Adrift”

By Lorrie Ellis

 

Disclaimer: The following story is based on the characters of the TV Series "Walker, Texas Ranger". The characters belong to CBS Productions, Top Kick Productions, Washo Brother's Entertainment, etc, but the story is mine. ALL DISCLAIMERS APPLY. (No copyright infringement is intended.)

 

Trivette watched Walker pace the length of the office again before finally stopping him. “Are you going to tell me what’s bother you, or not?”

“What?” Walker asked.

“What’s bothering you? You seem awfully preoccupied.” Trivette replied.

“I am.” He sat down at Trivette’s desk. “It’s the case that Gage and Sydney are working right now. I read over the information you got for me last night and, well, let’s just say that I’m not real happy with the direction that it looks like the case is taking.”

“I didn’t get a chance to read through everything. Do you want to fill me in, or should I get a copy of the research for myself?”

“Delgatto is getting ready to sell his operations in Dallas and move to Miami.”

Trivette looked puzzled. “How do you know that?”

“He’s reached his limits here and Dino Myers is interested in buying out his franchise in Dallas. With that money under his belt, he can afford to buy his way into Perez’s operation in Miami.”

“But you’re still only guessing.” Trivette reasoned.

Walker nodded. “We’ll know soon.” He looked at the clock, as the hands hit 9:55. “Gage is due to check in this morning around 10:00.”

Gage slipped on the Armani jacket Tony had sent up for him. As he checked himself in the mirror, there was a mild knock at the door. “Who is it?”

“Lana, sir.” Sydney’s voice replied from the other side of the door. “Mr. Delgatto asked me to bring something in to you.”

Gage opened the door. “Come in then, dear Lana.”

Sydney sneered slightly as she entered the room. “She knew that her cover was the very best Walker could do at the time, but . . .”

“Lana, you have something for me?” Gage asked.

“Yes. Mr. Delgatto asked that you be in his office promptly at 10:30 this morning. He has guests arriving from Miami and wants you there.”

“Thank you. You may tell Mr. Delgatto that I’ll do my very best to comply, but I have an errand I need to run first.” Gage replied as he caressed Sydney’s cheek. “You know Lana, if things go well in this meeting, I might require your services around lunch time.”

“And what services would you require, Mr. Ashton?”

“It’s Cole and I think you know very well what services I’m speaking of.” He smiled at his partner.

Sydney nodded. “Thank you Mr. Ashton, I mean Cole.” She stared at her partner for a moment. “Cole . . . please don’t upset Mr. Delgatto by being late for this meeting. I can’t imagine it would be a very pleasant afternoon for any of us if you do.”

Gage smiled. “I’ll be there Lana. Don’t you worry your pretty little head. I’ll be there, on time.”

 

Edwardo Perez sat in his limo with his two best men. “What about this Cole Ashton, what do we have on him, Michael?”

Michael Manns sat beside of Perez as he thumbed through the files. “He joined Delgatto about three months ago after two of Delgatto’s best men were killed in a raid.” He carefully thumbed through the planted material. “Looks like he’s on the up and up.”

“Any other new people in the Delgatto organization?” Perez asked.

“Only a maid, Lana Weir.”

Perez nodded. “We’ll see about the maid.” He leaned forward and picked up his cell phone from the liquor cabinet. “I want to check on this Cole Ashton myself.” He quickly dialed and waited for an answer.

“Hello.” A male voice answered.

“It’s Perez. I need you to run a check on a Cole Ashton. He’s currently working for Tony Delgatto in Dallas.”

“Give me twenty minutes and I’ll call you back.” The unidentified voice replied.

Perez hung up. “Well?” Michael asked.

“We should know something in twenty minutes.” Perez replied.

 

Gage climbed into his silver Corvette and adjusted the mirror. “Hey!” He heard a voice shout as he cranked the car. “Cole!” The voice shouted louder.

He looked up just as Jimmy Combs started to open the passenger side door. “Hey, hands off the car!” Gage shouted.

“I’ll kill her myself.” Jimmy muttered.

“Kill who?” Gage asked.

“That stupid maid, Lana. She was told to give you a message.”

Gage nodded. “She did. I’m supposed to be in a meeting with Tony and the boys from Miami at 10:30 this morning.”

Jimmy’s face began to redden. “If you got the message, how come you’re leaving?”

“I’m sitting in my car, Jimmy. “

“Why?” Jimmy asked.

”I like the sound of the engine.” Gage replied sarcastically and then saw that Jimmy didn’t get it. “I just got a new CD and I wanted to listen to it - without interruption.”

Jimmy nodded. “Just so you’re on time for the meeting. Mr. Perez hates to be kept waiting and Tony’s trying to make a good impression on him.”

Gage nodded and turned the radio up louder. “I’ll keep that in mind.” He replied and then watched Jimmy until he opened the patio door and went inside. Gage then picked up his cell phone and dialed Ranger Headquarters.

“Walker.” The answer came quickly.

“Walker, it’s Gage. I only have a few minutes. There’s a big meeting here at Tony’s house at 10:30 this morning with Perez and his boys. Tony expects Perez to offer him a pretty big chuck of his game in Miami to handle. He’s also waiting on Dino to come up with the money for the Dallas operation, if he doesn’t have it by midnight tonight, the deals off.”

“Good work Gage. Listen, I want you and Sydney to both be extra careful around Perez. He’s very dangerous and leaves no witnesses to his transactions. He has a big weakness for the ladies and I have it on pretty good authority that there’s an undercover D.E. A. Agent in place with Perez, but I don’t know who it is.”

Gage nodded as he looked at his watch. “We’ll be careful Walker.” He replied. “I’ve got to go. It’s almost 10:30 now and if I’m late for this meeting, I won’t have to worry about Perez, Tony will kill me first.”

“Just watch your back and I’ll expect another check in just after midnight.”

“Will do.” Gage replied. “Oh, and see if you can find out the name of the D.E.A. Agent in place with Perez, OK?”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

 

Gage entered Tony’s living room just as Perez’s limo pulled up the driveway. “It’s about time, Cole.” Tony greeted.

“Sorry. I was listening to a new CD.”

Tony pulled the curtain back and glanced out the window and announced; “Mr. Perez is here.”

Inside the limo, Perez’s cell phone rang just as he started to get out of the car. “Perez.” He answered.

“Cole Ashton looks good.” The voice said. Perez hung up without a reply.

“Mr. Perez?” Michael questioned.

Perez nodded. “We’re good to go.” He replied.

As soon as the Perez entourage entered Tony’s home, one of Tony’s bodyguards began to frisk Michael.

“What is this, Delgatto, you don’t trust me and my men?” Perez questioned.

“It’s not a matter of trust Edwardo, it’s a matter of security. You’re welcome to do check me and my guys, if you’d like.” Tony replied.

Michael started towards Gage, but paused when Perez raised his hand. “Not necessary. I’ve already had you and your men checked out.”

Sydney entered the room with a tray of snacks and sat them on the table in front of Perez. “I take it that you’re the newly hired maid.” He said as he stared at her.

She nodded. “Yes sir. Lana Weir.”

Perez’s eyes never left her. “You’re very beautiful Lana Weir. I may just take you home with me to Miami.” Sydney smiled but did not offer a reply.

“Lana, get us a round of drinks.” Delgatto ordered. Noting Perez’s fascination with his new maid, he whispered; “She’s quite the looker, isn’t she?”

“How is she in bed?” Perez asked.

Delgatto laughed and looked at Gage. “I wouldn’t know personally, but I believe that my friend Cole here has had first hand experience.”

Perez stared at Gage. “And?” He asked.

The muscles in Gage’s face went taunt. He knew he had to answer and he knew that Sydney would be able to hear him. He managed to force a smile before replying. “I make it a policy to never kiss and tell.”

Sydney re-entered the room and sat the tray of drinks beside of the snack tray. Before she could turn to leave, Perez pulled her down into his lap and kissed her, forcing his tongue between her lips. She pulled away quickly, her hand instinctively slapping his face, hard before she stood.

Perez smiled as he watched her leave the room with very convincing tears streaming down her cheeks. “Now, I know how she kisses. The question was how is she in bed?”

Gage’s face went red. “It’s none of your damn business.” He replied and started towards the door to go after her.

Tony slammed the door shut before Gage reached it and then pulled him aside. “Leave her. She’s just a maid.” He patted Gage’s shoulder and then the two men joined Perez at the table. “Let’s get down to business now, shall we?” He suggested as they all took a seat.

Gage reluctantly took a seat next to Tony and cut his eyes at Perez. “You do know that if I decide to make her mine, there is nothing you can do to stop me.” Perez stated.

“I wouldn’t bet on that.” Gage replied.

Perez laughed and then turned his attention to Tony. “So, you want into the Miami market. I’ve reviewed your history here in Dallas and you’ve seem to have done quite well for yourself. Why the sudden interest in my area?”

“It’s not exactly a sudden interest, Mr. Perez. I have contacts in Miami, suppliers and such and I feel that I could be a great asset to your business.”

Perez nodded. “So do I Delgatto.” He stared at Gage for a moment. “I’d like to get to know you and your right hand man a little better before sitting down in Miami and ironing out the details. My yacht is docked in Houston at the moment. I’m scheduled to leave tomorrow morning at 9:00 and I’ll expect you and Cole here to be aboard.”

Tony nodded. “No problem, Mr. Perez. We’ll be there.”

Sydney had taken the opportunity of the men all begin busied in the den to rifle through Delgatto’s files. She wanted to get copies of as many documents of transactions as possible to help Walker put this guy away. Of course, now with Perez in the picture, she and Gage may be undercover longer than either of them had anticipated.

After finding three new documents and copying them, she made her way to her room and pulled out her cell phone.

“Trivette.” Jimmy answered.

“Jimmy, it’s Sydney.” She whispered.

Trivette looked at the clock, realizing that it wasn’t time for Sydney’s check-in. “Sydney, what’s up?”

“Gage is in a meeting with Tony and Edwardo Perez right now. I just finished going through Delgatto’s desk and came across three more documents that Walker might be interested in. One is a proposal from Dino Myers. He’s offering Delgatto $1.3 million for the entire Dallas operation, including the suppliers list from Miami.”

Trivette nodded as he wrote the figure down on a piece of paper. “According to Gage, the meeting with Dino is supposed to go down tonight around midnight.”

“That’s what I’ve heard too.” Sydney heard the men downstairs, exiting the den. “Sounds like the meeting is breaking up. I’ve got to go.”

“Be careful.” Trivette said as Sydney hung up.

 

Gage took the steps two at a time, making his way quickly to Sydney’s room. He knocked on the door. “Lana, it’s Cole.” Sydney opened the door.

Taking her in his arms, Gage cradled her head to his chest. “Are you OK?”

She nodded. “I’m fine. That little scene gave me the opportunity to check into a few things.”

Gage’s eyebrows raised. “Did you find something?”

“Yeah. The proposal from Dino. I called in the information to Trivette.”

“Well, we’ve got a new problem.” He sat down in the chair in her room.

“What?”

“Perez expects Tony, me and you to be on his yacht tomorrow morning at 9:00. It seems he wants to get to know me and Tony during our voyage and then sit down and iron out the details once we reach Miami.”

“Why does he want me along?” She asked.

Gage opened his mouth and then closed it, trying to think of a nice way to put things into words. “He uh . . . he wants you onboard for entertainment.”

Sydney’s eyes opened wide. “Entertainment? You’ve got to be kidding.”

“Syd, I’ve already pushed the envelope here, I’ve let him and Tony both know that you and I have a relationship. Tony’s already told me that if he thinks things are getting too serious between us, he’ll get rid of you and I don’t think he means fire you either.”

She nodded and then gently caressed his face. “Don’t put yourself in danger trying to protect me, OK?”

He looked down at her sheepishly. “I’d do anything for you.”

 

Tony waited patiently for Cole to come back into the den, turning to face him when the door opened. “Don’t ever do that again!” He shouted.

“Do what?” Gage asked.

“Call Mr. Perez by his first name without his permission! I’ve worked too hard putting this deal together to sit and watch it fall apart now just because you and Perez both have the hots for my maid!” He came closer to Gage and lightly slapped his cheek. “She’s a pretty girl, Cole, but there are plenty more fish in the sea. Let her go. It’s better for business. Perez wants her and I want to get in good with Perez.”

Gage shook his head. “I can’t Tony. I’m in love with her.”

Tony slammed his fist down onto the table in front of Gage. “Damn it Cole! Let her go, or I’ll see to it that she disappears. Do I make myself clear?”

“What about the trip? Perez wants her there too.”

Tony nodded. “Exactly and she will be there, but you’re not to even so much as speak to her. Understand?”

“Tony . . .”

Tony turned with a gun pointed at Gage’s chest. “I mean it Cole. I really like you a lot. You’re a great guy and we seem to understand each other pretty well, but I won’t let anyone stand in my way of getting into Perez’s organization. Not even you.” Knowing that he had made his point, he lowered the gun and watched Gage leave the room.

 

Gage hopped into his car and squealed tires as he sped out of the driveway.

Just beyond the driveway, Edwardo Perez’s gleaming black limo sat on the opposite side of the street. Seeing Gage speed away, Perez pulled out his cell phone. “Follow him.”

Michael watched as a jet black street rod flew by them. He then looked at Perez. “Lenny? You’ve got Lenny tailing Ashton?”

“I want to know exactly who I’m dealing with here and I want to see if he will follow Tony’s instructions and stay away from my new plaything.” Perez smiled at his right hand man.

Manns nodded. “Are you going to wait for her until tomorrow, or should I go and get her now?”

Perez thought for a moment. “That’s good thinking.” He nodded at Manns. “I think that’s why I like you. You really think fast on your feet.” He dialed another number.

“You got Tony.” The voice answered.

“And you have something I want.” Perez replied.

“The maid?” Tony asked.

“I’m sending Michael over to get her as we speak.” He nodded towards Michael and watched as he got out of the car and crossed the road. “I see Ashton left in a huff. Was it something I said?” Perez laughed.

Tony joined in the laughter. “You could say that. I told him that he wasn’t to have anything to do with Lana from this point on.”

“Good and Tony, are you sure that you can trust Ashton? After all, he’s not been with your organization very long, how do you know that he’s not a cop or something?”

“I thought you said that you had him checked out.” Tony laughed slightly. “I’ve done my homework Perez. Ashton’s on the up and up, but if it’ll make you feel better, I’ll do a little more digging.”

Michael was ushered in by one of Tony’s men. “She’s upstairs in her room, second door on the right.” Tony said as Michael brushed by.

As Michael neared the top of the stairs, he pulled a small bottle of Chloroform from his pocket and soaked a white handkerchief. Holding the cloth in one hand, he gently knocked on Sydney’s door. “Ms. Weir, you’re needed downstairs.”

“Just a minute.” Sydney replied, as she tied her apron strings behind her back.

Michael caught her by surprise as she opened the door, quickly clamping the damp handkerchief over her nose and mouth. He hadn’t expected her strong struggle, but quickly wrestled her to the ground, the cloth never leaving her face. Seconds later, she was unconscious and hoisted over his shoulder.

“Bye, bye my sweet.” Tony said as he watched Michael carry Sydney out the door and towards the limo, which had been moved to the driveway.

 

Gage returned to Tony’s house an hour after Perez had taken Sydney away. Tony heard him come in, but offered no explanation to what he was certain Gage would soon find out.

“Lana!” Gage called out after finding her bedroom door wide open and her apron at the top of the stairs. He picked up the apron and ran back downstairs to find Tony.

“Where is she?” He asked, entering Tony’s office, shaking the apron at him.

Tony looked up from his paperwork. “I had to let her go.”

“Go where?” Gage asked, his concern for his partner growing by the minute.

Tony shook his head wearily and looked up at Gage. “I gave her to Perez. I had to do something to appease him after the near fiasco you caused.”

Gage face began to redden. “You GAVE her to Perez?”

Looking up and seeing the anger in Gage’s eyes, Tony’s face turned red with anger. “Yes, I GAVE her to Perez. She’s my maid and in case you hadn’t noticed, I control things around here and that includes you!”

Gage lunged for Tony, grabbing his collar and shoving him backwards onto his desk. He pulled back his fist and watched as Tony turned his head in fear. “You don’t OWN me Tony, or Lana for that matter.”

“Cole, let her go. You need to get your head screwed on straight before we leave for Florida with Perez tomorrow morning. Besides that . . .” Gage let him up and as he stood and straighten his collar he continued. “Besides that, we’ve got Dino to take care of in a few hours.” Gage let out a ragged breath, his eyes never leaving Tony’s. “We’ve got a few hours before the meet, so why don’t you just go chill out. Take a drive or something.”

Nodding, Gage headed towards the door and to his car again.

 

Sydney woke to find herself in a small, but well-maintained bedroom. She tried to lift her head, but it felt as though it weighed a ton. “What have you gotten yourself into Cooke?” She whispered.

Feeling around in the pocket of her uniform, she found her slim-line cell phone. “Thank God they didn’t find it.” She whispered as she dialed Ranger Headquarters.

“Trivette.” Jimmy answered.

“Jimmy, it’s Syd.” She whispered. “I’ve been kidnapped and I don’t know where Gage is.”

Trivette motioned for Walker to pick up the other line. “It’s Sydney. She’s in trouble.”

“I don’t know if I’m really in trouble or not.” The room she was in rocked lightly back and forth. “It feels like I’m on a boat and I vaguely remember Michael Manns’ voice at my door in Delgatto’s house.”

“So you think Manns kidnapped you?” Walker asked.

“That’s what I’m thinking. Perez has expressed an interest in me and he can’t stand Gage.”

“Keep you phone hidden in a good spot where you can get to it if you need it. For now, if you feel that you can handle Perez and Manns, I don’t want to risk blowing Gage’s cover.” Walker stated.

“I understand.” Sydney replied. Footsteps echoed through the narrow passageway leading to where she was being held. “I’ve got to go, someone’s coming!” She abruptly hung up her phone and tucked it beneath the mattress of the small bed.

 

A million thoughts were running through Gage’s head as he left the Delgatto estate. Sydney was with Perez without back-up. What if found out that she’s a Ranger? What if he . . .” Not wanting his mind to continue wandering, he called Walker to let him know what had happened.

“We just heard from her Gage. She thinks she’s on a boat.” Walker asked.

“Perez.” Gage said firmly.

Trivette picked up the other line. “Gage, we’ve confirmed that the DEA have a man in place with Perez. He’s going by the name of Michael Manns.”

“We’ve met.” He replied. “But Trivette, he doesn’t know that Syd’s a Ranger anymore than we knew that he was DEA.”

Walker could sense the worry in Gage’s voice. “Gage, Sydney’s a good Ranger and we both know that she can take care of herself.”

“Walker, I’m her partner. I was supposed to be watching her back.”

“We need to finish this up. I think DEA will be willing to work with us on this. We have too much on Delgatto to just let it go now and with what they have on Perez, we should be able to take the whole operation down.” Before Gage could speak, Walker continued. “By the way, is everything still in place with Dino for tonight?”

“Yes, but Walker, I need to get to Syd.” Gage continued.

“If you go after her now, you’re just going to blow her cover, as well as your own and very possibly get both of you killed.” Walker paused. “The meeting is still at the old yarn factory on 2nd?”

“Yes. That’s what Tony said.” Gage paused. “How can I NOT go after her?” He asked, beginning to fume.

“Gage, be patient. She’s fine for now and she does have her cell with her in case she gets into trouble.”

“Having her phone with her doesn’t mean that she’ll be able to get to it if she needs it.” Gage replied and hung up.

“What now?” Trivette asked.

Walker stared straight ahead. “I hope Gage sticks with the plan.”

“And if he doesn’t?”

Walker shook his head as he picked up his coffee cup and left the office.

 

Tony Delgatto was not a patient man. He had been waiting for Gage’s return for nearly an hour. “Stupid . . .” Picking up the phone, he dialed Dino’s number.

“Hello.” A voice answered.

“Put Dino on the phone.”

“Who’s this?”

“Tony Delgatto.”

“Just one moment Mr. Delgatto. I’ll get him for you.”

“Tony. How are you?”

“This is no time for formalities Dino. Do you have the money and are you ready to discuss the details?”

“Everything’s here. You said that you wanted to change the place of the meeting. Can I ask why?”

“Let’s just say I think that we may have a spy among us.”

“Hey, Tony, I don’t want no trouble. Maybe we should wait and do this another time when you’re sure you don’t have any “spies” around.”

“I’ll be sure after tonight. We’ll meet at the warehouse on Front Street, you know the place?”

“Yeah. I’ll be there at midnight.”

Gage had been driving for an hour before finally deciding to return to Delgatto’s. He pulled into the driveway and was promptly met by two of Tony’s men. “Mr. Delgatto wants to see you.”

Gage slammed the car door and walked between the two men wondering what was going on. “What’s going on Jimmy? I just left here an hour ago and everything was fine, what’s changed?”

Jimmy shrugged. “I don’t know. Mr. Delgatto just said that we were to escort you to his office when you returned.”

Jimmy knocked lightly on the office door. “Yeah?” Tony yelled.

“Ashton is here.” Jimmy replied.

“Show him in.” Tony said, pulling his .45 from his desk drawer and laying it in plain sight.

“What’s this all about Tony?” Gage asked, immediately noticing the gun on the desk.

“Have a seat Cole.” Tony gestured to a nearby chair.

“I’d rather stand.”

Tony nodded towards Jimmy. Before Gage realized what was going on, he felt Jimmy’s massive fist sinking into his stomach, knocking the wind from him and doubling him over.

“That wasn’t a request Cole.” Tony stated calmly as he kicked a chair towards Gage and watched as Jimmy lowered him into it.

Gage winced as he tried to sit up. “What’s this all about Tony?” He asked, still trying to take in a good breath.

“Two-fold Cole. For one, I need proof that you’re not a cop and second, if you’re not a cop, I need to know that you’re not going to make a fool out of me tomorrow when we meet Perez and his people.” He lifted Gage’s chin, so they were eye to eye. “And you need to remember that Lana is one of his people now.”

“What do you mean you need to know that I’m not a cop? What would possibly give you such a ludicrous idea?”

Tony again nodded towards Jimmy who promptly reached into his pocket and pulled out Gage’s Ranger badge and gun. “These were found in your room.”

Gage nodded, trying to think fast. “I’m sure they were. I took them off of a Ranger who tried to bust me a few nights ago. But I guess the question now is, what in the hell were you doing in my room?”

“What happened with the Ranger?” Tony asked.

Gage relaxed a little as Jimmy relaxed his grip. “Nothing really. I met up with a couple of guys that I used to hang with and we went bar hopping. Next thing I know, a Texas Ranger starts to hassle us, so I took care of him and just to show him up, I took his badge and his gun and left him unconscious in an alley.”

“Who was the Ranger?”

Gage shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. I didn’t ask for his name.”

Tony started towards the phone with Gage’s badge in his hand. “I guess I can find out.”

“Wait!” Gage cried out and watched as Tony’s hand rested on the .45.

“Yes Cole.” Tony replied, coldly.

“If you call the Rangers, they’ll trace this back to me. Come on Tony, be a sport. If I’m arrested again, I’ll be in jail forever.”

Tony nodded. “About concern number two . . .”

“I won’t even speak to her Tony. She belongs to Perez now, not me.” Gage said with his eyes closed. He knew that his cover was close to being blown, if it hadn’t been already and he couldn’t afford to put Sydney in any more danger than she may already be facing. He still wondered why Tony had his room searched.

Tony smiled and took his hand off of the phone. “OK Cole. One chance, that’s all you get. You make a move on Lana tomorrow and you’re gone in more ways than one. Do we understand each other?”

Gage nodded.

“Good, now get outta here and get cleaned up. We have a meeting with Dino in a few hours and we need time to get there.”

Gage looked puzzled. “Time to get there, the yarn factory’s only a ten minute drive.”

“We’re not meeting at the yarn factory.”

“So, where are we meeting?” Gage asked.

“You’ll see when we get there.” Tony replied.

Gage stood and slowly left the room. “Why did the meeting place change?” Gage asked Jimmy as they walked out.

“You got me.” He extended his hand to Gage. “Hey, no hard feelings about the punch, right?”

Gage drew back his fist and slammed it into Jimmy’s gut. “Of course not.”

 

“Well, now, it’s nice to see you awake.” Roberto said as he entered Sydney’s room. “I’m sorry such drastic measures had to be taken to get you here, but now that you are here, let me show you around.” He offered his arm, which Sydney reluctantly took.

“I do believe you are going to enjoy your stay. You are welcome to use the pool anytime, except when I am conducting business. If you have any doubts about where you are and are not allowed, feel free to ask any of my staff. They will know what I find acceptable.”

Sydney smiled shyly. “Thank you Mr. Perez.”

Edwardo gently lifted her chin and softly kissed her lips. “Please, it’s Edwardo.”

She again nodded shyly. “Edwardo.” She said softly.

“Much better.” Perez replied and led her down to the pool.

Michael Manns approached Perez and whispered in his ear. “The tap’s in place and the meet is on Front Street.”

“Very good.” Perez replied. “Michael, why don’t you escort Lana back to her room?”

“No problem.” Manns offered Sydney his arm.

 

Midnight came before Gage had the opportunity to call Walker. He knew that Tony would be smart enough to have someone watching the yarn factory and he was as equally sure that they would report any sightings of the police or the Rangers.

“Hey Cole, get a move on! We’re going to be late!” Tony shouted.

“Keep your shirt on Tony! If Dino is really interested in doing business with you, he’ll wait!” Gage called back and then bounded down the steps.

“Get outta here!” Tony said, grabbing Gage around the neck in a mock choke hold.

“So you’re not mad at me anymore.” Gage asked.

Tony shook his head. “Just don’t ever give me a reason to be mad at you Cole. I like you. You’re quickly becoming like the brother I’ve never had and I’d hate to have to hurt you, but don’t think for a minute that I would ever let you come between me and my business.”

Gage stared at Tony and then walked towards the waiting limo.

 

 

Walker had started pacing at midnight as he and Trivette stood on the roof of the old yarn factory with two police units. “Something doesn’t feel right.”

“What?” Trivette asked.

“I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it.” Walker replied, staring out into the dark night air.

Ten miles away, on the other end of town, a small, black limo pulled to a stop and flashed its lights at the vehicle sitting in the alleyway across from it. “Delgatto’s early.” Dino’s driver stated.

Dino was puzzled for a moment. “Delgatto’s never early for anything. He likes to make a grand entrance.” As Dino leaned forward for a better look through the front windshield, a spray of bullets hit the front of the limo, instantly killing everyone inside, including Dino.

“Burn it.” A deep voice from the offending car stated. The driver stepped hard on the gas and as he neared the coffin on wheels, he threw a can of gas through the windshield with a burning rag hanging from the opening.

Dino’s limo erupted into flames with a thundering BOOM that could be heard, and felt, for miles.

“What was that?” Gage asked, as Delgatto’s limo continued towards the warehouse.

Tony leaned forward just as his driver opened the window between himself and Tony’s entourage. “There’s been an explosion either at or near the warehouse Mr. Delgatto. Should we continue in that direction, or turn around?”

Tony’s face turned blood red. “Turn around!” He shouted as the sirens of the fire trucks, police and paramedics screamed past them. “Turn around now!” He shouted again and slammed his fist into the soft leather seat.

Gage watched as Tony’s temper began to flare. “It has to be Perez!”

“Why would Perez want to compromise your deal with Dino?” Gage asked.

“Greed, Cole. Pure greed.” Jimmy answered as the two men stared at a silent Tony.

 

Back on Perez’s yacht, Sydney could overhear one of Perez’s men talking on the phone. “So, you’ll be back in an hour? “He waited for just a moment and then hung up the phone. She watched as he made his way towards the galley and then she headed towards Edwardo’s office.

Stepping inside the small room, Sydney made her way to the desk and turning on Perez’s computer. She opened the first file and a map of Florida came up. “What’s this?” She whispered. Reading a little further, she quickly realized that she had struck gold. This was a map of Perez’s drug labs. Looking around, she found what she hoped was a blank CD, loaded it into the deck and quickly burned a copy of the file.

Realizing that she had little time left, she opened the email and forwarded a copy of the file to Jimmy at Ranger Headquarters, then deleted the history for the day, hopefully covering her tracks.

 

 

“Let’s go!” Walker called out to the unit under his command after hearing the call about the explosion on Front Street.

“You think it’s our guys?” Trivette asked, climbing into the RAM.

“I think it has something to do with this deal. Let’s just hope that Sydney and Gage aren’t in the middle of it.”

Walker wheeled the RAM towards Front Street. The drive was silent, each Ranger not wanting to talk about the possibilities that were running through their minds and hoping, praying that Sydney and Gage were safe.

Once on Front Street, Walker parked the RAM and approached the senior officer on the scene. “What have we got?” He asked.

“Dino Myers, known drug dealer and his driver. Looks like the blast was caused by some sort of bomb. CSI should be able to tell us something soon.”

“Thanks.” Walker replied, glancing Trivette’s way.

“So, Gage wasn’t here.”

“It doesn’t look like it, but why did they change the location of the meeting and who killed Dino Myers?”

“Tony Delgatto would have nothing to gain by taking out Dino. Actually, he stood to loose millions.”

Walker nodded. “Then it must be Perez, but why?”

“Money, greed, because he can.” Trivette offered in quick succession.

“I guess we’ll have to wait for Gage or Sydney to call in and tell us what’s going on.” Walker started back towards the RAM. “In the meantime, I want to go check in at the office.”

 

 

Before the driver reached the Delgatto Estate, Tony’s phone rang. “Delgatto.” He practically screamed into it.

“You must have witnessed my handiwork by now.” Perez’s voice boomed.

“You! Why would you take out Dino? You know that I was counting on the money from this deal to buy into the Miami deal with you.”

Perez nodded. “Yes, I know. Now you’ll have to work a little harder to get what you want, right?”

“What do you mean?” Tony asked. “I thought you wanted me for a partner!”

“Oh, I do want you to work for me Tony. Your work is good, but a partner? I would be laughed out of Miami if I brought you on board as a partner. I was thinking maybe as a dealer.”

“What? That’s not what we discussed Perez! If that’s the best you can do, then the deal’s off!”

“Is it now?” Perez replied calmly. “Tell me Tony, how exactly do you know that there’s not a bomb beneath your car at this very moment, or for that matter, planted at your lovely home? And just think, I could be holding the remote in my hand right now that could cause the detonation and send you to kingdom come.”

Tony motioned to Gage to have the driver stop the car. Gage tapped on the window separating the front and back of the limo. “Stop the car!” He whispered firmly. The driver nodded and pulled to the curb. Tony, Gage, Jimmy and the driver got out. Gage knelt on the ground and checked beneath the car. He immediately broke out in a cold sweat when he spotted a blinking red light near the gas tank. “Get down!” He shouted. The four men ran for cover and just as Gage dunked behind a dumpster, the limo exploded, sending debris everywhere.

Perez could be heard laughing on the phone that Tony still held. “Are you still there Delgatto?” He asked.

“I’m here.” Tony said in s shaky voice.

“Now do you understand my terms? You will meet me on the yacht in the morning as planned. You and Cole Ashton. Be here at 8:00 a.m., or I can promise you that neither of you will live through the day.” The phone went dead.

Tony looked up at Gage, handing him a handkerchief and pointing to a cut above his brow. “What are we going to do?” He asked.

Gage dabbed the cut and then stared at him, dumbfounded. “I don’t know Tony. It was your idea to get mixed up with Perez in the first place. I told you that from everything I had heard that this guy was ruthless, but that didn’t seem to matter. Well I’ll bet it matters now, doesn’t it?”

 

 

Edwardo Perez smugly stepped onto his yacht along with Michael Manns. “So, do you think he’ll show?” Manns asked as he poured himself and Perez a drink.

“He’ll show. If he doesn’t, he’ll die, along with Ashton. It’s that simple.” Perez replied, taking the drink.

Sydney slipped back up the steps wondering what they had done to Delgatto and worse yet, what had they done to Gage?

 

 

Tony was still visibly shaken when they reached his estate. “So, what do you want to do Tony?” Gage asked.

“What?” Tony asked.

“About going to Miami with Perez, what do you want to do?” Gage repeated.

Tony walked into his office with Gage right behind him. “I guess we don’t really have much of a choice . . . do we?” It was more of a question than a statement

“Well, we are pretty well into this, aren’t we?” Gage asked.

Tony nodded fiercely. “Yeah, I guess we are.” He reached for a pack of cigarettes. “Do me a favor Cole, personally check the perimeter of the estate tonight. I don’t want anything getting past Jimmy and the boys.”

Gage nodded. “You got it.”

As he started out the door, Tony called after him. “Hey Cole, watch your back.”

“Always.” Gage replied, closing the door behind him and standing there for a minute before starting outside.

Once he had made his way around the estate, and was certain that no one was watching, he pulled out his cell and dialed Walker’s home number.

“Hello.” Walker answered sleepily.

“Sorry to wake you Walker.”

Walker sat straight up in bed. “Gage! Are you alright?”

“Yeah, we’re just a little shaken. Perez was responsible for Dino’s death. I guess you know that by now.”

“I had guessed as much. Gage, I’ve spoken to DEA out of Miami and they said that their guy has been in place with Perez for going on two years now and they don’t want to risk his cover by having us inside.”

“So, they’re not going to back us?” Gage asked.

Walker paused. “No. They said that if you continue as Delgatto’s man, they can’t, or rather won’t do anything to protect you or Sydney once you’re inside. Gage, I want to pull the plug on this now.”

Gage shook his head. “No way Walker! Sydney’s on the yacht and I’ve got to get to her. Besides, Tony already suspects that I’m a cop . . .”

“That’s it! I want you out of Delgatto’s estate tonight.”

“I convinced him that I pounded a Ranger and took his badge to teach him a lesson. My cover is fine, but I need to get to Syd.”

“No! You’re not to board that yacht.” Walker said.

Gage cupped his hand over his cell phone and put the antennae down. “Sorry Walker, we must have a bad connection, I can’t really hear you. Gotta go, someone’s coming.”

“Gage!” Walker called out and the line went dead.

Alex had been silently listening to the conversation. “You know he’s not going to pull out as long as he thinks Sydney’s in danger.”

“Yeah, I know, but once he boards that boat and they leave for the gulf, we can’t help them.”

“Where is the yacht now anyway?” Alex asked.

“Galveston. I had a friend check into it. Perez left this afternoon, along with Michael Manns, or whatever his real name is and they didn’t return until after midnight. According to Gage, Perez is responsible for Dino’s death and that coupled with the fact that he was missing from the yacht during the timeframe of the explosion . . .”

“What can I do Walker?” Alex asked.

He shook his head. “Nothing. I don’t have any grounds to search the yacht and even if I did, it would blow Sydney and Gage’s cover and get them killed.”

“So what do we do?” Alex wrapped her around her husband.

“Wait and trust that Sydney and Gage can see their way out of this mess.”

 

 

Tony knocked on Gage’s door at 5:00 a.m. “Cole! Get up, we’ve got to get going if we’re going to make it to Galveston by 10:00.”

Gage opened the door, Tony was a bit surprised to find him completely dressed and ready to go. “What are we waiting for?” He asked.

“Nothing.” Tony replied, his hands shaking.

“Are you sure you want to do this?” Gage asked.

“I have to.” Tony replied.

 

Sydney rolled over to find that sometime during the night, her hands had been cuffed together over the railing of the bed. “What the . . .”

The door to her room suddenly opened and Michael Manns entered, closing the door behind him quickly.

“What’s going on.” She hissed.

Manns put his finger up to his lips. “Shh. Do you want Perez to hear you?”

Silently, she shook her head as Manns unlocked the handcuffs. “You’re a Ranger, right?”

She still wasn’t 100 that she could trust him, but she nodded. “How’d you know?”

“I just checked in and was told about you and your partner. I’m guessing Ashton?”

“Right again.” Sydney said, rubbing her red wrists.

“I’ve got to get you off of here before we set sail and Ashton can’t get on board at all.”

“Why?” Sydney asked, a sudden wave of fear coursing over her body.

“Perez plans to kill him, after he makes him watch you die.”

Sydney stood up and pulled on a pair of jeans. “Aren’t you taking a big risk in doing this?”

Manns pulled the curtain back and then looked at Sydney. “Yeah. I’ve been in with Perez for going on two years now. It’s been the longest undercover assignment of my career and I’m more than ready for it to be over. I’m so tired of the killing and the drugs and . . .”

Sydney quickly brought her finger to her lips as voices could be heard from outside. Manns pulled back the curtain again. “Damn! They’re early.”

Sydney looked out as well. “That’s all Delgatto has right now is the element of surprise.”

“Yeah, but Perez hates surprises. This really puts a dent in my plan, but listen, I’ll help you and Ashton however I can. If something does happen, make sure that the DEA gets the three disks that are sewn into the bottom of my red duffle bag. It’s in my quarters, just down the hall. There’s enough on those disks to put Perez, Delgatto and several others away for a very long time.”

Sydney nodded as she watched Manns slip out the door. “Thanks for trying.” She whispered after he left.

“You’re early.” Perez greeted Delgatto and Gage as they stepped aboard the yacht and two of him men began patting them down to be certain that neither were carrying weapons.

Delgatto faced Perez. “Yes, well, neither of us could sleep and decided to get an early start.”

“Good. We’ll get an early start as well.” Perez turned towards the cabin door and called for Michael.

“Yes sir.” Manns reported to the deck.

“Show our friends to their cabins. Oh and if you like, you can show Mr. Ashton how little Lana spent the night.” He laughed heartily at the thought of Sydney’s wrists handcuffed tightly above her head. He knew that by now her arms and back would be aching.

“What did he mean by that?” Gage asked as the three men started through the hull.

Manns stopped at Sydney’s door. “You don’t really want to see her like this. Perez drugged her and the handcuffed her arms above her head. She’s been like that for hours now

and . . .”

Gage could feel the rage welling up inside of him. “Open the door Manns.” He said firmly.

Delgatto grabbed the nearest weapon he could find, an iron pipe, and brought it down hard across Gage’s left shoulder. “Take that as a warning Cole! I told you that you were to show no concern for Lana at all. You are not to see her, or even ask about her. Do we understand each other?”

Gage reached for his left shoulder with his right hand. The pain was tremendous. He knew that there was a distinct possibility that Delgatto had broken his shoulder. Staggering to his feet, he silently followed Manns to what were to be his quarters for the trip.

“Maybe you should rest for a while.” Manns said, helping Gage to the bed. As he helped him ease down, he whispered. “She’s fine. I uncuffed her this morning. We have to find a way to get you two off of here before we set sail.”

“So, you are DEA then?”

Manns nodded. “And you’re both Rangers.”

Gage nodded mutely as his shoulder took on a new pain.

“You’d better get some ice on that and I would suggest that you stay away from your partner, at least when Delgatto and Perez are around. A quick heads up too, Perez plans to kill both of you before you reach Miami.”

“Are our covers still intact?” Gage asked.

“As far as I know. It’s Lana and Ashton that Perez is after.”

 

“Ranger Walker, this is Detective Rolands. I’m with the DEA in Miami.”

“Thanks for calling me back Detective.” Walker replied. “You know that we have two Rangers undercover with Delgatto, right?”

“Yes. Our man with Perez contacted me last night. It seems that your lady Ranger has got herself mixed up with Perez and now with the Delgatto connection moving in with Perez, your other Ranger should be on the yacht very soon.”

“That’s my understanding too. We need your help on this one. Once that yacht reaches international waters, we have no jurisdiction, but you on the other hand . . .”

“I’m way ahead of you on that one Ranger and believe me, we’ll do everything possible to make certain that your people get back to you in one piece, but you also have to understand that a great deal of time and money have already been put into the Perez case and we’re not very likely to drop it or have our man blow his cover to save your two Ranger’s necks.”

Walker could feel his face turning red. “Let me explain something to you Rolands, my two Rangers are two of the best in the business. They can handle themselves under most any circumstance and I’m sure that they can hold their own with Perez and Delgatto. I just want it understood that IF things get out of hand you will be willing to step in and . . .”

”No.” Rolands said shortly.

“No what?” Walker asked.

”No. I’m not willing to put this operation in danger just because two hot-shot young Rangers are in over their heads.” With that said, he hung up.

Walker held the receiver for a few seconds after the unmistakable sound of the line disconnecting rang in his ear. “That son-of-a- . . .”

“What’s wrong?” Trivette asked.

“DEA is unwilling to work with us in making sure that Gage and Sydney make it out of this alive.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“Call in a favor.” He reached for the phone again and dialed. “The Governor, please. This is Ranger Cordell Walker.”

“One moment Ranger Walker.”

“Ranger Walker!” The Governor’s voice boomed on the other end of the line. “What can I do for you?”

“I need a favor.” Walker then began to explain the situation.

“I understand your predicament, but what would you have me do? I can’t give you jurisdiction past the state of Texas.”

“No, but the President could.”

 

 

Gage had found the galley and retrieved an ice pack which he was now holding against his shoulder as he surfaced on deck.

Perez motioned for him to join himself, Delgatto and Manns. “I am sorry that you have been injured and still did not get to lay eyes on Lana. Michael, go get her.” Manns started towards the cabin. Perez suddenly changed his mind. “No, wait! Let’s get underway first and when we are away from this god-forsaken place called Texas, we’ll bring her up for some fun.”

As Manns stood next to the cabin door, Perez got up and joined him. “Give her another dose.” He whispered. “We need to be able to keep her under control.”

Gage took a seat next to Delgatto. “I’m sorry Cole. I didn’t mean to hit you that hard, but you made me so angry.”

“Yeah, I was just obeying Perez orders, like you asked me to do.” Gage said through gritted teeth as both men watched Perez and Manns talk.

Delgatto nodded. “I know. I will make this up to you, I promise. Maybe with a new, shiny Corvette, eh?” He nudged Gage, trying to get a smile out of him.

“Maybe.” Gage replied dryly.

The yacht engine started and within minutes they were pulling away from the dock. “Well, I guess this is it. We’re on our way to Miami.” Gage noticed the look on Delgatto’s face.

“Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea Cole, but what’s done is done.” Tony replied.

 

Trivette drummed his fingers on the desk as he and Walker both waited for the Governor to call back. When the phone finally rang, Walker picked up before the first ring completed. “Walker.”

“Walker, it’s Governor Perry. By orders of the President, you have the U.S. Coast Guard based out of Galveston, at your disposal. I’ve also learned that DEA has a GPS onboard Perez’s yacht. My assistant is emailing you the web address and the satellite feed information. Now you’ll have the same tools to work with that the DEA has, plus the Coast Guard. Is there anything else I can do for you?”

Walker smiled. “I think this is plenty right now Governor and thank you. Thank you very much.”

“It’s my pleasure Ranger Walker and say hello to your wife for me.”

“Yes sir.” Walker replied, hung up and turned to Trivette. “You should be getting an email from the Governor’s office any minute now.

The email was there when Trivette went online. “Got it.” He brought up the GPS and then the satellite feed on his laptop, but in a different screen. “They’re just leaving the dock.”

“But now we can follow them.” Walker said. “Come on, we’re on our way to Galveston.”

 

Within an hour, the yacht had reached international waters. “Michael, now you can go get Lana and leave the cuffs on her.”

Manns opened the door to Sydney’s cabin and found her slumped on the floor. “Lana.” He lightly slapped her face. “Lana, you have to wake up now.”

“Umm?” She groaned groggily.

“You have to wake up. Perez wants you up on deck.”

Sydney blinked her eyes a few times trying to clear her head. “What?” She asked as Michael placed the handcuffs on her wrists again.

“I can’t do anything for you right now. I have to make this look real for Perez.” He shoved her out the door and up the steps.

The brightness of the sunlight forced her eyes closed as she allowed Michael to led her to Perez, her hands cuffed tightly behind her.

“Doesn’t she look magnificent?” Perez asked, staring at Gage who for the moment had his eyes glued to Sydney.

“What on earth have you done to her?” Gage exclaimed.

“Just about everything I could.” Perez laughed. “Oh, and she is good in bed.”

“How would you know?” Sydney mumbled.

Perez stood and grabbed her chin tightly in his hand. “No one was speaking to you!” The back of his hand contacted her face with a loud crack.

Sydney dropped her head, trying to stifle the tears.

“Michael, take her to the mast.”

Gage watched with disgust as Manns momentarily uncuffed his partner’s wrists and then re-fastened them to a chain high above Sydney’s head, forcing her to stand on her tip-toes. He then secured her ankles to the mast with two pieces of rope, looping each end around first her left ankle, then her right and then tying the opposite ends of the rope to the mast. “That should hold her.” Manns called down to Perez.

Perez laughed as Sydney’s semi-conscious body moved with the motion of the waves. He then turned to Gage. “Soon the sun will be at it’s highest and the heat up there will be nearly unbearable.” He laughed again. “She should be coming around about then and we’ll be able to watch her dance to keep her feet from burning all while attempting to shield her face from the searing heat.”

Suddenly Gage lunged at Perez, wrapping his hands around his throat. “You self-serving son-of-a . . .”

Manns paused for just a moment and then pulled a gun from his belt. He fired two shots, one flew above Gage’s head, the other hit him in the back, just below his already throbbing, right shoulder. He slumped forward, falling over Perez’s lap, leaving an ugly red stain forming on the deck.

Delgatto sat, stunned at the scene before him. He started to get up, but Perez shot him a stern look, warning him without words that he wasn’t to move.

Manns hurried to the deck. “What do you want to do with him?” He asked Perez.

“Is he alive?” Perez questioned.

Manns felt for a pulse. “Barely.” He responded.

“Well, get him off of me for starters!” Perez exclaimed.

Manns reached around Gage’s middle and eased him off of Perez. “Now what?” He asked.

”Throw him overboard.” Perez replied.

“Are we far enough out that he won’t wash up on shore somewhere?” Manns asked, trying to buy some time until he figured out how to get Gage and Sydney off of the yacht safely.

“Good thinking. Put him below until we’re further out, then we’ll get rid of him and the girl.”

Trivette had been monitoring the satellite feed and the GPS via his laptop. “Walker, we’ve got trouble!” He shouted.

“What’s wrong?” Walker asked.

“They just shot Gage and it looks like Sydney’s in trouble too.”

“Who shot Gage?” Walker asked reaching for his cell phone.

“Manns.”

“Detective Rolands.” The man answered.

“Rolands! This is Walker. Your man just shot one of my Rangers.”

“How could you possibly know that?” Rolands asked in surprise.

“Let’s just say that I have friends in high places.”

“My man had no choice Walker. He can’t afford to blow his cover and if he hadn’t of shot your guy when he lunged at Perez he wouldn’t have been doing his job.”

“We’re supposed to be on the same side here, aren’t we?” Walker asked.

“Look, he’s a good guy and I’m sure he’ll do whatever he can to help your guys out, if there’s anything he can do.”

“A lot of help you are.” Walker remarked and hung up. “What are their coordinates?”

Trivette read the coordinates to Walker as the two Rangers headed into the Coast Guard station in Galveston, there, Walker relayed them to one of the men in charge and they all boarded a cutter.

 

Sydney was more alert now. She remembered the gunshots and seeing Gage fall forward, but right now all she could think of was the heat beneath her feet and hot sun beating down on her head. Her mouth was so dry she was about to choke and her arms ached from being stretched upward for so long.

Perez noticed that she was awake. “Get Ashton from down below. We’re going to see how long they can swim.”

Reluctantly, Manns walked towards Gage’s quarters. As he helped Gage to his feet, he paused. “You’ve got to understand, I had to shoot you. I couldn’t get around it without blowing my cover.”

Gage winced as he stood up. “Yeah, some cover.” He muttered.

Manns stopped. “You think I enjoy this? I’ve been undercover with Perez for going on two years now. I’ve watched him kill more people than I care to count and the drug deals are far many more than we ever anticipated.”

“You say that you didn’t have a choice, but think about it Manns, you could have fired a warning shot and then gave a shout. I would have let him go.”

“Would you? You haven’t seen what he’s done to your partner or for that matter what he’s about to do to you. Some days, I’d like to shoot him myself.” Manns supported Gage as they started down the corridor. “The best I’m going to be able to do is drop a dingy from the opposite side of the yacht. It will be up to you and your partner to get to it and that’s not going to be easy seeing that you can hardly move your arm and she’s only about half conscious.”

Perez and Delgatto stood, staring up at Sydney and laughing as she continued her attempt to shy away from the heat. Perez noted that Manns and Gage were now topside. “What do you think of your little lover now, Mr. Ashton?”

Gage lifted his head wearily and then found the strength to speak to Perez. “If you’re going to kill us, then do it.”

Perez nodded. “I like a man who knows his mind. Cut her down Michael, and bring her here.”

Once Sydney was freed from the handcuffs and ropes, she leaned on Michael for support and he led her to Perez. “What now?” Manns asked.

Perez gently caressed Sydney’s cheek. “Now it is time to bid you farewell sweet Lana, you and Ashton both.” He pulled a gun from his belt and waved it towards Gage. “Go on, you lead the way.”

Manns took this opportunity to drop the small dingy into the water. Once it was released, he joined Perez and Delgatto at the back of the yacht.

“Time to get wet.” Perez laughed, pointing the gun at Gage. “Jump, or I’ll shoot you, either way, you die.”

Gage hoped that Manns had been true to his word and had the dingy in the water by now. He stood at the back of the boat for a moment and looked at Sydney. “I’ll see you on the other side.” He said softly.

Sydney nodded. “I’ll be there. Wait for me.”

Gage nodded, knowing that she understood his meaning. “I’ll wait.”

“This is all so touching.” Perez quipped. “But, it’s time to get going.” He nudged Gage slightly causing him to lose his balance. He toppled into the Gulf.

The moment he hit the water, a searing pain seized his shoulder and upper chest. It felt as though his body were on fire and in a vice-grip at the same time. Somehow he had managed to get a deep breath before hitting the water and at the moment was struggling to hold it while waiting for Sydney.

Perez pulled Sydney close and kissed her lips. “One last kiss, sweet Lana.” He said and then pushed her off of the boat.

Sydney dropped through the water like a rock, her arms aching still form the position she had been chained in all morning. She jumped when she felt something grab her arm and then relaxed when she realized it was Gage.

He pointed to the side of the yacht, looking up and seeing the shadow of the dingy, she nodded and followed towards the surface. They quietly broke the water and climbed into the dingy, watching the yacht said away from them into the afternoon sun.

 

Walker and Trivette were aboard a Coast Guard cutter, following the GPS that was leading them to Sydney and Gage.

“We’ve lost them.” Trivette stated.

“What?” Walker asked.

“The GPS has either been shut off or we’ve been shut out, but we’ve lost them.”

“What about the satellite feed?” Walker asked.

Trivette shook his head. “It’s gone too.”

Walker pulled his cell phone, but found that he was unable to dial out.

“There’s a storm closing in Ranger Walker. That’s probably what’s shut out the GPS and the satellite, as well as your cell phone.” The senior Coast Guard official relayed.

Walker shook his head. “Isn’t technology grand.” He muttered. “So what now? We have two people who may or may not be aboard that yacht now and we have no idea where to look.”

“Well, we can start with the last coordinates you had before you lost the feed. That is, as long as this storm hold back. We may have to turn back if the weather doesn’t cooperate.” The Coast Guard official said.

“Turn back?” Trivette asked. “I thought the Coast Guard was ready for any water emergency. Don’t you guys do water rescues?”

“Of course we do, but only when we know that there is actually someone to rescue. Right now, for all we know, your people are still safe and sound on the yacht.”

“But what if they’re not?” Walker asked.

They had been in the dingy for going on an hour now. Gage nudged Sydney, who had fallen asleep in the crook of his left arm. “Syd.” He whispered, wincing the same time as a sharp pain traveled through his shoulder and down his right arm.

Sydney’s eyes fluttered open. “Where are we?” She asked, sitting up.

Gage silently shook his head. “I don’t know, but we’re alive.”

Sydney looked into Gage’s pale face and let her hand drift to his forehead. Before speaking, she surveyed his bullet wound and the deep bruise on the top of his right shoulder. “You’re still bleeding and you’re burning up.”

“Tell me something I don’t know.” He said quietly and tried to laugh, but ended up coughing instead.

“Shh. You really need to rest, but try to stay awake, OK?” She found a small survival pack in one of the folds of the dingy and retrieved one of the two bottles of water. “So much for a well supplied survival pack.” She muttered as she opened the water and held the bottle to Gage’s parched lips.

Instead of drinking the water that his body so desperately needed, he shook his head. “You first.” He whispered.

“Gage, I don’t want to sit here and argue about who drinks first . . .”

“You’ve been . . . baking on the top . . . of that yacht all morning.” He looked at her with genuine concern. “You’re . . . dehydrated and you need water, now drink.”

She took a short drink and offered the bottle to him again. His eyes pleaded with her to drink a little more. She put the bottle to her lips again and gratefully swallowed the life-supplying liquid. When she once again offered the bottle to Gage, he drank three swallows and passed out.

 

 

“That, my friend, is how you take care of trouble makers.” Perez said as he slapped a shaken Tony on the back and led him back to the table. “Michael, how about having Raul bring out our lunch?”

“Yes sir.” Michael replied, heading towards the galley. He relayed the message to Raul and then took the opportunity to make contact with his superiors.

Raul brought out the food and began to serve Perez and Delgatto. “Where is Michael?” Perez asked Raul.

“I do not know, sir. He was headed towards his quarters, I believe.” Raul responded.

Perez excused himself, leaving Delgatto at the table, alone.

Tony stared out over the water, pondering the idea of jumping overboard and saving himself from what he was certain was going to be a long and painful relationship with Edwardo Perez.

Michael held his cell phone, hoping that someone would answer. “Rolands!” The superior officer answered.

“It’s me. They threw the two Rangers overboard, I got a dingy off for them and I’m pretty sure they were able to get in it. I have the coordinates . . .” Before Manns could read off the numbers, Rolands heard a gunshot and the phone went dead.

Delgatto jumped at the sound of gunfire. “What’s going on?” He asked Raul.

“I do not know.” Raul replied, gathering his serving tray and heading back to the galley.

Delgatto immediately noticed Perez’s blood-stained pants as he walked towards the table and took a seat. “It’s a real shame. I really liked Michael.” He then picked up his fork and started eating his meal.

 

Lightening streaked down to the water from above as the sky grew darker. “Rangers, we’re going to have to turn back.”

Before Walker could oppose the decision, the radio crackled to life. “This is Detective Rolands calling the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Decision Maker.”

“This is Decision Maker, go ahead.” One of the Coast Guard officials answered.

“The two Rangers you’re looking for were dropped in a dingy at these coordinates.” He proceeded to give them the coordinates that had been relayed to him by Manns. “Oh, and is Ranger Walker there?”

“Yes sir.” He handed the radio to Walker.

“Walker.”

“Walker, I think our guy on the inside is dead. I just wanted you to know that he died trying to save your Rangers. He really was a good guy.”

“Thanks for telling me Rolands.” Walker said.

Gage had been out for almost thirty minutes when he began to stir. “Good, you’re awake.” Sydney said softly, mopping his head with a moistened piece of her blouse. “I want you to drink a little more of this and take a few bites of this energy bar.” She held the bottle of water to his lips and then unwrapped an energy bar.

“Thanks.” He whispered.

“Looks like a storm is coming, maybe I should get the top up on this thing.”

“I’ll help you.” Gage said quietly.

“No! Don’t try to move. It looks like the bleeding may have stopped for now, but if you start moving around again . . .”

Gage nodded and closed his eyes.

The tiny dingy began to rock back and forth as the waves grew angrier and angrier. “Oh Syd, I can’t take much more of this. I’m going to be sick.” Gage said as his body rolled with the waves.

All Sydney could do was nod in agreement as her stomach began to churn. Gage pulled her close and they rocked back and forth in constant motion most of the night.

 

 

“What do you mean we can’t get to those coordinates?” Walker asked as the man at the helm tried to explain the situation.

“Those coordinates are too close to a sunken ship. We’ll drag and then we’ll do no one any good.”

Walker stood, inches from the man’s face. “Get us to those coordinates now, or I’ll see that you face charges.”

“Yes sir!” The young man replied heartily and set the course.

Walker looked out over the dark water. “Hang on guys, we’re coming.”

 

“What’s going on Perez?” Tony finally found the nerve to ask.

“We had a spy among us. I must confess I thought it was someone inside your organization. That is why I decided to rid us of Ashton, but it appears that I was mistaken and for that I apologize.”

Tony nodded. “You really are a piece of work Perez. You get me to agree to your terms under false pretense, then you kill my best man because you think he’s out to get you only to find that it is your man, in fact, who is the real spy, as you put it.”

“I have apologized Delgatto. That is something that I rarely do. You would be wise to keep your mouth closed for the remainder of the trip, or I shall have to cut out your tongue.” He brandished a steak knife in Tony’s face.

 

At first light, Trivette tapped Walker on the shoulder, hard. “I see them!” He said softly and then repeated himself louder. “I see them!”

The rescue team suited up and as soon as they were close enough, they dived in.

“Sydney! Gage!” Walker shouted.

Gage began to stir and nudged Sydney. “I think the calvary is here.”

“In the water?” She asked just as the zipper was opened.

Soon both Rangers were safely aboard the Coast Guard cutter and on their way back to Galveston.

 

Just offshore in Miami, a small fleet of DEA agents were waiting for the yacht to bleep on their radar screens, when it finally showed up, they set out to meet her. As they drew near, Perez grabbed Delgatto from behind, using his body as a shield from the bullets that were beginning to fly.

Perez backed himself towards the cabin and just as he started to enter, a shot rang out from behind.

Tony stood, waiting for the pain to hit, but there was none and he quickly realized that he had not been injured, but in fact, it was Perez who had been shot, but from whom?

Tony moved, letting Perez’s lifeless body fall to the deck, revealing a very bloody, but very much alive, Michael Manns. “I’ve wanted to do that for a very long time, Perez.”

As the DEA Agents moved aboard the ship, Michael was wrapped in a blanket and taken onboard one of the boats, a hero. Delgatto, on the other hand, was taken aboard as a prisoner.

 

The four Rangers arrived in Dallas later the following day after Sydney and Gage had received a much needed rest in the Galveston hospital.

“So, what do you two think about undercover work now?” Walker asked.

Gage shook his head. “No thanks. Not for a while, anyway.”

“Me either.” Sydney chimed in.

“I’m just glad that you all made it out safely.” Walker replied.

“All?” Gage asked.

Walker nodded. “I just got word that Michael Manns is alive and well in a Miami Hospital. And believe it or not, he’s giving you guys the credit for the capture of Tony Delgatto.”

“Well, that is pretty amazing.” Sydney said.

“Not really. I think he’s an OK guy, he had just been in with Perez too long. I mean, after all, he did save our lives, didn’t he?”

Sydney nodded. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.”

“Of course I’m right. I’m always right.” Gage laughed. “Oww, that hurts.” He whined as he laughed.

“Guess things are back to normal, right partner?” Trivette asked.

“As normal as they’ll ever be.” Walker replied with a smile.

THE END