Once on shore, there was another happy reunion of the Harem; several of them had arrived early to the Command to assist in rescue efforts, only to be told the couple had been found.
After another short debrief, Rickie firmly declined any other attempts to talk to them and quickly ushered Meaghan out to the parking lot, where his SUV waited.
Meaghan stretched and yawned. “I am glad to be out of there. Are we going over to your house now? I want to see if Tina is okay, and I know you probably want to see your father.” Rickie grabbed her arm and backed her into the side of the Rexton. Meaghan looked up with wide eyes.
His lips lightly touched her forehead as she gripped his arms. Then he swooped down and planted a quick but delicious buss across her soft lips.
“Let’s go home.”
~ ~ ~
Rickie called ahead on their way to his house. The phone was given to his father by one of the staff.
“Meaghan and I have finished debriefing and we are heading there now. I just wanted to let you know. How is everything at the house?”
“Everything is well. I’ve prepared a room for your Meaghan right next to her sister, as I’m sure she will need to rest. Then we must decide what to do about their house and belongings. They will stay here until we can make sure they are safe and secure at their own residence. However long that may take.” The elder Ahmad said this with satisfaction, and Rickie knew that Meaghan had a worthy adversary in his father if she and her sister decided to return to their terrace house. His father continued.
“JoAnne has gone to collect the final reports regarding the fire at our France branch, but she return by the time you arrive. I’ve gone ahead and set up a small supper in case you were hungry.”
“I appreciate it; I’m sure we could both use a little food. Have the girls been behaving today?”
“Once I told Tina her sister was okay, she sprung right up. Your sister and Tina are entertaining a neighbor, who just came by see Tina. I haven’t met her yet, but Tina vouched for her. She had heard about everything that happened, and wanted to visit and make sure the girls were safe. Her name is Shel Berry.”
“Thanks, bapa.” He put his hand over the cell phone and told Meaghan, “Your neighbor En Berry just showed up to keep your sister company. What’s wrong?” He asked in alarm as the color drained from Meaghan’s face.
“Don’t let her in the house! She’s the one that kidnapped me! She killed Ivoire!”
Rickie swerved out of traffic to a screeching halt on the side of the road, and looked disbelievingly at the now-frightened woman in the passenger seat.
A single curse, then he heard his father drop the phone and call for his servants.
“Bapa! Hello! Hello?!”
Rickie tossed his phone to Meaghan, then threw the Rexton into gear and powered into the traffic, ignoring the blaring horns from the other drivers. “Call Raine and JoAnne. Let them know what happened.” He reached with his hand and squeezed Meaghan’s icy fingers.
“We’ll get there in time, don’t worry.”
The words sounded hollow even to his own ears as they headed at breakneck speed towards his home.
By the time they arrived, the street had been cordoned off by the local police, no doubt set up by Raine. After showing his credentials, he was allowed to proceed to the estate compound. Meaghan sat upright in the passenger seat, her hands on either side of her thighs, gripping the smooth leather of the seats.
They drove to the staging area for the command, next to the wall around the compound, the cheerful pink of bougainvillea at odds with the seriousness of the situation.
Rickie was out of the truck almost before it stopped running, and strode over to where Scene Command was staged. The box-style truck, packed with electronics and communication gear, was a hub of activity. After introductions, the couple was escorted to desk and chairs situated under an attached awning. The scene commander began without any preliminaries.
“By the time we arrived, all access to the building was secured; it appears your security system was reset once the suspect entered the grounds, and cannot be remotely accessed any longer. We have completed a perimeter check, and all doors and windows are locked. There has been no answer to our hails or telephone calls. We wanted to discuss our options before taking this further.”
“If she managed to surprise everyone, there should be four servants, my father, my sister, and my sister-in-law,” Rickie spoke tersely, ignoring Meaghan’s sudden start. She reached out and laced her fingers with his and held on tightly. “JoAnne, my father’s assistant, was outside the house at the time, but was on her way back. I thought she would make it here before us.”
The officer made a few notes on the pad in front of him.
“Tuanku Ahmad, any idea where the hostages would be kept? And are there any blueprints of your house that we could review?”
Rickie shook his head. “Any blueprints would be in my father’s study in the house itself. My guess is that she would still be on the ground floor, since she wouldn’t know where the elevator is, and my father is wheelchair-bound. More than likely she would be in the study; it’s one of the smallest rooms downstairs and only has a single window partially covered by sago palm.” He flipped the page over on the pad and began a rapid sketch.
“This is the ground floor footprint.” He marked one room with an X. The officer looked over the drawing and nodded.
“My thanks, Tuanku.” He keyed the mike attached to his ballistic vest, and sent soldiers to various points outside the perimeter. After finishing, he turned back to Rickie.
“I have a sniper in place aimed at that window. The next question is communication; we have been unable to do any type of negotiation because the suspect won’t respond.”
“I can help.” Meaghan popped up, causing everyone to turn and stare at her. Slightly flustered at the focus of so many stares, she took a quick moment to gather her courage.
“Shel was my neighbor this past year, so I have her phone numbers. If she has her cell phone with her, she will probably talk to me.”
The officer took several steps towards Meaghan, held out his hand, and said. “Give me that phone number and my negotiator will call her.”
“No,” Meaghan refused with a small shake of her head. “I want to talk to her first.”
Rickie grabbed her elbow. “Meggie, their negotiator is a professional. It would be best if the police handle this.”
“No,” she reiterated stubbornly, “I know she’ll talk to me, because she is looking for my parents’ files. I want to make sure my sister is safe, and she might open up to me enough to get more information.” Rickie nodded, and ran his hand along her arm before releasing her and turning to the scene commander.
“I think Meaghan should try, sir. I believe that would be the best course of action, especially since she knows her. The commander thought a moment, and then gave a crisp nod.
Reaching to a cell phone on the table, he handed it to Meaghan.
“This phone automatically records any conversation. Okay, if you are ready, En Torno, let’s do this.”