Jessica heard the winds suddenly drop and the rain stop. The forward edge of the hurricane’s eye was passing over. She donned her raincoat and stuffed the maps back inside her mud-encrusted work vest for safekeeping. Deciding a short trip to the lobby was in order to get something to eat and drink; supplies for the rest of the storm. Eyeing the nine-millimeter pistol, she weighed taking it with her. Who’d attack me during a hurricane? Shrugging, she slipped it in her coat pocket. A sensation of gullibility disturbed her upon opening the door, but she dismissed it.
Halfway down the open sidewalk, a figure jumped out at her. She recognized the same ugly-faced man who had accosted her at her apartment. Another knife in his hand, he wouldn’t be so easily handled this time.
“Damn!” She swore. Jessica assumed a slight crouched, defensive posture, watching his every flinch her hand grasped the hilt of her 9mm in her pocket. Feeling the presence of someone behind her, she exhaled slowly, trying to stay calm. Hysteria wouldn’t help.
“I don’t have the statue,” a warning growl in her voice. She slipped the gun out of her pocket, but held it close.
“We want you, we have statue already!”
“Why?” She sensed the one behind her move closer. Jessica kicked backwards catching him in the groin, he groaned. She stepped away. Despite his damaged groin, he managed to trip her. She fell to the wet pavement, but swung wide with her right leg. The brutal looking man with the knife was wary and jumped her swinging leg. He grabbed her ankles before she could regain her feet. Terrified, Jessica kicked, but his strength was greater. The other man seized her arms as she fired the pistol and caused the shot to go wide. Without warning the world went dark.
Meredith heard Jessica’s door open and close a second time. This time the winds were down and the rain had stopped. Maybe the storm was over. Hearing loud voices, one of them Jessica’s, and the grunts and blows of fighting followed by Jessica’s gun discharging, Meredith grabbed her gun and ran outside. Two Central American men carried Jessica, unconscious, between them and tossed her none too gently in the back of their truck. Meredith watched the abduction, her firearm leveled on the first man then the other one of the two kidnappers. Afraid to shoot, least she hit Jessica.
The tall, broad-shouldered man she’d seen arrive in the Porsche distracted her. He ran for the dilapidated truck. Though it looked rundown, the engine sounded finely tuned. They avoided him and sped off. Meredith secured Jessica’s gun.
Bruce brushed by her, running in the opposite direction. She realized he had seen Jessica’s capture and came close to colliding with Captain Curtis and six of the Marines. All seven Marines ran out into the storm and jumped in their Marine Hummer and gave chase to Jessica and her abductors. Moving fast behind the Marines and talking into what appeared to be a cell phone the tall stranger ran by, again, this time toward the Porsche.
Meredith reacted as her training dictated and yelled over the confusion, “Halt! F.B.I.!” Directed at the tall man. He ignored her, slid into his Porsche, and raced away after the Marines.
Bruce returned with Sheriff Flagler and stopped at the sound of Meredith squeezing off two rounds from her Glock automatic 9mm pistol. Meredith, Bruce, and Sheriff Flagler stared. Both rounds hit the car, and both deflected off. Each deflection illuminated by a blue glow.
“What have we gotten into?” Bruce grimaced.
* * * *
Xerxes ignored the F.B.I. agent’s shouts and her gunfire. Instead, he finished alerting his bodyguards stationed just past the hotel, hearing the Aztec’s truck speed past them over the connection as he closed it. Safely inside his car, he turned the ignition key, and the Porsche roared to life. Forced to ignore the road conditions left by the storms frontal passage, his teams had to move fast. Igraine’s center could be artificially stalled for a limited time.
Xerxes called Pericles, already on the move with his squad. “Pericles.” Xerxes’ voice was tight with tension. “Are they just ahead of you?”
“I’ll pass you shortly. They’re headed to the meeting place we expected, just west of Buckhead Ridge, near ten-mile bend.”
“Yeah, Xerxes, I know. We’ll be there. Did I hear gunshots?”
“Yeah, Ms. Simon’s on the case.” Xerxes sneered.
“Were you hit?” Pericles sounded concerned.
“No, the barrier deflected the shots.”
“How long before the storm’s eye shifts?” Pericles, knowing the Marine hummer wasn’t as fast as Xerxes in the Porsche. He recognized the headlights coming up fast behind them.
“Our scientists estimate we can hold movement for two hours.” Xerxes informed Pericles. He swerved the Porsche into the vacant, oncoming lane to pass the Hummer.
“It’ll drive the meteorologist’s crazy,” Pericles snickered.
“I know, but that’s their problem.” He signed off. Xerxes picked up a smaller communications device and spoke a few brief words in a language rarely heard on Earth. He informed Ambassador Barrous what was happening. The Ambassador followed the Aztecs from above with a wing of his small fighter space ships.
Xerxes depressed the accelerator, going faster. Sliding and swerving to avoid the massive puddles on the rain-soaked pavement of State Road 441 circling the levy of Lake Okeechobee. They had to get there before Jessica was sacrificed to the Aztec’s pagan god Tlaloc. Xerxes’ face was grim, his lips drawn into a line, he expected to arrive first. If necessary, he’d take on the entire group of drugged, idol worshipers single-handedly. He couldn’t face losing Jessica.
* * * *