The Rachel Scott Adventures, Volume 1 (15 page)

CHAPTER
48
 

S
tephanie did not like being told what to do. And she did not like sitting around, especially while Rachel and the others went off to search. So when Vance went to relieve himself in the bushes, she took off at a sprint. She didn’t know where she was going or what she’d find out. All she cared about was for once doing something—anything—to help her daughter.

She decided to go in a different direction than Rachel’s group had taken and ran down another path that led away from the beach. Before long, she reached a row of houses that she assumed was the employee housing that Rachel had talked about earlier. If Amber was being held anywhere, Stephanie bet it would be in one of those residences. She didn’t have a plan, but she was always a fly-by-the-seat-of-her-pants kind of gal. Her only goal was to get Amber away from this place in one piece.

All the houses looked dark and vacant, and she didn’t hear any noises. She tentatively approached the first house. Either everyone went to sleep early, or Rachel was wrong, and no one stayed here overnight while the ship was at sea.

The first house was locked. She walked quietly across the deck and peeked in the window. A curtain was open and the inside was pitch black. She didn’t hear anything.

She moved on to the next house. That house was also locked. The curtains were closed and she didn’t hear any noise.
It was too quiet
, she thought as a chill ran down her spine. She turned around to make her way across the deck and back down the stairs and stared straight into the barrel of a gun.

“Don’t move.” The man holding the weapon was dressed in long, dark pants and T-shirt. “Island security.”

Stephanie froze. She’d been in tough situations before, and this wasn’t the first time someone had pointed a gun at her. So far she’d been lucky and hadn’t been hurt. She just hoped her time hadn’t run out.

“Who are you?” the security guard asked.

She had to think fast. Her life and maybe Amber’s depended on it. She decided to go with what Rachel told her to say if they ran across security.

“I’m looking for help. Our boat broke down and I need to use your phone, please.”

“There are others?” he inquired.

“My boyfriend stayed with the boat. Can you help us?” Shit, she didn’t know what else to say.

He looked at her suspiciously and then lowered his gun. “This is a private island. You’re trespassing.”

“Sorry. Our radio is busted and we need help.” Her eyes pleaded with him.

“Come with me.” He motioned her off the deck. “I’ll need to escort you to the security office.”

Stephanie ran her sweaty palms down her capri pants. She had no choice but to go with him. God, she hoped she hadn’t screwed up. Again.

CHAPTER
49
 

S
hining a flashlight that lit their way down the path and through the dense vegetation, the security officer followed Stephanie down the trail. He mumbled something unintelligible into a headset, probably about her. She had an uneasy feeling in the pit of her stomach. She didn’t think he and his buddies planned to help her. She had to do something before they got to wherever he was taking her.

She’d sized up the man before they started walking. She had a good two to three inches in height on him. She stood at five foot ten and was pretty strong. Good athletic genes ran through her family, and she figured she could outrun him. His only advantage, she thought, was the gun. How could she get that away from him?

After walking about three to four minutes, she heard faint music and laughter. They must have been getting close to the “security office.” She slowed her pace and tried to gauge how close the guard was to her. If these men had, in fact, kidnapped Amber, her guard wouldn’t have any qualms about shooting her and dumping her body in the water. She had to try to get away. Her odds were better one-on-one than being surrounded by many men. It was now or never.

She worked up her courage and swirled around quickly, running head-on into her escort. The element of surprise was on her side as she smashed into him. He lost his balance and they tumbled to the ground, Stephanie on top. The man grunted and tried to roll her off of him. Stephanie desperately felt around for the gun, her hand running through the silky sand.
Damn, where is the gun?
It had to have been jarred loose in the fall.

The man was stronger than he looked. For a shrimp, he had a lot of power. He tried to pin her arms down and call for help on the radio, but she reached up and ripped the earpiece off.

“Come on, you bitch. Get off of me,” he said as he thrust his body to the side and rolled her. Suddenly, he was on top. She tried to get her knee up and into his groin, but he had her pinned down. He punched her in the face and she tried not to cry out. She didn’t want to alert his crew. She felt blood trickle out of her mouth.

Her hand finally grazed cool metal. She tried to get a grasp on the gun, but he knocked her hand out of the way. He grabbed her hair and pulled her face up to his.

“We are going to get back up, and you’re going to cooperate,” he told her. “If you don’t, I will not hesitate to shoot you.”

She nodded as he helped her up. She brushed the sand off her shirt and pants. He picked up the gun and pointed it at her.

“Let’s go,” he started to say before a girl’s scream pierced the night. “What the…”

It was the opportunity Stephanie needed. With all the fight she had left in her, she tried to grab the gun again with one hand and kick him in the balls with her feet.

This time, he was ready for her. As he’d promised, he didn’t hesitate to shoot.

CHAPTER
50
 

T
he shot grazed her calf, but the force from the gunshot was powerful enough to knock her down. Stephanie yelped in pain while grabbing her leg. Her hand came away bloody.

“Get up!” The man yanked her off the sand. “I warned you. Now let’s go.”

She heard voices heading their way and realized she was trapped. She couldn’t escape now. Within a couple of minutes, five other men had caught up to them.

“David, what happened?” an older gentleman asked her captor.

David explained the events leading up to her getting shot. “What do you want me to do, George?” he asked.

“Let’s get her to first aid.” George turned to Stephanie. “Judy, our nurse, can wrap that for you. It doesn’t look too bad.” George radioed Judy but didn’t get an answer. “That’s strange.” As he started to call her again, another voice came through his radio.

“George, this is Joe. We have a situation.”

“What now?” George asked no one in particular. “What is it, Joe? I have my own situation here.”

“Judy has been knocked unconscious and our visitors are missing.”

“Wait for my instructions.” George signed off and then turned to David. “Take them with you,” George said as he motioned to the other crew, “and see if you can find the missing visitors. I’ll follow with her and wait at first aid for Joe.”

Stephanie watched as David and the other men ran toward the beach. She could vaguely make out the shoreline through the palm trees.
Now what?
she wondered. The searing pain in her leg was making her woozy.

George radioed back to Joe and explained what was going on.

“I don’t feel so good,” Stephanie said.

“Come on,” George said, gripping her shoulders tightly. “Let’s get you fixed up and then you can tell me why you’re really here.”

Stephanie hobbled along with him and tried to formulate another plan to get out of this mess. Before she could take another step, shots rang out again.

“Jesus, now what?” George said.

“We found our missing visitors,” David’s staccato voice came through loud and clear on the radio. “They launched one of the boats. They got a head start on us.”

George cursed. “Follow them. Take Manny and Simon with you. I’ll catch up.”

A feeling of dread ran through Stephanie. She’d bet anything that Amber was the “visitor” that David was talking about. Rachel must have found her before she could. Stephanie hoped and prayed that her daughter and her rescuers would get far away before these guys caught up to her.

When they finally got to the beach, Stephanie could just faintly see two boats in the distance. Maybe Rachel had Amber safe on one of them.

George radioed Joe and gave him an update. “I sent David, Manny, and Simon after our visitors. They took the cabin cruiser.”

“Go after them,” Joe instructed. “We don’t want any more mistakes.”

“What about the girl?” George responded.

There was a moment of silence before he got an answer. “Take her with you. Make sure she doesn’t come back.”

Stephanie’s eyes opened wide with horror. She knew what that meant.

CHAPTER
51
 

R
achel spun around just in time to see the men jump up and grab their guns. She froze. Red grabbed her by the sleeve and pulled her down with him. The men ran off in the other direction and didn’t even see their unexpected guests hiding behind the bushes. Rachel looked at Benji expectantly. He shrugged his shoulders and then took off after the other men.

“Damn, that was close.” Rachel breathed a sigh of relief.

“Don’t count your blessings just yet. I’m sure the boy will tell them we’re here.” Red leaned against the tree.

“Forget that! Where did those shots come from?” Stacy’s hands were shaking.

“Good question. I think we need to get out of here,” Red said.

“No! We just got a big break with those guys leaving. We need to follow them—and fast. The shots could have something to do with Amber.” Rachel looked at Red.

Red nodded. “Okay, but let’s check in with Vance first. I’m sure he heard the shots, too. We need to let him know what’s going on.”

Rachel waited while Red called Vance on the walkie-talkie. Nothing. Red tried several times to contact either Vance or Stephanie, but nobody answered.

“This can’t be good.” Red tried one more time to call them up on the radio. No answer.

“Could we be out of range?” Stacy inquired.

“No. These are state-of-the-art radios. They work when cell phone signals are unreliable. We have a fifty-mile range on these babies,” Red explained.

Rachel grew impatient. “Red, we need to go. Vance can take care of himself.”

“You’re the boss. We don’t know what we’re getting into. Everybody needs to keep on their toes.” Red grabbed his gear and headed in the direction the armed men had taken.

More gunshots.

“What the hell is going on?” Stacy said.

“Sounds like the Fourth of July down at the beach. Do you want to go back to the boat?” Rachel asked. She was worried that this was getting to be too much for Stacy. Even though the reporter had insisted on coming along, the gunfire was more than anyone had expected.

“Hell no. You’re stuck with me,” Stacy said.

Rachel calculated that it would take about ten to fifteen minutes on foot to reach the Cabana Cay side. That’s where the shots sounded like they were coming from—and the direction the men had been headed.

“We should stick close to the trail but not walk directly on it. I don’t want to chance running into security on the way down there.” Rachel took over the lead. “It’ll take us a few minutes to get down to the beach area.”

“I’m really hoping that—” Red’s words were cut off by the radio.

“It’s Vance,” he answered.

“Hey, buddy, we were getting worried. Did you hear those shots?” Red asked him.

“Yeah, man. What the hell is happening? And where the hell is Stephanie? She’s disappeared! When I went to the bushes to take a leak, she took off.”

“Did he just say that Stephanie is gone?” Rachel asked.

Red nodded. “Where did she go?”

“I don’t know. One minute she was here, the next she was gone. I think she went looking for Amber. She was just telling me how helpless she felt and guilty for sitting around doing nothing. I went to take a piss, turned around, and she was gone.”

Red shook his head. “I just tried you on the radio a couple of minutes ago. Nobody answered.”

“Sorry, man. I left it with Stephanie, and she had turned the volume all the way down. I just now noticed when I picked it up to call you.”

“How long ago did she take off?”

“No more than five minutes.”

Red told him that they were following the armed men toward where they thought the gunshots had come from.

“Do you want me to stand by?”

Red affirmed, then asked Rachel, “Is it time to call the Coast Guard?”

“Let’s check this out first. Have him call the Coast Guard if he doesn’t hear from us within twenty minutes.”

Red relayed the message to Vance before signing off.

“What are we going to do about Stephanie?” he asked Rachel.

“I don’t know,” Rachel said. “I don’t know how we can find her. I hope she either heads back to the boat after hearing those gunshots—” She suddenly stopped. “Did you hear that?”

Everyone listened. “Sounds like a boat motor,” Stacy said.

We’re close to the beach,” Red said. “But is the boat coming or going? And who the hell is on it?” They picked up the pace, and in a few hundred feet they came to the electronic gate that separated Asylum Harbor from Cabana Cay.

“Now what?” Red said.

Rachel had forgotten about the electronic gate. The gate was too high to climb and too long to go around. “I’m sure there are sensors. When I was here earlier, we were in the golf cart, and the manager had to use a remote control to open it up.”

“This is so weird to see a gate on an island. Why is it there?” Stacy asked.

“Joe, the island manager, said it’s for the safety of the cruise passengers. I guess so they don’t get lost and wander into the Asylum Harbor side,” Rachel answered.

“More like they don’t want passengers to see the behind-the-scenes stuff going on,” Stacy commented.

The gate opened with a creak, catching them off guard.

“What the heck?” Stacy said as Rachel grabbed her arm and pulled her behind the trees.

“Someone’s coming,” Red whispered as he crouched down behind Rachel.

They watched silently as a golf cart barreled down the pathway. As it got closer, Rachel recognized Joe Vermillion at the wheel. He was yelling something into his radio.

“That’s the island manager,” she whispered.

“Let’s wait till he goes through, and then we can sneak past the gate,” Red said. He watched the manager open the gate and drive through. Red waited a few seconds until Joe’s cart picked up speed. Red counted down, watching the gate starting to shut. Then he said, “Go!”

They raced through the gate before it closed. Rachel looked back and saw the cart careen around the curve. “I think we’re good.”

Just past the gate, the trail intersected with several other pathways.

“Which way?” Red asked.

Rachel pointed. “That way leads to the private cabanas, I know. If we keep going straight, we should hit the beach area in a few hundred feet.” She rubbed the sweat from her forehead and led the group to the beach area. Even at night, the temperature was warm, and the exercise and anxiety combined to make her feel sticky. Still, the island on the Cabana Cay side of the island looked inviting. Freshly planted flowers flourished along the neatly trimmed pathway. “They’re getting ready for the next set of passengers.”

“Boat comes in tomorrow morning,” Stacy confirmed.

“Now we’re exposed. No place to hide.” Rachel commented as the heavy vegetation and palm trees cleared.

“I don’t think that’s a problem.” Red pointed when the beach came in view. The sand was raked clean, with nice long rows. The moonlight afforded a view of two boats in the distance and a third was getting ready to launch.

Stacy stopped in her tracks. She looked over at the last boat. Two men were dragging a blonde woman with them. She was wearing white pants and a blue-green T-shirt. “What are they doing?”

Rachel looked closer. “I think we found Stephanie.”

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