Ryan Kaine is on the outside…
When the neo-fascist group The Doomsday Creed kidnap Sabrina Faroukh, Ryan Kaine gets the call.
Sabrina was the IT expert who helped Kaine in his early days and as the granddaughter of an influential arms dealer, her life has more value than most to the terrorists.
In the Arizona wilderness, up against a fanatical group hell-bent on creating a dirty bomb, Kaine needs more than luck to rescue Sabrina. And he could do without the trigger-happy local law enforcement speeding to the scene.
With so many lives riding on a successful outcome, Kaine is at his limit, when things take a desperate turn for the worst.
If you like Lee Child, Mark Dawson and Robert Ludlum, you’re going to find the Ryan Kaine series compulsively addictive.
Wednesday 17th May – Sabrina
Camp Pueblo, Arizona, US
Daylight cut through the oppressive darkness, carving through the gap around the only outside door in her cell. It painted three bright stripes on the concrete floor and forced Sabrina up from the blessed comfort of sleep. She turned over, and the springs on the ex-military cot squeaked in aggressive complaint. The wafer-thin foam mattress provided little protection against the metal that tried, throughout the night, to slice her to ribbons.
Reluctant in its lethargy, her mind swam against the flow, battling the tide of despair, arms pulling, legs kicking, until she finally dragged herself to the surface, into wakefulness.
Counter to the hopes promised in her dreams, she awoke in the same grimy dank place—her cell.
Each time she moved her hand, the iron manacle that attached the chain to her wrist chafed her skin a little more. The protective cloth she used—a piece torn from the sleeve of her nightshirt—had fallen loose during the night. The wound felt as bad as it looked. It wept blood and a yellow-green pus. Assuming she lived long enough for the wound to heal, it would leave a scar.
Sans doute. No doubt.
The questions remained. Why had the colonel kept her alive? He did not usually spare the lives of those he believed worked against him. Ruthlessness had been his modus operandi.
Clutching the coiled chain tight to her thigh, Sabrina arched her back and tried to ease the tension that had formed between her shoulder blades. The movement did nothing but allow a biting cramp to attack her muscles. Every muscle in her body ached, cried out for warmth. The warmth of food, of nourishment.
Grit scratched her eyes and crunched when she ground her teeth. She tried to swallow, but a dry throat made it a near impossibility.
All her own fault. Such an idiot. As grand-père Mo-Mo often said, one day, arrogance would be the end of her.
Sometime during the past few weeks, she had spoken to the wrong person. Greed had turned that person against her. Or maybe the betrayer came from closer to home.
Identifying the individual responsible for the treachery would be a challenge for others. As a task, it fell outside her capabilities. At any moment, she expected a member of the Creed to drag her away to her death. Hopefully, it would be quick. Quicker than the slow death of dehydration or starvation.
Why had it taken her so long to discover the cause of the missing inventory? The clues had been there from the very outset, but her covert investigation had been blocked at every turn. Only by pure luck did she stumble upon the first crack in the fortress of silence. One fissure led to another, and eventually they coalesced into a canyon. Death and destruction became a trail leading to the colonel, the Doomsday Creed, and this very place. She had only lacked the evidence to convince the authorities to move in and close down the band of home-grown terrorists.
One day. Perhaps two. That was all she required. But it was not to be.
In the dead of night they came for her. They overpowered and drugged her, and they spirited her away to this grubby cell. Three nights and two days ago.
Merde à leurs cœurs noirs! Damn their black hearts!
The hours stretched out interminably and each moment, the death she expected failed to materialise. All she had were her thoughts, which turned relentlessly in on themselves, becoming more and more distorted as the hunger and thirst took effect. Her stomach tightened, grumbled, rebelled against the deprivation, and her throat constricted in pain from the lack of drink.
What would she give for a tall glass of cool, clear water? A drink to extend her life for one more day.
No. Think of something else.
Who had turned against her? Who had turned her over to the Creed?
The names on the list were many, and crossed at least two continents. Too numerous to determine in her weakened state.
Why had they acted against her?
The obvious answers came easily enough. Either greed, or a belief in the cause espoused by the colonel, or both. Greed seemed the more likely option, since the cause was hopeless—the dream of a lunatic. The missing weapons and ammunition were worth millions of dollars on the black market, and the colonel possessed very deep pockets.
Sabrina, sitting on the edge of the bed, doubled over and clenched her belly against the next attack of raging cramps. More and more, thirst and hunger dominated her waking thoughts, making it difficult to think logically.
She cast her eyes to the ceiling. One solitary lightbulb suspended from a cable attached to a rafter. She had never seen it alight.
Time passed evermore slowly. Her mind wandered.
Concentre-toi, Sabrina. Concentrate.
Tex might arrive at any moment, and she did not want him to see her weakness, or to see her cry. Not that tears would actually form. Dehydration would not allow it.
Yes, she needed to concentrate on Tex and his slack-jawed partner, George.
Focus upon Tex. Use anger as a driver. Fight. Stay alive for as long as possible. Help will come. Please God, help will come.
The first time she saw the blond-haired mountain of a man, he slammed open the door to her filthy prison cell and stood in the opening. So tall, he had to stoop when passing through the doorway to avoid striking his head. Shoulders so wide they almost blocked the opening, and his huge silhouette stood out dark against the blinding sunlight. Behind him, head poking through the gap, stood a squat, ugly young man. He had an underslung jaw, a shock of uncombed hair, and carried a pump-action shotgun pointed at his toes.
When the big man stepped inside, sunlight seared her eyes so painfully she had to close them tight and turn her head away. He stood inside the threshold, unmoving while she recovered enough to look up at him.
“Hey there, little lady,” he said. His soft Southern drawl made him sound almost friendly. “My name’s Tex. I sure am glad to meet you, ma’am.”
When he made the greeting, he touched his forehead as though tipping his hat to her.
Still shielding her eyes, she stared up at the man who remained well out of reach. The youngster with the shotgun hovered just outside the doorway.
Tex leered at her, taking in her state of undress. The men had snatched her while she slept, and she sat on the cot barefoot, wearing only a silk nightshirt and shorts. The translucent cloth left little to his imagination.
“I said, ‘Hey there, little lady’,” Tex snapped, teeth bared, all pretence at civility disappearing in an instant. “Answer me, damn you!”
Sabrina swallowed and tried to speak, but she could not drive any words through her parched throat. Instead, she looked up at him and nodded.
Once satisfied he had her full attention, Tex smirked. He took a set of keys from the pocket of his dusty jeans, selected one, and used it to unlock the only other door in her cinderblock cell—a door she had tried, and failed, to open since the start of her incarceration. She assumed it to be the door to another cell. Many times, she had knocked upon it but had received no response.
Tex turned the handle and pushed. The door creaked inwards to reveal a toilet and a washbasin.
Tex ducked low and entered the closet. He rested a hand on the tap.
“Thirsty?” he asked, still smiling.
Again, she could only nod.
From the moment Tex entered the cell, the ugly one with the shotgun had not taken his eyes off her. His lower lip glistened with drool and he wiped it dry with the back of his free hand.
Ensuring she could see his actions clearly, Tex fitted a plug into the drain and twisted the handle of the tap. It squeaked open and clear water trickled into the bowl, filling it slowly. She couldn’t tear her eyes from the flow, which sparkled in the sunlight streaming through the small, frosted glass window on the far wall of the closet.
Miraculously, her mouth watered at the sight and allowed her to swallow.
“Yes,” she croaked.
His smile grew even wider. Brilliant white teeth stood out against his dark suntan.
“Well, come get some, honey,” he said, beckoning with a hand as large as a shovel.
She stayed put—sitting on the edge of her cot. Wary.
“What’s wrong, Frenchie? Scared o’ little ol’ me?”
Sabrina stared him down. She said nothing.
“Aw, honey. There ain’t no need to be afraid of ol’ Tex. I ain’t gonna touch you none. Here, I’ll prove it.”
When the water reached the lip of the bowl and started to dribble over the sides and puddle on the filthy concrete floor, the huge man turned off the tap.
He said, “Go on, honey. Help yourself,” bowed gracefully, and backed out of the cell, locking the door behind him.
Sabrina jumped up from the bed and raced to the closet. She reached all the way past the inner door before the chain stretched taut and the manacle tore into the flesh of her wrist. It brought her up short—short of the basin, but not the toilet.
She screamed out in pain and frustration.
Outside, behind the locked door, Tex let loose a huge belly laugh.
“What’s wrong, Frenchie? Chain too short? Shame that. A cryin’ shame!”
The cell door opened, and once again, Tex blocked the sunlight with his huge frame.
Sabrina backed away to her cot, hugging her injured arm tight to her chest.
His braying laugh echoed throughout the cell and drove deep into her head. The one with the shotgun shifted his gaze from her to Tex and back again as though he was struggling to understand the joke.
“Serves you right for bein’ so eager, Frenchie.”
“Why am I here?” she croaked.
“That’s what happens to people who work against the Creed. You brought it all on yourself, honey.”
“What do you plan to do to me?”
“Gonna tenderise you a little, then you’ll find out.”
Still laughing, he backed out of the cell, barged the smaller man out of the way, and locked the door again. She sat on the cot, crying silent, dry tears, listening to his footfalls crunching on gravel and disappearing into the distance.