the questions you know the answer to. First rule of successful interrogation.
‘I don’t know.’
Jake shook his head. ‘Wrong answer.’
He reached into the giant’s jacket pocket and pulled out his wallet. Cards, cash and a driver’s license. He pulled it out, matching the face to a name.
‘OK, Bill. Let’s start again. Who do you work for?’
Tempest appeared in the doorway, a smudge of dirt on her face, ropes in her hand. Her throat worked as she looked at the gun, but no words came out.
‘Tie him up,’ Jake told her.
‘My pleasure.’ She knelt next to the thin man, dragged his hands behind his back and tied them tightly. As tight as he’d tied her.
‘You haven’t answered me, Bill.’ Jake lifted the gun and aimed it between Bill’s eyes. ‘Who sent you?’
‘Paul Grey,’ Bill muttered. ‘It was Paul Grey.’
‘Good boy.’ He lowered the gun, considered his options for a brief moment, then handed it to Tempest as Bill blew out a laboured breath. ‘Watch him.’
She moved into position and trained the gun on Bill. Not so close he could kick out, but close enough.
. Jake walked carefully around Bill, and yanked on the ropes tying the other man’s wrists together. He turned him over and propped him against the wall.
‘Now this guy I recognize.’ It was the man who’d forced them into the van. The sour smell of his body odour assailed Jake’s nostrils. He grimaced. ‘What’s his name?’
Bill glanced at Tempest. She stared right back, keeping the gun aimed steadily on him. The decision to talk was an easy one.
Bill swallowed, and his voice was a dry rasp as he answered. ‘John Alton.’
A mass of broken metal and plastic was all that was left of their satellite phone. Jake kicked it to the corner of the room. He ran his hands over John’s prone body, feeling the chest rise beneath his fingertips.
He was still alive.
He pulled out a wallet and a long flat key from John’s jacket, and took the gun from Tempest’s determined grip. She stared at him, blue eyes flaring with an emotion he couldn’t identify. Not fear, that was for sure.
‘Now I want to know everything you know.’ He sat down on the floor and levelled the gun at Bill again. ‘Start talking.’
Bill’s yellow teeth worried at his bottom lip. ‘He’s going to steal the gold exhibit.’
‘Yeah.’ Bill shifted on the ground and started to sweat. Eyes glued to the gun. ‘He thought if we held you, your mother would play ball. He’s moved in with her, to watch her.’
Jake’s fingers tightened around the gun and his emerald eyes darkened to almost black. His anger was tangible in the close confines of the room, dangerous. If Tempest had been under his cold stare, she would have been terrified.
‘That’s all I know. John called me in as muscle, y’know? I’ve worked with him before; he only told me what I needed to know.’ He blinked as sweat dripped into his eye. ‘He said the boss wanted it that way.’
‘Did you come here to kill us?’
Jake pushed his face into Bill’s. Prodded him in the chest with the gun. Bill’s eyes widened and shook his head in vehement denial.
‘No, we were to check on you, that’s all. Then report back.’ His gaze skittered to the damaged phone in the corner of the room. The man didn’t know any more; if he did he would have told them. Fear was a powerful motivator.
Jake stood, looking at Tempest. ‘Come on.’
She didn’t need to be told twice, and ran across the room to his side. Hope swelled in her chest. Jake looked like he had a plan and she so desperately wanted it to be a good one.
The man on the floor cleared his throat. ‘What about John? He’s hurt…’ Bill’s voice trailed off into silence at the look in Jake’s eyes.
‘He should have thought of that before he came after us with a gun,’ Jake replied. The familiar arc of electricity flowed up Tempest’s arm as he grasped her elbow and walked her out of the lighthouse, into the afternoon’s fading light. ‘We need to get away from here.’
He walked so quickly she stumbled on the rocky path. Her feet stung as the sharp rocks cut them. ‘Ouch!’
‘Come on.’ His forehead creased in a frown.
‘But my feet…’
Jake stopped and grasped her upper arms. ‘Listen, sore feet are the least of your problems.’ A muscle twitched in the corner of his jaw. His eyes blazed. ‘When those thugs don’t report back, Paul will send someone else. And they won’t be coming to check we’re all safely tied up. They’ll be coming to kill us.’
His jaw clenched in a tight line. ‘Anyway, I told you to stay hidden. What the hell were you doing, rushing to my rescue? You could have been killed.’
‘You’re angry because I came to help you?’
A red tide of anger washed over Tempest. Her fingers clenched into fists. She couldn’t believe what she was hearing. If she hadn’t crept towards the room after them, he would be lying there unconscious, instead of John.
The murderous look was back, this time directed at her. ‘Yes, I bloody am.’
‘You’re crazy.’ She glared. ‘If I hadn’t come after you, you could be dead now.’
She planted her hands on her hips, not giving an inch. There was no way she would have left him alone to square off against two attackers. Christ, she wouldn’t have left a
to that fate.
He just stared back. Looking like he’d toss her over his shoulder if she didn’t behave. She knew he could do it too. The men were tied up, but might not be for long. This battle would have to wait.