Chapter 71 & 72
Rickie’s face felt stiff with salt spray as he finally reached the speeding Bayliner. So far, the mercenary behind the wheel hadn’t noticed the pursuit, but it was only a short amount of time before they became aware of his pursuit.
Suddenly, the big boat began to slow down, and Rickie quickly cut his own engine. The mercenary swiftly looked behind her and met Rickie’s eyes; something had alerted her to his presence. She slewed the boat around and Rickie was buffeted by the wash. Thinking quickly, he made the decision and accelerated towards the bow of the other vessel.
Rickie felt the impact to his shoulder as he jumped and rolled onto the bowsprit. He quickly got his feet under him and crouched with his gun in his hand. He did not see anyone through the windshield; the impact of his jetsprint had knocked the mercenary away from the wheel. The throttle was still open and the boat charged on as the woman came to her feet. Narrowing her eyes, she pulled out a semi-automatic pistol and began firing as Rickie, who could do little more than flatten himself to the deck.
The gunfire paused as the magazine emptied, and Rickie used the opportunity to squeeze off his gun. She dodged to the port side, and he leaped through the walkway into the aft deck, only to stop short. The reloaded gun was pointed unerringly at his head; the woman had changed magazines in a split second, as fast as any member of PASKAU.
For a suspended moment, they stared at each other: blue-gray and sky blue eyes sparking the air between them.
“That perempuan is going to cost you your life,” Shuk growled.
“If so, she is worth it,” Rickie replied.
A sneer greeted this statement, and he readied himself for a final desperate charge.
Suddenly, there was a thump and the boat slewed wildly to the side; a dark gray cigarette boat had smashed into the side of the Bayliner. The woman lost her footing and went down, her weapon flying out of her hand and sliding to the rear of the vessel. Rickie risked a look at the other boat and caught a brief glance at Ani behind the wheel, but by then the white-haired mercenary had risen from the slippery deck, a long knife in her hand.
Rickie froze; there was no way he could bring his gun to bear before she reached him. He dropped the weapon to the deck behind him. Her eyes involuntarily followed it, and he lunged for her knife hand.
They grappled; he elbowed her face, causing a fountain of blood out of her nose. Cursing, she swept his legs out from under him, and he landed on his previously injured side. He felt the sutures tear but had little time to think about it before she was above him and swinging the knife down.
He rolled away, striking her leg and causing her to land on her knees close to the cabin door. She smiled a nasty smile, and then dove for the cabin door.
Without thinking, he bellied down towards his gun, grabbed it and fired a single shot at the retreating back. The woman paused as a red rose of blood bloomed bright against her white hair and she fell into the cabin.
There was no time for Rickie to react before he heard a yell off the starboard side of the Bayliner. He looked up to see a woman dressed in jeans, standing on the other boat, a fully-automatic Colt M4A1 carbine pointed at him. He had only a moment to squeeze off a few rounds towards the other boat before she opened up.
Rickie dove for the deck as bullets buzzed over his head and ricocheted into the side of the boat. The barrage continued until he heard an audible [click], indicating the magazine was empty. He braved standing up and looking over at the cigarette boat, which looked worse for the collisions it had endured. Ani was slumped over the wheel; his wild shooting had managed to find a target. Actually two, as the engines changed pitch and lost its smooth roar.
“This isn’t over yet!” The woman snarled over the sound. Smoke was beginning to pour out of the inboard engine compartment; she looked over, cursed, and looked back at Rickie. She strode over to the wheel and pulled the dead weight of Ani off the captain’s seat onto the deck.
Rickie could do nothing but watch as she threw the throttle forward and powered the boat away from them. He did not want to jeopardize Meaghan any further. Indeed, his beloved was shakily climbing out of the cabin, and, to Rickie, there wasn’t a more welcome sight. He pulled her up the rest of way and began running his hands over her arms and body, ignoring her protests. He lingered over the bruises already formed underneath the restraints, then travelled upwards until he gently touched the imprint on her cheek, and rubbed his thumb on her broken lip. Finding no severe injuries, he pulled her into his arms and held her tight, thankful she was alive.
“Sayang,” he breathed into her hair. She ceased her struggles at the whisper, and her hands hesitantly came around and held onto his arms, the jingle of the chains an obscene reminder of her ordeal. He gentled his arms, but still kept her tucked against his heart.
After a moment, she pulled back and looked at her man. She gasped at the blood on his shirt; the exertions must have caused the sutures to tear.
“Rickie!” He looked down where she was staring and realized what happened.
“They’ve pulled a little, but it’s fine. We need to try and get someplace safe.”
“There’s a problem.” Meaghan tried to keep a calm tone. “Water is pouring in from underneath the boat.”
Rickie jumped down into the cabin and saw the body of the mercenary, facedown and unmoving. Once he was sure she was dead, he looked around and was shocked to see the damage. Above the waterline, the slanted rays of the lowering sun shone through several long cracks in the hull, and below it he could see the water seeping in and starting to cover the low-pile carpet. Since the engine was slightly lower than the living quarters, it was going to flood first. He made his way aft to the engine compartment.
The housing around the bilge pump was damaged from one of the impacts and inoperable.
There was a manual pump with a hand crank, but would not be able to keep up with the amount of water pouring into the stricken vessel.
He searched the body until he found the cuff keys, then climbed out of the cabin, and immediately unlocked the leg- and wrist shackles, kissing the inside of her wrists by way of an apology.
“Meggie, do you think you could try and manually pump as long as you can? It may be the only way I can get us somewhere safe.” She bit her bruised bottom lip and nodded. He showed her the mechanism, gave her shoulder a squeeze in encouragement, and climbed back up.
Looking at the GPS viewfinder, he detected a small island several kilometers away. It was the closest land he could find, so he set the heading due west and accelerated to full throttle, praying the boat would stay afloat long enough to make it there.