Boomercat for writing
Malfunction and the follow-up
Kidnap. But what if the
Hood had been behind Kidnap after all, and what if
Jeff's fears over Gordon's treatment had been justified?
Stroke of Malice is rated FRM for descriptions of m/m
rape that may be disturbing to some readers.
satisfaction, he turned down the gain of the radio set and
returned to his ornate throne-like chair. Phase one of his
carefully orchestrated operation was complete. Phase two was
set to begin, awaiting only the final unwitting player to set
it in motion.
Regretfully, he would have no direct role in this phase of his
plan, although of the four parts, phases two and three were
probably the ones he looked forward to most. His commander of
operations in Africa had chosen this inopportune time to
finally exceed his level of incompetence and was resisting
efforts to be quietly removed. To rid himself of the idiot, he
must leave within the hour, before the pieces of the operation
there were irretrievably lost. He would have to content
himself with watching the recordings of the less important,
but infinitely more satisfying, phase two of the operation in
Fortunately, that part of the plan was being carried out by
the most weak-minded fools he had yet found, easily programmed
by hypnosis to carry out his instructions to the letter. After
they were all dead, he would simply drop in to pick up the
result of their efforts. The transition into phase three,
which he would see to personally and was looking forward to
with evil anticipation, would follow. He could hardly wait to
feel his hands around that man’s throat again; but not to
kill, not yet, only to the point of unconsciousness. He would
be temperate; he wished to enjoy that sensation many times.
would keep the man alive for a very long time, long enough to
witness the final phase and taste the bitter wine of
humiliation to its last dregs. For, if all continued smoothly,
and thus far, the omens were favorable, at the end of phase
four the Hood would have the mighty Thunderbirds in his power
network had earlier unearthed the information that the Tracys
relied on the services of a certain irascible dentist and that
the doctor's personality created a continual turnover in his
personnel. That information combined with the germ of his
revenge finally gave fertility to this operation and he had
nurtured it carefully. He then he determined it expedient to
bring two more players into his scheme to lure their victim
out from under his family's security safeguards. But he wasted
no more thought for them, a greedy ex-con and his pregnant
wife; what little the police could learn from them was of no
consequence, unlike the other three.
report via radio, that the three were all now in position at
the remote lodge, he would have only one last contact with
them. After that, he was confident that these weak-minded
fools would accomplish his purpose without further
instruction. But how he was anticipating watching the
execution of those instructions, even if it was only on a
at the chronometer and smiled wickedly; months of planning
would soon be brought to fruition. In only a few hours, his
revenge on Jeff Tracy and his sons, and especially the
red-haired one, would begin.
taken much careful consideration to devise a revenge exquisite
enough for this family of troublemakers. And even the most
horrible of tortures was not sufficient to assuage his malice
toward the man he had typically overlooked until only a few
months ago. The dark-haired son had outwitted him, the
brown-haired one had out-manuevered him, the tall blonde was
out of reach, and the youngest, infatuated with his
half-brother’s daughter, infuriated him. But it was the
fourth-born Tracy son who had humbled and humiliated him, and
for that there would be no mercy.
would humiliate him and survive for very long; Gordon Tracy
had done just that, and reneged on his own word to do it. In
return, the Hood had vowed he would have that man’s head,
thought plagued him for weeks, until his eye happened to fall
on a article on the second page of a weeks-old newpaper. The
story involved the trial of a man whose offense was heinous,
yet peristed in his belief that he was guilty of no crime,
since his victims were willing participants; indeed, several
of his "friends" begged to testify on his behalf. In the end,
it was the families of the victims whose opinions prevailed,
as they insisted the boys had been "brainwashed".
it! Oh, it was almost too perfect! All of the Tracys were
blatantly masculine; to be abused sexually by another man, a
helpless object of pleasure, would be emotionally and
psychologically devastating to any of them. Then, when they
learned in minute detail how one of their own had been used in
such a way, and that there was no hope of rescuing him, it
would be the most painful torture he could have ever devised.
He lost no time in finding where the criminal was
incarcerated, his face twisted into a fiendish grimace,
although it would be several weeks yet before he would be
Jonathan "Buck" Matheson-Thomas had not been difficult, nor
was arranging his escape from prison at the proper time. In
the same facility, he found the other necessary pawns; two
cold-blooded killers serving life sentences, and very
homophobic. Their escape from prison and their accommodation
at the private lodge in the mountains of New Zealand was also
easily arranged. He met them only once, to carefully plant his
hypnotic instructions and to convince them that they were
quite comfortable in that remote spot. Then he left them to
carry out their assignment, certain they’d need no more
Matheson-Thomas, of course, was a slightly different matter.
He had been safely ensconced in another location, until his
reported arrival only moments ago. His directives had been by
necessity much more subtle, including a minor adjustment in
his normal method of operations. And he would find, perhaps to
his surprise, that a slightly more mature ginger-haired young
man was in some ways more attractive than his usual victims.
effort did the Hood refrain from rubbing his hands in glee, a
ridiculous act far beneath his nobility, though he might have
forgiven himself this once: finally, after all these months,
the plan was about to have the desired result. In the next 24
hours, Gordon Tracy would wish for death. And he would find it
eventually, but not for many months, not before he saw his
father and brothers, indeed all of the members of
International Rescue become his slaves.
signed the contract, placed it in the envelope and sealed it.
He sighed. This morning's business had taken longer than
usual, and he still needed to prepare for the teleconference
tomorrow. He checked his watch and frowned; Gordon was late
with his check-in call. He had planned to inform them as he
left the airport outside Auckland to carry out his errand.
earlier this morning, Jeff had watched with amusement when
Gordon was reminded of his dentist appointment. After the
usual melodramatic protests, Gordon set about finding a
companion for the boring 2-hour flight and was thoroughly
ridiculed for cowardice in the face of dentistry by his
brothers and even Tin-Tin. Jeff thought he might need to
intervene when even Gordon's attire for the day--forest green
turtleneck, khaki chinos, and, especially his latest fashion
acquisition, oxford-laced low-topped boots--came under attack.
others, Jeff also thought the military style of the new
footwear was incongruent with the soft sueded leather they
were constructed from, but then, he didn't have the fashion
sense his son had either. Of the five sons, Gordon was the
fashion clotheshorse, with Alan a close second. Maybe it was
another of their mother's traits that only Gordon had
inherited, but he had good taste in clothes, and his older
brothers often asked his advice in choosing attire appropriate
for an occasion, especially a date. Even Tin-Tin occasionally
sought his opinion when she anticipated making an expensive
purchase, much to Alan's annoyance.
ribbing subsided when Gordon good-naturedly retorted that his
choice of wardrobe was suitable for the mild Auckland winter.
Finally, with no takers for his invitation for a day in one of
New Zealand’s busiest cities, Gordon cheerfully decided that
he'd be his own best company after all and embarked alone in
the little red jet that Tin-Tin had dubbed the Ladybird.
Karner ceased drumming his fingers on the steering wheel and
checked his watch again. The two hours since he saw the jeep
drive out of sight from the airport had simply crawled by.
He'd been too nervous to stay at home alone while Lois was at
work, so he threw a few magazines in the back seat of his
wife's yellow coupe and went to one of the city's many parks.
magazines proved to have nothing in them that kept his
interest for very long, and he ended up driving aimlessly,
finally pulling into the parking area of a playground. He idly
watched the kids come and go; it was still a shock to have
learned that Lois was pregnant. Did he really want to be just
another of those dads pushing the swings and standing at the
foot of the slides?
that things were finally starting to get back to normal again
after his release from prison six months ago. Sure, he and
Lois had fought almost as much as they'd had sex, but only
because money had been so tight, and no one was willing to
take a chance on a two-time felon to give him a job. She'd
only planned to keep the receptionist job with the dentist
long enough to pay off a few bills, when they were hit with
the bombshell that a baby was on the way.
weeks ago, he received the phone call. It turned out that he'd
unknowingly made an important contact while in prison. The
deal included an almost unbelievable amount of money for a
seemingly tiny piece of information Lois could get from the
dentist's records, and they'd jumped at it. When they received
payment a week later, the agent in service to the mysterious
Hood asked them if they'd be interested in taking part in a
project with a much bigger pay-off.
too good to be true. For their share of the ransom, all she
had to do was provide a hypodermic, all he had to do is make
the phone call and pick up the money; they’d have no contact
with the victim at all. Clint begged her to do it: this could
let them go someplace where his prison record wouldn't be an
issue, with more than enough money to live very comfortably.
Lois had serious misgivings. Getting information had been one
thing, but she wasn't too keen about a kidnapping.
reluctantly turned it down, they suddenly received a vidphone
call from the Hood himself. Clint actually remembered little
of the converation itself, beyond an acute awareness of the
Hood’s dark eyes and penetrating gaze. Strangely enough, when
the call ended, Lois had changed her mind, and all she could
remember was an assurance that no one would be hurt. Then she
shrugged when he asked why she’d refused at first; why, a
wealthy man like Jeff Tracy would scarcely miss five million
checked his watch once more, and heaved a sigh of relief.
Finally, it was time. He started the car and found a telecall
booth. Carefully choosing the "voice only" option, he called
the number on the crumpled slip of paper in his hand. It rang
twice, then a gruff, rather annoyed voice spoke.
Tracy. Look, I'm not interested in anything you might be
trying to sell," the wealthy man stated brusquely.
feeling especially glib, certain that this was a sure thing.
"Oh, I'm not calling to sell anything. I'm calling in regard
to your son, Gordon."
a pause at the other end, and a sharp intake of breath. When
Tracy spoke again, his voice was filled with concern. "Has
something happened? Has there been an accident? Is Gordon all
right? Who is this?" The words tumbled out in a rush.
almost felt sorry for him; Tracy obviously had a soft spot for
his son. "No, it wasn't an accident, these plans have been in
the making for some time." Unseen, he grinned at his own pun.
"And Gordon is fine ... for now. He's currently enjoying our
hospitality. But we're enjoying his company so much that we've
considered keeping him. I don't think we could part with him
for less than ... oh let's see ... How does five million
million ..." Jeff Tracy breathed.
continued, as if he were discussing the purchase of some
inconsequential piece of equipment, not a man's life. "I think
five million might just be enough. Don't you?"
million dollars," the billionaire blurted.
me?" Clint was startled; who in his right mind would offer to
give twice as much to kidnappers as the ransom they requested?
took a breath. "I'll give you ten million dollars for his
return, but only if he is unharmed. If you so much as ruffle
his hair, the deal's off ... and I'll use every means at my
disposal to track you down."
were turning in Clint's mind. Here was another opportunity too
good to pass up. There were five of them; each was to receive
one million of the ransom money, enough to pay for their
trouble and then disappear. The Hood had said he didn't care
about the money, all he wanted was to give the man and his
father a good scare. If Jeff Tracy's reaction so far was any
indication, that part was succeeding very well. Clint's only
role was to arrange for and pick up the ransom. Then he was to
take his and Lois's shares and leave the rest at a drop. The
Hood would deliver it to the other three at their unknown
location when he picked up their victim.
the others would know how much money had actually been turned
over. He could take out the extra five million along with what
they'd already agreed upon, with no one the wiser. With a baby
on the way, it only made sense to go for the extra cash. It
would certainly be enough to cover a change in plans and find
them a place where even the Hood, with all his apparent
connections, would never find. And Gordon Tracy hadn't seen
him, so he could never be linked to the kidnapping. Finally,
he spoke. "Why that's very generous, Mr. Tracy. You have a
speak to him."
don't seem to have him with me at the moment. Let's cut the
crap, here, Tracy. I don't need to tell you that if the police
get involved, you'll never see him alive again. You have four
hours to make arrangements for the money. I'll call you again
at two o'clock to explain how it is to be delivered."
possibly get that much money together in four hours!" Jeff
didn't hesitate; he knew the man had more than enough clout to
get what he wanted, when he wanted it. "Then we have no more
to discuss," he said, and cut the connection.
As soon as
the ransom call ended, Jeff contacted John in Thunderbird Five
and summoned the rest of his sons. The first glimpse they got
of his pale face and shaking hands told them that what he had
to tell them was devastating. Thank God Grandma was on the
mainland visiting family and was not aware of these events. If
all went well, she would only learn of it after the fact.
John soon pinpointed the location of Gordon's telecom, he was
distressed that his information was not more encouraging.
"It's the airport, Father. From what you've told us, these
guys aren't stupid. They've had more than two hours to move
him from there."
another hour and a half before Scott, Virgil, and Alan arrived
at the airport, having flown one of the family's swiftest
civilian craft. They were all nearly frantic by the delay, but
Jeff felt they could not easily explain a visit by Thunderbird
One. Then their hopes plummeted and crashed when they
discovered the contents of the Ladybird's unsealed cockpit and
the presence of Gordon's antique motorcycle still parked at
raised his watch and spoke into it bitterly. "It's no good,
Dad. His telecom is here, all right. So is his favorite
leather jacket. But there's not a sign of him anywhere."
nursing a bruised hand, injured when he drove his fist into
the unyielding fuselage of the Ladybird in frustration and
anger. Virgil had tried to put his emotional energy into
something more constructive and was examining the rest of the
plane while Scott and their father discussed whether there
were other possible options.
hasn't he used his edible transmitter?" Alan wondered aloud.
have gotten a chance yet," Virgil ventured, as he carefully
studied the exterior of the little jet. "He wouldn't want the
kidnappers to know we can track him." He stopped, and his
fists clenched at what he had found.
The tone of his voice filled the others with dread. "I’ve
found blood on the wing here. Not a lot, but ..." he trailed
off, his eyes meeting his brothers’ with a bleak expression.
him and heaved a sigh. "All right boys. I knew it would be a
long shot if you found him there. At least you may have found
us a clue. Bring home a sample for Brains to study. Maybe he
can give us some idea whose blood it is."
Gordon's," Alan growled to no one particular, "someone's gonna
you’ll have plenty of help, Alan." Jeff tried to comfort his
frustrated sons. "We will find him, boys, believe me, and
we’ll bring whoever did this to justice. But now I need you to
come home. That’s all you can do there. I've got a another
scheme in mind; I need you pick me up here and get some
Dad. It only gets worse," Alan interrupted savagely. He had
spotted something on the tarmac near the landing gear. With
his handkerchief, he picked up the object he'd found and
showed it to his brothers.
barked a curse, as Virgil uttered his own malediction. "Alan's
found a syringe, Father," Scott reported. "Apparently Gordon'
s been drugged."
his anger burn white hot, but his voice was cold as ice.
"Bring that home, too, for Brains to analyze. Maybe they left
some fingerprints... and I want to know what the bastards
injected him with."
kidnappers were going to pay ...
awoke with a pounding headache to darkness, lying on his left
side on a hard surface. For some time he lay still, but
gradually the painful haze in his brain cleared and he was
able to make his mind work again. He tried to blink, then
realized his eyes were covered with tape. His mouth too, was
taped closed. His hands were in front of him, palm to palm and
tightly bound at the wrists, and his ankles were secured
together. He was cold and his left side, especially his
scraped elbow, hurt. With good reason: first the fall at the
airport and then they must have simply dropped him on whatever
surface he was lying.
to stretch his aching body but he didn't dare move; he could
hear the voices of two men behind him, close by. He hadn't a
clue who they were yet, but there were only two real options.
Either they were garden-variety crooks, hoping for a quick few
bucks from a kidnapping, or they had been hired by their only
identified enemy, the Hood.
desperately hoped they were only common kidnappers, no match
for his brothers, and nothing more sinister. If they were the
Hood’s minions, then God only knew what he was in for. The
Hood had nearly killed him the last time they met. That he was
still alive could only mean that the Hood had contrived some
other plan. No doubt he meant to lure his family into some
trap and kill all of them in the most unpleasant fashion he
could devise. From what Gordon had heard, it could be horrible
himself before he followed that train of thought further. A
good imagination could be a dangerous thing, especially now,
and he was aware that his was more active than most. That he’d
seen far too many horror movies didn’t help, either. He would
drive himself insane he if continued to let his musings run.
They’d always been able to come out on top, sometimes by the
skin of their teeth, whenever the Hood had been involved. But
what if this was the one time they didn’t?
told himself firmly, he couldn’t think like that. He had to
keep a clear head. If his father and brothers had any idea
what had happened to him, he knew they’d be moving heaven and
earth to find him. Since he missed his check-in call when he
landed at Auckland, they should be aware by now that something
was wrong. He had to find a way to let them know where he was.
had to find that out for himself. Where there’s life, there’s
hope, Grandma always said. Okay, he was alive, there was that.
With his eyes covered and his hands bound, the only way he
could learn anything was by hearing and smell. That didn’t
give him much to work with, but it was something. As long as
they thought he was unconscious, they might let some
information slip and he intended to learn as much as he could.
captors were no more than four feet away. He soon realized he
could tell a lot about where he was being held by the way
their voices traveled about it. The room was not large, but
the ceiling was high, and it seemed that there were few pieces
of furniture to absorb the echoes. A fire crackled nearby, in
a fireplace too far away for him to benefit from its heat; the
tang of wood smoke filled the air. His cold fingers rested
against the wall in front of him, which smelled of pine. From
these clues he guessed that they were in a rustic cabin, and
if they were still in New Zealand, that meant they had to be
in the mountains.
tried to identify the voices of the two men only a few feet
away, or at least memorize them so he could identify them
later. Both were Americans; the voice of one was a deep
throaty bass, the other spoke with a southern twang. Two men
had jumped him at the airport; he’d lay odds that these were
the same ones.
crept up alongside the fuselage of the red jet from a hiding
place in or near the hangar while he finished the post-flight
checks. Gordon only got a brief glimpse out the corner of his
eye as he reached back into the cockpit for his jacket in the
passenger seat, getting an impression of the man’s size,
before he was pulled backward off the plane. As he fell, he
glanced off the wing and scraped his arm, then smashed into
the tarmac. While the huge man held him down, pushing his face
into the pavement, the other ran from a hiding place near the
hangar. Then he felt the sharp bite of a hypodermic needle,
evidently injecting him with a drug that sent him spinning
As the men
talked, he could hear a vaguely familiar intermittent flapping
sound, interrupted occasionally by a curse from the
southerner. Finally Gordon identified what was going on; they
were playing cards, and judging by the expletives, he was
losing, and badly. And their words began to give Gordon hope
that the Hood was not involved.
gonna do with your share of the money, Win?" the southerner
decided yet," came the deep-voiced response. "You?"
needed that card. Yeah, that's easy. I'm gonna buy a boxing
club in Peru and manage a few fighters. With my experience in
and out of the ring ..."
Jonesy, the only boxing experience you've had was in prison!"
I won the lightweight title twice! Not to mention managing the
heavy-weight champ for eight years!"
gonna want a manager who can't show his face 'cuz he'll be
arrested and clapped in jail if he's ever recognized?"
maybe I’ll wear a mask. Yeah, I’ll be the Masked Manager,"
Jonesy finished excitedly.
answered by a derisive snort, and a final flapping of a card.
"Gin!" the deep voice proclaimed triumphantly.
I know you're cheating!" There was a sudden scraping sound, a
chair moving across a wood floor, as the southerner whined, "I
saw you play that card earlier."
if I am?" boomed Win. "Whatcha gonna do, ask the Hood to slap
eyebrows flew up under the tape and his heart dropped through
the floor, hammering wildly. So, they were working for the
Hood, and he was in very deep trouble.
his better judgement, he couldn’t help but review his last
encounter with this very dangerous man, several months ago.
been aboard Thunderbird Two with Virgil, flying back from a
mission. Over the Australian outback, the pod’s clamps started
to fail, and they eventually lost it. Virgil barely managed to
bring his big 'Bird under control and then made a forced
landing. Gordon himself had found the evidence that the
malfunction had been a sabotage attempt.
discovered who was behind it when the Hood stunned Scott and
then Virgil with a stolen riot gun prototype and very nearly
kidnapped Scott. He found Virgil motionless on the ground and,
after learning his condition was not life-threatening, managed
to track down the Hood and successfully negotiate Scott's
release from behind the controls of Thunderbird One. As part
of the agreement, Gordon promised the Hood he would not pursue
him, but he did deploy one tactic: he ejected a chemical
marker onto the Hood, a special substance that John could
track from Thunderbird Five. With it, they hoped to track his
movements and perhaps lead them to his base of operations.
Unfortunately, the chemical only clung to the Hood’s clothing,
which he quickly removed, and then he managed to infiltrate
their camp once again, badly injuring Alan, and nearly
throttling Gordon with his bare hands. If Alan hadn't come to
and stunned the Hood in return, Gordon would have been choked
forcibly pulled his thoughts back to the present. There had to
be a way out, there had to.
money's no good out here anyway," the twangy-voiced card
player decided. "Cheat all you want, as soon as we're done
here and paid, I'm off to Peru!"
we were playing just for money?" the deep voice boomed.
Another chair scraped the floor. Gordon heard footsteps
approach, then a hard toe dug into his back. "I was playing
for first dibs on this guy."
set of footfalls neared; now both men were standing over him.
"Well, all bets are off then," said Jonesy disgustedly, " 'cuz
that Buck fella the Hood brought in yesterday is gonna get his
turn first, remember? And why's he taking so long making that
radio call? All he had to do was tell him Tracy was here."
know. I wish he'd hurry. This waiting around is making me
too. Know what Win? I'll be glad when this little job's done.
That Buck gives me the creeps. I mean, what rock do you think
the Hood found him under?"
Jonesy. If you let him hear you, he might decide to practice
on you before he works on cutie-pie here."
don't even go there! Ew!" The twang wavered just a bit, as if
the speaker shuddered.
mouth went dry, and his characteristic optimism fairly leaked
away. Whatever the Hood had planned for him must be
particularly gruesome, if three men each got "a turn" to
soften him up. He found he didn’t want to guess what "Buck’s"
part in it must be if even these two kidnappers found it
repugnant. Evidently, the Hood was after far more than what
he'd almost gotten in Australia in the first place. And no
amount of Scott's survival training was going to help him now.
two retreated back to their crooked card game, Gordon realized
he might not have another opportunity to summon help. Quietly
he turned his left arm, trying to activate his telecom. His
sleeve was stuck to the scrape on his elbow and the bindings
on his wrists clung to his skin painfully. Some kind of heavy
adhesive tape had been tightly wrapped so that it gripped the
backs of his hands, and then spiraled to his wrists and partly
over the sleeves of his shirt.
no way he could reach his watch ... and then he sagged
inwardly, remembering; it wasn't even there. As awareness was
slipping away at the airport, he felt them remove it. He still
had his edible transmitter in his trousers pocket, but even if
he could reach it with his bound hands, with the tape over his
mouth he wouldn’t be able to activate it.
things went from bad to worse. A door suddenly opened, and the
two men jumped to their feet.
Buck, how's tr ... uh, what's the good word?" Jonesy
what'd he say?" Win's deep voice intoned.
approached and stopped behind Gordon, who was fighting now to
keep down his terror. "The ransom call went as planned, so
we're on schedule. We should be getting our money late
tonight." Buck's voice was warm and mellow; of all people, it
faintly reminded Gordon of Virgil, but with a cultured patina
he couldn't quite place.
mind whirled; one part of him hoping irrationally that this
was all an elaborate practical joke, the rest sure beyond
doubt that it was not. He felt his mind slipping away from
him, unable get it to settle on any one thought.
creaked above him and a wave of cold air poured down and over
him; evidently he was under a window that Buck had opened to
peek outside. It was all Gordon could do to keep from
snowing again?" Buck complained, still in that smooth voice.
The cold air flow ceased as the hinge creaked again, and then
Buck stooped down behind him. "How's sleeping beauty, here?
Decided to join the party, yet?"
grunted as he roughly dumped Gordon over on his back, pulling
his tightly bound hands over his head. Gordon barely kept from
shuddering in revulsion, as the man's hand stroked softly
along his cheek, almost a caress. "Well, well. Isn't this a
piece of work! Then Gordon jumped as the hand settled on the
front of his trousers.
Buck's voice was almost a whisper. "You are awake. How much
have you heard, I wonder? Enough to move things along?" The
hand probed deeper, and Gordon panicked, rolling violently
away from him, forgetting about the wall at his side. Buck
followed him before he could correct his mistake, planting a
knee in his back so he could not roll back, and trapping him
against the wall. Then he forced his hand between his legs
from the rear and continued to probe. Gordon screamed in
outrage despite the tape over his mouth and desperately fought
to get away from him.
might enjoy this after all," Buck murmured, his hand firmly
taking the measure of what it had sought.
two shuffled their feet uncomfortably. "Yeah, well, if he's
awake, let's get on with it, huh?" Win demanded.
Jonesy echoed, "we aren't bein' paid just to, uh, look at
okay," Buck pulled away reluctantly, leaving Gordon panting in
fear. "Let's see," he said thoughtfully, moving around the
room. Then his footsteps stopped near the fireplace. "Where’s
that rope? I think right here near the fire will do nicely."
kitchen ..." Win's footsteps moved away, and Gordon heard a
door creak. A few moments later, it creaked again.
Buck’s voice again. "Throw it over this rafter here..."
grunted and Gordon heard the whistling of the rope as it
traveled up and then down again.
struggled as he felt himself roughly lifted up by the two men,
whipping his arms and twisting his body, until they let him
drop on his back in the center of the room, knocking the
breath out of him. Then one of them forced his hands over his
head again, while the other stood on his chest, forcing him to
expend his energy in simply trying to breathe. He felt the
rope run between his bound arms, then the weight on his chest
lifted as the bindings at his wrists pulled painfully and he
was quickly hoisted up, suspended with his toes barely
touching the floor.
high, now," Buck warned, standing very close to him. "I don't
want to strain to reach him."
suddenly twisted, striking out blindly with his bound feet in
the direction he heard that voice. On one level in his mind,
he knew he was trapped, unable to escape the bindings around
his hands and suspended in the air, but on another level, he
wanted to make Buck think twice about touching him again. The
tape pulled at his hands and arms painfully, as he continued
to twist and kick out, making them all keep their distance,
but his feet met nothing. They waited, keeping out of his way
until he finally wore himself out, hanging by his arms,
spoke again from behind him. "We can't have this. Get his feet
Jonesy said with an evil chuckle. "Got the hammer and nails,
the deep voice responded in an equally wicked tone.
tackled Gordon's legs and held his feet to the floor as he
struggled again to free himself. Then Win punched a nail
through the end of each boot, fortunately missing his toes,
and into the footbed, and hammered through them until his feet
were securely fastened to the floor. The new boots were still
slightly stiff, laced and firmly tied; in addition, his ankles
were tightly secured together; it was impossible to slide his
feet out of them, although it didn’t keep him from continuing
to struggle wildly when his legs were released.
should hold him," said Win.
but effective," Buck agreed. "Thank-you, gentlemen. I will
take it from here, for the time being. I see you have the
recording equipment in place; and it’s ready to go, I assume?
Very good, then. I don’t know what you have planned for the
next two hours, but you’re welcome to stay and watch ..."
men sounded startled by the offer. They demurred hurriedly,
then there was a flurry of activity: shuffling of feet, the
opening and closing of doors. Finally, with a rush of wind and
a swirl of cold air that left Gordon even more chilled, Win
and Jonesy departed the cabin, leaving him alone with Buck.
"Uncultured twits," Buck commented as the door slammed. Buck
crossed the room, and Gordon heard the click of a switch.
"There," Buck said in a business-like voice. "Since our
employer couldn’t be here in person, he asked us to record our
time here. He thought perhaps your father would also like to
know how you’ve been treated ..."
mind lurched. If his father ever saw what was about to happen,
it would kill him, as surely as if the Hood put a gun to his
head. And he was utterly helpless to prevent it.
Gordon felt the man’s fingers combing up the back of his hair,
sending chills of terror down his spine. "You have nice hair,
Gordon. And I love the color; is it natural?" he said in a
soft voice. Gordon was shaking in horror and anger, but
twitched his head forward, pulling it out of Buck's hand. Buck
only reached up again, this time grasping a handful of it and
pulling his head back so that his ear was near Buck's mouth.
we're going to become ... intimate, shall we say, I think it's
appropriate that you know me a little better," Buck spoke
softly, his voice like warm honey, but Gordon felt the cold
knot of fear that had formed deep inside him twist even
tighter. "My associates call me Buck because of the technique
that I use, but my friends call me Jonathan. Some of them find
the technique pleasurable, others ... less so, but I'm hopeful
you will enjoy it, or learn to."
in his hair loosened its grip, and then as if Buck had another
thought he wished to share, gripped hard again. Then Gordon
cried out in surprise and disgust as a very moist tongue
explored his ear, then lips moving his throat, giving way to a
sharp bite at his shoulder, his shirt pulled out of the way.
Buck continued the routine, as far around his neck as the knit
shirt would stretch.
Buck released him and moved in front of him, his words spoken
breathily in a soft voice. "There's one thing I'm quite
curious about, since unfortunately, those two ugly clods
seemed to think it important that you not see them." He began
to gently work away the tape that covered Gordon's eyes as he
spoke. "Trust me, you haven't missed a thing ..." Gordon
winced as the tape stuck to his eyebrows and the delicate skin
of his eyelids, pulling painfully.
so sorry," Buck sounded sincere. "They would seal it to your
face. Sadistic fools ... I'll try to be more careful ... Ah
... There you are. Now open your eyes, I'm dying to see what
color they are..."
glared into the warm brown eyes of a man in his mid- to
late-forties. With a medium build and only slightly taller
than himself, a pale thin face, medium brown hair, his
appearance would give police the world over nightmares,
describing a large portion of the planet's male population.
There was nothing singularly unique about the man, except for
his soft, mellow, almost hypnotic voice.
smiled under Gordon's glower and returned the study
appraisingly. "Well," he pronounced at last, "your eyes are
very compelling, a lovely amber. But you are older than I had
guessed from your state of fitness and physique. Speaking of
which ..." Now Buck reached down to Gordon's waistband and, to
Gordon's horror, began to unfasten his pants. "... Let's have
a look at the rest of you ..." He pulled Gordon's knit shirt
up over his head, securing it at his wrists, then jerked both
his shorts and slacks down to his ankles.
As he did
so, a hard, wrapped object slipped out of a pocket of the
chinos, bounced across the floor and toward the fireplace.
Gordon stifled a gasp of dismay; it was his edible
transmitter. Gordon watched the transmitter bounce into the
ashes and stop, relieved despite himself. It appeared to be
intact and was hopefully far enough away from the fire to be
the good it did him now.
also sharply drawn a breath, but he didn't seem to be aware of
the object, he only had eyes for Gordon as he stared, then
thoughtfully walked a slow circuit around him. Gordon was
aware that Buck was studying him like a prize horse on
display, and felt his face flush in fury and embarrassment.
The hours of swimming, running, and weight-training to
strengthen his back and prepare him for work in International
Rescue had sculpted his body. Until now, he'd been rather
pleased with the result on his physique and its effect on the
female population; he’d never considered that it might evoke a
similar response from a member of the same sex.
nodding and smiling approvingly as he completed the trip
around him. He started another circuit, this time using his
hands to explore what his eyes had seen: tanned, well-formed
pectorals, a firm rippled abdomen, molded thighs and trim
hips; all muscle and not an ounce of fat anywhere. Buck's
touch was as tender (and arousing) as any woman's Gordon had
experienced. All the while, the smooth well-modulated voice
continued, ostensibly a conversation, but answering his own
questions; with the tape over his mouth, Gordon was unable to
my ... friends are much younger than you, Gordon. But I must
say, you're quite a treat for the eyes ..." A hand smoothed
over his chest. "You shave your body hair...hmm... So you’re
either a swimmer or a body builder. Well, you’re certainly
well-formed, but not muscle-bound enough for the latter, so
swimmer it must be..."
he paused in his circuit. "But you're not perfect, either, are
you? I'll bet this was painful." Buck's hand stroked down
Gordon's back and pursued when Gordon tensed, trying to pull
away from his touch. "Whatever did you do to yourself?" Again
he answered his own question, "... It must have been a
terrible accident. But this wound healed, no doubt due to some
skillful surgery ... more than one, wasn't there ...? He
inhaled sharply. "Gordon, you're quite a remarkable young man
in many ways," he said admiringly.
Gordon's eyes grew wide and he tensed even more. The hand that
had been touching his back almost tenderly, was joined by its
mate and began to explore his buttocks. "You've managed to
blend the tan line from your trunks well, considering how fair
your skin is." Buck stroked both hands over the rounded shapes
between hips and tailbone and continued to probe. Gordon was
appalled at how readily his body responded to Buck’s invasive
Buck said at last, "I think I'm going to need a little help
here." He came back to the fire and warmed his hands. Then he
turned around, smiling as he reached out to caress what had
been so conveniently extended. Gordon pulled away violently
with a muffled cry, but Buck calmly grasped him anyway, then
reached lower to finger his scrotum as well. He pursed his
lips thoughtfully. "I understand the Hood himself has plans
for you himself... a pity too, now that I see what it will
mind reeled. He was about to be raped by a sexual predator,
and apparently the Hood planned to castrate him afterward.
He’d heard that amputees often continued to feel the pain of
the missing limb. Would he have to endure the sensation of
this man’s hand there for the rest of what he was sure would
be his short existence?
Buck was contemplating his next move. "If only ..." His face
lit up. "Oh, of course. It's just the thing!" He strode toward
one the doors from the room, and opening it, glanced back with
a bright smile. "Don't go anywhere." Gordon got a brief
glimpse into the room before the door closed; it was the
kitchen for the lodge.
sighed and thanked heaven for the respite; then shook his
head, this wasn't over yet. The situation had gone to hell in
a hurry. He stared morbidly at his transmitter in the edge of
the fireplace. Although he was close enough to the fire that
the front of him was warm, his back remained untouched by the
heat. Even if he could reach the transmitter to signal his
family, it would still be an hour or more before help would
arrive. It was so close, but it might as well have been on the
rummaged through the cabinets of the kitchen, Gordon looked
frantically around him, but there was nothing within his
reach. His brand new boots were each pierced at the toe by
huge nails that protruded half an inch above his feet; there
was no possibility that he could free himself that way. His
only chance seemed to lie in loosening the clinging tape
holding his arms, but the circulation had been badly
constricted at his wrists; high above his head, his hands had
turned a sickly gray. He couldn’t even feel them.
several thick beams ran parallel to the fireplace mantle under
the peaked ceiling of the lodge. A simple electrical light
fixture installed in the central beam offered illumination to
the entire room. The rope suspending him was a loop that
circled another beam closer to the stone chimney, the ends
tied together with the excess wrapped about his hands and
holding his shirt there. Even if he could get the tape
loosened, there was still the rope and his own shirt in the
way of gaining his freedom.
kitchen door and another closed door were on either side of
the hearth, and there were three other doors, perpendicular to
the hearth wall and opposite another wall. This last had a
shuttered window and must have been where he was lying when he
regained consciousness. One of the three doors was slightly
ajar, revealing a rustic bedroom.
folding chairs and a rickety card table near the fire were the
only furniture he could see in the room where he was being
held. A half-eaten sandwich set on a chipped plate, two
long-necked beer bottles, and the playing cards were scattered
across the table's surface. Several more bottles were lined up
on the floor under it near the wall. Whoever had outfitted
this lodge had not expended much time or energy on
contrast, an expensive video-recording device stood in the
corner by the table, its lens trained directly at him, while a
small glowing dot indicated that it was presently recording
his every move, and about to record all of Buck’s. He found he
could not look in its direction very long.
returned from the kitchen, elated, with a bottle in his hands.
He strode purposefully behind Gordon, and while he was aware
that Buck was humming to himself, he could also hear the
rustling of clothing. Buck asked, "Are you warm enough?" and
he heard the bottle set down on the floor just behind him.
Then Buck rubbed his hands together noisily.
Gordon could wonder what it meant, the escaped criminal
pressed his nude body against his backside. Gordon recoiled
with a bellow stifled by tape, trying unsuccessfully to pull
away from him. The man wrapped his arms around him, as a
glistening substance dripped from his hands, and then he
quickly slathered oil generously across Gordon's chest, over
his ribs around to his back, down his back to the anal opening
between his buttocks, then around his hips and finally into
the area where his fly should have been.
A howl of
outrage rose in Gordon's throat, thwarted by the tape over his
mouth, and he fought wildly, pulling at the nails through his
boots in the floor, and the bonds that held his hands, beyond
knowledge or caring that he couldn’t free himself. Buck
ignored his struggles, methodically massaging his body,
continuing to mark neck and shoulders with his teeth.
Buck tapered off from the biting, as he began concentrating
more fully on the massage. "Actually, bondage is not my usual
cup of tea, Gordon," Buck informed him in a voice so smooth it
was almost a purr. "My friends are usually much more willing.
And I usually prefer a scented oil if I can get it; this is
just vegetable oil from the kitchen, but it will suffice in a
pinch. I, uh, wasn't able to stop and get the supplies I
wanted ..." The smooth, warm voice went on and on, with an
occasional nip at his ear or shoulder, as the unwelcome
caresses continued. Gordon thoughts were in frenzied turmoil,
while that voice made him feel as if he was drowning in warm
took his movements below Gordon’s waist and began to stroke
with both hands. Gordon violently reacted again, to no avail;
he was firmly secured at hands and feet and trapped between
the man's arms. Buck soon found his efforts rewarded, despite
Gordon's obvious displeasure.
Buck's execution, the pressure was building. Gordon
desperately tried to fight against it, thinking of all the
things he'd do to this man if he ever got free, but Buck was
nothing but patient ... and merciless. Gordon was helpless to
prevent the inevitable. His heart and breath rates increased,
and he gasped raggedly as the need Buck was constructing in
him reached a crescendo.
right, Gordon," Buck whispered in his ear, "you will come for
Jonathan. Everyone comes for Jonathan." Then, just when Gordon
thought his mind would burst, Buck suddenly brought his hands
to the rear. Lifting his buttocks up and apart, Buck inserted
his own expanded anatomy into an opening that in all of
Gordon's twenty-four years had never seen more than an
occasional rectal thermometer.
screamed. None of his previous injuries prepared him for abuse
like this, but his cries of pain and outrage did not move Buck
in the slightest. Ignoring him, and continuing his relentless
monologue, Buck's right hand came around to the front again,
bringing him back up and resuming what had been started, while
the other reached under him from behind, cupping around and
fondling his scrotum.
ruthless stimulation finally brought about its inescapable
result, and Gordon felt his body begin to jerk helplessly.
Then Buck's left arm came up again to complete the circle
around Gordon's hips to direct the movements into and then
away from Buck in his rectum, impaling him over and over. As
if that were not enough, suddenly Gordon's head lolled, and he
groaned agonizingly as his release came, hissing and sizzling
as it shot into the fire.
awhile for you, hasn't it, Gordon?" the voice purred in his
ear, and then chuckled. "You older guys are all alike, so
macho, so inhibited; and it only makes it worse. Give me a
thirteen or fourteen-year-old any time. They haven't quite
gotten their bodies figured out yet; some don't even know what
they're capable of."
psyche was in chaos, his breathing ragged, but Buck wasn't
finished with him yet. The one hand reached underneath him
again, while the other moved rhythmically in front, still
coated with oil. Gordon moaned in dismay; even he was capable
of more than he'd ever been aware.
both know you were holding out on me," Buck purred. "Come on,
let's see you buck for Jonathan again."
It was a
phrase that Gordon would hear again and again, until Buck was
satisfied he'd given all he had. And each time he would direct
the force of those jerking movements, making Gordon move back
and forth along him. At last, Gordon literally ran dry,
bucking obliviously without relief, and Buck himself finally
became aroused. He moved slowly at first, thrusting in and out
of him, gradually increasing the tempo until Gordon knew he
was being ripped apart from the inside out. Gordon's mind
fled, unable to absorb any more.
mind finally came back from wherever it had been, he realized
he was in pain in a way he'd never hurt before. His head was
lolled back on Buck's shoulder, as he lacked the strength to
do anything about it, and ... he was whimpering like child.
breathing heavily, but hugging him tight; his face pressed
against his, an arm around his chest. "Jonathan hurt you,
didn't he? Oh, I'm so sorry, so sorry. I didn't mean to hurt
you ..." Crooning the lie, he stroked his coppery hair.
anger surged, and he drew strength from it to throw his head
forward, as far away from him as he could manage. Buck took a
deep breath, then reluctantly backed out of him as Gordon
sagged in exhaustion and anguish. He could hear Buck behind
him, donning his clothes again, and when he came around where
he could see him, he was tucking the flannel shirt into his
boy, " Buck stated with emotion, "this has been a most
extraordinary experience." Then his face became troubled as he
reached up to brush the sweat-soaked hair from Gordon's
forehead. "But I'm afraid this is goodbye. You see, we were
only hired to soften you up for delivery. The Hood is coming
himself later tonight, and he plans to take you back with him
... Oh, please don't look like that. Can't you see how hard
this is for me? I'll be well-paid and out of prison, but it's
almost not worth the money...Oh."
shivering from cold and trauma, but the sudden change in
Buck’s voice caught his attention. Gone was the slick
modulation, his voice turned harsh and expressionless, as if
some part of his mind had been taken over by another. With a
chill of fear, Gordon realized that Buck had fallen under some
hypnotic suggestion of the Hood’s. "I don’t care about the
money," he said dully. "I just want to take you with me..."
eyes suddenly went wide, and he inhaled sharply. Then his
voice changed again, back to the oily tones that he’d dropped
only moments ago, completely unaware of the change. "Yes, of
course..." Then he reached upward, pulling Gordon’s shirt down
over his arms and fumbling with the knots in the rope.
"There’s still time... If we hurry, we can be out of here
before they return..."
sick at heart. He was sure he didn’t like this new development
any more than the scenerio he’d already deduced. There was no
way he was willingly going anywhere with this man. There was
no doubt that Buck’s change of mind was the Hood’s work, but
what was he up to?
had a thought, a very small hope: if Buck released him, for
whatever reason, he might have a chance to retrieve his
transmitter. All right, he could play along for awhile.
hope plummeted again, as suddenly the kitchen door swung back
with a bang. They both jumped, startled.
stood framed in the doorway; a tall, beefy black man and a
scrawny pock-faced blonde. Both had wicked-looking pistols in
their hands, and blank, wild expressions in their eyes.
you that queer was gonna try something," the tall man said
dully in Win's voice.
uncovered his eyes," Jonesy responded, also in a flat voice.
"He's seen us."
backed away from Gordon, facing the two men, his hands in
plain sight. "What’s the difference?" he asked evenly, trying
to recover his composure, and save his skin. "What's left of
him when the Hood is finished won't be able to identify you to
from him," Win said expressionlessly.
suddenly realized this was more of the Hood’s work, but the
men’s blank eyes seemed to have Buck puzzled. If his mouth had
not been taped shut, he might have warned him, but as it was
okay," Buck said lightly, but he looked nervous. "Is my time
up already?" His voice grew stronger, picking up its mellow
tone again. He started to move toward one of the bedrooms "I
guess then it's time I left ..."
time isn't up yet. But I think you're about finished," Win
everything seemed to happen all at once. Buck turned to face
him, bewilderment on his face. "What do you mean ...?" was all
he managed to get out before Win, his eyes narrowed, suddenly
brought up the pistol and fired. The bullet ripped into the
left side of Buck’s chest, spinning him around. Then he fell,
almost at Gordon's feet, and didn't move again.
Win stood transfixed, eyes glazed, hearing the again the
hypnotic voice of the Hood in their minds. Gordon stared at
them in a mixture of terror and dark hope; there was nothing
he could do if they turned on him next, but death was
preferable to anything the Hood might have planned for him.
Several seconds passed, and then even this bleak hope was
dashed; both blinked and looked about them, as if wondering
how they got there.
the first to move, seeing the gun Win was still holding up and
the man on the floor. "Hey, whadja shoot him for!" He strode
to the fallen man and felt for a pulse. "He's dead."
passed a hand over his eyes. "He was just a queer. Now there's
one less to worry about."
Jonesy responded with a grin. "And there'll be more money to
go around this way."
Jonesy looked up at Gordon, who was staring down at him and
Buck in shock. He’d had no intention of leaving with Buck, but
the abrupt disintegration of two opportunities to escape the
Hood’s clutches, however remote and unsavory, tore at the
little sanity he had remaining. And then as his comprehension
staggered, he realized the truth. The Hood was systematically
offering him avenues of escape, only to remove them; all part
of a plan to drain all hope from him. He began to shiver
violently, as he began to understand that the "softening up"
had only begun.
gonna do about Mr. Eyes, here?" Jonesy asked worriedly.
don't worry about it. The queer was right about one thing.
When he leaves with the Hood tonight, he'll never talk to
don't like him staring at me; it gives me the creeps," Jonesy
okay," the burly man said impatiently. "Go get the tape and
fix it, if it bothers you so much." Then he turned, a wicked
gleam in his eye. "In the meantime, I'm gonna show him what I
found for him while we were out."
rolled his eyes impatiently. "Fine." The scrawny man rose to
his feet and nudged Buck's body with his foot before he
stepped over it to open the door on the other side of the
fireplace, revealing a bathroom. "Do something with this
garbage, too, willya?"
returned to the kitchen, and came back with a freshly cut
wooden rod about four feet long and two inches in diameter,
bark still clinging to it. He swung it around like a baseball
bat, stopping just short of Gordon's chest.
this'll hurt, don't you?" he grinned at Gordon wickedly.
Gordon only stared at the rod, unable to respond, even if his
mind could form the words or his mouth could speak them. In
the hands of this big man, that rod could beat every bone in
his body into jelly. And it wouldn’t take much to leave him
paralyzed if it was used on his back.
Jonesy brought a first aid kit out of the bathroom and began
to rummage around in it. Win laid the wood aside and gingerly
dragged Buck's stiffening body by the arms to the front door,
directly behind Gordon. Then he pulled the body outside. The
door stood wide open for a several minutes longer, as the room
grew thoroughly frigid. Any heat that the fire had been
providing was overwhelmed by the cold air that poured in.
Win closed the door, and carelessly dropped an armload of
firewood beside the hearth. Then he hefted a single log into
the glowing coals of the fire that remained, sending sparks
flying in all directions.
finally found the tape and cut off a strip about six inches
long. He carefully brought it to Gordon, stretched between his
the log that Win had added to the fire shifted, and even
Gordon’s shell-shocked attention was drawn as a large chunk of
glowing wood rolled toward the front of the fireplace.
Gordon’s frail sanity slipped another notch as the hot coal
stopped beside his still paper-wrapped edible transmitter. It
seemed his luck was deserting him too, although the Hood could
not have planned this. The wrapper flared briefly, then the
candy-like coating of the transmitter glistened as it melted,
and ran beneath the ashes.
It was the
last thing Gordon saw before Jonesy stepped in front of him
with the tape. He was so stunned that he didn't try to pull
away as Jonesy pressed it over his eyes, sadistically molding
it into his eyebrows and over his eyelids. Gordon's head
drooped down when the little man stepped away, his heart
frozen in fear and loss. He was already in pain, and about to
be beaten within inches of his life. Soon the Hood was going
to take him away, and use him to destroy his family and
everything International Rescue had done.
the transmitter had burned and melted in the fire, any hope he
might have had remaining fizzled and flowed out of him. His
mind closed in on itself in black despair.
Far up in
orbit around the planet in Thunderbird Five, John paced from
the little galley to his quarters and back again, as he
bitterly racked his brain for some way to help locate Gordon.
Suddenly, unbelievingly, Gordon's locator beacon sounded
twice, then flared briefly on the map and went out. He stared
in disbelief, then shivered as the serendipity of the moment
dawned on him; if he hadn't been standing in that exact
location at that exact instant, he'd have never seen it. As it
was, he scarcely had time to notice what grid on the map it
for his pad and with shaking hands jotted down the coordinates
and the map reference number, as if the map and its
information might disappear as completely as Gordon had this
morning, without a trace. Then he tried to compose himself and
called International Rescue base and his distraught family.
candy coating of Gordon's edible transmitter had momentarily
completed the circuit before the heat fused the tiny device
into a lump of useless metal.
must have malfunctioned, Father." John reported, trying but
failing to keep a tremor from creeping into from his voice. "I
barely had time to see what part of the grid it indicated."
His composure dissolved. "If only I'd had the enlarged map up
.." he choked, well aware that his one chance to help might be
too little too late.
couldn't know when Gordon would be able to signal, or that it
would malfunction," Scott assured him, wishing his words alone
could comfort his blonde younger brother. He longed to pull
him into a tight hug; if only he wasn’t hundreds of miles and
several hours away.
right, son," Jeff agreed, his voice soft. "You’ve given us a
place to start. Until now, we had nothing to go on."
reassuring his son in space again, knowing his words were
little comfort, Jeff turned decisively to his eldest. "That's
a very remote place, there can't be many places they can hide
from a thermal scan. Scott, I want you and your brothers to
cram yourselves and anything else you'll think you'll need
into Thunderbird One and push her to the limits -- get there
as fast as you can. But, and I mean this, son -- don't take
any unnecessary chances."
expression grew bleak, his voice more gruff than usual. "I
don't need to tell you the statistics... We may already be too
late, but bring your brother home." He glanced at his watch;
it was nearly time for the kidnapper's third and hopefully
final call. "God, how I want to go with you, but I’m going to
make sure those bastards pay ..."
the wood added to the fire, the cabin was still cold. Win and
Jonesy still had not agreed on who got the first turn. After
some heated discussion, they flipped a coin. After more
discussion, they went for two out of three; Jonesy won the
Jonesy exulted. "Let me get my gloves."
a laugh. "Afraid you'll hurt your precious hands?" he taunted.
"Lemme see, did you leave your piano in the jeep?"
spoke, Gordon heard Jonesy walk toward the bedrooms and open a
door. "Just make more of it, Win," Jonesy replied
threateningly, as he returned. "I can't wait to use these on
laughed derisively and then walked toward the kitchen. "Man,
it's hot in here. I'm gonna open that back door, and get some
air moving." Gordon heard the kitchen door creak and then the
outer door open.
You're the one who added wood to the fire. We're gonna cook
before we're done here!" Jonesy replied in a flat voice.
felt the cold air hit him like a blow. The cabin was freezing;
their bizarre behavior was certainly the Hood’s hypnotic
handiwork. Thinking about the money had been Buck’s trigger,
Win’s had been overhearing Buck try to release him, and Jonesy
was sent over the edge by an obsession that he might be
identified. The blank look that each wore as their
"programming" took hold was fear-inspiring, and now they were
operating under his orders without being aware of it.
have been better off if you hadn't seen us, boy." Jonesy's
accent was slurred; more evidence to Gordon that Jonesy was
not acting entirely under his own volition. "If you hadn't
seen us, I wouldn't have to do this!" The last was said with a
grunt, as Jonesy struck Gordon in the face; first one eye and
then the other in quick succession. Gordon gasped, and turned
his face away, instinctively seeking the relative protection
of his arms extended above his head.
you don't," the scrawny man panted, attacking again. Now the
shirt that Buck had pulled down as he fumbled to release
Gordon's wrists was a liability, acting as a backstop and
rebounding his head forward, directly into Jonesy’s gloved
fists. He had no protection at all from the furious pounding.
his face again and again; his cheeks and taped lips were
bashed into his teeth, and Gordon tasted blood, a lot of it.
He continued to batter at his taped-over eyes, and the rest of
his face, as well as generally pummeling him like a punching
bag, striking chest, ribcage, and stomach at random, but true
to his boxing training, never going below what would have been
his belt. After a only few minutes of this punishment, Gordon
gratefully passed out. As his mind succumbed to blackness, he
was relieved that he wouldn't be aware when Win began his
respite was short-lived.
forced back to consciousness, gagging and choking as an
ammonia capsule was passed under his bloodied nose. Evidently,
Win wanted him awake when his turn began. The room was even
colder than before.
worry, Tracy," Win's words were slurred, too; his voice taking
on an alien accent that Gordon recognized as the Hood's own.
"You aren't going to die, not yet. Not until all your work and
everything you hold dear is ripped from you..."
words, Win began to silently circle Gordon, only his footfalls
to be heard. Gordon found himself cringing, waiting for the
blows to fall.
several minutes of this, Jonesy spoke up impatiently from the
table, evidently a spectator. "Come on, Win. You’re makin’ me
You said you wanted to watch, so shut up and watch." He
circled twice more, then without warning, the wooden rod
struck squarely in the center of the scars that marred
Gordon's lower back.
sensation not unlike an electrical shock shot down his legs,
up his arms and reverberated in his head, and Gordon cried out
despite the tape over his mouth. He'd been told that the
spinal injuries from his hydrofoil accident might never fully
heal and additional trauma might return him to paralysis
permanently. A second and then a third impact, and a sob rose
in Gordon's throat that was as much terror of being truly
crippled as it was from the pain.
Miraculously, Win changed position, attacking the ribs on the
right side of his body. Gordon heard and felt some of his ribs
give way under the swinging rod after several strokes. Win
moved around to his left side, pounding as he went, and
Gordon’s head drooped forward.
nothing left. No sanity. No strength. No hope. His mind
slipped into oblivion.
listened dispassionately as the voice that only six hours
earlier had demanded five million dollars for Gordon's return
pleaded with him to spare his wife and the life of his unborn
child. The suitcase that Jeff had left behind in the bus
terminal that supposedly held the ransom money had instead
contained an explosive cartridge that covered them both with a
purple dye when they opened it. Jeff then coldly informed him
that mixed with the dye was a potent contact poison that would
kill them in a matter of hours.
man!" Clint was nearly hysterical. He glanced frantically at
Lois, who stood frozen in horror. "My wife got it too. She's
voice was a study in indifference, although in actuality he
almost regretted the lie he was weaving; there was no poison
in the dye packet that he'd had Brains rig into the briefcase.
"I'll make a deal with you..."
"Anything!" the man sobbed.
you the antidote if you tell me where my son is being held."
another sob, followed by a long pause. "I swear to God," the
voice whispered; he was a thoroughly broken man. "I don't
his voice neutral, but he was heartsick. The one ace he’d
hoped to gain by this tactic was thwarted if the kidnapper was
telling the truth. "What do you mean, you don't know?"
that. They loaded him into a Jeep, and told me to wait two
hours before I called you. I swear I don't know where they
were taking him. When the money came, I was to take out our
share and leave the rest in a locker at the bus terminal. He
was going to take it to them tonight when he picked up your
Look, he told us that he only wanted to give you a scare..."
heart froze at that name, as the rest of the kidnapper's words
going to be turned over to the Hood. His mind stopped for a
moment, his thoughts whirling like a shaken snowglobe.
Tonight. The meaning of the word finally settled. They had to
find him by tonight. How much time did they have?
time?" he finally managed to say. "What time will he pick up
kidnapper sighed. "I don't know that either."
a deep breath, trying to gather his scattered thoughts again.
"All right, then. Go and tell the police everything you've
told me, and I mean everything. I'll check what you've told me
against what you tell them. If we find Gordon alive, I'll give
them the formula for the antidote..."
you mean 'if you find him alive ...'?" the kidnapper's voice
full of fear.
it sounds like," Jeff said expressionlessly and cut the
connection before he collapsed with his head in his hands.
his will, Gordon came to, shivering. The lodge was as cold as
a refrigerator. From the waist up, his body was a mass of
agony, his face and torso bruised, ribs cracked or broken, his
arms pulling from their sockets from his own weight. Below the
waist, beyond the pain from his rectum, he couldn’t feel
anything, his legs useless beneath him.
assailants were arguing fiercely. Gordon knew they were still
responding to the Hood's psychic orders, as their voices grew
louder and more shrill; both abjectly terrorized by what the
other wanted to do. He was helpless to do anything but listen
to them fight, as their altercation reached a fever pitch.
but Tracy's seen us," Jonesy hissed vehemently. "The Hood's
gonna kill him anyway. We're just doin' the job for him."
care what the Hood's plans are." Win was equally impassioned.
"He said he wanted him alive. You just don't cross him and
live very long afterward. And he doesn't kill you right
away..." His voice dropped to a horrified whisper, "...you beg
him to die."
found himself fervently hoping that Jonesy would prevail. Win
was right and his future looked desperately bleak. Gordon
feared the weakness of his legs indicated permanent damage to
his spinal cord, and he couldn't live with that knowledge, not
Hood hated his family so much, Gordon did not understand, but
he knew that the torture he'd promised Scott when he'd almost
kidnapped him a few months ago still haunted Scott's
nightmares. And as much as he feared that, he knew that the
information that he could wring from him would mean the ruin
of International Rescue and the deaths of his family. He would
not, could not be party to that.
know how, but he would kill himself if he had to, before the
Hood got his hands on him again.
Gordon felt a pistol jammed into the side of his head. It
seemed his prayers were about to be answered. Jonesy was
hysterical, screaming incoherently beside him, while Win was
also shouting unintelligibly.
instead of simply shooting him, Jonesy hauled back and cracked
the gunbutt against the back of his head. Gordon careened
toward unconsciousness once again. Then a shot rang out.
This is it
then. Gordon felt only relief, as his thoughts fled and
blackness took him.
sighed as he dismounted the hoverbike under the cover of the
trees. He was chilled despite his heavy parka, and
discouraged. It was growing dark and this was the last of the
lodges that they had seen as Thunderbird One scanned the area
from high overhead. He could not comprehend how he would face
his father and brothers if this one too, turned out to be a
dead end. They were running out of time, and the sense of
futility weighed heavily upon him. Alone, his brothers out of
sight and hearing, Scott found he couldn’t be strong anymore,
and leaned against a tree, his shoulders heaving in silent
sobs as hot tears formed tiny pits in the new-fallen snow.
his life, he had looked out for his brothers, often taking the
blame for some of their misadventures, using his military
training to teach them to protect and defend themselves. Only
months ago, he had tried to prepare them all for any other
encounters with the Hood. They all understood he was ruthless,
and another run-in with the man was inevitable. When had they
let their vigilance down? In the end, no training had been
enough. He’d let his brothers, and especially Gordon, down.
hadn't dared to land Thunderbird One near any of the locations
they'd found, fearing they'd spook Gordon's captors, so he’d
chosen a central location, as near equal distance to each of
them as could be calculated. Then they had used the hoverbikes
to get close enough to carefully approach each cabin on foot.
The hand-held thermal imager had been a god-send, revealing
the number and locations of the people in each cabin, so that
they could position themselves strategically. Then Scott would
cautiously approach the cabin door.
they'd interrupted a honeymoon and a drunken fraternity party.
And by the time they’d reached the other lodges, they were
empty. Scott could only desperately pray that they weren’t too
late, that they hadn’t somehow been detected and Gordon moved
to another location without a trace.
front, this cabin looked deserted, too, although the presence
of two 4 X 4 vehicles parked on the side and the bare wisp of
smoke rising from the chimney gave him some hope. Scott fought
for and regained his composure, dried his eyes, and grimly
continued on his mission.
had finally stopped falling and it squeaked underfoot as he
stepped carefully toward the door, until he was close enough
to see a light gleaming beneath it. He signaled his brothers
by twisting the bezel of his watch, causing their watchfaces
to flash a dim blue light. He waited a few seconds and
received responding flashes, yellow from Virgil and red from
Alan; they were in position. The thermal imager in his hand
showed three hot spots large enough to be human beings in the
building; one was only a fuzzy image motionless in the central
room, as the other two moved frenetically around it.
Cautiously, he crept closer to the door. Inside the lodge, he
could hear shouting. No, it was screaming; one a badly
cracking baritone, the other higher and even more frantic.
He'd gotten as close as the woodpile, several feet from the
door, when a shot rang out.
for cover, putting the woodpile between the himself and the
house, then realized the shot wasn't directed at him. He
quickly turned his telecom to three-way voice communication.
"Stand-by!" he whispered as loudly as he dared. "Shots have
been fired in the house. I am not injured. Repeat, I am not
injured. Whatever they're shooting at is inside!"
was thudding frantically. What if they’d arrived only to hear
but not prevent Gordon’s execution?
hand were shaking as he picked up the thermal scanner that
he’d dropped. Something under the snow beside him caught his
eye and he froze. When he ducked for protection from the
gunshot, he’d pushed snow off a khaki-clad leg. Remembering
that Gordon had been wearing slacks the same color only that
morning, he bit his lip and hurriedly brushed away more snow
to reveal a brown-haired man in a flannel shirt. The body was
stiff but not quite frozen; he had been shot in the chest not
more than two hours ago. As he stared at the body in shock,
another sharp report came from the lodge.
off his brothers again, and thought to check the thermal
scanner. Now all three life signatures were fuzzy. The first
was still dim and unchanged, upright in the room just beyond
the door. One of the others was horizontal near the first,
fading fast; a small bright glow indicated a weapon very
recently fired. The third was further away, and fading more
quickly than the second, with a smaller glow near it,
indicating it as the weapon that had been fired first.
wasted no more time, and tried the door. It was unlocked, and
he cautiously pushed it open. Then he stopped dead in the
doorway, stunned by what he saw. "Dear God," he whispered in
hung limply by his bound wrists from a rafter in the ceiling,
his head slumped forward between his arms, his shirt pulled up
over his shoulders, his pants inside out over his tied ankles.
His naked body was bruised and bloody. Scott was more appalled
by the stain on his brother's bare buttocks that ran down the
back of his thighs and the acrid musky odor that hung in the
air, stronger than the smell of blood or woodsmoke. It was
painfully evident that being beaten had been the least of his
his horrified eyes away from his brother and swept the room
quickly. In the fireplace were only glowing embers producing
no heat at all; a meatlocker would have been warmer. Two
bodies were on the floor. A skinny blonde man lay curled up on
his side near Gordon, shot in the stomach, a pistol clenched
in both hands, as if he'd fired it from that position on the
floor. A huge black man had fallen in the doorway leading to
the kitchen, shot in the back.
building's back door was standing wide open, and with the
kitchen door propped open by the black man's body, cold air
was pouring into the cabin. Most horrifying of all, in the
corner stood an expensive video camera system. A red light
above the lens indicated that it was presently recording and
might also have recorded his brother’s rape and torture.
roared in outrage as he grabbed a piece of firewood and began
to batter the machine, barely realizing what he was doing.
When it was in a thousand pieces, he stood panting as he wiped
his face and eyes, regaining his composure. Then lifted his
watch and spoke to his other brothers. "I've found him."
his brothers an opportunity for elated responses, then began
issuing orders. "Virgil, bring the EMT kit and stretcher we
strapped on the back of the hoverbikes, and get them up here
fast. Alan, get back to Thunderbird One and bring her on the
double." Then he counted to three, waiting for the protest
from Alan he knew was coming.
Gordon's in a bad way. We’ve got to get him back to base as
quickly as possible. I want you to bring the ship while Virgil
and I get him ready for transport." He didn't dare tell them
more about his condition or that the thermal life sign was
almost gone from the scanner.
image in Scott's watchface bit his lip, his eyes wide. He
could see Scott's grim face and knew he wasn't being told all.
He took a breath and quickly made a decision, answering in a
subdued voice. "FAB."
tried to shake the horror off as he moved slowly around to see
his brother's face, but his stomach turned and bile rose in
his throat at what he saw. Gordon's eyes and mouth were both
covered by soiled white surgical tape. His face had been badly
battered and blood trickled from his nose. Another thin stream
of blood had found an outlet under the edge of the tape over
his mouth. Because of the angle of his hanging head, they
joined, forming a circle around his chin and dripping to the
gingerly felt for a pulse at his brother's throat, cringing at
how cold the skin was under his fingers. It was there, weak
but steady, and he breathed a sigh of relief.
He knew he
had to get him warm, but he couldn’t let Alan see his brother
like this either. Having made this decision, he gingerly
stepped over the black man's body to shut the back door, then
pulled him to one side so the kitchen entry could also be
closed off. Then he grabbed wood from the careless pile beside
the hearth and quickly built the fire into a roaring blaze.
The room was soon warm enough to remove his parka.
afterthought, he threw the battered video disk from the camera
into the flames and watched for a moment as it burned. Whoever
had arranged for these events to be recorded would never see
it. And then the thought came to him unbidden: and neither
would he, his brothers, nor his father ever be tortured by the
images. He would never tell any of them that it had been made.
and the sight of the tape over Gordon's face broke his heart.
He couldn't stand it any longer, and tentatively pulled at the
tape over his mouth. The adhesive had been softened by sweat
and blood, and it pulled away with a gentle tug. He grimaced
as his brother's mouth sagged open, and clotted blood and
saliva flowed out between bruised cut lips. The other tape had
been rubbed hard into his brows and eyelids, and the adhesive
held much more securely; it was going to take time that he
didn't have right now to remove.
it temporarily and entered the filthy lavatory. Finding a
towel that did not appear too badly soiled, he dampened it at
the sink. Returning to his brother, he gently cleaned the
worst of the stain and blood from the young man's lower
regions, then carefully drew his shorts up to cover him. He
was untangling his slacks in preparation to pulling them up,
too, when Virgil pounded through the door, startling him.
took in the state of the room with a glance and stared,
shocked at Gordon's appearance. Then he wrinkled his nose and
gave Scott a questioning frown; he recognized the odor, too,
but couldn't bear to give it a name.
a nearly imperceptible nod of his head and shot a glance out
the open door. "Where's Alan?"
first shut the door and set the EMT box and stretcher on the
floor, then methodically began checking the other rooms as he
answered. "He should be halfway to Thunderbird One by now.
That hoverbike was going as fast as I've ever seen one go ..."
As he made his way around the room, he stooped to check the
pulses of the two men on the floor. "These are both dead."
There's another one beside the woodpile outside, under the
snow. Those shots we heard ... evidently, they shot each
other." He finished pulling Gordon's pants up and fastened
them. "Virg, we've got to get Gordon cleaned up. Alan'll go
berserk if he sees him like this."
will?" Virgil said grimly, as he quickly unfolded and laid out
the tough plastic of the portable stretcher. "What about me?"
He spread one of the shiny thermal-reflecting blankets over
the stretcher, then turned to help Scott free Gordon.
the suspending rope and leaned Gordon back into Virgil's arms,
carefully pulling the green shirt out of the way as he rolled
Gordon's head back, then gently bringing down his arms. But
when Virgil tried to lift Gordon's legs to move him toward the
stretcher, he felt resistance. He looked down puzzled, and
then cursed, seeing why he couldn't move him. "Scott, they
nailed his boots to the floor! He couldn't even defend
right," Scott said in a cold rage, "they were bastards." He
quickly untied the bootlaces and gently pulled his brother's
feet out of them. Then he helped Virgil place the still form
on the blanket to assess the cuts and bruises on his torso.
so cold, Scott," Virgil said worriedly, carefully loosening
the remaining piece of tape on Gordon's face. Beneath it, he
found his eyes black and blue, and swollen shut. Tears came to
his eyes as he looked down on his younger brother's abused
face, and he reached into the EMT box for some cold-chemical
compresses to reduce the edema and bruising.
looked up again, he noticed the small red box imprinted with a
white cross where the kidnappers had left it, next to the
fireplace. Peeking out of its half-open lid was what was left
of the roll of wide white tape that had been used to cover
Gordon's eyes and mouth, and wrapped his wrists and his
anger boiled over; that kit had been designed to aid people,
but it had been corrupted to torture his brother. He got up
with a cry and kicked it across the room, scattering its
contents. Then he stood staring at the offending box,
breathing heavily, his fists clenched, until he could bring
himself under control again.
to the EMT box, he grabbed a sterile package of gauze pads,
moistening them from a bottle of antiseptic, and began gently
wiping the blood from Gordon's face. All this while Scott
removed the tape binding Gordon's wrists and ankles. He
understood his brother's anger and agreed with the sentiment,
but shoved it down as he always did, grimly continuing his
barely gotten Gordon's damaged ribs bandaged when they heard
Thunderbird One's VTOL jets. By the time Alan came through the
door, they'd inflated the stretcher and covered him, ready to
fasten the restraining straps.
stopped at the door's threshold in shock, as they had, when he
saw Gordon lying so still, his bruised face now the only part
of him that he could see. "Gordon ... ?" he asked tentatively,
reluctant to voice his fears, as if somehow by doing that, it
would make them true.
shook his head, and completed fastening the straps around his
brother. "He's unconscious. And at the moment, I think that's
a good thing. He might have some broken ribs."
Virgil gently laid a hand on his youngest brother's arm and
gave his oldest brother a warning glance, "he's going to be
okay." He left the rest of his thought unsaid; it was going to
be long road back.
gradually, he became aware. His first realization was that he
was alive, which was somehow disappointing, though he couldn’t
remember why. Slowly, other sensations filtered into his muzzy
brain. He no was longer cold, but it seemed everything hurt.
His face felt swollen and sore, the taste of blood was in his
mouth, and he could not open his eyes. His chest and stomach
were badly bruised, his ribs tightly wrapped. His back and
shoulder muscles felt beaten and strained, pulled out of
shape. The tissues of his rectum throbbed. His legs ... thank
God, he could feel his legs, and his sock-clad feet; oddly, he
couldn't feel his hands at all.
couldn't move. His arms and legs were wrapped tightly, as if
he were in a cocoon. His legs and chest were restrained, he
could raise neither. He couldn't even raise or turn his head;
there was a collar around his neck, a strap across his
became aware of sound, a deep rumbling all around him. He
began to feel panic rising. He was beginning to remember...
his edible transmitter destroyed before he could signal with
it, his watch taken from him in Auckland. His brothers had no
way to locate him. He had no idea how much time had passed
since his beating in the cabin, but he knew the Hood had been
on his way to get him ... to take him back with him ...
... He was in an aircraft ...!
hadn't been wearing his safety harness, the heart-rending cry
from the rear compartment would have sent him a foot in the
air. He twisted around to give Virgil a command to
investigate, but saw only the belt swinging from the drop-down
passenger seat Virgil had occupied.
tore into the rear compartment, galvanized by Gordon's scream.
He found him rigid with terror, fighting the restraints of the
stretcher, the compresses on his face askew, his eyes still
Virgil gently laid his hand on the only part of his brother
that wasn't covered with bruises, the top of his coppery head,
and stroked his hair in what he thought was a soothing
fashion, but Gordon only screamed again.
from me! I don't care what you do to me, I won't tell you
anything! I won't let you use me to hurt my family! You'll
have to kill me before I tell you anything! Do you hear me,
momentarily stunned. The Hood? Suddenly, the brutality of what
he'd seen; his brother's torture and rape, the three men dead
at the cabin; all made a wretched logic. The realization hit
Virgil like a blow to the stomach: the Hood had planned to use
Gordon to achieve his vow to destroy them all. By evil design,
Gordon had been the only person left alive in that house; the
Hood was at this moment on his way or maybe just arrived at
that remote cabin to get him, intending to use him as barter
for International Rescue's secrets. Virgil's heart stopped
beating for an instant at how very nearly those plans had
wailed again, breaking into his horrified reverie.
It's okay!" Virgil tried again, "You're safe!" He gently
separated the lids of his brother's left eye, enough to see
the amber disk in its bloodshot setting stop its panicked
rapid movement and focus on his face.
ceased his struggles and stared out, stunned. He drew in a
shuddering breath. "Virgil?" he whispered, incredulously.
grinned in relief. "Yeah, Gordy. It's me. We're in Thunderbird
One; Scott's flying us home as fast as she'll go." He released
his eyelid, allowing it to close.
began to hyperventilate. "No! No! Let me see you!"
placed his hand beside Gordon's face. "Gordy, your eyelids and
face are swollen. We'll injure them if we keep them propped
open; they need to be closed until the swelling goes down."
trickled from the corners of those swollen eyes. "Okay,"
Gordon assented, reluctantly, "but let me lift my head ... or
move my arms ... Anything .. so I' m not tied up again ..."
his voice broke and he began to sob.
gently unfastened the strap at his forehead, and then the one
at his chest, pulling the tightly-wrapped blanket loose around
his arms. Then Gordon's pain of mind overwhelmed his pain of
body and he reached out for his brother, like a child awakened
from a nightmare. Virgil bent over him, desperately wishing he
could pick him up and hold him, as he had a much younger
night-terrorized Gordon years before. He didn’t dare lift him
up, even enough to slip his arms under him, not with damaged
ribs, but his own tears flowed at his brother's anguish.
Gordon’s arms were clutched around him as tightly as his pain
allowed. They both had to settle for Virgil’s hands cupped
around his shoulders, speaking soft soothing words next to his
Gordon's arms dropped from him in exhaustion, but Virgil
continued to lean over him. When the heaving of his brother’s
chest stopped, he carefully released him and raised up, wiping
his eyes. Gordon licked his cracked lips. " Can I have a drink
of water?" His voice was quiet now, a child whose nightmare
Virgil's heart to deny him such a simple request, but with the
danger of internal injuries, there was no way he could allow
him to drink anything. "Aw, Gordy, you know I can't do that.
Not 'til we can get you checked out." Then he hesitated,
thinking. "Tell you what, though, if you promise not to
swallow it, how about just swishing your mouth out a little?
Then maybe some ice chips later, okay?"
Gordon's voice was stronger now. "Good idea."
rose, and pulled a bottle of water from the supply cabinet and
cracked the seal. "Here you go. Let me tilt you up, so you can
his arm under the back board his brother was strapped to,
gently lifting him to a reclining position. Gordon's hands
were grossly swollen and still very pale; although the dead
gray coloration was fading, he still couldn't hold the
container. Bracing him up on one knee, Virgil helped him get a
mouthful of water from the bottle. "Okay, here's the basin."
The operation was carried out with a minimum of spillage, but
Virgil winced at the amount of blood that rinsed out.
better. Thanks." He sighed deeply. "God, Virg, I .... I hurt
all over ... Almost like the hydrofoil crash ..."
gently lowered his brother back down. "I'm going to give you a
sedative and a strong pain reliever. When you wake up, you'll
be in your own bed at home. Whadaya say?"
Gordon blindly gave his brother a small smile. The tears
hadn't helped his eyes, if possible they were even more
swollen. Then he frowned. "Would ... would you stay here with
Virgil's voice was warm. "I won't leave you 'til you wake up
again," he promised.
relaxed as the injections began to take effect. "Virg?" he
asked sleepily. "Right here, Gordy." "Who ... who found me?"
to you first, but it was John that just barely caught your
edible transmitter's signal in the satellite. It must have
"No ... it
worked amazingly well ... better than you could imagine ... "
Gordon was growing groggy, so Virgil didn't press him to
explain; he'd get the story later. "Where's Alan?"
dropped him off at a farm near Auckland. An agent met him
there to take him to the airport. He's bringing home the
Ladybird." Gordon roused slightly.
taking ... all this?"
see you until we'd gotten you cleaned up."
good. He'd have gone berserk ... " Thus reassured, he slept.
took a deep breath and loosely tucked the blanket around his
brother again. As he did, he saw the boots that Alan had
retrieved from the lodge. For a short while, his relief that
Gordon had awakened put the thought of what Scott must have
seen from his mind. Now it all came flooding back.
down at his own hands and saw they were clenched. How long
were they going to endure this? The Hood had already proven he
was absolutely ruthless; what more evidence did their father
need? For their own protection, they had to seek him out and
destroy him before he destroyed them.
envy Scott telling their father about the operation. Virgil
knew Scott had already bottled up his feelings, and that he'd
have to help him deal with them later. But he wouldn't be able
to do that until he himself had dealt with his own.
gazing at his brother's swollen face for a long time,
remembering the hydrofoil accident, only a few years ago, when
Gordon had been so terribly injured that they weren't sure
he'd survive. At that time, Virgil tried to emulate Scott:
acting brave, keeping his feelings from showing; and it nearly
tore him apart. Now he put his head in his hands and wept. He
wept alone, grateful that somehow Gordon had survived again.
Why did it
seem that Gordon always suffered the most? Born prematurely,
he'd nearly died at birth, then there were the usual close
calls of growing up on a farm with three older brothers who
loved to throw him in the pond or from the hayloft, and then
there'd been the hydrofoil accident. It was as if two forces
were at work, one to destroy him, the other protecting him.
Virgil thought he could get his feelings under control again,
and he looked again at his brother's injured but peacefully
sleeping face. The road back would be difficult physically,
and especially emotionally, but hopefully, the boisterous,
joyful spirit that defined his brother’s personality would
return. For now Virgil was simply thankful that they’d found
flying Thunderbird One, already the fastest craft of its size
in the air, faster than he'd ever flown her before, yet he
dreaded reaching home. He knew he needed to report in to their
father that they found Gordon alive, but hesitated. How did he
tell him the rest?
Father, I've got good news and bad news. Gordon's alive, but
he'd been hung up like a side of beef, raped, and beaten
nearly to death. Oh, by the way, the kidnappers killed each
other, we won't even get the satisfaction of seeing them go to
prison.’ He had decided he wouldn’t tell anyone about the
videodisk he’d burned.
when the comlink indicator lit, but then forgot his misgivings
and felt instead a pang of guilt when he flipped the switch to
respond and saw how pinched and pale his father's face was.
Are you boys all right?"
Father. And we found Gordon. Virgil and I are bringing him
home as fast as Thunderbird One will get us there. Alan’s
bringing the Ladybird..."
surprised to see Jeff's eyes fill with tears as he gripped the
edge of his desk. "Oh, thank you, God," he whispered
was the Hood. He was behind the whole thing."
God!" Scott blurted. "That explains it ..."
kidnappers killed each other, Father, just as we arrived."
face paled again. "And Gordon?"
the only thing alive in that lodge," Scott shuddered,
remembering the horror of the three dead men they'd found and
his brother hanging in the middle of the room. He took a deep
breath; this was the time. Wishing he'd found time to think of
some better way to word it, he gave his report. "Dad, he's in
a very bad way. He was beaten nearly to death, and worse ..."
his voice dropped to a choked whisper. He still couldn't say
closed his eyes in pain. "I was so afraid of that ..." He put
his face in his hands.
longed at that moment to put his arms around his father, to
feel his father's arms around him. After their mother died,
Scott and his father had shared the burden of protecting his
younger brothers, and he knew his father felt, just as he did,
that once again they'd failed.
moment, Jeff drew in a shuddering breath and composed himself.
"Well, we will all just have to take everything one step at a
time. Just get your brother home, Scott. We'll discuss what we
can do in the future when you're all safely here."
You bet we
will, Scott thought grimly. The Hood’s days were numbered, if
he had anything to say about it.
was cleared for take-off from Auckland in record time, and
soon Alan left New Zealand airspace far behind. He hoped it
would be a long time before they got another call to that
island country. Nothing personal, just that the memories were
going to take a long time to heal. They'd left the bodies in
the lodge. Lacking any better plan, once they got Gordon home,
they were going to notify the authorities anonymously.
understood his father and brothers were trying to protect him,
but it hurt that they wouldn't or couldn't just come out and
tell him about Gordon. He wasn't a kid anymore, hadn't been
for some time. He had seen the evidence and could draw
conclusions for himself, for crying out loud: his brother's
battered face, the bloodied boxing gloves on the decrepit card
table, the stained wooden rod on the floor, the odor that
still hung in the air ... anyone who'd ever had a wet dream
would have recognized that. And he himself had pulled the
nails that held Gordon's boots to the floor.
of men could these have been to do these things to anyone,
much less his closest friend and brother?
nose dipped, and Alan had to force himself to pay attention.
He hadn't even realized he was crying. He had to get a grip on
these emotions. He needed to talk to someone. Ironically, the
one person he'd have turned to was Gordon; they'd been keeping
each from going psychotic ever since they were toddlers, when
their mother died and Jeff nearly had a nervous breakdown.
Tin-Tin was definitely out; she had her own emotions to deal
with and God knew what she'd do when they got Gordon home.
nodded to himself. He knew who else seemed to always get left
out of the loop, his brother John. It wasn't on purpose,
simply the sin of preoccupation; John was out of sight, out of
mind for a month at a time, unless there was a rescue call.
Heck, they even did it to each other, when he rotated the duty
with his brother.
his watch and keyed it for the narrow band of Thunderbird
Five. No one else in the family had to know what they said to
what he needed as soon as he saw his youngest brother's face.
"Alan? You okay?"
Gordon? What happened? Scott wouldn't tell me anything ..."
yourself, Johnny. It was absolutely brutal ..."
had been so intense, so blinding, that until the explosion
that threw him across the cabin, he was not aware that he had
thrown everything breakable within reach into the flames of
the fireplace. The bottle of cooking oil, however, had somehow
managed to remain intact until its contents had begun to boil
and expand, finally shattering in all directions. As he came
back to his senses, he realized the hot oil had ignited as it
flew through the air, splattering flames throughout the room.
The wooden building was nearly completely involved in the
blaze, the floor between him and either the front or kitchen
doorway on fire, the front door itself in flames.
he rose to his feet, the heat searing his face and smoke
blinding him, and used his hands to feel his way along the
wall. He knew there was a window along here someplace... He
reached the corner and cursed.
African fool who kept him from overseeing the operation. Damn
those imbecilic Americans for screwing it up. Damn that greedy
convict and his moralistic slut of a wife. May their child be
deformed at birth. Damn that homosexual pedophile for his
weakness. And damn that red-headed Tracy pig and his
thrice-damned do-gooder family of his that compelled him to
make elaborate plots for their demise. Only to fail and fail
be the last time, he vowed. Failure would not happen again.
His next scheme would be simple and precise...
reversed direction, still searching for the window.
crept under the kitchen door, and moved toward the back door.
Flames licked at grease spilled down the side of the propane-fueled
cooking range. Then the oily residue ignited, drawing the
inferno onto the top of the stove, and closer to the propane
valve at the rear of the cooking surface.
valve that Win had carefully shut off each evening; his fear
of fire was no hypnotic suggestion, but a true childhood
phobia. A phobia the Hood had considered exploiting, but
dismissed as it did not fit in his perfect plan.
had found the window frame, and was fumbling at the simple
fastenings with little success, when the heat caused the
rubber gasket at the propane valve to melt and the gas to leak
out. Suddenly a tremendous explosion lifted the cabin’s roof,
which just as suddenly pancaked back down, flattening what
remained of the cabin that continued to burn. The burning
propane shot its blue flames into the air in a bright plume
that could be seen far into the night.