Chapter 81 & 82
“I can’t believe this whole time you were working for the group that killed my parents,” Meaghan ground out between clenched teeth, as anger and hurt overcame her fear. The object of her anger just shrugged.
“Our goals and responsibilities are heavy burdens, but we gladly bear them. It’s important that the world understand that we are a force to be reckoned with…”
A snort interrupted her. She looked sharply over at Rickie, his hands on his hips and a cheerful smile on his face.
“You are some of the worst operatives I have ever seen, Berry. After all this time, you didn’t manage a single goal, and your so-called responsibilities are a joke.”
The mercenary flinched as if he struck a physical blow, but then she straightened up and stared malevolently at Rickie, who was standing tall but relaxed, as if she was a guest in the house. Meaghan looked at him with growing concern. What was he doing? She almost immediately answered her question: he was making himself the center of attention, and forcing Shel to become angry enough to make a mistake.
Rickie began ticking off on his fingers.
“You failed to destroy or even significantly damage my FLNG tower. You failed your kidnapping attempt. You failed in procuring the data file. You’ve lost troops with no casualties on the other side to balance it out. Let’s face, perempuan,” Rickie deliberately put as much contempt as possible in his voice, “there was no significance in anything your little group planned.”
Shel narrowed her eyes at him before visibly forcing herself calm. She took a step behind her and picked up her bright cellphone.
“I still have the card, and with this knowledge, we will correct our mistakes and disappear. Then your precious BKN won’t discover our next mission until it’s too late.”
“It’s all false information on the chip,” Rickie said bluntly, “I even added some Korean Pop music to it. Big Bang, to be exact. I thought it was apropos.”
Rickie now openly laughed at the incredulous look on her face, and couldn’t resist. “It’s fantastic, baby.”
“Stop laughing.” The calmness was now gone, and the terrorist was vibrating with anger. “Maybe this will change your tune.” And she swung the barrel towards Meaghan, who was still standing near the coffee table throughout this exchange.
“Now!” A deep voice yelled to their right.
From their respective locations, Rickie and Meaghan sent a startled look over at their family members as Tina unexpectedly leaped from her chair, the fireplace poker in her hand.
The rest of what happened was a blur in Rickie’s mind, yet crystalline clear in slow-motion.
He saw the mercenary swing her handgun towards the younger girl, sensing the threat that bloomed from that area, and he knew he was too far away to stop her from bringing the gun to bear.
His father came to life and grabbed a crystal ashtray with his good hand. He tossed it, and the object arced through the air until it connected with Shel’s arm and knocked her gun aside, spinning her slightly so that she now faced Rickie.
Rickie hesitated a moment too long, torn between protecting his love, and saving his family.
The hate from Shel’s eyes was almost palpable as she took aim at him.
Meaghan felt her heart speed up when she realized how unstable her former neighbor was. Without a thought for herself, Meaghan lunged for Rickie and pushed him out of the way.
The sound of a single shot was loud in the ensuing silence.
“Meg!” Tina’s cry was faint over the sound of her blood pounding in her 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.
“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. Rickie 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.
Rickie stood up, 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; he nodded and squeezed back.
“It was 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. Rickie 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 lead 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 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.