Read Her Only Protector Online

Authors: Lisa Mondello

Her Only Protector (9 page)

If she was dealing with the kind of trouble he thought she was, he admired her strength. But her stupidity for allowing herself to get involved in something like this in the first place irritated him to no end.

“I got a photo of Eduardo Sanchez and his wife holding their new baby at a press conference,” Marco called from the kitchen.

Sonny closed her eyes slowly, shielding her emotion from him.

“It's grainy so it's not going to tell us much about the baby.”

Gil continued to look at Sonny, who hadn't moved from where she was standing in the middle of the living room. “What's the date?”

“I'm guessing it will be around three months ago,” Sonny said, looking directly at him.

“About three months ago,” Marco called out.

Silence hung in the air for a few seconds as Sonny and Gil looked at each other.

Gil finally asked, “Who is really Ellie's mother?”

Sonny shook her head. “How many times are you going to ask me this? My sister-in-law, Serena Davco-Montgomery, is Ellie's biological mother. She gave birth to her at home, so you won't find any birth announcement under that name. You won't even find a wedding announcement about Cash and Serena, so don't even waste your time trying. I'm not sure how much you'll find about Serena's parents except that her mother died in the tragic fire that Manuel Turgis set. You'll find information about the fire, but not about Turgis's involvement—I only learned that myself about two months ago. There won't be much on Serena, if anything at all. Her father, Byron Davco, worked hard to keep her out of the public eye.”


“To protect her.”

“From Eduardo Sanchez?”

“Among others. I'm not really sure how many people are involved in the deals Byron Davco made to launder money.”

“Serena Davco-Montgomery.” He said the name as if he were trying it on for size. “Cash's wife.”


“Why is there no record of the marriage?”

“That story is going to take a while.”

“I've got time. Lots of it.”

She shook her head. “You have less time than you realize. Those military trucks you heard outside probably
sent by Eduardo Sanchez.”

“I figured as much,” Gil said. “It's hard to believe a businessman has the power to move the military. Even here in Colombia.”

“He's a high-ranking kingpin who wouldn't hesitate to kill any one of us right now if his people found us with Ellie. He's decided she's his. That's all that matters. His wife wanted a baby but couldn't have one. So when the opportunity presented itself, he took Ellie.”

“Forgive me if I find this a little farfetched,” Gil said. “He couldn't just waltz right into the United States and take a baby, Sonny. And why Ellie?”

“None of this is out of the blue. Taking Ellie was just one way in a long list of ways that Manuel Turgis has tortured this family. Byron Davco made the payments to Manuel Turgis for years, which Turgis in turn used to satisfy Eduardo Sanchez. All that money filtered into these poor hill towns that made Sanchez a local hero. In part, it was Byron Davco's payments along with drug money they laundered.”

She sighed and sat down in the empty chair.

“Now that Byron Davco is stricken with Alzheimer's in a nursing home, no payments are being made. The trouble for Cash, Serena and Ellie started when Turgis stopped receiving the protection money.”

“What did Turgis do?”

“He planted an informant inside the Davco home. Her name was Susan. She earned Serena's trust and the trust of the staff. All the while, she filtered information back to Turgis to use against the Davco family.”

Sonny covered her face with her hands for a moment. When she lifted her gaze to him, he saw the toll the past few weeks had taken on her.

“Go on,” he urged.

“Obviously, Manuel Turgis has been working with Eduardo Sanchez for years. Sanchez is the hero around these parts. Turgis does the dirty work.”

“Okay, so Sanchez wanted a kid. Why not just adopt legally?”

She laughed humorlessly. “You're not asking the right questions, Gil.”

“Then tell me what they are and I'll ask them,” he said, his voice booming with frustration. “I have a feeling we don't have time for playing games.”

“You're right. And I never intended to. If you recall, I would have been back in the United States twenty-four hours ago if you hadn't stopped me. You went looking for a man who, in your mind, is a criminal. Yet you took an innocent woman and baby and put them in harm's way, just so you could collect your precious bounty.”

Sonny practically spat the words at him. Gil could feel her anger as if it were a sledgehammer hitting him square in the face. She'd been desperate to get on that plane. And he'd been determined to stop her at all costs. How big a price had he asked them all to pay?

“There's nothing we can do about that now.”

She laughed incredulously. “So Ellie and I are to pay for it? That's easy for you to live with as long as you collect your money, right?”

He couldn't blame her for thinking that way. But she was dead wrong. However, he wasn't going to get her to believe that now.

“Just tell me what you know about Eduardo Sanchez.”

“He's a twisted man. He didn't want just any baby. He wanted Ellie in order to send a message to the Davcos after the protection money stopped.”

Marco came charging into the living room. “Gil, buddy, you've got to see this. This is bad.”

“I know that.”

Marco shook his head quickly. “No, man, I really don't think you do. I tapped into the Aztec Corporation server. Piece of cake. There's nothing there that can't be found on Google. But there's a small private file—”

“Hidden within the corporate mainframe,” Sonny finished for him. “But there's a rotating security code that resets the password. You'll have trouble getting in again. You won't be able to use the same steps.”

“How do you know?” Marco said.

“Because that's how I found out where Ellie was.” At his look of awe, she added, “Don't look so surprised. You know what I do for a living.”

“So after you found the file, you came down here to kidnap the baby.”

She pleaded with her eyes and it broke his heart. Many criminals had pleaded with him over the years. They all begged him to let them go. But it was Sonny whose tender smile and fiery determination broke him down.

“Gil, Ellie belongs with Serena and…” Sonny seemed to catch herself. “And if it's God's will, then with Cash, too. Regardless of what you believe or what the district attorney believes, Cash didn't skip bail. If he could have been there to prove his innocence, he would have been. He came down here for the same reason I did—to get Ellie.”

Gil frowned, unable to comprehend it all. “He had to have been out of his mind to allow such a thing.”

“Cash has no idea I'm here.”

“And Dylan? Did he willingly put you in this kind of danger?”

Sonny rubbed her temples with her fingers. “He had no choice. I was the only one who could do it. It was too dangerous for my parents, or any of the other family members.”

“What about Dylan?”

She hesitated a moment. “He's busy.”

Gil's jaw clenched. Unable to stay still, he paced the floor. “Too busy to talk his kid sister out of coming down to Colombia and possibly getting herself killed? Too busy to take the heat for you, to

She threw her hands up in the air. “Oh, you're a fine one to judge.”

“You were already knee-deep in this trouble before I showed up on the scene. All I did was stop you from finishing what you set out to do. You shouldn't even be here. If I loved…If you were my sister, there's no way I would have let you leave the United States and get anywhere near Eduardo Sanchez.”

She lifted her chin. “Then it's a good thing I'm not your sister.”

They held each other's stare for a moment, locked in a challenge. Gil could look into those dark-blue eyes all day, which was a problem he could no longer ignore. Her fire and tenacity hit him square in the face one moment and brought him to his knees the next. He didn't like admitting it much, but he was deep in his own trouble.

Never in a million years could Gil think of Sonny as a sister. But he almost wished he could. It would make it infinitely easier to think about his next move if he weren't so distracted by her, wanting to pull her into his arms and gaze deep into her eyes every time she looked at him.

Terror began to course through his veins as he thought of all the things that could have happened to Sonny over the past few weeks—and what might happen to her if he didn't think fast.

“I screwed up,” he said. “I should have seen this coming.”

Instead of thinking about Cash, he'd been thinking of Cash's little sister. He'd had tunnel vision where she was concerned and look where it had gotten them all.

Marco shoved a picture he'd just printed off the computer into Gil's hands.

“Whatever we do, we'd better do it fast. This was in Eduardo Sanchez's private file. He wants Ellie back alive. And whoever finds her is to show no mercy to the person who took her.”

Gil glanced down at the picture and felt the earth crumble beneath his feet.

“What is it?” Sonny asked.

He flipped the picture over so Sonny could see and she gasped.

“It's you. At the airport. Holding Ellie.”


he morning had started out so well. Sonny had actually gotten out of bed feeling less afraid than she had since learning of the kidnapping. She felt safe, as if all the horrible nightmares she'd been having were just that—nightmares that would vanish as soon as the sun came up.

Boy, what a delusion that was.
Nothing had changed. If anything, the nightmare had only gotten worse.

“I won't give this baby over to Eduardo Sanchez.”

“I know.”

“Gil?” Marco moved closer and lowered his voice, although there was no way for Sonny to avoid hearing him since she was standing right there. “Gil, if they come here we won't have a choice. They're not the kind of people who will say ‘pretty please.'”

“Then we'd better hope they don't come here,” Gil answered resolutely.

“Too late,” Cooper said, looking out the window.

Gil charged toward her. “Why?”

“They're banging on doors.” Cooper turned and looked at Sonny. “I'm surprised they are even bothering to knock.”

Gil blew out an exasperated breath. “It just gets better by the minute. Sonny, do you recognize that man talking to the soldiers?”

Sonny came to the window and peered outside into the parking lot.

“Oh, no!” she said in a harsh whisper. “That's Manuel Turgis. I've seen his picture. He'll know who I am.”

“Gil, Turgis can't find Sonny here,” Cooper said.

Gil looked around the room, at the windows, at the door to the courtyard. “Come in here,” he said, advancing toward the bedroom.

Sonny followed. “The hotel knows we have a baby here.”

“Cooper and Marco, do something to stall them,” Gil said, pushing the bedroom door open.

“Are you kidding?” Marco said. “How do you stall Colombian military?”

“Figure it out, Marco.” He pulled Sonny into the bedroom. “Come with me. They know we have a baby with us, but they don't know we have Ellie,” Gil added. “If the hotel knew for sure Ellie was the baby the authorities were looking for, the soldiers would have been in here by now. My guess is they're on a hunt. We don't have much time to hide you.”

Startled, she stopped short of picking Ellie up from her crib. “What do you mean me? We need to hide Ellie.”

Gil turned to her and held her back from taking the baby. “Get in the tub.”


Sonny heard the pounding on the door to the villa and her blood ran cold.
Lord, what are we going to do?

“Trust me, Sonny. Get in the tub.”

Sonny stared at Ellie in the crib. She was still asleep, even though she was stirring. But in a matter of seconds she'd be wailing from the noise of the soldiers bursting into the room.

“You're going to have to take a leap of faith on this, Sonny,” Gil urged, pulling her into the bathroom.

“I can't do it,” she whispered, trying to pull out of his grip.

Gil held her tightly by the arm. “Manuel Turgis is out there, and he's looking for you—not just Ellie. Now I can fool him with regard to Ellie, but you are a different story.”

She glanced around the room. There was nowhere to hide.

“Get in the tub, pull the curtain and be quiet. I'm going to leave the door open. It'll look less suspicious. Whether you like it or not, you're going to have to trust that I'll take care of Ellie.”

“Don't give her to them, Gil. Please.” She climbed into the tub, fighting to keep herself together as tears sprang to her eyes.

Crouching down, she felt the moisture from the tub seep through her shirt and onto her skin. She closed her eyes and prayed.
I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Sonny kept praying, asking the Lord to extend a safety net on all of them.

The door to the bedroom burst open and Sonny jumped, her foot banging against the tub. The urge to bolt from her hiding place was overwhelming. Ellie was in the next room. And so were the soldiers.

She heard Marco and Gil complaining loudly to someone about the intrusion. She knew the voice talking with them belonged to Manuel Turgis. Sonny tried to stop shaking.

“Where is your wife?” he asked Gil.

“Out shopping. You know women.”

There was a short silence, as if he was weighing Gil's answer. The sound of boots on the floor grew louder.

“This baby. Where are the papers?”

“My wife carries them with her. You can't just come in here. What's this all about?” Gil argued.

Sonny closed her eyes, listening to the exchange.

Turgis ignored Gil's question. “How old is the little girl?”

Gil laughed. “I think you need glasses, bud. When was the last time you saw a baby girl wearing Ninja Turtles. My son is four months old.”

“Your son?”

“Yes. His name is Charlie.”

Sonny could hear Ellie fussing. It sounded as if she was being jiggled up and down. Sonny hated the idea of her being so close to Turgis. But if Gil had Ellie in his arms, she felt certain he'd fight to keep her there.

“The baby doesn't look like a boy.”

“Well, at this age, it's hard to tell. But don't say that to my wife. She thinks he looks like me. You still haven't told me what this is all about,” Gil said.

“A child has been taken,” Turgis said. “We believe she's here in Cartagena.”

“Cartagena is a big place.”

Sonny heard Turgis advancing toward the bathroom. She sank lower into the tub.

“Charlie here is the only baby in this villa,” Gil said, his voice slightly raised. “I haven't seen any other babies since we've been here.”

“Do you have a problem with us searching your room?” Turgis said in a deadly calm voice.

Gil's voice turned matter-of-fact. “I've got nothing to hide. I'm just saying you're wasting your time here if you're looking for a little girl.”

There was silence for an agonizing moment. Sonny fought to keep herself still, to silence her breathing and still the trembling that kept rattling the shower curtain.

“I apologize for the disturbance,” Turgis finally said, his voice getting quieter as he walked away from the bathroom door.

Sonny felt pain in her hands. Opening her eyes, she saw that her hands were clenched into fists and her fingernails were digging into the soft flesh of her palm.

She was no longer able to hear their voices. They must have moved into the living room. Or maybe her heart was pounding so loudly she couldn't hear anything else. She stayed still, until the shower curtain was yanked open.

A scream rose in her throat and turned to a sob of relief when she saw Gil standing there with Ellie in his arms. She scrambled to her feet, stepped out of the tub and snatched the baby from Gil, bringing her to her chest.

“That was too close,” Gil said.

“I never want Ellie near Manuel Turgis again.” She kissed Ellie on the cheek, then looked at her pajamas. “I suddenly love Ninja Turtles.”

Gil gave her a half grin. “Score one for Cooper.”


“I should be the one to go for supplies,” Cooper said.

Gil dropped the picture of Sonny from the airport on the end table. He couldn't say that he was at ease again after the close encounter of the Colombian-Army-kind earlier. The fear he'd felt earlier when Turgis walked to the bathroom and looked inside was unlike anything he'd ever felt. He was sure Turgis would pull back the curtain to find Sonny there. They'd been lucky.

Gil turned to Cooper. “Well, Sonny certainly can't go and forget Marco.”

Marco straightened. “Hey, why not me?”

“Because babies don't have computer components and you wouldn't know what to look for,” Cooper said.

With a roll of his eyes, Marco said, “You bought boy clothes for the baby.”

clothes saved our skins, in case you have forgotten.”

“What happens when we leave the villa?” Sonny asked. “We can't stay here forever.”

Cooper nodded. “She's right. Forget the supplies. Let's get on a plane now and get out of here, Gil. We'll go looking for Cash again once things settle down. Sitting in a hot spot here in Colombia isn't doing us any good.”

There'd be other bounties, other criminals to bring to justice. But none of that was on Gil's mind. Right now, keeping Sonny, the baby and his team alive was what mattered.

The fact that there was a photo of Sonny with Ellie at the airport was huge. It changed everything. Gil knew they needed a new plan.

“Sonny and Ellie can't leave by air,” Gil said. He dropped down to the sofa. “We're going to need to think of another way.”

“Just because Sanchez has an airport photo of her and the baby doesn't mean that every airport in Colombia will be circulating it,” Cooper said.

Sonny sighed. “Timing was critical. The only reason I dared to use the papers I have was because I was sure Sanchez wouldn't have enough time to come after me before I boarded the plane. Once I'd left the country with Ellie, we'd be on U.S. soil and protected by the U.S. government.”

“What about the American Embassy?” Marco asked.

Sonny groaned. “The embassy in Bogotá couldn't really help us. They said we could go there, but we'd have to remain there and it would be risky to leave.”

“Who exactly is

Sonny bit her lip, recalling the image of Lucia slumped over in the backseat.

“I was working with some people here in Colombia. Ellie didn't have a passport when I came here. Eduardo Sanchez must have been able to bypass these legalities because not having a passport or birth certificate didn't seem to be a problem for him. He was able to get her into the country and even establish that she was ‘legally' adopted. I doubt anyone here was really interested in challenging him, anyway.

“Serena applied for a passport in the United States using an old picture she had of Ellie and a birth certificate she had drawn up after Ellie was taken. She explained it had been a home birth, so they gave it to her after the fact. The paperwork was going to take some time. As soon as it came through, I applied for a duplicate from the embassy in Bogotá and asked them for help. They supplied the duplicate and were good enough to push it through quickly.”

“Did they know about Ellie being taken?” Gil asked.

“No. I asked around at the embassy when I applied for the duplicate passport about safe places for American citizens, but I didn't say why. They said the only safe place for us was inside the embassy, but that anything I did I'd be doing on my own, without official American help.

“I was afraid to be discovered. I could walk the streets, but I couldn't go near Sanchez's estate. If Sanchez's people knew I was here, I would have disappeared.”

Sonny didn't have to elaborate on that further. Gil had a pretty good idea of what men like Manuel Turgis and Eduardo Sanchez could do.

Sonny turned to Marco. “Did the file contain my name?”

Marco shook his head. “Just the picture.”

“It won't take them long to figure out who I am. And if Sanchez realizes I'm Cash's sister, I won't be able to get on a plane using my passport.”

Gil thought a minute. “What about Ellie?”


“Why not?” Cooper asked. “Why can't I take her back to the U.S.? We could split you two up.”

Sonny turned to Cooper. “I appreciate your trying to help. But it's not possible.”

“You think I'll hand her over?”

Sonny shook her head. “No, Cooper, I don't. But you can't travel with her unless you have permission from her mother. And that permission needs to be verified and notarized. It's required in America because there are too many child kidnappings by parents who are natural citizens of other countries. Once the child is physically in the other country, that country's custody laws take precedence, making it difficult for the United States to intercede.”

“How did you plan on getting her back to the U.S.?” Marco asked.

“I have her birth certificate, her passport and notarized permission from her mother. Without all three, she can't board a plane. And now that Eduardo Sanchez has made his quest public, every airport in Colombia will be on the lookout for a baby traveling without their parents.” She looked at all of them. “If I can get into the United States, we'll be safe. It's leaving Colombia that's the problem.”

Gil nodded.

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news but we're a long way from the United States,” Marco said, tapping a pencil on his hand in a staccato motion.

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