Blair woke a second time. Her arm ached where they had grabbed her and injected her with a needle. It was hard to focus, and her mouth felt like it had cotton in it. Whatever they had given her was slowly wearing off. She was leaning against someone, and even through her fog, she realized the person next to her was in worse shape than she was. His breathing was labored, and she heard a slight whistling sound when he breathed. It has to be Victor. He was in the room with you. If they grabbed you, they must have also taken him. Even with her eyes blindfolded, she sensed someone else was nearby. She tried to sit up straighter to relieve her shoulders and arms and discovered her hands were now tied behind her. She groaned softly and collapsed back against the seat. A voice she didn’t know spoke up.
“She‘s waking up, Sir….I understand. No, still no movement from him. Yes, very well Sir.”
Blair had no idea who her captor was, but she wondered if he was conversing with Tomas or Calmar. If Todd was right, they were the ones who had been holding Victor all this time. As her brain began to clear, she realized she was in a car, and they were obviously headed someplace. Think Blair. You’ve left the compound. If they wanted you dead, they would have already done it. They’re going to use you to get to Todd. That has to be it. Blair began to work on the rope binding her hands. She could feel some give in them. If she could free her hands, then maybe the opportunity would arise to remove her blindfold and see where they were.
“Lady, take it easy. We’re just going for a little ride. If you behave yourself, you’ll see your boyfriend again. The blindfold is for your protection. The less you know the better. I really don’t want to have to kill you. Sorry about the hands, Boss’ orders.”
Blair stopped messing with her bonds. “What do you mean, I’ll get to see my boyfriend?”
“Just what I said. It’s all arranged. He gets you two, and we get what we’ve been searching for a long time, provided he doesn’t play dirty with us.”
“This man next to me is hurt. He needs a doctor.”
“Yes, well, unfortunately, that can’t be helped. I’m taking you where I’ve been ordered. When we get there, if everything goes as planned, you’ll soon be with your guy. You’re lucky. Not everyone ends up with a happy ending. When the time comes I’ll let your hands free and you can help your friend there. In the meantime, I suggest you relax, we’re not far from our destination now.”
Blair sat still, and decided to just keep her ears opened. Maybe her captor would make a mistake, and she would find out who he was reporting to. She sat there running over his words to her. “You’ll soon be with your guy.” Her guy had to be Todd. Of course, it’s Todd. After the stunt you pulled with him last night, it has to be.. That’s what put all this in motion. She clung to the idea that Todd was on his way to rescue her again. This time, she just knew he would succeed. The ride wasn’t much longer as she felt the car begin to slow down. She heard the sound of airplanes in the area.
“Here we go, Lady. Just do as I tell you, and this will be over soon.”
Todd pulled onto the access road leading to the alternate runway not in use that day. Up ahead, he could make out two vehicles sitting next to a hangar. There was a plane close by. “You’re not planning on staying around are you, Calmar?” He sent a text message and slowly drove to the meeting ahead.
His phone rang, and he looked at the message on the screen.
The enemy has been neutralized, and the target has been acquired, proceed.
Todd continued his drive toward the vehicles. Right before departing he had gotten a shock when Victor reached out to him only to fall silent immediately. It had taken everything in him not to panic. Todd’s hands gripped the wheel, he was terrified for Blair. This was all too reminiscent of the time Mitch had Blair. You’re not that same guy. You’ll save her this time.
He slowed to a stop and waited looking around trying to make sure Calmar wasn’t going to double cross him. He opened his door and stepped out, remaining by the car. “Okay, you bastard, the next move is yours.” He watched as Claude Calmar stepped out of the opposite car.
“Mr. Manning, it’s nice to meet a man who’s motivated to be on time. My colleagues should be arriving with my cargo any minute. Let’s complete our business, I have a flight to catch.” As he said that an ambulance arrived and parked next to the cargo hold of the airplane. “There it is, really let’s get this finished. You have my chip, and I have Ms.Cramer and your brother. It’s a simple exchange. You give me the chip, and you get them.”
“I want to see them. I need to know they’re all right.”
Calmar turned and spoke quietly to his driver who stepped out of the car. His face was covered so Todd couldn’t identify him. He walked over the second car. The driver of the second car exited, his face also masked. They opened the back doors and reached in. The driver of the second car pulled Blair out. She stumbled against him, he stabilized her and removed her blindfold while Calmar’s driver and a third man, drew Victor from the car.
“There, you see, they are still alive,” said Calmar looking at his prisoners and back to Todd. Now it’s your turn. Show me the chip.”
“Blair, are you okay?” Todd yelled across the space. She looked all right, but she was swaying in the man’s arms and Victor was obviously hurt.
“Uh-uh, Mr. Manning,” Calmar spoke, as the driver clamped a hand across Blair’s mouth. “No conversing until I see my chip.”
Reluctantly Todd pulled the briefcase out of the car and opened it to reveal the chip nestled inside. He walked it halfway across the gap, then closed it. He was trying to keep cool, but his hands were sweating. You better hope your plan works, Todd, or you’re all dead. “You, Calmar, can come here and examine it, but you need to bring Blair and Victor with you. This way, neither of us are close to our cars, and maybe, just maybe, we can resolve this without any betrayals.”
“Not a very trusting soul, are you Mr. Manning?” Calmar smiled benignly. “But I must admit, you’re very clever. You figure my men will hold their fire if I’m between you and them. I commend you. Very well.” he turned, and his men brought both Blair and Victor to him. With a nod to Blair, he put one of Victor’s arms over his shoulder and Blair took the other. She had never been happier to see Todd. Now all she wanted to do was get to Todd, so the three of them could get out of there.
Todd watched as they moved towards him. He noticed Victor was being drug across the space. His brother appeared to be barely conscious. Then Victor spoke quietly in his head.
I’m faking it. This is perfect. When we get to you, I’ll wrap my arm around his neck, and he‘ll give us shelter all the way back to your car. You won’t have to give up the chip, and we can take Calmar with us and turn him in.
Stop, don’t do anything. I’ve already got it covered.
Todd, you can’t trust him.
I don’t, but I’m determined to get us out of here in one piece. I don’t give a damn about the chip. I just want this nightmare over. You might be awake, but even I can tell you’re in no shape to hold him for long. You’re just going to have to trust me.
I hope you know what you’re doing,Todd.
The conversation stopped as Calmar, Blair and Victor arrived in front of Todd. He opened the case and held a magnifying glass over the chip so Calmar could read the identifying number, then he closed the case. “Satisfied?”
“This is how we’ll make the exchange, you get the briefcase as soon as my brother’s arm is around my neck. Blair, can you hold him if Calmar lets go?”
“You bet.” She tightened her hold around Victor’s waist and wrist.
“Let go, Calmar, and step back so you’re between them and your goons.” As Calmar moved as ordered, Todd swiftly took his place and turned himself, his brother, and Blair until they were facing Calmar. Even as he turned, he saw a gun being pulled out of Calmar’s pocket. “I’d put that away if I were you. That is, if you want to live.” He said as Blair gasped in alarm.
Calmar looked puzzled, he looked around and his men had their guns trained on Manning and his group. “I think you’re mistaken, it’s you three who are in trouble.”
“I think not,” Todd looked Calmar in the eyes. “You’re a heartbeat from death. Look down.”
Calmar looked to see a laser mark directly over his heart. “So, you doublecrossed me and brought help after all.”
“Hey, I’m just protecting myself and these two. If you’re looking for your own snipers, they’ve been taken out. You lower those guns, and the case is yours. Then we’ll all walk back to our cars. No one has to die, but until we’re safely away from here, you’re targeted. Do you understand me?”
Calmar chuckled softly, “Now I understand why you were the more dangerous of the two sons. Irene feared you and I could never figure out why. I guess I got my answer today. Well played, Mr.Manning, well played.” He lowered his gun and ordered the other three men to do likewise. “My case, please.”
Todd set the case down and slid it in Calmar’s direction. “Back up to the car, Blair.” He kept his eyes on Calmar making sure he was doing the exact same thing. As soon as Calmar reached his car, Todd spoke again. “Stop, Calmar. If you make any further move to get back in the car or on the plane, you’re dead. Once we’re gone, you’ll be free to go.” As he and Blair reached his car, he shifted his hold on Victor, taking the majority of his weight off Blair. “I’ve got him, Blair. Open the rear door.”
Blair released Victor and noticed he seemed steadier than when she and Calmar had walked with him. She did as Todd asked and then watched in surprised as Victor gingerly climbed into the back. He collapsed onto the seat and laid there, his eyes now open looking at her. “Hi,Blair.”
“What? I thought…” She was interrupted by Todd.
“Blair, ask your questions later. Get in. We need to move.” Todd kept his eyes on Calmar as Blair climbed in opposite Victor. Then he opened his door and got in immediately. He turned the car on and proceeded to back down the road.
About a thousand yards away, Brody lay on the ground, his rifle in hand. Moving surreptitiously, he had managed to get to a vantage point where he could see what Manning was doing. He had watched the proceedings with interest. John had told him to back up Manning. When Calmar, Tomas’ superior, stepped from one of the two waiting cars, he was surprised. “Why are you meeting with the CIA, Manning?” What was even more astounding was what he saw next. He watched as a blindfolded Blair Cramer was taken from the second waiting car, and then his eyes widened as Victor Lord Jr. was also removed from the vehicle. “I’ll be damned! It’s an exchange.” Okay Brody, what are you going to do next? John told you to watch. Hell, Manning is outnumbered. Does he really think he can pull this off?
Brody ran a hand through his hair and readjusted his rifle This time he used his scope to check out what the three extra men were doing. None of them had moved as Calmar, Blair, and Victor had started towards Manning. So far, so good, but he’s never going to let you leave, Manning. His scope zeroed in on Calmar. He put his hand on the trigger when he saw Calmar reach for a gun, but stopped as soon as a red spot appear on Calmar’s chest. “Whoa, It looks like you’re as smart as Bo kept telling us, Manning. You’ve got some help after all. Hope you don’t do anything stupid with that help though. I’d hate to have to haul you in.”
Brody scanned over to the cars and saw Calmar's men lower their weapons. “Well, it must be your lucky day, man.” He continued to watch as Calmar backed up to his car while Todd and his group made their way to safety. Manning’s shooter had never wavered from his target, and it looked like Calmar wasn’t taking any chances. “Hurry up and get out of here, Manning. I’ve got some kidnappers to round up.”
As soon as Todd’s car left the area, the red target lifted and disappeared from Calmar’s chest. Brody heard Calmar yelling at his men and watched as they jumped into their cars, it was clear they had been ordered after Todd. This time Brody didn’t hesitate. With a pull of the trigger, he let go a shot. The front tire on the first vehicle blew causing the car to swerve out of control. It smashed into a light on the edge of the runway and came to a halt, it’s driver temporarily stunned. Brody quickly fired more shots at the second vehicle racing down the runway. The second shot missed, but his third took out the front tire on that car. It was headed for the first car, but was unable to completely avoid it. Brody watched it careen off the stationary first car and launch skyward, it flipped and rolled coming to a stop on its roof, the men inside dangling from their seat belts and struggling to get free as the car started on fire.
Calmar looked around trying to find out where the shots had come from. No one was appearing so he made a dash for the plane. Getting on board he yelled. “Get this plane in the air. Now!”
The plane started moving just as Brody got off the ground running towards the first car. The driver came out shooting wildly, but soon crumpled to the ground in front of Brody, he was clutching his shoulder. He dropped the gun and put his good hand in the air as Brody reached him. “Don’t shoot anymore, I give up.” Brody kicked the gun away and handcuffed the guy to the car door. He looked around trying to find the man who had taken the driver down, but he knew that was pointless. Whoever had backed Manning was a professional and was long gone. Brody heard screams coming from the second car. He looked at the man on the ground. “You’ll live, but now it seems your friends are in need of help. Don’t go anywhere?”
Sirens could be heard, as he approached the second car. With his gun still drawn, he yelled at the men inside the overturned car to toss their weapons out. There was no hesitation, the guns came out the window and Brody holstered his gun and went to work trying to get the door open. He was still struggling to free the men when a fire truck from the airport pulled alongside and started foaming the fire, effectively putting it out. With a rush of adrenaline, Brody gave one last pull and the door popped open. He and the firemen reached in to help the men still trapped. Neither man was seriously injured, and the paramedics began checking the men out.. Airport security were the next to arrive and Brody soon found himself doing same fast talking.
“Look, I’m an officer with the LPD and I was ordered by my Lieutenant to follow a man. I was told to watch and only help if needed. When I arrived I observed my charge meeting these gentlemen. To my surprise I realized two citizens of Llanview were being held against their will by these culprits. My charge was endeavoring to make an exchange for their release. The men accepted the exchange and allowed my charge and the kidnap victims to leave. Unbeknownst to my charge, these men began pursuit as soon as he drove off. That’s when I reacted.”
The head of Airport security handed Brody’s ID and gun back to him. “So you’re telling me, you stopped these men only after the exchange took place?”
“Yes Sir. If you’ll allow me to call my Commissioner, I’ll be glad to give you a more detailed account later.”
A paramedic walked up and spoke quietly the head of security. He turned back to Brody. “They’re taking your prisoners to the hospital for treatment. You can ride with me, and one of the police officers will follow in your vehicle. Police Chief Hubbard will most likely want to hear this story as well. Come along.” Brody followed, knowing he had very little choice. It was going to be a long night.
When Todd figured he was out of sight of any further trouble, he pulled over to the side of the road and stopped. Then he turned to check on Blair and Victor. “Blair, are you alright? You were kind of shaky when they hauled you out of the car. I swear if they hurt you, I’ll give Baker orders to fire.”
Blair got a lump in her throat. The raw concern in his voice made her feel all warm inside, like being wrapped in the softest blanket. She reached forward and put her hand on his arm. “Todd, I’m okay. Don’t call Baker, let Calmar go. You got Victor back, and now that Calmar has what he wanted, he’ll leave us alone.”
Victor started to laugh, but ended up coughing and moaning instead. Blair and Todd both looked at Victor in alarm.
“That doesn’t sound good. Are you going to make it, Victor?” Todd found he was actually a little worried for his brother and it was a strange feeling.
Victor looked at his brother in surprise and tried to get the coughing under control, When it stopped, he spoke carefully. “What this? Concern? I’m shocked.”
Todd scowled. The last thing he wanted was to find himself getting close to his brother. “Hey, I just don’t want you to die before Bo and Tea see you. They were so sure I had something to do with your death. Blair, see what you can do for him. I’ll try and find the Pine Valley hospital.”
Blair squeezed Todd’s arm in encouragement and smiled at him. She had heard the concern in his voice, also. His sarcastic reply in the face of Victor’s comment was something Todd did to protect himself. “I’ll help him, just get us there. He’ll make it, he’s as stubborn as you.” As Todd turned back to continue driving, Blair tried to help Victor get more comfortable on the car seat, but the extra movement was more than Victor could take. Blair looked over her shoulder at Todd. “He passed out again. You’d better hurry. They really did a number on him. What is it with you two? You attract trouble like magnets.”
Todd glanced back and caught her eyes and grinned. “But that’s why you were attracted to me. Admit it Blair, you like trouble.”
She laughed softly, “I guess I do. I’ve been drawn to you from the moment I met you.” She got serious. “I realized earlier, that no matter what you get into Todd Manning, I’m going to find a way to be by your side. I’m not letting you go this time.”
“Good, because I’ve decided the same thing. You’re the one, Babe. If it weren’t for Victor, I’d show you just how much I mean that. Hang on.” With that, Todd floored it.