Authors: A Nichols
Sarah Bowell, reader
Sandra Luckenbaugh, reader
Sandra Bland, reader
There was a story whispered on the winds of the desert of a white, slender woman with pale blue piercing eyes, hair like the burning red sun of the desert and a body to satisfy the fiercest warrior, all legs and mouth and breasts. Yet, all feared her.
She was known to be a healer, walking the dead back to the land of the living, and she could see events far in the future. She spoke with the skies and the beasts of the desert, and Mother Nature embraced her by giving her dominion over the elements—the wind, the sun and moon, the snow and the rain. She could see through any man, and she knew the deepest desires of his heart—but she was destined for only one. She was called the White Witch, and she walked on present earth. It was said she would bear a child with even greater gifts than her own. She was a coveted prize for any man’s hands for she would bring love, plenty and renown to his house.
So said the Bedouin warriors of the desert.
e felt the land breathe around him; he was as still as he could be, sensing danger nearby. The crashing sounds of people moving in a mass of bodies, chaotic and fearful, screamed out in the quiet dusk. He dropped to his knees, making himself as small as possible as he rechecked to make sure his weapon was ready. It was getting darker, and things were not what they seemed, so he proceeded with caution.
He was dressed in a tribal fashion, his Bedouin heritage evident. He was slender, yet muscular with strong upper body strength and long legs that could move quickly if necessary; he was a tall man, his face was chiseled in granite, his eyes piercing and a deep blue. His cheekbones were prominent; his mouth was a thin line underneath his neatly trimmed beard, and his skin was darkened with the sun. He crept closer to the exodus of bodies; he was looking for only one, a red-haired girl of some 24 years. She was his job.
Madison Kelly was near the back of the group, trying to make sure the children who were having trouble keeping up, didn’t get left behind. The mercenaries weren’t that far away, and she needed to keep the refugees moving towards the border. Time was running out for all of them. The river lay ahead, and it would take some time to get everyone over. Her gauzy head covering had slipped from her, and her red locks now tumbled about her shoulders. Her loose fitting top and trousers made it easy for her to move. She hadn’t time to make her headdress right.
He crept along the side of the group, his eyes everywhere. She had to be here, or she was already dead. The uprising at the town had happened two nights ago, and the American government had dispatched him immediately. She was the daughter of a Canadian diplomat, and the U.S. had been contacted to find her; her capture would throw a wrench into any negotiations with the enemy. He moved towards the back of the group circling around them, hearing their cries and their running feet. Then, he spotted a woman with red hair flowing behind her. She would be a sitting duck for the enemy her hair a beacon of riotous color.
She was with the children, herding them along. He could easily grab her, but he fell back to see how far away the approaching men were. The frantic men and women would make the river, but how many of them would be able to get across it to freedom—that was an unknown. He weighed his options, as he moved back to the side of the running refugees. The river was ahead, and he could hear the splashing as the first men and women started across. The group thinned into a line as people spread out to get into the water.
What the hell? He couldn’t let them be gunned down from behind.
He positioned himself between them and the raging mercenaries and put a clip of ammunition into his submachine gun. Everyone had reached the edge of the water, but they were being sandwiched between it and the oncoming men. He fired a round of shots at the closest of the enemy, seeing many fall. That stopped their forward movement, unsure from where the fire was coming. He sent off a second volley of shots, running the weapon up and down the line, seeing the men drop, both dead and alive. Some were returning gunfire towards his hiding place, seeing the flash of his weapon.
He changed his position. One more volley, and then he would have to grab her and run and hope for the best. Most of the people were now in the water, some adults turning to help with the small children. He fired a third volley of some fifty shots, pinning down the advancing line, giving the refugees more time to escape. The enemy had begun to return more fire determining the general direction of where he was.
The machine gun was spent, so he pulled a revolver and ran quickly to the redheaded girl; she didn’t see him coming. She was still trying to get the last child in the water, looking over her shoulder, hearing shots. He grabbed her roughly, pulling her from the riverbank, and then pushing her up to her feet, almost dragging her along behind him into the high grasses at the side of the river. They would never get across with the army so close. His hand covered her mouth just as she opened it to scream and he held it tight, his voice a menacing tone: “Don’t scream. I’m here to help.” Her eyes were wide, her breath labored, and she bit him hard, causing him to jerk his hand away and curse. She opened her mouth to scream again, and he hit her hard across her cheek, her head snapping to the side. “Do as I say, or we’ll both be dead.”
He jerked her up once again to her feet and half carried her as he moved as silently as possible through the grasses. Multiple shots could be heard to the side of them as the army reached the riverside. The volleys continued, and he had to wonder how many refugees were now dead. He pushed her down hard on the ground and covered her body with his own, his hand holding her mouth shut. The shots continued for several long minutes along with the cries of the living. They would be searching for him soon, so he had to move.
He pushed up and grabbed her headscarf, ripping off a piece of it, making a makeshift gag for her as she fought him. He pulled the rest of the offending material over her head, covering her red mane. She struggled against his hands, but she was no match for his strength. Once she was gagged and he knew she could not scream, he pulled her arms back behind her. He needed her hands free so she could run. He pulled her up, turned her around and pushed her to move again. He kept her head low as he decided which way to go. She fluttered beside him, and he took precious time to talk to her.
“We are going to be moving quickly. You will keep up, and you will not make any noise. We are two hours from freedom. Come.”
The man pushed her before him and kept moving at a rapid pace. The place he had hit her on her face was starting to bruise now. Suddenly, a man jumped out at her from the brush, pushing her to the ground as she tried to scream. Her captor pulled him off and quickly dispatched him with a knife to the throat. He pulled her frightened and shaking body up and moved forward again. Her eyes were wide as she got the first glance at his face.
She seemed almost resigned to his command because she moved forward at the pace he set. His ears were listening for the sounds that would tell him he was being followed. He pushed her hard, moving in a zigzag pattern in case the scouts picked up their path. He could hear her struggling to breathe through the gag, but he didn’t trust her enough to remove it.
After a half an hour, he pulled her towards a small branch of the river and pushed her down. She struggled for air, her legs aching from the constant movement. His eyes scouted the area but found nothing amiss. He knelt beside her and removed the gag. She gulped in lungful’s of air, the side of her face beginning to swell. He pulled a water bottle from his flak jacket and twisted off the lid.
“Drink.” It was difficult to see him in the dark. Her eyes were damning him, but she pulled it to her and did as he said. “Not too much more.” He took it from her then and took a swig of his own, putting the cap in place. If they stayed in the shadows of the trees along the river, they could stand to walk and move more quickly. He pulled her up. “If anything happens to me, you will follow the water until you come to a small village. They will be expecting you.”
“Who are you?”
“No one important. Save your breath. This way, and watch for snakes.”
She hesitated. It was the first time he had seen her afraid. “You go first then.”
“How do I know you won’t run?”
“I give you my word. I’m not a fan of snakes. Please?” Her blue eyes beseeched him, and he caved.
“If you run, I’ll leave you here; understand that.” She nodded.
Would the threat work?
He turned to move forward but watched her out of the corner of his eye, and sure enough, she took off. He caught her after a fifty-yard chase and tackled her to the ground knocking the breath from her; she struggled weakly beneath him. “You are a conniving bitch just like every other woman I have known.” He gritted his teeth at his own stupidity.
“Yes, well, I don’t know who you are, but you’re a bastard, so I guess we’re even.” She got her hands up to his face and scratched it before he grasped her wrists and pulled her up roughly.
“Now you get to meet the snakes.” He pushed her roughly in front of him, knowing that there would be slithering things along the riverbank. She deserved them. They walked for fifteen minutes before she screamed in front of him and ran back to him.
“Something crawled over my foot.”
He pushed her away. “Deal with it.” He marched her forward again. She tripped and fell to her knees, crying out; it had to have hurt, but he pulled her back up to her feet by the back of her shirt and pushed her on. She walked until she thought she couldn’t take another step; every muscle in her body hurt. He wouldn’t let her rest.
There was firelight in front of her as she came into an open area and a small village. Several men came up to her with weapons drawn, frightening her, but they stopped when they saw the man behind her. She turned to look at him, and her eyes widened as the firelight played across his face. “No, oh no.” He was the man of her visions, the man who would father her child. There had to be some mistake.
“You did it, Flak Jacket.” He smiled at his men’s code name for him. “She’s alive.”
“For now,” he said cryptically. “Contact the Canadian government and let them know we have her and get her to the medical tent. We have to be out of here before dawn. The helicopter will be coming to pick her up as soon as I signal them.” The woman was taken away, but her eyes glanced back at him as she was escorted away.
He put down his gun and unfastened his Kevlar vest, leaning at the waist to catch his breath. Blood ran from the wound on his arm from where the knife had caught him as he had struggled with the enemy. He only now felt the pain of the torn flesh.
She was a real piece of work; they would coddle her, he knew. So be it. His job was done. He touched his cheek to wetness; the wildcat had scratched him, and he was bleeding, almost as if she marked him.
The wound on his arm gaped open, dripping blood on the ground, and he wrapped a strip of cloth around it; he would see to it later. He relegated the pain to the back of his mind.
month later, Jordan Lassiter stood in his office, his hands clenching his pen. He was having trouble sleeping again, not able to free himself of the pictures that flashed in his mind, over and over—the child he had been unable to save—his own little girl. He saw other mangled bodies of comrades as well as those he had managed to rescue albeit without limbs. He closed his eyes; he should never have done the rescue of the woman that the government requested of him. It brought back too many bad memories. He would not visit the land of Jordan again; the fight over the land with his cousin had emptied him of any desire to stay in that country. He would renounce his citizenship there and embrace his American side. His business in the U.S. was already up and running, and his American father, if he were still alive, would be happy.
He paced rapidly across his office. It was strange; he couldn’t get the face of the woman he had rescued out of his mind. She had been a redheaded she-cat, a typical Western woman who didn’t know her place with a man; she couldn’t even follow simple directions. These Western women wanted it all: they wanted control; they wanted to be protected; they wanted to be worshipped; they wanted the lead in every relationship; and they wanted to be loved, but only when they wanted it. Men danced to their music; he was having none of that.
His Bedouin brothers had referred to the woman he had saved as the
; she communed with the spirits, and she had brought several patients who were on the brink of death back to life. He didn’t believe such nonsense. He had fought with her and held her in his arms. She was just flesh and blood, but her red hair and light blue eyes were anomalies in his country. His own dark-haired wife had been meek and retiring, acceptable in bed, chosen for him from a good family. She had died when the baby came; and then the baby had drowned at a family gathering when her nurse had lost sight of her. The scenes chased each other like rabbits in his mind going round and round, and he was unable to turn them off. He snapped the pen in two, ink squirting out on his desk blotter and onto his suit coat and shirt.
He had a meeting in an hour.