***Please excuse the errors and block formatting. This is a sneak peek and has not been fully edited or formatted.
Chapter 4: Derek and Welcome to the Jungle
The jungle canopy was thick, only allowing sporadic sunlight to filter through. Derek followed a small game trail, hoping to find an abandoned home, secluded from the psychopaths who occupied the island prison. The jungle smelled sweet and rotten at the same time, the humidity thick and stifling. It was slow going as Derek ducked under thick vines and stepped over fallen logs and limbs.
A twig snapped, stopping Derek in his tracks. Birds chirped and sang. Tiny creatures scurried on the leaf litter. He slapped his neck, killing a mosquito gorging on his blood. Then he heard the rustling of branches. Something or someone large moved down the trail. Then footsteps. Heavy footsteps. Coming from both directions on the game trail. Derek stepped off the trail, looking for a place to hide, but it was too late.
Shouting in Spanish pierced the air. Birds flew from their perches. Derek ran through the thick jungle, dodging tree roots, vines, and branches, not seeing more than ten feet in front of him. More footfalls were behind him, crashing through the jungle. More shouting in Spanish.
Derek increased his speed, his adrenaline pumping. He glanced
back for a split-second. That’s when he crashed through the jungle edge, the
sun suddenly bright overhead, Derek’s momentum carrying him into a fast-moving
river. He was turned and flipped in the whitewater as he was carried
downstream. Derek gasped for breath, whenever his head popped above the water.
He was twisted and turned again, his head crashing into a rock. Everything went
Chapter 5: Jacob and Smugglers and Con Men
“What did you expect? They’re smugglers and con men,” Jacob said, standing in their bunker bedroom.
“I expected you to make sure they did their job,” Rebecca said. “You’re skeptical about everything, but you were perfectly happy to believe their bullshit because you don’t give a shit about Derek.”
Jacob threw up his hands in frustration. “Of course I don’t give a shit about Derek! He’s your ex-husband. Why should I care?”
“Because I care. Because Lindsey cares. Or are you too damn selfish to see past your own insecurities?”
“Insecurities?” Jacob sneered at his wife. “This doesn’t have anything to do with insecurities. This has to do with time and money. We’re wasting valuable time and money on him. Time and money that I’m not devoting to you and Lindsey and Ethan and David.”
Rebecca spoke softer now. “What kind of example are we setting if we don’t help him?”
Jacob blew out a heavy breath. “What do you want me to do?”
“Summer knows how to rescue him. I want you to sit down with Summer and hear her out. Then I want you to work with Cesar to come up with a plan.”
Jacob drew back, his forehead creased. “He lied. You still want to work with him?”
“He’s the only person I know with a base close to Puerto Rico and a submarine. What other choice do we have?” She held out her hands.
“I don’t know.”
“You’re one of the most powerful men in the world. I’m sure you
can keep him honest. Be the hero, Jacob. For me.” Rebecca placed her hand over
Chapter 6: Summer and the Real Rescue
“I assure you, Mrs. Roth, the video is no fake,” Cesar said. “It’s possible that the facial recognition software falsely identified the person as Derek. It’s also possible that Derek is, in fact, the man in the video.”
Summer, Cesar, the Roths, and the two mercenaries sat at a round table in Cesar’s office.
Rebeca narrowed her eyes at Cesar. “Based on Summer’s eyewitness account, I think we should assume that it was a false identification.”
“As you wish, Mrs. Roth,” Cesar replied.
“We have the only person ever to escape from the island right here.” Rebecca gestured to Summer. “This is a huge advantage. She knows where Derek is and how to rescue him.”
“We’re listening,” Jacob said, eyeing Summer.
“When there’s a hurricane, the naval blockade moves out until the weather clears,” Summer said. “When this happens, you can pilot a submarine to the island, rescue Derek, and make it back before the blockade returns. You can’t use boats or planes because they’ll be caught on satellite and destroyed by the drones. After a hurricane, the drones return much faster than the blockade.”
“We’re already aware of this fact, and I’m afraid it’s not that simple,” Cesar said. “You’re assuming Derek is exactly where you think he’ll be. You’re assuming that it won’t take long to locate him. Even if he’s alive, he’s probably moved on from San Juan. Your group is dead. Why would he stay where gangs are hunting him? If I were him, I’d hide in the jungle.”
Rebecca surveyed the group, her expression serious as cancer. “Then we go and find him.”
“We will,” Rob said, reassuring Rebecca. He was one of two mercenaries—former SEALs providing security for the Roths. “Once a hurricane clears out the navy, we can go to the island and launch drones with facial recognition software. We can program them to start where Summer last saw Derek and work outward in concentric circles. We’ll need miniature stealth drones to avoid detection, and we’ll have to launch these from Puerto Rico. They don’t have the range to make it from here. Once the drones find Derek, we’ll go there on foot, rescue him, and bring him back to the sub. Then we have to hope we have another hurricane so we can get back.” He turned to Cesar and asked, “Is your submarine diesel electric?”
“Hydrogen fuel cell,” Cesar replied.
“Good. With AIP, we can stay submerged for weeks.”
“Up to two months.”
Billy, the other former SEAL on the Roths’ payroll, let out a low whistle. “Whew-wee. You boys are big-time.”
“What’s AIP?” Jacob asked.
“Air-independent propulsion,” Rob replied, stroking his blond beard. “Otherwise we could only stay submerged for a few days, but, with a big-enough fuel cell, we don’t have to worry about surfacing and becoming a target for the drones.”
“What are you thinkin’ for comms?” Billy asked Rob.
“We’ll need a local encrypted Wi-Fi mesh network. I have a source for the communications equipment and the drones, but we’ll need to move quickly. Hurricane season is almost over.”
“Man.” Billy slapped the table with his palms. “This is dangerous work. Ain’t gonna be cheap. Sounds like we need to renegotiate.”
“Cesar didn’t seem to have any problems with his drones being shot down to find Derek the first time. Why do we need stealth drones?” Rebecca asked, glowering at Cesar.
“Rebecca.” Jacob shook his head at his wife.
“Unless,” Rebecca said, leaning closer to Cesar, “your drones were never in any danger since they were never in Puerto Rico to begin with.”
Billy cackled and said, “Whew-wee. The lady makes a helluva point.”
“He’s right,” Cesar said, nodding to Billy. “This mission won’t
Chapter 7: Naomi and Back to Life
Naomi’s left eye fluttered and opened, the light causing her to shut it again. Something covered her other eye. She opened her left eye again, disoriented. She lay in a hospital bed, hooked to IVs. Bandages covered her chest. Her back ached as she lightly touched the bandage on her head and over her right eye and the right side of her face. Her head throbbed just behind her right eye socket. Her chest and cheek burned. The shades were drawn, light filtering in at the edges. Vernon slept on the couch against the wall, his button-down rumpled, his shirttails out, and his tie on the floor with his shoes.
“Vernon?” Naomi said, her voice raspy. “Vernon?”
He stirred and sat up, gazing at Naomi in the dim light. “You’re awake. I’ll call the doctor.” Vernon ran from the room in his stocking feet, leaving Naomi alone.
A minute later, the overhead lights turned on, not bright, yet forcing Naomi to close her eye again. She adjusted to the increased light and saw a nurse, with Vernon standing in the background.
“How are you feeling, Naomi?” the female nurse asked.
“What happened?” Naomi asked.
“You were in an accident.” The nurse checked her IV and looked over her bandages and vital signs.
“I’m in a lot of pain.”
The nurse placed a controller attached to the IV in Naomi’s hand. “This button will add more painkillers to your IV. Don’t go crazy with it, but go ahead and press it twice.”
Naomi pressed the button twice.
A white-haired doctor entered the room and said, “Good morning, Mrs. Sutton. How are you feeling?”
“My back hurts. I have a massive headache behind my right eye socket. My chest burns and my right cheek too. What happened to me?”
“You were in an accident two days ago. Your car exploded, throwing you back against your home. That’s why your back aches. They’re just contusions though. I expect the back pain to dissipate in a week or two. You were also hit with shrapnel from the blast, and you were burned on your chest and the right side of your face.”
“How bad is it?”
“You’ve sustained second-degree burns. The good news is, these burns will heal in two to three weeks, but the bad news is, they’ll hurt in the meantime, and you’ll likely have some scaring, but plastic surgeons can minimize the scaring with laser cosmetic surgery.” The doctor cleared his throat. “Unfortunately, a piece of metal from the blast hit your right eye, and we had to enucleate your eye.”
Naomi felt nauseated. “What do you mean by enucleate?”
“We had to remove your eye. We may have to do an additional minor surgery so we can fit you with a glass eye. They can match it perfectly with your left eye.”
Then it all came back to her. The fight she’d had with Alan. He knew she’d been having an affair with Vernon. He’d left in a huff that morning, vowing to take the car by himself. She’d chased after him, but he’d beat her to the car. Then the explosion. She looked to Vernon, her eye wide open. “Where’s Alan?”
Vernon dipped his head and said, “He’s dead.”