Chapter 75 & 76
Hours later, Meaghan woke up from her slumber, and startled, looked around. Rickie was curled on his side, away rom her. She reached out to touch his shoulder, but thought better of it. Unable to go back to sleep, she stood up and walked out of the cave until she reached the stand of palm trees at the edge of the beach. Daybreak was only a short time away.
Meaghan placed her elbows on a fallen palm tree and looked out unseeingly as the muted colors of the sky gradually brightened.
Rickie eyes opened in the darkened cave, his back feeling cold now that his Meaghan had left. Sitting up, he tested the bandages and found that no new blood had seeped through. He carefully stretched, stood up, and padded towards the cave entrance, where he stopped at the sight of her silhouette against the fiery tones of the sky. After a moment, he walked up next to her and leaned against the same tree.
Meaghan sighed. “I hope Tina is okay at your father’s estate. I normally know everything she’s doing, and I’m worried about her.”
“I spoke to her when I was looking for you,” Rickie replied, “and she was fine. She’s a good kid.”
“Thank you. I feel a little bit better.”
“You’ve been taking care of her for a while,” Rickie said admiringly. “Your parents used to talk about you two. Your mother said you were the caretaker and your sister was the free spirit. I know they were very proud of both of you.” He didn’t add that her father had called her the ‘mousy’ one, when the reality was so far from that.
Meaghan felt a pang thinking about her parents, but this was an opportunity to get more information.
“Can you tell me anything about what happened to them?” Rickie heard the plaintive note in the question, and hesitated about replying. This was not what he expected this morning, but it was important to clear the air regarding her parents. He dragged a hand across the stubble on his face.
“I can’t talk a lot about what they did at the division. At that time, a year ago, they were going to Shanghai to meet with one of our operatives, in order to check up on some rumors of Chinese nationals attempting some type of sabotage. There was nothing in the radio chatter to indicate any problems with the plane. It just…disappeared.” Rickie took a deep breath and continued. “We performed an extensive search and located the wreckage of the plane, but it was in the deepest section of the sea. We were unable to retrieve anything from the seafloor that could indicate it was a terrorist act, but our experts believe, based on the debris field, that it broke up midair possibly due to some type of explosion. There was no indication that anyone survived the impact, so we filed our investigation as presumed dead.”
Silence. Then a single sob.
His heart broke a little, knowing the pain Meaghan was feeling had to be overwhelming. He stepped behind her and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her right ear before he tucked his head on her shoulder and gently rocked back and forth. She leaned back and savored the feel of his warm strength around her. Her muscles slowly unknotted until he was almost holding her up. He turned her around until he back was against the trunk and his arms bracketed her.
Rickie realised that was the pose they had in her kitchen, so long ago. He searched her face, and saw the lines of weariness that weren’t there before. Without another thought, he scooped her up and strode back to the cave, gently placing her on the pallet she had made for them, before stretching out beside her. He gently pulled her head until it was resting against his heart.
Meaghan tried to pull away. “We have to somehow find something to contact help…”
“Shhhh”, he said as he tucked back her hair and kissed her nose. “Just rest for now.”
She sighed and snuggled against him, her arm curled trustingly across his bare abs right above his makeshift bandage. He could feel her lips curve against his chest.
“Thank you, my Pillow Prince.”
Rickie floated on his back, directionless light everywhere. The warm weight at his side told him his Meggie was there. He curled around his beloved, and felt a measure of peace and contentment he had never experienced before. He wanted to slip deeper in this wonderful dream.
“Do you have a lot of time to be slouching about?” An amused voice broke into his dreams, and he frowned, his eyes still closed. Raine? What was she doing in his dreams? He cracked an eye open and nearly yelped when a shadow leaned over him.
Beside him, Meaghan stirred and slowly sat up. She looked around fuzzily for a moment, and then brightened up with a squeal.
The reunion was swift and satisfying. The pair was transport by junket back to the main ship, and Rickie was seen by the unit’s corpsmen. After a shower and clean, though utilitarian, clothes, they were now digging into breakfast with gusto while Raine explained what had transpired last night.
Much to the chagrin of the APMM forces, the gray cigarette boat managed to avoid their dragnet and escape. Given that it had been damaged in the collision with the Bayliner, the search grid focused on the area between the Kuching waterfront and where Rickie sent his message. They were now widening the search to including the Bayliner wreck.
And how were they found?
The Bayliner had a built-in emergency beacon that activated when it sank. The APMM
found the signal, but had to wait until sunrise to launch the rescue forces. The helicopter had canvassed the island, but there was no place for it to land, so a Nusa-class ship was launched and was currently offshore. Divers were also combing the wreck for clues; the body of the extremist had been recovered. Raine and a small group of APMM forces were dispatched to the island to look for survivors.
“And that,” Raine stated with satisfaction, “is that!” Meaghan looked amused for a moment before again applying her concentration to the full breakfast in front of her. Rickie, equally ravenous, nevertheless made sure that the basket of bread and jar of Nutella was conveniently near his woman’s elbow, before grabbing a knife to smear a healthy dose of the hazelnut-and- chocolate spread on his own puri bread.
“So what did the two of you do last night while waiting for rescue?” The bright spark in her eye showed the Raine was enjoying their discomfiture as they looked at each other and blushed.
“We just managed to reach the island, and all we did was sleep.” Rickie firmly stated, well aware of the sidelong grins from the crew members.
A noncommittal grunt was all that was heard from Raine, and they reapplied themselves to the food.
After satisfying their hunger, the two of them, along with Raine, met with the command staff to debrief about their adventures. The APMM forces managed to prevent escape and capture a smaller boat from the terrorist organization; they never made it out of the harbor, and were currently undergoing interrogation regarding their activities.
The gray boat that they chased ultimately escaped; the commander believed that was the same boat that rammed the Bayliner. Neither the boat nor its murderous crew member had been seen since.