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 The Profit Prophet

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Anthony van
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PostSubject: The Profit Prophet   Mon Aug 21, 2017 5:46 pm

Chapter 14

 

Devon Collins was shattered. He had only just convinced himself that his mission would soon be over; that Daniel Treloar and Naomi Stockton would soon be off his hands. That’s when he got the phone call from Richard Treloar. A kidnapping! And worse than that, it was someone who was under his protection. Washington would not be pleased. Even as he made the call to his superior the back of his neck prickled in anticipation. It was becoming a debacle and a stain on his reputation.

After describing the events and what he had expected to occur, he then outlined the facts of the abduction as he knew them. His boss didn’t rant, he just spoke coldly, efficiently; he was all about solutions to the problem.

As the agent on the ground Devon was expected to make recommendations. He had carefully detailed a series of strategies. Devon outlined his preferred plan. Surprisingly, resources were made available, and additional manpower was placed at his disposal. He was to report in at regular intervals and both air and sea units were being mobilised.

                                                            ------------------------

 

Back at the port of Berbera, after the cargo vessel had departed, Rashid had made his way back to the four wheel drive. Cautiously, he drove some back streets to park close to the town centre. Eventually he found a storekeeper who didn’t abuse him or shoo him away. He was able to use the phone and talk to Doctor Rick. The doctor told him to stay where he was and Hissein and Abu would find him.

 

Only a short time later the two ex-pirates arrived and thanked the storekeeper, resisting politely an invitation to be blessed by his hospitality. Hissein explained that they would enjoy tea with him once they had completed an urgent task. The unspoken threatening nature of their cause was clearly evident to the shop keeper. He noted their earnest manner and wished them ‘the strength of Allah’.

They took the boy back to the car he and Daniel had travelled in. Rashid excitedly replayed the events from the preceding night. Then he told them how he’d become very agitated as he watched the ship leave with Daniel on board. Hissein and Abu listened solemnly. In separate cars they retraced the half mile back the way the boy had driven. Hissein and Rashid drove in the doctor’s car and returned to the dockyards. Rashid pointed to the office and also where the ship had been berthed. Scanning the port facility as they parked near the gate, they could just make out the departing freighter.

Following a short discussion with Abu, the two men took Rashid with them to a previous haunt about a mile north west from the dockyards; on the northern coastal fringe of the city. It was there they met some past ‘associates’ and became reacquainted with their violent former lives.

 Hurriedly, preparations were made; other members of the band were contacted. A cause that was for the renowned Dr Rick and was also both a just and risky cause, galvanised the group more than an illicit raid would have.

                                                ----------------------------------

 

Meanwhile, on the ship, Daniel was gathering his supplies. Having taken a photo of the ship layout on his phone, navigating the various decks of the bridge castle was made easier. He snuck into the crew gymnasium and took some water bottles from the fridge. Depositing these on the truck was his first priority.

Daniel stealthily traversed the mezzanine to avoid alerting two crewmen who were examining the cargo hold.  Comments about chucks on wheels not being secured and the advantages of short haul voyages in generally calm seas, was all he heard before the men ascended the steps opposite. Daniel dropped silently and pressed his body flat on the rusty metal sheeting, desperate to not be detected. The reverberation of their movement droned through his body as he squeezed against the lip of steel around the hold cavity.

Their exit was accompanied by a quickly fading guffaw at some nautical witticism. Daniel rose, pinching his clammy shirt from his body.

He was convinced now, that he had to act quickly before he was discovered. Somehow he had to free Naomi and make his way to the transport trailer without being discovered. If they could hide for a few hours it might give any would-be-rescuers a chance to find them and release them. His hope was that Rashid had passed on his troubling situation.

After placing the water bottles beneath the tarpaulin, where he intended to hide, Daniel checked his phone for the route to the communications centre. To his surprise his phone informed him that a network was available. Surely it was protected by a password. Incredibly, the communication capability was made available to all on board once port was left behind.

Daniel immediately selected his father’s contact number. He waited for several ringtones before his father answered.

“Daniel, is that you?”

“Yes. Listen Dad, I haven’t got Naomi yet,” he almost hissed. “I’m about to try and get her. We’re going to hide in one of three trucks in the hold.”

“I don’t understand.”

He clenched his teeth in annoyance at himself. “I’m on a ship…they took Naomi to a ship.”

“Why don’t you just wait? She might be safer if they don’t know you’re on board.” The words were quietly spoken but they had a crushing impact on Daniel.

His father had exposed a fatal flaw in his plan. He now faced an awful dilemma. He still wanted to rush in and rescue Naomi; to save her, to shield her from harm. But he knew his father was right. His presence would only imperil Naomi even more. Hurting her or threatening her would be their path to getting what they wanted from him.

It was a few seconds before Daniel could reply. “I see what you mean. Look, let me know what’s happening. I’ll try and stay hidden until help arrives.”

“All right, stay safe,” his father said huskily as he breathed a prayer for safety. “Bye.”

“Bye,” murmured the younger Treloar, but the connection was already broken. He shivered from the chill of his sweat soaked clothing.

A scrape on an elevated walkway made him look up. His eyes locked on to the stocky kidnapper. The dark eyed man hollered his recognition of Daniel.

“There he is!”

The open cargo hold offered little cover for him. Unable to escape up to the mezzanine because of his pursuer, Daniel charged toward a hatch on the right side toward the bow of the ship.

Even as he opened it he could hear the clanging of boots coming down the metal steps. Closing the hatch, he climbed and slid his way down a ladder. Then he frantically edged his way along the dimly lit passageway. It was a maintenance access route through the bowels of the vessel. He felt the thrum of the engine room below and smelled the oily fumes mixed with the stuffy, stale air. Ducking overhead pipes and overstepping joins in the superstructure, he desperately looked for an exit. The longer he remained in the constricted passage the less chance he had of knowing where he would end up.

Daniel stopped briefly. Was that the sound of someone following? He couldn’t be sure. Maybe he could hide and let the thug pass by. The thought of waiting helplessly in the shadows, refraining from sound or movement was too frightening.

So, resuming his headlong rush he soon came to another hatch. Next to it was a ladder up to other levels. By now he guessed he was approaching the bridge castle which towered above the containers stacked on the top deck.

On the spur of the moment he opted to hastily climb the ladder. Two rungs at a time to begin with, then, as his legs began to ache, he went step by step. Having ascended through two levels, Daniel left the ladder at the third landing. Blowing hard from the exertion, he rounded the corner into a passage and met head on with the tall blond German.

The shock of the abrupt encounter was almost immediately followed by a staggering blow to his solar plexus. A wheeze of air vented with a grunt of pain as Daniel collapsed, totally winded.

Initially, Daniel felt as if he would suffocate; he couldn’t fill his lungs. His diaphragm was in spasm and panic surged through him. He gave a raspy rattle like someone with an obstructed airway.

Barely conscious, Daniel felt rough hands grasp him and haul him upright. The straightening of his body into the vertical untangled the seizure of his lungs and a howling gasp filled his breathless body. Several more coughing, panting breaths were needed before he could face his captors.

Daniel’s arms were pinned by the stocky abductor as he faced the leering German.

“You see Marty,” he said with his husky accent, “he is a marshmallow,” he poked Daniel in the chest.

“What do we do with him Carl?” was the nasally response.

“We take him back to our rooms.” It was a flat, matter of fact reply.

“What if someone sees him? The captain will expect to be compensated for another off-the-books passenger.”

“We tell them he had too much to drink.”

Daniel looked into his face in bewilderment and saw the cruel glimmer in Carl’s eyes. That was the last thing Daniel saw before a fist smashed into the side of his face and a curtain of blackness descended on his world.

The two kidnappers supported Daniel on either side and dragged him to a stairwell. They heaved him up one level and then up to the next level and toward their cabins. Only once did they have to perform the charade of friends returning their inebriated friend to his room.

“A little too much vodka, I think,” chuckled Carl to three crewmen as they walked past. One paused and glanced at the welt on Daniel’s face.

“Is he all right?”

“Oh, yes, sure; he had a bit of a fall, that’s all,” the big man blustered.  “We’ll put a cold face cloth on it. He’ll be fine once he sobers up.”

The men moved on, not unaccustomed to the occasional bingeing passenger or shipmate.

Unlocking the single cabin their other ‘guest’ was in, Carl opened the door and Marty carelessly lowered Daniel to the floor so that he dropped the last eighteen inches.

“Some company,” the shorter man snorted callously looking at Naomi’s distraught face.

Directly, as the door closed, Naomi was on her knees checking out Daniel’s condition. She gently turned him over onto his side on the charcoal, utilitarian carpet. Her hands went to his face and tenderly brushed his sandy hair off his forehead. She grimaced with sympathy as she examined the angry swelling and bruising just below his left ear.

Naomi quickly got up and wet some toilet paper, using it to bathe and cool Daniel’s face. He moaned at the touch of the cold, wet wad of paper. She breathed soothing words of comfort as he slowly gained consciousness. His eyelids fluttered. He growled a groan of pain and annoyance as he finally became aware that things had not gone so well.

With an effort he opened his eyes to determine his situation. The first thing that came into focus was Naomi’s face hovering over him. Her reddish tinged, blonde hair splayed to frame her face and backlit by the porthole, created an unreal effect, as if she were somehow haloed.

“Naomi,” he croaked drily

“Shh,” she placed a finger on his lips, and then added quietly, “I’ll get you a drink.”

She grabbed the plastic cup that had come with her meal and filled it with water. Daniel tried to sit up, but his head spun and a stab of pain seared across his brow. Naomi moved deftly to support him before he crumpled sideways. With her arm around his shoulders she steadily raised him to a sitting position and placed the cup to his lips.

He sipped slowly till it was all gone. His eyes dwelt on the pyjama clad girl. She squirmed a little under his gaze and self-consciously grabbed the top button of her flannel top.

“Dan, are you okay?”

He nodded. “What about you? How have they treated you?” His eyes were full of concern.

“Better than you, by the looks; they anaesthetised me but apart from that I’m okay.”

Daniel lowered his head and shook it slowly. “I’m so sorry that you’re caught up in my mess. This was meant to be a rescue… and now it’s so much worse.”

“What do you mean?” She had supposed that he had been kidnapped too.

Unwilling to explain how things could get worse, he rationalised how to minimise any threat to her.

“I mean, I’ll just give them what they want on the guarantee of your safety.”

The implication of what he was saying sank in and she nodded slowly. Then she clarified her question.

“No, I meant what do you mean, ‘rescue’? Weren’t you kidnapped?”

 

Daniel looked at her sheepishly. “I snuck on board. I was going to release you and escape.” He pulled a face that was part chagrin and part reaction to the stabbing pain he endured. He continued, “Except the boat left before I got to do anything, and left me with nowhere to go, literally.”

Naomi saw the paroxysms of pain registering on Daniel’s face and insisted that he get in the other bed and try and get some sleep. She assisted him as he wobbled his way to the bunk and dropped down onto it. She dabbed the wet paper on his injury. Daniel clenched his teeth in response to the severe throbbing.

He looked into the concern filled face. His voice grated, “Where’s God now?”

Naomi angled her head inquiringly, thinking he was voicing his scepticism. She refrained from preaching at him. It was understandable for Daniel to bolster his aversion to faith and display his resentment when everything looked hopeless. Naomi closed her eyes and gave a small sad shake of the head.

Daniel reached for her hand. “No, I didn’t mean it like that. Not in a… disparaging way. I was being ironical. You see, the other night I changed sides. But it seems like maybe I’m not Christian material.”

“Why do you say that?” Naomi was totally attuned to what he was saying now.

“Well, for one, I don’t feel any different and, two, things have just got worse since I made the decision.”

Naomi had a knowing grin. “The change is on the inside. Sometimes people sense it straight away, but usually you gradually become aware of it.”

“So, is this some sort of test?”

“Well, let me put it this way. There’s no promise that the Christian life will be easy or protected, but God did promise to be with us. So to answer your question—‘Where is God now; God is here with us now. You saying what you just said makes me even more convinced that He is.”

Daniel looked baffled. “How can you be so sure?”

She smiled. “God keeps his promises. Besides, if someone confesses their faith, that’s pretty clear evidence that God is at work. I always think of that thief that became a believer. He was on a cross next to Jesus and he confessed his recognition of Him. Jesus promised the man life but things didn’t miraculously improve for him. He died a painful death. The thing is, God was with him, and he received eternal life.”

“So, what you’re saying is, it makes no difference to what happens to you?” Daniel sounded a little dejected as if the hope he had was only a state of mind.

Naomi came back quite forcefully. “I didn’t say that. God can and has intervened in the lives of Christians through history. It’s just that it’s His call, not ours.”

Daniel nodded. “I guess you’re right. He wouldn’t be God if He did what we told him to do.”

Naomi added, “Our pastor says, ‘He guides our present and secures our future.’ He was talking about how David described being led through ‘the valley of the shadow of death’, but his aim was to ‘dwell in the house of the Lord forever’.”

Daniel tried to sit up then shuddered momentarily as another jabbing pain lanced across his head. He squeezed his eyes shut and breathed a plea to be released from the torturous ache. Naomi caressed his face. “Lie down and rest,” she insisted.

He managed a half smile, “Yes nurse.”

“You know, everyone is Christian material, if they surrender to God. And it sounds like that’s what you did.” Naomi said it more for herself than to counter his doubts. She knew for certain that her heart yearned for him. His actions in risking his own safety for her had clinched it. She desperately hoped that his faith was real.

 

Conversation dwindled as the exhaustion of the night’s pursuit assailed Daniel. Naomi watched him as he sank into an uneasy sleep. She rested in the other bunk and weighed his words. Perhaps it was a sign of their hopeless situation that he wanted answers about faith.

Marty, the junior of the two kidnappers, brought in meals. Naomi protested as he roughly woke Daniel. After shaking him and hauling him into a sitting position, Marty moved over to Naomi and grasped a handful of her hair, pulling her head back.

He addressed Daniel. “You better do what Carl says or you might not see this pretty girl again.” Marty’s other hand slid across her face.

“That’s enough Marty!” Carl snapped from the doorway. He held a gun in his hand. “I’m sure Mr Treloar will be cooperative.” He approached Naomi and nudged Marty toward the door. Menacingly, he held the gun near Naomi’s head as he spoke to Daniel. “We will leave at the next port, with the girl. Then you may contact your friends and bring us the documents; I’m sure you know which documents don’t you?”

Daniel nodded.

“That’s excellent. And if you bring them without telling anyone, then no one will get hurt.” He grunted a short laugh as if using such a cliché was somehow amusing.

Carl used the barrel of the gun to point at the plates with food. “Eat. You will need your strength.” He glared at Daniel and Naomi in turn and then left the room. A click indicated the relocking of the door.  

Naomi shivered uncontrollably. The shock of feeling the cold metal of the gun against her temple and the disturbing callousness of their captors had unnerved her. She wrapped the grey blanket tightly around herself trying to calm down, but the more she tried the shakier she became.

Daniel eased up into a sitting position on the bed. From there he took three unsteady paces and sat next to Naomi. Without saying a word he hugged her firmly. She placed her head on his shoulder and wept quietly. The contact, the warmth, the mutuality of the trauma, became a palliative for their battered spirits.

Sometime later Daniel was stroking her hair, almost unaware that she had relaxed in his arms. Naomi gazed up into his face, “We should eat,” she murmured with a sigh. He looked down, kissed her forehead softly.

“Uh, huh,” he answered hoarsely. Reluctantly untangling his arms from her, he rose and retrieved the two plates from the small table. Each plate had several club sandwiches. Hardly sumptuous fare but gratefully demolished by the hostage and her would-be rescuer.

When they were finished, Daniel looked at Naomi. “So what you’re saying is that even if I don’t feel it; even if I think nothing’s changed, because I believe Jesus is who He said He is, and that He died so I could live, I’m a Christian… it’s a fact?”

“Exactly, if you believe, then it’s a fact.” She gave a relieved smile.

“I guess we should be praying, or something, then.”

“I haven’t stopped, but if you like we can pray together.”

The next couple of minutes Naomi committed their safety into the Lord’s hand. She asked for qualities of perseverance and faith. She prayed for their captors. She thanked God for his grace toward Daniel. Daniel haltingly added his thanks and asked for deliverance.

Their circumstances hadn’t changed but their mood had. You can incarcerate humans but you can’t easily take their minds captive without their consent. In some way Daniel and Naomi had encountered the truth that God is ultimately in control, even if it doesn’t feel like it.

At the conclusion of their prayers Daniel pulled a tight lipped, edgy smile, “What do we do now?”

“We wait. Sometimes it’s the hardest thing to do. I mean if a clear path opens up we should go for it, but waiting and trusting is usually recommended.”

“What happened to ‘the Lord helps those who help themselves?”

Naomi brushed a hair from her face and studied the man that had radically stirred her affections so that she no longer had any certainty about what she should do.

“I don’t think that’s biblical. There are a number of stories of people who acted believing that what they were doing was God’s will, and things didn’t turn out too well.” She tugged the blanket snugly around herself. “Now that we’ve prayed we should trust that God will lead us out of this. Or at worst, make us content with what happens.”

Naomi could see that Daniel wasn’t really keen just waiting. Being passive and compliant wasn’t his nature. He stalked around the cabin testing doors and the porthole latch. He felt for his phone. It was gone. He found a paper cup and they shared some water before he flopped on the bed and exhaled noisily.

“It all seems so fatalistic, just waiting.”

“Let me put it this way. When it comes time to act, it will be clear what we should do. That’s what I believe anyway.” Naomi’s tone revealed her tiredness and diminishing confidence.

The darkness outside deepened. With little persuasion, Daniel agreed to turn out the light and try and get some sleep. His injuries and the tension of a long day inevitably took their toll and Daniel was soon in a fitful slumber.

Occasionally he would wake and listen to Naomi’s regular breathing, acutely aware that his actions had brought her here into this perilous situation. He vowed to himself that somehow he would free her from this threat to her life. The cold, hard fact occurred to him that if he died trying to release Naomi, they would have no reason to hold her any longer. Whether that guaranteed her safety was another question. ‘These goons might just as easily kill her as let her go,’ he thought.

Amidst Daniel’s fourth and most substantial sleep episode, a heavy clunk against the hull awakened Naomi. At first she characterised the sound as part of her dream, but several successive thuds shook the shards of drowsiness away.

Her initial thought was to rouse Daniel. His settled, peaceful stupor made her resist the impulse. She went to the porthole to see what was going on. Almost blindingly, a stream of tracer bullets arced across the bow of the ship.

Blackness immediately followed the glare. Just as her eyes were becoming accustomed to dimness she heard numerous feet running along the deck. Another scintillating streak of tracers flared past their porthole and over the deck. Yelling ensued and the concussion of several gun blasts boomed through the ship.

Daniel leapt from his bed in fright, “What was that?” he croaked as he swayed unsteadily.

“It sounded like shots. There’s another boat shooting at us.” Naomi indicated outside where she was looking. He went to the window but could see nothing.      

Muffled voices out in the corridor drew nearer. Their door was tested with a rattle of the handle. They heard the next door flung open. The alarmed sailor bawled out, “Pirates! Stay in your cabins. Got it? Stay in your cabin.” Daniel envisaged the occupants in the adjacent cabin nodding compliantly, but that wasn’t the case.

Once the sailor warning passengers had passed to the other side of the accommodation area, a couple of gruff comments preceded their door opening and the light switched on.

“Isn’t that charming,” growled the German as Naomi, frightened by the sudden intrusion, drew close to Daniel and he enfolded his arms about her protectively.

Carl held his pistol and waved it casually as he talked, “We are just joining you to make sure those pirates don’t take our hostage, hostage,” he sneered with a malevolent grin at his own cleverness.

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want you falling into their hands would we?” whined Marty with a wicked sneer. He walked closer leering at the cowering girl.

“Shut up Marty, and check the corridor… see if you can find out what’s happening.”

 

The shorter subordinate scowled at his boss but remained silent. He cracked open the door and peered down the hallway. The noise of distant activity penetrated the room. He turned and eased the door shut.

“It doesn’t look good Carl, looks like they’re rounding up all the passengers. What do we do?”

“Shut up and let me think,” he snarled.

After a moment’s consideration he spoke. “Maybe if we keep the door locked they’ll think no one is here.” He placed the key in the door and engaged the lock. Then Carl sat on the edge of Naomi’s bunk and examined his automatic pistol. A quick release of the magazine to ensure it was fully loaded and he then reinserted it with a snap.

“I hope I don’t have to use it, but it pays to be prepared.” He looked up to the door as the ruckus in the hall got louder.

Broken English shouted, by what sounded like Somali pirates, came from the room before theirs. From the yelled instructions it sounded like they were all being herded into the dining room. Stomping sounds and loud shouts were quite intimidating to hear. Daniel drew Naomi even closer as if shielding her from the terror about them.

The thumping footsteps abruptly stopped outside their cabin. The handle was pulled to no avail. A fist banged on the door. “Open!” came the loud command. A few seconds of silence passed before the demand was repeated more aggressively.

Carl glared at Marty, who had shuffled slightly. He vigorously, though silently, shushed him with a finger pressed to pursed lips.

Several more seconds passed and then the steps progressed to the next cabin. Sounds from next door suggested that Carl and Marty’s room was being searched. Their noiseless vigil continued for a number of minutes while the rowdy pirate horde systematically searched the remainder of the rooms.

Carl and Marty were visibly relaxing when the trooping of feet returned.

The bashing of the door resumed and the shouting became more demanding, “You must open or we shoot!” Several further crunches against the door using some implement had the four occupants retreating to the far wall. The gun was slipped away as they waited.

An ear splitting explosion destroyed the lock and the door swung open. Somalis tumbled through each brandishing old soviet and US weapons.

It wasn’t until Hissein and Abu filed in at the end of the queue that the tension in Daniel and Naomi’s embrace eased.

“Take them,” instructed Hissein to his fellow pirates.

Carl, almost instantly, detected the mutual relief of his captives; a half smile, a squeeze of a hand and the readiness to venture into a violent unknown.

His reaction was also almost immediate. He sprang across to their prisoners grasping his gun from his belt at his back and thrust it against Naomi’s neck. At the same time he used his other hand to thump Daniel’s skull against the bulkhead. As Daniel’s body slumped onto the floor, Naomi screamed and Carl’s guttural shout made everyone freeze, “Nobody move or I will kill her!”

He sneered at Hissein who still held a machine pistol in his hand. “The good doctor would not like it if your rescue effort ended in their deaths…no?”

Hissein and Abu looked appalled at the idea. As Hissein gritted his teeth and shook his head, Abu used his arm to draw back their co-conspirators.

“I don’t expect to see you again; otherwise I may have to hurt your friends.” Carl grated menacingly. Marty hovered behind his boss, still fearful of the Somalis but emboldened by Carl’s counter attack.

Even as Carl threatened them Daniel eyed him from the floor, looking for an opportunity. The Somalis began to withdraw from the room and the tall German waved his gun at them. Dragging Naomi with him as he stepped toward the door, Carl was unaware that Daniel was still conscious.

With a scissor motion of his legs entangling with Carl’s, Daniel tripped him and brought him crashing to the floor. Frantically, he launched himself on top of his fallen foe coming between him and Naomi just as Carl raised his weapon. The gun fired when Daniel rolled across him trying to secure it. He grasped the gun hand and smashed it to the floor with all his strength. The pirate rescuers poured back into the cabin. Two scuffled with Marty forcing him to the ground. Daniel ceased his struggling, feeling exuberant and light headed as other Somalis piled onto Carl, subduing him by sheer weight of numbers.

Daniel became aware of a searing pain in his side. Looking down he saw his shirt staining dark. Sticky, seeping blood soaked onto the floor.

In a surreal fog he imagined watching himself die. His sight dimmed. Sounds filled his mind. Naomi crying, words shouted in Amharic, pounding feet and throbbing engines. It all faded as the curtain of unconsciousness was drawn across his mind.
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