Dangerous in Transit(2)

By: Sidney Bristol

“My daughter got herself into this mess.” Jim Davis shook his head and swiveled to face the rest of them. “If her mother weren’t dying I’d be tempted to let her weather this out. Perhaps she’d finally learn her lesson.”

“Dad.” Jeff frowned at his father, but didn’t utter another word.

“That’s what we are here to do, sir. Bring Jacqueline home safe.” To Zain’s credit, he didn’t miss a beat. “I hope you guys have been paying attention to the news. If you haven’t, the capital city of the African country of Mauritania exploded into a civil war two weeks ago.”

“Just the city?” Kyle frowned.

“A large portion of the country’s population is centered around the capital. We’re talking about clusters of people on the edge of the Sahara Desert. So far, it seems the fighting is just in the city. Who controls the presidential palace controls the country sort of thing. Tensions have been strained for a long time. There’s a disproportionate amount of wealth, and a lot of poor, unhappy people. Some say this was bound to happen, others think there’s outside influence. Figuring that out isn’t our job, but it does play into bringing Jacqueline home. From the demands Mr. Davis has received we think Jacqueline and the group of people she was working with were taken hostage by one of the factions vying for control of the country.”

“What are their demands?” Felix could see how the Davis wouldn’t want to contribute to a civil war.

“We have received a few, very confusing claims that certain groups have her, but no proof.” Jeff glanced around the table.

“Wait—we aren’t even sure who has her?” That wasn’t good.

“We’ve got some leads,” Kyle said to him.

“We’re very good at finding people.” Zain smiled at the two men. It was astonishing how much he’d changed going from his role as head of logistics and computer bullshit to managing the whole branch. “Now, I’ve been in contact with the State Department, and they believe this can be negotiated, but that takes time and Mrs. Davis—”

“She’s not my wife,” Jim interjected.

“Sorry, Jacqueline’s mother doesn’t have long. Our goal is to bring Jacqueline home in time for her to say goodbye. Publically, the State Department can’t support us, but they’re not going to hinder us or slap us with a warning if we do go in fully geared.” Zain glanced around the room.

“How long does Jacqueline’s mom have?” Felix asked.

“She’s on a ventilator.” Jeff leaned forward and for the first time his compassion went deeper than the lines around his mouth. “Medically speaking she’s already gone. They’re keeping her plugged in so Jackie can be there when her body goes. This was a matter of time. She’s been a heavy user for...most of our lives.”

“We’re hoping we can get you guys in, find Jackie, and get out in under three days,” Zain said.

Three days to trek across a city in civil war?

Shit. Not only were they working on limited time, but they didn’t even know who had her. Their job was hard enough as is, but to put a deadline on what could very likely be a difficult rescue mission made it worse. They’d have to be smart.

“What can you tell us about their demands?” Felix leaned forward. “Is there any way we can pull a bait and switch?”

“Their demands change.” Jeff turned and braced his arms on the table.

Jim frowned at his phone and stood.

“I’ve got to take this. Jeff can answer any of your questions.” Jim strode out of the room without so much of a, please bring my daughter home safe.

No one spoke.

Jim’s voice faded the farther he went from the conference room.

Kyle crossed to the door and eased it shut. The tense edge in the room dissipated without Mr. Davis’ voice whispering down the hall at them.

Jeff blew out a breath and his shoulders slumped.

“What isn’t your father telling us?” Kyle asked.

“We don’t know a lot.” Jeff grimaced. “Every time we get a demand email or letter, it’s always different. They want money. Now they want resources. Then they want someone to go to bat for them with the UN. Look, my sister is...”