I started over. Here’s an excerpt:
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, September
“Well,” I muttered, “that could have gone better.”
Currently I was sitting on the floor of a two bedroom suite of the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai. The hotel was the tallest in the world, and currently we were on the twenty-second floor. My feet were bound, and I was back to back with Carrie McNaughton. Our hands were tied together.
On the floor, not far away from Carrie and just in my range of vision lay Jesse Stone. I couldn’t tell if the ex-thief was okay, but the gentle rise and fall of her chest assured me that despite the fact that her head was bloody, she was at least alive.
“Yeah,” Carrie replied. “That’s for sure, Cole.”
“Guess you couldn’t have picked a worse time to go out in the field for the first time, eh?”
“Enough! No talking!” The command came from a tall man who walked into the living room. He held his pistol in a practiced grip.
Carrie and I fell silent. The man walked over to the windows and glanced out over the ocean panorama. He was joined a moment later by an Asian woman. “They’ll be here soon,” she said.
“Good. Did you tell them we have the package?”
He turned to her. “When they arrive, you know what to do.”
She nodded, looking over at Carrie and me. “No problem.” The hatred in her eyes was directed at me, and I derived a certain satisfaction from knowing that I had caused it. “What about the other one?”
“She goes with us. Tie her up. I have a feeling she’ll bring a good price.”
“All right. If you insist.”
“Get it done. I’m going up to the helipad.” He walked out of the room, and she turned and went into the bathroom. A moment later, I heard water running and then she came back in, carrying towels and a washcloth.
She began to clean Devin up, and as she did so she gave me a vicious look. “She’ll make a fine pet for some sheik. I don’t approve of this normally but since she’s a friend of yours I’ll make an exception this time.”
“A little bitter, are we?”
Her mouth tightened. “You and her are dead. I’ll do her first, so you get to watch. It’ll be quick, I promise.” I felt Carrie stiffen behind me. “And then you. I don’t have a lot of time, but believe me, it’s gonna hurt.”
I laughed. “You’re both already dead. Do you really think you’re going to get out of here alive?”
“You stupid moron, of course we are. This was all planned in advance. And forget about a rescue. If your people were coming, they’d have done it already. That was the only reason we left you two alive anyway, in case we needed bargaining chips. Doesn’t look like we will, so as soon as I’m done cleaning up the little princess here, I’ll kill you two and get out. Ten million dollars and I’m retiring.”
“What kind of a way is that for a good Chinese communist to talk?”
“A greedy one. I’m heading for Aztlan.”
Aztlan was the west coast of North America, in what had used to be the western part of the United States before the Hispanics had claimed it back. La Raza tolerated the Chinese because there were so many of them in that area, and besides, the Triads worked hand in hand with M12 to run syndicates around the globe. I had gone head to head with them in the past.
But now, I had to think fast. In a few minutes the Chinese woman would be done and she would make good on her promise. Myself, I wasn’t worried about – I’d made my peace with God. But I hated to see Carrie die and Devin sold into slavery. My fingers were working frantically at my bonds, but I know it was too late, that I wouldn’t be in time. Stubbornly, though, I refused to give up, and rather than dwell on our impending demise, my mind wandered back to where this had all begun, so many weeks before. I’d been in Pittsburgh. No wait, really, it had started before that, when I was in Prague…