It was 0300 by the time Katie, Dog and I walked out of our suite and down the hall. We were both freshly showered and wearing thick, terrycloth robes that had been hanging in the bedroom closet. I probably looked ridiculous with a rifle slung over the robe and flip-flops on my feet, but I didn’t care. I was in the best mood I could remember being in for some time.
Martinez looked up and smiled a bright smile when we entered the bar area. Katie smiled back and I groaned inside, just waiting for it to start. Mercifully, Martinez somehow managed to keep her mouth shut, but the look on her face told me she had several good one-liners prepared.
“Seen the Colonel?” I asked as we walked over to where she was sitting with a tumbler of something from the bar in front of her.
“Nope,” she said, taking a sip. “Still sleeping as far as I know. Care for a drink?”
“Maybe some food first,” I said, looking at Katie. She nodded and sat down next to Martinez, leaving me to wander into the kitchen to get us something to eat.
Sometime later we had finished our meal and Katie went to rummage through the back area of the bar, hoping to find her favorite brand of Vodka. Dog had inhaled his breakfast and lapped up what had to be a quart of water from a silver-serving bowl I’d filled and placed on the floor.
“So, what’s your thoughts on that Pave Hawk?” I asked, taking a sip of the Tequila I’d poured. “Is it worth trying to get in the air, or are we better off to pump the fuel into the Huey and stick with it?”
“I’ve been thinking about that,” Martinez said as Katie let out a small cry of triumph and held up a bottle. I glanced over at her and grinned. “I think we should just transfer the fuel to the Huey. There’s too great of a chance that something in the Pave Hawk is going to cause us a problem once we’re in the air. Not that the Huey isn’t older than my grandmother, but it seems to have been well maintained and quite airworthy.”
I nodded, taking another sip and watching Katie walk towards us with a glass in one hand and a bottle in the other. I wasn’t wild about any of us drinking, me included, but we were probably as safe and secure at the moment as we would ever be again. And all of us had earned a little break.
Then I thought about Scott, Irina and Igor out there somewhere. They had gone out to help me, and I doubted they were getting a break. But I didn’t have a clue where to even start looking for them. The best idea I had come up with so far was to get airborne in the Huey and start transmitting blindly, hoping they would pick up our signal.
Thinking about them soured my taste for the alcohol and I pushed the glass away, drawing curious stares from my two companions.
“Thinking about Scott and company,” I explained, pushing my chair back and standing up.
“What are you doing?” Katie asked.
“Going to find us some clothes,” I answered. “I’m guessing out of all those people in the group that held you, at least some of them had some spare clothing with them that will be clean. Want to come with me, or do you trust me to pick something out for you?”
We all looked toward the stairs when Dog whined. He was sitting near the first step, staring at us.
“You’d better walk your dog, first.” Katie said.
“I’ve got him, sir.” Martinez pushed her glass away and stood up. “It’ll give me a chance to check over the Pave Hawk one more time.”
I nodded my thanks and headed for the casino floor. A moment later I heard the slap of Katie’s flip-flops as she hurried to catch up with me. When we pushed through the door she wrinkled her nose at the smell from the bodies, but stayed right next to me.
“So what’s the plan?” She asked.
“Find our missing people and get our asses to the Bahamas.” I answered. “Nothing left here for us and I hear the beaches there are topless.”
“Down, boy.” She said with a laugh. “You have a plan to find these people?”
“I have an idea, but don’t know if it will work. Once we find them it should be easy enough to locate a plane that Martinez can fly and we’re on our way.”
“Then what?” Katie asked, reaching out and taking my hand as we walked.
“Then… I don’t know,” I said. “I guess we live our lives. I don’t know. Haven’t thought that far ahead. I’ve been focused on staying alive and finding you.”
“Do you miss her?” Katie asked after a few minutes, referring to Rachel.
“Of course I do,” I answered honestly. “But not in the way you’re probably thinking. She’s my friend. We walked through hell together. I wouldn’t be here with you if it weren’t for her. But I’m where I want to be.”
Katie tugged on my hand and when I stopped and looked at her she stretched up on her toes and kissed me. I wrapped my arms around her, pulling her to me, enjoying the feel of her body against mine. We stayed that way for a few long moments before continuing on.
I had guessed right that the group had brought luggage with them. A large pile of duffels was in one of the rooms they had used for sleeping. Picking my way through the rubble and broken bodies in shower shoes wasn’t exactly fun, but it had to be done. We’d stopped at a large gift shop and found plenty of T-shirts and sweatshirts, but no pants. At least they had underwear and both of us had found a package in our sizes.
As I pulled each duffel free of the pile, I turned and tossed it through the missing window. Katie grabbed them, took them to an area that wasn’t carpeted in glass and started going through the contents. It took a while, but we were both eventually dressed.
I had hoped for cargo pants, which are much more practical than jeans, but didn’t find any so jeans it was. A rough, canvas shirt completed my ensemble. It would be hot but it would also provide some protection. Katie found a pair of jeans that were so tight they looked like they had been painted on, but every other choice was way too big. We stopped in the gift shop on our way back so she could grab a bikini top. She hadn’t found any bras and that part of the bathing suit would work as a substitute.
It had taken us a while and when we walked back into the VIP area Colonel Crawford and Martinez were sharing a drink at the bar. Dog was sprawled out near them, his tail thumping the floor when he saw me.
“Major. Ma’am,” he greeted us.
“Please, Colonel. It’s Katie. Ma’am is my mother.”
Crawford smiled and nodded before turning his attention to me. “The Captain tells me we need to transfer fuel to the Huey.”
“Yes, sir.” I said, joining them after pulling a stool out for Katie. “I’m thinking let’s get in the air and start broadcasting for Scott and hope he’s in range. Unless you have a better idea.”
“I do, but… well, this is a little embarrassing.” Crawford reached into his pocket and placed a satellite phone on the bar in front of us. “I had this and a charger in my pack. I’d love to place a call to Pearl Harbor and have them look on satellite and find Scott, but I don’t know the number.”
“Sir?” I asked, not understanding. I knew he’d been talking to Admiral Packard for weeks.
“This isn’t my phone,” he confessed. “Somehow I picked this one up when I was throwing stuff in my pack and none of the working numbers at Pearl are in it. Blanchard had programmed them into my phone for me, so I just hit a speed dial button without ever even seeing the number.”
We all sat there for a few moments, staring at the phone as if we could magically cause it to have the information we needed suddenly appear. I knew how Crawford felt, but it didn’t have any bearing on my plan.
“May I?” Katie asked, reaching out and holding her hand above the phone.
“By all means,” Crawford said, giving her a quizzical look.
Katie picked the phone off the bar and powered it on. She sat staring at the screen for a couple of minutes before standing.
“No signal in here,” she said. “I’m going to the roof.”
“Dog, go with her,” I pointed. He stood up, shook, and ran up the stairs ahead of Katie.
“Who’s she calling?” Crawford asked.
“An old boyfriend,” I said, suppressing a laugh at the look on his and Martinez’ faces. “He’s with the CIA, stationed at a listening post in Western Australia. He’s how she got out of Arizona and to Tinker.”
“OK, sir,” Martinez poured a drink and pushed it towards me. “We’ve got time. Give with the story.”