For the next hour or two, there wasn't much that Henley could do. Her father had to pretend to go over Tayson's operation in detail, so she really couldn't talk to him. However, what kept Henley's mind busy was how they were going to get out of the room once the virus began to mess with the building's systems.
The window was bolted shut. Henley assumed that was in response to her own flight. The door was locked, and Henley seriously doubted they would be able to break it down with sheer force.
"What do you do when you need to go to the bathroom?" she asked her father casually.
He looked up. "I just knock," he said, nodding to the door. "Someone takes me. Why, do you need to go?"
"No," Henley said quickly, shaking her head. "Just wondering. You know, it'll happen at some point."
If she could time it perfectly and be in the bathroom at the two-hour mark, then everything would fall into place. Unfortunately, Henley wasn't completely sure when her father had inserted the drive into the computer, and she had no way to tell time in the room, so she would basically be going off of her best guess.
It was worth a shot.
Henley waited, and waited, and waited, for as long as she dared.
"I have to go to the bathroom." She prayed that her time judgement skills were precise enough.
Her father looked up from his fake work once again and nodded. He seemed to be aware they were approaching the two-hour mark as well, although he had no idea what was about to happen. Henley barely knew what was about to happen.
Her dad got up and knocked on the door. He spoke briefly to the man standing out there and then turned back to nod at Henley. "He'll take you."
Henley wasn't thrilled to be escorted to the restroom by a random man employed by Tayson, but she didn't have too much choice in the matter. As Henley passed through the doorway, she noticed a set of keys on the man's belt. He used them to relock the door after Henley exited.
The bathroom was just down the hall, and the man waited just outside of the door. There were no windows, no other way out.
Henley didn't actually need the restroom, so she quietly put the toilet seat down and sat on top of it. She hoped that whatever the virus was going to do would be obvious.
After two full minutes in the bathroom, Henley started at a loud banging. "What are you doing in there?" the man outside complained.
Henley bit her lip. She needed more time. "Have you ever changed a tampon before?" she yelled back, struck with inspiration.
There was silence on the other side of the door.
Still, it only gave her another minute, two at most. After about 90 seconds, she pulled a normal tampon from her pocket, lifted the seat to throw it in the toilet, and flushed. She took her time washing her hands, but after close to five minutes in the bathroom, she had to come out.
Her guard looked impatient. "How complicated can women's health be?" he complained.
"What would you know about women's health?" Henley muttered under her breath.
Henley walked as slowly as she could, but the door to her father's room drew closer and closer. She was cursing herself under her breath. She had missed her window.
The guard had just unlocked the door and pushed it open a crack when Henley began to hear buzzing. Then a high-pitched whining. She and guard both looked down. It was coming from his pocket.
He pulled out his cellphone. It was vibrating like crazy, and the whining was coming from somewhere within the phone itself. It sounded like a very small engine was working itself too hard and was about to die. His screen flashed random images, number sequences, and bizarre patterns.
It was more than just the one phone. Henley began to hear all sorts of noises from every room, both on this floor and the one below them. Then people started shouting. To top it off, Henley began to smell smoke.
This was it.
"Get inside, and keep the door shut," the man snarled, but didn't wait to see if she followed his orders before he ran downstairs towards the commotion. Henley watched him go. Apparently, he wasn't very good in a crisis, or else she doubted he would have been so careless.
Henley poked her head into her dad's room. He looked confused.
"What's going on?"
"Do you know if computer viruses can be spread over Wi-Fi? And can they cause fires?"
"Wi-Fi, yes, definitely. As for a fire, I'm pretty sure that's a myth."
The smell of smoke only got stronger. "Well, apparently C.O.D.E. figured out how to make it less of a myth," Henley said. "Come on, we got to go."
Her father wasted no time in following his daughter out of his makeshift prison cell.
There was only one staircase, so the pair had to risk it. Fortunately, everyone was out of sight, apparently dealing with whatever was going on at the back of the house. Henley could see wisps of black smoke coming from that direction. She headed in the opposite.
"What exactly is the plan?" her dad asked, hurrying to keep up.
"And how do we do that?"
"Stealing a car would be preferable," Henley said. "It's not dark enough for us to be able to make it on foot. C.O.D.E. should be on their way right now, but if we can get out before they storm the place, that would be ideal."
Henley rounded the corner that would take them to the front door, but then pulled back sharply. There was a figure standing in the doorway, facing away from them thankfully, but Henley recognized the familiar blue highlights.
"What is it?" her dad whispered.
"Someone I have a history with, unfortunately," Henley replied. They were backed up against a doorframe, and Henley took a chance to try to see if it was unlocked. It was.
Inside was another sleeping room, but instead of only one cot there were three. It was also very messy. Henley saw what she was looking for. From underneath a pile of newspapers, she grabbed the handle of a gun and carefully picked it up.
"What are you doing?" her father hissed.
"Trust me," she snapped back.
Taking a deep breath, Henley made sure the safety was on, extending her arm, and walked around the corner.
Lela whipped around immediately to see a gun pointed straight at her. Well, not straight at her. Henley was concentrating to make sure that the weapon was pointed just to the left of the other woman. As much as she hated Lela, Henley didn't want to kill her. Just the thought of pointing a loaded gun at someone made her stomach turn.
"Another grand escape then, huh?" Lela sneered, apparently unphased by Henley's threats.
"Just let us pass, Lela, I don't want to use this." With her father close behind, Henley walked slowly toward the other woman.
"All I have to do is stall you long enough for the rest of the men to finish dealing with whatever is going on back there. I take it that was you?"
Henley didn't respond. It didn't matter.
"You want me dead, is that it?" Henley questioned her. She was beginning to panic; they were running out of time. "Because that's what they'll do to me. I've already caused them enough trouble, I don't think Tayson will put up with this mutiny."
"Why do you think I care?"
"You want me to suffer, sure, I can understand that. You made that perfectly clear in Louisiana. But dead? That's a whole different story. Once upon a time, you wanted me in this with you."
That's all Henley needed. She flipped the gun around and struck Lela around the head with the back end of it.
Lela crumpled where she stood.
"Henley!" her dad exclaimed, shocked.
"There is so much you don't know, Dad," Henley said. "Now, come on we need to go."
There were several cars parked outside. Henley didn't know which one would be the best to try to steal, but she could hear voices coming closer to them. As soon as they saw the unconscious Lela, they were done.
"Let's try all the doors," Henley said. "See if any are unlocked."
She and her dad split up, going to opposite ends of the rows of cars. Henley worked her way down the row, trying all of the doors, but had no luck. Then she heard her father shout.
"Henley, this one, let's go. The keys are still here."
Feeling elated by their luck, Henley hurried to the other end where her father was starting up the car and backing it out of its space. She was about ten feet away when she heard a click.
"I wouldn't move if I were you."
Henley froze and slowly turned around.
Angelica Tarry had a pistol in her outstretched hand and pointed it straight at Henley's chest.
Henley exhaled slowly. She was still holding the loaded gun, but there's no way she could get a shot off before Angelica. And Angelica was looking murderous. Henley had no doubt that she would take any excuse to shoot her.
Henley glanced at the front door. Any minute now a bunch of very angry men would come bursting through. She could hear the running car behind her. She wanted her dad to just drive off right now, but she knew he wouldn't leave her.
Then Henley heard a bang, felt a sharp pain on her neck, and everything went black.
This was definitely not part of the plan. Henley woke up in the back of yet another moving van, a golf ball sized lump swelling on the side of her neck. Slowly moving her arms, Henley prodded it gently. It stung.
It was only with that sharp pain did Henley realize that she wasn't tied up. That fact unnerved, rather than comforted, her. She slowly sat up from her slumped over position on the floor and carefully turned her neck, observing her surroundings.
As she suspected, she wasn't alone in the van. Instead of her usual two repulsive companions, however, a man Henley did not recognize was with her. John Smith, she assumed.
The fact that a different man was sitting in the back of the swaying van was the only thing that assured Henley that the past month hadn't been some weird, drug-induced dream and that she was still in the first van from the first abduction. Unfortunately, that was her only comfort. She didn't know the intentions of her two kidnappers, and she honestly didn't really want to know.
Smith gave Henley an unconcerned look as she sat up and leaned against the van's wall. He had a book in his hands, and after his brief glance in her direction, went back to it.
Once again, unnerving.
Henley looked around. The van was messy, but didn't have anything useful in it. She wasn't tied up because Smith knew she couldn't do anything to him. The effects of the drug were still very much present and her entire body hurt, not to mention Henley was willing to bet she couldn't take the man in a fight even on her best day. By not engaging with her, Smith was already proving himself smarter than Henshaw or Randall.
Henley decided to prod him, anyway. "So, here we are again. Just can't get enough of me, can you?"
"Is your name actually John Smith? That's one of the biggest questions I've had since I left C.O.D.E. in San Francisco, if I'm being honest."
And still Henley was left with nothing but the sound of wheels on pavement. True, the silence was much preferable to Henshaw and Randall's lewd comments, but without any distraction, Henley had nothing to do but think. And unfortunately for her, there wasn't much hope in her thoughts at the moment.
They were going to kill her. Henley was sure of that. There was no way they were under kidnapping orders like last time; Tayson wasn't even aware that she needed kidnapping. No, this was personal for them. This was revenge.
And Henley felt empty. She was out of terror, out of anxiety, out of grief. She did not want to die. She did not want to never see her family again, never see her friends again, never see Nick again, but her body and her mind were telling her that there was nothing to be done. She would not be able to escape, and no one was coming to rescue her this time.
Her father. Henley hoped he got away, but she knew there was no point in asking her silent companion. She figured that if revenge on her for killing Henshaw was what they really wanted, then maybe they would have left him alone. And then there was the rest of the C.O.D.E. operation. Henley figured she would never find out the results, so she told herself that it was a success.
They drove for hours. Henley's head continued to clear and the throbbing in her neck died down. The fact that Henley was drugged by being shot with a tranquilizer was something that, a month ago, she would have found ridiculous. Now, she was completely unfazed. Instead, she wondered if that was the same way Alyssa was knocked out back in Berkeley.
The road began to get bumpier, and the van gradually slowed down. Eventually, it stopped. Henley dreaded what was waiting for her on the outside.
Smith didn't leave her long to wonder. He yanked the door open, grabbed her arm, and forced her out into darkness.
Once again, Henley had been unconscious for a long time. And apparently, they had been driving longer than she thought. If Henley had been harboring any hope at a rescue, it would have left in that moment. Instead, she stared at her surroundings with the same empty feeling that she'd had since she woke up in the van.
A car door slam jerked her attention elsewhere. Unlike Smith's passive, uncaring face, Angelica Tarry's was twisted. She was livid.
"Let's go," she barked as she grabbed Henley's arm, jerking her away from Smith.
Henley stumbled slightly as Tarry dragged her up to a small, dark house. As far as Henley could tell, there wasn't any building around them except for the cabin. The pressing darkness that surrounded them on all sides was unblemished by any signs of artificial light. The stars and moon shone as brightly as they did at the Houston safe house.
When they got up to the house, Tarry went around the back, pulled open a set of what looked like cellar doors, and dragged Henley in with her. She clicked on a dim light that constantly flickered.
"You know, you really are lucky."
Henley didn't think Tarry knew the meaning of the word.
"After your stunt in Louisiana, well, Tayson wasn't particularly pleased with any of us, but especially not with Luther."
For once, Henley didn't blame Tayson. She wouldn't be pleased either if a 22-year-old, untrained woman managed to take out two paid mercenaries and escape. She decided against saying any of this to Tarry, however.
"What this means for you," Tarry continued, "is that Luther isn't here. Tayson sent him off on some assignment on the other side of the country. So you get to live for another couple of days until he gets here. Luther and Erik had been partners in this business for years. He wants to kill you himself. So you will stay down here and wait."
Tarry stormed back up the stairs and slammed the doors shut, leaving Henley in the dim light.
And that's where Henley was for the next two-and-a-half days. There were a couple bottles of water in the cellar, but no food. When Henley climbed the stairs and pressed her face up against the cracks in the door, she could always see someone sitting outside, guarding her, although she couldn't tell if it was Smith or Tarry. She assumed they switched off.
It was ridiculously hot and humid in the basement. Henley's jacket lay forgotten in the corner. She figured a bullet resistant jacket would do little to prevent the mercenaries from doing exactly what they wanted to do.
In the cellar, all the emotions that were absent in the van ride came flooding in, sometimes all at once, sometimes staggered. But no amount of crying or screaming or cursing brought anyone down into the cellar.
At times, she could hear Tarry and Smith talking. She usually couldn't make out much, but on the second morning of her imprisonment, a barrage of shouting woke Henley with a start. She was hungrier than she had ever been in her life, and thirsty too as she was rationing her water. Shaking off the drowsiness was more difficult than usual. She only heard one line of the argument.
"—crossing the line."
It was a man's voice, so Henley figured it was Smith yelling at Tarry. What line the female mercenary had crossed, Henley couldn't figure.
It wasn't until the third morning that the cellar doors opened again. Henley squinted as daylight came pouring in.
Henley slowly climbed the stairs and came face to face with Tarry, pistol in hand. Tarry jerked her pistol, showing the direction she wanted Henley to walk.
Her first time out in daylight, Henley was able to take in a bit more of her surroundings, but she couldn't focus on them. It took all of her energy to keep herself upright.
Tarry steered Henley toward a barn that was behind the house Henley had noticed on the night she arrived. Smith was nowhere to be seen, but Henley didn't particularly care. She knew who was waiting for her in the barn.
Even so, Henley's stomach lurch as Randall's figure appeared behind the barn door. Tarry pushed her inside and closed the doors before Henley could have even taken a step backward. She backed up against the shut doors and her body began to tremble.
Randall came forward, his knife collection very visible. "You know," he said, "I do understand why Erik liked you so much."
Henley's heart pounded in her chest as she stood, frozen, in her spot.
"You've got a lot of nerve in you, a wild side. I think Erik liked to think that he could have tamed that spirit." Randall was right in front of her, fondling a knife between his hands. "He was an idiot." His voice turned cold. "There's only one way to break someone's spirit. With pain."
Henley gulped as her gaze was drawn down to the weapon in Randall's hands. He followed her gaze and grinned. The smile did not reach his eyes.
He brought the knife up to shoulder height and pressed the tip to Henley's shoulder. She braced herself.
The pain didn't come. A faint hum that had been growing louder and louder finally became too loud for either of them to ignore. Now, it had the distinct tone of a whining engine.
"Jesus, now what?" Randall muttered. He pushed Henley aside, away from the door, and went out to investigate. After a moment's hesitation, Henley followed him.
There was a helicopter up in the sky, not that far away from them. The three mercenaries stood clumped together, looking up at it. Henley inched closer.
"How the hell did they find us?" Randall snarled at Tarry. "We're not even on any satellite paths."
"I told them."
Henley, Randall, and Tarry all whipped around their stares at Smith. He was looking up at the helicopter with an almost amused expression on his face.
"What?" Tarry screamed at him. "Are you insane?"
"I told you, Angelica, you crossed a line." Smith looked behind him, straight at Henley. "Kidnapping, assassination, sure. But torture? On a kid? I'm not about that."
Henley wasn't sure where the distinction was between those things, but she wasn't about to complain.
"If I were you, I'd get out here." Smith had to yell at the top of his lung in order to be heard over the descending helicopter. "They'll be too busy with the girl to bother with you, it'll give you a head start." He didn't wait to see if they followed his advice before turning around, walking past Henley, and away from the incoming C.O.D.E. team.
"No way," Randall snarled. "We're getting out of here, and we're taking her with us."
He and Tarry each grabbed one of Henley's arms and started pulling her away from the helicopter. But, despite malnourishment and exhaustion, Henley's internal fire was back, and she wasn't about to let them take her easily, not with a rescue so close. She fought back with everything left in her, knowing that she couldn't overpower them but hoping to stall them long enough for the agents to get to her.
"Oh no, you're not getting away now," Tarry snarled. "Don't think for a second I won't hurt you to get you to come with us."
Henley didn't hear her. She continued to strain and pull away from the pair. Which is why she didn't notice Tarry take out her pistol. She only felt a sharp pain in her side and heard a deafening bang.
Henley's entire body gave out. The bullet had sapped the rest of her strength. Randall and Tarry weren't prepared to deal with the sudden amount of dead weight Henley now forced on to them. They briefly lost their grips as she fell to the ground, which, apparently, is when C.O.D.E. decided to act.
The gun fire sounded far away as Henley's eyes began to roll back into her head. She heard shouting, and could just barely hear someone shouting her own name. The last thing she registered before submitting to darkness was someone grabbing her shoulders.